Broadway House Jazz Jams Turn 10

In 2005, Paul Bodin decided he “wanted to see what it was like to be a student again.” The UO adjunct instructor of philosophy longed to explore the music that had enchanted him since childhood: jazz.  

Enrolling in the jazz studies program, he took composition courses from well-known teacher-performers Mike Denny and Steve Owen. Bodin—also an adjunct instructor in the College of Education from 2006 to 2015—and his wife, Peggy Leeds, started meeting young undergrads and grads in the program, and occasionally invited the hungry students over to dinner at their bungalow on West Broadway Avenue. Some brought instruments and jammed. 

Those gatherings became a recurring series of intimate living room concerts open to the public. The Broadway House series began in 2010 with Ben Darwish, BMus ’07 (music: jazz studies), and his quartet—the keyboardist-singer-songwriter was Bodin’s classmate. Through its 10th anniversary show in June, the series has presented 56 concerts, most of them jazz. 

Bodin, MMus '82 (music education), now 71, grew up in the Los Angeles area listening to his father’s jazz records and playing saxophone in middle school. As a community education student in jazz studies, he learned to write big band and combo charts for middle school, high school, and university ensembles and played soprano and alto sax in a UO student ensemble. With few intimate jazz venues in the wake of club closures, Bodin says, “we wanted to give students from the UO a place to perform outside the UO itself.”

Though their living room stayed the same size—Leeds estimates 20-by-20 square feet, in an L shape—the series grew, eventually featuring musicians touring the Interstate 5 corridor. Performers have included some of Portland’s finest jazz musicians—pianists Randy Porter and Greg Goebel, singer Rebecca Kilgore, and drummer Chris Brown. The UO Flute Studio held a student concert as a fundraiser for Food for Lane County. The series has also hosted local koto master Mitsuki Dazai, contemporary classical ensembles featuring alumni and students, and Caballito Negro, a flute and percussion duo from southern Oregon.

“Players like playing here,” Bodin says. “Not for the money—they might make $100 per person. They love the intimacy, the energy that comes from that.”

The series relies on coverage from radio and print publications. For each performance, the Bodins host a potluck, with attendees—ranging from about 20 to a tightly squeezed 55—bringing food and drinks and chatting in the kitchen or hallway. A large glass jar is passed around, with the money going to the musicians. “I like the simplicity and honesty of that,” Bodin says. 

The couple also hosts a sit-down dinner with traveling musicians. “As I’m finishing the dishes, people start walking in the door,” Bodin says. “Very much like jazz, a house concert is an improvisational experience. You don’t really know who’s coming. You’re opening your house to a group of strangers. It’s better than it sounds!”

UO students often attend to earn extra class credit. Bodin regularly meets with jazz instructor Paul Krueger’s classes to talk about the series—part of Broadway House’s continuing connection to its origins. Student musicians have held senior recitals at Broadway House.

As the couple celebrates 10 years of the concerts, Bodin says, “I’ve started to see the value more over the years as it’s mushroomed outward. We had no idea what we were getting into! Now when I look back on it, I see how it’s become a big part of our lives and the community.”

--By Brett Campbell

Campbell, MS ’96 (journalism), lives in Portland and writes about the arts for Oregon ArtsWatch, the Oregonian, Eugene Weekly and other publications.