Trenton International Jazz & Blues Festival Controversy

Posted by D.A. Gutierrez in Annette Njie, Commentary, Jazz Events, News

October 15th, 2010   Comments Off on Trenton International Jazz & Blues Festival Controversy

Screenshot of the 2010 Trenton International Jazz & Blues Festival Website

The website for the 2010 Trenton International Jazz & Blues Festival lists various sponsors, but problems paying the performers have left a negative mark on the event in the eyes of many.

I once heard a wise saying that went something like this: “Smart people learn from their mistakes; smarter people learn from the mistakes of others.”

Sadly, in the NJ jazz world we have an opportunity to learn from the mistakes of Annette Njie, the Trenton promoter who created the Trenton International Jazz & Blues Festival that ran earlier this year from September 17-19 at various venues around Trenton. The festival itself went off without a hitch, but when it came time to pay the two dozen acts, most were left high and dry, receiving partial payment or none at all.

However, this does not seem to be your typical case of a crooked promoter stiffing the musicians and laughing all the way to the bank. Prior to this incident Ms. Njie was well regarded in the community, having served on the boards of the local library and Trenton City Museum until she was asked to step down from the latter when details of the festival’s financial problems came to light.

It seems the money problems stemmed from a combination of poor promotion, lagging ticket sales and a lack of major sponsorships. Exacerbating the issue were reports from various musicians that after the initial checks bounced, Ms. Njie avoided phone calls and emails and in some cases she made appointments to meet them with payment but either did not show up or showed up without the promised funds.

Luckily, within the last few days a charity associated with an ex-mayor of Trenton has stepped in to make $5000 worth of grants available to some of the musicians still waiting for payment. While this will certainly not be enough to cover the expenses in full – some bands are still owed more than $1000 each – hopefully it will alleviate some of the burden.

If anything positive can be learned from this fiasco, it’s that misfortune can befall anyone. The important thing is how you handle it. If you’re up front and make promises that you can keep instead of running from the problem and promising things just to get people off your back, you can save yourself a whole heap of trouble. Of course, avoiding the misfortune with proper planning and adequate funding is probably the preferred method.

Complete details can be found in three stories:

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