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Bo Gronningsaeter: In Memoriam

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Bo Gronningsaeter Bo Grønningsæter died on Wednesday, the 14th of November, 2012 at the age of 61. The jazz community has lost an innovative organizer and profiled personality.

He grew up in Molde, Norway and became acquainted with jazz as a teenager through the jazz festival. After graduating from Molde gymnas he went to study film in Stockholm and both English literature and history at the University in Bergen. In Bergen, he became involved in the jazz club and the festival (Nattjazz) and was chairman of the board for both organizations.

Instead of pursuing his academic career, he moved to Molde in the early '80s, working as an independent translator. As a chairman of the local jazz club, Storyville Jazz Club, he saved the club from bankruptcy. The club had some flourishing years under “Bo reign." In1987, he was employed as the first full-time director of the Molde Jazz Festival. In the festival administration he formed a dynamic tandem with Rolf Bugge. Bo ended his engagement with the festival in 1990. In Bo’s period as director, the festival added a lot of outdoor concerts at the Town hall square to its profile, as well as plenty of other activities on the main street. This changed the attitude of the locals towards the festival. Soon the whole city and its surroundings embraced the festival.

After his fixed term as a director at Moldejazz, he once again moved to Bergen, taking up a position as head of culture for the district of Nordnes, in the city of Bergen.

In 1998, he began as director of Vestnorsk jazzsenter (VNJS) (a production and service centre dedicated to jazz music including the counties Rogaland, Hordaland and Sogn and Fjordane). Bo built this organization from scratch. VNJS was the first of its kind to be established and became an inspiration and partly a model for the other four jazz centers in Norway. Together with Bergen jazzforum, VNJS produced 50 concerts annually, mostly located at the venue Sardinen in USF Verftet. VNJS developed a regional touring circuit and helped the Bergen Big Band launch an international career, in addition to supporting clubs and musicians and initiating different programs aiming to support young jazz musicians.

His main achievement was his groundbreaking work in the international arena. Bo became a member of Europe Jazz Network (EON) in 1999. He was a member of the board and functioned as secretary and treasurer in 2001 and served as General Secretary in the network from 2002 - 2007. In this period, Bo, together with Giambattista Tofoni, put a lot of resources into the network, managing the organization to get back on its feet financially. From 2008 - 10 he was a member of the board. VNJS was a partner of the EJN-initiated and EU-supported project Europe Jazz Odyssey (2002 - 04), creating artistic exchange and cooperation, artist in residencies, seminars, workshops and recordings. Bo is one of few who can decipher the application form from the EU—a skill that came in handy when he helped Gerry Godley with getting Union support for the talent launch of the innovative 12 Points Festival.

In 2000, Bergen was the European capital of culture alongside nine other cities. Bo made contact with the jazz community in several of those cities in order to create an artistic exchange program. Together with his old friend and associate, Kjell Kalleklev, Bo initiated both the showcase, JazzNorway in A Nutshell, and Norwegian Jazz Launch, a three-year marketing and travel support program.

Bo has developed JazzNorway in A Nutshell into one of the best showcases of its kind, and by that, opening the doors abroad to many Norwegian jazz musicians. Just as important is the side-effect of this program; over the years, festival and concert promoters as well as journalists have developed an informal network that has led to exchange and cooperation on many different levels.

The work with international relations was closest to his heart, and he had a huge network. Still, Bo was not the man for diplomatic small talk. His arena was around the big dinner table with good wine, good food and good friends. He could keep the whole table entertained for hours with his never-ending source of anecdotes and his quirky sense of humor. He had a strong sense of justice and was a most loyal and generous friend.

Rest in peace, Don Bo.

Lars Mossefinn
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