Sean Ongley is not a jazz musician per se. The self-described “musician-humorist-writer-producer” is more inclined toward obscure indie bands like AU than local jazzman Mel Brown.
The 29-year-old president of the nonprofit group InterArtsstays on a farm in the hills northwest of St. Johns and says he earns a living off “odd jobs, barter and faith.” He’s never organized a music event for more than 2,000 people.
Given that, Ongley has a little less than three weeks to rescue the largest and longest running free jazz festival west of the Mississippi.
For the last thirty-two years, on the third weekend in July, the Cathedral Park Jazz Festival has attracted thousands of music lovers to a three-night summer concert under the yawning spans of the St. Johns Bridge. The event has a history of drawing national acts like the late James Moody and David “Fathead” Newman.
But in May of 2012, the Oregon Department of Justice forced the nonprofit to dissolve itself due to chronic fiduciary oversights and failure to maintain its nonprofit status. With the event only three months away, most thought the festival was dead.