By Stacee Sledge
Rotary Clubs of Thurston County’s 11th annual Cool Jazz/Clean Water Festival and Wine Tasting takes place Saturday, November 17th at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts.
During the day, area high school jazz bands perform for professional adjudicators led by Dr. David Deacon-Joyner, the director of jazz studies at Pacific Lutheran University.
“He’s an incredible musician in his own right,” says Rotary Club of Olympia member Kim Dinsmore. “He has a group of four adjudicators that analyze them and then the kids get to play with them in a beautiful venue in what we call an ‘adjudicator jam.’”
In the evening, event organizers transform all the Washington Center lobbies and mezzanines into a wonderful wine tasting area, while jazz plays softly in the background. This year, Syd Potter and his group of fine professional jazz musicians will play on the main stage while people sample wonderful wines from the Pacific Northwest.
“We’ve had some major big-time performers, some great jazz musicians play in the evening,” says Dinsmore. “And then the event changed over the years and morphed to include a wine tasting.”
One of Rotary’s objectives – besides eradicating polio – is to provide clean water for those around the world who don’t have access to it.
In the spring of 2002, a group of four area Rotary members – Dinsmore, Stan Arnold, Paul Creighton, and the late Mike Neeld – came up with the idea for Cool Jazz/Clean Water.
Since its inception in 2002, the event has raised nearly a million dollars and offered vital assistance to communities in Malawi, in Southeast Africa, and Remba Island, in Kenya.
But Cool Jazz/Clean Water also focuses on needs close to home, providing instruments to local school districts so students who otherwise might not be able to participate in band can do so.
A third component of the effort is a yearly youth development workshop, which benefits non-profit organizations throughout Thurston County.
Bob Wubbena is both a Rotary Club of Olympia member and a water engineer who has helped area Rotary Clubs direct even more funds to those in need.
“He found us or we found him back in 2002,” says Dinsmore, “when he was already working on a project in Malawi for an engineering group called Water For People, an international group of engineers who do water projects all over the world.” He is also a member of the international Water and Sanitation Rotarian Action Group (WASRAG).
Dinsmore and Wubbena are proud of the work the nine area Thurston County Rotary Clubs have been able to accomplish on an international level.
Cool Jazz/Clean Water also buys new instruments and partners with the Patrons of South Sound Cultural Arts Cultural Assistance Program for Students (CAPS) to refurbish used ones. They then get them into the hands of public school students who may be long on talent but short on funds.
“We’ve bought close to 400 instruments in 11 years,” says Dinsmore. “If you have a student that can’t afford a saxophone, the school basically checks a saxophone out to that student for the entire year.”
In 2009, Cool Jazz/Clean Water expanded further, creating its annual Youth Leadership Summit for local non-profits who serve youth, training staff and volunteers in ways to better serve kids and their organizations.
“Anybody who works with youth can attend,” says Dinsmore of the workshops, which has seen participants from many Thurston County non-profits, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County, South Sound YMCA, YWCA, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and more. “A number of speakers come from the University of Washington, professionals who work with youth, and they run the workshop all day long.”
These three components of Cool Jazz/Clean Water make the fundraising event stand apart from others.
“This is a great opportunity to support a local project in our community that really matters in an area of the arts that is so easily neglected,” says Rotary Club of Olympia member Dillon Mullenix. “But it also gives an opportunity to reach halfway around the globe and impact another community in another country.”
This year’s event will feature exceptional wines from local and regional wineries, including Agate Creek, Lemelson, Madsen Cellars, Vin du Lac, William Church, and more. A complete list is available at the event’s website.
“We have 50 different types of wines – you’d never be able to taste them all. And for people who like wine, it’s the deal of the century,” says Dinsmore. “Sally Beckwith from the West Olympia Rotary Club just does an amazing job of pulling all these wineries together.”
The tasting will also feature beer from Dick’s Brewing Company.
A silent auction will also be held featuring baskets put together by all nine area Rotary Clubs. Past baskets have included fine wines, wine accessories, chocolates, and other delectable treats. “You might end up getting a $400 basket of wine for $150,” says Dinsmore.
The success of this annual event is thanks in part to its generous sponsors. This year’s Grand Sponsor is Titus-Will, with Platinum Sponsors Creighton Management and Stifel Nicolaus. A list of all sponsors is available at www.cooljazzcleanwater.com.
According to Dinsmore, about 90 percent of all money raised at the event goes directly to its three charities. “Our overhead costs are very small,” he says.
“Because it’s a Rotary event, we get good participation,” says Dinsmore. Previous years have seen about 250 participants, but this year’s goal is to sell between 300 and 350 tickets.
“We’d really like to reach out to other members of our community, non-Rotarians,” says Wubbena. “It’s a really fun evening. It’s three hours of wine tasting with quiet background music. You can visit with friends and leaders in the community in a very social, pleasant environment.”
As for future plans? “We finished our Malawi water project, which took almost ten years,” says Dinsmore. “We’ll be finishing up our water project in Remba Island in Kenya this year – this is our second year there.” A committee will soon decide on the next project for Cool Jazz/Clean Water to support. “We’ll probably be somewhere in the South America or Central America region.”
Tickets can be purchased at the door the day of the event, online at www.cooljazzcleanwater.com or by contacting Renee Ries at 360.790.4150 or Diane Bingamin at 360.485.7829. The cost per ticket is $50, which supplies ten drink tickets for ten wine tastings and includes a complimentary wine glass and hors d’oeuvres.
Saturday, November 17th
7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Washington Center for the Performing Arts
512 Washington St. SE
Olympia WA 98501