I didn’t quit.
If anyone asks me a secret of my success, I think that would pretty much sums it up. Yes, there are details involved in how I didn’t quit and knowing where I wanted to go and having a dream and believing in myself and all that but when it comes down to it, I didn’t quit.
Believe me. There have been many many times (in hindsight, though) where quitting seemed to be either an unavoidable or a sensible choice. Honestly, I’m still amazed that The Jazz Gallery is still standing and we are doing so much more than just standing. Really.
In early 2000s, Dale Fitzgerald, who founded The Jazz Gallery, was putting in his own money to fill the financial gap. Significant amount of it. We were not bringing in enough money at the door. We haven’t done enough things and achieved enough accolades for people to want to donate a large amount of money. Getting a grant is like getting your first job: you can’t get a job because you don’t have any experience but you can’t gain experience without a job. They don’t want to give you enough money to do anything because they say, “The Gallery does not have capacity,” but then I’m like, that’s why we are asking you for the money! It was beyond hand to mouth. We were eating our own hands. We dug this hole to fill the other and then vice versa. I wasn’t getting paid and Dale was going into debt trying to keep The Jazz Gallery open.
At the end of each month, Dale would say to me, “Ah, Rio. I don’t know if we can sustain this any longer. I think we need to shut The Gallery down next month.” It happened probably like every other month. Then I would say, irresponsibly and optimistically, I might add, “Oh, Dale. It’ll be alright. We can do this. Let’s keep going!” And Dale would say OK. Lol. I had nothing to back up the statement with. All I knew was that I love being at The Gallery and I love the music and I honestly and naively believed that it would be ok. Somehow. To this date, I have no idea where I was getting that idea but I just simply thought it’d be okay. And I remember really believing it. Like no doubt. At all. I also remember disbelieving Dale’s statement. Lol. In my head, he was a glass-half-empty guy and I was a glass-half-full gal. I was like, “Oh Dale is so dramatic….” Fast forward 20 years, I came to realize how reckless I was being.
I have talked about going through really rough times in this interview (HERE). As I was telling my story to Ashley Khan , I realized how fearless and hopeful I was back then. I mean, I still am but I had no idea that I was being that way until I had a chance to look back and reflect. I just had a strong desire to keep producing the shows and I somehow never doubted that it would be ok. More importantly, it brought me such great joy to be at The Gallery and to bear witness to music/history that was being created day in and day out. I loved the music and I loved the cats and I loved the community. I just didn’t think there were any other ways to be.
I was reading something online the other day and it asked a question: what would you do if I was told that I have one month to live? The answer popped in my head without missing a beat. I will be at The Jazz Gallery and I will be doing exactly what I have been doing for the past 20 years. And that, I would call a success.