Guest Post: Kent Arts Commission launches Kent Creates

Approaching Storm by John Armstrong – an Inaugural Exhibit Winner

4Culture is opening up shop in Kent, with Hello 4Culture, and we thought it was a good time to check in with Ronda Billerbeck, the Cultural Programs Manager for the City of Kent and Director of the Kent Arts Commission, to see what she’s working on these days. We were excited to learn about one of their new programs, which includes an dynamic way to participate in the arts. We asked Ronda to share her news:

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Approaching Storm by John Armstrong – an Inaugural Exhibit Winner

4Culture is opening up shop in Kent, with Hello 4Culture, and we thought it was a good time to check in with Ronda Billerbeck, the Cultural Programs Manager for the City of Kent and Director of the Kent Arts Commission, to see what she’s working on these days. We were excited to learn about one of their new programs, which includes an dynamic way to participate in the arts. We asked Ronda to share her news:

The Kent Arts Commission is proud to announce the launch of Kent Creates. This web platform for sharing art, culture, and creative endeavors is meant to be a community of imagination and inspiration for anyone who creates or seeks to be inspired by creativity.

Kent Creates is for artists, musicians, writers, crafters, illustrators, dancers, filmmakers, hobbyists, and other creatives to share their work and meet people with similar interests. Creative work of all kinds may be shared on KentCreates.com  – drawings, cartoons, recipes, do-it-yourself how-to videos, short films, and anything else creative minds can dream up.

The project started as a dream to involve and engage the public on a new level. Instead of commissioning an artist to make a piece of art to be passively experienced and enjoyed by the public, Kent Creates encourages Kent residents to be the artists.

We recognized a national trend – Individuals taking a more hands-on role in their participation of arts and culture, and often using technology to that end. Kent Creates is a response to these shifts in the way we generate and consume creative material.

The Kent Arts Commission believes strongly in the power of art to transform the lives of individuals and communities, and that creative pursuits are truly for everyone – not just professional artists. We know Kent – and the larger Puget Sound region – is home to a wealth of creativity including writers, musicians, singers, photographers, filmmakers, and others keeping traditional ethnic arts alive. We are pleased to implement Kent Creates to build connections through showcasing that creativity.

An Inaugural Exhibit was held in October and November of 2015 to launch and test Kent Creates; it garnered 48 submissions including photography, collage, painting, piano composition, poetry and more. The Kent Arts Commission voted on submissions and, in keeping with the Commission’s commitment to pay artists for their work, the top five pieces received $100 honorariums. The winners’ work also appears on the featured carousel on the Kent Creates homepage.

The five winners from the Inaugural Exhibit are: John Armstrong (photography), Mary Ann Cagley (encaustic photo transfer), Jamie Greene (watercolor), Arries McQuarter (piano composition), and Naoko Morisawa (mosaic collage).

The next exhibit for Kent Creates is open January 23 through March 31 and focuses on the theme of “Home.” The call for entries reads:

What does ‘home’ mean to you? In today’s world, many people move far away from the place they were born and raised, to distant cities, states, and countries. As a result, our communities are more diverse with people from varied ethnic, religious, socio-economic, and geographic backgrounds. Despite our differences, home is a common concept, one that elicits strong feelings, memories, and hopes. Is home where you currently live? Is it where you’re from? Is home a place or is it a feeling? Is it a group of people, a memory, or even a period of time? What is HOME?

Work may be submitted through March 31, 2017 – at which time the exhibit will close. The Kent Arts Commission will select the top five pieces, which will receive $100 honorariums and featured status on the site.

Kent Creates is free to use and anyone, anywhere can sign up; there is no requirement to live in Kent.

 

Guest Post: the Wing Looks Back to Move Forward

American Citizens, Roger Shimomura, 2015, lithograph, courtesy of the artist

As we approach the 75th anniversary of the year thousands of Americans of Japanese descent were ordered by the U.S. government to leave their homes and forced into incarceration, we asked Cassie Chin, Deputy Executive Director of the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience to share how the museum is commemorating this complex anniversary: 

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American Citizens, Roger Shimomura, 2015, lithograph, courtesy of the artist

As we approach the 75th anniversary of the year thousands of Americans of Japanese descent were ordered by the U.S. government to leave their homes and forced into incarceration, we asked Cassie Chin, Deputy Executive Director of the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience to share how the museum is commemorating this complex anniversary: 

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which resulted in the forced removal and incarceration of 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans. They were charged with no crime. The cause of their imprisonment was their ancestry.

