James Romain directs Jazz Ensemble Two, which performed the newly constructed Turner Center’s premier concert.
The Patty and Fred Turner Center was completed just in time for Drake’s Jazz Ensemble Two to move its Dec. 7 concert from the Performing Arts Hall to the new facility. The free, public concert drew such a large crowd that some audience members sat on the floor while others stood along the walls.
The ensemble, under the direction of Associate Professor of Saxophone and Jazz Studies James Romain, performed an eclectic program, featuring a wide variety of different jazz styles and numerous student soloists. Photos of the event can be viewed online.
“Playing in the Turner Center was an incredible experience,” said alto saxophonist Katie Stessman, a first-year music education major from Manning, Iowa. “We all came together last night for a love of music and jazz, and actually sitting on the stage in a beautiful, new center built for that sole purpose was so humbling to me. We are very lucky to have people who support us and to have such a great place to learn and perform!”
Romain welcomed everyone to the new home of Drake’s jazz program and pointed out the mural featuring photos of legendary jazz musicians. The mural, which dominates the top of the walls on either side of the stage, primarily features William P. Gottlieb’s portraits documenting the Golden Age of Jazz in New York City and Washington, D.C. His photo collection, housed in the Library of Congress, came into the public domain earlier this year.
At the request of Fred and Patty Turner Professor of Jazz Studies Andrew Classen, the mural also includes a photo of Drake President David Maxwell’s father, the late Jimmy Maxwell, a legendary trumpeter who was a member of the Benny Goodman Band and “The Tonight Show” band. Drake First Lady Maddy Maxwell provided the photo of her father-in-law, who also performed with the Count Basie and Duke Ellington orchestras, for the mural.
“The mural circles over the heads of performing students,” said Dan Sloan, FA’75, of Baldwin White Architects. “It’s like having the gods looking down on you.”
As project architect, Sloan had one final and all-important question: Would a performance in the Turner Center be a success?
The answer was a resounding, ‘Yes.’
“It took but a few notes from the band to realize that it would be a special performance,” Sloan said. “By design, the spirit and energy of the music was reflected by the architecture of the building without missing a beat. It was unconventional, edgy and confident. Based on many of the comments from more than 100 patrons who attended the performance, it was a successful evening and provided an opportunity to appreciate Mr. Turner’s generosity and vision first-hand.”
A gala concert and dedication of the Turner Center will be held during the spring semester.
Fred Turner: a generous advocate for the Drake University jazz program
Drake’s jazz program with a $1.5 million gift to build the Patty and
Fred Turner Jazz Center. The building includes Patty’s Place, a 70-seat jazz club/coffee bar
named after Turner’s late wife Patty, a Drake graduate; and a
state-of-the-art 40-channel recording studio for full band recordings
and a sound booth/isolation room for smaller-scale arrangements. “¨
“¨”¨”The Turner Jazz Center provides a teaching facility for the Drake
jazz program, where students will be afforded the opportunity to play
and record in a one-of-a-kind environment in the Des Moines area,” Sloan said.
“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
This Friday, students involved in Drake’s jazz program will pose for a photo in the new Turner Center. The photo will be sent to Turner in thanks for his support.