Bank On It

Despite the odds, the second annual St. Louis Jazz Festival will succeed -- thanks to all the help from corporate backers

"Basically you get input, throw the names in a hopper, see who's actually out on tour and available on the festival dates, see if they meet your needs in terms of name recognition, musical style and, of course, your budget," explains Reuter. "You're never going to make everyone happy, but I think we assembled a schedule of artists that has considerable appeal. Some people may think George Benson doesn't really play jazz anymore, but that's where his musical roots lie, and in live performance he still has the reputation as a great guitarist. Plus, we found out he was playing a private event in Chicago on the next night, so we were able to gain some economies in booking him."

After booking the talent, the festival committee took the experience gained from last year's debut and attempted to improve the physical setup for the 2002 event. Attendees last year were faced with the task of negotiating around a 100-yard chain-link fence that practically bisected the festival grounds, and an early 5 p.m. start on Friday made for a late-arriving crowd that evening. This year, the fence will be taken down, and Friday's start time has been pushed back to 6 p.m.

With those and other improvements in place (such as no simultaneous performances), Prost believes the jazz fest can hit a paid attendance of 20,000 for the two-day event.

"To reach that goal, we only need to increase our Friday attendance by 3,000 -- and keep our Saturday crowds up to last year's standards," she says. "We haven't raised ticket prices from last year's $15-a-day or $25-for-both-day prices, so that really seems like an objective we can reach."

The only possible problem is rainy weather, but even that prospect doesn't faze Prost. "You can't do anything about the weather anyway, except hope for the best. And even rain wouldn't prevent us from continuing the festival next year. We've got a solid foundation for this event, we know people will show up to see these excellent musicians and we have the support of the corporate community to keep things going."

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