We are Juneau residents who love music and the performing arts. One of us is a local jazz musician and the other has worked for years as an arts administrator and concert producer; however, we are not unique. Juneau people of all ages and cultures love their music. We believe that this project has the potential to affect everyone, including those who attend folk fest, blues, jazz, classical, bluegrass, Alaska Native and Filipino music and dancing, as well as rock and contemporary Christian concerts.
As musicians and fans, we have been watching in surprise and disappointment as opposition to the New JACC mounts in advance of the vote next week. We would like to share our views on the propositions that are before the voters.
• Some claim that the price tag on the New JACC is too high. In fact, the cost to the average taxpayer is incredibly modest. A homeowner with an average house worth $350,000 will pay, at most, $42 annually if all three propositions pass, and seniors will still get their partial property tax exemption. The cost of the new JACC has nothing whatsoever to do with any other issue. If the propositions fail, the $42 you save won’t be magically passed on to schools or any other worthy cause.
• Some claim that the popularity of the current JACC shows that a new facility is not needed. The JACC is old, falling apart, moldy, and completely unsuitable for most of the events that are held there. But we continue to use it, just as we might reluctantly drive an old unsafe car around town, because we have no choice. But if we were offered a new car for which we had to pay only $42 annually, you can bet we would gratefully upgrade.
• Some claim that they don’t care about attending live performances and object to contributing anything, no matter how modest, to a project that is of no interest to them personally. Supporting a live performance hall should be similar to supporting facilities like Eaglecrest Ski Area, Treadwell Arena, both indoor pools and our athletic fields — just something you do to enjoy the benefits of living in this community.
One of the joys of living here has been watching the Juneau Alaska Music Matters (JAMM) program expand musical horizons for many elementary school children. We were both raised in families where music mattered, and we want all of Juneau’s children to know the joy of attending a first-rate performance in a beautiful hall with excellent acoustics, not just those whose parents can afford to travel elsewhere. Over the years, Juneau has spawned a number of astoundingly talented young musicians. We want those talented children — in your family or anyone’s — to grow up and elect to stay here at home, where they can enjoy first-rate local and visiting musicians, in a space worthy of the talent on display.
If you doubt that a universal longing for music exists, let us point to the recent Norah Jones concert, which sold out almost instantly. The concert was held in Centennial Hall, which lacks comfortable seating and even the rudiments of a concert hall, like decent acoustics and a green room for the performers. You may not be a Norah Jones fan, but your favorite performer may have passed on coming to Juneau based on the quality of our amenities.
Let’s not delay. Please vote yes on all three propositions and ensure Juneau’s future as a beacon for the performing arts in a state that has a rich tradition of making our own music right here in Alaska.
• Laura Haywood is a former arts administrator member and member of the Juneau Jazz & Classics’ board of directors, and John Haywood is a saxophone player in the Juneau Big Band and Juneau 5, a band member of Last Chance Dixieland and on the Juneau Big Band board of directors.