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SaloJazz finds many ways to collaborate


SaloJazz came to existence on a 2012 June evening at a bus stop in front of a local supermarket, as a result of a chance meeting with Ilkka Rantamäki, the Regional Artist for jazz music at that time. We both had identified a hole in the Salo event scene, waiting to be filled with an annual music event for adult audiences. We decided to go ahead and organise one. Guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg and his quartet had a Finnish tour organised for late September that year, and that determined the dates for the new festival. We added three local ensembles, and the program for the inaugural event was complete.  Our main incentive was to kick-start a high-end music event which would grow steadily and still be around in ten years’ time. 

From the very beginning it was clear that close collaboration with the city of Salo was crucial for our event in order to receive municipal funding, but also to be able to create cultural events of high quality. Donning our freshly printed festival t-shirts, we had our first meeting at the City Hall with the Salo Cultural Director (a position that no longer exists), the assistant for the Mayor, and a member of the communications team. The city representatives’ positive attitude and their pledge for financial support set an important precedent for our future business partnership.  The city of Salo had recently been designated as an area of abrupt structural change, following the fall of the tech giant Nokia. The inaugural festival’s slightly tongue-in-cheek slogan “Revive Salo with Jazz” was coined by the event organising team. The local council election was coming up and several candidates attended the festival. Many of them have remained loyal ticket-buyers. The sold-out event was received with surprised comments, such as “wow, so many people here”. The interest and demand for the event was evident from the beginning.

Partnership with the city of Salo

A partnership agreement with the city’s cultural department, renewed annually since 2013, has been an important factor in the development of SaloJazz. The agreement stipulates that the SaloJazz Association is responsible for providing jazz music events for the region. Project funding is released in the beginning of each calendar year as the city’s annual budget is confirmed, which gives the association access to immediate resources towards their programs, instead of having to wait several months for funding decisions.

The city of Salo’s Communications and Media Department has become an increasingly important and active collaboration partner over the years. Frequent posts in the city’s social media, as well as digital and printed press releases from the cultural department, provide a great deal of added value for both parties. The SaloJazz Festival and the Salo Autumn Fair are organised during the same weekend. The city centre is buzzing with locals and visitors, and Salo gets to showcase itself as an active and welcoming city. SaloJazz has also represented the city several times at the Finnish tourism industry’s main event, the annual Matka Nordic Travel Fair, presenting live music as part of the Finnish Archipelago showcase in Helsinki’s Expo and Convention Centre.

We hope that the city’s public officers and decision makers continue to identify the importance of culture and the arts in terms of maintaining attraction towards our city. Salo is an extremely versatile cultural centre, and a “jazz city” label further contributes to its positive public image.   

Jazz & Etno Finland Live and Salo Upper Secondary School

Since 2016, SaloJazz has been a recipient of Jazz & Etno Finland Live project funding, jointly administered by the Finnish Music Foundation (MES) and Jazz Finland, enabling the association to present an annual concert season. Jazz & Etno Finland Live project fund recipients are required to secure additional financial support from municipal funds, and the direct funding from the city of Salo has made it possible for us to apply for and receive this project grant.    

There are many ways of partnering with the local government. Students from the Salo Upper Secondary School music stream have participated in presenting the festival as part of their event production study unit. The course introduces students to the different aspects of event production, from marketing and catering to communications and customer service. Sometimes a direct contact with the school has led to new, interesting ways of collaboration. Together with Charles Gil (from the Vapaat äänet agency), we have organised various workshops for their music stream students. Getting to observe a sound check, chat with professional musicians and finally attend the concert provides a great opportunity to get to know international artists and the way they work. Different jazz music styles become familiar in a very tangible way, opening students’ ears and eyes to new experiences.

Salo Cultural Partners

SaloJazz has assumed an active influencer role in the city’s cultural politics as well. Strong contacts with the city’s decision makers (public officers and politicians) enable a direct line of communication and provide opportunities to advance the city’s cultural services as well as the association’s own activities. The financial decisions are made at city council meetings, where local members may not be aware of the various cultural events unless they are actively promoted by the cultural event organisers.  Lobbying is the norm in every sector and the arts should not be an exception. We must keep shouting out the importance of our activities through every imaginable media channel, while not forgetting to maintain direct contact with decision makers either.

The Salo Cultural Partners, formed in 2019, represents a unique, regional, and multidisciplinary collaboration. The Cultural Partners framework facilitates frequent meetings between the Salo area cultural providers and the producers from the city’s Cultural Services unit. This operational model ensures an easy exchange of information between culture providers and the city officials. The artistically diverse collective, consisting of ten different associations, engages in active conversations about current topics on the promotion of culture and the arts. SaloJazz has been a visible fixture in the process of creating the early stages for the Cultural Partners project. 

The story that started at a bus stop continues to this day. Despite the city’s economic challenges, SaloJazz has strengthened its position as a high-end music event. Financial turbulence has not affected our ground level work. Although the original name of the event, Salo International Jazz Festival, has been condensed, the activities have steadily grown, and the season has expanded to cover the entire year. Next year, over the last weekend of September (24-26 September 2021), we will celebrate the tenth anniversary of the SaloJazz Festival.   
Marko Heikura
Music teacher, cultural producer
Chair and General Manager of the SaloJazz Association