AN OPEN LETTER TO MUSIC STUDENTS IN VANCOUVER

Dear Vancouver Music Students,

I write this letter to you as a question, an inquiry if you will.  Although I’m frustrated and I’ll admit, a little bit angry, mostly I am curious.

The question is where the hell are you?  Why are you not down here tonight (Sunday, December 2nd).  Here are some of the people that Mike LeDonne has played with: Benny Goodman, George Coleman, Milt Jackson, Benny Golson. Here are some of the people John Webber has played with: George Coleman, Jimmy Cobb, Louis Hayes, Steve Grossman. Here are some of the people Joe Farnsworth has played with: Cedar Walton, Phaorah Sanders, Harold Mabern.  These are only a handful of the names that come to my mind as I write this but trust me there are many many many more that I am missing.

How are you going to learn how to play this music if you don’t come and take these opportunities to hear the music in the flesh played by three people that have been there and pretty much done it all?  This is only one Sunday of many in the past few months where the tickets have been seriously discounted and the student turnout has been appalling and quite honestly embarrassing. 

Drummers, why haven’t you called me and asked if Joe Farnsworth is giving lessons while he is here, why haven’t you called me and asked if John Webber would be willing to play though a bunch of tunes with you for an hour.  Bassists, why haven’t you called me and asked if John Webber will give lessons, why havent you called me and asked if Joe would be into playing some tunes with you. Pianists, why haven’t you asked me if Mike LeDonne is giving lessons while he is here.

Does it even occur to you the opportunity that you’re missing by not taking advantage of this?  

This weekend is just one example of the many in the past 12 years where the attendance by students is terrible.  

I’m trying hard to make the music accessible for you, I’m trying to make it affordable for you, I’m trying to encourage you to come and be able to soak up everything that there is to soak up.  I’m starting to think that its really not about how expensive it is. It’s about that fact that there is lack caring.  There is a general lack of caring by students and I’m not sure why.  

Please feel free to write me and tell me what’s up.

 

Cory 

 

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15 thoughts on “AN OPEN LETTER TO MUSIC STUDENTS IN VANCOUVER

  1. ~ sorry that this is merely a BIG “I agree” with you comment. Having spent my youth around Gerrard St., Yorkville and the Bohemian Embassy in Toronto…and later, the Smiling Buddha & Classical Joint in Vancouver…I remember who got ‘blown off the stage’ and who didn’t …and that was a lesson in itself.

  2. Cory, I think that there is some validity to your points, as I myself am a student and know many of my peers who are too apathetic to attend shows at times. Even personally, my attendance at shows has been down compared to last year. But I know that for a lot of us it has virtually nothing to do with caring/not caring. It’s a financial matter. What you don’t seem to realize in this rant you made is that students can’t afford your steep prices. Even with your “student nights” (which are well-intended but poorly executed) the prices are too high for many of us that already have to contend with high rates of tuition, rent, student loans, and other life expenses. My own attendance of shows this year hasn’t been dictated by my lack of care/my courseload (which is virtually as heavy as it was last year), it’s been the fact that finances are extremely tight. Out of all the many venues to see jazz in this city (The Cellar, El Barrio, Pat’s Pub, The Waldorf, 1067, Ironworks, and a few others), the Cellar is by far the most expensive, even with the “student discounts”. A few years ago, the Cellar was one of the only decent places to see jazz on a regular basis, but in recent years (the past year alone), more and more venues have cropped up. The Cellar is not the only place to see excellent jazz anymore in town, and on top of that, it is not the easiest to afford by a long shot. I see many people on your Facebook and blog agreeing with what you’re saying, but what you fail to convey is the fact that there are other places to see good jazz in Vancouver besides the Cellar. Have you ever considered that maybe students don’t come to your venue because you aren’t catering to them enough? Your prices aren’t exactly student-friendly, even on the Sunday “cheap” nights, and the menu items are all extremely expensive for a student’s wallet. I can go to El Barrio, pay for a cheap drink, give a small donation, and nobody will be hounding me. But at the Cellar there is a food charge in addition to the cover. If there was just one or the other it would be okay, but many of my friends and I just never get out to the Cellar because it is just not somewhere that we can afford to go very often at all. I don’t mean any offence by what I say because I do appreciate the Cellar and the purpose it has served in the city, and I have enjoyed concerts there on many occasions. The time has come now though, where jazz is actually growing in Vancouver- with venues like O’Doul’s dying out, a plethora of others have risen up in its wake. True there are those who don’t actually care and don’t even go to shows at the “cheaper” venues either, but please don’t label us all under that stereotype. It makes you come across as very disconnected from us and will turn students away even further. The fact of the matter is that people ARE seeing jazz in this city, and I can tell when I see packed venues. Perhaps it’s not the Cellar, but there are people going to hear this music. Your anger at the low attendance to your club, and the fact you blame it on students “not caring” shows me that you are unaware of other venues, and the fact that people (many students included) are actually going to see jazz.

