Jonette Greenhow, 50, still remembers when Mr. Robinson’s Music School, once located on Fifth Avenue in Maywood, relocated to another suburb.
“George Robinson used to play for Canaan [AME Church in Maywood] for many, many years,” Greenhow said. “I was in the eighth grade when he had his school. I think I was in high school when he went over to Forest Park and became a teacher there. That’s how long Maywood has not had a music school.”
Greenhow, the administrative assistant in Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins’ office and a Proviso East alumnus, beamed with pride on Sept. 21, as her old classmate, Proviso East alumnus D’Erania Stampley, hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Jazz Desires located at 1213 S. 17th Ave. in Maywood — likely the first standalone music school to open in the village since Mr. Robinson’s left.
Stampley, a Grammy-nominated saxophonist whose musical chops have taken her all over the world, said that she returned to her hometown of Maywood to offer area young people the opportunities that her son, Jahari Stampley, has had.
“My son was in a music program like this and he went on to do well as a pianist,” Stampley said, adding that Jahari recently won the $6,000 Bösendorfer prize at the international 2019 American Jazz Pianists Association Competition.
“I saw how beneficial those types of programs were to him and thought it would be nice to have something similarly beneficial in our neighborhood,” Stampley said, adding that she once worked as an instruction with Maywood Fine Arts, the venerable nonprofit that offers instruction in dancing, music, art and other areas.
Stampley’s own musical evolution was rather circuitous. She learned the piano as a young girl by listening to her mother, a local gospel organist who played at several churches in Chicago and Maywood, where the family lived.
Stampley said that she was introduced to the saxophone, the instrument that she’s mastered, in high school, when she came across an album by the famous jazz saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter.
Stampley, who lives in Chicago, hasn’t looked back since — except to return to the village where she grew up and to which she now wants to give back. She said she and her husband have poured their own money into transforming the storefront space.
“It took us about a year to rehab the property,” she said. “The floors were reclaimed wood. We had to redo the plumbing, upgrade the electrical, that kind of stuff. The upstairs was completely gutted. There’s nothing there right now, but we eventually want to have classes up there, including some studio engineering classes.”
The new nonprofit music school has roughly seven instructors is now accepting students young and old for its fall and winter classes, which include group keyboard, group guitar and group percussion lessons. Classes are affordable: $60 for five weeks.
“We want to work with low-income families,” Stampley said. “We don’t want to turn anyone away. We really want to be a benefit to the community.”
Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins said that Stampley’s new school has been a long time coming for a community that hasn’t had a musical school for a long time. The mayor praised people like Reginald Wright, the former band director at Proviso East, for offering what few opportunities existed for young people in Maywood who wanted formal musical instruction.
“Mr. Wright was one Black man who proved that Black children have the ability to do above and beyond anything you hope or think of,” Perkins said. “We have the ability to do it all.”
For information on how to donate to Jazz Desires or to enroll in classes, click here. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (773) 392-0948.