Organizations throughout King County are hosting special exhibitions and events to recognize the 75th Anniversary of Executive Order 9066. At the Wing, we have been working with community members for over a year to develop an exhibition based on a book of poems by Lawrence Matsuda and artwork by Roger Shimomura, called Year of Remembrance: Glimpses of a Forever Foreigner. The exhibition connects the World War II experience with contemporary issues of racism, discrimination and human rights. In this Year of Remembrance, the past confronts the present in profound and moving ways.

We asked Lawrence and Roger to share about their process and the relevancy of the Japanese American incarceration.

How did the book, “Glimpses of a Forever Foreigner” come about?
Lawrence Matsuda: In America and Japan I am like a foreigner. But in Paris I am an American. The book addresses ironies related to being like a foreigner in his one’s own country.

Describe your collaboration process.
Roger Shimomura: For the most part I had total independence where style and content were concerned. As I read the poems if something struck me that translated to a pictorial image, I would do some sketches and decide whether to further develop the drawing. In addition I chose some pre-existing works that I felt addressed the same or similar issues.

Could you share more about your poem, Legacy?
LM: Since Japanese Americans were the first to be taken, we must be the first to stand if it happens again.

Could you share more about this painting?
RS: “American Citizen” was one of about 7-8 paintings I’ve done in response to our new president’s stated ambivalence towards the WWII incarceration of Japanese Americans. Based upon that fact it is apparent today that Muslims are the new Japanese Americans.

What do you want visitors to take away from this exhibition?
LM: To understand the facts and emotions related to the WWII forced incarceration, so that if it happens again they can make clear and informed decisions about what they should do next.

RS: I feel that the current public political discourse reflects how much the standards of reason have deteriorated. Hopefully this exhibition and associated programming will remind the viewers of the consequences of repeating past mistakes.

4Culture thanks Cassie and the Wing for sharing insight into how the ramifications of Executive Order 9066 reach us today. King County cultural organizations have a full slate of related programming planned this month and beyond, much of which will be focused on drawing connections between Executive Order 9066 and the executive orders we are witnessing now. A listing of events is below—we hope we’ll see you there.

History Café: Executive Order 9066
Wednesday, February 15, 6:30-7:30 pm
Museum of History & Industry
MOHAI’s long-running and much-loved History Café invites history enthusiasts to come together for discussion over a drink and a snack. This month focuses on Executive Order 9066.

Year of Remembrance: Glimpses of a Forever Foreigner
On display February 17, 2017–February 11, 2018
Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience
This exhibition explores historic and contemporary issues of racism, discrimination and human rights, featuring poems by Lawrence Matsuda and artwork by Roger Shimomura.

Never Again
Sunday, February 19, 2:00-3:30 pm
Seattle Public Library – Central branch
CAIR-Washington State and Densho will discuss Japanese-American World War II incarceration history and American Muslims rights today. More information is available on Facebook.

Neely Mansion and KCLS: Bookmarks and Landmarks
Saturday, March 18, 10:30-11:30 am
Neely Mansion
Read Thin Wood Walls, then discuss the book with its author. Sample a Japanese treat and tour the mansion’s newly restored Japanese Bathhouse. Registration opens March online. For kids age 10 and up.

Guest Post: Celebrating Filipino-American Elders

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Penaloza Quote

Michelle Peñaloza is the author of two chapbooks, and has had her poetry and essays featured in several publications. She received a 2015 Art Projects grant supporting her work on a collection of in-progress poetry. This Friday, she’ll read from her manuscript alongside other Filipino-American writiers at a location that deepens and enriches our understanding of her work: 

Arroz caldo for lunch. Blaring speakers and a dance floor full of women and men moving in the delightful unison of complex and funky line dances. Their smiling faces remind me of my lola, my parents, my titos and titas. Here, there is a room for bingo, a room for praying the rosary, a room for checkers, a room for pinoy teleserye.

