There will be no Sonoma Jazz Plus event in 2012. Organizers have pulled the plug after failing to find the sponsorship and big-ticket support needed to keep the event afloat.
The 2011 festival, the seventh annual, reportedly lost more than $300,000.
“We can’t make this model work right now,” said Jim Horowitz, the executive director. “We’ve hung in there with the attitude of ‘next year will be better.’ It hasn’t been.”
Horowitz said that “a punishing economy” has made it difficult to bring in new sponsors and increase commitments from current donors.
Ticket sales were at an acceptable level this year, he said, but “you can’t do something this big without sponsorship. There’s just not enough traction.”
The long weekend of headlining acts took place under a vast tent on an open field. While the venue became the festival’s signature, it was a huge expense to construct the temporary theatre and its surrounding stages, hospitality compound and vendor areas.
“It’s a very, very big undertaking,” Horowitz said, “very ambitious.”
But without the support of major contributors, maintaining the current operation is untenable. “ We set a very high standard from the get-go.” Horowitz said. “It’s tough to keep up to that standard.”
The event has been trying to “fill the unfillable shoes” of founder and benefactor Jim Puglash, who died in 2006. “We need partners we haven’t found,” Horowitz said. “The missing piece for us remains a core group of local leaders and/or a strong local producing partner.”
The event has been postponed, not canceled, he stressed, and could return to Sonoma if the sponsorship dollars materialize. “It could be re-ignited, it could come back and look different.”
Horowitz added that Jazz Plus would potentially consider alternate locations in the region to stage a re-tooled festival.
He did confirm that funding for the Jazz Plus music education programs will remain in place for the 2011 – 2012 school year. Support beyond this school year, however, “will be difficult for us to sustain.” Horowitz said.