, Salem, MA

September 18, 2013

Concert a boost for Peabody Cultural Collaborative

By Cheryl Lecesse

---- — PEABODY — The Peabody Cultural Collaborative hopes Roomful of Blues leads not just to a roomful of people, but also reinvigorated excitement in the city’s downtown.

For its first major fundraiser since gaining nonprofit status over the summer, the collaborative will bring the jazz, swing and blues music of Roomful of Blues to City Hall’s Wiggin Auditorium Oct. 4.

“It’s a first in the city to have a blues band of this caliber,” said Jacky Ankeles, a board member of the collaborative and chairwoman of the organization’s Concert Committee. “It’s exciting because we’re so used to having to go someplace else for this kind of music.”

Ankeles described the band, made up of seven musicians and one vocalist, as a blend of jump, blues and soul, swing and rock ’n’ roll.

“They’re also known for their horn section — their horn section is incredible,” she said. “They’re going to be great because the acoustics at the Wiggin is superb.”

Roomful of Blues is also celebrating its 45th anniversary this year — although its membership has changed over the years. It was inducted into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame in 2012.

“The band is really an institution in the blues music world,” Ankeles said. “They’ve got over 20 albums to their credit.”

The Peabody Veterans Memorial High School Jazz Band will open the show.

“For the students to be playing on the same bill as such a prestigious jazz band — it’s a great chance for them,” Ankeles said.

The collaborative hopes that the money the concert raises will help it promote homegrown musicians, artists and events — and the city in general.

According to Susan Ring Brown, a volunteer with the collaborative, the group got its start when different organizations within the city began to talk about how they could support each other.

“The goal of the collaborative is more to market what other groups are already doing,” Brown said. “We’re trying to support each other and make sure that the community is aware of everything that’s being offered.”

That support goes beyond the cultural community, extending to include local businesses in an effort to promote the overall vitality of the city and the region.

“I know we’ve seen it on the Arc’s part,” said Brown, as people who come to Northeast Arc’s regular public art exhibits often make a night of it, taking in dinner in Peabody Square.

The collaborative has its own website and an active presence on Facebook, through which its volunteers get the word out about cultural events happening in the city. Among the collaborative’s partner organizations are the Peabody Art Association, the Peabody Historical Society, the Peabody Institute Library and Northeast Arc, which owns a multipurpose building on Foster Street that has become an arts center for the city.

“A number of people who are involved in the Cultural Collaborative board are also involved in the new downtown organization,” Brown said. The city itself is intricately involved, as well; Community Development Director Karen Sawyer is the collaborative’s current president.

Much of the collaborative’s work ties into other efforts to promote Peabody’s downtown, including the recent Peabody Square traffic configuration.

While the Roomful of Blues concert is the collaborative’s largest sponsored event to date, it’s not the first. Every month, the collaborative also hosts the Painter’s Pub, a public event where people can learn to paint a specific scene while enjoying light appetizers and wine.

Open to all, the Painter’s Pub takes place on the last Wednesday of every month at the ArcWorks Community Arts Center.

And next year, the collaborative is planning a cocktail reception that will provide different cultural organizations with an opportunity to promote their activities. Like the Oct. 4 concert, this reception is set to take place at the Wiggin Auditorium.

“We want to reach out to more cultural organizations in the city,” Brown said.

Cheryl Lecesse can be reached at 978-338-2664 or