I have been a Hermann’s enthusiast for about 15 years – this despite being an introvert, having a demanding job and being a single parent. No matter how tired I might be, going to Hermann’s always lifts me up. It’s a bit like Cheers, where everybody knows your name. I am connected to a community of very divergent people who share one thing in common – a love of jazz. When you look around the room, you see well-heeled people wearing expensive jewelery, young families enjoying a meal and wonderful music together, teenagers, UVic students, middle-income/middle-agers, older folk and in the front corner, a few people that are down on their luck who come in from the cold and enjoy the sounds. This kind of convergence of disparate people used to happen in church, but those of us who no longer believe find it here.
On the nights when the Tom Vickery Trio plays, amateur musicians are welcome to test their mettle on the stage. It’s a safe place to perform for those on the upward slope of the learning curve. I have been privileged to watch Sean Fyfe develop from doing high school homework at a table before taking a turn at the piano, to having him drop in from New York where he now earns his living as a musician. Where else could he have got that kind of mentoring?
I have experienced two personal thrills while at Hermann’s. The first was when my daughter, then 12, played piano there with the Lambrick Park Jazz Band. The second was when my brother’s drum teacher, the late Josh Dixon, passed my brother Steve his sticks and got him up on stage – a perfect reward for over two years of practice and the realization of a dream.
Not only is Hermann’s an incubator for local jazz musicians; it is a touchstone for professionals who move here. Recently, an unknown trombone player asked to sit in. Turned out he was a huge talent who had recently arrived from New Zealand. Once the trio heard him, he was instantly connected to the Victoria jazz network. Professionals off the cruise circuit also drop in to play and make connections to our jazz community. In addition, the Victoria Jazz Society uses Hermann’s as a venue during their annual festival. For many, it is the beating heart of jazz in Victoria.
And lest you think that Hermann’s is for amateurs, the professional talent is astounding. Maureen Washington, Michael Kaeshammer, Louise Rose, Pablo Cardenas, Joe Coughlin and many more stars have played here. Even Wynton Marsalis drops in with members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra to jam at Hermann’s. I sometimes have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.
Hermann’s is the oldest jazz club on the west coast, and for good reason. Let’s not break the streak. Help us find a buyer for the building, and a strong tenant for the gorgeous performance space on the second floor. It’s an icon worth saving.