A Bonita Springs jazz show won’t go on due to budget cuts related to the federal sequester.
The Riverside Jazz music festival was slated for April 9 at Riverside Park, with the U.S. Army’s Jazz Ambassadors — America’s Big Band — headlining.
But the Department of Defense suspended all military band travel in early March because of budgetary uncertainty, meaning the Jazz Ambassadors won’t be visiting Southwest Florida after all.
“It’s just the most unpatriotic thing that has ever occurred to me in my 62 years of living, to have someone pull the rug out from under us like that,” said Mike Bode, a Vietnam veteran and music lover who was putting on the show.
While much of the focus of the sequester has been on cutbacks to national defense, airport operations and schools, the public is starting to see the effects in less high-profile areas.
In addition to the canceled band tours, spending cuts have grounded the Navy’s Blue Angels and the Air Force’s Thunderbird flying teams, according to media reports. Visitors to national parks are likely to see fewer workers, furloughed park police and shuttered visitor centers as part of the sequester cuts, which went into effect March 1.
Bode said he’s been working on the jazz show since January 2012 when he learned the Ambassadors, who play for free, were touring this part of the country. He contacted a band representative and began putting the pieces in place.
However, on March 8, he received a call from a band representative notifying him of the cancellation.
“I almost wrecked my truck. To be honest with you, I was dumbfounded and I was speechless,” Bode said. “I had just confirmed with my printer to run 1,000 posters and 1,000 fliers. Things were in the works because we were a month out.”
Bode said he tried to find a replacement headliner that would play on the cheap, but came up empty. He compared plugging one of the other scheduled acts into the Ambassadors’ headliner slot to starting a high school quarterback in the NFL.
On Monday, Bode officially announced the show was over and started meeting with sponsors to return their money.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Sgt. Adam Goetz, the Jazz Ambassadors’ tour coordinator, who spoke highly of Bode’s work. “We’ve worked for a long time toward these concerts, which take the Army story to the American public. And there’s tremendous value in this. Now we’re not able to fulfill that mission.”
Bode said the canceled band tours are an “affront to what this nation stands for.”
“This is our band,” he said. “This band belongs to the United States of America.”