This is the magic of the International Drop-In Center (IDIC), a community-based senior center in the heart of Beacon Hill that primarily serves Filipino and Filipino-American elders. The IDIC is a warm gathering place for senior citizens, retirees, widows, first-generation immigrants, and war veterans. The sense of community here is palpable upon entering. When I first visited, I went back in time to the many parties I attended as a child—laughter, food, song, dance, chatter all happening simultaneously in every room.

So, what does the IDIC have to do with my project? With what I care about as an artist? With my poetry?

My full-length manuscript-in-progress, Former Possessions of the Spanish Empire, is steeped in storytelling, in processing and interrogating the legacies of colonialism, and in honoring, questioning, and remembering family. While the elders at the IDIC are not my blood family, the warmth with which they welcomed me felt like family. I wanted this event to highlight the rich legacies of the Filipino-American community in Seattle and bring attention and homage to the elders of our community. I’m proud to be doing this event with other Seattle-based, Filipino-American writers; we will host story-telling workshops groups, perform our own work, and join in celebration for an open mic and karaoke with our elders. Yes! Karaoke! I hope you’ll join us. It’s going to be a delightful time.

Event details:
Celebrating Filipino-American Elders: Reading and Karaoke
October 7, 1:30—4:00pm
International Drop-In Center
Seattle-based, Filipino-American poets and writers Maria Batayola, Robert Flor, Donna Miscolta, Michelle Peñaloza, Jen Soriano, and Maritess Zurbano will lead Filipino American elders, at the International Drop-In Center in Beacon Hill, in a story-telling workshop, which culminate in writers, elders, and visitors participating in an open mic reading, sharing their stories and participating in a karaoke-singing session. Free to attend.

This event is made possible through support from 4Culture, Poets & Writers, the International Drop-In Center (IDIC), the Filipino American National Historical Society – Greater Seattle Chapter, and Kundiman.

Guest Post: Seeds

Creative Justice 2016, Session 2 participants creating mosaics at Pratt Fine Arts. Photo by Timothy Aguero Photography.

Olisa Enrico-Johnson is a Mentor Artist in our Creative Justice program, an arts-based alternative to youth incarceration in King County. After leading a group of court-involved youth through three months of creating and dialogue, she shares her insights:

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Creative Justice 2016, Session 2. Photo by Timothy Aguero Photography.
Creative Justice 2016, Session 2 participants creating mosaics at Pratt Fine Arts. Photo by Timothy Aguero Photography.

Olisa Enrico-Johnson is a Mentor Artist in our Creative Justice program, an arts-based alternative to youth incarceration in King County. After leading a group of court-involved youth through three months of creating and dialogue, she shares her insights:

The first day of our 12 week session. Chairs set in a circle. A black journal on each chair. I sat on the floor waiting as they came in. The postures posited, who was this woman? What does she want from me? The thing about young people is that they can smell bologna from a mile away. Knowing this I left all of my processed fake mindset in my past. I know that if they do not trust me and my intentions that our time together will be fruitless so I make an offer of truth. I tell them that they can ask me anything on this day and this day only. Stumped by my offering they asked simple questions about my life, do you have children, how old are they, what’s your favorite color. The most important question hangs in the air “Why are you doing this program?” I shared my truth and in return they shared theirs. From our first story circle to our last they were as amazingly wonderful as I had hoped they would be.

We began the 12 week session with ‘getting to know you’ and each week we built together, created together and ate together. We examined the world around us and our place in it. We dipped our hands into the soil as we planted seeds that we would take turns watering, recording our hopes for our plants in our black journals. We hoped they would grow.

The seeds planted by Olisa and participants grew into plants. Photo by Tim Aguero Photography.
Session participants planted seeds that were nurtured into a garden. Photo by Tim Aguero Photography.

Each week we planted metaphorical seeds. I hoped they would grow. We talked about food deserts and created food art. We learned about the power that words have over water and contemplated our bodies as bodies of water that words in this world have power over. We shared stories of identity and interrogated how we fit into our worlds, discovering how our realities may or may not overlap. We wrote poetry. We laughed. We sang karaoke and discussed how music exists in our lives and in our culture. We wrote poetry, made mosaics, designed shirts and painted on canvas. Each week we dabbled in a new art form, a smorgasbord of creative endeavors. Most of these forms I had truly minimal experience in. That didn’t matter. We were trying new things and producing works of art!

