Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The National Blues Museum Opens Its Doors In St. Louis This Saturday

Posted By on Wed, Mar 30, 2016 at 6:28 AM


click to enlarge PHOTO BY KELLY GLUECK
  • Photo by Kelly Glueck
For the chairman of the board of directors of the about-to-open National Blues Museum, Rob Endicott, his introduction to the blues came relatively late in his musical life. A classically trained trumpet player who received his master’s degree from the Juilliard School in 1988 and played with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra during his postgraduate studies, Endicott was a fan and occasional performer of jazz. But his first real exposure to the blues was just eleven years ago, here in St. Louis.

See also: Get a Sneak Peek at St. Louis' New National Blues Museum

“I was playing around town with various groups and somebody was playing with the Voodoo Blues Band — a drummer, I believe,” Endicott says. “He and a couple of the other guys said, ‘Hey, let’s add a horn section to the band.’” The trumpeter of choice for the new brass experiment, Endicott began joining the group for its weekly Sunday-evening jam sessions at Hammerstone’s in Soulard.

That’s when Endicott’s education in the blues began.

“I thought I knew something about it,” he says. “I thought, ‘Oh this’ll be easy.’ You know? ‘I went to Juilliard — got my master’s at Juilliard. I’ve been playing jazz for years and years. Oh, this’ll be fun.’ Which — I was right about that.”

As Saturday’s grand opening of the $14 million, 23,000-square-foot museum looms, the chairman takes some time out of his busy schedule — which also includes membership on the Sheldon Concert Hall board of directors, as well as his day job as a partner at the law firm Bryan Cave LLP — to talk about the museum’s opening, his own musical history and the state of the St. Louis blues scene.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY KELLY GLUECK
  • Photo by Kelly Glueck
“The blues playing in St. Louis on an everyday level is really something to behold,” Endicott says with pride. “How well people would play at a place where there’s no cover, or just a small cover, or on a Tuesday night at eleven o’clock — you sort of think, ‘Man, there’s some really special playing going on that’s just sort of under-appreciated.”

Endicott insists that it was not his connections to the city’s corporate elite via Bryan Cave that landed him atop the museum’s board of directors, but rather his involvement in that weekly Hammerstone's jam session.

Back in 2006, “some rumblings had started to happen, some meetings had started to take place around the space where it is on Washington Avenue,” Endicott recalls. “Dave Beardsley [founder and publisher of STLBlues.net] came into Hammerstone’s and started talking to the guitar player in our band about this project, and I overheard him. And I said, ‘Hey Dave, you know I do more than just play in a blues band — I’m a lawyer. Do you need some help?’”

Endicott says Beardsley quickly accepted his offer and, after meeting with a few others working on the project, he was asked to be the board’s chairman. Now, nearly a decade after Endicott accepted the position, the group’s efforts are finally coming to fruition.

See also: Get a Sneak Peek at St. Louis' New National Blues Museum

The museum’s grand opening festivities will begin Friday evening with the “Rock & Blues Concert” fundraiser at the nearby Lumiere Place (the museum’s largest financial donor), with performances by blues legends Big George Brock, Shemekia Copeland and Bobby Rush. Those who haven’t already purchased their tickets, however, won’t be able to attend. “It’s sold out, unfortunately — or fortunately, depending on your perspective,” laughs Endicott.
click to enlarge PHOTO BY KELLY GLUECK
  • Photo by Kelly Glueck
The museum itself will open to the public with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday at 10 a.m., following a brief performance by the Normandy High School Marching Band as well as remarks by Endicott, the museum’s executive director Dion Brown and Mayor Francis Slay.

Opening day visitors will be greeted by live blues in the museum’s dedicated performance space — called the Lumiere Place Legends Room — the doors of which are located just within the museum’s main entrance. Performances will kick off shortly after the ribbon-cutting with local up-and-comer Phi, and will conclude at 4 p.m. with the blues-inflected rock of the Jeremiah Johnson Band. Other players include Jim McLaren, David Dee, Mickey Rogers, Marquise Knox and Renee Smith.

When asked what he hopes to accomplish with the opening of the National Blues Museum, Endicott says that he hopes to increase visitors’ awareness and appreciation of the integral role that the blues has continued to play in the contemporary musical landscape, and to energize people to engage with the local scene.

“I took somebody on a tour and I think they said it best,” Endicott explains. “They said, ‘You know, I didn’t know I loved the blues — but I love the blues.’”




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