Downbeat Magazine, 2018

Benje Daneman Commits to Art (by John Ephland)

“Michigan-based trumpeter/flugelhornist Benje Daneman is perpetually busy. In addition to releasing Light In The Darkness (JCI), a new album with his band SearchParty, he’s also a teacher who works with numerous music organizations. He directs the Kalamazoo Youth Jazz Orchestra, and he devotes up to 30 hours per week working as education manager for the Kalamazoo Symphony.

Benje’s chief collaborator is his wife, singer-songwriter Ashley Daneman. The two met in New York in 2008 during a rehearsal at Manhattan School of Music. They went on to co-found the Jazz & Creative Institute in 2014, and they currently serve as its co-directors. Ashley figures prominently on Light In The Darkness—a deft mix of written and improvised music carried by themes of light and darkness.

Benje and Ashley’s top priorities nowadays are raising their three children and running the Kalamazoo-based Jazz & Creative Institute (co-founded with Nich Mueller). According to Benje, “The deeper vision for the organization is to become not just an avocational resource but a resource for professionals, for students, for anyone in jazz wondering, ‘How do I take the next step?’ We believe if you build it, they will come.”

He added that the aim is to build “a life in the arts through educational programs, mentoring and performances.” The institute is a jazz school that includes a performance venue, private lessons and jam sessions.

“Benje and I have a foundational commitment to both of us living and working as performing artists and pursuing our careers,” said Ashely, whose 2015 album, Beauty Indestructible, includes Benje on trumpet. “We unwaveringly support each other in spite of the challenges it presents as parents.” DB (link to full article)


 Jazz and Creative Institute was interviewed on WMUK in 2014 and 2018.

Jazz and Creative Institute was interviewed on WMUK in 2014 and 2018.

Interested in Jazz Lessons, Sessions? Jazz Academy Offers Open House Sunday (By Cara Lieurance)

Ashley and Benje Daneman, founders of the Jazz and Creative Institute, started the Kalamazoo Youth Jazz Orchestra last fall. Since then, they have seen a spike of interest in learning jazz in the Kalamazoo region. They're now able to offer jazz lessons to people of all ages with Jazz Academy, which offers weekly 30- or 60-minute lessons, plus group sessions and public concerts.  On Sunday, they and other faculty members will host an open house to give anyone a chance to ask questions, see the teaching studios, and witness a jazz session hosted by the faculty members of the Academy. The open house is Sunday, Sep 23 from 3 - 6 pm at 310 N. Rose Street. The Danemans gave Cara Lieurance a preview. (listen here)

What Are You Going To Do With That Jazz? Workshop Gives Students Options (By Rebecca Thiele)

The Summer JazzStart program is a three-day workshop put on by the new Kalamazoo Jazz and Creative Institute. The institute will host a free show Wednesday night at The Union Cabaret & Grille. (listen here)


Encore Magazine, 2018

These cats are cool; New youth jazz orchestra fills niche in local music scene (By Theresa Coty O’Neil)

The next best thing to watching a professional jazz orchestra perform is watching a youth jazz orchestra perform, especially one that’s newly minted, as the Kalamazoo Youth Jazz Orchestra is.

The 18-member KYJO includes high school musicians from 10 school districts and one home school. On a late afternoon in February, the orchestra visited Woods Lake Elementary to perform for Kids in Tune, an after-school orchestra program supported by the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Communities in Schools and the Kalamazoo Public Schools.

A couple of rapt young boys perched on the stage behind the drummers, surveying each move and swinging their legs to the beat as Director Benje Daneman led the KYJO through “Tiptoe,” a standard by Thad Jones.

When the song finished, Daneman asked the KIT students how the music made them feel, and they responded with words like “smooth,” “happy,” “hungry” and “cool.” These jazz musicians are hip — they’re finger-snapping, toe-tapping, head-nodding cats.

Launched last fall, the KYJO offers high school youth the opportunity to connect with others who love jazz and want to make music at a higher level while also being exposed to professionals in the field. With rehearsals every other week, the audition-only orchestra came together quickly and was much more successful that Daneman anticipated. Students and their families have been enthusiastic.

“Emotionally, I connect my life with jazz a lot more than I do with other music,” says Roger Roets, a junior saxophonist from Hastings. “There’s not many people in my school who are actually like me in this way. There’s so much talent here. It really ups my game.” (link to full article)