Each week we gathered to examine the “Stories of Self” through artistic expression. From the beginning it was my desire to impart to them that we are all learning and that we have not arrived. I remember being 15 years old feeling as if I was done growing. The most important lesson I have learned over the years is that I am always learning. Life is a journey and we arrive at the destination when we die. It was my goal as the Mentor Artist to not only introduce them to art forms but to also expose myself to new art forms and in that way model the truth that we are all growing and that we must nourish ourselves, mind and body.

When we culminated for our final presentation the youth represented themselves. I received kudos for the work that they had done. I smiled and thanked people for their compliments. I would reply each time “It was them, their ideas, their work. Aren’t they amazing?” I led the journey but they walked the path. It is Indeed the journey that is the thing, it is the process of discovery, of uncovering our own human potential. Plant seeds in fertile soil, water them and let them bask free in the light of the sun. They just might grow.

Remembering Jazz Legend Ernestine Anderson

MOHAI, King County News Photo Collection, 2007.45, photo by Sally Tonkin.

We are proud to share this very special post, featuring two legendary figures of Seattle’s Jazz community. Grammy-nominated jazz singer Ernestine Anderson passed away in March, leaving behind the legacy of an incredible career that began in Seattle’s Central District. Her friend and Garfield High School classmate Grace Holden—daughter of Seattle Jazz’s “royal family”—generously shared some of her memories of Ernestine with us.

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Image Number: 2002.45_ErnestineAnderson_01 Jazz Singer Ernestine Anderson
MOHAI, King County News Photo Collection, 2007.45, photo by Sally Tonkin.

We are proud to share this very special post, featuring two legendary figures of Seattle’s Jazz community. Grammy-nominated jazz singer Ernestine Anderson passed away in March, leaving behind the legacy of an incredible career that began in Seattle’s Central District. Her friend and Garfield High School classmate Grace Holden—daughter of Seattle Jazz’s “royal family”—generously shared some of her memories of Ernestine with us.

In 1944, the Anderson family—Joseph, Erma, and their teenage twin daughters Ernestine and Josephine—had just relocated to Seattle from Houston, in search of wartime work. Ernestine, who had already begun performing in Houston clubs, quickly located Seattle’s active underground jazz scene. She connected with other young musicians at Garfield High School, including Grace Holden. Grace says of Ernestine:

“She was someone I looked up to. My experience with her was that she was always pleasantly quiet yet strong in my presence. During our youth we first met during our Garfield High School classes. As time passed we began to find we enjoyed music. We listened and hummed sounds of songs and artists like Billy Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Sarah Vaughn.”

In fact, some of Ernestine’s earliest recorded music was a cover of a Sarah Vaughn song. By 1947, Ernestine had formed a band with another Garfield student, trumpeter Quincy Jones, after playing music together at the Washington Social and Educational Club, located above a butcher shop at 23rd and Madison owned by local bandleader Robert A. “Bumps” Blackwell. Ernestine, Quincy, and their band  recorded an acetate “instant disc” cover of Sarah Vaughan’s classic song “Lover Man” at Tom and Ellen Ogilvy’s Electro-Mart record shop and recording studio.

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Scan of the billing for the Local 493 Reunion Review Concert at Jazz Alley, October 17, 1994. Courtesy of Grace Holden.

Ernestine and Grace continued to make music together: “Eventually, we decided that we would enter into local contests in and around Seattle. We had fun entering and being identified as local performers.” Even as their careers and lives spanned decades and took them across the state, country, and even abroad, the two women found ways to share the stage. Grace recounts that, “One of our most memorable appearances was when we were showcased and appeared on the program at Jazz Alley’s Local 493 Band.” The event, which took place on October 17, 1994, billed itself as “A musical celebration of the proud history of Local 493, the African American Musicians Union through the first half of this century” and invited audiences to, “…enjoy and honor this important history and hear these jazz pioneers perform reunited for the first time in decades.” The impressive roster of performers, which of course includes Ernestine and Grace, can be seen in the document above, shared with us by Grace.

