A look back at 2023 and a look forward to 2024 with Lisa Buck
2023 was a fabulous year on many fronts for BuckingJam Palace and the charitable non-profit that runs our concert series, The BJP Music Foundation. We sold out our concerts; we hosted top-tier jazz artists; we collaborated on projects with the American Consulate, Women Band Directors International and Jazz Denmark. There were so many beautiful musical moments and every concert felt like a celebration with valued friends.
The BJP Board did a lot of strategic work this year around what the future might look like for our volunteer-run organization. In February 2023, we welcomed a largely new volunteer board of directors and passed the Board Chair torch to Jodi Lucas, our former VP. I love that our business model works because of the strength of our community and the goodwill of our dedicated volunteers: that’s how the arts have always thrived.
We are clearly filling a gap in Calgary’s music culture. But if we want to be sustainable, we need to address our vulnerabilities: reliance upon a free venue, volunteer leaders who have reached capacity, and opportunities limited by space and budget to expand programming and welcome a wider community, including young people, to concerts.
We Canadians have a lot to be thankful for in the grant funding that is available to the arts. In 2023, the BJP Music Foundation was successful in securing grants for the following projects that will support our sustainability:
The Rozsa Foundation, in concert with CADA and The Calgary Foundation, funded a Future Focus grant. Our board and stakeholders worked with Michèle Stanners of ViTreo to identify what BJP needs to do to become a sustainable organisation.
The Calgary Foundation funded a half-time Executive Director for two years via a Community Grant which allows me (Lisa) to step down as ED. We were proud to be one of only two arts organizations to be successfully funded during this grant cycle. The BJP Board was delighted to welcome Shana Barbour to this role on January 8th, 2024.
The Calgary Arts Development Authority provided an operating grant over the next two years. This will allow us to grow our organizational capacity by renting space outside of the house, expanding our programming, hiring a sound engineer and photographer for some concerts, updating the website, and subsidizing tickets for students….
The Crisis Recovery Fund provided the means to work with IntegralOrg to rework the archaic foundational and governance policies of the Companies Act under which BJP is incorporated. We will be establishing a process for making qualified disbursements to grantee organizations which will allow us to provide tax-receipting support to the work of organizations whose values resonate with those of BJP but who do not have charitable status.
We don’t want to become reliant upon grants for our operation: this funding helps us get over the speed bump of developing capacity—both in space and personnel—when we are already functioning at our limit. So here is what you can expect to see over the next two years and the impact of the work we anticipate:
Concerts in other spaces. Affordable venue space in Calgary is almost non-existent. BJP is looking for unique character spaces with good acoustics that can seat an audience of 100 and—here’s the biggest challenge—has a grand piano. (The cost to bring in a piano for each concert is about $1000, even if the rental is donated). If, in your travels, you come across spaces that might work, please let us know! Ultimately, we’d like to find a permanent home where we could host jazz each weekend and make space available to artists and other non-profit organizations. The City of Calgary offers property tax relief to businesses who lease to non-profits. We think Calgary is ready for weekly programming in a jazz club and are working towards making that happen.
A donor and sponsorship program. To be self-sustaining, we need to build our own funding for a part-time staff person and programming. We will not compromise our core commitment to paying musicians fairly in order to fund the running of the organization: that would defeat our whole purpose. We want to keep our grass-roots approach while recognising that the workload has exceeded what our volunteer leaders can manage.
More collaborations. The Jazz Camp for Girls that we presented in collaboration with Jazz Denmark in November was incredibly inspiring and involved the support of CADME and Long and McQuade, as well as Nordic Bridges and other Danish funders. This international collaboration was the first of its kind in Canada. Behind the scenes, our house performance space has been used by The CPO, IndigiDivas, the Allegra Chamber Orchestra, Women Band Directors International, Frog Fest, The American Consulate, and many artists who needed rehearsal and recording space. We want to expand our capacity to share creative space and support the efforts of our colleagues in the artistic community.
Many of you know BuckingJam Palace’s origin story: my family started hosting music in 2015 when Calgary’s only jazz club at the time folded. Tom and I were not passionate jazz fans but we loved the community of jazz musicians we had come to know through our son, John. Together with daughters Emily and Katie, we decided to light a candle rather than curse the darkness and outfitted our 1910 home as a venue. That decision has enriched our lives more than we could possibly have imagined.
So, THANK YOU…
To the board members of the BJP Music Foundation who have worked so hard to shepherd our venture into the future;
To the musicians who have played our concert series and shared their spirits and creativity with us;
To the funders who have provided a way forward;
And to all of you who come to concerts, bring your friends and always have a supportive word. It is a privilege to know you.
Forward into 2024!
Lisa Artistic Director and Founder, BJP Music Foundation
Musings for 2023: Looking ahead for BJP with Lisa Buck
I hope this note finds you happy and well! The new year is well underway and I want to share with you a look back over past year’s events and a look forward to where BJP is headed.
