Jazzed

War, radio, a thriving club scene and native talent once made Wilmington a fertile ground for musical innovation, and no one in its history made a bigger mark than the legendary Clifford Brown.



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Music professor Don Glanden (left) isÊmaking a video documentary of Clifford Brown. Dean Jenkins (right) was two grades behind Brown at Howard High School. Brown, Jenkins says, showed him a few chords, which started Jenkins' career in Jazz.

Photograph by Pat CroweÊ http://www.patcrowephotography.com

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Don’t let anyone tell you that Wilmington, the fair city that has served as capital for such un-swinging things as banks and chemical companies, doesn’t swing.

Under the town’s buttoned-down exterior, there has quietly simmered since the earliest days of the 20th century a vibe fed by sin and syncopation, the language of the street, and the sweat of dance halls and speakeasies.

It was born amid oppression and segregation, then blossomed into the one true form of American music.

It’s jazz, daddy. And if you know the password, you might find that Wilmington has given the world things besides platinum cards and Dacron. The password is Brownie.

The nickname of Clifford Brown still opens doors. It makes the hands of the old heads move like those of young men who could caress trumpet valves like they were the flesh of a fine woman.

Because Brown is a legend, a tragic protagonist who rose from Wilmington’s Eastside to entrance the progenitors of bop.

He was a straight arrow who, after playing for only a few years, sat in with Dizzy Gillespie and, at his height, was considered a better trumpeter than Miles Davis. His death at the age of 25 on June 26, 1956, in a car crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, would ensure his status as a legend and forever prompt fans and critics to wonder what he might have become.

For almost 20 years, Wilmington has honored him each June with a festival that attracts big-name musicians who are happy to play in honor of a man whose sound was so fat. The 2007 DuPont Clifford Brown Jazz Fest will be held June 17-23.

“I grew up in Wilmington, so I know a lot of people from my generation,” says jazz pianist Don Glanden, head of graduate music studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. “But while I would be out playing and doing concerts and gigs and stuff, people would come up to me and say, ‘Man, my uncle was a jazz musician.’ And I’d say, ‘Who’s that?’ And they’d say, ‘Clifford Brown.’ And I’d say, ‘That’s like saying my great-grandfather was a politician—Abraham Lincoln.’”

Yes, Brownie will open doors, minds and mouths. Suddenly other names spill forth—Daisy Winchester, Betty Roché, Robert “Boysie” Lowery. To many, the names mean nothing. But they are the people who started it all so that someone like Brownie could blow us all away.

After jazz was born in the late 19th century, its children—African-Americans who fled oppression in the South for industrial jobs and better lives in the North—carried it to the masses. Though segregated, Northern cities provided the arrivals a degree of opportunity unheard of in states like Georgia and the Carolinas. In Wilmington, as in other cities, the music—which incorporated ragtime, minstrel songs, the blues and orchestral pieces—percolated in burgeoning black neighborhoods.

But even in its own neighborhood, jazz existed only in bars and juke joints. It wasn’t necessarily for polite society—and certainly not for white folks.

The job of bringing jazz to white ears fell to the radio. The form was moved forward by musicians everywhere. To everyone else, it became the soundtrack of a new attitude that had accompanied the end of World War I in 1917 and the institution of Prohibition in 1919.

Suddenly, white people aspired to the cool they saw among the growing ranks of black jazz musicians and listeners. Throughout the 1920s jazz was the music of bathtub gin parties and city speakeasies. A new attitude of permissiveness meant that taboos against blacks and whites socializing were bent or broken.

And anyone with a properly tuned radio could pick up jazz broadcasts from places like New York and Baltimore without ever having to set foot in a legally suspect environment.

In 1928 Wilmington landed WDEL, which immediately began to broadcast jazz by local performers such as Crash Peyton, pianist Marita Gordon, and singers Sarah Dean and Daisy Winchester. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal began to get people back on their feet in the 1930s, the Wilmington club scene, previously an underground network of speakeasies, stepped into the light.

