Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Silver Spring Town Center, Inc. Board of Directors

Members of the Silver Spring Town Center, Inc. Board of Directors assembled for the Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Silver Spring Civic Building and Veterans Plaza.

From left to right, Jane Redicker, Beth Wong, Montgomery County Councilmember Valerie Ervin, Aurelia Martin, Don Berkemeyer, Jr., Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett, Jack Hewitt, Jon Lourie, Laura Steinberg, Alan Bowser, and Bryant Foulger.

(Not pictured: Sheryl Brissett-Chapman, Maryann Zimmerman, Estefany Carrillo, Theresa Cameron, Wanda Whiteside, Mark Kozaki, Graciela Jaschek and David Fogel)

Groundbreaking for the Silver Spring Town Center and Veterans Plaza

Thursday, September 11, 2008

All that and a pork pie hat: Fifth annual Silver Spring Jazz Festival - Gazette

by Chris Slattery | Staff Writer

If you play it, they will come.

That's thing about good jazz. It doesn't need any crazy cornstalk field of dreams to make people decide to put their Saturday business on hold and come out with a beach chair and a blanket and a basket of supper. Good jazz – and that is what has been at the heart of the Silver Spring Jazz Festival since it began in 2003 – is enough to attract crowds that number into the tens of thousands to come to a parking lot behind an office building in a suburban city and listen to the music.

"It's the glue to the community," says Marcus Johnson, the Silver Spring musician-producer-entrepreneur who has been involved with the festival from day one – before day one, actually.

"The idea was to have a jazz festival with national and local artists," he remembers, "and to have it in the streets.

"We had such success the first year," he adds. "20, 25 thousand people coming out to see the event."

The event has many facets, he adds, but at its heart, it celebrates what it means to be a community that appreciates and values the arts.

"The Silver Spring Jazz Festival means more great, affordable – as in free! – music for the community," Johnson says. "We're keeping the vibe going so people can come out and enjoy affordable quality music."

Downtown Silver Spring is no stranger to the occasional traffic jam – but on the afternoon of the Silver Spring Jazz Festival, traffic takes on a whole new look. Colorful floats festooned with streamers bear the county's top teenage jazz musicians in a parade that's part Main Street and part Bourbon Street.

"It's a great way to showcase the talent that's right here in the southern part of the county," says Johnson. "We give back to the community through the kids."

Not that the kids don't get something out of it. Participation in the New Orleans-style Jazz Ensemble Caravan, a New Orleans-style parade of youth jazz ensembles, is strictly by invitation. And only the best can battle in the cutting competition that follows the jazz caravan. This year's junior jazz-off will be between the 2007 champion Albert Einstein High School Jazz Band, directed by Joan Rackey, and the challengers, the James Hubert Blake High School Jazz Band, directed by Brian Damron, and The Jazz Academy of Music, directed by Paul Carr.

Two songs per band — one up-tempo and one slow – and then the panel of jazz professionals and personalities decides the winner, awards the trophy and opens the festival up to the pros.

First up: Gail Shipp, a D.C. native who came back to settle with her family in Silver Spring 11 years ago – and never missed a Silver Spring Jazz Festival.

"I'd gone every year," she says, "and I always saw myself up on the stage.

"I'd see someone like Marcus Johnson perform, and I'd say, ‘Gee, I wanna be up there!"

Shipp grew up singing rhythm and blues, but at heart, she was a jazz singer.

"My parents played jazz when I was a little girl," she explains. "That's all they played: Sarah Vaughan, Nancy Wilson, Lou Rawls, Louie Prima – all the jazz greats.

"Later, when I went into the studio to sing the engineer would stop me: ‘You're singing it too jazzy!'

"I've been down the R&B road," she adds, "but jazz suits me."

Which is why, after putting her music career on hold to raise her children, she's back to performing on stage.

"It's my time," says Shipp. Her youngest is 11, she's had a day job downtown for 16 years, but this weekend will be her chance to sing and to shine — and to set an example for others.

