That night, if anyone had told me that I would be writing this newsletter 24 years later, I would've called them "loco"! In past newsletters I've mentioned that for me all these years of promoting concerts still seems surreal. Every time I tell someone my profession, the first thing I hear is, "wow, that must be a pretty cool job". But in reality concert promoting is nothing like most people imagine.
Over the last 24 years I've been blessed with getting to know and partnering with many wonderful people in the music industry, locally and nationally. Just as any other business, it's not necessarily about how much money you have, but rather, who you know.
Holiday Inn (Crowne Plaza) Outside Concerts
It took several years of hard work before agents would return my phone calls. In those early days I was dependent on others already in the business to connect with agents and artists. It wasn't until a year or two after I began co-presenting concerts with the King Center that agents began calling back.
In the mid 1990's BJS was all about smooth jazz. In October of 1994 the Rippingtons packed our first King Center concert with over 1,700 jazz fans attending show. The Ripps came back several times, always doing well at the King Center.
Valentines Day 1995 brought BJS' first Club Barracudas concert. Unbeknownst to the club's owners and to myself, Barracudas, already a hot spot for younger music lovers and Tuesday "quarter beer night" also became a hot spot for smooth jazz concerts. BJS hosted a long streak of concerts there, with artists like Warren Hill, Art Porter, Jeff Lorber, Maynard Ferguson, Acoustic Alchemy, Steve Reid's Bamboo Forest, Kirk Whalum, Gregg Karukas and many others. A small 160 seat dance club on US 1 in Cocoa (under the water tower) was hopping with smooth jazz for several years.
The Original Acoustic Alchemy-Nick Webb & Greg Carmichael - Barracudas 1995
While BJS hosted intimate concerts at Barracudas, we also co-presented King Center concerts with artists like George Benson, Spyro Gyra, Al Di Meola, Fourplay, Dave Koz, Chris Botti, David Sanborn, Richard Elliot, David Benoit, Peter White, Basia, Rick Braun, Brian Culbertson, Boney James and many others, attracting local as well as Orlando based jazz fans . We also packed ballrooms at the Hilton Rialto, and Holiday Inn beachside (now the Crowne Plaza) with the likes of Craig Chaquico, Jeff Kashiwa, Larry Carlton, Marion Meadows, Norman Brown, Tom Grant, and Chuck Loeb, to name a few.
Dave Koz's Smooth Jazz Xmas 1999
Although my life took quite a twist in 2004 when I decided to make being a Dad my first priority and moved to Dalton, Massachusetts to be with my son Justin, my commitment to Brevard's cultural scene never faltered. Commuting from Massachusetts to Florida every 2-3 weeks was a bit of a challenge, but the good Lord blessed me with three of the most most successful years the Brevard Jazz Series ever had. The traveling was at times, tiring and confusing. I wasn't sure where my home was - was it in my beloved Brevard county? Or was it with my son Justin in Dalton, MA? Thankfully I was blessed with a wonderful Massachusetts family, as well as my amazing Florida family.
BJS' success and the growth of the smooth jazz genre in the early & mid 2000's also brought some unique challenges. At that time many radio stations were flipping to the smooth jazz genre and offering audiences quite a few free events. WLOQ in Orlando was one of the hottest stations in the country. They flexed their smooth jazz muscle by presenting, promoting and finding financing for free events including the Winter Park Arts Festival, the concerts at Cranes Roost Park and several other events. In Brevard, the Groove radio station followed suit, taking over Wednesday nights at the Crowne Plaza and offering free concerts on a weekly basis.
Chris Botti - King Center 2005
Returning to Florida with my son in January of 2008, I began to re-establish my connections and my footing. After many discussions, research and soul searching about how the jazz landscape had changed while I was gone, I realized that; 1) "free" is wonderful but someone still has to somehow pay the expenses - no one can get around that for long. 2) The writing was clearly on the jazz wall - the smooth jazz genre was being used and abused by many wanting to make a quick buck, abused the artists' love for their music and the patron's desire to support it. And 3) if I focused on my business, did the very best I could, and treated my patrons like I wish to be treated, BJS would continue on.
My son Justin strums
Craig Chaquico's guitar
King Center 2004
Reality hit the genre hard in 2009. Jazz radio began to disappear as did jazz promoters. Orlando's WLOQ, Brevard's Groove and jazz stations in New York, D.C., Philly, and many other cities either shut down, sold or flipped back to more profitable formats. Jazz concert attendance dropped to the lowest levels ever, and in 2010 I made the decision to retire the Brevard Jazz Series name and call my company The Brevard Music Group.
BMG is strong and doing well. I've been blessed with promoting artists like Johnny Winter, Jimmy Vaughan, John Mayall, Dick Dale, Al Stewart, Jefferson Starship, POCO, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Jonny Lang, Firefall, Samantha Fish and many, many other Classic Rock and Blues artists. BMG's partnership with Mark & Cathy Powers of the Florida Smooth Jazz Foundation firmly reflects our commitment of keeping jazz alive in Brevard. We've brought the likes of Peter White, Rick Braun, Mindi Abair, Keiko Matsui, Ottmar Liebert, the Yellowjackets, Chuck Loeb, Nick Colionne and many other jazz artists to Brevard's stages and our commitment continues with the 2018 Florida Smooth Jazz Weekend in Daytona Beach. I am blessed to also partner with the King Center, Lou's Blues, The Henegar, The Hilton & Crowne Plaza hotels - the very best venues in Brevard. But ultimately what moves my spirit forward is the place and the people where I live.
