St. Lucia Jazz 2005: 14 Years and Counting

It's hard to imagine that St. Lucia Jazz marked its 10th anniversary only 4 years ago. In a region where music festivals tend to die off in their 7th year, the internationally acclaimed festival that our tiny island has managed to sustain is definitely something every St. Lucian can be proud of. As we enter into our 14th year, it is worthwhile to take a look back at how it all began.

In 1991, a small group of dedicated people got together to come up with new and exciting ways to market St. Lucia and specifically to increase tourist arrivals in the traditionally low period of May. Out of this brainstorming came the idea for St. Lucia Jazz. Organizers wanted a festival that would put St. Lucia on the map, but at the time they felt that it would be difficult to stage such an event given their limited resources to say the least the idea was met with much criticism. Other islands such as Aruba and Curacao had already tried to stage Jazz Festivals and had failed miserably. Other critics felt that Jazz wasn't he medium through which St. Lucia should be marketed, after all it wasn't indigenous. Nevertheless, the 1st Jazz was staged in 1991. It was relatively small, poorly attended with only 4 venues. Jazz obviously did not do as well as they had expected and they were about ready to give up. But they didn't . They went back to the drawing board and worked on making it better. By 1994 their perseverance paid off and Jazz evolved into what we know it to be today - a careful mix of Acoustical and Fusion jazz with R&B.; The recent development of the fringe has only enhanced this mix, shifting Jazz from a nucleus of small hotel and club venues to a 10-day event that permeates the entire island. Virtually a separate festival in itself, the fringe activities such as Jazz in the South, feature distinct Afro-Caribbean flavour and has kept the audiences growing both in number and satisfaction.

Today St. Lucia Jazz is one of the best in the world. It has been ranked 2nd in Caribbean festivals, eclipsed only by T&T;'s Carnival. Festival mogul George Wein has placed it among the top 5 festivals in the world and in the eyes of E! Entertainment, St. Lucia Jazz is #1!.

St. Lucia Jazz has definitely come a long way since its beginnings in 1991. What simply started out as a marketing tool to boost tourist arrivals during the low arrivals period of May has now developed into one of the most important events on St. Lucia's calendar of national activities. St. Lucia Jazz has more than exceeded its original objectives. Visitor arrivals have not only increased in May, but an awareness of the island generated by Jazz has increased arrivals well beyond May. Extensive international media coverage via television, radio and print has resulted in added exposure, the estimated cost of which surpasses the Board's annual budget. St. Lucia Jazz has now become an internationally recognized brand. The most recent example of this being the "Being Cool is.." advertising campaign used by soft drink giant Coca Cola. The print campaign lists St. Lucia Jazz as one of the top indicators of what being cool is all about - definitely no small feat when arguably the world's #1 consumer brand chooses to associate itself with your festival. So, if this is a sign of what we can look forward to for the next 10 years of jazz - the future definitely sounds good.

©2012 Saint Lucia Tourist Board