SJ Q&A: Amy Anderson, San Jose Downtown Association
Events and Promotions Manager
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Business, Community, Local,
Amy Anderson is the Events and Promotions Manager for the San Jose Downtown Association.
Amy Anderson, Events and Promotions Manager at the San Jose Downtown Association for the last seven years, is behind some of San Jose’s most popular events: the year-long Farm Fresh Fridays farmers’ market, Zombie-O-Rama, Live & Local Music Spotlight, Starlight Cinemas Free Outdoor Movies, Fountain Blues Fest and many more. She was even described as “the hardest working person in San Jose” by SLG Publishing’s Dan Vado.
Anderson grew up in Indiana around farmland and Midwestern hospitality. She attended Indiana University where she majored in journalism and minored in psychology. Her first job out of college was working for the Olympic Training Center and later the U.S. Soccer Federation, but eventually her passion for music led her to working for concert production agencies. While she continued school in Berkeley, she worked for concert industry icon Bill Graham, owner of San Francisco’s legendary venue The Fillmore and one of the original concert promoters during the 60s.
She eventually found her way into the nonprofit sector and moved to downtown San Jose to work for the SJDA where she describes her work as “ever-changing and never boring.”
Name: Amy Anderson
Age: 43 going on 23, for those who know me.
Occupation: Events and Promotions Manager, San Jose Downtown Association
How long have you lived and worked in San Jose?
I have lived in the San Jose area now for 10 years and worked downtown for seven.
What first brought you to San Jose?
Actually when I initially moved to the Bay Area, I was living in Berkeley for school and work purposes. Then it was this job that pulled me to downtown San Jose because I have a love for producing concerts and events, and these were free for the community. It was the first time I had the opportunity to work for a nonprofit, which intrigued me. I’d worked for concert promoters and ad agencies before, so the non-profit sector was exciting.
What do you like most about San Jose?
This really felt like home to me when I came here. It really does have so much of that small town feeling. Being from the Midwest, it’s important for me to have that tight community feeling. So it was the people who drove me here, the people that I’ve met.
I really like the locally grown businesses and the passion of the people behind those businesses, because my job intersects so much with those folks. They’ve stayed here no matter what the economy is doing to make San Jose’s unique downtown. They all see the potential for downtown like I do. I like that we’re not so saturated with stuff like in other big cities. Here you might have to seek things out, but the reward is twice the payoff.
I also like that woman are strongly represented here, and there have been a lot of great mentors that paved the way. In the Midwest, that was not the case. Here you find a lot of strong women in organizations, a lot of free thinkers and entrepreneurs. San Jose has a lot of diversity and friendliness. People are not closed off or pretentious here like in a lot of other Bay Area cities. I also feel connected to the agricultural history of the area. I grew up around farmland in Indiana and my grandparents were farmers, so I whenever I’m homesick I go and volunteer with Veggielution. There’s still that farmer’s grand-daughter in me that feels connected to all of that here.
What San Jose event do you most look forward to every year?
It’s a tie between so many for me, but I would say SubZero. I’m somewhat involved in that. It kicks off the summer and puts what’s unique about the arts culture here on display. And I’m such a music fan, so it’s hard for me not to also say the Jazz Festival with the number of people they bring out to downtown, it truly makes San Jose a destination. And also Cinequest. I think it’s an amazing example of people who stayed downtown to start their business, and it’s really put us on the map as one of the top film festivals in the world. I love talking to all the filmmakers that come in town for that two-week period and getting their take on San Jose. They always talk about how easy it is to get around and how friendly the people are, and I think that speaks to how we nurture creativity and we’re not pretentious about it. The people are hungry for as many events like that as we can put on.
What do you wish San Jose was more developed in?
I’ve seen a good shift so far, but I wish more folks would frequent the locally owned shops and businesses so we can help them keep their doors open. I still feel like we have a long way to go in my work, connecting with the conventions. I want to see visitors who are coming to San Jose walking a few more blocks past the chain restaurants and deciding to try a local taqueria instead.
