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Jazzed up in Mount Vernon

The Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center brings history and flavor to Charm City.

Where else in Baltimore can you go for a history lesson, voice training, and dance sessions? Located at 847 North Howard St., the Eubie Blake Center provides the Mount Vernon and surrounding communities with a place to learn about a wide array of topics. The aim of the center is to give citizens an outlet through which African-American art and culture can be experienced , either through direct participation or observation. Program Director Troy Burton asserts, “We are a cultural center with a focus on the fine arts with a heavy emphasis on jazz”.

Commanding four floors, the building stands tall along the shops lining Antique Row. Walking along the exhibition walls, one can examine photos of African-American artists and other cultural memorabilia focusing on the city's extensive historical background in jazz. The center is also host to several workshops and performances and holds space to rent for receptions and other social gatherings. Among the workshops provided is a free Cultural Arts Enrichment program for children ages 5 to 18. Every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, after their regular day in school, children come to the center to be introduced to various arts including music performance, singing, dance, drama and literacy enhancement. Burton adds, “The after-school program provides a safe haven for children and instills some art and culture in them”.

Once a month, some of the city's best jazz performers get to collaborate with amateur musicians to participate in the Heritage Band rehearsal. The band is anticipating the development of what the organization describes as a “Preservation Hall” type band, which would promote and perform pieces by Baltimore's jazz greats.

Another highlight at the center is the open-mic Poetry Slam held on the last Thursday of each month . These Slams are becoming increasingly popular to the artistically inclined in Baltimore, with sessions drawing growing crowds. At a low cost of $3, one can experience live entertainment and enlightening talent.

With new acquisitions continuing to be brought to the center, one can always guarantee to find something new to see at Eubie Blake each visit . One of the latest arrivals, a player piano, is truly a centerpiece to the exhibit. The piano, which plays the scrolls to Blake's tunes as if it were his own hands moving across the ivory keys, is on permanent display at the center.

Most recently, the center hosted an exhibition called “The Storm is Passing Over”, with a theme that honored the musical life of Maryland's African-Americans from the emancipation of slavery to the civil rights period. Presented by the archives of the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, the exhibition included photos and documents of various bands and other African-American performers native to Maryland.

For more information visit the center's Web site or call (410) 225-3130.

Related Stories

After School at Eubie Blake: These kids have better things to do than just sit around watching television after school. They participate in a Cultural Arts Enrichment program at the Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute that introduces them to singing, music, drama, and art.

Eubie Blake: A Jazzy Place To Be: With its exhibition and Cultural Arts Enrichment program, there is always something to learn at the center.

Transcription of Interview - Eubie Blake