BJP had its AGM on February 22nd and we said good-bye to three retiring board members: Steven Gallant, Emily Buck and Richelle Wiseman. So much gratitude goes out to these folks for their hard work. Incoming board members are Janice Woodward, AJ Benoit and Graham Frampton, all of whom bring deep experience and enthusiasm and will be invaluable in stewarding BJP— along with continuing board members Jodi Lucas, Tiro Clarke, Céline Peterson and Lisa Buck— through in its next stages of growth.
BJP worked hard during the pandemic to develop projects that employed artists, from the Canada Council underwriting the making of our documentary, Change the Tune, to FACTOR supporting educational webinars and concert recordings and Calgary Arts Development supporting the creation of our animated video, Toones. Our programming efforts put tens of thousands of dollars into the hands of musicians at a time when they needed it most.
We are back to hosting a full season of ten to fourteen concerts from October to June and are almost completely booked to the end of June 2024. This is both great and challenging. I get many, many more requests from outstanding musicians that we can possibly handle. The number of affordable music venues in Calgary with a backline was minuscule pre-pandemic and it is dire now. We run a very lean operation at BJP and prioritize paying musicians well: rising costs for insurance, food (we feed all the groups who play here) and software mean that even with a sold-out crowd, we can fall short of breaking even. So, how to plan for the future?
First, we need administrative help. I have been a volunteer Executive Director since 2015, along with working as Artistic Director. As BJP’s reputation has grown, so has the work load and it is too much for one person. Now that we have charitable status, we will be looking to expand our operational and programming capacity by building a donor program—we are registered for tax-receipted donations through Canada Helps—and applying for operational grants.
Second, we want to explore the possibility of holding additional concerts in a venue outside of the house. The demand is there and we’d like to create the capacity to meet it. I am participating in a Creative Spaces Mentoring program organised by Calgary Arts Development and ArtsBuild Ontario that is aimed at helping arts organizations find affordable spaces. To continue to host the top-tier musicians we currently book, BJP needs a venue that includes a backline with a PA system, a drum kit and a grand piano. Our vision is to collaborate with other music organizations who have the same needs to establish a music venue we could all share. It’s a long-term goal but one that is important to work towards.
At the start of 2023, we collaborated with Women Band Directors International to host a sold-out concert featuring Christine and Ingrid Jensen as part of a Girls in Jazz weekend that saw ninety-three registrants; and we collaborated with the United States Consulate General to host a private concert with the Caili O’Doherty Quintet for guests from Calgary’s Black Chamber of Concert in honour of Black History Month. Both those groups would like to continue collaborating. In January, Tom and I had the privilege of welcoming Janna Sailor, conductor of the all-female Allegra Chamber Orchestra, to our house for three days of rehearsals and recordings with IndigiDivas, a group of five, Indigenous female concert vocalists. All these projects prioritize gender parity, inclusion and diversity in music, work that is vitally important and a key focus for our Foundation. Many of you will know that this is also a cause I feel passionate about and I am delighted to say that the all-female ensemble that I manage, The Ostara Project, has been nominated for a JUNO in the category of Vocal Jazz Group of the Year.
So, so much good stuff happening and the challenge is to keep it happening. I often shake my head that what started out as a family initiative to provide grass-roots support to the local music community has grown into a venue known and beloved throughout Canada and beyond, run by a charitable foundation, and attracting top-tier talent from across North America. What a journey!
Thank you all for being a vital part of what we do. Attending concerts, donating time and money and expertise, loading the dishwasher and folding chairs and sending notes of encouragement and appreciation: this is what has built a community that I feel absolutely privileged to be part of. So many lovely artists in our future and so much good music to look forward to. Upward and onward!
A 2021 year end update from Lisa Buck
2021 seems determined to close out with a much uncertainty as it began. In the midst of that, I want to send out good wishes to all for a happy and healthy New Year. Despite the ongoing stress of difficult times, I feel immensely grateful to be part of a community of incredible folk who understand the soul-stirring power of the Arts and work to protect and celebrate our culture and its dedicated creators.
We are rescheduling all our events at BJP for the month of January. While this is immensely disappointing, I am encouraged that the three concerts we were able to schedule in November and December were sold-out, were attended with great enthusiasm and were held without incident. Reducing capacity, participating in the restriction exemption program and adding non-touch protocols have added to everyone’s comfort level.
We have exciting projects in the works. Our Toones project—a film collaboration with the Quickdraw Animation Society—is perking along nicely. All music compositions have been handed over to animators and it’s going to be exciting to see the spectrum of “visual music” that comes to life. Toones is funded by a grant from Calgary Arts Development: the grant has allowed BJP to invest $25,000 into the Calgary Arts community at a crucial time when artists need support.