I think development gives us an incentive to build more housing by downtown. Once people move down here, there has to be something interesting going on to make them want to stay. There has been progress, but there’s a lot of folks here that are jaded and just want to talk about how the music scene used to be great, but I’ve seen so many great new bands and so much young talent. SVSX showcased a lot of them, which I think helped people in San Jose be more cognizant about new shows that are happening.
I’m guilty of it, not getting myself out there all the time, too. I’ll be comfy on my couch some nights, but I know I get my friends together more and go support local events. I really want to encouraging the increase of restaurants and clubs that are now offering live music, which is what the Live and Local campaign is all about.
I have one really specific thing I’d like to see happen as well: I wish that the San Jose Civic could open their space at least two days a month for nonprofits to come in and do events, because as it is right now none of us can afford to do that. That’d be better than having it sit empty.
How do you like to spend your time when you’re not working?
You’ll see me out and about at a lot of live music events, and I like to support the local theaters. San Jose Stage and the Rep and City Lights put on some really amazing productions here. I like that I can do all that and not even pay for parking. I can just walk around and do all these things really easily.
I also like to check out the galleries and the museums, and I’m a big thrifter, so you’ll often find me thrift shopping around The Alameda and elsewhere. I am outdoorsy sometimes as well, I love hiking when I get a chance. I’m glad we can be in the Santa Cruz mountains within 20 minutes. I’m also in the recreation Silicon Valley Roller Girls league, so that’s another outlet for me.
It’s interesting how even when I’m not working, I’m hanging out around the type of work I do! Like if people see me at a festival, they start talking to me about something they need done because they think I’m helping run it. It’s a social job, and I do get out and I need to interact with creative people, so it’s good thing. I would say the coolest thing about my job is getting to meet all the owners of so many great businesses. They’re so often hidden behind the counter, but have all these amazing stories and great history.
I also go see a lot of Earthquakes games. I don’t think most people know that they’re No. 1 in Major League Soccer right now. We’re not really a typical sports town. We don’t have major football and basketball teams, we have hockey and soccer teams driving us, and that makes our city unique.
What are some of your favorite places in San Jose?
Angelou’s Mexican Grill on Second and Santa Clara is kind of a hidden gem. The owners are great. It’s another one of those family-owned and run places. I love Trials Pub and Caffe Frascati, and Good Karma and the Hedley Club Lounge are really cool places.
If you could change one thing about San Jose, what would it be?
The perception of San Jose. It seems like there’s still so many people that might work down here, but they get in their car and drive away at the end of the day. They don’t hang out here after work or spend weekends here. Or some people live in Willow Glen and think downtown’s not safe, but San Jose is much safer than most other Bay Area cities. But there’s nothing like getting out of your car and walking somewhere, checking out unique events and shops, and places like San Pedro Square Market. I love during the holidays when we have Christmas in the Park, and also the Children’s Discovery Museum and Tech Museum that brings families downtown, I’d like to see more of that.
Everyone talks about retail and how we need more of that, it’s here in little bits and pieces. The challenges are the buildings that are sitting empty. In some cases there seems to be a standstill between the property owners and the young entrepreneurs who want to start business. Something needs to be done to help incentivize them to work together and make things happen. New businesses around here will help increase property values too.
San Jose also needs a midsize concert venue. Since we don’t have something like the Fillmore here, sometimes for tour routing we get passed by for some great shows. The smaller venues are doing a great job picking up the slack, but if we had a few really stellar new venues to build those relationships with agencies over time, we could see so much more happen with the live music scene.
Who is the most interesting person you’ve met in San Jose?
I work with a guy who’s really interesting, Ernie Manfredini. He’s kind of the encyclopedia of downtown. Everyone knows Ernie, but I’m sure a lot of people haven’t actually talked to him because he’s usually working. He does everything for productions, from set up to technical work. He’s a San Jose State grad. If you need to know anything about San Jose, Ernie has an interesting take on things. Between Ernie and Gary Singh, I’ve learn a lot of San Jose history and the evolution of the culture scene here. He’ll get a kick out of this if he actually reads this. Give him a year, he might get around to it.