ashley daneman | WMUK

ashley daneman

Lori Morgan/

Although COVID-19 has severely restricted in-person music-making, Benje and Ashley Daneman, the founders of the Kalamazoo Music School, have discovered that their long-term community-building efforts have helped sustain their spirits and the school. 

In a conversation with Cara Lieurance, they say that most students made the transition to online instruction successfully.  And they explain what's on for fall: Fresh Air Sessions (jazz groups outdoors), Growing Glockenspiel (for 5-7 year olds), individual lessons online, and group lessons online, among other things. They're also excited to welcome jazz pianist Rufus Ferguson to the role of Director of Community Partnerships. 

When the conversation turns to how musicians are making difficult choices during the pandemic, Benje Daneman discusses Kanola Band's first album of New Orleans-style music. It's ready for release, but can't be supported with a tour, which is how musicians make a return on the album's investment. Ashley Daneman says applying for small business and arts grants has been part of their strategy to weather the shutdown. 

Tamra Diamond (Chesak); Grant Beachy (Daneman)

The Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo offers several different grants to fund a range of Kalamazoo-area creative activity, including the KADI grant, or Kalamazoo Artistic Development Initiative grant. Cara Lieurance talks to Kristen Chesak, the executive director of the Arts Council, and  Ashley Daneman, a 2020 KADI grant recipient for her concert-series-with-a-twist concept, Authenticity Kalamazoo.  Other recipients this cycle include artists like Kelly Van Der Kley, who will use her grant to learn more about book-making techniques in Venice, then share them locally through her work with Kalamazoo Book Arts

Casey Spring Photography,

On Friday, Feb 7 at 8 pm, Kanola Band will host and perform a live concert recording/party at the Jazz & Creative Institute in Kalamazoo. Drummer Jeff Moehle and trumpeter Benje Daneman, who started the project in 2014, join Cara Lieurance in the studio to share their appreciation for the music of New Orleans, the birthplace of so much American popular music.

Cara Lieurance checks in with Ashley Daneman and Benje Daneman, the owners of the Jazz & Creative Institute at 310 N. Rose Street in Kalamazoo. Two years ago, they saw a need in West Michigan to provide jazz opportunities for young people. They created the Kalamazoo Jazz Youth Orchestra, which soon morphed into multiple ensembles. This weekend, JCI is holding its first-ever auditions for a Vocal Jazz Ensemble and later this month, for a Kalamazoo Adult Jazz Band. Finally, they've continued to expand their roster of teachers who offer private lessons in jazz and improvisation.

Students of the Jazz and Creative Institute are participating in the Kalamazoo Symphony's Family Discovery concert on Oct 20, and will be featured in a free concert at The Union Cabaret & Grill from 7-10 pm on Thursday, Oct 24.

Grant Beachy

Although the official release date isn't until March 2019, Kalamazooans have an early chance to hear music from Ashley Daneman's newest album of original music, People Are Fragile, Thursday night at Bell's Eccentric Café's Back Room. Daneman tells Cara Lieurance that she funded the album with a grant from the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, which will allow her to offer free copies of the album with the $10 price of admission to the concert. She also partnered with the YWCA Kalamazoo to present this pre-release concert this month, which is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  

Daneman has worked to understand and manage her own experience with childhood domestic violence. Some of the songs contain elements familiar to those who have also survived or been in contact with trauma. Other songs celebrate moments of love, faith, and passion. Daneman talks about the musicians who joined her on the album, and the all-live process of recording it.