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West End News: January 22

WEN_20150122.mp34.43 MB

Live musical performance has become a routine, almost nightly, event in Cook County.  The West End is a particular hotbed of live music, including a variety of local acts and big-name artists who appear most often at the Papa Charlie’s nightclub at Lutsen Mountains Ski Area.
This growth in local live music is not by accident, as the tourism businesses countywide have decided to make Cook County a music destination.  If I say, Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans or Branson, you know right away that those are music destinations with deep traditions and culture.  The goal is to put Cook County in that same category. The effort is paying off as the word spreads. 
Recently, a public television program based in Duluth called “The PlayList” decided to highlight the music scene in the West End by filming a whole show of Cook County musicians in live performance from the stage at Papa Charlie’s.  You can join the audience for the filming session by showing up at Papa Charlie’s on Tuesday, January 27th.  The show runs from 8 until 11 pm and features Tofte singer/songwriter Eric Frost, Bump Blomberg and Adam Moe, known as “Pushing Chain” and the “Splintertones,” a 7-piece high energy dance band from Grand Marais.  The event is free and open to the public.  They also promise PlayList swag at the door.
Another notable music event is the “Century of Jazz” program being presented by the Sky Blue Jazz Ensemble.  This show is in the beautiful William Kelley High School Auditorium in Silver Bay on Monday, January 26th, starting at 7 pm.  The William Kelley High School Jazz Band will also perform.  Several members of the Sky Blue Jazz Ensemble hail from Cook County. 
“Century of Jazz” is co-sponsored by the Northern Lake County Arts Board.  They have a spiffy new website, so go to: for more information.  The Arts Board sponsors a lot of great things in Silver Bay all the year around, so you probably want to put their website in your bookmarks.
I have been pleased to hear the call for providing two free years of community college for anyone who is interested that has been coming from the leadership in the Minnesota Legislature and from President Obama.  The “free” part, of course, refers to the cost to the student, not implying that there is no cost.  In my opinion, it’s a clear winner to make a public investment in the future of our communities that will return the cost many times over.
That said, I also agree with some critics of the idea who point out that there are more impediments to higher education than the cost of tuition.  Tuition is only about a fifth of the actual cost of college, with living expenses, books, transportation and childcare making up the bulk of the costs.  I would like to see a comprehensive program that supports students across the board for the first two years of community college.
The experience of our own Cook County Higher Education has clearly shown that highly engaged student support is critical to successful graduation and job placement.  Cook County Higher Ed, whose main mission is providing student support, has a higher graduation rate than Harvard.
There is a lot of scholarship money already available for Cook County residents.  My dream has always been to create the situation where any Cook County resident could attend college, regardless of their financial situation. 
I like to dream big, so why not have the same goal for whole country?  The payoff would be spectacular and our humble West End would be an even better place to live.