Of her friend and fellow musician, Grace told us: “Surely, I shall never forget her and her genuine personality.” We thank Grace for sharing these memories, and we thank Ernestine for sharing her immense talent with the world.

All biographical information on Ernestine Anderson is courtesy of HistoryLink.org.

Guest Post: Do You Know Where Your Water Comes From?

One in special series of collagraphs Eunice Kim has created for Nontoxic Nontoxic Printmaking at Cedar River Watershed. Learn to print this and more on a portable “mini” press! Photo courtesy of the artist.

Eunice Kim is an internationally recognized printmaker living and working in Ravensdale, Southeast King County. She received a 2015 Tech Specific grant for her project Nontoxic Printmaking at Cedar River Watershed. Here, she tells us a little bit about the upcoming program.

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One in special series of collagraphs Eunice Kim has created for Nontoxic Nontoxic Printmaking at Cedar River Watershed. Learn to print this and more on a portable "mini" press! Photo courtesy of the Artist.
One in special series of collagraphs Eunice Kim has created for Nontoxic Nontoxic Printmaking at Cedar River Watershed. Learn to print this and more on a portable “mini” press! Photo courtesy of the artist.

Eunice Kim is an internationally recognized printmaker living and working in Ravensdale, Southeast King County. She received a 2015 Tech Specific grant for her project Nontoxic Printmaking at Cedar River Watershed. Here, she tells us a little bit about the upcoming program.

Do you know where your water comes from? Join us and find out!

Our Greater Seattle area has some of the best drinking water in the world and its source is the pristine 91,000-acre Cedar River Watershed. To bring attention to this amazing natural resource, I am partnering with the Watershed’s Education Center on site to produce Nontoxic Printmaking at Cedar River Watershed, a unique hybrid of art, education, and environmental activism. In keeping with Tech-Specific theme, my project employs the oldest technology for mass communication: printmaking. That’s right. Before there was radio, television, or internet, there was the printing press!

Pristine Cedar River Watershed is the primary source of clean, safe drinking water for the Greater Seattle area. Photo courtesy of the Cedar River Watershed Education Center.
The pristine Cedar River Watershed is the primary source of clean, safe drinking water for the Greater Seattle area. Photo courtesy of the Cedar River Watershed Education Center.

For this special engagement, I have created a new series of collagraph plates via nontoxic printmaking techniques, in direct response to host organization’s mission to educate the public about stewardship, biodiversity, and sustainability of the Cedar River Watershed. And this June, I, with portable “mini” press in tow, will serve as an artist-in-residence at the Cedar River Watershed Education Center conducting hands-on workshops and providing visitors opportunity to create artworks through environmentally sound processes. Learn to work with eco-friendly water-based inks that do not require harsh solvents for cleanup (good ol’ soap and water does the job) and take away collagraphs you have inked and printed yourself as keepsakes of your visit to the Cedar River Watershed. No prior art experience is necessary!

Nontoxic Printmaking at Cedar River Watershed
Free and open to the public. Participation is on drop-in basis; all ages welcome.

Saturday and Sunday, June 18 and 19, 2016, 11:30 am—3:30 pm
Saturday and Sunday, June 25 and 26, 2016, 11:30 am—3:30 pm

 

This program is made possible by generous support from 4Culture, Akua Inks, Cedar River Watershed Education Center, and Puffin Foundation West. A big thank you to all the sponsors!

Guest Post: Highline Historical Society Expands its Reach

The Highline Historical Society celebrates the opening of Latinos in Highline. Photo by Nancy Salguero McKay.

Nancy Salguero McKay is the Curator of Collections and Exhibits at the Highline Historical Society, soon to be the Highline Heritage Museum. As the organization grows and changes, Nancy shares some insight into how she approaches her work, and into how she and her colleagues work to reflect and engage their communities:

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Photo courtesy of the Highline Historical Society.
The Highline Historical Society celebrates the opening of Latinos in Highline. Photo by Nancy Salguero McKay.

Nancy Salguero McKay is the Curator of Collections and Exhibits at the Highline Historical Society, soon to be the Highline Heritage Museum. As the organization grows and changes, Nancy shares some insight into how she approaches her work, and into how she and her colleagues work to reflect and engage their communities:

We tell the stories of the Highline region and its people! We create exhibits, public programming, and the opportunity to add artifacts to our community collections. We are creating a bridge from the earliest pioneer recollections to the newest immigrant stories. We are the Highline Historical Society, and soon the Highline Heritage Museum. The museum is presently under construction. We are planning to open to the public during the winter of 2016.

