On Tuesday, March 24, Howard and Darlene Sandifer, founders of Chicago West Community Music Center were honored to have legendary artist Jerry Butler attend their class on the business side of music.
Students packed the music room at the Garfield Park Golden Dome where Jerry Butler, now 69, listened to various performances by the young people. One young man, James Tanksley, an aspiring vocalist and an admirer of Jerry Butler, has not let his young age hinder him from learning many of Butler’s songs. Tanksley paid tribute by singing “For Your Precious Love,” one of Butler’s first hits. Tanksley explained that he only found the words the night before but he was determined to learn the words and honor this musical legend.
When Jerry Butler got up to address the students, he said, “I know you know the difference between professional and amateur.”
A student yelled out, “Getting paid.”
Butler said that student could come to the head of the class.
He sang “Let It Be Me” and then pointed to a window. “Now you know what? I’m going to tell you how familiar I am with this part of the world. 303 N. Central Park was where I had my first apartment. My wife and I moved there in 1959. She also attended Lucy Flower School. You all have lifted my spirits. You’re a wonderful group and I wish all of you every success.
Austin Weekly News asked Jerry Butler what made him accept the invitation to Chicago West Community Music Center.
“I know Howard, first of all, and I know his dedication to music. And he told me he was working with children and I said I want to come and see what you are doing. So I have been greatly impressed. … It is a wonderful program.”
Howard Sandifer explained why he invited Butler to his class.
“I had the honor of being part of his workshop back in the 1970s. And as far as I know, he had one of the few workshops where he helped young people. Quincy Jones was known for working with young people out in California. Art Blakley also worked with young people, but Jerry was the only one in Chicago that I knew that opened up his creative doors to work with young folks.
“So I went down to South Michigan where he had an office. At that time, he was working with Gamble and Huff because they were also developing young writers here. He said the team that produced all of those hits such as Natalie Cole and others were down there at the same time. That was an influence on me and I wanted our students to see someone who is very successful in the business but still comes back to the community. He is a living legend.”
One of the parents present, George Owens, was happy to see Jerry Butler, saying, “I’m a graduate of Columbia College and also a parent of some of the students in this program. And it really inspires me to see a program like this being offered on the West Side, because as a Columbia graduate it took me years to learn skills. And for what they can learn here right in their own hometown is a wealth of knowledge.
“They can go out and get jobs and they can go out and better their situations, have a career and money-making jobs. They can better understand what they can do with their talent, such as publishing and things they already possess. And how to make their talents work for them in the music industry. I think we need to have more programs like this.”
Chicago West Community Music Center is at 100 N. Central Park Ave. To learn more about its programs, call 708-386-5315 or go to www.cwcmc.org.