The Eastside pulsated with sounds from venues like Club Harlem, George’s Café, Bill’s Café and the The Spot at the Royal Hotel, where performers such as Winchester and Dean, Blanche Saunders, Lidia White, Madeline Johnson, Dr. Laddie Springs and his Deuces of Rhythm, Jimmy Hinsley and his Maniacs, and the Felix Brown Orky would sing, swing and blow.

The period began Wilmington’s brief peek into the larger picture of jazz. It was in 1940 that Daisy Winchester had a brush with fame after recording “You’ve Got to Go When the Wagon Comes” with Louis Jordan’s Tympani Five.

During World War II, one Wilmington native would see her star rise, if not for long and not very brightly. Betty Roché left Wilmington for Atlantic City, then began performing in New York City with the Savoy Sultans after winning a talent contest at Harlem’s Apollo Theater when she was 17.

The band broke up almost immediately after she joined, but she soon caught the eyes and ears of Duke Ellington. Though she was a prolific performer—she sang with Ellington at his ground-breaking 1943 Black, Brown and Beige show at Carnegie Hall—few recordings of her work existed until the recording of the Carnegie concert appeared 40 years later. One biographer described Roché’s work ethic as “feckless.” She left Ellington’s band later in 1943, then joined pianist Earl Hines the next year. She left him to rejoin Ellington in 1951.

Though her mark was small, it was significant. Her version of Ellington’s “Take the A Train” was put to record in 1952. It remains the best-known version of the song.

Also during the war years, one of the most valuable, though little-known jewels in Wilmington’s jazz crown hit the scene. Saxophonist Robert “Boysie” Lowery, with his brother Bud, arrived in Delaware from their native North Carolina, formed the Aces of Rhythm, then began playing with stalwarts like Daisy Winchester at Wilmington venues such as Club Baby Grand, the post-war incarnation of Club Harlem.

In Wilmington, Lowery would become a student of the emerging sub-genre of jazz known as bebop—much of it gleaned from playing with creators like Dizzy Gillespie—then passing what he learned to several generations of musicians in and around Delaware.

UArts’ Glanden has been working for years on a video documentary about Clifford Brown. He says it’s impossible to discuss Brownie or Wilmington’s place in the jazz world without tackling the immense presence of Lowery.

“When you hear him talk, he was this really nurturing, kind guy,” Glanden says. “He himself was self-taught. He started teaching primarily kids from the black community. If they could afford it, fine. And if they couldn’t afford it, fine,” Glanden says. “He’d have people in his house for however long they needed to be there. If they didn’t have a place to stay, they would stay there for a couple of nights —just this really kind, nurturing person.”

Time spent with Gillespie, combined with his keen analytical mind, resulted in a remarkable achievement that went on to benefit not only Brownie, but generations of jazz musicians to follow. “What Lowery did musically that’s remarkable is, back in the 1940s, he figured out a system to explain what was going on with chord movement,” Glanden says.

Thus bebop’s seemingly random improvisational tangents were pinned down as musical science. Lowery’s system formed the foundation for his teaching.

While he was teaching students privately, the young people of the Eastside were benefitting in other ways from what might now seem a surprising source: the public school system.

Until the civil rights movement, Wilmington and many other medium-sized Northern cities remained in a state of de facto segregation. Howard High School in Wilmington’s Eastside was established in 1867 as one of the nation’s first public high schools for black children. The building students attended in the 1940s and ’50s was built in 1927 through a donation from then-General Motors chairman Pierre S. du Pont. In both its physical plant and educational tradition, Howard was one of the top high schools in the country.

“You get into the whole political history of Delaware, that the Republicans at that time were champions at helping the plight of the blacks, and you had the du Ponts who historically sometimes ended up in conflict with [President Franklin D.] Roosevelt,” Glanden says. “There was a kind of different sensibility about how to deal with problems, but there was a real philanthropy impetus to a lot of what went on in the du Pont family.

