Call to support budding musicians

CARLA PENMAN
Last updated 13:22 24/01/2013
Roger Fox
CARLA PENMAN
Campaigner: Roger Fox is trying to generate more funding for promising musicians.

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A veteran Wellington trombonist is calling for government funding to support budding jazz musicians.

Rodger Fox, from Titahi Bay, has been the musical director of one of New Zealand's leading big bands for 40 years.

He is putting together a submission to send to Creative New Zealand and the Ministry of Arts so the big band genre can continue.

He became determined to keep big band music going after seeing his students at the New Zealand School of Music struggle to find fulltime work.

"If you're a classical student you have the opportunity to audition for symphony orchestras - in Auckland, Christchurch or elsewhere," he said.

"[But] it's very difficult to be a fulltime jazz musician unless you are the Black Seeds or Fat Freddy's Drop."

Fox said he'd always been a big supporter of the ballet and the opera. But he pointed out that there were more jazz bands in the high school system than any other types of music.

He said he believed his submission would influence future generations of jazz musicians.

Fox said his battle for funding had gathered wide support from Wellington jazz teachers and musicians, who felt it was time something was done about the situation.

Sponsorship had contributed in small amounts over the years, but he said he was looking for all- year-round funding - at least until they could manage on their own.

Fox grew up in Wellington, with music teachers for parents and a household which appreciated all musical genres.

He attended Mana College, where his parents were music teachers.

His father started one of the first high-school big bands, involving up to 20 students.

Fox said older students were chosen for the band in favour of younger ones, which fuelled his desire to rebel and start his own big band.

In the early 1970s, he joined his first rock band, Quincy Conserve, which quickly became one of Wellington's big-name bands.

In 1973, he formed his first big band, Rodger Fox Big Band.

"All I did was gather players from around the town," he said. "Forty years later, and here we are," he said.

His band, now called Rodger Fox's Wellington Jazz Orchestra, has alternated between Auckland and Wellington and adopted different names over the years.

Fox did several music-related day jobs to pay the bills, and directed big band practices in the evenings.

"I've worked in a local music shop, a publishing house which published music, and later started teaching at Massey University," he said.

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Fox's proposal is expected to be finalised by next month.

Rodger Fox's Wellington Jazz Orchestra performs at the Botanic Gardens soundshell on January 26, 8pm, as part of the ASB Gardens Magic series.

The Wellington Jazz Club has also organised a tribute concert for Rodger Fox's Wellington Jazz Orchestra for the evening of March 17.

Some players from the original 1973 big band will feature in the concert.

- The Wellingtonian

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