Saturday, February 24, 2018

GoFundMe launched to save Hermann’s Jazz Club

August 16, 2017 by Mason Hendricks, web editor

When Hermann Nieweler founded Hermann’s Jazz Club in 1986, it attracted local musicians and patrons with the promise of a casual atmosphere, good music, and friendly company. Today, the venue is the oldest jazz club still in operation in Canada. Nieweler passed away on June 10, 2015, and from that moment the future of the club was thrown into question. His children inherited the building and the businesses located inside of it; they wanted to sell their newly acquired assets rather than continue to pay for the club’s operation.

“Because it’s an estate situation, his eldest daughter came in as the owner/operator, and she made the changes that she saw fit,” says Nichola Walkden, a spokesperson for the Jazz on View Society (JVS) and a longtime co-manager of Hermann’s. “Since Hermann died it had actually been myself and another girl who managed the club. We’d gone back and forth, depending on how our lives were, managing it. We also had a committee of people who helped oversee the management of the club. It’s mostly been slowed, but there have been arguments within the family itself about how things will be handled. There is now a contract to buy the building and the businesses within, so that was agreed upon with her and her two brothers.”

The late Hermann Nieweler (photo provided).

The JVS has begun a GoFundMe campaign with the hopes of raising enough funds to be able to enter into their option on the property, essentially buying it out from Nieweler’s beneficiaries. As per the agreement, the JVS has until the end of October to pay the $30,000 in interim payments while it gathers more support to finish the sale, which requires $3 million in total. (The JVS has set $30,000 as their goal for October 30 for the GoFundMe; as of Monday, August 14, they had received $11,700.) Walkden and other members of the JVS are all long-time patrons of the club, and many of them have also worked—or currently work—for the club.

“I think the club was born out of Hermann’s love for people,” says Walkden. “The thing that’s magic about Hermann’s is that he always put the musicians first, and if they’re happy, and they’re finding their space and returning to this stage, he’s doing the right thing.”

Local trombone player Nick La Riviere is 33 years old and has been playing at Hermann’s for over 17 years. Although Nieweler lived in Vancouver, he would frequently visit Victoria to check in with friends and spend time at his jazz club, which is where La Riviere would see him.

“He would often come to the shows and watch and enjoy them, and he would always get very excited about the music,” says La Riviere. “Sometimes he would bring up a tray of Schnapps, and have Schnapps with the band on his breaks; I guess that’s his German heritage. Hermann’s is important to Victoria because there is no other venue like it, where a musician can play these particular styles of music, notably original jazz music. If the club fails to continue to exist, it would be very sad for so many musicians in Victoria. Without him and without the club, the Victoria music scene, I believe, would have been quite different.”

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