Paramount Theater and National Jazz Hall

Published: 2021-06-25 16:25:05
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Category: Jazz

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Mr. Rutland, a history professor at the University of Virginia, discovered that renovation plans for the city’s historic district excluded the Paramount Theatre, a local landmark. The Paramount was constructed in the 1930s and used as a performance center and later as a movie theater. It was closed in the 1970s and now was in danger of becoming dilapidated. Alarmed by the apparent lack of interest in saving the Paramount, Mr. Rutland began to look for opportunities to restore and eventually use the theatre. The most attractive option to him was to establish a jazz hall of fame that would use the theatre as a museum and performance center.
Mr. Rutland mentioned his idea to several friends in Charlottesville. They shared his enthusiasm, and together they incorporated the National Jazz Hall of Fame and formed the board of directors in early 1983. The purpose of the NJHF was to establish and maintain a museum, archives, and concert center in Charlottesville to sponsor jazz festivals, workshops, and scholarships, and to promote other activities remembering great jazz artists, serving jazz enthusiasts, and educating the public on the important of jazz in American culture and history. The NJHF has achieved moderate success locally but had not yet attracted national recognition.
For instance, immediately after incorporation, the directors began their search for funds to save the Paramount and to establish the NJHF, and soon encountered two difficulties. Philanthropic organizations refused to make grants because no one on the board of directors had experience in a project like the NJHF. In addition, government agencies such as the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities considered only organizations in operation for at least two years. However, some small contributions came from jazz enthusiasts who had read stories about the NJHF in Billboard, a music industry magazine.
By mid-1983, the board of directors discovered that to save the Paramount at least $600,000 would be needed, a sum too large for them to consider. Despite these setbacks, Mr. Rutland and the other directors believed that the first year’s activities showed promise. However, the question remained on whether the Hall of Fame would succeed in Charlottesville due to location and other halls of fame. Mr. Rutland believed that a hall of fame could succeed in Charlottesville, though other cities might at first seem more appropriate. More than 500,000 tourists annually were attracted to Charlottesville to visit the other attractions.
The more prominent halls of fame in the U. S. were the Baseball, the Professional Football, the College Football, and the Country Music halls of fame. Mr. Rutland was especially interested in The Country Music Hall of Fame because of similarities between country music and jazz. To determine how much support existed nationally, what services the NJHF should provide and for whom, and what the NJHF should charge for those services; Mr. Rutland engaged an independent consultant to conduct two surveys: the first was a national survey and the second a tourist survey.
Based on the information provided from the surveys, the consultant recommended: 1. Launch a direct mail campaign to the 100,000 people on the Smithsonian jazz mailing list. The focus of the mailing should be an appeal by a jazz great such as Benny Goodman to become a Founding Sponsor of the NJHF. He estimated that the cost of the campaign would range between $25,000 and $30,000; however, with an average contribution of $25. 00 per respondent, a response rate of only 2% would allow the NJHF to break even. 2. Appoint a full-time executive director with any funds exceeding the cost of the mailing.
The principle responsibilities of the executive director would be to organize and coordinate fundraising activities, to establish a performance center and museum, and to coordinate the collection of memorabilia and other artifacts. 3. Promote the National Jazz Hall of Fame at strategic locations around Charlottesville to attract tourists and other visitors. He calculated that 50,000 tourists annually at $3. 00 each would provide sufficient funds to operate and maintain the National Jazz Hall of Fame. The consultant also identified what he considered the critical elements for his plan’s success.
First, the NJHF should be professional in all of its services and communications to jazz enthusiasts. Second, the executive director should have prior experience in both fundraising and direct mail; he should have a commitment to and love for jazz, as well as administrative skill and creativity. Third, the National Jazz Hall of Fame should communicate frequently with Founding Sponsors to keep their interest and excitement alive. Finally, to ensure the enthusiastic cooperation of city officials, local merchants, and the Charlottesville community, he thought that more local prominence for the National Jazz Hall of fame would prove indispensable.

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