"This is a great opportunity for young jazz musicians to see what it takes," she says. "And I'm not just there as a spectator. I'm working, I'm watching, I'm learning."

Larger than Life

Every festival has its headliner, and on Saturday night, the Silver Spring Jazz Festival features the Mingus Big Band.

"We've done a Latin theme, Spyro Gyra. This gives us another flavor," says Johnson. "Mingus, as a bass player, was incredible; he made his bass sing.

"One of my favorites of all the jazz standards was ‘Goodbye Porkpie Hat,' he adds. "It was a tribute to Lester Young when he died."

During his career, Charles Mingus composed his share of tributes to the jazz icons he loved. His widow Sue Graham Mingus is in charge of the groundbreaking performer-composer's legacy. She's the artistic director of his band, the author of an extraordinary memoir called "Tonight at Noon: A Love Story" and the keeper of a flame that burns brightly nearly three decades after his death.

"When Charles died, he was known primarily as a virtuoso bass player and band leader," she says, "and a larger-than-life personality on stage – which he was!"

He was less thought of as a composer, she adds, "because he had this outsize personality."

Duke Ellington and Thelonius Monk were mild-mannered by comparison. Mingus, born in Watts, Calif., in 1922 and coming up savvy in the pre-Civil rights era, saw no point in reining in his personality for the sake of his art. His antics – and his legendary performances – have faded from memory since his death from ALS in 1979. What remains is his music: "Over 300 compositions of enormous variety," says Sue Graham Mingus. "The music is very personal; it really covers the waterfront.

"It's not just jazz: it's drenched in the blues."

And it's increasingly popular. The original Mingus legacy band, a seven-piece ensemble, formed the year the great musician died. There's an orchestra now, and the 14-musician Mingus Big Band, which will take center stage at the Silver Spring Jazz Festival.

Sue Graham Mingus says the Mingus music is a perfect fit for a festival focused on young performers, local talent and community togetherness.

"This music has enormous energy," she says. "It really demands that individual musicians come in and play themselves, tell who they are. There are lots of open spaces."

The Mingus oeuvre of more than 300 compositions can be challenging, and rewarding, for musicians and listeners alike. The score of his orchestral masterpiece "Epitaph" is 500 pages, and there's a whole sub-genre known as "Simply Mingus" that's recommended for students. But Sue Graham Mingus wants her husband's legacy to include his sense of fun and wonder – and empathy.

"Charles appreciated the idea of risk and surprises," she says.

"That's what we associate with jazz. You take risks, and stumble sometimes, and recover. We thrive on the unpredictability and excitement."

2–3 p.m.
Jazz Caravan

3-3:45 p.m.
High School Youth Cutting Contest and Judging

3:45-4 p.m.
Award of Silver Spring Jazz Festival Trophy

4-5 p.m.
Gail Shipp – vocalist

5:15-6:15 p.m.
Samambaia Quintet – latin jazz

6:30-7:30 p.m.
Yaron Elyashiv – jazz saxophonist

7:45-8:45 p.m.
The Marcus Johnson Project – smooth jazz

9-10:30 p.m.
The Mingus Big Band

The Silver Spring Jazz Festival takes place Saturday,
2 to 10 p.m., in the parking lot behind the Lee Building,8601 Georgia Ave., at the corner of Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road. Admission is free. Attendees are encouraged to use public transportation and to bring a blanket and/or beach chair.

The concert is located a few blocks from the Silver Spring Metro station. Limited parking is available in the Wayne Ave. Garage, the Town Square Garage and the garages on Bonifant Street, Cameron at Ramsey Avenue, and Cameron at Fenton Street. Call 301-565-7300 or visit

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

County to break ground on new civic building - Gazette

Construction to begin today on $19.5 million facility and Veterans Plaza in downtown Silver Spring

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2008

Construction will officially begin today on the Silver Spring Civic Building and Veterans Plaza project at the corner of Fenton Street and Ellsworth Drive in Silver Spring.

A ceremony will be held 10:30 a.m. with Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and other county and community officials on hand. To enter the site where the groundbreaking ceremony will be, go down the steps leading from the parking lot behind Whole Foods at 833 Wayne Ave.

