Jodi Beach, Jim McDowell featured in ‘Jazz at Emerson’ Nov. 15

Jodi Beach

Staff Report

The Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center’s next “Jazz at Emerson” concert with Jodi Beach, Jim McDowell and special guests will take place at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 15, at the historic Emerson House on the Mendelssohn PAC campus, 420 N. Main St., Rockford.

If you ask Jodi Beach’s mother when Jodi first began to sing, she will look at you with a very sincere face and ask, “When hasn’t she?” Truly from birth, Beach has been warming people’s hearts with pure and beautiful vocal tones. At the age of 5, she started piano lessons and could read sheet music before she could read English. One day while still very young, she ventured into a music store and was overwhelmed with the racks and bins of music. That day, she realized all of the music in the world was at her fingertips, and she has been gobbling up little black notes ever since.

Beach began her performance career at the age of 6, singing in church. Even at this early age, she gained an immediate fandom and continues this with several guest appearances annually in churches in the county. Music theater became a major part of Beach’s life in 1987 when she joined the cast of the Rock Valley College Starlight Summer Theatre. For 13 years, she performed lead and supporting roles in musical after musical. Today, she still enjoys theatric roles when her schedule permits.

Beach became a member of the jazz community in 1995 by working as pianist and vocalist with the Moonlight Jazz Orchestra. In 1997, she began filling open dates by forming her own trio, and has grown that into the full-time endeavor heard today as the Jodi Beach Trio.

Though Beach can bang out notes with the best of them, she has never been one to “trade solos and go home.” She can always be heard playing well-thought-out and rehearsed arrangements that pull your heart strings one minute, kick your dance shoes the next, and always treat you to the thing she loves to do the most — SING!

Jim McDowell

Jim McDowell is a bassist, guitarist, composer, arranger, studio musician, engineer, conductor and photographer. He has built a career of more than 40 years by adapting his musical talents to any situation presented.

A classically-trained bassist, McDowell has been able to apply his craft to almost every genre of music known.

To me, it is not as much about what you are playing as how well you play it,” McDowell said.

McDowell is promoting his fourth release with The Jodi Beach Trio (, West of the Moon, an ensuing symphonic tour. Also, to keep things interesting, McDowell has begun a new venture with Can’t Touch This, a funk pop-soul horn band. He also keeps the creative juices flowing with an artistic photography business specializing in classic “old-school” promo and cover art.

Since his start in the late 1960s playing coffeehouses and school dances on acoustic guitar and electric bass, you’ve never known where McDowell will pop up. A classically-trained bassist from the Chicago area, he has performed with symphonic and ensemble orchestras throughout the Midwest. His talents and abilities have earned him the nickname “utility man,” and he has regularly done stints as a heavy-metal guitarist, fusion bassist, Latin percussionist, avant-garde artist and blues singer, to name a few. “I have a room full of instruments and a closet full of clothes, just tell me where to be and what to bring,” is his favorite quote.

1999 brought McDowell into the Jodi Beach Trio, where he became an integral part of the family. Spending most of his time playing the acoustic jazz bass these days, his musical depth and artistic approach lends itself perfectly to the Jodi Beach Trio sound.

Jazz at Emerson” happens one Thursday per month, 5:30-7 p.m., at the Emerson House in the heart of Rockford’s cultural corridor. Concertgoers can enjoy the swinging sounds of jazz, relax with a glass of wine and light refreshments, and meet the performers after the program, which is about an hour-and-a-half in length.

Doors open at 5 p.m. Seating is limited. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for students. Proceeds will benefit the musicians and the Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center. Visit for details.

From the Nov. 14-20, 2012, issue

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