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Indianapolis jazz sceneJimmy McDaniels’ life celebrated in exhibit at Butler University

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Indianapolis is already known to many people as the “Racing Capital of the World” and the “Amateur Sports Capital of the World.”

Thanks to its rich musical legacy however, others might call the city the “Jazz Capital of the Midwest.”

The Indianapolis jazz scene and one of the individuals who made it popular, the late Jimmy McDaniels√, is being celebrated with a special exhibit on display now at Butler University’s Irwin Library.

Entitled “The Leader of the Band,” the exhibit will be shown until Sept. 30, and include photographic images and information detailing the life of McDaniels. Affectionately called “The Piano Man,” McDaniels was a popular soloist with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and played in well-known supper clubs throughout the country.

McDaniels, who died in April 2009 at age 80, was one of the first members of the Indianapolis Jazz Foundation Hall of Fame. He was known both for his humanitarian contributions and professional ties to legends of jazz, including Cab Calloway, Nat “King” Cole, Rosemary Clooney, Lionel Hampton and Joe Williams.

Organizers hope students and other guests will be inspired by viewing the major highlights of McDaniels’ life. The exhibit is being presented by the Jimmy McDaniels Foundation, which is designed to provide educational grants to young musicians in Indianapolis, McDaniels’ adopted hometown, and Birmingham, Ala., which is near his birthplace.

The Jimmy McDaniels Scholarship is currently being offered at Butler University for students in the School of Music in the Jordan College of Fine Arts, where McDaniels once taught a jazz course.

Marla McDaniels Heath, president of the Jimmy McDaniels Foundation, said the exhibit, which will travel across the nation, is the organization’s primary vehicle of growing scholarship programs in an era when music education is endangered at universities forced to increase tuition or make budget cuts.

“It is a lasting tribute to a man who gave unselfishly to his profession, his community and his family,” Heath said.“We hope it will inspire the next generation of musical talent to follow in his footsteps.”

Bobby Fong, president of Butler University, believes the exhibit will help motivate students and other guests to keep pursuing their dreams, whether or not their goals involve music.

“When students receive scholarships that support their dreams, they know that they have friends standing with them, encouraging them to do their best and explore their creativity,” Fong said. “Through the thoughtfulness of those who support the foundation, the name of Jimmy McDaniels and his high standards for performance will motivate students for years to come.”

You can e-mail Brandon Perry at Brandon-recorder@indy.rr.com.

Jazz great appearing Friday

Jazz trumpeter, national recording artist and Indianapolis native Pharez Whitted® will perform during Jazz on the Avenue, which will take place Aug. 27 from 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. inside the Casino Ballroom of the Madame Walker Theatre, 617 Indiana Ave.

A graduate of Shortridge High School, Whitted has played with artists such as Freddie Hubbard, Slide Hampton, Branford Marsalis, Aretha Franklin and Chaka Khan.

For more information, call (317) 236-2099 or visit walkertheatre.com.

Check it out

What: “The Leader of the Band” an exhibit on the life of Jimmy McDaniels

When: Now until Sept. 30

Where: Irwin Library at Butler University, 4600 Sunset Ave.

Admission: Exhibit free and open to public.

For more information, call (317) 940-9227 or visit thejimmymcdanielsfoundation.org.

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