It’s a new dawn for music at The Ellington.
Speakertree owner Blake Gederberg has been brought in by the owners of the Rivermont Avenue building to organize concerts in the space, which will soon go by the name The Ellington Center for Performing Arts.
“It’s exciting for me because I get to do different things that I don’t really get to do at Speakertree,” Gederberg said.
The space at 421 Rivermont Avenue, which dates back to the 1900s, has been home to several arts-related organizations throughout its history, including The Ellington Fellowship Playhouse, a nonprofit that used the building for more than 30 years.
The last organization to own the space turned it into JazzE Ellington House of Blues and Multicultural Center, which operated from 2015 to mid-2017.
It has been used for private events since March of 2018, when it was purchased by R.A. Bistro owners Alex Richardson and Tony West. At the time, they announced they’d turn the venue into a supper club.
Those plans are still in place, but Richardson said they won’t manifest until the fall of 2019 or spring of 2020.
“It was always meant to have the performance piece attached,” he said. “So now, the performance piece needs to go center stage and then the … food or beverage component is going to be a compliment of what it’s already doing.”
Gederberg said he plans to keep the space’s traditions of jazz and blues alive, while also expanding its lineup to include music from other genres. He also wants to bring in other kinds of acts, such as comedy and theatrical troops, magicians and standup comics.
Speakertree will continue to run and host concerts as usual and will even organize certain shows at the Rivermont Avenue venue in conjunction with the performing arts center’s LLC, Ellington Events, said Gederberg.
“More of the local bands or the up-and-coming acts will play Speakertree,” he said, “and then [play the Ellington] if a band outgrows our space.”
The venue’s first public event under the Ellington Events brand will be an album release party for local band Good Dog Nigel on Feb. 22, which has been organized as a joint event with Speakertree.
A few sporadic events will follow over the next few months with a regular schedule coming out by the fall, Gederberg said.
Ellington Events also is in the process of obtaining its liquor license, said Richardson, who added he expects “The Ellington Center for Performance Arts will be a real place within 45 to 60 days.”
Gederberg said he sees The Ellington as an addition to the downtown entertainment scene and has no intentions of trying to compete with other venues like the newly reopened Academy of Music Theatre.
“When it comes to booking shows, bands have certain size rooms that they play,” he said. “We will get completely different show offers [because we’re a midsize venue]. So, we’re right in between Speakertree and the Academy.”