This is what it’s all about…

Some people just don’t get why it’s a big deal…

On the eve of the fourth annual Jazz Walk I am reflecting on two conversations that I just had with two patrons of Boxleys while at Pioneer Coffee – the local morning hang.

Within 5 minutes, 2 people came up to me.

The first person had some suggestions to help us compete with the Bar & Grill down the street.  His suggestion was about expanding the bar area – more space away from the music so it can be in the background, “…but people can talk.”  Obviously they want Boxleys to be successful.  They were focusing on the ambiance.

Hmmm.  This is not the first time that this idea has come up, and it’s not that I haven’t thought it myself.  How do we “compete” with other places?  “How do we make everyone happy?”

As I sat in my chair thinking about these suggestions, the the next person came up to me and said, “…thank you so much for last night. We loved watching those students perform.  Watching them point at eachother for solo’s, learning how to lead the band.  Developing their confidence…”  they continued, “… I think I would rather see that than the professionals.”

That’s it. Right there.  That’s the magic of Boxleys.

It’s about the music people.  It’s about the students. It’s about the community.

Not that we don’t want people to have a place to talk. But is that what we want to “compete for?”  I think we want to focus on the music. Focus on the students.  Keep lifting them up.  Keep encouraging them.

Everybody is different.  But what makes Boxleys different and most special is not the food.  It’s the music.  It’s making it accessible for young students to play. And also be mentored and encouraged by musicians with decades more experience.  

You can get better food.  You can get better service.  You can’t get Boxleys anywhere else.

Middle School student Jason Berquist playing with Legends Ray Price and Michael Barnett

Getting beyond it’: Explosion can’t faze 2nd annual North Bend’s Blues Walk | Photo Gallery

Originally posted
Apr 29, 2014 at 5:13PM

A couple dances to the sound of Paul Green, left, and Seth Freeman at Twede’s Cafe, Saturday evening, April 26, during the second annual North Bend Blues Walk. - Seth Truscott/Staff Photo

A couple dances to the sound of Paul Green, left, and Seth Freeman at Twede’s Cafe, Saturday evening, April 26, during the second annual North Bend Blues Walk.

— Image Credit: Seth Truscott/Staff Photo

The blues is about dealing with adversity.

So, in a city that made the national news a day prior due to a massive, destructive explosion, crowds lined up to let off steam and feel the groove. The second annual North Bend Blues Walk drew hundreds more listeners than last year.

“I was thinking (the explosion) might scare people off, but it doesn’t seem to have,” said Michael Wilde, a harmonica player and vocalist who performed with Son Jack, Jr., inside the intimate walls of Emerald City Smoothie. “We are rugged people,” added Wilde. The Blues “is about getting over it.”

“News coverage gave it a plug,” said North Bend Theatre owner Cindy Walker, who had the largest stage. “It’s a silver lining.”

“There’s got to be some people who decided to come out just because it’s mentioned on the news,” said Blues Walk and Boxley’s founder Danny Kolke. “We were expecting a big crowd. I’d like to think they would come here anyway.”

Last year’s Blues Walk drew about 1,100 people; this year, more than 1,300 showed. Crowds, many dressed in black event T-shirts, strolled North Bend Way’s sidewalks, queueing up for their next venues.

With Boxley’s standing room only, Kolke advised music fans to head down the block for other venues. Smaller venues like George’s Bakery had an intimate feel, with musicians playing to small rooms of diners. Couples danced in the aisles at Twede’s Cafe.

“It’s a great listening room,” Wilde said of the smoothie shop.

With Son Jack, he plays music ranging from the 1920s through English blues rock. He loves this music because, unlike classic rock, “this is a lot more liberating.”

“Playing the blues, you’re not doing your job if you’re playing the song the same each time,” Wilde said. “It needs to be different.”

And, it’s all ages—“you can be 80 or 90 years old, still be doing this, and not look foolish,” he said.

