Coltrane festival figures pose dilemma

Nov. 26, 2012 @ 11:42 PM

Coltrane festival organizers are pleased with this year’s event, but a bit puzzled on how to proceed with next year’s festival in light of unofficial attendance and financial tallies.
The 2012 John Coltrane International Jazz and Blues Festival, held Sept. 1 at Festival Park, essentially duplicated the inaugural 2011 festival, with attendance of approximately 2,400 and a break-even budget of approximately $200,000, according to Patrick Harman, treasurer of the sponsoring Friends of John Coltrane nonprofit group.
Not all financial reports are in, Harman said. In addition, looking at the $200,000 figure alone doesn’t give a full picture of festival finances.
Last year, Hayden-Harman Foundation, of which Harman is executive director, gave the festival $80,000, which was intended to be a one-time, start-up contribution. This year, the foundation contributed $8,000 from several fundraisers.
Last year, the city of High Point allocated $32,000 to the festival, which became the subject of controversy regarding payback, an issue that has not been clearly settled. So far, the festival has repaid the city $5,000, Harman said.
This year, the High Point Convention & Visitors Bureau gave the festival a total of $67,500. Other major donors include $2,500 from the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation and $5,000 from Rooms To Go. 
Because income and expenses this year were break-even, there is no reserve money to hire musicians for next year’s festival, which concerns co-chairman Bruce Davis. The 2012 festival featured musicians with national and international reputations.
The 2011 festival left organizers with a reserve of $23,000 to begin hiring musicians for the 2012 festival.
“We’re still having discussions and plan to have a festival next year,” Davis said. “I’m not disappointed (with this year’s numbers), but I’m not totally satisfied, because we can’t get anywhere like this and can’t continue to depend on public dollars from the city and county.
“It’s a little bit concerning as we move forward and try to plan for the next festival. To secure artists, we have to have money up front, and if we don’t have money to roll over from one festival to the next, we need to look at how we manage our funds.”
Harman seems to see the situation differently.
“This is a charitable activity,” Harman said. “I know concerts are commercial in people’s minds, but this is kind of for the community ... and not designed to make money. ... It’s hard to make money off these things; they have to be subsidized.”
Feedback from festivalgoers was positive, and organizers will continue to refine the festival based on that feedback, Davis said.
“If we can get the funding straight, it will be a huge success in the future,” Davis said.