The press conference for the 13th annual Satchmo SummerFest is this Thursday morning , one of the unsung heroes of local festivals.
You might think it’s a crazy idea to present a music festival during the hottest part of the year, but Satchmo is structured in such a way that you can entertain yourself in a myriad of ways. Satchmo is three days this year—for the first time—so there’s a lot to do.
You can listen to music at the Old Mint in the shade under tents at two different stages (disclosure: OffBeat is a long-time media sponsor of the festival, and this year we are sponsoring the Chop Suey Stage on the Esplanade side of the Old Mint, along with Ford Motor Co.) . You can dance to the music if you don’t mind sweating through the heat. Or you can catch some of the fascinating seminars that are presented throughout all three days on the third floor of the Mint (or second floor via classy A/V equipment if the third floor is at capacity). The keynote address is by trombonist/trumpeter/tubist Wyckliff Gordon on Thursday evening at 7:30 p.m. at the Hotel Monteleone, and it’s free and open to the public.
Then of course, there’s the kids’ area and the food that’s available at the Mint: everything from Antoine’s to Vaucresson Sausage, plus Meltdown Pops, daiquiris and more.
Satchmo SummerFest was started in August 2000 with a grant from the Louisiana Office of Tourism. The idea was to create a festival that would appeal to an international market. Since Louis Armstrong is known worldwide—and because Ken Burns’ acclaimed series Jazz was being released about the same time—the festival was set for early August, which is now known as the true date of Louis Armstrong’s birthday (although there’s a bit of controversy attached to his birthday being celebrated in August, since Armstrong himself always told people was born on July 4).
This festival is so perfect for international leisure travelers: anyone who knows the interest in New Orleans jazz from music lovers worldwide would attest to this. International travelers, especially baby-boomer types– have the income and the time to travel to New Orleans to experience Satchmo SummerFest.
This festival is poised to grow exponentially if the right marketing tactics are put into place. I had a conversation with a sales executive at a French Quarter hotel and we discussed what could be done to push for international travelers—in addition to what the CVB and Tourism Marketing people are doing. One idea we acme up with was for the Hotel Motel Association members (and others, for that matter), to work with French Quarter Festivals, Inc. (FQFI)—the producers of Satchmo SummerFest—to develop hotel and tour packages that the hotels could promote directly to international guests of each hotel. The hotel then would be reaching out to visitors who had already come to New Orleans. All it would take would be to provide emailable information to each hotel, and have an FQFI coordinate the promotion. An idea was also floated to send information to the members of the jazz societies and jazz “hot clubs” in Europe (why not Asia as well?) to let them know about Satchmo.
Another possibility is to create an internationally-recognized jazz prize that would attract students, their friends and families from around the world.
Interestingly, the New Orleans Jazz Camp has just completed its course this week. The Jazz Camp is the brainchild of vocalist/jazz musician Banu Gibson, who wanted to almost create a “fantasy camp” atmosphere for adults who had always dreamed of coming to New Orleans and who are in love with local jazz. This fits right in with the Satchmo promotion, and perhaps the Jazz Camp should be included in the Satchmo marketing efforts.
Last year, we received an email from a subscriber in France, who wanted to know where he could learn more about playing jazz in New Orleans. We referred him to Banu’s camp, and to our surprise, Jacques Loubry, the letter-writer, walked into our office to thank us for sending him to the Jazz Camp. M. Loubry, a retired naval officer and engineer—and an amateur sax player–was at the camp this year as a registrant, and intended to stay to enjoy Satchmo SummerFest. He’s returning to Paris next week, but is returning in September to spend another two weeks in New Orleans.
Now that’s some marketing synergy that gives an international traveler something to bite on.