- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 14, 2000


BALTIMOREThe new Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center is "a center whose time has come," a consultant for the city says.
Publicist Kevin Brown refers to an institute that got its start in the 1970s and honors the Baltimore native who became a famous ragtime composer and performer.
A ribbon-cutting and grand-opening ceremony for the center will be held at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Guests will include actor-director Charles Dutton and jazz vocalist Ethel Ennis.
The Cab Calloway Orchestra will play classic swing from the days of Harlem's Cotton Club, including Mr. Calloway's signature song, "Minnie the Moocher." The orchestra is led by Christopher "Calloway" Brooks, the grandson of the late jazz great.
Two days later, the center will officially open to the public with a free "Family Day," which will include activities such as musical performances and face painting.
"We have reached a critical point in our 25-year evolution, thanks to state and city leaders," Camay Murphy, board president and acting executive director of the center, says in a statement.
The institute, which is a performing arts center and a repository of outstanding Baltimore jazz artists, started as the Model Cities Arts Program. It was renamed in 1984 when the estate of James Herbert "Eubie" Blake approached the center with a request to house his memorabilia.
The center's main building and five outreach centers, placed throughout the city, offer Saturday and after-school arts programs for Baltimore students.
In addition, it houses permanent exhibits not only about Mr. Blake but also other Baltimore jazz greats such as singer Billie Holiday and Mr. Calloway and swing-band leader Chick Webb.
The original center, at 409 N. Charles St., burned down in the mid-1990s. The institute has been operating out of a temporary location at Market Place.
About two years ago, the city bought the new building, at 847 N. Howard St., from Maryland General Hospital for $200,000 and donated it to the center board. Renovation of the building — originally the University of Baltimore Law School and later used as a nurses training school — has taken almost two years and will cost an estimated $2.3 million from both city and private funds.
"Everybody is really excited," Mrs. Murphy says. "Our building is lovely."
Features include a museum, gallery, gift shop, dance studio, art studio, band and rehearsal rooms, outdoor sculpture garden and a 150-seat auditorium. Adult classes will be offered, including courses in ceramics and computer graphics.
"Having our own home will enable us to expand our services and become a more significant contributor to the good health of the communities we serve," Mrs. Murphy says.
One feature she is proud of is the "Memories of You" wall, where the musical notes of Mr. Blake's song of the same name is etched on a multicolored glass wall. The notes will be sold off and names will be etched above them. Eventually, those involved in the center hope to have the music to the song playing by the display.
The new center is "the first arts anchor for the 'Avenue of the Arts,'" says Mr. Brown, referring to the growing arts community on Howard Street.
Mr. Blake, the son of former slaves, died in 1983 at age 100. His songs include "I'm Just Wild About Harry" (Harry Truman's presidential campaign song in 1948), which he wrote with his longtime collaborator, singer and lyricist Noble Sissle. The first song they wrote together, "It's All Your Fault," was performed by headliner Sophie Tucker.A successful Broadway musical, "Eubie," was based on Mr. Blake's life.

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