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Jazz

JAZZ/20inches/1stjc/mark2nd By RUSSELL JACKSON Contributing Reporter When Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Jeff Lorber, Les Brown and His Band of Renown and others take the stage at Lake Balboa this month, it will be the culmination of 18 months of work by Martin Cooper with a little help from his corporate friends. Cooper, a Woodland Hills-based promoter who produced the Playboy Jazz Festival for five years, is the organizer behind the first-ever San Fernando Valley Jazz Festival. To stage the month-long series of events, Cooper knew he would need about $300,000 and lots of support from Valley corporations and community groups. So he devised a business plan and got early backing from two non-profit groups the Woodland Hills Chamber of Commerce and the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, which operates the Sepulveda Dam Recreation Area where the festival’s signature event Jazz on the Lake will take place May 17-18. Thus armed, Cooper used contacts he made as the producer of “Taste of Encino” and other events to win corporate sponsorships from companies including Auto Stiegler Inc., Anheuser-Busch Sales, CareAmerica 65 Plus, and Time Warner Communications. Some of the sponsors, Cooper notes, have corporate policies against contributing to first-time events. But skeptics were willing to take a gamble when they took a look at the potential payoff in community goodwill. “You have to think about the categories of sponsors and their individual marketing strategies,” he explains. “Then you craft a sponsorship that works for them.” Indeed, he notes, the list of what a sponsor contributes and what a sponsor receives in return is basically unique to each one. Mitch Cristol, brand marketing coordinator at Anheuser-Busch Sales in Sylmar, said his company agreed to participate because of the positive nature of the event and because of its past relationship with Cooper on Taste of Encino. “The problem with many first-year events is the promoter is unknown,” Cristol said. “But you want to make sure your money is going to go to a worthwhile event that’s going to raise money for the charities it says it’s going to benefit. So past relationships help. With a known promoter, you know you’ll get a good event and a worthwhile event. It’s a lot easier to make major sponsor decisions with a promoter you know.” In addition, contributing to the festival is “our way of giving something back to the community,” Cristol said. “It’s also a way to get our name out as a company that’s community-responsible, and not just here to make money.” The festival actually began in April with jazz concerts at the Jewish Home for the Aging, Warner Center Pavilion and other venues. But the highlight of the festival is “Jazz on the Lake” May 17-18, featuring more than 44 hours of jazz on three stages at Lake Balboa in the Sepulveda Dam Recreation Area. Cooper, who is president of the Encino Chamber of Commerce and serves on the board of the Woodland Hills chamber, said the event probably would not be possible without his community ties. “If I were an outside producer coming into the Valley saying I wanted to produce an event like this, I would not be able to do it on this scale,” he says. “You have to be active in the community. They have to respect you.” Cooper’s firm is getting a fee for its services, which he declined to disclose. But all profits, he said, will go to four non-profit organizations: The Starlight Foundation of California, which grants wishes to ill children; The H.E.L.P. Group, which helps children and families with special needs due to abuse, mental disabilities and other problems; the Woodland Hills chamber and the city Recreation and Parks Department. The type of charities getting the proceeds was a key factor in Time Warner’s decision to back the festival, said Gloria Pollack, public affairs director and education coordinator at the company’s cable division in Chatsworth. “We look for kids and kids’ welfare,” Pollack said. “Then we look at the economic development of the Valley.” When Cooper approached her about sponsorship, she adds, he explained that “the idea was to bring in people to the Valley and see what we have to offer” and that the events would involve kids. In other words, “it covered all the things that my company believes in,” she notes. While Pollack won’t specify Time Warner’s exact gift to the festival, she does say it involves “a sizable cash contribution and a great deal of in-kind contributions.” The charitable aspects of the festival also helped cut production costs. For example, the Marine Corps Reserves is offering its parking lot for use by “Jazz on the Lake” staffers. “If I were an outsider,” Cooper said, “an event of this kind would cost at least $500,000 to produce.”

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