A bit of controversy has erupted in advance of the Frank DeMiero Jazz Festival which takes place later this month in Edmonds.

The Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra (SWOJO) had been contacted by Executive Producer Joe DeMiero in mid-January to back up vocalist Carmen Bradford on Saturday, February 28. According to members of SWOJO, a fee had been negotiated and preparations were underway for the evenings music. Doug Reid had been hired to direct the band, replacing Daniel Barry who had a scheduling conflict, and DeMiero had promised to send a contract. As late as Tuesday, February 10, SWOJO was advertised on the Frank DeMiero Jazz Festival’s website.

On February 8, SWOJO Executive Director Carolyn Caster emailed band members that she was notified by DeMiero that he had continued to look for cheaper groups and had found one that was willing to perform all three nights of the festival for the same price SWOJO was getting paid for a single concert. Caster expressed her dismay that DeMiero would continue to search for another group when he had already hired one, but in the end DeMiero informed SWOJO that the festival would be going with the other band.

Contacted by Seattle Jazz Scene, DeMiero said in an email, “It is the policy of our organization not to discuss artist negotiations with anyone but the artists and their management. We have tremendous respect for the Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra and its members, and we hope to have the opportunity to work together in the future.”

On Wednesday, February 11, the Frank DeMiero Jazz Festival’s website was updated replacing SWOJO with the Mach One Jazz Orchestra.

All of this adds a cloud over what otherwise is a stellar line-up of headliners. The festival’s focus is on providing a non-competitive educational environment for 40+ school ensembles from around the Pacific Northwest. One of the headliners, Sara Gazarek, previously performed at the festival when she was a student at Roosevelt High School in Seattle.

Said one member of SWOJO, “It devalues the work we do and ruins it for everybody. Since DeMieiro now knows that he can get a band to work for this little money, it will never be what is was: a decent paying gig for good musicians. In the end, that festival will get what they pay for and the music will suffer. ”

For more information:

Seattle Jazz

Join the conversation! 5 Comments

  1. Shame on Frank Demiero for his sleazy treatment of SWOJO and shame on the Mach One Orchestra for accepting that job and undercutting their peers. Aren’t we suppose to be SUPPORTING our colleagues instead of SCREWING them? In a period when things are hard enough already, it is disappointing to hear of a situation like this one. What’s next? Hiring monkeys to blow kazoos and bang on each others heads for peanuts and bananas? Of course, we haven’t heard Mach One yet…..maybe it’s already come to that.

  2. This puts Frank Demiero in a league with other presenters who have no guiding ethical principles, and certainly no concern for the local musical community. Fortunately they’re the minority in the jazz world, where money is so limited that most people are guided by love for the music.

    If Mach One knowingly undercut SWOJO, they’re even worse than Demiero. The fact that the band seems to be a relative unknown around Seattle means Demiero may get what he pays for, in which case Carmen Bradford joins SWOJO in being a victim of this idiocy.

    If Mach One quoted a sub-professional price without knowing they were in a bidding war, they can still do the right thing by pulling out. At that point, hopefully they’ll realize that nobody wins when local artists play for peanuts. There are still some of us trying to make a living at it…

  3. Apparently Mach One did not know they were in a bidding war but the fact they were willing to do the gig for such a low fee makes them equally complicit in undercutting SWOJO. Amateur is as amateur does.

  4. This is certainly an interesting situation and I can see there’s a fair amount of emotion around it. Unfair – yes, but without a signed contract it seems that Frank had every right to shop for a cheaper band. I don’t want to imply that false advertising, leading on a band and then switching at the last minute is fair practice, but when I read the article I noticed “when he had already hired one” doesn’t add up when I see “DeMiero had promised to send a contract” (but sounds like he didn’t) – which to me implies that the gig was never settled upon.

    Now the fact that Frank is shopping for a cheaper band – this is a difficult thing because it certainly implies that Frank (a fellow musician and educator who should know better) rightfully overlooks the fact that musicians are trying to living. However, without a community of musicians agreeing upon minimum scale the price could go as low as $0.50. There isn’t anyone policing the music community and holding groups like Mach One accountable. It’s hard to say exactly what was made clear to Mach One with regard to SWOJO, but I certainly agree that it’s unfair to underbid a professional band trying to make a fair wage for all its players.

    I’m not sure what the solution is except to hold your own standards high and proud for all to see and simply avoid cats like Frank in the future if this is how they plan to do business. I think it’s really unfair, but as a Union cat (both member and worker) it’s hard envision a community where everyone looks out for each other – at least when I hear about situations like this. I invite any ideas with regard to building a music community that can embody living wage standards and a sense of taking care of one another. I will agree that conversations like this is a place to start.

    I thank Seattle Jazz Scene for bringing this story to light and hope my thoughts shed some perspective on the matter – I don’t assume to have the answers, but the whole reason I work at the Union and in the Seattle Music community is because I believe we can build the cohesion and vibrant scene we seek. At this moment I know without a doubt it starts with me. What example am I going to lead?

    Josh Rawlings
    email hidden; JavaScript is required (work)
    email hidden; JavaScript is required (personal)

  5. In an efforts to keep the facts clear, I weigh in once again since I am close to the situation…

    First it was Joe Demiero, not Frank. Second, there was a strong verbal agreement communicated via email(all in writing, in other words, pending receipt of the contract). SWOJO wasn’t assuming that we were doing the gig–we were proceeding on the agreement that we were hired.

    Joe’s words were something to the effect of “We’re excited to be working with you. I’ll get a performance agreement to you.” It might have been different if he had said “…but I want to talk to a few more people before we finalize things.” Then he listed the band on the website as the backup band–not an indication of tentativeness.

    Yes, with or without a union, we need to keep our standards high. I try to stay in league with those that do. That is why I am emotionally involved with the importance of getting this story out because this time around it really hurt. (Cynthia M.)

Comments are closed.