Detroit Performs


Harmony in Culture

The Center for Performing Arts & Learning strives to bring people of all ages together through dance, music, arts and culture; The story of how Detroit’s iconic Orchestra Hall was built in a short period of time; and the Blue LLama jazz club.

AIRED: May 12, 2020 | 0:26:04

- In this episode of Detroit Performs,

inclusive center to learn new art forms,

how Orchestra Hall came to fruition and a jazz club.

It's all ahead in this edition of Detroit reforms.

- [Announcer] Funding for Detroit Performs is provided by

the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation,

the Kresge Foundation,

the A.Paul and Carol C.Schaap Foundation,

the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs,

the National Endowment for the Arts,

the De Roy Testamentary Foundation,

and by contributions to your PBS station

from viewers like you.

Thank you.

(slow upbeat music)

(loud upbeat music)

- Hello and welcome to Detroit Performs.

I'm your host, DJ Oliver, today I'm coming to you once again

from my living room, as we stay at home

to make sure each other's safe up there

during this COVID-19 situation.

I'm hoping all of you are doing well and staying safe

as we continue to bring you great arts and culture

from right here in Metro Detroit.

First up, the Center for Performance Arts

& Learning, encourages people of all ages and abilities

to take classes in their arts of diverse cultures.

Take a look

(loud upbeat music)

- Nothing holds me back, if I can dance, I'll do it.

This is the Center for Performance Arts & Learning.

This is where cultural diversity comes together.

This is the where six to 600 is our new hashtag.

Age is not a limit, your ethnicity is not a limit.

Your gender is not gonna hold you back.

Your beliefs don't pull you back.

- We strive to bring an all inclusive and safe environment

for any walk of life.

Any human being that wants to be an artist can come here

and be welcomed here,

and be a part of what feels like a family.

- Nandita, has a great heart for people and she pushes.

We want everybody to be comfortable,

we want everybody to try something

they've never tried before.

So this is a very unique place.

- [Nandita] We got actually right

at the border of Nova, Wexham.

We were looking for something which was easily accessible,

but I think when we walked in, it sounds cliche,

but the space just seemed right.

This is basically a springboard for young instructors,

for young artists, for people who want to learn,

and they can do it in a very safe space.

- It is so important for people to learn

about other art forms because it's the same way

about learning history or learning math

or learning reading...

It creates a holistic view of the world.

- In the dance world or in the music world,

a lot of what is competitive leads to broken self-esteem,

leads to broken dreams.

So we're trying in our own little way,

trying to build people back up, I guess.

- [Collin] I think what really causes confidence

to grow here is that nurturing environment.

So you see people walking in

who have never taken this class before,

grow from complete beginner

to very, very fluent in the motions,

and it's so cool to see that really positive,

really nurturing environment,

really helping inspire people to succeed.

- We have four basic areas, dance, music,

art along with creative expression.

Creative expression includes languages, speech classes,

communication classes, music of course,

coverage your drums and guitar.

That was the four basic areas,

we started working with drum, guitar, voice and keyboard.

Now we could expand it into a viola violin flute.

We are talking to a cello instructor as well.

- I teach voice and I'm gonna be the one directing

the community choir,

that's going to be an incredibly wide age range,

which I find to be very unique.

You don't really see a lot of community choirs anywhere

that have age ranges from early high school

or even middle school to middle age.

It really doesn't matter what age you are.

- We do have a student

who has actually been invited to sing for the Pistons,

he's gonna be singing the national anthem

for Pistons in March.

- [Collin] It makes me proud to see them thriving.

- [Nandita] Dance class cover your ballet, tap, jazz.

International dance is classical dance style,

aerial arts, we just introduced a mixed aerial arts class

and then fitness.

- [Collin] Some of the really unique ones

that we have are the aerial silks classes

or the lyra classes.

- Our aerial program has grown over the last year a lot,

because of the commitment that I have made for it

and what the vision that I've wanted for it

and Nandita has backed me up all the way, which is great.

We went from having two straight fabrics

to now all these other apparatuses

and all these different things

that these students can learn.

I like the fact that it takes a lot of strength

and it's a very difficult discipline.

I want the students to leave every week,

how I felt when I first started,

which was when I got in my car, I didn't wanna leave.

I wanted to go back in and just keep playing.

It's a great stress reliever, it's a workout.