“Howard High School is a big part of this story because you’re talking about an era of educational segregation, but extremely high standards. So there was a competitive nature to that school. That school put on operas. The teachers lived in the community. The percentage of doctors and lawyers that came out of that is simply astonishing. That was a very nurturing, positive environment in the midst of this segregated system.”

Nick Catalano, a professor at Pace University in New York, author of “Clifford Brown: The Life and Art of the Legendary Jazz Trumpeter,” agrees.

“I just feel that not enough has ever been written about the magic of the Eastside of Wilmington, with its extraordinary educational traditions,” says Catalano, who grew up as a jazz musician in New York. “The best way to express the irony is that, in segregation, those schools were far superior to what they became after integration. I was there in the period, but when I went to Wilmington, I was completely awestruck by what happened there. There’s a tremendous support among the neighbors for each other. The educational system was so rigorous that Clifford won a math scholarship to Delaware State.”

Joining Lowery were Howard music teachers Sam Wooding, former leader of the globe-trotting Sam Wooding and his Orchestra, and Harry Andrews, who would become music superintendent of the Wilmington schools. They helped unleash the young Brownie upon the world.

“People like Robert Lowery, Sam Wooding, they’re the illustrations of everything you’ll find when you go to cities and study the influences of jazz,” says radio personality Phil Schaap, a Billie Holiday biographer and curator of jazz at the Lincoln Center in New York. “It’s something you don’t hear about any longer and may, in fact, not exist any longer.”

“The teachers—not just the regular teachers, but the music teachers—they developed in the students a real respect for the European music tradition,” Catalano says. “All that goes into making Clifford Brown a very complete musician and performer.”

Other important events were transpiring. Jazz and swing music had been adopted as the soundtrack of the American G.I. It was carried over military radio and played at USO dances. French girls knew the jitterbug and the Nazis churned out propaganda with grotesque caricatures of black musicians designed to illustrate the “evils” of America’s “negro” music.

When the war ended in 1945 and troops began to settle into the stability of America’s new suburban ideal of family life, the rebellious force of bebop bubbled in the big-city subculture. That same year marked Brown’s matriculation to Howard.

“It’s Boysie who brings that wonderful new jazz and revolutionary music theory” to Brown during practice sessions in Lowery’s Broom Street home, says Schaap. “He taught everyone there, and Brownie was his star pupil.”

“Brownie had an incredibly high work ethic. The whole family did,” says Glanden. “They were an extremely competitive family—competitive in who was going to get the best grades and he got into shooting pool with his brothers and friends and was very competitive at that.”

That competitiveness, paired with an ability to focus on a task and the math aptitude that earned him a scholarship to Delaware State, sped young Brown’s development.

“Talent is important, but focus—I know of no one else in jazz who has that kind of determination and that kind of focus,” Catalano says.

The result would become evident quickly.

“When you hear Clifford play at 14, 15 years old, you can hear him put the bebop vocabulary to use then,” Glanden says. “I think he sounds then like he was at least up to where Boysie was at that time. I’ve thought a lot about his role in Clifford’s development. Was this a substantive musical thing, or was this the guy who happened to be the Little League coach of Babe Ruth?”

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Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Newark, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-658-9111
Website »

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Between 1917 and 1944, the Society of Independent Artists (SIA) hosted annual exhibitions for its members. Famous painters and Sunday painters were able to exhibit their work in enormous open shows...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Website »

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The Rehoboth Beach Film Society announces the next play in the exciting series of National Theatre Live screenings. National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking project that presents the best of...

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE
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Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

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Thursdays from 4:00PM-5:30PM Fall session: December 1st, 8th and 15th Winter session: Starts January 19th, every other Thursday until March 30th This program is based entirely outdoors and is...

Cost: Cost: $30 for TLC members / $40 for non-members

Where:
Bucktoe Creek Preserve
432 Sharp Rd
Avondale, PA  19311
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Sponsor: The Land Conservancy
Telephone: 610-347-0347 ext.104
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Nanticoke Weight Loss & General Surgery will host bariatric support groups on Tuesday, Feb. 7 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and Monday, Feb. 27 from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Medical Staff...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital
801 Middleford Road
Seaford, DE  19973
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Telephone: 302-536-5395
Contact Name: Nanticoke Weight Loss & General Surgery
Website »

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Whether you’re renovating an outdated bathroom or designing your dream kitchen, Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery can help. Their state-of-the-art showrooms are...

