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The Birth of SEMJA

SEMJA 25 AnniversaryOn April 21, SEMJA will celebrate its 25th year by giving this year's SEMJA Award to our founder, Ron Brooks, at the Kerrytown Concert House in Ann Arbor. The Ron Brooks Trio with Tad Weed (piano) and George Davidson (drums) will perform starting at 7:00 p.m. and will be followed by an award presentation and a reception.

The front-page article in our first newsletter (July/August 1987) tells the story of how SEMJA got its start:
In the spring of ‘87, SEMJA grew out of several meetings between musicians and jazz enthusiasts, primarily from the Ann Arbor area. The core group met a half dozen times starting in March, and in May the association was incorporated.

Don Chisholm, Ron Brooks, Paula SchaperThe idea for the society originated with Ron Brooks, owner of the Bird of Paradise, a jazz club on South Ashley Street in Ann Arbor. "I had been involved in establishing the Annie Awards (of the Washtenaw Council for the Arts)," said Brooks, "and saw how well that had brought certain segments of the community together. I began thinking about how we might be able to unify those who appreciate jazz and those who play it."

On the first Sunday in March, Brooks called a meeting at his club of 21 people who would form the core of the association. At that meeting it was decided that there was enough broad interest in the greater Detroit area to support a jazz society, and that it should publish a periodic newsletter which would include a calendar of events, a classified advertising section, informative articles about artists, trends and events. The group decided that eventually the organization would publish its own magazine, and would sponsor workshops and concerts.

The first twelve members of the board of directors were elected in May: Judy Alcock, Carrie G. Bachman, Gail Baker, Ron Brooks, Don Chisholm, Nancy Davis, Kathleen Horn, Christine Kitzman, Michael G. Nastos, Harvey Reed, Hazen Schumacher, and David Wild.

ABOVE: Don Chisholm, Ron Brooks and Paula Schaper

SEMJA Newsletter, Volume 1, No. 1, July/August 1987. SEMJA Records 1987–2008, Box 2, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.

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Southeastern Michigan
Jazz Association


is published monthly. 
It is edited by Lars Björn and Piotr Michalowski
with additional assistance from Barton Polot (production editor and Webmaster), Judy Alcock, Margot Campos, Lynn Hobbs, and Marcel Niemiec.