Supporting Local Music Takes a Fan's Touch

Boeing Exec Dedicates Funds, Energy to Chicago Jazz

By Published on .

A lot of corporations dump a lot of money into the arts -- check out the sprawling list of sponsors for last night's Grammys -- but it takes a distinctively non-corporate spirit to make the dollars count. According to the Chicago Tribune (my hometown paper), Boeing embraced jazz in the Windy City with the passion of a true fan because they had one in their midst.

Jim Newcomb, senior manager of corporate identity & sponsorship and a long-term jazz fanatic, helped Boeing funnel half a million dollars into Chicago's jazz scene. That's a decent chunk of change, to be sure, but his bookish business smarts brought even more money -- $1.5 million -- and sponsors -- Kraft, Bank One (now Chase) and the Chicago Community Trust -- aboard through the Chicago Jazz Partnership.
The original members of the Chicago Jazz Partnership, which has expanded to include organizations such as the Joyce Foundation, forged ahead with the plan because of market research Newcomb had done. Spending months crunching numbers on jazz costs, expenditures and audience base in Chicago and beyond, Newcomb wrote a revealing, unpublished report establishing the enormous size and diversity of Chicago's jazz market.

"Jim brought that market research piece of the puzzle to the Chicago Jazz Partnership," says Warren K. Chapman, then president of the Bank One Foundation and now vice chancellor for external affairs for the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"His whole job of using data and providing the rationale of why to get behind jazz helped everyone to join together and create the partnership."
According to the story, this group has helped expand the Chicago Jazz Festival, broadcast jazz on the radio, stage concerts and hold fundraising galas to create even more funds. Without a lot of money, Boeing has endeared itself to its new home -- after a protracted courting process by the city to get them to come -- by supporting homegrown music that was financially languishing.

Instead of spending millions to become the semi-anonymous "official oven mitts" of a wide-reaching TV musical event, why not get one's hands dirty and create lasting institutions for the innovative musicians in your backyard? You don't need an MBA to see the ROI for that.

[Via Daily Swarm]
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