Arts & Business Council of Chicago Celebrate the “Year of Chicago Music”

CHIMusic35, King Oliver Creole Jazz Band, Chicago,1923
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Music has always had a sweet home in Chicago. It’s where Louis Armstrong cut his first big records in the 1920s. It’s where Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf made the blues electric, building the foundation of rock & roll. And it’s where genres are invented; from gospel, house, and footwork to whatever comes next, Chicago’s influence can be felt around the world.

And now a unique opportunity presents itself as The ARTS & BUSINESS COUNCIL OF CHICAGO KICKS off a challenge to select CHICAGO’S 35 GREATEST MUSIC MOMENTS OF ALL TIME.

CHIMusic35, Chuck Berry, 1957

As Chicagoans face unprecedented challenges due to COVID-19, it’s important that we celebrate what bonds our city and brings our communities together during this “Year of Chicago Music.” 2020 also marks the 35th year that the nonprofit Arts & Business Council of Chicago (A&BC) has been supporting arts, cultural and creative enterprises to help ensure that the beat goes on.

Now more than ever, as the world faces the coronavirus pandemic, A&BC aims to help shore up local artists so that Chicago will continue to be the vibrant, creative city it’s known to be the world over. Though a number of live music events in Chicago have been canceled due to the pandemic, the “Year of Chicago Music” plays on, and in fact will extend into 2021.

To celebrate Chicago’s music history and support the city’s creative communities, A&BC invites the public to participate in the #ChiMusic35 campaign at The campaign includes:

A public challenge to define the 35 greatest moments in Chicago music history

A raffle to raise funds for A&BC to help Chicago’s creatives rebuild and recover from the COVID-19 crisis.

#ChiMusic35 Challenge: Favorite Chicago music moments may be submitted and voted on at All participants will be eligible to win an evening with Chicago Blues Legend Buddy Guy. The Challenge runs from Monday, May 18 through Friday, June 19, 2020. DJs, performers, producers, and journalists from across the Chicagoland music landscape who are participating in the Challenge include Add 2, DJ All The Way Kay, Martin Atkins, Pugs Atomz, Mark Bazer, Lori Branch, Jimmy Chamberlin, Ayana Contreras, Leor Gail, Commissioner Mark Kelly, DJ Lady D, Damon Locks, Pat Grumley, Rob Mckay, Duane Powell, DJ RTC, Tim Samuelson, and Sadie Woods.

CHIMusic35, Staple Singers on Soul Train

Here are a few of their favorite Chicago music moments that could make the final list of 35 Greatest Moments in Chicago Music History. You can find more on

1927: Louis Armstrong makes a defining recording of 1920s Chicago-style jazz with Potato Head Blues

1939: Mavis Staples, one of Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Singers of All-Time is born in Chicago

1958: Chuck Berry records Johnny B. Goode at Chess Records studio, 2120 S. Michigan Avenue

1977: Frankie Knuckles begins DJing at The Warehouse, known as the birthplace of house music

Splash Magazines Worldwide had was able to engage in a Q & A to learn more about how this event came about.  Read on to learn more.

How did the idea come about?

We knew we wanted to do something “big” to celebrate our 35th anniversary and we decided what better way to do that than to celebrate a citywide event — the “Year of Chicago Music”? It’s an event we support wholeheartedly and it’s certainly relevant to our arts partners. We also knew we wanted to raise funds to support the “77 Communities Initiative” we launched in 2019 to shift more of our focus to arts organizations in disinvested neighborhoods – more relevant today given their struggle during COVID-19. 

After a few brainstorming sessions we landed on an online campaign that met both needs: #ChiMusic35. It’s a way to celebrate Chicago’s music history and support the city’s creative communities. By going to, the public can participate in: 

  • ChiMusic35 Challenge to define the 35 greatest moments in Chicago music history, and
  • ChiMusic35 Raffle to raise funds for A&BC to help Chicago’s creatives rebuild and recover from the COVID-19 crisis.

 What is the significance of the “35”?

I’m proud to say it’s our 35th anniversary! A&BC has been providing business consulting services to arts organizations across Chicago for more than three decades. These services include strategic planning, financial management, branding and marketing, human resources, and board development. A&BC has provided approximately $14 million worth of business consulting since it’s been in operation. To date, A&BC has trained and placed hundreds of skilled volunteers on management consulting projects, providing over 100,000 hours of pro bono consulting to over 600 unique arts businesses. 

What are you hoping for as the result of this event?

As Chicagoans face unprecedented challenges due to COVID-19, it’s important that we celebrate what bonds our city and brings communities together during this “Year of Chicago Music.” We’re having some fun with Chicagoans from their own homes by asking them to showcase their knowledge and love for Chicago’s music history and to do some good by contributing to local artists’ survival as the economy reels from the coronavirus. And importantly, we’ll use the proceeds from #ChiMusic35 Raffle to fund our “77 Communities Initiative” so we can make a real difference in the city’s communities suffering the most during COVID-19. 

How does the team keep their spirits up given the extent of the challenges?

I’ve been executive director of Arts & Business Council of Chicago for three years now and I am continually impressed by the dedication and resiliency of my team. Particularly now, during this pandemic.  As soon as Shelter-in-Place policies went into effect, they transferred many of our offerings online – without disrupting any service.  

Here’s a perfect example: 

In 2020, A&BC was to offer services in person at ANNEXES located in the Cultural Centers of South Shore, Austin Town Hall, Roseland, Douglas Park, Piotrowski Park, Marquette Park, Calumet Park, Hamilton Park, Garfield Park, and Sherman Park. 

However, when they shuttered because of the pandemic, our team adapted out Business Volunteers for the Arts® to “On Demand”, providing virtual consulting with one of our skilled volunteers. Our Learning Labs, professional development series—designed for arts administrators and board members, are now offered as webinars and most are “pay what you can”. These models provide art makers and administrators immediate and unrestricted access, in the near and what likely be new methods for A&BC long term.

CHIMusic35, Sister Rosetta Tharp, Publicity Photo, 1938

In what way can this event influence the future of music of all kinds in Chicago?

We anticipate that ChiMusic35 will make Chicagoans proud and remind them just how important our music community is to our city – not just its legacy but its future, too. The arts communities bring vibrancy — as well as revenue – to this city that are important to our economy. It’s important that we all pull together and support them in this time of need.

All photos are courtesy of ChiMusic35

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