Message from Montie

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Chicago's Hyde Park Jazz Festival 2009 was a success, Richie Cole turned it out

Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at

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Sometimes I do volunteer work and feel like a good Samaritan, but I don't leave feeling like I want to do it again. That is until today after I finished volunteering for the annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival. I was at the Hyde Park Union Church from 2:30 pm to 8:00 pm, and initially I wondered how jazz music was going to go down in a church, but it's not like it was some hardcore hip hop so I knew it'd be all right. And it definitely was. Folks lined up by the door, and one lady tried to rush in an hour before the doors opened to get a good seat but was turned back around. Considering I'd never been to the Hyde Park Jazz Festival before, I took that as my cue that it was going to be a serious turnout.


And when the first show started with Ari Brown at 3:30 pm, people came from everywhere (peacefully and well-mannered) through the doors. It was a full house for Everett Greene at 5:00 p.m., and the same went for my favorite group of the night at the Hyde Park Union Church--Richie Cole at 7:00 p.m.


Now reality shows will lead you to believe that a bunch of strangers who've never met can't get along and work together, but the group I worked with was led by the Rev. Zachary W. Mills. (There will be an installation ceremony for the Rev. Mills at 10 a.m., tomorrow as the Associate Minister for Hyde Park Union Church.) When I first saw the photo of him, I looked from the sign to the guy standing in front of me and wondered if he ever considered modeling.


   He definitely has the face for it, but his calling is obviously far deeper and I respect that. He was very easy to work with as well as the rest of our volunteer staff. One volunteer joked that he hoped he didn't say anything wrong around him, and the Rev. Mills was professional, but he was also laidback and charismatic too so I'd imagine it'd be difficult for anybody to not feel comfortable around him. I certainly thought he was a great leader.


I sat on the front porch area of the Hyde Park Union Church and laughed with some of the volunteers nonstop, especially at one volunteer named Larry A. (last name withheld to protect his privacy) who I nicknamed "Musical Chairs" because he was so hyper and kept going from one end of the church to the next (and even for someone in his 60s, I'm convinced if we raced to the end of the block, he'd embarrass me). Another guy from the Hyde Park area told stories about fatherhood and his daughters. Nonstop jokes and stories, and quite honestly, I had to remind myself that I didn't know these people before today.


It got a little chilly during Richie Cole's performance so we took our pamphlets and maps inside to greet the guests. I liked the crowd who came in too--very classy and appreciative of good music. One guy said he liked that I was using "13 muscles to smile," but it was such a pleasant time that the grin never left. If I had to guesstimate how many people attended the church performances, I'd put it in the mid-100s, say 500-600 people but overall through the night from jazz-goers who chose one of the other 14 locations for 15 hours of free jazz, there were easily over 10,000 even with the cool breeze and the rest of the week being rainy. I guess good jazz overpowers weather.


After my shift ended and I hugged the volunteer crew goodbye, I grabbed some tofu fried rice at Nicky's located at 5231 S. Woodlawn and joined the Hyde Park Jazz Festival party at the James W. Wagner Center Stage on 1130 Midway Plaisance between Ellis and Woodlawn Avenue. I caught the end of Orbert Davis' performance and came in enough time to get the full show for the animated Chicago's Sax in the City show while a small crowd off to the side danced on their own. Raffle ticket winners were announced, cardboard cutouts of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in Jazz Festival T-shirts were carried out, and random arms reached out to give the volunteers collecting donations. I also saw a large surplus of couples and father-son crews, and a lot of people snuggling under the covers in their lawnchairs or on bleachers with shoulders moving to the beat of the music.


Out of all the bands I saw, I enjoyed each one for various reasons, but I'm still holding on to Richie Cole as the crew I liked the best. Richie Cole plays the type of jazz I like to hear most--a mix of classical jazz, a touch of modern jazz and bebop jazz incorporated in the mix. No tricks and jumping around needed; they were off the chain just from playing a few notes. I was amused to catch the reverend over in the corner getting his dance on while I was in the back of the church swaying away myself and timing Musical Chairs to see how long he'd be still.


I'll definitely be back next year. For more information, visit



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cultureguru said:

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It's because people like you volunteered! We had 250+ people volutneer to cover 300+ shifts--some volunteered for 12+ hours straight, and have already committed to come back next year.

In the age of twitter, facebook, etc., where we move away from connecting as real people in person, it was amazing and re-energizing to meet so many good hearted, talented, take-charge people so willing to help out.

Thank YOU!

Message from Montie said:


Thank you for the kind words. You can definitely add me to the volunteer list next year too. I'm hoping the event is not the same time as the Chicago Classic, but if I have to choose between the two, football is going to lose every time. I was so impressed, especially with this being my first time going. Everybody was ready to work and take charge of their position. I saw no slackers and all jazz lovers.

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