In 1991 two big band leaders, John Trudell and Emil Moro, felt that many jazz festival organizers believed that only nationally-celebrated artists should be invited to play. They went to the Elkhart Jazz Festival in Indiana and met with bandleader Tom Saunders, who had some experience producing a festival. The Michigan Jazz Festival was about to become a reality and the first one was held at Freedom Hill in 1995. Attendance was sparse, but they dreamed on.
They knew that too many of Detroit’s jazz musicians had to leave Detroit to be recognized for their talents. The late Detroit drummer J.C. Heard once said, “Local? What does that mean? Everybody has to live somewhere.”
The concept of the Michigan Jazz Festival would be to showcase local talent and offer it at no charge, exposing young musicians to the music and taking it into the schools whenever possible. Musicians who were devoted to the furtherance of jazz and who were willing to play for union scale would be featured in this annual all-day event.
Jazz promoter Midge Ellis and Eileene Standley were asked to bring their organizational skills to the event and the festival moved to historic Botsford Inn and was a growing annual event from 1996 to 1998 until the Inn was sold to Botsford Hospital. Schoolcraft College was approached about its music department becoming a co-sponsor and moving the Festival there. Dr. Conway Jeffress, then Vice President for Instruction, thought it was a wonderful idea and the Festival moved to its present site. It has been presented there since 1999 with growing success and acclaim.
The mission of the Michigan Jazz Festival, Inc., is to promote and encourage public interest, appreciation and support for jazz as a musical art form and a cultural resource. Toward this end, the organization will conduct an annual day-long Jazz Festival in the Southeastern area of Michigan. Various jazz artists and groups will be invited to perform. The event will be open to the public without cost to those attending.
Performing artists will be selected by the Board of Directors or a committee appointed by the Board. It is anticipated that approximately five thousand people, representing a wide range of ages and backgrounds, will attend each annual Festival.
To the extent that it is necessary to compensate performing artists in order to insure a high level of quality and diversity of the music, the Michigan Jazz Festival, Inc., will raise funds in order to pay performers a reasonable fee. Sponsors will be sought to help defray this cost along with other necessary expenses. It is anticipated that the organization may sell commemorative items such as t-shirts, caps, etc. All those who help with the activities, other than the performing musicians, will be volunteers.
The organization sponsors Jazz Brunches and occasional concerts, which feature live jazz performances. There is a fixed charge for attendance to these events but additional contributions are also sought. Fundraisers are scheduled throughout the year including the annual April Fundraiser and Father’s Day brunch at Schoolcraft College.
The Internal Revenue Service has determined that the Michigan Jazz Festival is a non-profit corporation as described in Section 501(c)3. of the Internal Revenue Code and is assigned Federal Identification Number 38-3351011.
Craig Strain, president
Dennis Tini, vice-president
Barton Polot, recording secretary
Mary Sen, correspondence secretary
Tom Gay, treasurer
Louise Greenwald, deceased
Curt Neumann III, deceased
Tom Saunders, deceased
Eileen Standley, deceased
John Trudell, deceased
Michigan Jazz Festival
c/o Department of Music
18600 Haggerty Rd. | Livonia MI 48152