Victoria is Australia’s leading musical state and an integral part of Australia’s presence in the international Jazz community. The contemporary Australian jazz scene is mature and has a unique character. There are however structural challenges that require attention to enable this creative industry to properly flourish.

 This submission has been prepared by me in a volunteer role that I have been endorsed for by Port Fairy Jazz Festival (PFJF), namely to develop a model for a state-wide jazz industry platform as outlined in the recent report, Victoria’s Jazz Industry Strategic Action Plan(May 2019). I am a musician, composer, educator and curator with over 30 years of professional experience in the music industry. I grew up largely in Ballarat and have been based in Melbourne since 1990. 

 On behalf of the community represented, I wish to acknowledgethe Traditional Custodians of the place now called Victoria, and all First Peoples on this land. I pay deep respect to Elders past, present and emerging.

The community consulted for this submission extends from major international festivals to small clubs, from traditional to contemporary jazz, from our leading professional artists to young emerging artists, and with a range of other associated industry workers.

Jazz has had a pervasive influence on Australian music since at least the 1930’s, regularly producing artists of international stature and impact. Contemporary music in Victoria continues to thrive on a strong base of jazz musicians and influence. 

Most developed jurisdictions internationally have a history of government support for jazz music. Low levels of historical funding in recent years have produced significant challenges in Jazz, including a lack of visibility, lack of organisational infrastructure, poor coordination, limited mainstream media opportunities, and a paucity of skilled professional and career pathways. Most importantly, the limited historical infrastructure support has limited the capacity for diverse populations to prosper in Jazz.

On the positive side, there is a large network of musicians, both young and old, all across Victoria, that identify themselves as jazz practitioners. There are about a dozen jazz specific festivals, most of which are regional. Melbourne has seen recent increases in the number of dedicated jazz venues and audience attendance figures. There are dozens of young musicians emerging from some of the country’s best-regarded educational institutions, that are playing jazz across all styles at high calibre. Internationally there is strong industry around jazz and increasing awareness and interest in Australian jazz in particular. Jazz is a positive and strong force in the music industry, albeit suffering from a failure of recognition for the scaffolding it provides to the broader music industry in Victoria.

In December, Port Fairy Jazz Festival held a forum in Geelong that was supported by Moyne Shire Council, Ballarat Jazz Club and Geelong Jazz Club, facilitated by Insight Communications. This was to look at the state of jazz in Victoria and audience development. The result of that wide consultation has been the release in May of Victoria’s Jazz Industry Strategic Action Plan, largely as a guide for organisations to follow in order to improve their operations and build audiences. There are also three state-wide actions for: jazz in education, organisational training and developing a jazz industry platform. Around the same time at the Stonnington Jazz Industry Summit, a similar notion was raised around the need for a voice for the sector.

As a result, there has been consultation across the jazz sector around the way forward. An exciting outcome is that there is a unified strategic plan. Of primary concern is to raise the profile of jazz, with a request for equal access and acknowledgement of the scaffolding jazz provides for the entire contemporary music sector. Connecting and promoting Victoria’s jazz industry via initiatives such as an international jazz summit and a jazz industry platform body have great potential to lift the whole jazz sector, which would then feed more broadly to other creative and commercial music scenes.

This submission has been informed by recent research as well through consultation with a broad range of contributors and jazz industry members from around the state of Victoria:

  • Victoria’s Jazz Industry Strategic Action Plan- initiated by Port Fairy Jazz Festival (see App. 1);

  • 100:25:1 – social network analysis of 100 musicians across genres, by Ass. Prof John Fitzgerald & myself (see App. 2);

  • Public Jazz Forum held on Wed 21 Aug in Northcote;

  • Conversations with key jazz organisations, festivals, venues and individuals.

I also bring a unique perspective with broad international experience and active involvement across many aspects and levels of Victoria’s creative industries. My practice has a particular focus on jazz and art music, but also includes an active involvementin dance, theatre, visual arts and most musical genres. This includes creation and presentation as an artist, as well as directorial and administrative work for various organisations, including: Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues - Lead Co-Artistic Director, Festival of Slow Music - Founder/Director, Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival - Co-Founder, Ballarat Live Music Advisory Committee – Advisor/member, Arts Victoria (now Creative Victoria) – Advisor and Peer assessor for Vic Rocks program, Regional Arts Victoria – Peer assessor for Regional Arts Fund, and a range of support roles in organisations such as Melbourne Jazz Co-operative, La Mama Musica and Australian Shakuhachi Society.

