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Jazz Returns to Midtown

by Chuck Reider

Since moving to Reno in 1979, the biggest little city in the world, always seems to be growing. That is until dejavu strikes and you find yourself back in the little city. My little city moment struck this fall. Brian Egan, an RJO supporter, called me and said let’s get together for some lunch and chat. It turns out he had found a promising rehearsal hall/office space for us. Several months back I mentioned to him we were looking for a rehearsal space but we did not have a “big city” budget. He was also looking for a new office space and there was a spot in mid-town he had in mind that might just fit the bill for both of us. So, after lunch off we went and to my surprise, we stopped in front of the old musicians’ union building at 124 West Taylor Street. That is when it struck! I spent many days at the hall rehearsing with bands, tending to union business, and hanging out with my musician buds. As I entered, the music vibe came right back. The rehearsal hall still had the green linoleum tile on the floor, marble walls in the entry, and the two business offices hadn’t changed. Twenty plus years had gone by and I never thought I would find myself back at the hall. The next surprise was when Brian introduced me to the new prospective co-tenant who had just arrived. It was Joe Atack from the Good Luck MacBeth (GLM) theater company. It took me a moment after introductions but it struck me he was in the RJO’s initial production of Such Sweet Thunder on the roof of the Nevada Museum of Art. Wow, how small is my world going to get today? The three of us did a full tour of the building including the basement. And the basement brought back one more memory, the mystery flood of 1988 (or some year around then). During the summer without the aid of a thunderstorm or even passing showers the union hall basement flooded. How you say? To this day I am not sure other than we had a sump pump that apparently failed. But where did all that water come from? OK enough nostalgia.

I moved here to play in the showrooms and had to sign in at the hall for six weeks to get my local card. It was my first introduction, but the union had been in existence since 1909 and during the showroom heyday had funding in 1950 to purchase the land. RJO co-founder, Tony Savage, told me his grandfather Louie Rosasco loaned the union money to construct the building so in 1961 construction began, finishing the next year. Mr. Rosasco was a life member of the union as well as a major owner of the Palace Club. Unfortunately, as the business changed in the 1980’s casinos no longer hired showroom orchestras full time or even produce weeklong shows hiring musicians. We could no longer afford the upkeep of the building and sold it in the early nineties (I don’t remember the year). 

Brian, Joe, and I decided on that day we wanted this building to be our new homes and as Good Luck MacBeth (GLM) being the primary tenant we had to find a way for two performing groups use the same space. No small feat as a theater company needs the space to rehearse and perform and the RJO needed a rehearsal space, but after comparing calendars we made it work. The rehearsal hall will be GLM’s new theater and will use it the majority of the time producing plays. GLM and the RJO will share one business office and Brian will move into the front office. As I write GLM is constructing a stage, installing lighting, and a sound system. Soon the RJO and GLM will acquire all those necessary things offices need and we will move in. 

If you are not familiar with GLM they have been presenting theater productions for ten years in Midtown and are strong supporters of the Midtown district. They are building a wide array of artistic talents to keep their productions creative and their theater inviting. To learn more, visit their website

With our new home and rehearsal space the RJO will be able to add to our education program on the weekends. A jazz workshop focusing on jazz improvisation open to high school and college students. More on that later. We will also produce concerts two or three times a year in the theater that will be intimate and feature the great musicians in the RJO. 

It is thrilling that the performing arts are returning to the musicians’ hall and the RJO is looking forward to a long productive working relationship with GLM and one more shout out to Brian Egan for making this happen! I have to say Reno is still the biggest little city in America and my story today is just one of many proving the point. What’s yours?

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