Construction on the project is expected to be completed by late fall of 2009. The county is targeting Nov. 11, 2009, Veteran's Day, for the official opening of Veterans Plaza, said Gary Stith, director of the Silver Spring Regional Center.

"It's a momentous occasion because we have been working on the civic building for a long time," Stith said Monday at the monthly Silver Spring Citizens' Advisory Board meeting.

When construction is completed, the 42,000-square-foot civic building will be accompanied by Veterans Plaza, which is nearly an acre of green space to be programmed for outdoor events and will also commemorate the service of veterans from Silver Spring and Montgomery County. The plaza also will include a pavilion and will be converted to an ice rink between November and March.

The entire site for the project is about 1.5 acres.

Estimated cost for the civic building is $19.7 million, including $2.5 million approved by Montgomery County Council in July. Construction on the building is expected to be finished after Veterans Plaza is completed, Stith said.

The civic building is expected to be the center of community activities in Silver Spring and will include meeting rooms, gallery space, the relocated Silver Spring Regional Center, currently at 8435 Georgia Ave., and space for the Round House Theater School.

Stith said the artificial turf field, which previously occupied the plaza site, has been removed and the site is ready for construction. A "farewell party" for the turf was held July 25.

The civic building has been planned since 1998 when the Silver Spring Armory was demolished. Last year's Silver Spring Jazz Festival was held at the artificial turf field and this year's event, 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, will be held in the parking lot behind the Lee Building at the corner of Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road.

Darian Unger, chairman of the Silver Spring Citizens' Advisory Board, said the civic building project shows a strong county investment in Silver Spring, along with the planned $91 million Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center, which will break ground Sept. 28, and the new Silver Spring library, which is still in the design stages.

"It's good to get the private stuff and the public stuff united," Unger said Monday. "We need to get some public projects following all the private projects [in downtown Silver Spring]."

Weekend events bring a marriage of jazz and folk - Gazette

Annual concerts in Silver Spring and Takoma Park expected to draw thousands

by Jeremy Arias | Staff Writer | Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2008

A weekend of music, food and fun is ahead with the 5th annual Silver Spring Jazz Festival on Saturday and the 31st Takoma Park Folk Festival on Sunday.

The jazz festival, with a new location behind the Lee Building at the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road, seeks to bring both entertainment and economic benefits to Silver Spring, while Takoma's folk festival is being billed as a more environmentally conscious celebration this year.

Jazz festival spokeswoman Susan Hoffman expects about 25,000 to attend the event, which will feature local talent like Gail Shipp of Washington, D.C., and Marcus Johnson of Silver Spring. This year's headliner is the Mingus Big Band out of New York.

Downtown businesses are excited by the sales opportunity thousands of visitors will bring.

"It brings in people who might not have been to Silver Spring before," said Jane Redicker, president of the Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce. "It introduces them to the area and we want them to come back. We look at the jazz festival as both a fabulous arts an entertainment event but also as an economic development stimulus."

The Takoma Park Folk Festival is once again expanding its green footprint. This year, Pepco will distribute several thousand free energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs. In previous years, the event has targeted increasing the recycling of vendor cooking oil and waste products, according to festival Chairman Kevin Adler.

"We're just taking advantage of more and more people being aware of these issues and with their help we're able to do more about it," Adler said.

The folk festival will also provide a free shuttle bus service from the Takoma Park Metro station and Montgomery College parking garage.

There will also be a benefit to using public transportation to get to the jazz festival, Hoffman said.

"We are urging people to take the Metro," she said, noting that while there are nearby parking garages, it is not uncommon for festival-goers to experience delays when they're ready to leave. "I've always encouraged people to look around and maybe park a few blocks away … they might have to walk a little bit, but it can take so much longer to get out of a garage."

