Friends of Hermann's Jazz Club stand outside the iconic club on View Street.

Saving Hermann’s akin to saving jazz in Victoria

Jazz on View Society looking to fundraise $3 million to purchase the iconic Hermann's Jazz Club

Nichola Walkden is losing her voice as she sits down to talk about the ongoing fight to save Hermann’s Jazz Club.

She’s lost her voice from talking to musicians, staff, lawyers, the media, supporters, potential donors and others. Walkden, who has worked at the club off and on for the past 15 years as a waitress and sometimes manager, is optimistic that Victoria’s only jazz club, and the longest continuously running jazz club in Canada, can be kept open. But she knows it won’t be easy.

“I really feel like we’re going to win this,” Walkden said. “We have such huge support, and we have such a great community, and a 35-year tradition.”

When club founder Hermann Nieweler died in June, 2015, it was a huge loss to the music scene in Victoria. He left behind a unrivalled legacy of patronage for jazz in Victoria. But he also left a club struggling to stay afloat despite its cultural importance. His estate went to his three children, who have contributed to running the club over the years, but who also live in Vancouver and are selling the View Street building Hermann’s is in.

In 2016, Walkden, who has considerable experience in conservation acquisition, established the Jazz on View Society to work towards raising the $3 million needed to buy the building. Another key element is renting the building’s upstairs space, until recently the home of Yuk Yuks, for the much-needed income. The club itself isn’t a sustainable business, and Walkden said throughout its existence it has been treated more as a community service than a money-making venture.

“Hermann ran this out of love,” Walkden said. “It’s out of his generosity that we have this room.”

Hermann’s Jazz Club has always put performers first when it comes to revenue, with the money from ticket sales, minus $2 per ticket, going directly to the performers. Walkden said the average revenue generated by the club for performers is about $400,000 per year.

“That’s a huge musical economy that will disappear,” Walkden said. “Venues are an essential component… and as venues are disappearing, there’s a threat to the industry.”

With record sales now a fraction of what they once were thanks to downloading and streaming services, musicians of all kinds are relying more and more on live performance to generate income. Unfortunately, music venues are also struggling, with increasing rents and significantly reduced incomes since the introduction of stricter drinking and driving enforcement. The recent closure of the Tally-Ho Hotel was the latest in a string of venue loses.

Maria Manna, co-founder of the Universal Jazz Advocates and Mentors Society and a jazz vocalist, said there is an abundance of talented musicians in Victoria, but the struggle to make money playing music is a constant challenge. The closing of Hermann’s would only make things more difficult.

“People that I know who perform in Victoria should be getting a lot more money, but it isn’t there,” Manna said. “There’s a lot of amazing musicians here in Victoria, and everybody wants to work.”

Beyond the financials, providing a place to play live is also a key element to the art itself. As a professor of jazz at the University of Victoria, Dr. Patrick Boyle, who has an impressive resume as a trumpeter, said all of his teaching is based on the students gaining real experience playing live and being around the music, believing “the text book is the stage.”

“Jazz clubs are the incubators of jazz music,” said Boyle. “For anyone who is interested in listening to this music or playing this music, you really need to experience it live and on stage. …You can’t learn this music out of a book.”

Walkden figures they now have about six months to come up with the funds. At the time of writing about $270,000 had been pledged, before any fundraising campaign has even begun. Letters from notable jazz fans and musicians from across Canada and beyond have been pouring in, offering support; among them Wynton Marsalis, one of the best known names in the genre. Next Walkden said they will be looking for more pledges, connecting with jazz fans in a financial position to help.

“The encouragement I get is phenomenal,” Walkden said. “My confidence in this, and I’ve done $3 million campaigns before, is really optimistic. The timeline is so brief, but I’ve learnt that fundraising takes as long as you give it.”

Ultimately, Manna believes saving Hermann’s is akin to saving jazz in Victoria.

“If you go anywhere else and try to create a Hermann’s, it’s not going to have the same vibe. It’s not going to feel the same, because it’s that building,” she said. “That room holds so many stories, so many notes, so many tunes. Where else are you going to get that?”

 

 

Just Posted

Pet-A-Palooza a good reason to ‘pawse’ this weekend in Victoria

Puppies, goats, wiener dog races and more on the grounds of St. Ann’s Academy Aug. 18-19

UVic art display showcases craft of bookmaking

Art of the Book 2018 is in the Audain Gallery at UVic from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. starting Aug. 11

Celebrate local food with Feast of Fields in North Saanich

21st Feast of Fields on Vancouver Island is at Kildara Farms on Aug. 26 from 1 to 4 p.m.

RIFFLANDIA: Local artists thrive under festival model

Bands like Current Swell, one of the 2018 headliners, made their mark at RAP

Baseball’s HarbourCats wind up WCL season with loss to Pickles

Victoria needed a win to make the league playoffs, now looks ahead to 2019

Updated: ‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin has died

Publicist Gwendolyn Quinn reports Franklin passed Thursday at 9:50 a.m. at her home in Detroit

REVIEW: Ever wanted to be young again? Theatre Skam’s Concord Floral will make you think again

Strong acting in an interesting theatre space, writes Sheila Martindale

Brad Pitt says he has given Jolie Pitt millions since split

Actor Brad Pitt denies Angelina Jolie Pitt’s claim that he has paid no meaningful child support.

WINE LOVERS UNITE: Victoria festival offers numerous tasting options

Parkside Hotel and Spa hosting Victoria International Wine Festival

Farquhar Auditorium updates image for 40th season

The Farquhar at UVic ushers in new season Sept. 22

THEATRE SKAM: Young cast brings Concord Floral to life in vacant downtown retail space

Former office supply store a unique venue for telling mysterious tale of youth with secrets

Schedule released for world junior hockey championship in B.C.

Vancouver and Victoria ready to host, as Canada conducts training camp in Kamloops

Five things to do this B.C. Day long weekend

Check out these great community events in Greater Victoria

5 things to do in Greater Victoria this weekend

Check out dragon Boats, artists, football and more

Most Read