All that Jazz … for the greater good, by Jamie Lafreniere

Three local nonprofit agencies have come together to form “Arts for the Greater Good,” a committee focused on area fundraising. But this committee also has another focus: to get area youth involved in the arts.
Marquette County Habitat for Humanity, Child & Family Services and the YMCA of Marquette always have focused on educating and benefiting children, and this joint venture meets everyone’s goals.
The group’s first community experiment will get underway later this month with a Jazz Quartet concert at 7:30 p.m. on September 21 at Kaufman Auditorium in Marquette. It will be an evening of music featuring premier artists from the east coast, and the entertainment will begin earlier in the week as well, with the artists visiting local schools and music groups.
Mike Shimon, Marquette County Habitat for Humanity executive director, said it’s really a team effort in the community.
“It seems that the same agencies are always making asks for the same money, so to do it jointly made sense,” he said. “Julie Frazier is really spearheading it. Her family has been very influential in shaping our community, and she’s carrying on that tradition. She is probably one of the most generous people I’ve ever met.”
Frazier, a Marquette native well known for her community spirit and fundraising talents, began the project by forming a committee including the CEOs of all three agencies. She is on the board of directors for both Child & Family Services and Habitat for Humanity, and adding the YMCA seemed to balance the group.
Danny Peterson, CEO of Child & Family Services of the U.P., loved the idea of mixing education with fundraising.
“We want to remind the community of the wonderful agencies that we have here in Marquette,” Peterson said. “We would like to also benefit the kids by exposing them to the arts while generating funding for the agencies.”
David Staddon, CEO of the Marquette County YMCA, said the quartet is going to high schools to work with music groups and jazz bands to talk to the kids.
“They can also encourage the kids to further their music education and think about it as a profession,” he said. “We just like getting the kids involved. These are top-notch jazz musicians and the kids will benefit by working with them.”
Music enthusiasts also can feel local pride while listening to the accomplished quartet. Bassist Keala Kaumeheiwa is a former Marquette resident. His mother, Toyo, who is on the board of Child & Family Services, suggested the quartet, which is celebrating huge success on the east coast and traveling around the United States to perform.
“Toyo was reluctant to suggest it at first because she is so modest, but her son is extremely accomplished,” Peterson said.
Each of the performers in the quartet has an incredible resume, and it will be a concert not to miss.
Preparations are underway for the Kaufman performance, and YMCA’s David Staddon also is helping behind the scenes.
“I worked in the casino business for many years, and entertainment is part of my background,” Staddon said. “I’ve been working on the technical aspects like the soundboard, microphones and lighting. But this will be a very informal setting so there won’t be a lot of production costs.”
Keeping the costs low will help keep profits high, and everyone is hoping for a large showing at the concert. Each group is in the middle of their fundraising year and every little bit helps.
“We’re all United Way agencies and get support there,” Shimon said. “But we’re always scrambling for funding.”
Habitat for Humanity also gets financial assistance from church groups, service clubs and their Builder’s Club Membership. But each home they build costs $65,000 for construction materials, and build an average of six a year.
“We get some government funding for overhead, but we need to raise the rest,” Shimon said. “We’ve built fifty-eight houses to date, with the majority in the last six years.”
Each of the homes is panelized in the prison system, and then erected on the site by volunteers. Much of this work is done by the “RV Caravaners,” a group made up of mostly retired volunteers. They pull twenty rigs into town for two weeks to help with construction of Habitat homes.
Some of them spend their entire summer traveling and putting up houses across the country.
Habitat’s other large fundraiser is another Frazier event. She hosts a Hawaiian luau with a silent and live auction, with a goal of raising $15,000 to $20,000.
The YMCA also is working on its large fundraiser for the year, an October dinner dance where staff and members get together for an evening of fine food and music. They also have an auction.
“Our fundraising primarily goes to provide financial assistance to people who couldn’t afford memberships,” Staddon said.
This event is part of the Strong Kids Campaign. Some families who can benefit most from the YMCA programs don’t have the financial ability to purchase annual memberships. With the campaign, families can get a scholarship to provide financial assistance.
“Nobody is turned away for an inability to pay,” Staddon said.
Local support is important to the YMCA as well.
“Our annual campaign is looking to raise $100,000,” Staddon said. “We have a lot of local businesses and individuals who contribute and the board is particularly helpful in terms of personal financial support.”
Child & Family Services hopes to put the funds raised to good use financing its workshops.
“Our organization has had to go into cutback mode and had to prioritize services,” Peterson said. “We definitely can use the support.”
The series is based on strengthening families who attend the workshops. The fourteen-session course starts off with a heavy focus on better communication between parents and children and educates them on how to resolve problems.
“There are fourteen sessions, so there is staying power and a real commitment from the families who participate,” Peterson said.
But funding is crucial, and one session costs $5,000.
It’s clear that all three agencies need to raise money in our community, and with the help of “Arts for the Greater Good,” they are hoping to reach their goals.
“This idea came as a result of looking for some unique ways to do fundraising besides dinner and an auction,” Staddon said. “We hope to be able to continue the series in the future. This is the first time we’ve attempted a project like this and we’re learning as we go, but we’re hoping for a series of concerts over the year to raise money for the organizations.”
Peterson agrees, and would like to see the project continue for many years.
“The performers could be musicians or artists or watercolor painters,” Peterson said. “Whatever is available. We want them to work with kids preceding any performance and that would connect the kids with art to help our agencies serve people. That is our plan. We’re learning as we go and [this] will be our first attempt.”
The Jazz Quartet concert is at 7:30 p.m. on September 21 at Kaufman Auditorium in Marquette. Tickets are available through NMU’s EZ Tickets or by calling 228-3578. Adult tickets are $25, student tickets are $15, and special VIP tickets including an afterglow are $50.
—Jamie Lafreniere