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Groundbreaking Ceremony for Silver Spring Civic Building and Veterans Plaza - Wednesday, September 10th at 10:30 am

Wednesday, September 10, 2008 at 10:30 am

Project Construction Site
Corner of Ellsworth Dr. and Fenton St.,
Silver Spring

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett will be joined by County and community officials to break ground for the Veteran’s Plaza/Civic Building project in downtown Silver Spring.

When construction is completed the 1.5 acre site will contain the new 42,000 square-foot Civic Building that will be fronted by the three-quarter acre Veterans Plaza, featuring a brick surface surrounded by grass and trees.

It will be the site of a memorial to veterans of all wars and host year-round activities from concerts, markets and festivals and be converted to an ice rink from November through March.

Entry to the groundbreaking site will be down the steps leading from the parking lot behind Whole Foods.

Silver Spring Jazz Festival - Saturday, September 13, 2008 - 2 pm to 10:30 pm

Silver Spring's Biggest Event of the Year!

This year's Headliner is the Mingus Big Band!

The Mingus Big Band was created to celebrate the music of the composer and bassist, Charles Mingus, who died of ALS in 1979. Under the artistic direction of Sue Mingus, the band tours extensively in the United States and abroad, headlining all the major jazz festivals and, since 1991, holding a weekly residency in New York City. In 2007, musicians from the Mingus Big Band participated in a presentation of Charles Mingus’s masterwork Epitaph, conducted by Gunther Schuller, which will be broadcast on NPR this year. With nine recordings to its credit – six of which have been nominated for Grammy Awards – the Mingus Big Band is keeping Mingus music alive and vibrant for future generations.

Because Charles Mingus left such a large legacy of composition, the Mingus Big Band selects a concert program that offers an overview of the variety and breadth of his repertoire and his many influences, including Latin, folk, and classical forms. A concert will typically include ballads, blues, extended through-composed pieces, arrangements for vocalists, and selections from Epitaph.

The musicians in the Mingus Big Band are the finest in jazz and bring their unique style and personality to the music.

Charles Mingus left behind one of the largest legacies of composition in 20th century American music. At the 1997 Grammy Awards ceremony, he posthumously received NARAS's Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1993, his entire catalog of work—scores, recording tapes, correspondence, photographs, memorabilia and writings—were acquired by the Library of Congress, a first for jazz, and he was honored with a U.S. postage stamp. The recent release of the 1964 concert at Cornell University on Blue Note made the 2007 Top 10 lists of many prestigious publications.

“The best jazz orchestra in the world bears the name of the Mingus Big Band… a remarkable high standard of musicianship, energy and consistency."
-Geoffrey Himes of The Washington Post

Marcus Johnson

Marcus Johnson is an extraordinary jazz keyboardist and composer, as well as a successful businessman with his Three Keys Music label, headquartered in Silver Spring's downtown. He began playing the piano at age nine, and from there, he wanted to “create classics, not just hit songs.”

Marcus has done the amazing by launching a highly successful record label and releasing seven albums since 1997. Catch this shooting star with his newest Top 10 Billboard Charting CD “The Phoenix” to know he’s the real deal…playing with passionate grooves and soul-stirring beats…hot and sexy!

Gail Shipp

Gail is a native Washingtonian who grew up listening to jazz greats such as Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson, Carmen McCrae, and Gloria Lynne. Gail’s performance credits include Blues Alley, Takoma Station night club and the Washington Area Music Industry Awards.

She has performed with R&B artists Johnny Gill, Stacey Lattisaw, and Kenny Lattisaw. She also recorded with notable jazz recording artist Roy Ayers, and has appeared at D.C.’s Lisner Auditorium on the same stage with jazz diva Shirley Horn.

This is Gail’s first appearance at the Silver Spring Jazz Festival, and she is particularly thrilled, since she now resides in Silver Spring. Gail is here today performing with the Wes Biles Quartet featuring Wes Biles on bass, Vince Smith on keyboards, Dohn Nunley on sax, and Ron Compton on drums.


Have you heard the phrase “the CHEMISTRY” has to be right…This is also true in music!

