Settlement’s musical mission gains prominent West Side foothold: Bop Stop

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Music offers people of varying nationalities and linguistic abilities a common ground and helps break barriers when coming to a new land – and in effect, helps build stronger communities.

That idea is one of the cornerstones of The Music Settlement’s mission. Founded as The Cleveland Music School Settlement in 1912 by Almeda Adams as part of the Settlement Movement, the organization provides a community where artistic expression through music can grow regardless of age, creed, race or economic standing.

With that in mind, it came as a great surprise to all involved with The Music Settlement (renamed in 2008) when the former owners of the Bop Stop jazz club gifted the Ohio City location to the organization allowing The Music Settlement to spread its reach with a brick and mortar location west of the Cuyahoga.

Those who know of The Music Settlement recognize its prominent University Circle location on the Burke Estate but how does this West Side location fit with the Music Settlement’s mission?

University Circle West

“Perfectly, the area of Detroit Avenue we are now located on is quickly being identified as the ‘University Circle’ of the Near West Side cultural institutions, boutique businesses and educational offerings in a walkable people-friendly couple of blocks,” says Charles Lawrence, president of The Music Settlement.

“In terms of market potential, the Near West Side is not highly represented in our current UC enrollment numbers, yet many residents know our brands well, which sets up West 29th and Detroit as a relatively close location that will not compete with our UC campus for the same customers.”

Lawrence characterized the Bop Stop donation as a “complete game changer” for the organization that several decades ago had multiple campuses throughout Cleveland. From what The Music Settlement leaders have heard, the Ohio City neighborhood welcomes the addition with open arms and ideas for potential offerings.

“Early on, we are looking to establish a regular performance schedule that will cement the Bop Stop as a live entertainment venue that ties to our students and our mission,” Lawrence says. “We will follow this in the fall with a balance of regularly scheduled educational programs and classes that will form the basis for a second campus offering high quality music education, music therapy and early childhood options.”
Latin jazz flavor

Founded in 1991, the Bop Stop had two locations before then owners Anita Nonneman and Ron Busch opened the purpose-built, 4,000-square-foot venue at 2920 Detroit Ave. The two programmed regular events at the location from 2003-2010.

With amazing acoustics and a curved design that offers great views of the performance space, the Bop Stop offers the organization a place to highlight a wide variety of music. Lynn Johnson, Music Settlement spokesperson, says it also means broadening the variety of classes taught to help cater to the neighborhood’s demographics.

Johnson says one way the organization plans to work with the neighborhood is through the successful, jazz program offered in University Circle, adjusting it and offering a Latin jazz ensemble program in the fall at the Bop Stop to cater to the West Side’s Hispanic community.

“The mission of the business was for the betterment of Cleveland’s jazz culture. The club featured prominent local and international jazz artists and was a first performance venue for many young students of jazz who were just beginning their careers,” Nonneman says.

“When it came time to sell, we knew we would only be comfortable transferring ownership to someone who shared our vision. Our building has a very specific purpose, with many unique qualities to enhance performance and audience enjoyment. “

Saving the site

Nonneman says the idea to donate evolved after she and Busch were repeatedly approached by prospective buyers who saw it only as a building, and had no appreciation for its innate purpose or for what had been accomplished there.

“Only through donation could we find someone who would appreciate and carry on our intended purpose — a place for serious performance, listening and the betterment of our music and creative culture through continued education,” she says.

She says that for the last 100-plus years, The Music Settlement embodies what the former owners were looking for in a new owner for their venue.  Taking it one-step further, she, like Lawrence and Johnson, see the venue as another bright spot in the Ohio City neighborhood.

“The Music Settlement is open to everyone, and will provide specialized opportunities for our community, young and old, to enrich their lives through art and music education. The early childhood education programs the Music Settlement offers will build self-confidence and a love of learning in our young neighborhood children as they prepare to enter school.

“Our inner city population is growing, and along with it comes the need for a holistic approach to learning for each child,” Nonneman says. “When our city schools are forced to trim their budgets, it’s often the music and art programs that are eliminated. The Music Settlement programs will provide the opportunity for continued creative learning and performance.”

For an opportunity to see what the future holds for the Bop Stop under The Music Settlement’s leadership, the Jazz Heritage Orchestra will play at the venue at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 22 and 23 with guest vocalist Vanessa Rubin.

How to reach: The Music Settlement, (216) 421-5806 or www.themusicsettlement.org.