Our passion is for our visitors to have access to a broad spectrum of information sources and cultural perspectives. We want our stories to spark discussions and to share differences and similarities. We are creating a place where visitors can connect with the stories and with each other. We envision ourselves sitting at a round table where no one is the leader and stories are heard respectfully regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, disabilities or ethnicity.

An example reflecting our mission is a newly installed exhibit at the City of SeaTac. The Latinos in Highline—Moral Courage exhibit is more than a re-telling of immigration experiences. It is inspired by families starting a new life in the Highline area who showed moral courage. Every immigrant is willing to face not only physical danger but emotional pain, disapproval, even financial insecurity! They have the courage and the moral values to be honest at the risk of community rejection or retaliation. This is about families passing these values to the next generation. This exhibit will be mounted at multiple locations around Highline.

We are providing a meeting ground for everyone to express his or her voice. We are inviting visitors to respond and add cultural artifacts and historical records to display. This exhibit is about bringing the immigrant voice to the round table.

For me, the Latinos in Highline exhibit is a personal matter. As an immigrant myself I know how it feels to face painful circumstances and to overcome obstacles. It is personal to bring to the table a woman’s voice in gender differences, or as a millennial to embrace intergenerational changes, or as a person with a hearing disability using hearing aids. History is a personal matter to everyone. We all have many voices we represent; we thrive in celebrating our uniqueness and in discovering our similarities.

Visit our new website. We feel it reflects our community. We invite everyone to preserve their stories, to collect their treasures, to engage in discussions, to keep remembering, to discover new points of view, to be inspired by people, to explore our collections, to share their voices and to learn together. Our goal is to capture diverse stories. It is not just about bringing stories from a variety of different races; it is about celebrating a variety of life experiences free of bias and prejudice.

Guest Post: Greg Ruby Rediscovers a Jazz Pioneer

Leon Hutchinson, Adam “Slocum” Mitchell, Glover Compton, Frank D. Waldron. Photo courtesy of the Washington State Black Heritage Society.

In 2015, I received funding from both 4Culture Heritage Projects and 4Culture Arts Projects to preserve, interpret, and promote musical compositions created by Seattle jazz pioneer Frank D. Waldron, one of the most important figures in early Seattle jazz. Born in 1890, Waldron settled in Seattle in 1907, and by 1912 was performing throughout the Pacific Northwest. In 1919, he established the Waldron School of Trumpet and Saxophone at 1242 Jackson Street, the epicenter of Seattle’s burgeoning jazz district. There he taught generations of Seattle’s young musicians including world famous jazz stars Quincy Jones and Buddy Catlett. In 1924, Waldron self-published a 32-page saxophone tutorial book, Frank D. Waldron’s Syncopated Classic. Utilizing nine of his original compositions as a vehicle to demonstrate the latest techniques of the era, he left behind a brilliant written collection of 1920s instrumental music.

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Leon Hutchinson, Adam “Slocum” Mitchell, Glover Compton, Frank D. Waldron. Photo courtesy of the Washington State Black Heritage Society.
Leon Hutchinson, Adam “Slocum” Mitchell, Glover Compton, Frank D. Waldron. Photo courtesy of the Washington State Black Heritage Society.

In 2015, I received funding from both 4Culture Heritage Projects and 4Culture Arts Projects to preserve, interpret, and promote musical compositions created by Seattle jazz pioneer Frank D. Waldron, one of the most important figures in early Seattle jazz. Born in 1890, Waldron settled in Seattle in 1907, and by 1912 was performing throughout the Pacific Northwest. In 1919, he established the Waldron School of Trumpet and Saxophone at 1242 Jackson Street, the epicenter of Seattle’s burgeoning jazz district. There he taught generations of Seattle’s young musicians including world famous jazz stars Quincy Jones and Buddy Catlett. In 1924, Waldron self-published a 32-page saxophone tutorial book, Frank D. Waldron’s Syncopated Classic. Utilizing nine of his original compositions as a vehicle to demonstrate the latest techniques of the era, he left behind a brilliant written collection of 1920s instrumental music.