Samambaia is a rare and beautiful flower that grows in the jungles of Brazil. This band’s music is as powerful as this exotic flower, and mixed care by its outstanding musicians. Argentinean-born guitar virtuoso, Dani Cortaza leads the band into creative breaks, rhythms and melodies that virtually float on air. In 2007, his CD “Expressions” was nominated for best CD in the Latin music category in the Washington D.C. area. This year, he was the recipient of a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award for artistic excellence in guitar performance and composition.

It is here in the Washington DC area where Dani Cortaza would form Samambaia and find the perfect musicians for the vision of this band. The musicians include Alejandro Lucini on drums, Didier Prossaird on piano and keyboards, Alfredo Mojica, Jr., on vocals and percussion, and Steve Sachse on bass. These first-class musicians have honed their skills locally, nationally and internationally.

Yaron Elyashiv

For a long time modern jazz has been misrepresented to the public as music for musicians. With a fresh sound and a different approach to jazz than his contemporaries, saxophone player and composer Yaron Elyashiv stays true to traditions as he keeps looking forward into the future.

After only two years in New York, Yaron has been making a name for himself at such spots as Minton’s Playhouse, Saint Nick’s Pub, Fat Cat, and the CUNY Jazz Festival. A native of Israel, Yaron was an important part of that jazz scene before coming to the U.S. His recently-recorded debut album “I Remember You” has already received great reviews from eJazzNews and Dan Karcher of WBGO radio.

TAKE METROBUS OR METRORAIL to the Silver Spring station, or ride bus routes 70, S2 and S4

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Folk festival keeps crowds, performers coming back - Gazette

Annual music, community event returns Sept. 14

by Jeremy Arias | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008

Bill Williams is a folk festival regular. A Takoma Park resident for the past 17 years, Williams has either attended or performed in the city's annual music and crafts event, the Takoma Park Folk Festival, since 1999.

"I've seen some very good arts and crafts people selling stuff there, and I like that they've got a lot of stands set up for community service booths," he said. "They've got it pretty well down."

Williams and his newest band, the Jelly Roll Mortals, are one of 50 musical groups or performers that will take the stage Sept. 14 for the 31st annual Takoma Park Folk Festival to be held 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Takoma Park Middle School.

Williams and the Jelly Roll Mortals will perform from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the 7th Heaven stage, mixing well-known covers with their own distinct folk-rock acoustic songs.

The festival also will feature space for 45 arts and craft booths, community service booths and, of course, food vendors of all types. Shuttle buses will run from the Montgomery College parking garage and the Takoma Metro station to the event throughout the day free of charge, and walking routes to the festival will be clearly marked. Admission will be free.

"We're telling people don't park in the neighborhood because there's not enough space," cautioned event spokeswoman Nancy Nickell.

Nickell, who has been working with the festival since 2000, said the event draws about 4,000 attendees each year. As many as 300 volunteers lend a hand the day of the festival, she said.

"We're actually able to put on a very large event with very little money because the labor is all volunteer," Nickell said, adding that it is not too late to volunteer for this year's event. Those interested can visit the festival Web site,

Nickell has a more personal connection with the festival; she credits the event with her decision to move back to Takoma Park after she and her husband passed a house for sale following the 1999 folk fest. They eventually bought the house.

"A neighbor told me a couple months later that, well, if you owe your house to the festival then you should volunteer for the festival!" Nickell said with a laugh. She is not alone among residents who find themselves drawn back to the festival.

Performer Spencer Bates also will return after his debut performance at last year's celebration. Bates, a self-taught pianist and singer, won the festival's prize for local talent last year and will play an hour-long set of his uniquely-interpreted tributes and some of his favorite songs from his two recent albums.

"The folk festival heavily values originality, artistry, nuance, creativity; all that stuff," he said. "At a folk festival, the people are there to experience culture. It's sort of the perfect venue for what I've been looking for."

Bates will perform 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. on the 7th Heaven stage space, and again along with a Bob Dylan tribute group performing later in the festival.

A complete listing of the various performances on the seven stages, food stalls, crafts and entertainment information can be found on the festival's Web site along with volunteer information and directions to the event.

The website is