When the people at the Museum of Fine Arts came up with the idea for a weekly jazz series, they weren't sure what to expect.
It seemed like a great idea, a way to showcase jazz, which has been called one of the few truly American art forms, and at the same time show off the museum's new Hazel Hough Wing and the MFA Cafe.
But they had no way of knowing whether people would want to come to a museum to have a couple of early evening beers and listen to live music.
Now, after a couple of installments of Jazz: The Art of Music, museum officials are so encouraged they want to expand the music offerings.
"The response has been fantastic," said Ellen Rivera, the museum's events marketing manager. "We had about 90 people the first week, and last week it was raining and we still had about 50."
There's plenty of room to grow, Rivera said, but the series is already considered a success.
Jazz: The Art of Music presents local bands from the entire panoply of jazz genres — Dixieland, smooth jazz, scat, bebop, big band and beyond — from 6 to 9 p.m. Fridays in the museum's new conservatory. Admission is $20 ($15 for museum members) and includes two Peroni beers.
The adjacent MFA Cafe is open, and a lot of people are coming for dinner right after work and then enjoying some jazz, Rivera said. And some of them take a break from the music and enjoy the art hanging in the new wing.
"Things slow down in the summer," Rivera said. "So we were thinking, 'Why not do something to bring people in, to let them know the museum's here and open at night, and let them take a look at our new wing?' "
But it's turning out to be more than a summer fling. Rivera is planning for monthly music happenings that start in September and continue until the weekly jazz series starts up again next summer.
"We'll have music one night a month, although we haven't decided what night yet," Rivera said. "We'll have blues, rock and even hip-hop."
Marty Clear is a Tampa freelance writer who specializes in performing arts. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.