Like jazz? Want to host a house concert? 

audiencesThe founders of a successful concert series are looking to expand the series into the western part of Ottawa. Arnie Francis and Ingrid Kadoke started a community initiative in 2012 called JazzN.ca, in order to bring live jazz music back into the mix in their home town of Almonte, just west of Ottawa.

Now heading into its fourth season, the organization’s main offering, JazzNhouse, is looking to expand. “We are the only music series in our town that offers a high-calibre, eight-concert, live music program“, Francis says proudly. “Even so, our audiences have grown so much and so many jazz artists are looking to us for performance opportunities that we need to export the concept to other neighbourhoods. It’s a win-win for everyone”.

The JazzNhouse concept, although not a new one, is based on the notion of building a community of interest, in this case, for live, professional grade jazz. JazzNhouse organizes a program of music, and schedules their eight concerts well ahead.  Other house concert organizers are typically musicians, trying to promote themselves or their colleagues, promoters who have access to touring dates for bands, or music producers who see the house concert as a quasi- business venture. “Not interested!” says Francis when asked about extending the concert series into a for-profit venture, a restaurant partnership or large venue events. “We put on a mini jazz fest called JazzNfusion in 2013, as well as organizing two events, one at a local church and one at the Old Town Hall. While all these were quite successful at the time, the effort that we put in did not justify the worry about covering costs.”

Not so with JazzN.ca and the JazzNhouse series. All JazzNhouse concerts are hosted in private homes – at one time in Francis’ own house in Almonte. In its last two seasons, however, JazzNhouse has become a “caravan concert series”.  In the 2013-14 and 2014-15 JazzNhouse series, four concerts were held in the village of Appleton and four in Almonte proper, journeying between seven different homes and hosts. Neither professional musicians nor promoters, Francis and Kadoke are far from being industry insiders. Both are management consultants who see JazzN.ca as a community project – with local businesses providing guest give-aways, lending concert seating or being promotional sponsors. Local residents volunteer their homes and some regulars help with set-up and take down.

Francis lists some of the reasons why he sees the JazzNhouse concept as becoming successful:

  • High quality jazz performances – artists come from Guelph, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto
  • Varied programming – styles of jazz vary from free jazz to standards, from vocals to instrumentals.
  • Affordable concert pricing – a concert seat is usually less than $25.
  •  Door receipts go almost entirely to the band – JazzN.ca keeps a small amount to cover promotional expenses and the like.
  • Easy online seat reservation
  • Community support– house concert hosts provide the venue and a welcoming house-party environment. Guests bring snacks for sharing and their own beverages. JazzN.ca provides glasses, seating and guest-lists for hosting.

The 2015-16 JazzNhouse Season (dates and artists) is already finalized, with a fascinating mix of performers and styles in the works. Anyone interested in hosting one of these concerts should read up about hosting on the www.JazzN.ca website and contact the group as soon as possible.

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