Jazz on the Waterfront

The first program Raven Radio produced was for the Sitka Fine Arts Camp.  We produced it before Raven was even on the air.  Suzi, the kids, and I moved to Sitka from Juneau in the fall of 1980 to help start Raven Radio.  We were in the process of gutting the upper floor of the Cable House to build the studios when Marlene Campbell contacted us.  She was running something called the Southeast Alaska Regional Arts Council (which became Arts Southeast) and she wanted someone to produce spots promoting their main project, the Sitka Fine Arts Camp, to run on stations in Southeast Alaska.  She also wanted to produce a weekly program about the arts that would run on all Southeast Alaska’s public stations, and perhaps some commercial stations.

We didn’t have a studio set up yet, but Suzi and I had a mixer and several tape recorders.  We had a “spare room” in our mobile home in Sollars Trailer Court (more like a large walk-in closet), so we agreed to start producing under the Raven Radio Banner.

Suzi was the producer. I helped with some of the interviews.  The most memorable interview was with Archie James Cavanaugh from Kake, Alaska.  Archie was a musician and Tlingit artist and had just released his first album “Black and White Raven.”  It was a smooth jazz album featuring musicians from the band Redbone and renowned jazz sax player Jim Pepper.  He was excited and we were excited.  His album was the second one in the Raven Radio record library, after a vinyl cut by the great group “The Ravens,” a gift from our sister station KTOO when I moved to Sitka.

And Archie’s jazz album brings us full circle, to the major fundraising event of the Sitka Fine Arts Camp today, Jazz on the Waterfront.

The camp has come a long way since it was founded in 1973 on the Sheldon Jackson Campus.  It has served kids from Southeast Alaska for 50 years, including ours, in fact, after college Kevin was technical director for the camp.  When the college closed in 2007 the camp moved to the Mt. Edgecumbe (the state boarding) High School campus but was on a year-to-year basis.  For a while it was touch and go.  But Roger Schmidt, the director, and former camper, could not let it go.  Roger would walk by the former Sheldon Jackson Campus and saw decaying, boarded up buildings in the middle of his town.  He knew he had to do something.  When the Chairman of the Board of Sheldon Jackson called him and offered him the campus, he, as he put it to Raven Radio, “Jumped off the cliff.”

Over 1000 volunteers put in more than 45,000 hours to restore the campus.  The camp got help from a university offering a program in historic restoration.  The buildings were reroofed, re-windowed, re-painted, and repaired.  The campus was relandscaped.  The campus is now a gem on Sitka’s waterfront.  It serves more than 700 students a year from around the state and country.  It also sponsors artists in residence and regular performances throughout the year.  The campus houses the camp, the Sitka Music Festival, the Sitka Sound Science Center, the Sheldon Jackson Museum, a preschool, and an athletic center.  The arts are a major driver of the Sitka economy.

This year’s Jazz on the Waterfront featured a big band led by Kyle Athayde, who along with his dad and sister have been associated with the camp for years.  Kyle’s big band, “The Kyle Athayde Dance Party” is active in San Francisco and New York.  The theme was secret agents.  The program at each table was a dossier with our mission “should we choose to accept…”  The orders did not self-destruct in 10 seconds.  I took them home and took a picture.

We were supposed to dress the part.  Suzi and I got into it.

We listened to music ranging from Duke Ellington playing film noir classics from the 40s to James Bond themes spanning 6 decades.    

3 thoughts on “Jazz on the Waterfront

  1. This was a very interesting post. So wonderful that the campus could be saved and become something so special for the community.

  2. I always enjoy your informative posts.
    I hope you continue to get better following your part world cruise. Did you get permission to do another cruise?
    I will be in Sitka on Sunday, 30th June on
    Hurtigruten’s Roald Amundsen.

  3. I get clearance, hopefully, on July 7. June 30 is Friday, The Amundsen is in today (June 28) It is in on July 30, Is that when you will be in? With luck I will be just arriving in Southampton.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.