4Cuture Grant

Below is information supplied to 4Culture in my application for a Heritage Site Specific grants. They awarded $15,000.

Project Summary

This project will result in a performance of live music and spoken word at the Panama Hotel Tea Room. The venue capacity is 60 so the performance will be repeated to accommodate a larger audience. Ideally, 8 performances would occur on Saturday evenings August 3, 10, 17, 24 and Sunday afternoons August, 4, 11, 18 and 25. The maximum live audience would be 480. The event will be recorded for promotional use and potential commercial sale.


Jazz pianist Oscar Holden (1887-1969) was a major talent in Seattle’s musical history. He is pictured on the cover of Jackson Street After Hours: The Roots of Jazz in Seattle by Paul de Barros. Holden’s music also plays a primary role in the historic novel Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. But the sound of his music is buried deep in the subconscious of unrecorded memories.

The Panama Hotel is an important location in Ford’s novel where Japanese families stored intimate tokens in the basement while they were interred during WWII. One token was a fictional record by Oscar Holden with a saxophone solo by a character from the novel. Holden actually performed nearby at the Black Elks on Jackson Street.

This project will mine rich vein of Seattle’s jazz history along Jackson Street and the basement of the Panama Hotel to create new music inspired by Oscar Holden that will be performed in the Tea Room at the Panama Hotel. The information gleaned from research will create scenes through which to weave a new musical narrative.


Authors Jamie Ford and Paul de Barros, and pianist Deems Tsutakawa agreed to participate with me for this project. I am reaching out to the Holden family and the Northwest African American Museum.

Previous Experience

This project will be developed and presented in a manner similar to my previous sold out concerts of jazz chamber music inspired by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) I find it interesting that Villa-Lobos and Holden lived during the same period in history.

Another previous project with similar attributes to this proposal was the Earshot Jazz Voice and Vision concert at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. I meditated in the sculpture court and imagined the statues coming to life and speaking with me. I found poetry related to animated statues and composed music on the theme of art coming to life. The performance included 3 musicians, a dancer, video, and recorded environmental sounds.

Creative Process

  • I will begin by identifying, reading, listening and interviewing every feasible source of relevant information.
  • From this I will construct a list of scenes and corresponding musical ideas. The music will be arranged for an ensemble that includes saxophone, piano, bass and other instruments inspired by the research.
  • The music compositions (scores and parts) will be published with notation software and rendered by MIDI playback to audio files that will be used for rehearsal and promotion.
  • I will construct a narrative thread to connect the scenes. Additional information will be published in a program.
  • The performance will be rehearsed and refined over the course of performances.

  • “4 ‘Night Spots’ Raided by Vice Squad: 20 Taken,” Seattle Times, June 18, 1934
  • “Father Thought Son Should Be In Custody,” Seattle Times, July 27, 1954
  • Before Seattle Rocked: A City and Its Music, Kurt Armbruster, University of Washington Press, 2011
  • Brother Ray: Ray Charles’ Own Story, Ray Charles & David Ritz, Da Capo Press, 1978
  • Encyclopedia of Northwest Music, James Bush, Sasquatch Books, 1999
  • From Birdland to Broadway: Scenes from a Jazz Life, Bill Crow, Oxford University Press, 1992
  • Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Jamie Ford, Ballantine Books, 2009
  • Jackson Street After Hours: The Roots of Jazz in Seattle, Paul de Barros, Sasquatch Books, 1993
  • Music in Washington: Seattle and Beyond, Peter Blecha, Arcadia Publishing, 2007
  • Reminiscing in Swingtime: Japanese Americans in American Popular Music, George Yoshida, National Japanese American Historical Society, 1997
  • Seattle on the Puget Sound: An Old Love Story About a Young City, Bill Kossen and Dave Holden, 2006
  • Seattle’s International District: The Making of a Pan-Asian American Community, Doug Chin, International Examiner Press, 2009
  • Sonic Boom: The History of Northwest Rock, from “Louis Louis” to “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Peter Blecha, Backbeat Books, 2009
Work Samples

The musical work samples can be heard at http://soundcloud.com/steve-griggs. All three samples are excerpts from a sold-out 2009 performance at Good Shepherd Chapel of Villa-Lobos inspired music arranged for jazz chamber ensemble. The titles are “Mazurka-Choro,” “Vocalize #2” and “Alma Brasiliera.” Please listen to them in that order.

I conceived, composed, arranged, rehearsed, performed and produced this event. In addition to myself on saxophone, the ensemble includes Lori Goldston – cello, Tom Varner – French horn, Jeff Busch – percussion, Mark Ivester – drums, Marco de Carvalho – guitar, Bill Anschell – piano and Chuck Kistler – bass.

More of my music can be heard at www.stevegriggsmusic.com.

