December 14, 2016

Holiday Latin Jazz program celebrates Hispanic culture at Wayne State University’s Gretchen C. Valade Jazz Center

Special guests to include NYC’s Papo Vazquez and the Mighty Pirates Troubadours, WSU’s Big Band and DPSCD’s Jazz Band for a Parranda Navideña. The inaugural event will highlight the unique programming in mid-town.

Latin jazz and Hispanic culture will take center stage along with Wayne State University and local high school students at 3:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 18, as New York City’s Papo Vazquez and the Mighty Pirates Troubadours perform in honor of jazz benefactor Gretchen Valade.

The performance – created through a partnership with Wayne State University’s College of Fine, Performing and Communications Arts (CFPCA) and the Detroit Jazz Festival (DJF) Presented by Quicken Loans – will pay tribute to Valades’s vision and legacy of the jazz tradition and commitment to the university’s jazz program. As an added treat, aspiring musicians from Detroit Public Schools Community District also will perform for the special holiday showcase.

The event, to be held at WSU's Hilberry Theatre, is free to guests and will blend a unique version of Latin and jazz music with added infusion of New York City’s Papo Vazquez. Vazquez has garnered a global reputation for fusing the musical elements of Latin traditional music and jazz improvisation.

Led by Wayne State University Director of Jazz Studies, Professor and Detroit Jazz Festival President and Artistic Director Christopher Collins, the award-winning Big Band will debut new performance pieces that musically weave together Detroit’s jazz sound with unique Latin rhythms. The Big Band has performed at sold-out concerts with several jazz legends at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Max M. Fisher Music Center and to enthusiastic audiences on the main stage of the Detroit International Jazz Festival.

“Together with Wayne State University, one of the oldest jazz studies programs in the country and an integral part of Detroit’s jazz history, Gretchen’s gifts will create a jazz center that celebrates and reflects the true essence of jazz music to jazz students, professional jazz artists and all who come to Midtown to explore new opportunities,” said Collins.

Valade, who is the chair of the Detroit Jazz Festival Foundation, gifted Wayne State University $7.5 million to transform the university’s programming, teaching and scholarship in jazz performance and education, in December 2015.

“We are excited to kick off the Gretchen Valade Jazz Center which will continue to build upon the rich tradition of Detroit jazz,” said Wayne State University College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts Dean Matthew Seeger. “This gift provides an opportunity to further celebrate and educate our students, aspiring musicians and guests who visit the city from all over about the cultural influences that jazz provides to our community.”

In honor of Valade’s gift and future home of the Gretchen Valade Jazz Center, the musicians will perform a “Parranda Navideña” which is a deep-rooted Latin tradition, that engages the community including gift-giving, caroling and delicious Latin-style delicacies.

The Valade gift is part of Wayne State’s Pivotal Moments fundraising campaign, with a goal to raise $750 million by 2018, the 150th anniversary of the university’s founding.

About Gretchen Valade

Gretchen Valade is a Detroit philanthropist who has nurtured a lifelong passion for jazz music. She is chair of the Detroit Jazz Festival Foundation, which oversees the annual Labor Day weekend festival in Detroit. The foundation is an independent, non-profit organization she created that supports the festival. She also established the festival’s $10 million endowment. Valade is founder of Mack Avenue Records of Harper Woods, Mich., and Los Angeles, Calif., and is owner of the Dirty Dog Jazz Café in Grosse Pointe. She also serves on the board of Carhartt Clothing, the company started by her grandfather, Hamilton Carhartt.


Wayne State University’s College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts serves 2,200 students majoring in 16 undergraduate and 11 graduate programs in music, theatre and dance, art and art history and communication. Wayne State University, located in the heart of Detroit’s Midtown Cultural Center, is a premier urban research institution offering more than 380 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to more than 27,000 students.


Da’Stanza Murphy
Phone: 313-577-5448
Steve Blow
Phone: 248-303-1067

Subscribe to Today@Wayne

Direct to your inbox 3 times a week