Despite low attendance, those in the crowd at Friday night’s jazz concert at the Garfield Park Conservatory seemed to enjoy themselves, and the event’s sponsors also gained new members.
The June 16 Jazz Under the Stars at the conservatory, 300 N. Central Park, was a sparsely populated, but festive occasion, according to those in attendance. Organized by the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance and the West Side Reunion Committee, the eighth annual event took place in the Blue Stone Terrace, the conservatory’s outdoor patio space. Slightly fewer than 100 people attended.
The evening featured several performances by Vanessa Holmes, accompanied by the jazz quintet of Uncle Bert and the In Flight Band. DJ William “The Maestro” Brown was also in-house.
A winding walk through several of the Conservatory’s labyrinth-like display houses led attendees to the terrace: a lush courtyard surrounded by a myriad of plants and flowers from all corners of the world. The conservatory-the West Side’s “landscape art under glass”- houses Oak Leaf Hydrangeas from North America, Blue Geraniums from Europe and Asia, and a Madagascar Palm, indigenous to the island of the same name. Those are just a few of the eclectic botany around this courtyard.
“This is an excellent conservatory,” said Laurel, an Austin resident who asked that her last name not be published. “Anytime you hear that they’re [Alliance] going to be putting something on, you want to pay attention.”
During “The Maestro’s” first set of smooth jazz, Bob and Kathy Boylan, husband and wife of 32 years, danced for several numbers, their attire matching shades of green. Bob also sported a Havana smoking shirt and a straw hat; his wife, a zebra-printed dress, with a similarly-colored sun-hat. The couple braved the heat prior to sun down to trip the light fantastic.
The high temperature may have deterred others, though, as the dance floor was largely unpopulated.
“This is absolutely wonderful,” Bob said, in reference to the event. Kathy echoed his enthusiasm, saying, “We love jazz.”
The Old Irving Park and Elmhurst residents (they split their time between two homes) are also a volunteer dancing troupe that bill themselves “Smooth Urban Gliders.” Edwin B. Mason of Old Town was in attendance this evening with a friend from Plainfield. Mason described the evening as “relaxing.”
“I think it’s a great Friday activity to meet with people,” he said.
The first “Jazz Under the Stars,” was in 2003. Although last Friday’s event fell short of the 150-200 attendees projected by organizers, the event nevertheless benefitted.
Like Laurel and the Boylans, Mason became a member of the conservatory that evening with the price of admission. All told, 34 people signed for new memberships. The Alliance touted the program as a perk for Conservatory members, who were charged a reduced admission fee. Non-members paid $35, which came with a one-year individual membership. A base membership is $25, making the prices essentially the same.
“Often thought about it, and this is a good way to do it,” said Laurel, describing the manner in which she received her membership.
The nonprofit Alliance is headquartered at the Conservatory. Although it receives some city and state funding, it relies mostly on donations and memberships. One of the Conservatory’s primary goals has been to attract more local members, according to both Alliance President Eunita Rushing, and Katherine Schultz, operations manager for group.
Rushing added that more emphasis has been placed upon community outreach in recent years.
“People were interested, we just needed to get the word out,” she said, noting that the Alliance targets newspapers, social venues, schools, and businesses to gain members.