The community consulted for this submission extends from major international festivals to small clubs, from traditional to contemporary jazz and from our leading professional artists to young emerging artists, and with a range of other associated industry workers.

"They teach you there's a boundary line to music. But man, there's no boundary line to art"
- Charlie Parker

 What is jazz?

 More than a style, it is a collaborative process that connects all participants, that lives and breathes, inspiring conversation that invites all to participate equally and respectfully in creative endeavour. Jazz as a form has many variations, but jazz as a process stays relevant and contemporary, inviting new ideas and influences to build upon the tradition. The spirit of expressive freedom, collaboration and improvisation are at the core of dixieland jazz, big band jazz, be-bop jazz, mainstream and the latest cutting edge-contemporary jazz.

 In Australia, this spirit takes on a unique form and deep significance due to the First People's connection, respect and listening to country and subsequently the improvisational skills required of the early European settlers. Australian jazz has developed its own voice upon the foundation of these collective experiences, but it also has something to offer in contributing to the way we move forward as a nation.

 Jazz is firmly embedded in the DNA of Australian contemporary music with a long history of international engagement and influence:

  • Graeme Bell– Melbourne jazz pianist, described as the “father of Australian Jazz”, helped sparked an international jazz revival in the 1940s and was the first Western musician to take a jazz group to China[1];

  • Wilma Reading– born and raised in Cairns, inspired by her aunt who was a jazz singer, began international career in 1959 largely in USA and UK, inducted into National Indigenous Music Awards Hall of Fame in 2019[2];

  • Gerry Humphrys – British immigrant, arrived Melbourne 1957, started playing trad jazz in 1960’s with The Red Onions Jazz Band, going on to become iconic front man of The Loved Ones, inspiring bands including INXS and Jet[3];

  • Cold Chisel – the members of this quintessential Aussie pub-rock band were/are great appreciators of jazz, with Jimmy Barnes stating:

    • "If I hadn't joined Cold Chisel they would have been a f---in' jazz rock band," Barnes says, dragging himself away from the hugs and smiling faces at the counter towards a table at the rear of Pellegrini's. "'Mossy wanted to play nice, Don (Walker) was into Miles Davis and Steve (Prestwich) was into Yes.”[4];

  • Don Burrows – toured the Australian outback throughout his career, including via Musica Viva[5];

  • The Necks– specialising in improvisation, this genre-defying trio is a truly international force, recently recognised by being awarded the 2019 Richard Gill Award for Distinguished Services to Australian Music.

Jazz musicians currently permeate across the entire Victorian contemporary music sector - just a few examples are:

  • The Cat Empire, Hiatus Kaiyote, Laneous, The Bamboos - all with strong jazz roots;

  • Kate Ceberano, Megan Washington, Chelsea Wilson - jazz artists cross into mainstream;

  • The Black Sorrows, Kutcha Edwards, Ian Moss - acts utilising jazz trained musicians;

  • Ben Northey, conductor of Melbourne Symphony Orchestra - studied saxophone & jazz;

  • Paul Grabowsky - currently recording projects with Archie Roach & Paul Kelly;

  • The Others - James Morrison, Paul Grabowsky & Kram from Spiderbait - a true Australian supergroup that breaks the mould;

  • Jazz trained musicians populate the musical pits and bands for touring arena shows.;

  • Contemporary music educational institutions are often taught and coordinated by jazz musicians.

In November 2015, I presented “100:25:1”, a project featuring duets with 100 artists across 25 nights. Five broad musical categories were represented by 20 musicians in each. Associate Professor John Fitzgerald (University of Melbourne) and I mapped the connections between the members of the cohort to examine who was playing with who. One of the discoveries was that the jazz group was the most connected across all genres of performance, followed by classical. Given the training and skills required for both jazz and classical, it follows that these musicians would be in demand in other styles. Of interesting note was how the most connected people in the network were not necessarily the “stars” but were those that crossed genre and worked across a number of musical traditions, channeling “people to other people, and likewise channeled capital through the network”.[6]In our writing, we argue that “to really support this creative economy, we need to fund people, places and their connections.”[7]For more information on “100:25:1”, please refer to App 2

The thing to take away from all of this is that it becomes not just necessary but vital to include jazz when considering the contemporary music sector, in order to properly understand and support the whole of music ecosystem. But despite jazz being a feeder for all music and a contributor to our national culture, in recent years jazz as a genre has been increasingly excluded from mainstream media, as well as seemingly absent from Creative Victoria’s definition of what contemporary music is, reducing the visibility of Victoria’s jazz industry, restricting avenues of support and stifling its development.