    • Dear Annonymous,
      Thank you for your well thought out email.
      Although my initial letter was very easy to interpret as angry and directed negatively at students…really it was not, it was more concern for the future of this music. Nor were my thoughts a reflection of how I feel about students as a whole.

      You make very good points about El Barrio and other places that are much cheaper and much closer to the student body’s of VCC and CAP. I will never be able to compete with those places, nor do I want to. Those places are important to the fabric of the jazz scene however, if I may say so myself, The Cellar is far superior on a number of levels in terms of the performance space we provide the musicians and the terms in which we pay. I think your argument about price is simply wrong.

      First off as stated on our website, there is NEVER a cover for students on second set EVER. Don’t matter if its Benny Golson, Benny Green or Eric Alexander. Its FREE for the second set. All that I ask is that once there you spend $10. Last time I looked at our menu there were 5 items under $10 in choose from. Add a beer to that with tax and tip you can get out of there for less than $22 and seen a set with some of the greatest jazz musicians in the world. Please explain to me how I can make it cheaper. Not mention the fact that spending and extra $5 or so to see someone of world class calibre that rarely visit The Cellar isn’t going to break your bank.

      Tuesday nights have been no cover for the better part of 2 years and also cheap $4 pints. The student turnout has been okay but not great. How would you suggest I make it cheaper? Maybe I pay you $5 to show up? There is NO COVER.

      I was a student once to and understand the financial issues but nothing ever trumped going to see live music of the highest calibre at the various different venues that offered it. Can the Cellar be expensive? YES it sure can, is it STUDENT FRIENDLY like El Barrio or The LIBRA ROOM etc.? No it isn’t. Will it ever be? No, probably not….but I have gone out of my way to make it more accessible for those that don’t have the funds or means to make it on a regular basis but there is no mention of that in any comments.

      Did I generalize students? Yes, maybe. Did you generalize about The Cellar and its prices without doing your researh? Yes you certainly did.

      • Cory:

        It’s great that there isn’t a cover on second sets, it truly is. However for students to transit out from N Van (approx 1 hour) to pay let’s say 18 dollars, see 1 set of music, and then transit the hour back to get home is more of a hassle than maybe you see it as. In no means am I suggesting you make changes to your club (and I fail to see how your comment about you paying us to be there was necessary in the slightest). I think (and this is just my observation so don’t assume I’m trying to speak on behalf of the student community) that between the distance to travel, the price to pay, and the time we get out of it is less of a deal than say Pats Pub (which I frequently go to). I know students who have seen 18 shows in 1 month, and only one of those shows was at the Cellar. And I do appreciate the intent behind the no cover on 2nd sets, and the slightly cheaper menu items. But school is expensive. Rent is expensive. Add groceries to that. It’s more economically sensible to go to other venues where it’s more affordable. Pat’s Pub you can have a beer and sip on it over 4 hours and you get 4 hours of live jazz. And you’re seeing the same Vancouver musicians that come to the Cellar. Granted they aren’t the big NYC jazz cats that you bring in, but they’re still jazz musicians. I myself enjoy eating meals at home other than Kraft Dinner and to do that, I have to pick and choose where I go to see my live jazz. I’m sorry to say that the Cellar isn’t often at the top of the list but for myself it’s an expense I can’t afford as frequently as you seem to expect of us as students.

        2nd of all, it’s exam time now. You probably will see little to no students at any shows in the next week and a half. It’s the most stressful time of the semester now Cory. As much as it would be great to come out and see a show, most of us won’t until after exams are done. I know a lot of us are coming to see Brad play Weather Report on the 15th, so you’ll see us there.

        Also a question, if you don’t mind my asking: This little clip from an article that showed your blog “Vancouver saxophonist Cory Weeds would like nothing more than to have you attend his quintet’s concert at the NAC Fourth Stage on Jan. 23 — and thereby restore his faith in your generation.”.

