John E. Lawrence, a resident and musician of Ypsilanti, hosts a series of free jazz concerts throughout the summer called “The Ypsilanti Frog Island Jazz Series”.
Lawrence, a music teacher and director of the Music Performance Program at Washtenaw Community College, has been playing guitar since the age of 9. In addition to being a guitarist, songwriter and performer, he is also an author.
“I wrote about 16 instruction books on how to play the guitar,” Lawrence explained.
Lawrence shared that a year before the pandemic he had written hundreds of songs every day, which also led to what kept him busy during the pandemic.
“A year before the pandemic, I decided I was going to lock myself in the house and record my ‘Masterpiece’ CD,” Lawrence said. “I was going to write, record, produce, and the goal was to record 30 songs and cut them down to the best 12. After about three months, I had 60 songs.”
When three months turned into six months, he ended up with around 125 songs that the pandemic had started by then, which led to more songwriting. Lawrence shared that he spent 15 to 20 hours a day in his studio for those two years. In total, Lawrence wrote over 250 songs that sparked the idea and enthusiasm to create a jazz series so that performers and participants could once again enjoy jazz music in a concert setting.
“Music is what got me through the pandemic,” Lawrence said.
His new CD, “Masterpiece: Vol. 1”, as well as his previous CDs can be streamed on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music and SoundCloud. CDs are also available for purchase. He will be in the first part each night of the series.
The purpose of this concert series is to bring the Ypsilanti community together after the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many canceled events and moved some to a virtual setting over the past year.
“Once the restrictions were lifted, I wanted to do a series of free concerts for the public,” Lawrence said. “They are ready to go out and do something.”
The event is scheduled every Friday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. starting July 2 and will run throughout the summer until September 3. Originally, the concert was to take place at Frog Island Park, located in the deposit town of Ypsilanti. Due to flooding last week, the event will be held across the street in Riverside Park until further notice. The relocation will allow the Frog Island ground time to dry out again. If precipitation occurs during the scheduled time of the event, the concert will take place at the Ypsilanti Freighthouse (100 Market Place) in Depot Town.
Lawrence encourages people to go out and visit local restaurants and historic places before / after the event to support Ypsilanti’s Depot Town. During the concert, attendees can bring their own lawn chair, blankets and coolers, as well as visit the food truck vendors who will be on site during the event. A souvenir booklet is also available for purchase during events at a cost of $ 10 as well as visiting kiosks set up by the artists.
The setlist is as follows:
The performers of this event are eager to be able to share their music with the Ypsilanti community. Randy Scott, professional musician, record producer and songwriter, said he can’t wait to perform his new music for the first time.
“After an incredibly difficult year for everyone, I can’t wait to perform at the Frog Island Jazz Series on September 3rd,” said Scott. “Not only will it be a great opportunity for everyone in the area to enjoy the music live., It will also be an opportunity for me to share new music from my latest album, ‘Elevation’ … extremely lucky to have had this first record at # 1 on Billboard, and the Frog Island Jazz Series will be my first opportunity to play part of it live with my amazing band.
Straight Ahead bassist Marion Hayden is looking forward to July 9, when she and her band will perform on the series.
“Our band, Straight Ahead, actually performed several times at the Frog Island Jazz and Blues Festival,” said Hayden. Meanwhile, the festival brought together resident, national and international artists for a spectacular three-day musical event. The energy and warmth that accompanied this concert in the heart of downtown Ypsilanti were truly missed. Ypsilanti has always had a vibrant arts and music scene. We know the Frog Island Jazz Series will be a fantastic event. “
The concert series is also looking for sponsors. Sponsorship levels include Super Titanium, Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Table Sponsorship. To learn more about how to become a sponsor, visit the Sponsorships tab on the event website.
For more information and updates regarding the event, visit their website, Instagram, Facebook or contact Lawrence at [email protected]