Sequester hits cut SSU jazz concert
By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Very thick reports about the impact of the federal budget cuts known as sequestration didn’t mention jazz amid hundreds of programs put at risk.
But, as the song goes, it’s a “Schuur Thing” that budget cuts will trickle down — in this case, through the Department of Defense and into Sonoma County.
The $46 billion in Pentagon spending cuts that took effect March 1 most prominently affected weapons programs and military medical and support services. But they also took in the community relations and outreach funding that allowed the Air Force Band of the Golden West to hire guest artists and expand its audiences.
The band was paying for an April 13 performance by jazz vocalist Diane Schuur with its Commanders Jazz Ensemble at Sonoma State University’s Weill Hall.
Now they’re not paying — and Schuur is not playing.
The concert will go on without Schuur, but her withdrawal has brought on the blues for local jazz fans.
“It’s a big loss. She’s a great musician and a great entertainer,” said Jessica Felix, the Healdsburg Jazz Festival’s artistic director.
As county government and school officials try to assess the still-unclear local effects of sequestration, Schuur’s removal from the concert program may be the first direct impact and, perhaps, the most unexpected.
“I was pretty blindsided,” said Doug Leibinger, SSU’s director of Jazz Studies, who booked the event. “Their band is fantastic and they have a great vocalist in their own right, so it’s going to be a really good show, regardless, but, of course, she’s a big draw.”
“We’re bummed,” said Air Force Capt. Jason Plosch, commander of the Band of the Golden West, which is based at Travis Air Force Base.
The jazz ensemble still will perform at SSU. The concert is free, but people who have obtained tickets but decide not to attend have been asked to let the ticket office know, so the seats can be redistributed.
Schuur’s appearance at shows in Yountville and Stockton, on April 12 and 14, also were canceled.
“A guest artist at the level of Diane Schuur happens once a year or even less frequently,” Plosch said.
“We had this in the works for a very long time,” he said.
Still, he noted, there are more significant impacts. At Travis Air Force Base itself, some 1,500 civilian employees face furloughs equaling a 20 percent pay cut; tuition assistance has been halted; and flying hours have been reduced.
And Sonoma County school districts are bracing for $4.1 million in cuts to take effect next year.
“Diane Schuur falls down the list right now when it comes to push and shove,” Plosch said.
You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or firstname.lastname@example.org.