        Is that your phrasing or theirs?

      • Hey there. Not sure why you feel the need to be anonymous but whatever its cool.

        As for your phrasing question in the Peter Hum article, it was ABSOLUTELY not mine so you can put that to rest.

        You have made valid points again. I think you have overstated some things but you are entitled to your opinion and I couldn’t possibly know your reality I don’t presume to know what your finances are.

        In my opinion, I think there are always a lot of excuses. It’s always somethin ie: to far, to much, exams, to rainy, to sunny, Pat’s is cheaper, Pat’s is closer and that’s fine, I’m sure they are very valid and true excuses and explanations, I just think that ALOT, NOT ALL students put the right value on things all the time.

        Im very happy that tons of students go to Pat’s, I love Pat’s, I’ve blogged about it and how important it is. Why would you come to hear me or Brad or whoever else at The Cellar when you can go cheaper to hear them at El Barrio and Pat’s Pub. I would to, its the reality of the situation but when I bring in the heavier cats to the city just once, it would be nice to see a good turnout of students, not because of the money. Students are not gonna pay my bills, they’re not whats gonna put me over the top. It’s for what I feel is the future of the music. Whether you wanna believe it or think it, there are golden opportunities being provided by The Cellar for young musicians. Opportunities that on a whole are not being taken advantage of. Call it generalizing, call it stereotyping, call it whatever you want.

        Maybe my approach has upset people, that certainly was not my intent. My intent was to start a dialogue and boy did I ever accomplish that!!

        Im also sorry bout my “me paying you $5 to come.”Perhaps unnecessary and not meant as a slight. My point I was trying to make is there isn’t any evidence challenge my theory that is has not a lot to do with money. If I said no cover for students ever and no minimum, Im not sure how the turnout would be much better. And even if it were better I would still go out of business because I can’t give stuff away for free.

        Anyways, I’m still open to the dialogue. I would love to have a name to this thread but whatever, its your perogative.

        CW

  3. That’s all fair points there. I think another part of it is advertising. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a poster up at Cap advertising any shows at the Cellar unless students are playing there. The other establishments seem (to me at least) to be more frequently mentioned for the majority of the shows. It’d help me personally to have a visual to remember details by as well as the aural details passed along by Brad or Steve or Bill.

  4. “Im very happy that tons of students go to Pat’s, I love Pat’s, I’ve blogged about it and how important it is. Why would you come to hear me or Brad or whoever else at The Cellar when you can go cheaper to hear them at El Barrio and Pat’s Pub. I would to, its the reality of the situation but when I bring in the heavier cats to the city just once, it would be nice to see a good turnout of students, not because of the money. Students are not gonna pay my bills, they’re not whats gonna put me over the top. It’s for what I feel is the future of the music. Whether you wanna believe it or think it, there are golden opportunities being provided by The Cellar for young musicians. Opportunities that on a whole are not being taken advantage of. Call it generalizing, call it stereotyping, call it whatever you want.”

    Unfortunately on those nights there is still a big price to pay in terms of cover and food. Although I know many students who went out to the Benny Golson, and many who are coming out for the Christian McBride. Also, I realize that Tuesday nights are cheap nights, but last time I went out for one of those nights, the majority of the crowd there WAS students (Nightcrawlers recording).

    • Unfortunately on those nights there is still a big price to pay in terms of cover and food. Although I know many students who went out to the Benny Golson, and many who are coming out for the Christian McBride. Also, I realize that Tuesday nights are cheap nights, but last time I went out for one of those nights, the majority of the crowd there WAS students (Nightcrawlers recording).

      What? Are you serious? On ‘those’ nights there is NO COVER in the second sets with a $10 minimum charge! You have to spend $10! Yes the Nightcrawlers recording nights were good with students for sure.

      On the ‘visual ‘ front David I hear you. I try to get posters to Cap etc. and I need to try harder I guess but we have a website: cellarjazz.com, we have a Facebook page and we have a Twitter account.

  5. “What? Are you serious? On ‘those’ nights there is NO COVER in the second sets with a $10 minimum charge! You have to spend $10! ”

    The thing is no one wants to come out for just 1 set. Students like to go to full sets otherwise it’s a very long trip for a very short amount of playing comparatively. That’s the point they’re getting at I think.

      • I’m not sure why you would be. You asked for answers from us. All we’re trying to show is that it isn’t a lack of caring or interest. Because it isn’t. Not in the slightest.

