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Although this part of my adventure in Germany is over, I'm so excited to tell you about the wonderful things that happened to me there. Your support was immeasurable, helped me to achieve all my goals and return home healthy and happy.
Performing throughout Europe for over twenty years, Empress Al-Yasha has toured with her quintet "Jazzy Motions", her trio "Triplex", as well as "Jazz Romances", "Nite Line", the "Berlin Dance Orchestra", the “Golden Gospel Singers”, the “Black Gospel Voices” and her own gospel quintet the "Rite Spirit". She also starred/co-starred in many of Germany’s Broadway musicals including "The Lion King”, "Hair”, the “Buddy Holly Story”, "Sister Act", "Shout" and "Oh Happy Day"...
After graduating from high school, Empress Al-Yasha started her acting career studying and performing at “New Heritage Repertory Theater” in Harlem under the direction of Roger Fuhrman, and at the New Federal Theater (lower east side) under the direction of Woody King Jr.
Upon receiving her Bachelor degree from CUNY, she began a serious career as a dramatic actress appearing regularly in several TV soaps, and later co-starring in Broadway/off-Broadway musicals including “Freedom Train”, "Magic & Lions", “42nd Street” and “How Do You Spell Watergait” as well as touring with her own band “Edge” in the U.S.
The love of music was implanted deep in Empress Al-Yasha's soul from the cradle. Her father, Boysie Anderson, a noted saxophonist played Calypso music, the "house" music of his time, and often took her to gigs and encouraged her to play guitar for his musical colleagues.
Her uncle Cecil Anderson, known as the "Duke of Iron" is credited as the first singer to record calypso in America, making way for other artists including Harry Belafonte who also had hits with some of the Duke’s songs. In the 1952 St. Thomas carnival, the Duke improvised a song he later recorded called "Rain, Don’t Stop the Carnival". Inspired by this famous song, jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins composed and recorded his own “Don’t Stop the Carnival” and later composed and recorded a piece entitled "Duke of Iron" in her uncles’ memory.
At a time when popular music has become so computerized with synthesized beats and sounds, Empress Al-Yasha continues to mesmerize audiences with her original compositions that are as natural, melodious and soul stirring as they are poignant, political and funny.
"Senses" is Empress Al-Yashas' favorite project. Together with Las Vegas based musicians Adigun Hotep/Keyboards, Kenneth Lotus Edmonds/Bass and David Williams II/Drums, she performs an original repertoire that embraces musical styles from jazz, soul, pop and rock.
As director of Jazzclub Alluvium over an 8 year period, I spearheaded the production, organization and coordination of a series of up to 50 concerts per year featuring both professional and novice musicians, produced a monthly television show called "All That Jazz" for Oeins and taught video recording/editing and desktop publishing to our volunteers.
My original idea was to create a concept for acquiring a building that would give the jazz club a new and permanent home. As a result, Alluvium would once again be in a position to maintain its 50-year tradition of providing a performance venue where new and experienced jazz musicians can present their original music and/or musical arrangements.
The first draft written in 2007 was an elementary concept developing an idea for a culture club that would encourage and support live jazz in Oldenburg. I was not yet sure of all the necessary elements. Little did I know I was getting ready for an intense learning experience.
After reading the first draft, my dear friends Linda Rosenkrantz and Cornelia Cruckeberg arranged and/or attended meetings with me to help gather support from local politicians and city officials. I was having lots of fun, although It quickly turned into a never-ending mountain of work.
My working title for the concept was: "Joyful Jazz e.V." Eventually, the board of directors renamed the project: "Wilhelm 13 Musik und Literaturhaus Oldenburg".
To gain support for the project, Alluvium members mounted a grass roots promotional campaign. In addition to carrying out the weekly tasks of our club, colleagues Hayo Prass, Udo Hofmann, Hannes Claus and several other musicians, organized friends, students and jazz enthusiasts to hit the streets passing out flyers and collecting signatures for our project petition.