CREATIVE VICTORIA – current support
Creative Victoria supports jazz largely through its Vic Arts grants, as well as other avenues, for creation, development and presentation of work. But unfortunately, there are contradictions in access for jazz to the two main project funds – Vic Arts Grants and Music Works Grants. For example, Vic Arts Grants Overview and Guidelines state that the fund supports touring, though it also states contemporary music industry touring proposals should be directed to Music Works Grants[8]. The latter’s guidelines state funding is available for contemporary music from all genres.[9]But over the past few years I have had contradictory advice, most recently this year being clearly advised not to apply to Music Works for a project involving jazz, even if it is considered contemporary by other definitions or that the project is about developing industry, as there would be no one on the panel knowledgeable about jazz. It is not plainly stated as such, but this does exclude jazz from Creative Victoria’s definition of contemporary music. 

On the positive side, Creative Victoria support for jazz is important and valued, including project grants through Vic Arts Grants, weekly presentations by Melbourne Jazz Co-operative and Make It Up Club. The Creators Fund category is a positive addition to helping artists sustain themselves, with one of the recent Creators identifying as a jazz artist. This is all vital and should definitely be retained at the very least. 

I would also like to acknowledge Creative Victoria’s active and supportive partnership with Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues during my time at the festival (2017-18), which demonstrated clearly their appreciation of the value of supporting jazz and working with an organisation to support them through a difficult time. If that kind of interaction was available on a wider scale, it would make for a more collegiate process to engage and develop the sector.


Issues to acknowledge & address

  • Visibility/invisibility;

  • Lack of organisational support and infrastructure;

  • Lack of mainstream media support;

  • Image - what is it? Too old, too new?;

  • Gender and cultural diversity;

  • Further engagement with First Peoples communities;

  • Lack of accessibility for lower socio-economic communities;

  • Lack of cooperation/coordination across the jazz community;

  • Lack of skilled professionals in broader aspects of jazz industry.

Strengths to highlight & develop

  • Jazz musicians are active throughout the entire music ecology - strong network economy;

  • Jazz demographic crosses all generations

  • Coming together of different parties in united cause – e.g.:

    • Victoria’s Jazz Industry Strategic Action Plan– Port Fairy Jazz Festival consulting with other festivals/clubs;

    • Stonnington Jazz Industry Summit with professional networking and industry development opportunities;

  •  Image: shift thinking from what jazz is, to what jazz does…;

  • ABC Jazz is Australia’s #1 digital-only radio service (2018)[10]and Victoria’s community radio stations, which have had; growing audiences[11]and have more music-fans listening than to commercial stations[12];

  • 2017 Melbourne Live Music Census shows approximate 10% increase in jazz audiences since 2012[13];

  • Jazz brings together generations and can be a leading example of how to embrace diversity without losing one’s personal voice;

  • The next generation are already coming - there are young musicians of high calibre performing in all styles of jazz;

  • Victoria is the lead state for music, including jazz - with many musicians drawn to Melbourne due to the performance and career opportunities available.

Key Priorities

  • Equality of access;

  • Organisational infrastructure;

  • Develop education curriculum;

  • Engage with First Peoples;

  • Showcase & connect Victorian jazz industry;

  • Support, promote and value career pathways;

  • Acknowledgement and visibility of Victoria’s jazz heritage;

  • Wellbeing support;

  • Support for youth development;

  • Creative meeting places.

These recommendations are made with a long-term view in mind and for a partnership between Creative State and members of the jazz sector to work towards achieving them together. 

Equality of access

  • Jazz to be acknowledged and included as integral part and feeder for contemporary music;

  • Equal access for jazz sector to contemporary music services (e.g. Creative Victoria’s Music Works Major Round) in order to help bring the professional/industry aspects in alignment with the whole of the music ecosystem;

  • Active engagement with jazz community to understand needs and to promote avenues of assistance, to counter the common perception that “there is no point trying” and/or “they wouldn’t care about us”;

  • Inclusion of Victorian jazz in Australian contemporary music industry events/conferences – e.g.CHANGES, Big Sound.

