Danny Kolke, founder of Boxley’s Place, has been named Grand Marshal for the Festival at Mount Si.
Being named a Grand Marshal of a city event is something that he never pictured.
“My reaction was ‘wow.’ I think I said that seven times in a row,” Kolke said.
Having lived in the Valley for almost 18 years, Kolke has made his mark on the town of North Bend. He founded Boxley’s Place, a live jazz club and restaurant, with his wife six years ago. From there he created the Boxley Music Fund, A non-profit foundation that now owns the club, manages the music programming and hosts events like the North Bend Jazz Walk and Blues Walk.
“You can make the argument that it would be more successful in a bigger city but I don’t know if that’s true or not. I think it has the advantage of being part of a small town and in a big city, if it goes away, nobody cares,” Kolke said. “In a small town we become part of the experience, so it’s nice to be part of a community.”
Kolke not only created a jazz club in the city but also teaches kids jazz. He teaches piano, improvisation, and leads Mount Si High School’s Jazz Band 2.
“The kids are learning everything from basic team collaboration, because there are a bunch of them on stage, there’s no arrangement so they are figuring this out on the fly, they also have to learn to be good communicators, who is going to do what first and who goes next,” Kolke said. “There is so much thinking on your feet. I think it’s really great for kids.”
According to Kolke, the reward from all of this is just to see students get excited about the music.
“It’s fun to see kids learn it, and get excited about it, and do well with it,” Kolke said. “It’s rewarding in ways I never expected. We didn’t start this venue to do kids’ programming, it happened by accident and now I can’t imagine not doing it because it’s one of the best things about it.”
One of the opportunities Boxley’s has given young players is the venue to play with older, more experienced musicians. There are times that Kolke has a 12-year-old playing with people who are 70, playing with somebody who’s 40.
“These guys have become friends with people who could be their grandparents,” Kolke said. “It’s really cool to see them develop friendships performing together.”
Last year Kolke let the Boxley Music Fund take over the restaurant, in addition to already running the music programming. More than 200 families are members of the Boxley Music Fund.
“The goal is that it’s less about me and more about the community doing this together,” Kolke said. “I think it’s easy to get so busy and so wrapped up into routines and it’s easy to lose sight of things that are important and doing this project and connecting with the kids as often as I do is a great reminder that it’s very rewarding to invest in other people.”
Through investing in other people, creating events like the jazz and blues walks and Boxley’s itself, Kolke has been able to share his love of music with the community.
“Music is a magical thing, especially when you share it with other people and do it with other people; I can’t say enough positive about that.”