If you're on that apparatus for 45 minutes to an hour,

even if you're on and off of it,

you're burning calories, you're building muscle,

you're building confidence.

- [Collin] There's a lot of Bollywood style dance classes

that we have that you really can't find

that a lot of places nearby.

- [Katie] One, two, I teach Bollywood classes.

I teach both classical, semiclassical

and your contemporary Bollywood music based classes.

- [Collin] If an instructor has a passion for it,

we can tell.

- Our biggest strength is on instructors

that are all qualified, they're all passionate teachers.

That is what makes them so unique.

- I just love it because she's seen what I can do

and we get along really well and can communicate just fine

and she kinda just has thrown the ball in my court,

allows me to create my own syllabus,

allows me to just be creative with the students,

set goals with them.

- This is the most comfortable way

to step out of your comfort zone.

There are things you can do here

that you'd never thought you would do,

but it's the most comfortable way to do do it.

- If you're sitting there watching this, just do it.

There is nothing holding you back.

We are here and we want to have you here.

We want to help you succeed here.

- When we started about two years ago,

we just started with this one building pure dance classes.

Today we are sitting at two different studios

with about 23 different classes we offer.

The goal is still to work with as many people as possible.

It's very satisfying, it makes us happy to see

that we are able to do what we're able to do.

- I want to bring love to the community,

a smile at the very least,

and something that they fall in love with at the most.

Because at the end of the day,

I truly feel like art is what makes us human,

and when we love art, we're able to love people.

So I want to kind of share that with the world,

I wanna share that with every person

that walks in these doors.

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- You can learn more about the Center for Performance Arts

& Learning, as well as all the artists

that we feature on

Can you believe Detroit historic Orchestra Hall

was built in six months?

Up next, you'll learn this feat of training

one of the top acoustic halls in the world

came to fruition in a short period of time.

Take a look.

(slow soft music)

- I envy my early predecessor, Mr.Gabrielowitsch,

because he basically said,

"I'll be your music director if you build me a hall."

I can't even imagine myself getting away with that,

would be nice someday but not gonna happen.

- I can't fathom it.

To me it's mind boggling, what they did in the time

they did it, when we were beginning construction,

we'd had gone to footings and we saw how it was built

with handmade bricks in the Claiborne, unheard of.

- The fact that this was all done under duress,

otherwise Gabrielowitsch was gonna leave.

It's just this remarkable kind of made for prime time story

that now we have the legacy of of getting to perform here.

(gentle upbeat music)

- [Narrator] Ossip Gabrielowitsch gambit had worked,

a booming automotive industry in Detroit

had also allowed philanthropy to thrive,

and many benefactors like Horace Dodge,

were able to support the idea

that the Detroit Symphony Orchestra needed a home.

- In 1919, when the building was built.

Detroit was just exploding across the landscape.

The population tripled in a mere 20 years,

and so buildings tended to be really important markers

of what a city thought of itself.

And so this building, Orchestra Hall,

was one of the flags that was planted that says,

"This is an important building

because this is an important town."

- Clara Clemens, Gabrilowitsch's wife,

the daughter of Mark Twain,

she has written a book entitled, "My husband Gabrilowitsch."

And she talks in there that they were in such a race

to get this building built,

that they began demolishing the front doors of the church

while there was still a wedding going on at the altar.

They worked around the clock and Horace Dodge,

was very instrumental to that whole process.

Horace Dodge was not the only Detroit luminary

who had a paint in the architectural fate

of the proposed hall,

the Detroit Symphony Society gathered committee

that included Albert Kahn, to select an architect

for the project.

- [Caen] C Howard Crane, did several major theaters

in Detroit, including what is now the Detroit Opera House,

including the Fox Theater, the former State Theater,

and of course the Orchestra Hall.

And I think he decided, along with the civic creators,

"That we were gonna use a renaissance inspired imagery,"

which was always used at that time as a marker for elegance,

authenticity, permanence.

And so this was one of the buildings that said,

"Detroit has arrived."

- [Paul] They opened finally on October 23rd, 1919.

And even at that there was still workman leaving

from the back doors.

- I think as amazing as the amount of time

it took to build it, was the cost to build it.

And I think it was six or $700,000 back in 1919.

- Really, is there anything we can't do

if we put our minds to it?

I think that's just an example of what it takes.

When somebody draws a line like Ossip Gabrilowitsch

and says, "I will be your Maestro if you build me a hall."