Project Budget


  • Research/composition (18 works x 50 hours x $20): $18,000
  • Rehearsals (6 hours x 6 musicians x $50): $1,800
  • Performances (8 x 2 hours x 6 musicians x $100): $9,600
  • Performance recording/editing/mastering: $1,500
  • Materials, supplies: $100
  • Equipment: $0
  • Space rental: $0
  • Insurance: $250
  • Promotion/marketing: $250
  • Other: $0
  • Total: $31,500

  • 4Culture Historic Site Specific: $20,000
  • My own money: $6,700
  • Ticket sales: $4,800
  • Total: $31,500
Career Narrative

The first jazz record I heard was Cannonball Adderley’s Live at the Club. Music laughed and cried while the audience clapped and shouted encouragement. The experience of that feeling became my calling.

For 37 years I studied, performed, composed, recorded and taught music. A peak experience came in 1998 when I recorded with drummer Elvin Jones. Before the recording his wife said, “The music may be good or bad. What’s important is the feeling.” Sage advice – craft should be subservient to authentic expression.

At a concert of 19th century Spanish guitar music I recognized that authenticity again – an abstract expression of pain and joy. I also heard the same emotional warmth echoed in 20th century Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos. I envisioned a bridge between the feeling in his music and jazz.

As I developed the Villa-Lobos inspired concert program in 2009, writing became important to me. Each musical piece became a scene. I wrote a narrative thread to weave the music into a larger story for the audience. Until this concert, I attempted to tell stories exclusively through the abstract language of music. But writing gave me tools to communicate more directly – to meld history with music.

In 2010 I began writing for a Seattle magazine, Earshot Jazz. Monthly profiles of artists, venues, books, and concerts prompted me to find new source material and compose a compelling narrative of Seattle history. Now I relish the opportunity to describe music to a wide audience from a musician’s perspective.


Musical Compositions/Arrangements

  • 84 Compositions
  • 30 Arrangements of standards including 9 for vocalist
  • 25 Arrangements of Villa-Lobos scores
  • 6 Settings of poetry to music (Henry Wordsworth Longfellow, e.e. cummings, James Washington)
  • 3 Big band arrangements
Honors and Awards/Grants

  • 4Culture Individual Artist Grant to collect oral histories for a biography of saxophonist/educator Joe Brazil
  • Longfellow Chorus Award of Distinction in the 2010 Composition Competition
  • Earshot Jazz Voice and Vision Series
  • Steve Griggs Quintet LIVE! #17 on Gavin National Jazz Radio Charts
  • ASCAPLUS Award
  • Jones for Elvin – Volume 2 played on Voice of America
  • ASCAPLUS Award
  • ASCAPLUS Award
  • Jack Straw Foundation Artist Assistance Award
Select Recordings

  • Microsoft/Bungie, “Halo: ODST”
  • Gregg Keplinger, “Absurd World Country”, Origin
  • Gregg Keplinger, “Not Out for Anywhere”, Origin
  • Steve Griggs, “Steve Griggs Quintet LIVE!”, Hip City Music
  • John Bishop, “The Piano: The Best of Seattle Jazz”, Origin
  • Steve Griggs, “Jones for Elvin – Volume 2”, Hip City Music
  • Steve Griggs, “Jones for Elvin – Volume 1”, Hip City Music
Select Performances

  • Cancao Carioca: Song from RioGood Shepherd Center Chapel, Seattle, WA
  • Seresta: Brazilian Serenade – Good Shepherd Center Chapel, Seattle, WA
  • James Washington 100th Birthday Celebration – Ruins, Seattle, WA
  • Bumbershoot – NW Court Stage, Seattle, WA
  • Milo Petersen and the Jazz Disciples play the music of Steve GriggsTula’s, Seattle, WA
  • Billy Higgins Memorial Concert – Tula’s, Seattle, WA
  • Earshot Jazz Voice and Vision Series – Seattle Asian Art Museum, Seattle, WA
  • Bumbershoot – Charlotte Martin Theater, Seattle, WA
  • Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL
  • Dave Liebman Saxophone Master Class – Deer Head Inn, Delaware Water Gap, PA
  • Miles Davis Birthday Tribute – Alexis Hotel, Seattle, WA
  • Becca Duran/Jay Thomas play arrangements by Steve Griggs – Blue Heron Arts Gallery, Vashon Island, WA
  • Earshot Living Spirit of Jazz Series – Jazz Alley, Seattle, WA
  • Kerouac: The Essence of Jack – Velvet Elvis Theatre, Seattle, WA
  • Steve Griggs Quintet – Bop Shop, Chicago, IL
  • Great American Saxophone Phantasy – St. Peters Church, New York, NY
Select Publications

  • 20 artist profiles, concert previews, and book in Earshot Jazz
  • 17 artist profiles, concert previews, book and CD reviews in Earshot Jazz
  • 2 concert reviews in the Seattle Times
  • David Yeaworth and Steve Griggs, “Arts Coalition Report on Findings: Opinion Leader Focus Groups” Allied Arts
  • Steve Griggs, “Steve Lacy’s solo on Skippy – A soprano saxophone transcription” Down Beat

  • Certificate in Narrative Non-fiction, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
  • Certificate in Arts Management, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
  • Master of Business Administration – Management Information Systems, Pace University, New York, NY
  • Bachelor of Musical Arts – Saxophone Performance, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL