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The Jazz & Creative Institute cultivates musicianship, artistic development and creative entrepreneurship for building a life in the arts through educational programs, mentoring and performances.

We are a jazz school with private lessons, jam sessions, professional and student ensembles. We are performing arts presenters with a listening room venue for jazz.

  • JCI programs use a holistic, personal approach. Instead of teaching a stock curriculum, we mentor each student as an individual to encourage them to honor their uniqueness and pursue their own ideas with our guidance.

  • JCI programs go beyond music fundamentals and teach entrepreneurial concepts that show people how to make a life in music with practical goal-setting, professional development, and marketing skills.

  • JCI programs model arts leadership and purposefully foster the creation of supportive communities of musicians via community events and presenting live jazz.


Co-Directors: Benje & Ashley Daneman

JCI was co-founded in 2014 by colleagues and artist-entrepreneurs Nich Mueller, Benje Daneman, and Ashley Daneman in Kalamazoo, MI. Benje and Ashley have taken over leadership of JCI since Nich moved on to work and perform in NYC. Wishing him all the very best (keep up with him here)!

Benje’s Website

Ashley’s Website


The Jazz and Creative Institute Faculty Ensemble is:

  • Ashley Daneman: voice

  • Benje Daneman: trumpet & flugelhorn

  • Seth Ebersole: saxophones, clarinet, & flute

  • Nathan Borton: guitar

  • Rufus Ferguson: piano & organ

  • Andy Peck: bass

  • Madison George: drums

  • Kevin Jones: African & Latin percussion

The Faculty Ensemble performs original jazz compositions from its members and standards from many aspects of the jazz tradition.

I am thoroughly impressed with the Jazz Start Program. My son has attended for two years. This program increased his confidence in improvising and creatively expressing himself through jazz music. Not only do the students learn the fundamentals of jazz, they also grow as a person through communication, music and performance. The participants and the instructors are very encouraging and positive. It is a fantastic program for students with a passion for music!
— JAZZSTART Parent, 2015

We Have Voice Safer Space

The Jazz and Creative Institute has adopted the We Have Voice Collective Code of Conduct to promote safe(r) workplaces in the performing arts. This code promotes zero tolerance for harassment of any kind, including but not limited to sexual harassment and bullying. The code upholds the equitable treatment of all people regardless of their various identities and positionalities, including gender identity, race, age, ability, ethnicity, culture, immigration status, sexual orientation and identity, class position and economic background, and religious belief and affiliation.