Organisational infrastructure

  • Support the establishment of a jazz industry body to connect, support, research and advocate;

  • Develop industry support services that are currently lacking in the Australian jazz sector, placing us at a disadvantage internationally – e.g. artist managers, agents, producers, labels, agents, publishing, marketing, fundraising;

  • Training & support for volunteer organisations – especially in regional areas where many of the festivals and clubs are run by senior community members and would benefit from recent technology and knowledge.

Develop educational curriculum

  • Increase accessibility and participation in jazz education, especially in regard to gender imbalance and diversity;

  • Build Cultural capital – gained through knowledge, skills and education– to enable positive social mobility, which in turn can mobilise economic capital, i.e. money. “In conclusion, cultural equity and sustainability go hand in hand.”[14];

  • Acknowledge the value of jazz education in schools as evidenced by the incredibly successful Generations in Jazz Festival (Mt Gambier, SA) that attracts upwards of 5000 students from 150 schools all dedicated to playing jazz[15]– but find ways to develop pathways and connection to jazz industry through VCE/VCAL, similar to SEDA College as an example that connects to professional sporting clubs;

  • Early exposure and participation – with jazz being a process that encourages creative and personal individual expression within a respectful and responsive communal context – an example of a process to apply more broadly.

Gender and diversity

  • Address severe imbalance of gender and cultural diversity of participation, especially tertiary and professional levels;

  • Support risky/adventurous programming – style, emerging artists, instruments uncommon to jazz, collaborations;

  • Expansion of existing diversity programs to accommodate jazz;

  • Support for collectives, such as All In Melbourne and YOWO Music, that involve jazz musicians developing inclusive and diverse communities.

 Engage with First Peoples

  • Support and facilitate for First Peoples communities to engage meaningfully with jazz organisations/festivals/artists;

  • Access to programs offered such as by Music Victoria and Multicultural Arts Victoria;

  • Acknowledgement and celebration of First Peoples contribution and participation in jazz.

 Showcase Victorian Jazz Industry – connecting local and international

  • Establishment of annual international symposium presenting whole of state activity and connecting internationally (beginning with our regional neighbours and building from there in subsequent years);

  • Align symposium with International Jazz Day (30 April) to squarely position Victorian jazz in an international context

  • Support for engagement with existing international showcase events such as Jazzahead (Bremen, Germany) and NYC Winter Jazz Festival (New York, USA) as well as developing new markets – e.g. WOMEX (European World Music showcase) currently has little or no interest from Australian acts, but they have potential buyers specifically interested in jazz and/or First Peoples artists;

  • Support incoming and outgoing trade missions for jazz industry;

  • Support/develop reciprocal organisational partnerships – many organisations work on a reciprocal exchange partnership basis, e.g. between Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues and Amersfoort Jazz Festival (Netherlands);

  • Support for regional presenters/organisations to meet regularly (once/twice a year) and to attend each other’s festivals. This could extend to interstate participants/organisations also;

  • Support for “small” tours – for some markets, the influential concerts can be the small niche ones, where network relationships are formed, helping build strong social capital which is key within niche scenes.

Support, promote and value career pathways

  • Identify and make visible pathways into the wider jazz industry;

  • A jazz artist’s career tends to be much longer arc than rock/pop artists – age is also not as critical – but that means without support services or substantial secondary income streams, support can be more necessary at different stages: 

    • Connection to industry/mentors during tertiary education – student;

    • Music business training from jazz sector perspective – graduate/emerging artist;

    • Professional development/mentoring to get to next level – mid-career.

 Acknowledgement and visibility of Victoria’s jazz heritage

  • Support Australian Jazz Museum to contribute to the larger story of Australian music at the Australian Music Vault;

  • Rehouse the Australian Jazz Museum in new Arts Precinct development in Melbourne CBD;

  • Make jazz visible – on a recent visit the only mention of jazz I could find in the Australian Music Vault was the description of Wilma Reading’s aunt as a jazz singer and inspiration, but no direct mention that one of our highest achieving First People’s artists internationally was actually a jazz artist herself;

  • Develop Jazz Tourism in Victoria and beyond – with a broad range of metropolitan and regional festivals within Victoria, there is large potential to capitalise on the recognised boom in cultural tourism, using the unique characteristics and history of Australian/Victorian jazz as well as other cultural and natural attractions.

