Transcript: Sue Davoli (The Art of Volunteering)

The following is a transcription of The Art of Volunteering Episode 4: Sue Davoli.

Stormy Bell: Welcome back to The Art of Volunteering. I’m your host Stormy Bell and today we’re sitting with Sue Davoli, the Box Office Queen for Exit Zero Jazz Festival in Cape May, New Jersey. Sue, introduce yourself and share how you first got involved with the festival.

Sue Davoli: Hi, my name is Sue Davoli. I live in Cape May, New Jersey and I first found out about the jazz festival 10 years ago and participated as a paying customer. At one of the venues somebody suggested to me that if I volunteer, I can go see everything for free and get a cool t-shirt. So I did that and have been with the festival ever since. I started out as a door person selling entrance at the door and I’ve evolved into a larger sales capacity of working the box office at the main events. Now we just have one main venue thanks to COVID so I am there from the time the box office opens on Friday until it closes on Sunday. So I am the Box Office Queen. I also work with another very wonderful person and he does a lot of the technical stuff as far as keeping the volunteers informed and scheduling. It’s not a single woman thing but he does call me the Queen B. 

Stormy Bell: Nothing wrong with that.

Sue Davoli: There is nothing wrong with that. It’s great. It’s been quite an adventure.

Stormy Bell: That’s awesome. So it’s been 10 years since you’ve been involved. Roughly.

Sue Davoli: This is the 10th anniversary of the jazz festival, and I started as a paying customer. So this is my eighth year.

Stormy Bell: Your eight year that’s awesome. Can you tell me a little bit more about the Exit Zero Festival, like its origins and the involvement you started sharing to me about a gentleman who comes in and works with it. Can you tell a little bit more about that?

Sue Davoli: Exit Zero Jazz Festival is the crown jewel of Spy Boy Productions, which is headed by Michael Kline. Michael has roots in Cape May County and as an adult moved out of the area to New Orleans where he was involved in jazz and radio and was a very well known jazz DJ. Along came [Hurricane] Katrina and Michael and his young son Miles came back to the Cape May area and started looking for something to do and found this. The parent company is Spy Boy Productions. Spy Boy Productions also does concerts in Cape May during the summer, there’s a whole summer series, and we’ve also done things in various outdoor venues.

Stormy Bell: That’s awesome. 

Sue Davoli: We brought the music back to Cape May during COVID.

Stormy Bell: That’s awesome. So many things were affected by that. It’s great that you’re able to have your music you’re able to pivot.

Sue Davoli: Yes. Right we were able to pivot. I have a nursing background. I’ve been a nurse for almost 50 years. During COVID I got some of my nurse friends together, some of whom were already involved in [the] jazz festival and we would attend every concert and just eyeball people to make sure they were healthy. We were doing temperature checks and then once the vaccine was established, we were checking vaccination records and so on and so forth just to keep it safe. We also used people in outdoor venues as the mask police and to make sure that people were leaving. I mean it was crazy times but it was so worth it just to hear live music again.

Stormy Bell: Yes. We all needed that opportunity for live music, something outside of our four walls with humans, somewhat around us. Now, just circling back to Spy Boy. So, the organization is a for-profit organization, but you use volunteers. Can you tell me how volunteers fit into the delivery remodel that you use?

Sue Davoli: Absolutely. I mean, we need so many people to sell tickets, check tickets and escort people to their seats which was one of my first jobs. We use volunteers for door staff at the different venues. Most of Exit Zero Jazz Festival now is at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry grounds so we need people to be around the vicinity to tell [attendees] where to park, which entrance to go into, and where to sit as well as checking tickets, selling tickets, and selling merchandise. That’s a volunteer so on and so forth.

Stormy Bell: Awesome. So how many volunteers do you have? Do you have a number like how many it takes to run the festival?

Sue Davoli: I would say it takes in excess of 30 because it goes on for three days. So, you know, between 30 and 50 and many of them are the same ones year after year.

Stormy Bell: Your volunteers, once they come they’re hooked [and] they stay with you a long time.

Sue Davoli: Pretty much yeah. We did lose some people with COVID. They weren’t comfortable, you know, being around other people to any extent. Some of those people I’ve heard back from this year and it’s great because people love what we do. They love the music. People love free music and I tell them that if you give me four hours of volunteer time, you can see everything for free. I’ll give you a pass that gets you into every venue and a cool t-shirt. 

Stormy Bell: I might have to think about this.

Sue Davoli: [We] will so bring you on.

