On September 20 there was a groundbreaking event in our town.
Gretchen Valade has a habit of breaking new ground. Last week she took this task literally.
Gretchen took part in a ceremonial groundbreaking for Wayne State’s Gateway Performance Complex, which will include the Gretchen Valade Jazz Center.
The new complex will include:
Three new theaters including: the Gretchen Valade Jazz Center, a proscenium and studio theatre
New educational production space for students to hone their skills in performance, design and management
A modern café where guests can mingle before performances, during intermissions and after events
A patron lounge that allows invited guests to relax and socialize before the show.
Chris Collins, who heads up Wayne State’s jazz program, has a lot to be happy about. The City of Detroit will have in the Valade Center a shiny new venue that will offer spaces for students and professional musicians to perform, rehearse, network and collaborate. Chris reminded us that this is not only the largest gift the WSU Music Department has ever received, it’s the “largest arts gift the university has ever received.”
Collins said they intend to create a jazz-specific 200 to 400 seat venue with great acoustics and flexible seating so that it can host a solo pianist or a large ensemble with equal ease.
Gretchen will also donate $1 million for the Gretchen Valade Endowed Scholarship in Jazz Studies, to give scholarships to jazz studies students performing and working in the Valade Center.
Gretchen said, “My love of jazz music and of this great city have inspired and motivated me my entire life,” “I can’t imagine a more meaningful way to combine those passions than by supporting jazz education at Wayne State University.”
Chris Collins added that Gretchen is “something of an angel to jazz in Detroit” as she continues to support the music she loves not only financially, but also by bringing others together to further these initiatives.” “It’s not just financial — it’s her spirit, her vision, her love of artists,”
Gretchen once again has shown that she understands the importance of having venues available for our young artists as well as our established musicians.
GETTING THE KIDS READY TO PLAY THE VALADE CENTER
There is plenty of music all around us, but it is often in the background while our brain is focused on a task. Getting the time to get lost in some music just isn’t always available. Luckily in Detroit there are earnest efforts to bring our master artists into the community to share their gifts. Providing an intimate experience with these teachers will assure that many young lives will be richer. I have seen the skill of our jazz educators with their young students and I have witnessed these kids abandoning their cell phones after being introduced to something new.
This year I hope to spend time documenting the programs and the individuals whose lives will be enriched. I have always been impressed with the ability jazz musicians have to listen to the children. They seem to know how much that listening matters. Maybe it is that listening to others is the key to jazz.
KEEPING THE NEXT GENERATION AWARE OF ART, MUSIC AND ESPECIALLY OUR MOST FREEING FORM OF EXPRESSION: JAZZ
If you want to expand the audience of an art form, you need to get the next generation interested in it. This means that is important to let our kids discover the music themselves, or let them think they have. It is important to let their imagination take over, and to get them out to hear and see live music.
WHY ARE GRETCHEN AND OTHERS WORKING SO HARD TO MAKE JAZZ ACCESSIBLE TO OUR YOUTH?
Children learn to think on their feet which gives them confidence to take on complex tasks and problem solving. When children practice creating something collaboratively like jazz they get used to the idea that their actions affect other people. They learn that when they are not prepared or on-time, that other people suffer. Because mistakes are a regular part of the process of learning in the arts, children learn that it is important that when you make a mistake you take responsibility for it. They learn to acknowledge them, learn from them and move on.
They learn perseverance, focus, determination, dedication and that learning can be fun.
I got a glimpse of the joy that a great jazz program brings when I was asked to photograph the Jazz Band at Cass Technical High School last spring.
Keeping the joy and exhilaration in our hearts is a lifetime job, if we are lucky.
COMING THIS WEEK TO THE DIRTY DOG JAZZ CAFÉ
This is a reminder that the Dirty Dog Jazz Café is a kid friendly place, meaning children of all ages stop by to escape and get lost in some music. Sitting in a comfortable chair and listening to jazz artists explore new places requires limited training.
September 26 – September 28
Gerald Gibbs loves what he does. He plays the Hammond B3 organ, and plays it, smiles and plays some more. Here is what James Carter said about Gerald:
“Gerard is basically a continuation of the organ tradition. Playing with him is like getting together with family. He is an individual that is always looking for new things in the music,” When Carter assembles an organ trio, Gerald is the organist he wants.
Mack Avenue Records star, pianist Connie Han will appear in full force for one night at the Dirty Dog.
Try to catch a live performance of one of jazz’s hottest new stars.