benje 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. 

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.  

courtesy of Erik Jacobson

The Kalamazoo Ringers' Martha Matthews, the Kalamazoo Male Chorus' Erik Jacobson, and the Kalamazoo Youth Jazz Orchestra's Benje Daneman join Cara Lieurance for a musical preview of the 11th annual Christmas in Kalamazoo, which will be held at 7:30 pm Tuesday, Dec 3 at Centerpoint Church in Kalamazoo. While each group will perform some pieces solo, the directors say their favorite selections are the unique arrangements for combinations of two or all three groups together.

The concert is free, but a freewill offering will be accepted.

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.

Kiristina Servant, via Wikimedia commons

The annual 'Christmas in Kalamazoo' concert - a collaboration between the Kalamazoo Male Chorus, Kalamazoo Ringers, and for the first time, the Kalamazoo Youth Jazz Orchestra - will be held Tuesday, Dec 4 at 7:30 pm at Centerpoint Church. Martha Matthews received the reigns from the Kalamazoo Ringers' founder, Janet Van Valey, at the beginning of their 38th season. Also beginning his tenure with the Kalamazoo Male Chorus is Eric Jacobson, who replaced long-time director Michael Palmer. The Kalamazoo Youth Jazz Orchestra was founded in 2017 by Benje Daneman, and now boasts two 18-member big bands made up of young players from West Michigan.  The three directors join Cara Lieurance to discuss the collaborative concert and share some of the selections and surprises in store.