Where:
Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery
2000 Maryland Ave.
Wilmington, DE  19805
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Telephone: 302-656-4421
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Nanticoke Memorial Hospital offers childbirth classes on Thursdays from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm in the Ground Floor Conference Room. The class will meet each Thursday for a total of five weeks – four...

Cost: Childbirth class, $50. Refresher class, $25.

Where:
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital
801 Middleford Road
Seaford, DE  19973
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Telephone: 302-629-6611 x2540
Contact Name: Nanticoke’s Maternal Child Health Clinical Educato

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Join Hagley for a night at the movies featuring classic films we all know and love. Specialty themed cocktails and food available for purchase at the event. Wear your favorite science fiction shirt...

Cost: $2 per person

Where:
Hagley Museum and Library Soda House
298 Buck Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
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[Un]Ravel, a show of photographs by Joshua Meier, will be on view in the Mezzanine Gallery from February 3-24, 2017. An opening reception to meet the artist will be held on Friday, Feb....

Cost: Free

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
820 N. French Street
2nd Floor, Carvel Building
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8278
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
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February 3 – 25 Group Show featuring still life paintings in oil by Rosemary Castiglioni; gestural animal paintings by Gay Freeborn; and plein air landscapes from Zion National Park,...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

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Uncover the facts, fictions, and fossils of Dinosaur Revolution as you LIVE LARGE in reptilian role-play activities. Undertake three Mesozoic Missions spanning 150 million years and mimic dinosaur...

Cost: Free with Admission

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Newark, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-658-9111
Website »

More information

Uncover the facts, fictions, and fossils of Dinosaur Revolution as you LIVE LARGE in reptilian role-play activities at the Delaware Museum of Natural History's newest special exhibit. Undertake...

Cost: Adults: $9 Children (3-17): $7 Seniors (60+): $8 Under 3: FREE Members: FREE

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Website »

More information

Between 1917 and 1944, the Society of Independent Artists (SIA) hosted annual exhibitions for its members. Famous painters and Sunday painters were able to exhibit their work in enormous open shows...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

The Rehoboth Beach Film Society announces the next play in the exciting series of National Theatre Live screenings. National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking project that presents the best of...

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE
View map »


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

Nanticoke Weight Loss & General Surgery will host bariatric support groups on Tuesday, Feb. 7 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and Monday, Feb. 27 from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Medical Staff...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital
801 Middleford Road
Seaford, DE  19973
View map »


Telephone: 302-536-5395
Contact Name: Nanticoke Weight Loss & General Surgery
Website »

More information

Tutto Fresco has live entertainment every Friday night from 6:30–9:30 p.m. Call for details. http://tuttofrescode.com/

Where:
Tutto Fresco
514 Philadelphia Pike
Wilmington, DE  19809
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Meeting every Friday, Bayhealth Kent General Hospital, 640 s. State Street, Dover, 7:30 pm., Private Dining Room #3 in the basement. For those who have, or think they may have a gambling problem....

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General Hospital
640 S. State Street
Private Dining Room #3
Dover, DE  19901
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Telephone: 800-855-2CALLGA
Website »

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JOHNNY WINTER ALL STAR BAND The Johnny Winter Band has been wowing audiences everywhere with incredible music played by Johnny's band and guest artists. Join Paul Nelson and The JW Band in a...

Cost: $20 ADV + $22 DOS + FEES

Where:
World Cafe Live Wilmington
500 N Market St
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 215-222-1400
Contact Name: MP Intern
Website »

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Now in its 8th year, the PAWS for People Conference/Annual Meeting is designed for those who love their pets, are pet enthusiasts or who want to learn more about the world of Pet Therapy. This...

Cost: $45 through 2/14; $50 after that date; $5 discount for PAWS members.

