About Us

A Home for Jazz !

MERRIMANS' PLAYHOUSE MISSION:

To promote the art and education of jazz in our community. 

Merrimans' Playhouse is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) venue, established as an arts and educational organization.

 
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Our Story

"Art is about breaking new ground, where the artist strives to change the way audiences see music, visual art and literature." - Stephen Merriman

"... in an absolute sense, jazz is more a certain process - a spontaneity - than a style." - Bill Evans

Merrimans' Playhouse was founded by Stephen Merriman and Mary Merriman, who began their Jazz Performance Series in December of 2006. We incorporated in 2017 as a 501(c)(3). It is a place to experience intimate, live jazz, providing cutting edge sonic art that is performed genuinely and consistently at a high level. Our venue is conducive to nurturing the art of improvisation, where the artist has the freedom to present their work to an appreciative audience, in a room designed to augment the dynamics of the music. It is a Listening Room, a Sonic Art Gallery. In addition, its outreach to the community through collaborative experiences remains a hallmark of its work to promote jazz music in the northern Indiana region.

CURRENT COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION

 

  • Jazz Performance Series: Featuring touring regional, national, and international jazz musicians, which occasionally includes a jazz clinic for area jazz artists and students. We have Increased the number of concerts we will present per week, for both local and touring groups.
     

  • Home Grown Jazz Performance Series: Now in its sixth year, these concerts highlight our area jazz ensembles.

  • Chamber Arts Series: Chamber ensembles to perform concerts. These may include chamber jazz, classical, or other traditional music. We wish to create a sonic arts experience for music in a more intimate and educational way. These concerts will include an educational element where the artists can explain the history of the music, the intent of the music and performance, how they may work together as a collective, etc. It will offer a more in-depth experience of the chamber ensemble, or solo artist, to create an opportunity for the audience to learn more about the art and the artists.

 

  • Student Jazz Performance Series: Feature area, regional or touring college and high school students. Highlights groups either affiliated with their school or have independent projects and recordings.

 

  • Weekly Jazz Open Session for local jazz musicians and students are held every Monday. Sessions include discussion of songs, feel, forms and chords, and emphasizes how to listen and work democratically as a musical collective. 

 

  • Weekly jazz radio program - This is the Gig on WETF 105.7 FM. This program, hosted by Stephen and Mary Merriman, provides the jazz community and listeners with educational information on the art of jazz, the various jazz genres, highlighting ensembles who perform at Merrimans’ Playhouse, as well as live interviews with the performing artists. (currently on hiatus)

 

  • Summer Jazz Series - Merrimans’ Playhouse @ the Snite:  Four concerts are curated and presented at the University of Notre Dame (UND) Snite Museum of Art. (We have been partnering with the museum since 2015.

 

  • Regular collaboration with other area collegiate jazz programs and area jazz festivals to promote jazz.

 

  • The venue provides a Recital Hall for teachers and students, with a 9 foot grand piano available.

FUTURE PLANS, PROJECTS, and IDEAS

 

  • WVPE Radio Program – Merrimans’ Playhouse Radio Hour:  We have been invited by WVPE 88.1 FM (our local NPR station) to produce a monthly radio show on their radio station. The show would be an hour long program where we record an interview the artists before the concert, and record their concert. This is a great opportunity to really learn and understand the music presented, and the artists’ intent with their music. The interview portion of the program will offer educational insight to the background of the artists’, their intentions with their music and compositions, as well as their process of creating. Target 2022.

 

  • Student Jazz Open Session:  As an extension of our Jazz Open Session, we want to offer a Student Jazz Open Session. This would be an hour long session with the core rhythm section of Merrimans’ Play-House Players, at a separate time than our regular open session. This will allow the opportunity to have the budding jazz musicians/students practice and perform with seasoned players in a non-intimidating environment. It’s important for musicians to learn how to play with other musicians in real time to really get the feel of performing jazz. Practicing at home is only part of the learning process. Playing with other musicians builds on this, not only for learning feel, timing, forms, soloing over changes, and dynamics, but also how to listen, and work with other people in a democratic way. This separate time will help build the confidence of the student, so that if the student feels comfortable, they can start sitting in with the regular Jazz Open Sessions. Target beginning of 2022.

 

  • Jazz Clinics from Touring Artists:  Increase the frequency of jazz masterclasses and clinics. Network more with the area colleges, universities, high schools, and middle schools. Ongoing discussions with musicians.