"Okay, we will," and we did.

- They figured it out and they did it,

they didn't have computers.

And these kinds of buildings

where it's a little on the angle,

everything's not lined up perfectly.

It sound magnificent.

It's a pristine acoustic environment.

(gentle upbeat music)

- [Narrator] Crane's lyric style designed for the hall,

much unlike his other theaters,

helped deliver acoustic perfection.

The use of ornamentation

and assymetry added to that magic as well.

All the way down to the decision

to use two different kinds of wood to construct the stage.

- [Branford] I think one of the qualities is the space,

the amount of plaster in the walls,

the amount of reverberating space above the boxes

and above the stage, probably up in the ceiling too,

and the shape.

- When you look at it, man,

the entire home kind of looks like a microphone,

so as soon as you hit an old boom here,

the notes starts to travel like this.

- [Narrator] A concert program at the time boasted

that Orchestra Hall would become

the center of Detroit musical life.

And for the next decade, the hall lived up to its billing.

Classical giants like Strauss, Stravinsky, and Prokofiev,

stood at its podium as guest conductors,

while artists like Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Rico Cardozo,

and Anna Pavlova, graced it stage all under the tireless

and demanding musical direction of Gabrilowitsch.

- Gabrilowitsch, I think it was six, five foot height,

but he just had this towering presence.

- By the mid 1920s, his Orchestra is playing in New York,

getting highly complimentary reviews

and he's bringing attention to this Orchestra and the city.

I don't think in 1914, anyone could have foreseen

that within a decade that this Orchestra

would be such a major player and that is attributable

to Gabrilowitsch and this hall.

- Gabrilowitsch, in another gesture of his,

I guess forthrightness, his direct way of behaving,

he identified an education director

who was active in Missouri,

actually in Kansas city, St. Louis,

those areas, Edith Rhetts Tilton.

- She had a concert program there for young people

and he said, "I want to arrange a marriage

"between the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

"and the people of Detroit and Michigan."

- And she came here

and she became the first full time education director

of an American Orchestra, Edith Rhetts Tilton,

and Victor Kolar, the assistant conductor,

they were just continually performing

for and educating thousands of kids.

And that was something that got traction in the community.

It got noticed in the media.

It was recognized as an example in the country.

It's just been part of our DNA for a long time.

- You're using outreach to create the next generation

of supporters, the next generation of listeners.

You establish a relationship with young people

and they hear three, four, five concerts

in elementary school.

I think that the consistent presence of the Orchestra

in the school system and playing for the kids

definitely has a positive effect

on the students as they get older.

- [Narrator] Well, Gabrilowitsch sought to broaden

the appeal of a Symphony Orchestra,

in Midwestern metropolis, like to try it.

By the 1930s, it was clear

that much darker challenges lay ahead.

(gentle upbeat music)

- You can do everything right

and if the economy turns South, you're gonna have trouble.

And of course the great depression,

we're talking about the worst economic downturn

in the history of modern civilization happened in the 1930s

and Detroit in particular, was hit very, very hard.

- If you have to remember that,

Detroit was a Boomtown automobile and that became famous.

And then finally what happens to Boomtowns in general?

They burst and they start or it becomes a ghost town.

- And there were a few years

where Gabrilowitsch did not take a salary,

where the musicians had to take pay cuts

and the number of concerts were reduced

just to keep the Orchestra from going under.

And so they're fighting that battle.

And then in 1936, Gabrilowitsch dies.

- [Narrator] Both the premature death of its leader

and a mounting debt due to the great depression

had caused the Orchestra to abandon its home.

Now only 20 years since its construction

and with the nation on the brink of the World War II,

it was unclear how Gabrilowitsch acoustic marvel

would soldier on.

- [Mark] I think that the Orchestra has a good chance

of not leaving Orchestra Hall if Gabrilowitsch doesn't die

because he, more than anyone was connected with this hall.

It was built at his bequest.

He knew what was special about it

and I don't believe that he would have allowed

the Orchestra to leave.

So history could have been very different

had he not passed away.

(loud upbeat music)

- Now (mumbles) has upcoming events coming to you

virtually from around the D.

(loud upbeat music)

Next up, WRCJ's Linda Yohn catches up

with Dave Sharp, of the Blue Llama Jazz Club

to chat about the club's first year

and how they're making the most of the COVID-A9 19 situation

by offering five different carry-out and delivery options.

