Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave’s On the Ground Edison series.
The Edison Neighborhood is going to get jazzy.
Kalamazoo’s most populace neighborhood is looking to inaugurate a first-of-its-kind jazz festival in September featuring local performers as well as talented jazz recording artists from elsewhere.
“It’s about providing quality of life in the neighborhood,” says Stephen Dupuie, executive director of the Edison Neighborhood Association. “When I think about quality of life, I think about arts and culture and the environment that people grow up in. So doing this festival, we are literally putting it out in the streets and making it accessible to everyone for free.”
Singer, composer, and lyricist Fay Victor at home. She will be at the jazz festival in Edison this fall.
Dupuie says the festival will be a three-day event that will occur at three locations in Edison. There will be performances at Jerico
, the reclaimed portion of the neighborhood’s factory district. Located in the 1500 block of Fulford Street, it is now home to entrepreneurs, artisans, and tradespeople. On another day, plans call for a block party with music, food trucks, and a musical parade on Egleston Avenue (a section is to be closed off for the day).
“Everybody who wants to can participate with their own instruments,” Dupuie says of the parade.
And a third day will feature rooftop performances at the top of the Creamery Building, the neighborhood’s new residential and commercial development. The $14.7 million affordable-housing project opened last year at 1101 Portage St. The rooftop performances are to be followed by an event at the Dormouse Theatre
“We have the venues lined up and we have the performers lined up as far as the people coming in from out of town,” Dupuie says. “They are confirmed.”
The neighborhood association is now looking to raise about $25,000 it needs to put on the festival. It hopes to find multiple funders. Those interested in making a contribution may do so by contacting the association at 269-382-0916 and checking its website
. Individuals can click on any donate button there and add a note that their contribution is to be used for the jazz festival.
ASCAP Award-winning vocalist, composer, bandleader, and producer Estar Cohen is also an improv comedy musician. She will be at the jazz festival in Edison this fall.
Among the recognized artists the festival will feature are internationally known bassist, bandleader, and recording artist John Hebert; singer, composer, and lyricist Fay Victor; and ASCAP Award-winning vocalist, composer, bandleader, and producer Estar Cohen. ASCAP -- the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers -- is an association of more than 850,000 American Songwriters, composers, and music publishers.
The event will also focus on lifting up the work of unsung Black artists and it will pay homage to the music of late jazz artist Herbie Nichols, an improvisational African-American artist of the 1950s who wanted to be a concert composer but was denied access to the industry.
“Those are the people that are sort of the big names lined up,” and he says, “There will be a lot of local performers as well.”
With more than 9,000 residents, and located just south and east of downtown Kalamazoo along Portage Street, Edison is Kalamazoo’s most populace neighborhood and considered its most diverse neighborhood. It is 49 percent Caucasian, 28 percent African-American, and 19 percent Hispanic, according to the 2016 census. That has made it a place with lots of interest in culture and music.
The jazz festival is an outgrowth of what has become a popular Tuesday night jazz jam at the Dormouse Theatre, a 200-seat theatre at 1030 Portage St. in Edison’s Washington Square. The theater will be a jazz festival venue.
The jazz festival is part of that, an outgrowth of what has become a popular Tuesday night jazz jam at the Dormouse Theatre, a 200-seat theatre at 1030 Portage St. in Edison’s Washington Square area that serves as a live entertainment venue and features local performers and musicians. It opened last summer.
Dupuie was named executive director of the neighborhood association early this year after serving as a board member for about five years. He is the artistic director of the Dormouse Theatre Group.
Speaking of jazz music, Dupuie says, “It organically moved to the Dormouse.”
Jazz mavens and music students from Western Michigan University began hosting Tuesday night jazz jam sessions at the Dormouse Theatre last year after the Union Cabaret & Grill was closed. It had live music nights that featured jazz performers.
A rooftop concert at the Creamery will be part of the jazz festival.
What should people think of this new event?
“First of all, it is going to be a lot of fun,” Dupuie says. “It’s going be all in Edison. … People are going to get to see parts of the neighborhood that maybe they didn’t see before because if they’re not from the neighborhood, why would they go to that little pocket.”
Speaking of Jerico as an example, he says, “That little pocket has a coffee shop, makers spaces, and stuff that’s off the beaten path. And so I really want people to think about how fun the event is going to be and about all the different new places that they maybe haven’t gone to because it’s not necessarily in their trajectory of places they go.”