The Dallas Jazz Piano Society Plays a Key Role as a Nonprofit for Youth

The Dallas Jazz Piano Society is a nonprofit that offers a glimmer of positivity to North Texas jazz lovers of all ages.
The Dallas Jazz Piano Society is a nonprofit that offers a glimmer of positivity to North Texas jazz lovers of all ages.
Jordan Whitfield/Unsplash
Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

While there's plenty of bad news plaguing the world, the Dallas Jazz Piano Society offers a glimmer of positivity to North Texas jazz lovers of all ages. 

What started out more than a decade ago as a jazz concert in the living room of Jim Callaway’s home turned into a multifaceted nonprofit organization emphasizing education and performance. Since 2010, the organization has presented a nine-month running concert series (from September through May) after its founders, James Callaway, Dan Haerle, Robert Donachie and Mike Finkel, decided to share their love of piano jazz with the world.

“Our mission statement is to promote, preserve and perpetuate piano jazz music via education and performance,” Donachie says.

The organization’s performance concert series — which most recently, and pre-COVID, took place at the Kawai Piano Gallery in Plano — are festive affairs, and always free to the public. Audience members are encouraged to ask questions and participate in discourse and are treated to a fully interactive musical experience. Each concert occurs on the second Thursday of the month and includes world-renowned artists like Shaun Martin of the three-time Grammy winning jazz-fusion group Snarky Puppy.

The concerts might be free, but the musicians are paid for their performances and carefully selected by the board. Their Rising Star concert series features a high school or college student accompanied by a professional drummer and bassist. In true jazz form, the trio improvises at will, working up a set list and authentic vibe for concert goers.

Youth education is another passion of the Dallas Jazz Piano Society’s board. Keys for Kids is a special program the organization set up to provide both instruments and instruction to motivate youths with documented financial needs.

Scholarship recipients complete a written application and are reviewed by a subcommittee of the board of directors for consideration. Scholarships are competitive, as the private music lessons are taught by first-rate jazz players.

“We have sponsored from five to 12 individual scholars over the past 10 years. Some of our scholars have gone on to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston among other programs,” Donachie says.

Over the next 10 years, Dallas Jazz Piano Society hopes to expand its after-school lessons program by partnering with the Dallas Independent School District in some capacity. By doing so, they hope to have a positive influence and reach more youths with the power of music. So far, offering private lessons for a select few has been favorable, but the group is growing its mission organically, Donachie says.

“It would be cool to get the DISD to partner with us to put together an after-school program," he says. "We provide instruction, they provide a venue and whatever resources they can.”

Although the concert series has been put on hold since the end of March due to the CDC’s strict warnings against gathering in large crowds, Donachie is certain the series will bounce back strong and looks forward to another successful decade promoting jazz. They're also planning on streaming live concerts in the future.

“The goal is to get as many students as we can get funding for," he says. "We simply need more money to pay for more music teachers and performers in our concert series. I want to provide a resource here … opportunities for youth regardless of their financial situations.”

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.