Waldron never recorded his music. While Waldron’s work compares to contemporaries like Jelly Roll Morton, W.C. Handy, and Spencer Williams, Waldron’s geographical remoteness in Seattle prevented his compositions from being recorded, and he and other local musicians were left out of the history books. Jackson Street After Hours: The Roots of Jazz in Seattle author Paul de Barros helped coordinate research on Waldron, utilizing genealogy databases, Seattle City directories, newspapers, and other sources. This allowed us to create a thorough timeline of Waldron’s life, during which we learned that while he was previously thought to have arrived in Seattle in 1919, the directories showed a listing in Seattle dated to 1907. Waldron’s contribution to the First World War effort was made through patriotic songs. “The Kaiser’s Got the Blues (Since Uncle Sam Stepped In)” was his first self-published composition with a copyright date of February 25, 1918.

I had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. to view an original copy of this piece of music at the Library of Congress Performing Arts reading room. During this trip, I also tracked down a previously unknown work of Waldron’s from 1932 titled, “Valse Queen Ann,” copyrighted on April 15, 1932. Holding this piece of handwritten music by Waldron was a joyful experience. I was fortunate to interview saxophonist Barney Hilliard, who studied with Waldron while in his teens. He commented, “He would sit on his piano bench and talk me through all the fingerings…‘if you keep working with me, you will play as well as you would ever want to play. Charlie Parker can stand up and play along with an orchestra without music and I can teach you to do that if you keep working with me.’” The Black Heritage Society of Washington State provided access to the three only known photographs of Waldron: an iconic image of Waldron with the Wang Doodle Orchestra from 1915, a picture of Waldron performing with the Odean Orchestra at the Nanking Café at 1616 ½ 4th Avenue, and a 1925 photo of him with Hutchens, clarinetist Adam “Slocum” Mitchell, and pianist Glover Compton.

Left: Frank D. Waldron’s Syncopated Classic, from the collection of Paul de Barros. Right: Syncopated Classic digitally restored by Michael McDevitt
Left: Frank D. Waldron’s Syncopated Classic, from the collection of Paul de Barros. Right: Syncopated Classic digitally restored by Michael McDevitt.

Waldron self-published Syncopated Classic in 1924—it is unknown how many copies of the book were initially created. I have completely re-notated all nine songs, attending to the detail of each nuance and making every attempt to replicate the originals. Additionally, with the only available cover of Syncopated Classic a photocopy made by de Barros 25 years ago, I worked with artist and graphic designer Michael McDevitt to restore the cover and table of contents. The digital formatting of the written music, cover and table of contents will allow for a reprinting of Syncopated Classic as this project seeks future funding to publish a book combining Syncopated Classic, a definitive biography of Waldron, and audio recordings of the original manuscript. Additionally, the digital files of Syncopated Classic are in the process of being uploaded to the Black Heritage Society of Washington State’s archive.

My band, Greg Ruby and the Rhythm Runners, a six piece vintage jazz ensemble, will continue share Waldron’s compositions this month! This collaborative effort features musicians from the Pacific Northwest, New Orleans and New York. You can catch our upcoming shows here:

Wednesday, March 23, 9:00 pm
Century Ballroom, 915 E Pine, Seattle

Thursday, March 24, 12:15 pm
KPLU 88.5 FM, Live on air hosted by Dick Stein

Thursday, March 24, 8:00 pm
Cornish Presents – PONCHO at Kerry Hall, 710 East Roy St, Seattle

Friday, March 25, 8:30 pm
East Side Stomp at the Aria Ballroom, 15300 NE 95th Street, Redmond, WA

Saturday, March 26, 7:30 pm
Seattle Folklore Society, Phinney Center Concert Hall, 6532 Phinney Ave N, Seattle

Sunday, March 27, 7:00 pm
Traditions Café Concert Series, 300 5th Avenue SW, Olympia

Wednesday, March 30, 7:00 pm
Whatcom Jazz Music Art Center, WJMAC Room at the Majestic, 1027 N Forest St, Bellingham

Take a listen to the Rhythm Runners playing Waldron’s composition “Low Down:”

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