Nearly 300 BC musicians call on jazz society board members to step down after chaotic AGM

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Nearly 300 BC musicians have signed a letter calling on some Coastal Jazz & Blues Society (CJBS) board members to step down following an annual general meeting in November that degenerated into profanity .

In the letter – whose signatories include popular artists like Dan Mangan – CJBS members ask the company’s board to respect the outcome of a vote at the AGM, in which most board members did not receive enough votes to be re-elected.

Those board members refused to resign, several CJBS members told CBC News, leading to a loss of confidence in the company’s management.

“The resolution is for the current board to stand down,” said Aram Bajakian, a local guitarist, composer and educator.

Some members say they are now worried about the future of the annual TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival, which the CJBS produces, given the current state of society.

General assembly breaks down

Bajakian says only three of the seven board members were re-elected at the November AGM. However, immediately after the vote, two of the newly re-elected board members resigned.

He says a second emergency vote was held to elect new board members. Two people volunteered, a vote was taken and, according to Bajakian, they were elected.

But he says former council members have refused to resign or recognize the election of the two new members. From there, the meeting deteriorated, culminating in a board member hurling profanity at members, he said.

“These are the people you’re meant to serve, not swear by,” Bajakian said.

The CJBS Board of Directors declined interview requests, but in a letter to its members he seems to recognize what happened in the meeting.

“Emotions were running high, resulting in words and actions that we deeply regret,” the board wrote in the letter.

CJBS member Sonja Muller says she has attended many general meetings for various organizations, but has never experienced anything quite like the one in November.

“The level of division and hostility toward the members was just mind-boggling,” the musician said.

“Blasphemy too, it’s something I’ve never [experienced].”

Crowds gather in downtown Vancouver for the festival in pre-pandemic times. (Instagram/Coastal Jazz)

Bylaws don’t require a vote, says board

Following the meeting, the CJBS Board of Directors consulted with its legal team regarding the company’s bylaws.

He says he has found that board members cannot be “eliminated” and that an election should only be held if the number of candidates exceeds the number of vacancies on the board – so in this case the vote was not necessary.

“These bylaws were precisely designed to avoid the kind of uncertainty and chaos that resulted from the AGM in question,” the board wrote.

But society members say the settlement contradicts precedent of how the society normally re-elects board members. Bajakian and Muller felt that candidates had to receive 50% plus one of the votes to be elected.

“Instead of agreeing to that, they then found these other bylaws to circumvent the membership vote,” Bajakian said.

Muller says she can’t understand why an election was held in the first place if these regulations are in place.

“We all felt like our vote didn’t matter and was just brushed aside and ignored,” she said.

“The entire election result was ignored twice.”

Festival scares

Many members have lost faith in the council over the past year, Bajakian and Muller say.

They believe the lack of board support indicated in the vote was due to many members not supporting the direction the company was heading, as well as a desire for new perspectives on the board. administration with increased diversity to better represent members.

The aftermath of the AGM is still being felt in the Vancouver music community.

Bajakian says some members have expressed a desire to pull out of this year’s jazz festival, which is scheduled for June 24-July 3, if some board members don’t respect the results of the vote.

He says he is working hard to prevent this from happening, as a reduced festival would be a blow to everyone involved.

“The Vancouver International Jazz Festival is truly a beacon in the world because not only do you have the names of the artists, but it also supports a whole variety of up-and-coming artists,” he said.

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