Joe Squared – my happy place of Jazz featuring Sac Au Lait – an educational band

Last Thursday was the first Thursday of the month of April. I love the first Thursday of any month because it is a day when I can go to my happy place.

Of course, I’m referring to Joe Squared in Stations North for the monthly arrival of Sac Au Lait.

Sac Au Lait,  is the most fun band in Baltimore. They play “traditional and not so traditional Dixieland Jazz.”

I find that by mid-week I am a bit run down from my full time work followed by night classes at The University of Baltimore. I want to sit on the couch and veg out.  I have nothing to give.

But on the first Thursday of every month I push through that exhaustion and make my way toward the music.

Sac Au Lait

Joe Squared doesn’t look like anything special on the corner of North and Howard, but the terrific bar and a sizable dining area are always crowded with students from MICA, UBALT and other local colleges. You will find round tables with theater folks discussing the latest production and locals of all ages enjoying the best pizza in town.

Within minutes of hearing the band warm up their horns, I find my shoulders starting to shimmy and my feet making their way to the dance floor.

The dancing can only be categorized as funny. Oh we all crowd the floor and try to swing, salsa, tango or whatever but, mostly, it’s just playing and laughing and having fun to the music.

The next day I find that I am rejuvenated and energetic.

The best thing about Sac Au Lait is that the boys in the band are not just a bunch of pretty faces kicking up a good party. These are men who are active in the community and are strong advocates for positive change in Baltimore.

Frank and the kids.
Frank Patinella and Transform Baltimore pose for a photo.

In addition to showing up for community events and political rallies, they lend their talents to support a variety of social causes to help transform Baltimore.

Frank Patinella not only plays the banjo, the piano, the guitar and sings but during the day he works for the ACLU as an education advocate and his efforts have helped Baltimore make great strides toward securing a 1.1 billion dollar budget for the renovation and rejuvenation of our public schools.

Frank is tireless and passionate in his fight for children he doesn’t know because he understands that the success or failure of our city, our state and our country lies in the assurance that everyone will get the opportunity to learn and to grown into the best version of themselves as possible.

Education is the key to that growth.

We can’t expect our city to thrive when our children are being taught in conditions that reinforce the thinking that some people are less valuable than others.

Let's gather around the piano and the community at City Neighbors school. (Franklin Dunn)
Let’s gather around the piano and the community at City Neighbors school. (Franklin Donn)

Musicians as advocates for education automatically speak to the value of the arts in our community. They are an excellent tool for unity and change but music and the visual arts are often the first things to be cut when public policy calls for a tighter budget.

Some argue that arts are extraneous to a practical education.

Many more, like me, believe that the arts are essential to health and well being, which is the foundation for effective learning.

When music is learned and taught in schools it activates the same part of the brain that is engaged in spatial-temporal reasoning. This is the part of the brain that facilitates excellence in math and science comprehension.

Just ask Marcus Du Sautoy. In his math/music blog for The Guardian    Sautoy scoffs at the idea that music is emotional and math is logical.

city neighborsThe two, together create a harmonic resonance that enhances the growth and learning potential of the student.

Franklin Donn plays the trumpet for the band and sounds the trumpet for the community as well.

He is an active supporter of Baltimore’s model charter school for integration of arts and civic responsibility into traditional learning.  City Neighbors Hamilton is a progressive education model that is reproducing a curriculum of success in Baltimore.

This Saturday night, City Neighbors Hamilton is having a fun raising event that will include all of the things you will need to bring you to your happy place: interesting people, good food and great music.

Once again, Sac Au Lait will be encouraging folks to move their asses – not just on the dance floor, but in the community as well.

Come have a drink. Say Hello. Enjoy the terrific music and have some fun. It’s the least you could do for your city.