“It’s all about the groove. Back in the day, when these guys were playing in juke joints, they’d get the place all fired up!”

The Blues Walk benefits the Boxley’s Music Foundation, which promotes local music and education, and also now owns the Boxley’s Place jazz club.

Boxley’s Music Foundation’s next major event is the North Bend Jazz Walk on Saturday, Sept. 13.

Seth Truscott/Staff Photos

Elnah Jordan belts out her version of “Summertime” at Valley Center Stage.

Tom McElroy on guitar with the Elnah Jordan band, feels the rhythm.

Son Jack, Jr., warms up a resonating guitar at Emerald City Smoothie.

Crowds stroll for their next downtown blues venue.

Mike Lynch of the Boneyard Preachers plays harmonica on the Boxley’s Place stage.

The Boneyard Preachers get loud on the Boxley’s stage, opening the North Bend Blues Walk, Saturday, April 26.

Boxley’s Music Foundation founder Danny Kolke chats with a television reporter.

Mia Vermillion plays to an intimate crowd of diners at George’s Bakery.

Mardi Gras celebration marching in North Bend

Originally posted:
By Sherry Grindeland

Contributed Musicians pause from the marching during a past Mardi Gras celebration.

Musicians pause from the marching during a past Mardi Gras celebration.

Beads, yes. Hurricane drinks on the sidewalk, no.

But in North Bend it will be the traditional “laissez les bons temps rouler” when the Mardi Gras celebration takes to the streets at 5 p.m. March 4.

“Laissez les bons temps rouler” is the Mardi Gras slogan and means “Let the good times roll.” Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday.

Locally that’s when musicians Jay Thomas, Dan Marcus and Danny Kolke lead the parade on North Bend Way.

The event begins outside Boxley’s on North Bend Way. Kolke, as the lead “krewe” (Mardi Gras organizer), welcomes everyone to join the parade.

“We march around the downtown area,” he said. “We dress a bit wacky and play some fun music.”

This is the fifth year of the North Bend Mardi Gras celebration.

Like the traditional New Orleans wild party leading into the season of Lent, Kolke said the participants throw beads to passers-by and act a little crazy.

“We even tote Mardi Gras umbrellas, like they do in New Orleans,” Kolke said. “But I don’t think the New Orleans version is for the rain.”

They play jazzy music and wander the streets. The march around downtown North Bend will actually be done on the sidewalks, not in the streets, because the group doesn’t want to disrupt traffic. As if, Kolke joked, a bunch of folks playing music and wearing funny clothes on the sidewalks won’t disrupt traffic.

He has high hopes that the parade this year will set a record.

The first year there were eight people in the parade. The group attracts newcomers each year, and in 2013, there were 30 participants.

“I hope we break 50 this year,” he said.

You don’t, he added, need to be a musician to join the fun. Just show up and march with the group.

The parade continues until either 6 p.m. or when the cold weather drives the group into Boxley’s – whichever comes first. It’s usually the cold.

The Mardi Gras celebration will continue indoors with appetizers, a no-host bar and featured Creole favorites on the dinner menu. Dixieland jazz begins at 7 p.m.

Live, from North Bend: Boxley’s owners Danny, Robyn Kolke honored as Business Owners of the Year

Originally Posted:

Jan 30, 2013 at 12:03PM

— Image Credit: Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo

by CAROL LADWIG,  Snoqualmie Valley Record Editor

It’s a Wednesday night at Boxley’s, and owners Danny and Robyn Kolke have got a small but growing crowd, about a dozen students ready to perform, and a musical hero on stage.

“Chris Clark is a legend in the jazz world,” Danny says, gesturing to the smiling man in the beret, warming up on a string bass. “He’s our bass player tonight.”

Yup, it’s a typical weeknight at Boxley’s Place in North Bend. The restaurant, open three-and-a-half years now, has live music every night, brings in famous names to perform and teach on a regular basis, and was just named one of the best venues for live jazz again this year by DownBeat Magazine. Most importantly though, it’s also exactly the place that the Kolkes wanted to create.