Editor’s Note: For details, call Habitat for Humanity at 228-3578, Child & Family Services of the Upper Peninsula at 228-4050 or the YMCA of Marquette at 227-9622

Keala Kaumeheiwa
bassist from Marquette
After studying violin in Marquette, Kaumeheiwa added acoustic bass to his repertoire when he was seventeen. Studying under renowned bassist Richard Davis, Kaumeheiwa received his bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Now a New York resident, he has performed with the New York String Orchestra at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. In 1995, he was offered the bass position at the Thelonious Monk Institute at New England Conservatory, where he studied improvisation with Miles Davis’ bassist Ron Carter and classical bass with virtuoso Donald Palma. Kaumeheiwa was in the first graduating class of the Thelonious Monk Institute, and his studies have allowed him to play with Jimmy Heath, Jackie McLean, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, T.S. Monk, Wynton Marsalis, Bobby Watson, Harry Edison and James Moody.
Kaumeheiwa currently is teaching Jazz Combo Ensembles at MIT, and freelancing in the Boston jazz scene.

Patrice Williamson
vocalist from Boston
Patrice Williamson fell in love with music while listening to her father sing at St. Stephen’s Baptist Church music ministry in Memphis. She majored in music at the University of Tennessee with focus on classical performance as a flutist for the opera and symphony orchestras.
But one day, an instructor overheard her scatting during a rehearsal break and immediately offered her a vocal solo performance. She was hooked, and headed to the New England Conservatory to focus full time on her voice. Williamson has appeared with Tony Bennett, James Moody and Cassandra Wilson at the Tanglewood and Marblehead jazz festivals. Her CDs include My Shining Hour and Free to Dream.
Williamson has been compared to legends like Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. She won the “Best of Boston” award three times and was a nominee for “Best Jazz Vocalist” by the Kahlua Boston Music Awards. She is on the faculty of the New School of Music and Wellesley College.

Helen Sung
pianist from New York City
Jazz turned Helen Sung’s head during her classical studies at the University of Texas-Austin. She was accepted into the inaugural class of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at the New England Conservatory of Music.
The opportunity allowed her to learn and play with some of the greatest masters of jazz music, including Clark Terry, Benny Golson, Buster Williams and legendary composer Wayne Shorter, as well as jazz luminaries Steve Wilson, Regina Carter, Lonnie Plaxico and T.S. Monk.
Now working in New York City, she has released her CD entitled “Helenistique.” Sung is an active bandleader and has been featured in Downbeat, JazzTimes, Jazzia and All About Jazz with her band headlining at venues and festivals across the country.

Luther Gray
drummer from Boston
As a teen, Luther Gray played drums in punk rock bands in Washington D.C. Largely self-taught, he enjoyed guidance from Kim Martin, Larry Bright, Steve Bagby and Mickey Newman.
In 1995, Gray graduated from the University of Miami with a bachelor’s in music and taught privately while continuing to perform in the D.C. area. Gray has played with Butch Warren, Cecil Payne, Webster Young, Peter Edelman, Jenny Toomey and Buck Hill.
Gray teaches in Boston and has performed in festivals and concerts across the country as well as in Europe. He’s recorded for the Simple Machines, Hat Hut, Riti Rec, Skycap, Clean Feed, Xeng and Jardis labels. Despite a busy work schedule, he still finds time to teach art and music at an after-school program for elementary school children.
— Jamie Lafreniere

 

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