Ypsilanti Community Schools (YCS) will host its third annual Jazz in the Parking Lot event from 7-9 p.m. July 26 featuring the singer known as Detroit's Queen of the Blues, Thornetta Davis. The free, family-friendly annual event raises funds for other YCS-sponsored programs throughout the school year.
The event takes place each year in the parking lot of Shadford Field, YCS' football field at 1885 Packard Rd. in Ypsilanti. The event attracted more than 400 attendees in its first year and 800 in its second.
The first two years, the event's headliner was John E. Lawrence, a graduate of the Ypsilanti schools. However, Taryn Willis, YCS marketing and communications coordinator and organizer of the jazz event, says it's important to "keep it fresh" by bringing in a new artist.
In addition to releasing three albums of her own, Davis has sung on stage with Bonnie Raitt and sung backup for Kid Rock. She was nominated for a Blues Music Award in the Best Emerging Artist Album category in 2017 for her 2016 album, Honest Woman.
Willis says she's been trying to get Davis on board with the event since the beginning, but scheduling never worked out until this year.
"The first time I heard her, I thought her voice was amazing," Willis says. "I think people will be completely satisfied with the evening and her performance. I'm super excited."
The event is fully funded each year by a long list of sponsors, ranging from a local McDonald's franchise owner to the Wayne County Sheriff's Office to Hoekstra Transportation, YCS' transportation provider.
A few new sponsors this year have helped the event raise more than in previous years, nearly $14,000. After festival costs are paid for, Willis says any leftover money goes into a special fund that subsidizes other programs and initiatives that might not otherwise receive funding.
For instance, last year, some of the sponsorship money raised went to The Village Project so the program started in Erickson Elementary to support children affected by incarceration could expand into Holmes Elementary as well. Some of the funds also sent participants in the school district's Girl Magic program to see the movie The Hate U Give.
Additionally, some of this year's funds will pay for the school district's Back to School Bash from noon-3 p.m. Aug. 31 at Prospect Park. During the annual event, the school district hosts a free barbecue for parents and students and gives away hundreds of backpacks filled with school supplies donated by local businesses and nonprofits.
Willis says she remembers a jazz tent at Ypsi's Heritage Festival back when she was a little girl and she wanted to bring that sort of energy back to summertime in Ypsi. She says the event is now the "only big jazz event in the Ypsilanti area," and she hopes it will draw attendees from across metro Detroit this year.
The event is free for all ages, and no ticket is required. There is no rain date. More information is available on Facebook or EventBrite.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by John E. Lawrence.