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

 North Bend Jazz Walk jumps ahead on calendar, adds venues and high schools

March 11th 2015 – Valley Record

Katy Moon sits in the Mountain Valley Montessori School classroom, one of 22 venues for Saturday’s Jazz Walk. - Allyce Andrew/Staff Photo

Katy Moon sits in the Mountain Valley Montessori School classroom, one of 22 venues for Saturday’s Jazz Walk.

— Image Credit: Allyce Andrew/Staff Photo


Regulars at the North Bend Jazz Walk and the corresponding Blues Walk may be squinting at their calendars this spring, looking for the Blues Walk. In past years, the Blues Walk followed the early fall  Jazz Walk, and we just had a Jazz Walk, didn’t we?

Yes, and we’re having one again, for good reason.

“We’re doing back-to-back jazz walks because of the calendar flip,” said Danny Kolke, event organizer and founder of the Boxley’s Music Fund that puts on the annual concerts.

The third annual Jazz Walk was exactly six months ago, on Saturday, Sept. 14. The fourth annual, this Saturday, will be the first to showcase the high school bands that inspired the move on the calendar.

Most high school bands aren’t ready for a big public performance just a few weeks into the school year, Kolke said, so organizers decided, “We’ll do blues at the end of summer and jazz in the springtime.”

As in every previous year, though, there are other changes. New artists are on the bill, and many new venues, bringing the total number of performers to over 200, and the number of venues to 22.

“We’ve had people asking about (participating) as a venue,” in past years, Kolke said, and some places just suggested themselves, like the Casual Dining Barstools & Dinettes store. He recalled visiting The Swirl next door to talk about their participation in the Jazz Walk, and then noticing the huge windows and showroom filled with barstools at Barstools & Dinettes.

“It’s a great spot,” he said he thought. “Let’s put a band in there!”

Mountain Valley Montessori School is another new venue.

“I don’t know if there are words to attach to a musical experience,” said Katy Moon, owner and director of the preschool. “You don’t know how it’s going to affect a child, but we know that music makes an impact.”

Moon said she’s never been to Jazz Walk because she’s a mother of a 3-year-old, but is a long-time sponsor and frequent visitor of Kolke’s jazz club, Boxley’s Place. She said the decision to open her doors for Jazz Walk was easy, as she has 3,000 square feet available to work with.

“I really appreciate what Danny has done in our community,” she continued. “He has a positive attitude (and) music brings people together. Music is certainly something we incorporate into our Montessori curriculum.”

Moon likened music and sports, as community events. “It doesn’t matter where you’re from or your background. Everyone can enjoy the game. I feel that way about music and I think Danny has brought something so unique to our small town. I just want to be part of that.”

Moon said she would love to see families with young children stop by to see the Ham Carson Quartet perform at 7 p.m., but, because her students range from 3 to 6 years old, she empathizes with those who won’t be able to make it.

“As a mother of a 3-year-old, it’s always, ‘Gosh, I’d really like to go!’ but when you get home you’re (saying) ‘Oh, I’m so tired!’” Moon laughed.

Mountain Valley Montessori has hosted bluegrass and classical musicians for the students, but this is its first public show.

“It tightens the community when we work together,” Moon stated. “It’s an interesting town with a lot of power in a small space.”

A few blocks away, at the Mount Si Senior Center, Ann Landry, interim executive director and Jazz Walk regular, is preparing to host Lance Buller and the Roadstars Band.

“Danny Kolke and I had talked about doing some jazz performance here and utilizing the space before,” Landry began “We hadn’t made any specific plans and then the Jazz Walk committee did approach us, which is great. We’re excited to open up this as a venue for the public moving forward. In fact, we just got a beautiful baby grand piano donated from someone’s estate.”

The show starts at 7 p.m. and Landry said the senior center would be an ideal first or second stop for Jazz Walk attendees, especially since its offering an added perk.

“One thing that we’re doing that most other venues are not, is we’re going to be serving a full dinner,” Landry explained. “We have a Cordon Bleu-trained chef, Joy Lund.”

Lund, former executive chef at Bake’s Place in Bellevue, is cooking up surf and turf, plus a kid’s menu. Beer and wine are also available.

Besides the community exposure and development, Landry stated allowing outsiders to mix with senior-center regulars is a great opportunity.

“I hope they get to meet some new people; I hope a lot of them come out,” she said. “I know they’re proud of our center — it’s a home away from home for a lot of them. I think it’ll be a great opportunity for them to mix and mingle in our community.”