Also by utilizing social media to share performances

while also giving back to the community.

- Hi, it's Linda Yohn, and it's my pure pleasure

and honor to talk with my friend Dave Sharp,

at the Blue Llama Jazz Club.

Dave, how are you?

- I'm doing pretty well, it's good to see you.

- All right, so tell us all about Blue Llamas,

a little bit of the beginnings,

'cause I know there's a lot of people who are not yet hyped

to the magic of the Blue Llama Jazz Club.

And then let's talk about where Blue Llama is today

and where it's going.

- Sure, yeah. Well, Blue Llama Jazz Club opened last year,

right around this time.

So it's our one year anniversary right about now.

And throughout that one year period we hosted live jazz,

five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday,

we had local groups, regional groups,

and touring jazz artists coming through

and we have a full menu.

We have an executive chef serving amazing cuisine,

which is called American shared plates.

Right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic,

we have pivoted just like many restaurants have

to carry-out and delivery service.

And we actually have four pop up restaurants

that have sprung forth from the Blue Llama Jazz Club.

One is called Blue Llama Express,

where you can get Blue Llama menu items

if you've already been there.

Another one is called, "Jibarito,"

which is a Latin cuisine pop up.

There is a "Rice and Men,"

which is our Asian cuisine pop up.

There's "Chef Ava's bakery," which is our pastry chef Ava.

You can order goodies or little kits

to make goodies at home.

And there's also the Blue Llama Wine Cellar too.

If you wanna order a few bottles of wine, a very nice wine,

and get them delivered to your home, you can do that too.

We're also providing meals for the Delano center

and we've been working together with food gathers

and getting meals to healthcare workers who work with IHA,

the medical organization, IHA.

And we've been doing some live streams

as well as streaming some archive performances.

♪ There's a storm on the way

- Tell me about the way that the management team

of the club, decided to pivot and go this way.

- Made a lot of quick decisions,

like back near the end of March,

it was getting a little crazy

and things were kind of happening fast.

So within about the period of about four or five days,

we pivoted into the delivery and takeout service.

We do provide family meals for up to four people

to industry workers who have been hit

by the COVID-19 pandemic,

where if you're in the restaurant industry

or if you were our server or bartender at Blue Llama

or in the neighborhood and downtown Ann Arbor,

you can call in and order a family meal

for later in the evening and pick it up at no cost.

So that's 'cause the industry professionals,

we know because we're them

and we have an entire team have been hit pretty hard

as well as musicians, I'm a musician

and everyone I know has zero gigs for the near future.

Like all the gigs are gone.

One way we're helping out in that respect

is we're broadcasting on Facebook, YouTube

and, our website,

we posted that all three places are past performances

of people who played the club.

And when we broadcast those,

we posted there Venno or PayPal in both.

So if people are watching at home and they enjoy the show,

they can contribute to the artists directly.

So it's a way for artists who are not working at the moment

to get a little income.

- I think I speak for everyone that we're really grateful

that you're based in Ann Arbor, Michigan,

with such a fantastic mission to take care of people,

culture and food all at the same time.

Thank you.

- You are so welcome and thanks for kind of framing it

that way, that is part of the mission

of the Blue Llama Jazz Club is to unite the love of food

with the love of music,

to be able to have both experiences under one roof.

It's also a way to support the community.

We have a lot of local artists

who play at the club regularly.

A lot of artists from Detroit,

a lot of artists from Lansing, artists from Toledo, Ohio,

regionally in the Midwest.

That's something we wanna continue

is reaching out to all of our surrounding communities,

and be able to present all this great music that's out there

and have people come in and have a good experience.

(loud upbeat music)

- And that wraps it up for this edition

of Detroit Performs.

As always, for more arts and culture

hit, we will find featured videos,

blogs, and information on upcoming arts events.

Also, check us out on Facebook and Twitter.

Make sure you guys are staying safe out there

and we'll continue to bring the best of Detroit art scene

until next time, get out there

and show the world hot Detroit Perform Jaw,

I'm DJ Oliver, thanks for watching guys.

- [Announcer] Funding for Detroit Performs is provided

by the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb family Foundation,

the Kresge Foundation,

the A. Paul Carol C.Schaap Foundation,

the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs,

the National Endowment for the Arts,

the De Roy Testamentary Foundation,

and by contributions to your PBS station

from viewers like you.

Thank you.

(loud upbeat music)


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