 

  • Jazz Lunch Hour – Whitewater Lunch Series: Have carry-in dining with informal concerts of area jazz musicians, student ensembles, and open sessions. Target spring 2022
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  • Big Band Series Featuring our local musicians, rotate the diverse group projects in our region weekly (planning Wednesdays). Plan to Feature Darrel Tidaback’s big band arrangements, our Latin community bands, and other local “swing” or “big-band” projects. Target winter 2021 - 2022.
     

  • East Bank Village Jazz Festival. Target 2023

 

  • Chamber Recitals:  Increase frequency of student recitals, and invite other chamber ensembles to perform concerts and recitals. We would like to host senior recitals. Target 2022.

 

  • Recording StudioRent out the grand piano and space for recording sessions. In process.

 

  • Jazz Library and Retail: We would like to have a corner in our venue to have a jazz and arts library of music and books that may be checked out. We also have ideas for selling recordings of sonic art not well represented in our culture, such as jazz, modern classical, and avant-garde. We also want to include music books such as jazz “fake books” or instructional books.

 

  • Art Gallery: Allow artists to hang their “Art Shows” in our venue. The artists can rotate their “shows”.

 

  • Documentary Film Series: Recognizing Genius: jazz, arts, science.

 

  • Café: We would like to work with local food/coffee businesses to collaborate with us for an artistic café concept: A jazz arts café. Target early 2022.

 MERRIMANS' PLAYHOUSE HISTORY

  • Merrimans’ Playhouse founded in 2006. From 2006 to 2011 jazz concerts were presented at South Bend Century Center's Recital Hall.

  • In 2011, the organization opened its own venue at 1211 Mishawaka Avenue, South Bend.

  • Articles of Incorporation were filed, and nonprofit status awarded in 2017.

  • In 2020, Merrimans’ Playhouse moved to the new venue location at the Commerce Center building on Colfax Ave, in the East Bank Village of Downtown South Bend. We re-opened during the COVID-19 pandemic July 29, 2021.

 
 
 
 

Meet The Board

 

Videos

 

Our Grants, Sponsors, and Donors

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The Esther and George Jaruga Charitable Foundation

Brent and Carolyn Banulis
Charitable Donations

Jeffery Miller - stage/sound equipment, and sound recording services

Jim Leep - stage/sound equipment, and sound engineer services

 

Concerts and events made possible, in part, with support from the Wells Fargo Philanthropic Services provided by grants from the Stanley A. and Flora P. Clark Memorial Community Trust Foundation (2020-2021 season), the John, Anna, and Martha Jane Fields Memorial Trust Foundation (2021-2022 season), the Florence V. Carroll Charitable Trust (2021-2022 season), and The Esther and George Jaruga Charitable Foundation (2020-2021 and 2021-2022 season).

 

The Student and Home Grown Series concerts made possible, in part, with support from the ArtsEverywhere Grant from the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County, and the Arts Project Support Grant and the Arts Recovery Grant through the Indiana Arts Commission.

The 2020/2021 new venue location build-out and renovations made possible by The Esther and George Jaruga Charitable Foundation and by generous donations from Brent and Carolyn Banulis (in memory of Billy Sticks Nicks), as well as many patrons from the community, whom are included in the listing below.

 

We thank all our sponsors and donors throughout our journey:

 

Don Lerman, Donna and Mark Richter, Beth Haviland, Wendell and Nancy Walsh, Brock Berta, Larry and Debra Dwyer, April Lidinsky and Kenn Smith, James Curlee, Lyn Spillman and Russ Faeges, Chris VanderBossche, Fred Greiner and Margaret Whitmer, Steven Rosenblum, Ben Rosenblum, Billie Wolfe, Daniel Stecich, Carole Walton, Anne Montgomery, Shanon Guinan, Michael and Gitti Wiescher, Linda DeCicco, Chris French, Margaret Bonen, Patricia Doyle, Anthony Berardi, Steven Francis, Alan and Carys Kresny, Ron Monsma, Javier Resendiz, Patricia and Craig Rogers, Wendell and Nancy Walsh, Carmen Piasecki, Bill Lamie, Robert Easley, Rich Cohen and Susan Merriman,Ani Aprahamian, David Hachen (photography from early concerts), Merrimans' Complete Piano Service, Jeff and Holly Swanson, Stan, Ivan and Annie, Marty and Karen, Eliud Villanueva, Philip Schatz, Ed Lockman, David Molenda, Barry and Becky Wertz, Linda Regelean, Tony Zmirski, Suzanne Mann, Darrel Tidaback and Laurel Thomas, Paul Kolon, Michael Allen, Richard Cullar, Danny Dean, Roger Cox, Tawrin Baker, and Randy Kelly.

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Thank you to all our SPONSORS for helping us purchase the Young Chang 9 ft. Grand Piano for Our Stage!