It’s a pop-up video recording and performance venue called the SJZ Break Room, which will make its debut next month as part of the SJZ New Works Fest 2021 that runs April 29 to May 8. It will also host shows during the organization’s summer and winter festivals, as well as at other points throughout the year.
The indoor venue will be housed inside San Jose Jazz’s downtown office, located at S. First and San Carlos streets. That’s where Oran Etkin, Kev Choice, Javier Santiago, Tammy Hall, Ten Spencer, Van-Anh Vo, Chris Cain, Claudia Villela, Justin Ouellet, Howard Wiley, Robbie Benson, Ian Santillano and other artists will perform as part of the virtual New Works Fest 2021, which is a streamed concert series with tickets ranging from $10 to $20 (sanjosejazz.org).
This festival features 11 commissioned pieces from 11 local artists, each of whom were awarded $1,000 grants through the nonprofit’s SJZ Jazz Aid Fund. The fund awarded 33 grants in all.
“Music brings comfort and joy, and a strong sense of community,” says SJZ Board President Julie Ramirez. “Our Board-driven effort to individually grant $1,000 to 33 artists, and an additional performance fee for 11 artists to appear at the SJZ New Works Fest 2021, is only one way to sustain careers in the arts that have suffered so substantially. We continue to need help through individual donations until these artists are truly back on their feet, regularly performing.”
While no patrons will be allowed inside for that series, people can view the performances — for free — from outside at the same time they are being shown online. The concerts will be shown, with sound, on a 35-by-14-foot video wall on the San Carlos Street side of the venue.
Eventually, organizers plan to stage indoor shows at the Break Room, once COVID-19 safety protocol allows for small indoor concerts in San Jose. The outdoor video wall will also be running during these gigs, allowing for others to take in the performances for free.
When there’s no show going on, the wall will serve as a community bulletin board where local organizations to can promote upcoming programs and events.
The Break Room is one of a number of initiatives that San Jose Jazz has instituted to help Bay Area artists and local youth throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Other initiatives include the the Live at Home concert series (where 100 percent of donations go directly to the artists), Backstage (racism and mentorship workshops led by musicians) and working with the Ella Fitzgerald Foundation on the SHIP Kits initiative that provided educational/entertainment materials for families during pandemic.
“Similar to so many other arts institutions, we were shocked by the disastrous effects of the pandemic. But it’s during tough times like these we must stay strong and connected as a community and develop creative solutions in response to real-world issues,” says SJZ executive director Brendan Rawson. “San Jose Jazz has always worked to vitalize downtown San Jose with music and to provide avenues for artists to create and be heard.
“Over the past 12 months, our programs have underscored just how essential the arts are for people. It’s part of their lifeline to live fully. We need to be a part of that.”