Jazz immersion

Students at Drake University are using the new Patty and Fred Turner Jazz Center to immerse themselves in the performance, production and promotion of jazz music.

The Patty and Fred Turner Jazz Center, which opened in winter 2010, allows students of all interests and majors to perform, book musical acts, learn musical production techniques, and enjoy concerts by local and national musicians. The 4,600-square-foot facility adjoining the Harmon Fine Arts Center features a practice and performance hall, a jazz gallery, piano alcove and state-of-the-art recording studio. Students use a special keycard to access the building, allowing them total autonomy in their practice schedules.

Devin van Holsteijn, a music business and business management double major from Spencer, Iowa, says the jazz center has exceeded his every expectation.

Did you know?

Drake University President David Maxwell was raised in a deeply musical family and dabbles as a blues guitarist (see him perform at the 2010 undergraduate commencement ceremony). His father, the late Jimmy Maxwell, was one of the world’s leading jazz trumpet players – he played with big band legends, the CBS staff orchestra and as trumpet soloist in the theme to “The Godfather.”

“I’ve been doing a lot more playing—and a lot more effective playing—since it opened,” van Holsteijn says. “The rehearsal spaces are nice and recording equipment makes it easy to hear yourself play. The performance area, Patty’s Place, feels like an intimate club. The stage is very low, and audience members can sit five feet from performers. As a musician, it feels like you could step right off the stage and be there with the crowd.”

Drake alumnus Fred Turner, retired McDonald’s Corp. senior chairman, donated $1.5 million in 2010 to build the jazz center. That gift, and a prior contribution that established the Fred and Patty Turner Professorship in Jazz Studies at Drake, were dedicated to the legacy of Fred Turner’s late wife, Patty, who studied in the University’s theater department and for whom music was a lifelong devotion.

“Mom had a passion for music,” says Patty Turner’s daughter, Teri. “It’s what lit up her life. She would love that this space, named in her honor, will allow so many students to pursue their own passions.”

Andrew Classen, the University’s inaugural Fred and Patty Turner Professor of Jazz Studies, says he hopes to leverage the gifts to attract students, crowds and traveling talent from around the Midwest. The Patty and Fred Turner Jazz Center will provide the space and amenities to position the Drake jazz program as a national model in music education, dedicated to elevating this distinctly American art form, he says.

“We hope the Turner Jazz Center will be the focal point for jazz in central Iowa,” Classen says. “I can’t express how much the students love it and how appreciative they are of the Turner family’s generosity.”

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