Plans for shooting the Change the Tune project—a music video and documentary about the challenges faced by female jazz instrumentalists—are still moving ahead. Pandemic permitting, we will be shooting at the Warehouse studio in Vancouver the week of February 11th with seven of Canada’s top jazz musicians. This project is funded by the Canada Council and, again, grant money is allowing us to employ artists and make art even in these difficult times.
I am part of the current cohort in the Rozsa Foundation’s Arts Management Program, offered in partnership with the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business. The training is excellent. I am working on a capstone project for the course that is focused on outfitting BJP with the equipment and technical support to record live-off-the-floor. I lend our space and backline often for rehearsals and recordings so this is a natural next-step: the acoustics are ideal for recording so kudos to the architect who made that possible 110 years ago!
Our next scheduled concerts are February 24th and 25th with a quintet of absolutely top-notch musicians: Jodi Proznick, Amanda Tosoff, Laura Anglade, Virginia MacDonald and Sanah Kadoura. Pencil it into your calendars for now: tickets on sale in the new year.
A final note of gratitude as a proud Calgarian and Canadian. Funding agencies in this country have worked overtime to mitigate the damage to the Arts sector. Canada supports its artists far better than our neighbour to the south and BuckingJam Palace has been able to continue to work for musicians because of this support and the generosity of individual patrons who have donated to our programming.
Wishing peace and joy to you and yours and looking ahead to healthy times filled with music 2022!
Introducing Nica's Circle
We’ve introduced a membership circle for BJP called Nica’s Circle. You’ll find info about it under the Membership tab: it’s a $5/month subscription that gives folks access to exclusive content and the earliest access to concert tickets.
We’ve created Nica’s Circle — named after a famous patron of the arts, Kathleen Annie Pannonica Rothschild —because of our experience with COVID-19. When the pandemic hit and live concerts were shuttered, BJP had no means to support and employ our community of musicians whose livelihoods had been decimated. Because the vast part of our ticket revenue goes directly to the musicians (once we were a non-profit we had to keep a fraction to pay for insurance and related operating costs) we didn’t have any means to fund non-concert programming and that left us high and dry. After many hours of grant writing, we received funding from FACTOR, CADA and the Canada Council for projects that are employing musicians and other artists and for that, we are tremendously grateful. (Canadians should be proud of the level of support given to the Arts during the pandemic.)
Establishing Nica’s Circle allows us to create a small income stream that can be used to support non-concert programming and that’s important to our future capacity to support the Canadian jazz community. We also hope that as we build up our content, our Circle members will enjoy the behind-the scenes material and educational content.
As for ticket buying, here’s how that works:
Nica’s Circle members are recognized by our website when they visit and have 48 hours exclusive access to purchase tickets. Ticket sales are then opened up to folks on our email list who have 24 hours to purchase before the concert is announced to the general public through social media.
There is no cost to being on the email list: just be aware that you might see the listing for the concert on Eventbrite and not be able to access tickets until after the 48 hour advance sales is over.
So, thanks for your support as our programming grows and we develop new ways to keep musicians employed and our community engaged!
An update on our ongoing response to COVID-19
We miss our community and hope you and yours are well! Through these strange and challenging times, we know we will gather again in the future. In the meantime, BJP has been working to expand ways that we can support the jazz community, paying attention to healthy protocols.
First, a couple of updates. The piano is still here! The loan by Yamaha Canada of the gorgeous C3 grand piano was up in June but given the times and the current impossibility of fund-raising, Yamaha has extended our time. This has allowed us to welcome local musicians for rehearsals, sessions, live-streams and recordings. There aren’t many venues in town that have a great piano on offer (and offer a free space) so this is a significant help to the local community at a time when it is most needed.
COVID-19 delays affected our application for charitable status through CRA but we are hopefully on track now. I have had incredible help from a CRA employee who has been kind and thorough, so fingers crossed that our application is approved soon. This will allow us to issue tax receipts for donations and will open up additional granting streams.
BJP received grant money from the Canada Council that has allowed us to hire musicians for a new on-line initiative we have developed called Jazz Connections. This program has three educational streams: BJP Webinars presented by jazz musicians; Jazz Notes, a video series featuring jazz compositions edited with commentary that explains the jazz structure and creative process; and Five Questions, a video compilation that introduces Canadian jazz musicians to listeners through a series of short answers to five engaging questions.
Our plan, dependent on grant money and donations, is to create a subscription portal on the BJP website that will give access to content we produce and provide an income stream that will allow us to develop further programming. This will create new revenue streams for musicians as we hire them to host webinars and edit videos and provide licensing fees for video use. It will also allow us to reach a global audience and raise the profile of Canadian jazz music and musicians.
Musicians are feeling particularly isolated right now so we organized a BJP hang for jazz musicians recently via Zoom. It was a big success and we are going to continue and expand that initiative to help musicians connect with other peers.
Be careful, be well, be hopeful. And be in touch: send us your thoughts and ideas about our new initiatives, suggestions for other areas to explore and musicians you’d like to see when concerts return. As always, we appreciate your continued engagement and support.