Big Support For Detroit Jazz Fest

(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — The donor who saved the Detroit International Jazz Festival last year with a donation of $250,000 is ready to dwarf her last gift with a pledge of $10 million to create a nonprofit foundation dedicated solely to producing the concert.

Gretchen Valade, a Carhartt clothing heiress and owner of jazz record label Mack Avenue Records, plans to donate the money to help get the festival out of debt by forcing Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts, which has produced the festival since 1994, to give up control of the event.

Valade’s foundation could secure the financial future of the annual Labor Day weekend jazz festival, which has struggled over the past five years to make ends meet.

Her plan calls for the new foundation to oversee artistic programming, operations, marketing and fund-raising. A $10 million endowment means that the festival would begin each year with a $500,000 head start in fund-raising – double the amount Music Hall has traditionally received from a title sponsor.

“It sounds like a godsend to me, that this lady with all of her resources has that kind of interest in fostering jazz,” festival fan Edward Van Slambrouck told the Detroit Free Press. “I think it would be terrible not to utilize those resources.”


According to the paper, Valade and Mack Avenue Records president Tom Robinson have been quietly negotiating with members of Music Hall’s executive board over the past few weeks, and formally presented it to the board on Thursday.

Festival artistic director Frank Malfitano told the paper that the idea of a self-sustaining foundation was the best way to ensure the festival’s long-term viabilitiy.

“This is a difficult economy in which to raise $1.5 million to produce a festival worthy of Detroit and comparable to the festival produced this past Labor Day weekend,” he said.

The paper reports that between 2000 and 2003, the festival lost more than $1 million because of flat corporate support, administrative and marketing failings and stiff competition from the Chrysler Arts, Beats & Eats street fair in Pontiac, MI. The 2004 festival broke even, and, with Mack Avenue’s support and a successful expansion, the 2005 festival made a modest surplus.

Still, the earlier debts nearly pushed Music Hall into bankruptcy and weakened support for the festival among some board members. –by CelebrityAccess Staff Writers

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