Motions: Generations in Jazz

Wednesday July 04, 2018

Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (12:39): I move:

That this house—

(a) recognises that Generations in Jazz is the largest jazz festival in the Southern Hemisphere;

(b) congratulates the board and volunteers of Generations in Jazz on their efforts in facilitating this year’s event;

(c) recognises the significant financial contribution this event makes to the state of South Australia;

(d) calls on the state government to award Generations in Jazz major event status; and

(e) calls on the Premier of South Australia to invite prominent arts journalists from across Australia to be his guests at the 2019 Generations in Jazz festival to promote the event and South Australia, both nationally and internationally.

Over 5,100 students from 128 different schools travelled across the nation, gathering on the outskirts of Mount Gambier, to take part in the annual Generations in Jazz event held from 4 to 6 May this year for a monumental and inspiring weekend of jazz. Generations in Jazz commenced in 1982. The festival started as a school-based competition and is now the largest youth jazz festival of its kind worldwide.

In the days leading up to Generations in Jazz, there was no denying the uplifting of spirit in Mount Gambier. Buses were flooding in, students were exploring our vibrant city, a hum of jazz music was in the air. Bands and choirs spent any spare precious moment practising before the commencement of competitions the following day. I know the Premier will agree that the experience of being at the festival is unlike anything else.

On a sunny autumn day, we witnessed thousands of young Australian musicians gather to show their appreciation and shared passion of jazz music in what is the largest youth jazz festival of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. Chairman of the Generations in Jazz festival and successful musician James Morrison AM said of the unique event:

There are plenty of music festivals that young people go to, but the big difference with this one is that it's all about jazz and everyone performs. What other festival do you go to where all 6,000 people who are coming actually play? If you just wander around these venues, you see all sorts of musicians of all different ages and standards all playing jazz. It's an amazing thing and it's incredibly inspiring for everyone.

Within 100 kilometres of The Barn Palais, the venue for the festival, all accommodation was fully booked. Students were sharing schools and sports halls, gyms and private homes, just to be accommodated. Housing over 5,000 people is no simple task, especially when they must also be provided with three meals each day. Catering is a major component of the event, but the entire Limestone Coast helps with the logistics of the world-class jazz extravaganza.

Coordinating the task is a team of dedicated volunteers who, year in, year out for the past 30  years, have volunteered their time to organise accommodation and find spaces for bands to play and choirs to sing. This year there were over 13 different venues and stages. One can only imagine the painstaking task of coordinating where 5,000 to 6,000 people are going to play in one weekend so that students in multiple bands and choirs are not overlapping.

The Barn served an estimated 21,000 meals over the weekend. An estimated 4,000 volunteer hours were spent on this year's event alone. This is an enormous effort, and I call on this house to praise James Morrison AM, the chairman of the festival for the past 30 years; the event organiser, Nethanel Sutton from Generations in Jazz; and the over 200 local registered volunteers, plus the unregistered volunteers, who have contributed to such a wholesome community event—an event completely unique to the South-East of South Australia.

Adelaide's Marryatville High School took out awards in the top divisions of all three major categories, including Division 1 Stage Band winner. I encourage Vickie Chapman, whose electorate this school is situated in, to attend next year's festival in Mount Gambier and watch this very successful school perform. The festival has unquestionably grown and continues to grow. This year alone there were over 5,000 performers, which is unique.

I understand that chairman, James Morrison, as well as the Generations in Jazz board members envisage that this event will become international with students travelling from Europe, Asia, America and all over the world to mix and play with our Australian students as they share their common interest in jazz music. Three schools from New Zealand have signalled their intent to come in 2019.

This year, The Cat Empire, James Morrison, US saxophonist Jeff Clayton, Madrid percussionist Nasrine Rahmani and Cologne-based trombonist Shannon Barnett entertained over 6,000 people seated in the James Morrison Pavilion, for which they needed separate sessions. US jazz sensation Patti Austin was a special guest artist at this year's event and described it as 'the most concentrated, soulful experience I have ever had in my life'. Such a unique festival not only increases the diverse culture of the Mount Gambier community but also boosts our economy. Generations in Jazz event organiser Nethanel Sutton said of the event:

Generations in Jazz has grown for three decades with no federal or state government support, solely relying on the generosity of donations, sponsorship and thousands of volunteer hours.

Government funding would assist in so many ways, whether it is securing artists for student workshops, appointing a more permanent event management team, improving upon our infrastructure or further expanding the festival.

The city of Wangaratta in Victoria has a population of just over 28,000 people. Each November for the past 29 years, the town has hosted one of the largest jazz festivals in Australia. They receive major support from the state government of Victoria through Creative Victoria, Business Victoria, the Australia Council for the Arts and the Rural City of Wangaratta, to name only a few.

To enable this event in Mount Gambier to continue to expand, I call on the state government to recognise this festival as a major event, and I call on the Minister for Tourism, the Hon. David Ridgway, to grant it major event status. Following this year's Generations in Jazz event, organiser Nethanel Sutton indicated that additional media exposure would increase the event's visibility and put 'regional Australia under the spotlight'. Mr Sutton went on to say that government support and funding would assist in stimulating the growth of the festival.

Generations in Jazz has grown for three decades with no federal or state government sponsorship. There is tremendous community collaboration and involvement in this event. Mr Sutton said that it also serves as a major fundraiser for sporting clubs, schools and charity groups that provide accommodation, catering, cleaning and other services. The economic benefit to Mount Gambier cannot be underestimated. The city council estimated that the festival delivered an economic uplift of $1.4 million solely in accommodation bookings over the three days in Mount Gambier. The member for Florey might have a little bit more to say about that.

To promote this event even further, I encourage the Premier to invite arts journalists as his guests in the coming years to ensure that our event and our region is put under the spotlight. It is truly a shame to read about such an inspiring and monumental event only in the Mount Gambier local paper. Invitations could be extended to Mal Stanley from ABC radio, who presents Jazztrack on Saturdays and Sundays, Jessica Nicholas from ABC Jazz and, of course, Peter Goers, who hosts Evenings on ABC and is a great champion of regional South Australia. Further afield, an invitation could be extended to Andrew McMillen from The Australian. US jazz sensation Patti Austin said of the event:

This experience is magic—so please take this magic with you and please spread this magnificent musical fairy dust on everyone around you.

I trust that support from the South Australian government, through granting Generations in Jazz major event status, will ultimately fulfil Patti Austin's assignment of sharing this hidden gem of a festival with the world.

I would just like to thank all members who have made a contribution on this debate.

Motion carried.