PPH Passing Strange

A decade on Broadway


After retiring from his last teaching job, at Eugene’s Spencer Butte Middle School, Paul Bodin “wanted to see what it was like to be a student again.” And he wanted to explore the music that had enchanted him since childhood but had been put on a thirty-year back burner — jazz. Enrolling in the University’s jazz studies program in 2005, Bodin took composition courses from well-known teacher-performers Mike Denny and Steve Owen, and played saxophone in a student jazz combo. He and his wife Peggy “started meeting wonderful young undergrads and grads in the program,” and occasionally invited the hungry students over to dinner at their bungalow at the corner of Broadway and Monroe Streets near downtown Eugene.

Teacher and musician Paul Bodin.
Teacher and musician Paul Bodin.

“We have this table that expands out, and started having these epic dinners for eight, nine, ten people,” he recalls. Some of them suggested that they bring instruments and jam.

Those informal gatherings grew into a recurring series of intimate living-room concerts open to the public. Since the Broadway House series began in June 2010 with Bodin’s classmate keyboardist/singer/songwriter Ben Darwish’s quartet, Broadway House has presented more than 60 concerts, most but not all jazz. The series is celebrating its tenth anniversary season this year with eight concerts, but the last five have been suspended because you-know-what.

Paul Bodin grew up in the Los Angeles area listening to his father’s jazz records, then started playing saxophone in middle school. After what he calls a “30 year detour teaching elementary and middle school” in California and Oregon, he retired from Eugene’s Spencer Butte middle school and enrolled as a community education student in the UO’s jazz studies program. There, he learned to write jazz combo and big band charts for middle school, high school and university ensembles and played soprano and alto sax in a UO student ensemble. 

With few intimate jazz friendly venues available in the wake of recent club closures, “we wanted to give students from the UO a place to perform outside the UO itself,” he explains.

Paul Bodin teaching at UO in 2017.
Paul Bodin co-leading a philosophy discussion at Eugene Public Library.

But recession-rocked Eugene wasn’t a welcoming place for jazz in 2010. Jazz-friendly clubs and restaurants like Jo Federigo’s closed. The Jazz Station’s tiny original downtown mall location then offered little space (it’s since moved to a larger venue) and other venues were either too big or expensive for the intimacy of small-combo jazz.

Intimate Vibe


Seattle Opera Barber of Seville

The second concert in 2011 featured a quintet led by ace UO student saxophonist Hashem Assadulahi that included nationally renowned Denver-based trumpeter Ron Miles. The UO Flute studio, then run by Prof. Molly Barth, held a student concert as a fundraiser for Food for Lane County. Contemporary classical ensembles followed, featuring UO alums and students, local koto master Mitsuki Dazai, and Southern Oregon flute and percussion duo Caballito Negro.

Hashem Assadullahi and Ron Miles at a 2011 Broadway House concert.
Hashem Assadullahi and Ron Miles at a 2011 Broadway House concert.

Some of Portland’s finest jazz musicians, like pianists Randy Porter and Greg Goebel, singer Rebecca Kilgore, drummer Chris Brown, have performed there. Word spread among musicians, including those touring the West Coast, that Oregon had a new intimate spot for jazz on the way between California’s Bay Area and Seattle. 

Despite — or rather because of — its tiny size,  “players like playing here,” Paul says. “Not for the money — they might make $100 per person. They love the intimacy, the energy that comes from that. And they like the acoustics — especially bass players.” Like the listeners, musicians appreciate the opportunity to make music just a few feet away from listeners, and to chat informally with them. Lacking room for a grand piano, pianists bring in a weighted electric keyboard.

“All of the musicians have been so generous and accepting of what we have to offer here,” Peggy says. “They always deliver the best music they can give. We feel really lucky to have these musicians in our house.”

George Colligan Quartet with saxophonist Joe Manis in 2014.
George Colligan Quartet with saxophonist Joe Manis in 2014.

For each performance, the Bodins host a potluck, with attendees (ranging from about 20 to a tight-squeeze 55) bringing food or a beverage and chatting in the kitchen or hallway. A large glass jar is passed around, with all the money going to the musicians. “I like the simplicity and honesty of that,” Paul says. 

The couple also host a sit down dinner with any traveling musicians before sound check, where they get to know each other. “As I’m finishing the dishes, people start walking in the door,” Bodin says. “Very much like jazz, a house concert is an improvisational experience. You don’t really know who’s coming. You’re opening your house to a dynamic mix of people:  those who you recognize and even establish friendships with because they are regular supporters of past concerts, and new audience members who may be experiencing their very first house concert.”

Prof. Molly Barth and the UO Flute Studio at Broadway House.

They’ve included regulars and occasional visitors, jazz heads, friends and fans of particular artists, even a local poet who frequented the legendary Birdland club when he lived in New York in the 1950s and ‘60s. With no budget for promotion, the series relies on coverage in print publications and radio, and a mailing list.


Seattle Repertory Theatre Fat Ham

 “Our audiences are pretty steady,” Peggy says. “We have regulars, veteran jazz listeners and also younger people. We’ll get young students, sometimes international students who’ve never heard live jazz.” Because it’s a house, not a bar, the series is one of the few jazz venues available to people under 21.

Koto master Mitsuki Dazai and flutist/composer Tessa Brinckman of Southern Oregon's Caballito Negro.
Koto master Mitsuki Dazai and flutist/composer Tessa Brinckman of Southern Oregon’s Caballito Negro.

University Connection

UO students often make up a substantial portion of the audience, some receiving extra credit for attending and writing a response to jazz concerts. Bodin regularly appears at Prof. Paul Krueger’s classes to talk about the series and jazz — part of Broadway House’s continuing connection to its origins. Some UO student jazzers have held their senior recitals at Broadway House. “We couldn’t do it without the University of Oregon and a core group of jazz musicians in town,” Peggy Bodin says.

Although this spring’s five scheduled performances were postponed along with the rest of Oregon’s music “Peggy and I plan on continuing our support of local, regional and touring jazz artists and ensembles once the crisis abates,” Bodin told ArtsWatch in April.  “For now, however, we are not making any specific future bookings, preferring to wait until we have more knowledge about the safety and health of everyone concerned. We hope to reschedule all five groups that were canceled this spring.” Check the Facebook page for updates..

As the Bodins celebrate the series’ tenth anniversary, “I’ve started to see the value more over the years as it’s mushroomed outward,” Paul says. “We had no idea what we were getting into! Now when I look back on it, I see how it’s become a big part of our lives and the community.”

David Friesen at Broadway House in 2017.
David Friesen at Broadway House in 2017.

A shorter version of this story appears in Oregon Quarterly.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Brett Campbell is a frequent contributor to The Oregonian, San Francisco Classical Voice, Oregon Quarterly, and Oregon Humanities. He has been classical music editor at Willamette Week, music columnist for Eugene Weekly, and West Coast performing arts contributing writer for the Wall Street Journal, and has also written for Portland Monthly, West: The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Salon, Musical America and many other publications. He is a former editor of Oregon Quarterly and The Texas Observer, a recipient of arts journalism fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (Columbia University), the Getty/Annenberg Foundation (University of Southern California) and the Eugene O’Neill Center (Connecticut). He is co-author of the biography Lou Harrison: American Musical Maverick (Indiana University Press, 2017) and several plays, and has taught news and feature writing, editing and magazine publishing at the University of Oregon School of Journalism & Communication and Portland State University.

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