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Every city has its jazz heroes, and Des Moines is no exception. For the past 16 years, the Community Jazz Center of Greater Des Moines (CJC) has honored these heroes with its Annual Hall of Fame and Special Recognition Awards. This year’s event is scheduled for the afternoon of Sunday, October 22, at Noce in downtown Des Moines.

CJC will be inducting trumpeter/bandleader Dan Hartzer, pianist Nancy Bierma and former CJC executive director Phyllis Leaverton into the Hall of Fame, which now numbers a total of 50 individuals from the jazz community.

  • Dan Hartzer — Hartzer started playing trumpet professionally in 1963 performing weekends at the “Golden Hawk Nightclub” in Beaverdale.  Since that time, he has played in the back-up bands for numerous entertainers visiting Des Moines including Sonny and Cher, Bob Hope, The Carpenters, Liberace, Red Skelton, John Denver, and Pat Boone, to mention a few. He also had the opportunity to play in various traveling bands including Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, and Henry Mancini. Today, in addition to leading various bands on his own, Hartzer is the official racetrack bugler at Prairie Meadows, where he also serves as musical director for various casino events.
  • Nancy Bierma — Although she moved to Minneapolis more than twenty years ago, Bierma has left an impact on the local scene as a pianist, promoter and educator. She first started performing in local clubs in the 1970s, sharing the stage with performers such as Don Jaques, Rod Leaverton, Bill Stewart and Mitch Espe. Bierma also worked closely with Metro Arts Alliance to start the Jazz in July Series. A strong advocate for female jazz musicians, she created and led the annual Women in Jazz Concerts in Des Moines. Today, she continues to pursue her passion for jazz while enjoying a successful career as a licensed acupuncturist.
  • Phyllis Leaverton — Often referred to as the “Queen of CJC,” Phyllis became active in the organization from its inception in 1988. At the time her son, Rod, was a high school jazz guitar player who volunteered for CJC. Phyllis supported her son’s interest in jazz by volunteering as well. In 1996, the CJC board elected Leaverton as its executive director, a position she held until 2017. During her tenure, the organization sponsored monthly jam sessions for area students, a volunteer big band, middle school and high school jazz clinics/festivals, the Des Moines Jazz Hall of Fame and a one-day jazz festival featuring Des Moines musicians. It’s a tribute to Leaverton that those activities are still going strong and so is Phyllis, who makes it a point to attend every CJC event.

Other awards to be presented at the event include:

  • Special Recognition Awards will be given to saxophonist Bryan Schumacker and Noce for their contributions to the jazz scene.
  • The Next Generation Award, which focuses on up-and-coming musicians who are making an impact on music in Des Moines, will be presented to saxophonist/violinist Robert Espe.
  • The Bobby Dawson Award, presented to a student musician who has been involved with the CJC monthly jam sessions, will be presented to bassist Sophie Roberts, an Ames High School senior.

This year’s Hall of Fame will be held October 22, at Noce, 1326 Walnut Street in downtown Des Moines. The Hall of Fame event will kick off at 1:30 p.m. with a a reception and silent auction. The awards ceremony will begin at 2:00 p.m. which will include performance from past Hall of Fame winners including Julius Brooks, Scott Smith, Jim Eklof, Sam Salomone. Plus a special tribute to Phyllis featuring many of the students who attended CJC jam sessions in their youth.

Admission is $20 for CJC members if tickets are purchased and paid for prior to October 22. Admission at the door or for non-members is $30. Food and drinks will be available for an additional charge. Proceeds from this event fund the Community Jazz Center’s youth activities.

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