“We didn’t set out to make the best jazz venues list,” said Danny, echoing his comments from a recent speech, when he accepted North Bend’s Business Owner of the Year Award.

“We kind of set out to make it a place where we would like to be, which was family-friendly,” continued Robyn. “A place that we could feel comfortable with our kids (Leslie, James and Daniel).”

“There aren’t many jazz venues that you can take kids to,” finished Danny.

And for Danny, jazz and young people definitely do mix. A jazz pianist himself, Danny recorded his first album at age 19, not much older than one regular performers at his club, now.

He decided against a musical career, because he didn’t want to live on the road, and because of his father’s advice. “He said ‘Look down the road and if there are any musicians that have the lifestyle that you want, maybe it’s possible. But if they have lousy relationships with their kids and wives, maybe you’ll end up in the same place.’”

That made Danny’s decision clear, but not easy. He consoled himself with the idea of starting a jazz club some day — just the idea, he confesses. “I never thought it possible.”

Instead, he started a family, a company (Etelos), and a career in software development, moving to North Bend from Seattle in 1998. Not quite 10 years later, they started talking about a jazz club in earnest.

Robyn, a classical musician in college and now a full-time mom, was a little surprised by Danny’s jazz dreams.

“I remember sitting on the bench across the street,” Robyn told Danny, “and you said, ‘So what do you think about starting a jazz club there?’ And I said, ‘Tell me more.’.”

After many more conversations, the couple made the leap, and created Boxley’s Place (www.boxley’, home to live music seven days a week, and several programs to foster aspiring musicians. In addition to Danny’s volunteering to lead the Twin Falls Middle School Jazz Band II in the early mornings, he has brought them to his club to perform, and learn from other jazz legends in the Future JazzHeads and JazzHeads programs. The club added a vocal workshop for high school students to the schedule (Mondays), a student jazz trio accompanied by Danny on piano (later Mondays), the Aaron Tevis Project band, named for and led by a Mount Si High School senior (some Tuesdays), and has grown the JazzHeads programs (Wednesdays).

“We have people who come because they like to see young people performing,” says Robyn. “They like hearing the kids get involved.”

She adds that she’s seen students develop real confidence, and comfort here. “There’s no getting used to being on stage without a stage,” she laughs.

Tonight’s performers, some of them his students, are still warming up when a distracted Danny says, “I’ve got to go start them.”

He does, with a few instructions, and then the band is off and swinging. The start of their show highlights another winning feature of Boxley’s, the acoustics. Guests have a choice of the main dining room right in front of the stage, or the adjoining, but quieter bar with cozy seats and a huge stone fireplace.

“I think jazz is best served in this venue-type, a small restaurant, a stage off to one side… this is how, the best recordings in jazz history I think were made,” says Danny.

It goes without saying that they’re live recordings, since bringing live music into the community is at the heart of Boxley’s musical efforts. It’s why the couple created last September’s JazzWalk, and will coordinate the upcoming Blues Walk April 20. It’s also why, on Boxley’s first anniversary, they proposed creating the Boxley’s Music Fund, a non-profit fund to  help pay for live music at community events like the Block Party (

“It’s not just here,” Danny says, “Our goal with the music fund is to support the community.”

With about 100 families holding memberships in the fund, Danny says it’s “been a really big success story for us.” The fund also donates a portion of membership fees to music programs in the Snoqualmie Valley School district, helping to foster the next generation of musicians.

The restaurant does still have its ups and downs, but Danny, still working at his software company during the day and at the club with Robyn in the evenings, has basically fulfilled his dream.

North Bend Mayor Ken Hearing, after congratulating the Kolkes on the Business Owner of the Year honor, added. “I shouldn’t have congratulated them, because they earned it. They earned it by doing things that they didn’t expect recognition for, which is, I think, the whole meaning of the award.”