The Ellington jazz club reopens its doors

For the first time in two years, local jazz club The Ellington is welcoming music fans back to the historic venue. 

Located in downtown Lynchburg on Rivermont Avenue, The Ellington has been a home for music since the 70s. Blake Gederberg, a local business man and owner of Speakertree record shop, recently teamed up with the owners of the building to revive the historic club and bring it back to its days of glory.

“The Ellington used to be a big cultural experience for the city of Lynchburg and we want to bring that back,” Gederberg said. “Obviously it is much easier to bring back an existing historic venue than it is to build one up from scratch.”

Gederberg has worked for years to help build up the thriving local music scene in Lynchburg. As the owner of Speakertree, he has held countless concerts and helped local artists like Good Dog Nigel launch their music careers. 

“We want to be able to curate some up-and-coming talent,” Gederberg said. “We want to bring in these bands who will be big in a few years but need a medium-size venue right now.”

The thing that makes The Ellington ideal is its size. Until recently, the local music scene thrived in small venues around town, but as the bands have grown, so have the crowds.

“It’s a great midsize venue, which Lynchburg desperately needs, because we have a really big venue at the Academy and a bunch of really small ones like Speakertree,” Gederberg said. 

Gederberg’s goal is to not only provide a larger venue, but also provide Lynchburg with the experience of an old jazz club.

Rock —Vacation Manor performed earlier in 2019. Photo by Nick Sheetz

“We want to try to bring the dinner shows back and start doing some cool, seated jazz shows and all these intimate events alongside of all our bands,” Gederberg said. 

This process has not been easy though. The building itself is intact, but it has needed renovations. 

“A lot of the changes were cosmetic, like painting and cleaning,” Gederberg said. “We also upgraded the sound system. We also needed to expand the stage — it was very small and narrow and just uncomfortable for a lot of bands.”

In addition to the shows that have been hosted already, The Ellington has been a musical refuge for Peter Paine, a local producer and musical artist. He has been recording bands in the lofted room behind and above the stage. 

“The Ellington provides such a warm and safe space to record local bands,” Paine said. “The acoustics are amazing and there is space for the bands to make their magic.”

Starting this fall, Gederberg wants to see bands from all over playing in his newest venue. He is proud of the work that he and others have done to make the Lynchburg music scene inclusive and diverse.

“We want to have a wide variety of bands — that’s the only way to make a venue successful,” Gederberg said. “We want to bring in everything and cater to all the local music taste.”

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