Jonesboro signs on for Atlanta Jazz Festival

The City of Jonesboro is about the “Strike Up the Band,” the title of the old George Gershwin song goes.

The Jonesboro City Council voted 4-0 during a called meeting on Monday to approve a request from one of its members to become one of the sites for the Atlanta Jazz Festival’s “31 Days of Jazz.” Council members Bobby Wiggins and Clarence Mann were not in attendance at the meeting.

City Council Member Pat Sebo, who pitched the concert to her colleagues, said the city was invited a month ago to be one of 31 sites across the metropolitan Atlanta area that host jazz concerts throughout late April and early May. These concerts are designed to be a build-up to the annual jazz festival, which is scheduled to be held in Atlanta in late May.

Jonesboro’s concert date has been set for May 12, on the lawn of the Historic Clayton County Courthouse.

“What they [the Atlanta Jazz Festival] try to do is spread it out across the entire metro area so smaller venues get to participate in the Jazz Festival,” Sebo told her colleagues. “They will promote us. We will be listed in every promotion that the Atlanta Jazz Festival has on their web site, and all of the printed materials.”

Sebo now has to solicit community sponsorships, and local jazz acts for the Jonesboro concert. Although the Atlanta Jazz Festival will handle all of the promotional efforts for the concert, it will be up to the city to arrange the logistics for the festival.

Sebo said she might be able to cover the cost of hiring performers for the show, through sponsorships, but she added there may not be enough sponsorship money left over to pay for sound and lighting equipment. If that is the case, the city would have to pay that expense out of its own pocket, the councilwoman said.

Overtures have already been made to the jazz bands at Clayton State University and the Clayton County Public Schools Fine Arts Magnet High School, to have them participate in the concert, according to Sebo. She said a bigger name act, from outside the Clayton County area, could be attracted with enough sponsorship money, but she added the bulk of the program will be devoted to local performers.

“What they like for you to do, as a venue, is feature your local talent,” Sebo told the council.

She added that after a weekend Clayton News Daily article about the called meeting, she was contacted by a local jazz promoter, and a local performer who works for the county’s library system, about helping out, or possibly performing at the concert.

The councilwoman said the Clarion Hotel, in Jonesboro, has pledged to make an unspecified financial contribution to help support the concert, and Forest Park-based Anne and Bill’s Restaurant may provide food for the event. She added the hotel has also pledged to donate 500 bottles of water for the Jonesboro Neighborhood Watch group to sell at the concert as a fundraiser for the fledgling anti-crime group.

Jonesboro Neighborhood Watch President Nancy Carr said she would have to see if this is something the group would want to do, but she added that she believed the organization would likely support it. She added it would be a good recruitment tool to get more Jonesboro residents involved.

“It gets our name out there, and it gets us recognized,” Carr said. “People come to you, and they talk to you [at these types of events]. That’s how we get a lot of our members.”

But, while some businesses are already lining up to support the concert, there are some voices of caution on the city council. Council Member Wallace Norrington suggested the city’s governing body use this year as a pilot, to see if Jonesboro could afford to continue participating in “31 Days of Jazz” on an annual basis.

“I’m thinking we could commit this year, and see what it’s going to entail, and then — since this is our first time looking at doing this — it can be kind of a feasibility study,” Norrington said.

City leaders and some residents who attended Monday’s called meeting, said they supported the idea of hosting the concert because they saw it as a way to raise the city’s image in the metro Atlanta area.

“I just think it’s an opportunity for the City of Jonesboro to be an even bigger part of the metro Atlanta community, and to bring more people in to see what we’re about down here on the Southside,” said Sebo.

Council member Randy Segner added: “To be tied into the Atlanta Jazz Festival is a very prestigious thing. This is not just some slop organization.”

This concert will be the first concert the city has hosted since it eliminated funding for its summertime concert series at the end of 2010. Some city residents said they saw the annual hosting of an Atlanta Jazz Festival concert as a good thing that could help raise the quality of life in Jonesboro.

Jonesboro resident Beverly Lester said she was excited to hear that the town was being given a chance to host a jazz concert again. She said she used to attend the concerts that the city hosted in the past, until they were discontinued, and she added that those events are missed.

“For those of us who live here, it gives us an opportunity to get out, and have someplace close to enjoy music,” she said. “It’s nice living close by and being able to come out and enjoy being outside, and having music at the same time.”

In other action, the city council postponed a discussion of a proposed Christian entertainment center until an unspecified date. City Clerk Janice Truhan, who was expected to present information about the center to the council, could not attend the meeting, according to Mayor Joy Day.