Grantee Spotlight | Creating Community with the support of a Love My Neighbor! Grant at Tune It! Tuesdays

Jan 3, 2019

Love My Neighbor! Grantee Phat Man Dee hosts monthly jam sessions at Black Forge Coffee House, located in Pittsburgh’s Allentown neighborhood. These sessions serve as a space for creating intergenerational, cross-genre connections and building community among general attendees and performing artists alike.

Phat Man Dee performs her set with back up from her jazz ensemble.

Eric Dowdell Sr. plays some improvisational jazz.

A two-year Love My Neighbor! Grantee, Phat Man Dee is a cosmic jazz cabaret vocalist, bandleader, events producer, videographer, poet and part time sideshow marvel all in one.  Mandee performs live at a wide range of spaces accross Pittsburgh and boasts four independently produced CDs. In addition, she appears with her jazz group, The Cultural District, other jazz musicians, the sideshow and burlesque troupe Kabarett Vulgare, and The Lemington Gospel Chorale. Mandee also teaches students at the Afro American Music Institute in Homewood. Phat Man Dee has been hosting Tune It! Tuesdays on the 3rd Tuesday of every month for over a year now with support from our Love My Neighbor! Grant Program.

Mandee begins each jam session with a live performance featuring world-class jazz musicians before opening the stage up to artists of all ages and skill level. December 18th, the final Tune It! Tuesday of 2018, was no different. As an ode to the season, Phat Man Dee, guitarist Henry Shultz, bassist Eric Dowdell Jr., and conga player and band leader of Guaracha Latin Dance Band Miguel Sague III performed selections from Mandee’s album titled “Merry ChristmaChannaKwanza Vol. 1.1” in addition to classic seasonal tunes. After their set, Phat Man Dee invited artists on stage, giving them a chance to perform for a full house.

15-year-old artist Windafire and Phat Man Dee perform a duet.

Performers of all genres, skillsets, and ages are encouraged to sit in and share two or three selections of their choosing during the open jam session. Community members and diverse groups of musicians come together to perform poetry, original compositions, cover songs, hip hop, jazz compositions, and experimental or improvisational work, often collaborating with one another and sharing unique talents. The open, welcoming, and non-judgemental space builds trust and confidence among aspiring professional musicians and gives the community a chance to witness and engage in a vibrant part of Pittsburgh Neighborhoods.

Among the performers who sat in on December 18th’s jam session were 15-year-old artist Windafire and 14-year-old artist Gabriella Salvucci, who both performed original works.

14-year-old Gabriella Salvucci performs an original work.

“There aren’t many all-age opportunities for young people, elders, and in-betweens to gather around something as positive as making art,” said Christina Springer, artist and mother to Winston Nunley. “Tune It! Tuesdays allow for the cross-generational sharing of knowledge. Elders benefit from the vision of young people while young people benefit from the experience and years of mastery their elders have worked so hard to achieve.”

“Tune It! Tuesdays allow for the cross-generational sharing of knowledge.” – Christina Springer

To learn more about Tune It! Tuesdays, check out the Facebook event. The next Tune It! Tuesday will be on January 15th at Black Forge Coffee House from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The cost is $3 at the door. Participating musicians get in free.

Love My Neighbor!, an initiative founded by Neighborhood Allies and developed by the Grassroots Grants Committee (GGC), invests in resident-led projects that aim to improve neighborhoods and engage fellow neighbors. The mission of the program is to build neighborhoods by identifying, empowering, and supporting projects imagined by and for community. Residents, who live in one of our target communities and are passionate about making a positive change in their neighborhood, can apply for small grants ranging between $500 – $2,500.

Stay tuned for the release of our 2019 Love My Neighbor! Grant Applications!

Top Header Image Photo Credit: Prototyping Larimer Stories by artist John Peña, photo by OPA