Florida Smooth Jazz Weekend 2017 at the Crowne Plaza
I love living in Brevard County. I love its beaches & waterways, its culture, its music and arts but mostly I love Brevard's people. You have always been and will always be my driving force.
My commitment to you on this 24th anniversary of BJS/BMG is to do all I can to make Brevard County the very best place to live for its people, and do more for Brevard than feed its cultural side. I want to make Brevard county a unique place for amazing live music!
Jonny Lang 2016
The JAZZSERIES.COM Smooth Jazz Concerts:
On our 24th Anniversary I am re-committing to my company's roots, and to bringing more smooth jazz to our local area with the JAZZSERIES.COM Smooth Jazz Concerts. Our JAZZSERIES.COM Smooth Jazz Concerts is my commitment to support talented artists that may not be receiving as much time to portray their musical talents as they should. As I write about the evolution of smooth jazz in our community, I feel strongly that it's time to give these very talented artists a strong, positive platform where they can perform for us. "It takes a village" to once again shine the light of smooth jazz at all levels of the genre. Please help get our new smooth jazz train moving forward by purchasing a pair of tickets to our Smooth Jazz concerts, by telling your smooth jazz community and families about our efforts and by sharing concert details on your social media platforms and through email. With your help we will continue to keep smooth jazz alive in Brevard county, Florida!
Our First JAZZSERIES.COM Smooth Jazz Concert
Blake Aaron & Tom Braxton
The Amazing Jazz Weekend Concept & Our 2018 Florida Smooth Jazz Weekend:
Miracles are very much a part of my life. To me the Florida Smooth Jazz Weekend, the concept of gathering jazz lovers and fans together along with the highest caliber of artistry in a fun venue for a weekend of family fun, is certainly another miracle in my promoting resume. This story began back in 1998, when I sat one day and jotted down what I called "A Cruise on Land" concept back then. I remember detailing my concept of giving jazz lovers a venue where, for one price, they could gather for 2-3 days to enjoy great music, great friends, and a family atmosphere, all packaged into one price. I approached several Brevard hotels including the Holiday Inn, Indialantic (now known as the Crowne Plaza) with my Cruise on Land concept - the Holiday Inn management, along with several other Brevard and South Florida properties didn't have the vision - they all turned the concept down. As business increased and life got busy I mothballed the concept.
Many years later after partnering two Florida Smooth Jazz Cruises, and the Florida Smooth Jazz Festival with Cathy Powers of the Florida Smooth Jazz Foundation, I pulled out my "Cruise on Land" notes and showed them to Cathy. After many discussions, Cathy and I negotiated deals with the Crowne Plaza Melbourne Oceanfront, and with five tremendous smooth jazz artists - finally the "Cruise on Land" concept of the 1990's was successfully born in January of 2015 at the Crowne Plaza Melbourne Oceanfront as The Florida Smooth Jazz Weekend!
The 2015 Florida Smooth Jazz Weekend
The Florida Smooth Jazz Weekend. a partnership between myself and Cathy & Mark Powers of the Florida Smooth Jazz Foundation, has become one of the few "must attend" jazz weekend events in the country. Our sold out 2017 Jazz Weekend event at the Crowne Plaza brought almost 500 smooth jazz lovers from all over the U.S. together for an unforgettable weekend of smooth jazz, fun gatherings, new and old friendships and what we call our "growing Jazz Weekend family." Our 2018 Florida Smooth Jazz Weekend at the Plaza Resort and Spa in Daytona Beach continues that tradition. While the Plaza Resort and Spa will give us a bit more room to "spread our smooth jazz wings" we are keen on maintaining our commitment to an intimate atmosphere, the highest quality, personalized service, and the very best artists and performances Smooth Jazz has to offer.
As BMG Moves Forward: I feel so, so blessed for the opportunity to be a small but hopefully an important part of Brevard county's cultural landscape. As I look ahead I see BJS/BMG remaining focused on keeping out roots solidly local. Our programming will continue to focus on bringing the tremendous talents of artists that may not otherwise be performing on larger stages.
The tradition we started 24 years ago will continue with more smooth jazz, more intimate concerts, as well as more talented up & coming artists of all genres. I realize national promoters will always be presenting concerts in Brevard, but I also know there's nothing better than "locally grown and independent".
Johnny Winter - Cocoa Beach 2007
Our New Blog: At the urging of my staff, this email is the first entry in BMG's Blog we call "Roland's Notes". This blog will be my opportunity to "get personal" about what's happening with the Brevard Music Group, The Florida Smooth Jazz Weekend, and our industry. It will also give you the opportunity to connect with me, offer your suggestions and opinions. Please keep an eye out for my blog entries which will be tied to our email blasts and social media posts.
You Are My Driving Force: I learned early on that "if you build it, they will come" is a false narrative. Yes, I work hard every day. Yes, I'm blessed with great partnerships. Yes, I blessed with a great team. But after my son and my family, YOU are my most important partnership and my biggest blessing. From the beginning at Record Hut in Rockledge, to the Blake Aaron & Tom Braxton concert this past Sunday, your patience, your understanding, your support IS this company's success. I am only a facilitator, YOU are the fuel that fires up the machine that maintains my passion for my work. I feel that so deeply there is no way I can express my gratitude, my sincere appreciation, my thanks to you for your support the past 24 years with BJS/BMG and the previous 11 years with Record Hut, in words. I am truly blessed....
God bless and thank you,
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More pictures are posted on the Brevard Music Group Facebook page as well as on my personal page under Roland Guilarte.
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