Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Announcing the Miles Davis Festival

Post by Brett Batterson, Executive Director of the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University.

Miles Davis at the Auditorium Theater on August 14, 1981 in Chicago, Illinois.
Miles Davis on the Auditorium Stage. August 14, 1981. Photo by Paul Natkin.
I am delighted and honored to announce that the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University is producing a four-month—yes, you read that correctly—a FOUR MONTH celebration honoring a legendary Illinois jazz artist some of you might be somewhat familiar with…a man by the name of Miles Davis.

This Miles Davis Festival will run from January through April 16, 2011—and in all my years as Executive Director of the Auditorium Theatre, I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited at the potential, or the possibilities, of a project as I am right at this moment.

I’d just like to elaborate for a moment on the genesis of this project and give you a few more details about all the incredible events that will be taking place. Miles Davis is one of Illinois' favorite sons. Born in Alton and raised in East St. Louis, Mr. Davis' impact on the social, musical, and cultural landscape of America simply cannot be denied.

Beginning today, and culminating on April 16, 2011, the Auditorium Theatre will co-produce a series of citywide events and concerts recognizing Miles Davis' substantial impact on American music and society. 

 For example, throughout the next few months, the Auditorium Theatre will partner with a variety of local jazz clubs for a series of 16 shows. These partnerships are crucial because they will not only help generate awareness of the festival’s events, but because they constitute what we believe will be the beginning of an ongoing friendship between arts organizations and local businesses that will prove beneficial to arts lovers throughout Chicago for many years to come.

In order to help facilitate awareness and generate interest in all the shows and events associated with our commemoration of Miles Davis' life, we're offering a very unique opportunity, what we call "The See-and Save Passport Program."

How this works is very simple. If you attend any of the jazz concerts held in the clubs in connection with this festival, you receive what we call a passport—and you get a stamp. For every additional show you see, you get another stamp. If you get two or three stamps, that’s $5 off your ticket to any of the Miles Davis Festival’s shows at the Auditorium Theatre. If you get four or five stamps, you get $10 off your ticket. And if you get six stamps or more, your ticket is free.

I would also like to highlight one show in particular that I believe deserves special recognition. On Thursday, March 31 at 8pm, a very special jazz concert will take place at Martyrs’ club at 3855 North Lincoln Avenue. On that night, the Bitches Brew 40th Anniversary Band will perform. And if you’re not familiar with these extremely talented musicians—you should be. Composed of talented artists such as Darryl Jones, Blackbyrd Mcknight, Badal Roy, and Nicholas Payton, this dynamic group not only features former band-mates of Miles Davis’, it also includes his nephew, Vince Wilburn Jr. (an outstanding musician in his own right). This is one show you simply can’t afford to miss.

But we’re just getting started. Now you can see why I was so excited to tell you all about this festival! As I alluded, all of these concerts at the clubs will lead up to several shows on the Auditorium Theatre's stage.

The first will occur on Tuesday, April 12, at 7:30 pm when Roosevelt University's College of Performing Arts presents selections from one of Miles Davis’ greatest masterpieces, “Kind of Blue,” in their annual Vivid concert.

The next show on the Auditorium’s stage will take place on Thursday, April 14, at 7:30 pm. We’re very excited to announce that local jazz luminary Orbert Davis will showcase his considerable abilities when he performs Sketches of Blue: An Orbert Davis Tribute to Miles. I can speak with absolute conviction when I say that Orbert Davis is a dear friend to the Auditorium having performed in our theatre many times, and we’re especially honored to have him join us in this festival, and for this tribute.

Finally, the Auditorium Theatre’s Miles Davis Festival will conclude on Saturday, April 16, 8 pm with a really remarkable performance. The Auditorium Theatre, along with the Wharton Center for Performing Arts at Michigan State University, has co-commissioned River North Dance Chicago to create a world premiere dance piece set to original Miles Davis recordings. The music will span Davis’ immense repertoire and highlight his evolution as an artist. The piece is conceived, directed and choreographed by RNDC Artistic Director Frank Chaves.

But I want to mention that the Auditorium Theatre is not only committed to organizational partnerships and sublime programming—we are also dedicated to providing inspiring outreach opportunities to children and families throughout our communities.

In accordance with these goals, our education department will organize a Jazz Music Drive for Chicago Public Schools in celebration of the Festival. Used CDs, sheet music, scores, music history books and albums will be collected at select Loop locations. We believe that exposure to music is essential to a young person’s development, and therefore all of these donations will go to CPS high schools looking to expand and grow their music programs.

I don’t want to drone on too much, but I would be remiss if I failed to thank the Chicago Community Trust, the Boeing Company, and the Joyce Foundation. They recognized–quite early on, I might add–that this is an event that needs to be shared with the people of Chicago. Their support and commendable generosity have been instrumental in helping this project evolve.

Before I conclude, I just want to stress that countless hours have already been invested in this musical festival, and many individuals have devoted their time and energy to help us arrive at this moment, and this place in time.

And throughout my years as Executive Director, I have had the privilege to speak at many different events, and to address many people like you who truly care about the future of the Auditorium Theatre. But I simply cannot contain my excitement today. And I think at least part of the reason is that this event is truly unique–not only does it celebrate one of America's most talented, transformative and exceptional musical innovators, it does so in such a way that unifies our communities by drawing together a variety of talented individuals, prominent organizations and respected institutions.

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