Introducing the newest contributor to MOTORCITYBLOG, Jan Thompson, who will be focusing on the local music scene thru her Brit-turned-Detroiter eyes. A musician, vocal teacher and all-around creative soul, Jan will bring an interesting perspective to our pages...
Brit Education Invasion
The first thing that strikes you when you walk into 1520 Woodward Avenue, a pop up facility created especially for the new Detroit Institute of Music Education, is the urban hip décor; assorted modern seating areas, fluorescent multi colored lighting and a huge ceiling with exposed industrial pipes. The walls have been left in their distressed state but a quote from the late Ray Charles is what stands out to me the most,
This, I believe, captures the essence of the mission statement of the founders of the Detroit Institute of Music Education “DIME”. Kevin Dixon: President, Bruce Dickenson: Education Director and Sarah Clayman: Managing Director are 3 Brits who are veterans of the music industry. They achieved great success in the UK and Ireland, creating the Brighton Institute of Modern Music “BIMM” in 2001 and later its sister schools in Bristol, Manchester and Dublin. Having a future plan to expand the model into the American market, they sold BIMM and started their search in the US.
So why choose Detroit? A big reason was the positive reception they received last summer from its people, businesses and a strong experience of the energy that is gaining momentum during the resurgence of the city.
With financial backing from Beringea LLC who has offices in London and Farmington Hills, and an Opportunity Detroit building lease supported by Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans and Rock Ventures, they decided to make Detroit their first location for this modern music school. After renovations are complete the school will be housed in the 20,000 square foot historic Bamlet Building at the corner of Griswold Street and Grand River Avenue.
The focus of the school is contemporary music however, Bruce Dickinson acknowledged the fact that some people don’t think that rock and roll can be taught in a classroom. He presented some examples of how it can be through the lessons that will be on offer at DIME. Students will be able to study contemporary guitar, bass, drums vocals, songwriting and entrepreneurship. Bachelors Degrees and a diploma in Creative Music, as well as part time and summer school studies will be available.
To showcase an artist that grew from BIMM, Kevin Nixon welcomed to the stage the fledgling Brit band “The Wild Flowers”. The band was formed after student Sidney Bennett, whose potential was recognized at BIMM, progressed from a solo acoustic singer songwriter act to 4 member band which includes her sister. Nixon demonstrated how her sound evolved with the formation of the band, with keyboards, guitar, mandolin and 4 part harmonies. He described how a musician must create a hit tempo and an “organism moment” for a song which will be part of the curriculum at DIME.
The Wild Flowers had just played their US debut at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin Texas, a week ago. I briefly caught up with Mandolin player, James Ashbury who told me that he “prefers downtown Detroit to Austin”. Certainly Detroit can build from its music legacy. Sarah Clayman said people in the UK, “have respect for the old music” and have enjoyed artists like the White Stripes. Sarah also mentioned the collaborative aspect of Brits and Americans creating in the Detroit environment at DIME.
As a fellow Brit, turned Detroiter, I have high hopes for DIME and can’t wait to witness its evolution and emerging talent!
Go check out their temporary facility at 1520 Woodward. They are open for business and want to meet you all, whether you are potential students, staff or just curious! The bass player that joined the Wild Flowers two weeks ago got the gig by dropping by the pop up.
BritChic in Detroit