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Thursday, April 2, 2020

Whatcom Jazz Music Arts Center fills the Bellingham community with music and art.

Sage Romey performs at Cafe Adagio during the Jazz Walk on Oct 2. // Photo by Max Gleiberman

By Max Gleiberman

Whatcom Jazz Music Arts Center (WJMAC) held their Jazz Walk fundraiser on Oct. 2,  serenading the streets with the sounds of jazz. The event took place at a variety of venues downtown, including Camber, Brandywine, Café Adagio, the Cabin and Sylvia Center for The Arts.

This is just one of the many events WJMAC puts on throughout the year, making them an active part of the Bellingham music and arts community. The jazz center, which is housed in the Sylvia Center for the Arts, has been around since 2013 and has been a haven for jazz artists and enthusiasts alike. 

Every Wednesday from September to July, WJMAC puts on a jazz night. Another program the center runs is called Jazz Combo, which began on Sept. 30 and aims to help students in jazz with their performance and improve skills.  

Dave McConnell, co-head board member at WJMAC said he’s been with the organization since it started and says everyone involved is in love with jazz.

McConnell said that he believes that the WJMAC truly enriches Bellingham as a whole. 

One way they impact the community is through the connection WJMAC has with local high schools. McConnell said most of the students who play in big bands at school are not getting enough individual attention and playing time. Kids very seldomly get to work in small groups, and WJMAC provides those small classes for these students, which allows them to fully excel.

“We want to enable and encourage young people who are interested in jazz to have a chance to learn about it and grow,” McConnell said.  

Sage Romey, who performed at Café Adagio during Jazz Walk, is a WJMAC volunteer and performer as well as a third-year  Western student studying music. Romey moved to Bellingham three years ago, and said she wasn’t expecting a small town to have such a good jazz scene. She said it was cool to see nationally recognized performers coming to Bellingham. 

“WJMAC definitely helped me settle into Bellingham,” Romey said. “I talked to WJMAC board and from there, got connected with the community which created opportunities to perform. “They encourage the students to go out and play, get gigs and get you ready to be a professional musician.”

She now interns, volunteers and performs during Jazz Walk.  

Karee Wardrop, co-head board member of WJMAC, said the non-profit organization is run by volunteers where the goal isn’t money, rather it is about making music and building community.  

Wardrop said the mission of the organization is to bring great jazz to Bellingham and educate jazz musicians, while bringing people together and enhancing the community. 

“I don’t look at the arts as an extracurricular activity, but I think they’re an essential,” Wardrop said. “If the arts were part of the core curriculum, we would be in a better place.”

Wardrop encouraged Western students and other young adults to check out the organization.  

“This is the place to be for passionate artists,” Wardrop said. 


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