The senior center is not exactly on the Jazz Walk’s main strip, but with two other shows in nearby venues, Kolke says, “You get rewarded for walking the block.”

Barstools and Dinettes will feature the Chuck Deardorf quartet with special guest saxophonist Bill Ramsay, who played in the big bands of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman,  and Quincy Jones.  The Swirl hosts returning favorites, the Chris Fagan Trio.

“There’s a bunch of great people playing,” said Kolke, when asked if any band in particular was this year’s must-see show. “I can’t tell you, don’t miss anybody.”

Advance tickets are on sale now for the event, which has a limit of about 1,700 people. Previous Jazz Walks have sold out, said Kolke, but never in advance. He expects ticket sales on Saturday to be roughly double the advance sales.

For the full list of venues and the schedule, band information, a map and tickets, visit the Jazz Walk website,

Danny Kolke playing piano with his trio in the 2014 Jazz Walk.


Jazz band rocks: Mount Si selected for return to Essentially Ellington

Mention: 2/25/2015
Original article available here:

Comment:  Super proud of these kids.  And yes… that’s my daughter playing lead trumpet.

Jazz band rocks: Mount Si selected for return to Essentially Ellington

Mount Si High School Jazz Band I director Matt Wenman, right, cues his students in rehearsal for the band’s upcoming “Hot Java Cool Jazz” concert performance. Last week, Jazz at Lincoln Center announced that Mount Si was chosen for a return trip to the annual Essentially Ellington festival. - Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo

Mount Si High School Jazz Band I director Matt Wenman, right, cues his students in rehearsal for the band’s upcoming “Hot Java Cool Jazz” concert performance. Last week, Jazz at Lincoln Center announced that Mount Si was chosen for a return trip to the annual Essentially Ellington festival.

— Image Credit: Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo

  • Feb 25, 2015 at 7:00AM updated Feb 26, 2015 at 11:53AM

They were just selected for one of the most prestigious youth jazz events in the country, and for a second time, but the Mount Si High School Jazz Band I is, on the Monday after spring break, all business, no celebration.

A group of 15 students, assembled at 6:30 a.m., is working away on a new tune, feet tapping, lips pursed, eyes on the sheet music. The students, and their director, Matt Wenman, are intent on getting this piece right.

The piece, called “Bodysnatchers,” is not actually for their return trip to Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington event in May, but for a March 20 event that could help get them there.

“Our first really big fundraiser is Hot Java Cool Jazz, which is March 20, right after the (North Bend) Jazz Walk, and it’s at the Paramount,” said Wenman.

The Starbucks-sponsored concert will feature five area high school bands, and each band will receive the proceeds from ticket sales at their local Starbucks shops. Tickets went on sale last Thursday at the Snoqualmie Ridge Starbucks.

Wenman estimated the cost to bring the band to New York in May for Essentially Ellington at about the same as last year.

He’s hopeful that between this concert in March and another “Little Town Blues” gala being planned at Boxley’s, the band will meet most of its fundraising needs — music boosters are setting their goal at $22,000.

Since the announcement was made last week while Mount Si students were on spring break (Wenman asked Jazz Band II director Danny Kolke to play for the students a video of him making the announcement), most of the students hadn’t thought much about their goals for this year.

“I think just having the experience under our belts will be a huge benefit to us in going back, knowing a little more what to expect,” said JT Hartman.

“Our goal is to relax more and have a little more confidence, since we know what to expect.… There are all these great musicians there, so we want to connect with people,” added Hayden Kajercline.

“It’s the top-tier jazz festival in the country,” said Wenman, and a great experience for everyone selected, no matter how they place in the final competition. Only 15 schools are selected, he said, adding, “It’s exciting and energetic, it doesn’t feel cut-throat competitive.”

As a group, the band has also discussed leaving a day early for the event, to spend more time at workshops and just explore New York.

That, of course, will depend on flight costs, and funds available.

In the worst case, Wenman jokes, “We’re going to charter a private Volkswagen bus.”

Mount Si’s Jazz Band I will be part of the North Bend Jazz Walk’s high school big band performances. The show starts at 5 p.m. Saturday, March 14, at the North Bend Theater.

Hot Java Cool Jazz is 7 p.m. Friday, March 20, at the Paramount Theater in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now at the Starbucks on Snoqualmie Ridge.

Learn more about the band and fundraising efforts at

Leslie Kolke solos on trumpet at Essentially Ellington 2014.

Hayden Kajercline performs a solo at the Snoqualmie Valley Schools Foundation fundraising luncheon last year.

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.”