    • I’m sorry you’re right, but it just seems like the students or the ones that are writing, want it all. Look there isn’t anything I can do if you don’t think it’s worth the 90 minute bus ride there and back to hear one set of a world class piano trio. In the end the students will go to where it’s closest and cheapest. I will never ever be able to offer the prices the places that have been spoken about do. What I offer in general is far far superior (and I’m not talking about talent) to what any other place in this city offers. If the students deem that not worth it or impossible to financially cope with or get to well really in the end it’s the students loss.

      I did ask for answers but what I got was all the predictable answers that I knew I would get. There has been some great dialogue here and on my Facebook page but in the end it seems it’s just about proximity and money therefore things will stay as they are.

      It was much much different when i was a student. I’m not angry at students but what I am is scared for the future of this music.

  6. We don’t “want it all”. We aren’t trying to get everything for free. But it’s not worth 2 hours of transit to hear 45 minutes (or less) of music and have to pay a lot to hear it. If it was a player like Chick Corea then that might be a different story. But especially when we have exams and big final projects in the way it’s very difficult to get there. Sunday night is a terrible night to have “student nights” because we all have school or work the next morning. Sometimes sacrifices have to be made but you can’t expect it be a perpetual thing; we all have lives, and some of us even have families of our own to attend to. You can’t change the location of your club but maybe you could make sets earlier, especially on a Sunday night? For those of us who live in obscure parts of North Van or West Van it can sometimes take up to 2 hours one way late at night with the timing of buses and such.

    I’m not going to keep arguing back and forth because I feel like it’s getting nowhere and I don’t feel like you are really fully listening to what we have to say… Lastly I will reiterate my point about the prices. I do realize that there is a 2nd set where students don’t have to pay cover. But the food charge is still in place. And unfortunately due to the way the menu is set up it is impossible to buy food or drink that perfectly fits that charge. The students would go at least a few bucks over. So it is deceptive to list the cost as one thing, when there are no menu items that cost that exact amount. I was talking today with someone who is allergic to almost all the menu items (and a lot of the drinks too), and the only thing she isn’t allergic to costs a lot more than the minimum charge on most nights. I’m not going to keep checking this and arguing back against all your points, but I’ve presented a few issues and reasons why students aren’t going. If you want to see more students at the Cellar then maybe some of these could be taken into consideration. Just a thought. I will still keep attending the Cellar because it does have great shows, and I do enjoy the atmosphere. Also the noise policy is great, and something that nowhere else really has (in Vancouver jazz venues at least, that I’ve seen). But the prices and travel time make it difficult for it to be somewhere that I would visit often, beyond special occasions.

    • Okay anonymous, I can’t really get anywhere with you either so I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree and leave it at that.

      I have listened to all of your points and acknowledged that you have some good points.

      For the record there are a) never nights where there is 45 minutes of music or less as you allude to, the sets are always 60 min, on Saturday the 2nd set
      was 80 minutes and b) on any night for second set with no cover you can buy a beer at 6.50 and one of 4 menu items for around $7-9. So total of at the most $15.50 + tax and tip which comes to roughly $20.00. Or you could have 2 beer totalling $13 plus tax and tip so you can save yourself a couple $$ there. On the no cover Tuesdays you can pay no cover, buy 3 pints for $12 and still get in and out for under 20.

      What you’re telling me is that is to much. For you it’s not worth the bus ride down and back and that is a scary statement in itself.

      I do appreciate the support you do and will continue to give. This really wasn’t meant to be geared towards one night or one weekend although I used that as a platform to start the debate. It also sounds like you come to the club fair often so again this isn’t geared at you. I certainly don’t expect students to be there every weekend. It’s tough. What I am surprised at is that for our special events, events that you’d normally have to go to NY to hear, there is virtually NO student representation. I can list off at least 20 of those events a of which werent at exam time.

      You know seem to think this is an attack on you and students as a whole. It’s not, it’s a problem that exists, look at my Facebook page, it’s a problem.

      I appreciate you being willing to speak up and have a dialogue although the anonymous thing is not something Im ever on board with.

      Come up and introduce yourself next time you’re at the club and I’ll buy you a beer.

  7. Students: you can learn a lot and even earn your place in your jazz community by attending concerts at places like The Cellar. If you’re not at The Cellar on a regular basis then where are you drinking in your jazz experience from? Be thirsty. Cory has water.

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