News, Events and Culture

David Edge: Civic Award winner 2017

Friday December 22 2017

David Edge says if you don’t feed jazz it dies. He has not only been feeding jazz for decades, but he has helped put Palmerston North on the musical map.

Photo shows 2017 Civic Honour recipient David Edge with a musical instrument.

Dr David Edge was honoured with a Civic Award this year, recognising his service to the Manawatu International Jazz & Blues Festival and Manawatu Jazz Club.

David has been a vital part of the Manawatu Jazz Club team that organises the festival each Queen’s Birthday Weekend. The Jazz Festival started in 1968, and is the second longest running in New Zealand. Since bringing in Rodger Fox as its musical director in 2000 it has now surpassed Tauranga in terms of size and is the biggest in the country, with about 350 musicians playing in 2016.

As coordinator of Café Scene, David does everything from scheduling to helping with promotion and advertising and making sure the acts are fed, watered and have everything they need. This once included a quick dash to buy a music stand after a drummer had his stolen along with his cymbals en route.

Café Scene has been part of the festival since 2000. David says it is about giving back to the community with semi-professional musicians from around the region performing in Palmerston North and Feilding cafes.

It also inspires local musicians through cross-fertilisation of repertoire and style.

Jazz needs to be played and you need to have new ideas coming in. If you don’t feed jazz it dies.

Dr David Edge

He helps organise the schools jazz competition and runs the event on the day. Instigated in 2000, the competition is part of the Jazz Festival and helps promote jazz to a new generation and raises the level of musicianship among school students. Students come from Lower North Island, Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay, Bay of Plenty and Auckland to compete.

David shares the promotion and fundraising for the Jazz Festival with musical director Rodger Fox. He acts as master of ceremonies at festival concerts, effectively becoming the public face of the festival.

David has been involved with the club since 1985, joined the committee in 1993 and became president in 1997 – a position he still holds.

Arrival in Palmerston North

Dr David Edge arrived in Palmerston North in 1975 to work at the hospital for a year, but after three months was offered a permanent position. He never did return to live in England, embracing the benefits of a growing hospital able to purchase equipment, nice people, everything being accessible and the extremely good quality of medicine.

Then there was the very active arts scene. He found some amazing musicians who could easily take the stage anywhere in the world yet lived within a 50km radius of Palmerston North.

“The quality of musicians here is extraordinary and it’s not just established ones. The young kids coming through are out of this world.”

David grew up Staffordshire, England, and went to medical school in Birmingham. He retired from practising as a gastroenterologist in 2014.

Love of music

David has always been interested in music; his father used to play the drums in a dance band. He remembers listening to the Music In the Air, an American radio show broadcast from Germany during the 1950s.

At school he played the bass guitar in a rock band. They’d play at a cricket club and before or after their gig there’d be a trad band playing. He’d spend hours listening to them. David’s band used to practise in an old air raid shelter. “No one complained because they couldn’t hear us.”

He now plays the clarinet and bass clarinet. “The more you play the less worse you get.”

He initiated and runs Getting into Jazz master classes through the Manawatu Jazz Club. They bridge the gap between playing at school and playing in a band as an adult. David says the idea is to get young musicians into a big group so they feel playing is no harder than what they were taught at school and they feel like they are contributing.

“All they are waiting for is someone to say ‘there’s a seat there, sit in it’.”

David serves on the Music Selection Committee of the Earle Creativity and Development Trust, and in the 1990s was on The Science Centre committee. The Science Centre is now part of Te Manawa, the regional museum.

David says his wife Linda lives in the “real world” and makes sure the wheels of that real world keep turning. “They always say behind every successful man is an astonishing woman.”

Their three children have also had to make sacrifices with David often unavailable on Sundays for family time.

Jazz Centre

The Manawatu Jazz Festival is well and truly on the jazz calendar. “People know Palmerston North because of the festival.”

David says his reward is getting to meet and listen to fantastic musicians. “If you are interested in something, you want to give something back. You want to try and help.”

For 20 years David has been a presenter of the All-Star Jazz Show on Radio Control. Every three weeks he shares not just music but information about bands and music history.

“Jazz is not just listening, there’s a whole of lot of stuff behind it. It is really quite remarkable.”

David says receiving a Civic Honour Award is “amazing for something I enjoy doing”.

He says the festival couldn’t be done without the support of the City Council and other agencies, the expertise of Rodger Fox, a supportive committee and volunteers “who just walk their legs off”.

This is the final story in a series profiling the three Palmerston North people honoured with Civic Awards this year.