Jazz in the Park Returns for 2018!

Monday night Jazz in the Park is back for a new season of outdoor concerts that continue to draw record crowds to Grand Rapids!

In its 18th year, The West Michigan Jazz Society has been producing jazz concerts that are a tradition on the summer events calendar and one of the most popular events in the city.

Downtown Grand Rapids at Ah-Nab-Awen Park.  WMJS has secured a total of 10 event dates where the community and visitors alike, can come together and listen to the classic sounds of America’s original genre of music….Jazz!

The 2018 Jazz in the Park Concert Series will run from June 11th through August 20thShows from 6:30-8:30.

June 11 - The Byron Center High School Jazz Orchestra

The Byron Center High School jazz program is ranked as one of the top high school jazz programs in the state. Over the last decade the orchestra has had a tremendous amount of success on both the state and national level. For the past five years they have been invited to perform at the Swing Central Jazz Festival which is part of the Savannah (GA) Music Festival. They are a two time finalist at the prestigious Essentially Ellington festival hosted by Wynton Marsalis at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City. Experiences like these make for a valuable and exciting musical education experience for these young musicians. Byron Center is fortunate to have wonderful parent, school, and community support.

June 18 - Kathy Lamar and Friends

Vocalist Kathy Lamar will be joined by pianist Bob Vanstee, drummer Mark Weymouth, bassist Warren Jones and John Gist playing saxes and flute. Lamar's diverse repertoire includes a blend of jazz, R&B, soul and pop hits pulled from many decades. She can please most any crowd as there is always something for everyone. Her enthusiasm and heartfelt desire to entertain audiences is evident in every performance. Lamar has a lively stage presence and audiences love her powerful yet soothing voice as well as her infectious laugh. After singing for more than 40 years, many of those in Las Vegas,  Lamar says she feels blessed and her mantra remains- “Singing is where I feel the most comfortable and I’m the happiest, especially when I see other people digging it, too, that’s the real gift".

June 25 - Behn Gillece Quartet

Vibraphonist Behn Gillece will take the stage with Ken Fowser on tenor, Justin Sekelewski on bass, and Kevin Daly on drums. Gillece travels extensively all over the USA as well as internationally, performing with top musicians. Gillece is immersed in the New York jazz scene where he has built a reputation not only as a virtuosic instrumentalist but a prolific composer as well. In addition to his busy performance schedule, he is also a music educator teaching vibraphone and jazz ensembles at university level. Some of his awards and honors include winning the 2008 Jazz Improvisation competition at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention, participating in the 2009 Betty Carter Jazz Ahead residency, and winning the Generations competition in 2009. In 2014 Gillece began endorsing Malletech and has been using instruments made by the company ever since.

July 9 - The Paul Keller's At Sunset Quintet

Bassist, composer, arranger, band leader and jazz educator Paul Keller is well known as a world-class jazz bassist. Among Keller's recent adventures are a 30-day tour of Australia with jazz superstar Diana Krall, a week with Taipei Jazz Orchestra at the Taiwan Jazz Festival, 7 concerts across Brazil with John Pizzarelli and sold out shows at San Francisco’s SF JAZZ with saxophonist Harry Allen. Last year, 13 of Keller's original orchestra arrangements where performed at Carnegie Hall by Dave Bennett and the New York Pops. The quintet features vocalist/clarinetist Sarah D’Angelo, an entertaining jazz vocalist who connects instantly with her audiences delivering heartfelt and personal interpretations of familiar songs. On tenor saxophone will be Steve Wood, on piano Duncan McMillan and on drums Stephen Boegehold. Their program for this concert will include songs from their new PKO Records CD, “My Blue Heaven”.

July 16 - Ivan Akansiima

Ivan Akansiima is a jazz musician and scholar from Uganda, East Africa. His musical inspiration and enrichment developed from listening to and playing along with everything from black and southern gospel, jazz, country and world music. Akansiima also plays acoustic and rhythm guitar but in 2002 he discovered he had a passion for the piano and immersed himself in studying the instrument. He has performed professionally for over 15 years in 40 countries, including a national world music tour across the United States and Canada. He has a CD to his credit titled "Uganda Meets Jazz". Performing with Akansiima will be Ian Thompson, an electric/upright bassist, freelance musician and educator based in Grand Rapids. In 2015, Thompson received a Music Performance degree from Grand Rapids Community College where he studied classical bass with Michael Crawford and jazz bass with the late prestigious bassist/pianist David Hay. Thompson has made a name for himself as a flexible go-to bassist on the music scene, performing with Big Band Nouveau, the Grand Rapids Jazz Orchestra and other mainstay jazz musicians in Grand Rapids.

July 23 - Michael Doyle & Evidence

Started by saxophonist Michael Doyle when he moved to West Michigan from New York, Evidence has been a hard bop haven for some of the state's best jazz players for over twenty years. The band's credits include performances with guitarist Mark Elf and vibraphonist Jim Cooper, as well as appearances at the annual Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp Jazz Festival, the Lansing Old Town Jazz Festival, and GRandJazzFest. Evidence has also performed on live broadcasts for local jazz radio stations and their recordings have received local, regional, and national airplay. "Evidence provides a great example of how much great jazz is being made." -Shaun Dale www.jazzreview.com. “Solid and entertaining" says Mark F. Turner (www.allaboutjazz.com). The group consists of Brad Fritcher, trumpet and flugelhorn; Michael Doyle, tenor/soprano saxophones and flute; Steve Talaga, piano and Tom Lockwood on bass. Augmenting the stage and adding Latin rhythms will be their Puerto Rican guest percussionists Davey Pagen, Brian Ordoñez and Santos Rodriguez.

July 30 - The John Proulx Trio

John Proulx, a jazz pianist, vocalist, recording artist and Grammy Award-winning composer is a Grand Rapids native. Proulx had lived and studied in Chicago and Los Angeles to further his musical pursuits. Proulx also spent time at the prestigious Feinstein’s at the Loews Regency hotel New York City playing a nightly solo piano/vocal engagement. His singing style has elicited comparisons with a young Chet Baker and his piano playing is hot and swinging. Proulx has co written songs with Melissa Manchester and his compositions have been recorded by Nancy Wilson, Mary Stallings and Deana Martin.  Proulx has appeared on Michael Feinstein’s NPR radio show “Song Travels” as well as Marian McPartland’s radio show “Piano Jazz”. He will be joined on stage by Fred Knapp on drums and Rob Hartman on bass.

Attendance for each concert ranges from 1,500 – 3,000 people each Monday night. The concert series has a rich history of word-of-mouth advertising that has brought successful community engagement over the years.  In addition, we are broadening the reach of the series with our new media partners and anticipate that our attendance will continue to grow in our new location downtown. Special Thank You to:

  • WYCE

  • Blue Lake Radio

  • WGVU

Various levels of sponsorship are available.

Click here for a scholarship app!

Part of WMJS's mission statement is to provide music scholarships for deserving students in pursuit of jazz education.The 2018 Music scholarships are ready to receive requests! PLEASE help us get the word out and direct worthy candidates here!
Other Jazz Happenings

Summer Learning Opportunities for Music Students of All Ages!

Calvin College

Aquinas College

​G​rand Rapids Academy of Music​

​Blue Lake Fine Arts

St. Cecilia