In the meantime, other groups were also interested in the same building, and city officials were in the process of trying to provide working space for those non-profits too. A merger of the city's literature bureau and the jazz club was suggested to me by a very wise city official. I thought this was a good idea.
The city administration required a detailed proposal including a three-year financial plan for the project. I solicited help from Peter Löffler, a highly successful colleague/business entrepreneur experienced in writing financial plans.
With Peters' expert guidance we went about evolving the concept and motivating Monika Eden (the literature bureau colleague) as well as three other music clubs to partner in the project.
Because of my years of volunteer work for the Jazzclub Alluvium, I was honored by the Mayor of Oldenburg. I also accepted an invitation to take a business course "Project and Event Management" (EduKult) at the Carl von Ossietzky Universität sponsored by a grant from the City of Oldenburg.
While I was waiting for the course to begin, I asked friends and colleagues for advice. By the time the course started, Peter and I had prepared a fourth draft of the proposal and submitted it to Hans-Dieter-Remmers in the citys' culture bureau. There were several different reactions to the idea, all positive and encouraging.
When school started we were already writing the fifth draft of the concept. The course content was complicated and the university lectures were all in German. It was a constant struggle keeping up with the material and working on the project at the same time. However, with Peters' tutelage I met the challenge, and studying the course materials helped me rapidly improve my language skills.
In addition to submitting a 3-year plan, we were required to answer a questionnaire prepared by the city administration and present it to the culture committee:
Organizational structure of the project, procurement of funds required for operation (membership fees,
Sponsorship, surpluses from the catering and beverage sales...), insurance, artists' social contributions, GEMA, advertising and much more. I couldn't have done it without Peter Löffler!!!
Peter was perfecting the documentation while I was developing new ideas and learning how to run a business at the university. With help from my EduKult professors and fellow students as well, the preparations went quite smoothly for the most part.
At times I was somewhat stressed by the seemingly slow process of getting my project approved by the city, as well as the venomous interference of competitors trying to sabotage my project and smear my reputation for the sake of acquiring the venue for their own use, but I never let that slow me down.
My crew and I motivated family, friends and colleagues to get involved. The help that we received from strangers was energizing. Oldenburg really wanted this culture center that would provide an
intimate artistic atmosphere while at the same time supporting five culture clubs with an impressive history of serving the community.
Together with a petition of 5,000 signatures Peter and I made our presentation to the culture committee with a wonderfully historic introduction by the iconic Oldenburger bassist Charlie Ahlers.
Our presentation convinced both the politicians and the city council. We were awarded the building fully renovated, with one year rent free plus 25,000 euro for start up costs from the city, and Hans-Richard Schwarz became my most significant mentor.
The founding members elected from their ranks Judith Ahrend and Norbert Gerdes as directors. Ms. Ahrend, a seasoned attorney promptly commenced negotiations with the city for a lease. The contract was signed in December 2009. Ms. Ahrend, Paul Vogdt and Walter Wagener held the position of chairman consecutively. Since 2016 Mr. Norbert Gerdes is the first chairman.
The final concept for Wilhelm 13 included five partners: The Jazz Club Alluvium, the City Literature Bureau, the Oldenburg Jazz Musicians Initiative, the Folk Music Initiatives and the Singers and Players Club.
Since the opening on 7.2.2010 the jazz club has maintained a continuous concert series featuring internationally renowned musicians, as well as newcomers and veteran performers who share their love and inspiration with Oldenburg's jazz enthusiasts of all ages. The other Partners can also boast a success in the presentation of literature events and music genres including free jazz, folk music and new singer/songwriter composers.
The EduKult course content had been time consuming and the study demanding. I learned a lot and above all, I was able to rely on what I learned in the lectures, the consultations and the practical part of the course. Additionally, my German language skills improved dramatically!
I have since then proven myself to be a creative and competent organizer and have used my skills to organize events in the city of Las Vegas where I spend much of my creative time.
Once again I am setting myself new personal goals. Next project??? I want to make Oldenburg and Las Vegas sisters cities in the pursuit of jazz!