The new center was designed to harmonize with the north end of the Harmon Fine Arts Center.
Drake University’s acclaimed jazz program will soon have a spacious, comfortable, high-tech new home, thanks to a $1.5 million gift from alumnus Fred Turner.
The University has announced plans to build the Fred and Patty Turner Jazz Center, a 4,600-square-foot facility adjoining the Harmon Fine Arts Center along Wifvat Plaza. The building, due to be completed in late October, will include a practice and performance hall with seating, a jazz gallery, piano alcove and recording studio.
Located in the very heart of the campus, the center will serve as a powerful symbol of the centrality of the arts in the Drake community, and of the power that generous alumni and friends have to enhance the quality of the student experience at Drake.
The announcement was made at the start of the second annual Fred and Patty Turner Concert on Tuesday, May 4, in the Performing Arts Hall of the Harmon Fine Arts Center. The concert featured the award-winning Drake Jazz Ensemble I, directed by Andrew Classen, the Fred and Patty Turner Professor of Jazz Studies.
red and the late Patty Turner, who will be honored with a lounge named Patty’s Place in the new center.
Turner, retired senior chairman of McDonald’s Corp., endowed the
professorship in 2008 with a $1 million gift. Both the professorship
and the new home of Drake’s jazz program are named after Turner and his
late wife, a Drake alumna who died in 2000.
“It is so rewarding for all of us for Fred Turner to bring together his
passion for Drake and his passion for jazz in his wonderful support of
Drake’s outstanding jazz program,” said Drake President David Maxwell,
a guitarist who was featured as a guest artist during Tuesday’s concert.
“Fred Turner’s gift of $1 million last year to endow the Fred and Patty
Turner Professorship in Jazz Studies was a giant step in ensuring the
long-term vitality of the program,” Maxwell added. “With the
construction this summer of the Fred and Patty Turner Jazz Center, we
will have a rehearsal, recording and performance facility that is truly
worthy of the talents of our musicians — students and faculty alike.”
A Des Moines native, Fred Turner attended Drake from 1951 to 1953. It
was at Drake that he met his wife, Patty, a talented musician noted for
her love of music and her extensive work in charities.
Turner began his career with McDonald’s in 1956 with the intention of
being a franchisee. Instead, he became one of the first employees of
He rose rapidly through the ranks and was elected president and chief
administrative officer in 1968, CEO in 1973, and became chairman and
CEO in 1977. He retired as senior chairman and member of the board of
directors in 2004.
Turner served on Drake’s Board of Trustees from 1980 through 1987 and
received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University in 1983.
He also earned the University’s Distinguished Service Award, Drake’s
top honor for alumni.
Since 2000, Drake’s jazz program has rehearsed and performed at the
Mainstay, a building near the Knapp Center that was previously a coffee
house. The jazz program has enjoyed having its own dedicated space, but
it would be cost prohibitive to renovate the aging facility to meet the
program’s growing needs.
In funding the future home of the Drake jazz program, Turner is
creating a performance venue for both student and professional
musicians. The center will provide the space and amenities to
distinguish the Drake jazz program as a national model in music
education, dedicated to elevating this distinctly American art form.
This rendering shows how the Turner Jazz Center will blend with the Harmon Fine Arts Center and Wifvat Plaza.
The Turner Center was designed by Daniel R. Sloan, principal at Baldwin
White Architects, with a focus on providing a comfortable space for
practice, performing, recording and enjoying jazz.
The design was developed to harmonize with the look of the existing
Harmon Fine Arts Center, and will include a brick exterior containing
large expanses of glass for panoramic views of campus. The performance
area will accommodate 60 to 70 jazz patrons, seated at tables and
comfortable lounge seating. One special touch is the inclusion of
Patty’s Place, a cheerful lounge for patrons to enjoy a hot cup of
coffee while listening to cool jazz. The lounge is named in memory of
Turner said there couldn’t be a more fitting memorial to his wife, who
was deeply involved in music and the arts at Drake. “Patty was in the
School of Fine Arts, and sang, played piano, guitar and the ukulele.
She founded several bands, including one that taught music to
inner-city school children and seniors.”
“The Turner Jazz Center will provide a fantastic venue for Drake
University to not only practice and perform; it will be equipped with a
recording studio for full band recordings and a sound booth/isolation
room for smaller-scale arrangements,” Sloan said. “First and foremost,
the center will be a teaching tool for the Drake jazz program, where
students will be afforded the opportunity to play and record in what
will be a one-of-a-kind environment in the Des Moines area.”
Construction is scheduled to begin this summer. The Weitz Co. Inc. will
serve as general contractor for the project. Drake officials plan to
dedicate the center with a ceremony and concert in early November.