 Wellbeing support

  • Provide support services for organisations and artists that are working under high pressure and constant stress:

    • Most jazz festivals and artist collectives are run by volunteers, and are often from small communities, which makes them highly susceptible to stress and burnout, which is not sustainable;

    • Artists are also doing many unpaid hours, expected to act as entrepreneurs, without proper recompense.

Support for youth 

  • Establishment of a truly national youth jazz orchestra based in Victoria, working with mentoring leaders – an example is Dutch National Youth Orchestra[16];

  • Expanded instrumentation to include instruments not commonly associated with jazz, which would encourage greater diversity and accessibility;

  • Support existing organisations such as Jazz Melbourne’s “Big Band Through the Ages” youth program;

  • As above re: Education and Career pathways.

Creative meeting places

  • “The Third Space” - repurpose underutilised spaces and make new spaces available for easy community access for rehearsals, meetings, working space - these could be multi-artform spacesin every council. Traditionally they have been in suburban band rooms;

  • An example is the Moreland St Band Room, (Cross St, Brunswick) which sees over a dozen groups utilising the space every week for rehearsals as well as creative performances. These kinds of spaces are increasingly rare for music. Arguably, the Cross St model could be replicated effectively across outer suburban and regional centres;

  • A regional pilot option could be in Ballarat - the old BLX building in Camp St is currently unoccupied, but I have been informed it is owned by the state Ministry for Education. I am not sure of the planned use for the building, but there are soundproof rooms that could be utilised by entrepreneurial young bands for rehearsals and basic recording. There may support from Ballarat Council in line with the Ballarat Live Music Strategy Plan;

  • “Third Spaces within communities can form many different functions, but they facilitate people coming together and creating. Third Spaces are important for the creative health of Victorians. They are important for developing democracy, social cohesion, alleviating isolation, and the community's sense of ownership. It is a public space that fosters creative interaction. Increasingly, the survival of creative music production is dependent on philanthropic hospitality business owners who are willing to forgo earnings potential of hosting more "commercial" acts to support their business. Arguably, creative music production should not be tied to this paradigm. It should be able to be made and shared in places that are not tied to particular business models or profit margins on alcohol sales.”[17]

 Many of these recommendations are applicable to other sectors also. Where there are possible synergies, it would of course be advantageous to share opportunities, knowledge and resources for the benefit across musical genres, if not also the broader creative landscape.

There is a diverse and passionate community behind this submission, looking positively to the future of jazz in the state of Victoria. Jazz can be a model for a more community-based, diverse and inclusive society, precisely because Jazz itself is a process of negotiating unknown situations and finding collaborative solutions.

Because of the role of jazz as a key infrastructure for contemporary music, it is a scaffolding for professional practice across many genres, jazz can become invisible. Like the internal structure that supports a building, and the bones of our bodies, we notice them when something goes wrong, but for the most part we ignore the scaffolding it provides. Jazz is the backbone to our creative ecosystem, it encapsulates the spirit, provides the excellence in skills training and eclecticism for performers to excel across different music sectors. We ignore Jazz at our peril, as it does more than entertain, it is a critical essential infrastructure to our creative music industries. Supporting jazz helps everyone, it is a stem that supports the creative life of our thriving creative ecosystem.

 Please do not hesitate to contact me to discuss this submission further. 

Sincerely yours

Adam Simmons
The Usefulness of Art
- submitted to Creative State 2020+ on 3rd Sep 2019







[6]Appendix 2: Fit for Purpose? : Funding the creative economy beyond venues and stars – Fitzgerald/Simmons -


[8]Creative Victoria - Vic Arts Grants Overview and Guidelines, p3 -

[9]Creative Victoria – Music Works Major Funding Round Guidelines, p2 -


[11]CBAA State of the Community Radio Sector Report 2019, p3 -

[12]Melbourne Live Music Census 2017 Report, p55 -

[13]ibid., p61



[16]Website: Dutch National Youth Jazz Orchestra -

[17]Tim Nikolsky (Editor of Australian Jazz Real Book) – email correspondence with Adam Simmons on 26/8/19

APPENDIX 1 - Victoria’s Jazz Industry Strategic Action Plan

APPENDIX 2 - Fit for Purpose? : Funding the creative economy beyond venues and stars – Fitzgerald/Simmons

The Usefulness of Art