Stormy Bell: For the types of jobs that you have, is there a lot of training or is it just pretty much self-explanatory of what you need to do?

Sue Davoli: With what I do, it’s self-explanatory. I can show you how to sell on whatever we’re using at the time. We’ve used Square for a lot so most of it is self explanatory. There’s another whole side to the volunteering, which is on the production side. People moving things around and helping the sound and lighting folks get things set up. That requires more specialized training. They use a lot of high school kids that are involved in production in their schools for that which is kind of cool.

Stormy Bell: [It] gives them community service and a lot of hands-on experience.

Sue Davoli: A lot of hands-on. Right and then they get to hear music for free.

Stormy Bell: So it’s a win-win situation for both Exit Zero and the students.That’s awesome.

Sue Davoli: Yes.

Stormy Bell: Let’s see. That’s a lot of my questions. So I would like you to share a couple stories about the jazz festival and volunteers.

Sue Davoli: Okay. I do wanna circle back and tell you a little bit about how, when I got involved, I felt like this was totally out of my wheelhouse and that was one of the reasons that I wanted to do it because I’ve spent most of my career as an emergency room nurse. Well, come to find out a lot of my triaging skills and organizational skills are absolutely useful in this. So it really wasn’t that far out of my wheelhouse but that being said, I have learned an awful lot doing this.

Stormy Bell: Can you explain how you said, like how, what you did as a nurse and what you do as a volunteer? Explain that a little bit more.

Sue Davoli: Well as the Queen B people are coming to me with issues and problems. I just have to be able to prioritize immediately what needs to be taken care of now, what can wait five minutes, what I can do, what I need to get somebody else for. That sort of thing. It’s like triage.

Stormy Bell: It’s like triage. Absolutely!

Sue Davoli: It is like triage. Yeah. 

Stormy Bell: What else do you have to share with me, because I know you’ve had some adventures. We’ve spoken about some of these.

Sue Davoli: I have had adventures. Like I said, it was challenging to get people to work during COVID. I started reaching out to my nursing friends and that was very helpful. Not everybody wants to just volunteer for a t-shirt so we were doing events at a winery. I told people that we work for wine and the producer would buy us bottles of wine at the end of our shift. That was cool. It’s fun. It’s been a journey and it’s been a lot of fun.

Stormy Bell: That’s awesome. Alright we’re at the point of the [show] where I let you love on the Exit Zero Jazz Festival. Just tell people why they should come, what’s involved. Just go ahead and love on ’em.

Sue Davoli: Alright. This is the 10th anniversary of Exit Zero Jazz Festival. Spring 2022 we’re having May 13th, 14th, and 15th. There’s something for everyone. Our headliners are Artemis, Charles Lloyd, Keyon Harrold, Melissa Aldana, and Marcus Miller. We also have some of my favorites, the New Orleans style jazz and we have a New Orleans Second Line on Saturday and Sunday in Cape May. We have Snacktime Philly and Brass Queens for that. We also have a favorite of mine that is a Cuban jazz group called Conjunto Philly. There’s just, there’s so much, there’s such great energy and wonderful people. The people that come are great, the people that work there are great, and the artists! It’s a smaller, more intimate setting than a big arena. They talk to their fans and take pictures. It’s really cool. Really cool.

Stormy Bell: That’s awesome. So everyone should come out to Exit Zero Jazz Festival!

Sue Davoli: Yeah. Exit Zero Jazz Festival Tickets are still available. There are day passes available. There are a number of clubs in Philadelphia that will be doing shows, two shows a night on Saturday and Sunday. You can buy a Hops Pass for that will which if you buy, it gets you into all of the club shows. So one price which is a good deal. That’s how I started. I can’t even tell you how many people I’ve met and friends I’ve made doing the volunteering and then you know, introducing people to each other. It’s just, it’s really cool. It’s just a wonderful, wonderful thing. You know everybody’s happy. It’s just a great atmosphere. Hopefully this year, we will be blessed with good weather again.

Stormy Bell: Oh, we can hope,

Sue Davoli: I learned a long time ago that you cannot control the weather. Can’t control it when you’re going on vacation. Can’t control it if you plan an outdoor wedding. Can’t control it for Jazz Fest, but we make the best of it that we can and we’ve been very, very blessed.

Stormy Bell: That’s awesome. Alright my dear I want to thank you for being on The Art of Volunteering. This has been a blast.

Show Notes & Links
Exit Zero Jazz Festival –
Spy Boy Productions –

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