Where:
Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children
1600 Rockland Road
Wilmington, DE  19803
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Sponsor: PAWS for People
Telephone: 302-351-5622
Contact Name: Clarice Ritchie
Website »

More information

February 3 – 25 Group Show featuring still life paintings in oil by Rosemary Castiglioni; gestural animal paintings by Gay Freeborn; and plein air landscapes from Zion National Park,...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Uncover the facts, fictions, and fossils of Dinosaur Revolution as you LIVE LARGE in reptilian role-play activities at the Delaware Museum of Natural History's newest special exhibit. Undertake...

Cost: Adults: $9 Children (3-17): $7 Seniors (60+): $8 Under 3: FREE Members: FREE

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Website »

More information

Uncover the facts, fictions, and fossils of Dinosaur Revolution as you LIVE LARGE in reptilian role-play activities. Undertake three Mesozoic Missions spanning 150 million years and mimic dinosaur...

Cost: Free with Admission

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Newark, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-658-9111
Website »

More information

The Wilmington & Western Railroad's Hockessin Art Festival is a fundraising effort to benefit the railroad. Over 25 artists will be displaying and selling limited-edition...

Cost: $3 for art show admission; $5 for train fare (children under 2 are free)

Where:
Hockessin Memorial Hall
606 Yorklyn Road
Hockessin, DE  19707
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Sponsor: Wilmington & Western Railroad
Telephone: 302-998-1930
Website »

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Are you interested in learning more about what volunteer opportunities the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation has to offer? Consider attending our Volunteer Open House at our shipyard in Wilmington, DE from...

Cost:

Where:
Kalmar Nyckel Foundation
1124 E 7th St
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Website »

More information

Between 1917 and 1944, the Society of Independent Artists (SIA) hosted annual exhibitions for its members. Famous painters and Sunday painters were able to exhibit their work in enormous open shows...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

DCM Guests will experience, engage in, and take home different STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathmatics) activities run by Science Ambassadors from the Charter School of Wilmington...

Cost: $8.75

Where:
Delaware Children's Museum
550 Justison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-425-4890
Contact Name: Joe Valenti
Website »

More information

The Rehoboth Beach Film Society announces the next play in the exciting series of National Theatre Live screenings. National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking project that presents the best of...

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE
View map »


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

Build a hydraulic-powered machine while learning about pressure, water, and power. Families work together to solve science mysteries and engineering challenges. Activities are included in regular...

Cost: Adults: $14, Children 6-14: $5, Children 5 and under and Hagley Members: FREE

Where:
Hagley Museum and Library
200 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
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More information

Nanticoke Weight Loss & General Surgery will host bariatric support groups on Tuesday, Feb. 7 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and Monday, Feb. 27 from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Medical Staff...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital
801 Middleford Road
Seaford, DE  19973
View map »


Telephone: 302-536-5395
Contact Name: Nanticoke Weight Loss & General Surgery
Website »

More information

An evening of entertainment and hope at the 2017 Wilmington Heart Ball. Each year, community members, medical professionals and corporate leaders come together to celebrate the lifesaving work of...

Cost:

Where:
Chase Center on the Riverfront
815 Justison St
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Website »

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Join us for an unforgettable evening of entertainment and hope at the 2017 Wilmington Heart Ball.  Each year, community members, medical professionals and corporate leaders come together to...

Cost: $175

Where:
Chase Center on the Riverfront
815 Justison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: American Heart Association
Website »

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We are a mixture of some of the best and hardest working musicians in the Philadelphia area specializing in a mashup concept, fusing the music of The Allman Brothers Band and The Grateful Dead....

Cost: $10 + FEES

Where:
World Cafe Live- Wilmington
500 North Market Street
Wilmington, DE
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Mo Lowda & The Humble is a three piece Indie-rock group from Philadelphia, PA. The band has created a unique musical style combining various genre's ranging from garage rock to jazz fusion;...

Cost: $10 + FEES

Where:
World Cafe Live- Wilmington
500 North Market Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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