Celebrating 10 Years of Dallas Jazz Appreciation Month

Presented by a local volunteer collection of jazz presenters, educators, and supporters including the Sammons Center, Dallas Jazz Appreciation Month (D’JAM) is a month-long celebration of jazz venues, artists, legends, and rising stars who call North Texas home. Since 2013, D’JAM has been held each April as part of the Smithsonian’s initiative, Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM), and presents various events celebrating jazz in the North Texas area. This year, D’JAM celebrated its 10-year anniversary with two special events uplifting jazz in North Texas including jazz film screenings in partnership with the USA Film Festival and the first-ever Jazz Stroll in the Dallas Arts District.


For the last several years, D’JAM and the USA Film Festival have partnered together to showcase free screenings of jazz-related films, offering a unique opportunity to learn about the history of the art form through cinematic storytelling. Presented this year were ELLIS, a documentary about the late NOLA jazz pianist, educator, and patriarch of the Marsalis family, Ellis Marsalis, and Bonnie Blue, a documentary about the struggles and impact of the legendary blues musician James Cotton. In attendance for ELLIS was filmmaker Sascha Just and jazz trombonist/son of Ellis Marsalis, Delfaeyo Marsalis. Sammons Jazz Artistic Director Arlington Jones led a post-screening Q&A discussion, opening the floor to learn first-hand about the life and legacy of Ellis Marsalis who passed away in 2020.






This year we also held our first-ever D’JAM Jazz Stroll in the Dallas Arts District. Through partnering with the Dallas Arts District Foundation, we were able to host 9 different ensembles at 8 different locations along Flora St, the main street in the Dallas Arts District, and in doing so, offered the opportunity to celebrate and sample the jazz of Dallas for FREE to hundreds of people. What better way to spend a sunny Saturday in April than listening to the soundtrack of the Dallas jazz scene set against the backdrop of the downtown skyline?



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During this day of jazz, we also hosted our annual Jazz Legends Awards Ceremony at St. Paul UMC to honor 4 different individuals in 4 distinct categories for their incredible contributions to the landscape of jazz in North Texas. This year we honored Mario Cruz – Jazz Artist, Judy Watson – Jazz Benefactor, Paris Rutherford – Jazz Educator (Posthumous), and Daniel Jones – Jazz Innovator. Lynne Rutherford, wife of the late Paris Rutherford, was in attendance to accept his award.



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All in all, the music, weather, and company made for a fine day in the Dallas Arts District and we were delighted to spend the month of April celebrating jazz in our city. Thank you to everyone who was able to come out and celebrate with us! Until next year!



“Creative, Beautiful, Soulful, and Real”

One of the things that we rent space for at the Sammons Center is recitals. We have special rates for them, to allow even very small studios to give their students opportunities to perform on professional instruments in beautiful rooms. These educational performances often showcase the work of students, and they’re typically attended by friends and family. We rent to families and to music teachers; sometimes it will be dozens of kids, sometimes it’s a solo event or even a recording of a piece to send away with a scholarship application. The only rule is that it has to be all about the art; it can’t be a birthday party or a corporate event. This will be a particularly special evening — it’s a senior recital for a music student, hosted by his parents. It’s by invitation only, so you can’t buy a ticket, but I want to share the story with you, and a taste of the music, because they’re both beautiful.


Shreyan Daulat is playing piano. Aadi Khasgiwali is playing cello. Shreyan’s music teacher Jenni VerHagen is taking them through the pieces they’ll play at the recital on Sunday, making minor last-minute adjustments and notes. These young men have been best friends since kindergarten, and the only senior graduation party that Shreyan wanted was a recital where he could play music with his friend and share it with his family. The resonant acoustic of Kurth Hall embraces the sound of the duets, adding just enough reverb to make it sound like sacred music being played in a chapel.


I’ve been working with Shreyan’s mom, Malisha, on getting all the arrangements perfect; working out where to put the tables, how to arrange the food and drinks. They’re doing a mix of charcuterie and traditional Indian sweets and pastries, and they’ll have the recital in Kurth Hall and then reception in the Cree Mezzanine. I’ve enjoyed getting to know Malisha; she and her husband are very keen on music, theater, and the arts, and she is passionate about making sure her children are educated in creative pursuits as well as their other studies. They have taken their kids to performances since they were little. She and I have had a lively discussion about music and theater and the arts and how important they are to quality of life.


Watching the two students play together, I was really touched by how much this is at the core of what we do at Sammons – it’s creative, beautiful, soulful, and real. There is nothing like live music. When I asked permission for our social media guru Marica to take video, Aadi apologized for his casual clothes and told me he wished they were dressed up; I explained that so much of the activity here at Sammons is rehearsals, workshops, classes – getting ready for big stage performances at the Moody, the Meyerson, the Eiseman. T-shirts and shorts are perfect. Aadi knows Kurth Hall from his rehearsals with Texas Cellos, Joseph Kuiper’s all-cello musical performance group; they’re one of the groups in our DARS program, which provides mail services and discounted room rates. I wish Shreyan and Aadi both the best, and good luck on their journey to the next big stage performance.


Michael Cook

Assistant Director, Sammons Center for the Arts