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Friday, July 15, 2011

Opinion: Lessons About Supporting Bronx Artists on the Eve of Paul McCartney's Bronx Concert

Bronx resident and singer-songwriter Jann Klose (photo courtesy Anne Leighton)
By Anne Leighton 

I felt so energized after a long day of pitching singer-songwriter Jann Klose to the media when Gregory, who runs the Boogiedowner blog, wrote me back, "Thanks for thinking of me and keeping in touch. I do enjoy your persistence in what you do." Then, after my neighbor read Frank DiGiacomo's mention of my artist's story in the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, she told me to check her post on Paul McCartney's FACEBOOK page, cheering support for Jann in his quest to open for the Beatle at Yankees Stadium this week.  A few days later my friends at the BBC Merseyside, in Paul's hometown of Liverpool, UK, called, "Will Jann talk with our afternoon drive guy Billy Butler on July 13 at 10 a.m. east coast time?" 

I've been working with Jann, who lives here in the Bronx, the past seven years.  We've found support from people, media, and concert venues all over the world.  He's performed in the Beatles' stomping ground of Hamburg, Germany (where he spent his teenage years, as well), and has performed in their hometown of Liverpool.  A few critics have compared Jann favorably to McCartney, some to Lennon, he covered George Harrison's song "Something" live at BB King's, and opened for Marshall Crenshaw who played "John Lennon" in Broadway's BEATLEMANIA.  Here in the Bronx, we've found more encouragement from the people and the media than arts' organizations and venues.  A number of folks have taken road trips to his shows out of town, and people--of all ages--are telling their friends about his live concerts.

There are so many ways struggling musicians, artists, writers can evaluate the type of support they receive or don't receive in the hometown. Certainly many of us might feel frustrated if an arts organization doesn't respond to phone calls or e-mails or the elected politicians offer paid opportunities to musicians from other regions. It takes months and sometimes years to build give-and-take relationships with organizations even in your own hometown, but it can be done.

Any talented artist--whether he or she is marketing himself or works with an ally--should always stress the artist's service to the community, be sweetly persistent, and understand that different organizations and venues do have favorites with their limited resources.

Service to the Community: The Arts plays a very special role in today's world.  Concerts can build commerce in a neighborhood.  People attending Sir Paul's Yankee Stadium show will certainly find some cool eateries and shopping in the neighborhood before and after the concert.

In addition, really good artists like Paul and Jann inspire their audience. The times are rough--people find reassurance, compassion, energy and motivation from music.  Look at people dancing. Music can be an escape or it can help you face reality.  The same goes for other arts. Each artist has to evaluate themselves periodically and also talk with their fans in order to better understand their service.

Persistence and follow-up: We got the gig at An Beal Bocht because I kept telling Jordan (NORWOD NEWS editor) about Jann.  He's one of the most busy people in the neighborhood, running the paper, mentoring students, raising a family, and--of course--writing for the paper. In time, Jordan got back to me, let me know how much he enjoyed my artist, and also told me about the venue! Jann got to play Bronx Week in 2008 because we were persistent with the festival's organizers. While it was easier to find promo from the Bronx media for this gig because of the Grammy nomination, we've also gotten shows and media placements just because I called and e-mailed venues, promoters, media outlets all over the world. We found shows for him the same way. 

Finding different organizations: I've used local media (NORWOOD NEWS, http://boogiedowner.wordpress.com/, the Bronx Times, Riverdale Press and Review newspapers, BronxNet, WFUV, News12, The Daily News), plus elected officials, hospitals, word of mouth to find leads.  For instance, last summer I asked folks at a number of organizations about where Jann could play in the Bronx.  Believe it or not, Jordan Moss told me of An Beal Bocht.  So we visited the club, sent them a note with Jann's video and his background (opening for Renaissance, Marshall Crenshaw, Pete Seeger), and booked him there.  That gig helped bring him some luck as he ended up opening for Rusted Root the night before, and then flying out to the Grammy Awards the morning after as Jann is on a GRAMMY-nominated album, along with Julian Lennon!  And we were able to publicize that show (and--of course the GRAMMY-nomination) on BronxNet and News12!
Every so often I find new leads. I'm reaching out to schools and places in Harlem for Jann's music. There's interest.

So, don't worry if the people you'd really like to have support your art don't get involved.  Keep them informed, follow up with them even if they say "No," because in time, they'll realize you're doing something valuable, so some of them do come around.  Also the Bronx (and nearby Westchester and upper Manhattan) has unlimited resources for performance and other arts. Most important, be thankful to those who do support you. They may not be Paul McCartney or his best friend, but they are going to pay to hear you in concert and tell their friends! 

--Anne Leighton lives in Norwood and is a local writer and music promoter.  


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