Charlton Singleton named Gaillard Center’s first artist-in-residence

Charlton Singleton conducts the Charleston Jazz Orchestra at the Charleston Music Hall during a 2012 performance for local school kids. He has been named the first artist-in-residence for the Gaillard Center.

The people who run The Gaillard Center are determined to ensure that their organization is much more than a building that hosts events.

Concerts, exhibitions, conferences and meetings surely are at the core of the operation. Such events generate needed revenues and serve the community’s arts patrons. But it’s not enough to bring people to the venues, according to staffers.

The new Gaillard must reach into the community, work with schools and nonprofits, educate students and generate grassroots interest in the performing arts.

To do so, a robust education program was conceived, and now that program is armed with a new weapon: jazz musician Charlton Singleton.

Singleton has signed on as The Gaillard Center’s first artist-in-residence, a part-time paid position that will put some miles on his odometer as he travels to schools throughout the tri-county region.

Singleton, who is music director of Jazz Artists of Charleston and an accomplished trumpet player, singer and church organist, said he plans to focus especially on rural and Title I schools where talent could be lurking undiscovered or underexposed.

“We all know there are a lot of schools in these counties that always seemingly get the short end of the stick,” he said. “I’m going to try to hit those.”

In the short term, Singleton will meet with the arts coordinators at three local school districts — Charleston County, Berkeley County and Dorchester County District 2 — to discuss the needs of the students and opportunities within each county, he said.

Many students from low-income families have never sat in a concert hall or learned about jazz music; some have never been downtown, Singleton said. He hopes to change these circumstances by introducing students to local musicians and to live performances.

Rick Jerue, who’s overseeing the Gaillard’s outreach, said the artist-in-residence program has an annual budget of $25,000 and is meant to provide schools with another resource to help them fill gaps in arts education.

Singleton’s charisma, reputation, talent and local ties made him an ideal partner, Jerue said.

“To me, it was a no-brainer in hiring him and engaging him,” Jerue said. “He’s been a teacher. He’s an extraordinary artist. He’s got terrific people skills. He knows the three nearby school districts relatively well. And I just think he’s going to be an incredible role model to so many students. Through his interactions with the schools, he’s going to be able to identify talent that might not have otherwise been identified.”

During the summer, Singleton will organize a camp for kids, or perhaps an arts festival, Jerue said.

“It’s going to be his initiative,” he said. “If he decides he wants to have a summer music camp, a jazz camp, that’s terrific, and I’ll go out and help him raise the money to do that.”

Summer camp surely will provide young people with something productive to do when not in school, keeping their minds active and their bodies safe, Jerue added.

“It’s a win-win. It keeps them engaged in learning” — and this will temper the phenomenon of summer learning loss, helping not only the students but their teachers, he said.

Singleton said he plans to talk a lot about the importance of the arts and the ways an arts education enhances learning generally. And since Charleston has a significant but little-known jazz history, he hopes that students will grow to appreciate their musical inheritance.

“I think that will hit home in some of these areas,” he said.

Singleton will serve as artist-in-residence through August. Jerue said the Gaillard will seek out other local artists to assume the post in years to come.

“We’ve got extraordinary talent here, let’s utilize it, let’s highlight it,” he said.

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