W.E. Singleton makes nation's largest jazz gift
View photo archives
In 2002, real estate investor and philanthropist W.E. Singleton committed $2 million to Virginia Commonwealth University, specifically to support the VCU Jazz Program's ensembles and student resources. His gift was at the time the largest ever made in the United States to support university-level jazz education. "We're delighted," said Antonio García, director of the VCU Jazz Studies Program. "I applaud his generosity and willingness to support a program that encompasses many forms of jazz."
"This is a spectacular gift," said Victor Goines, VCU jazz alumnus
and director of Jazz Studies for The Juilliard School. "VCU's Jazz
Studies Program is already one of the best, and it's no surprise
that it has attracted the generosity of a patron of this caliber."
In recognition of this gift, VCU's performing arts center was formally
named the W.E. Singleton Center for the Performing Arts.
W.E. Singleton is Managing General Partner of Crenshaw-Singleton
Properties, a local real estate investment firm whose portfolio
includes The Ironfronts, the J.C. Penney Building, the Verizon Building
and the Bon Air Shopping Center. He has been an enthusiastic jazz
fan for over 50 years and has been a personal friend of such jazz
legends as Louis Armstrong, Zutty Singleton, Maxine Sullivan, Gene
Krupa, Wild Bill Davison and Count Basie.
major philanthropic efforts began in 1995 when he partially funded
the W.E. Singleton VoTech Center at Elk Hill Farm in Goochland County.
In 1999 he contributed the Library at The Gables at Blackstone College
in memory of his mother and aunt, both of whom were graduates of
the college. Last year he conceived and partially funded the Singleton
Chapel, presently under construction on the Elk Hill campus.
"I think I've done about as much as I can do for Elk Hill," Singleton
said, "and so I decided to turn to my first love, other than family,
friends and business, and that's jazz. My involvement with jazz
has enabled me to take a special interest in VCU's Jazz Studies
Program." Singleton's $2 million commitment to VCU includes an initial
outright gift, then additional monies during his lifetime and in
"I am very impressed with Tony García," said Singleton. "He's a
real professional, an enthusiastic educator and a gentleman. Plus,
Tony can speak my jazz language; and he knows of my favorite musicians
alive today. Tony's presence at VCU helps confirm my great pride
in making a commitment that is intended to have a long-lasting impact
on the education of jazz students and the presentation of jazz."
"I have some good memories from VCU's Jazz Studies Program," added
Victor Goines. "And the addition of Tony García has added greatly
to its diversity."
The gift's purpose - to support the program's ensembles and student
resources - is intentionally wide in scope. "This gives us a lot
of flexibility," said García, "to fund musical instrument repair
and purchase, guest artist visits, faculty and student ensemble
recording, travel towards recruitment and, potentially, student
scholarships." Because the gift will arrive in gradual increments,
scholarships will likely become more of a reality once sufficient
funds have accumulated so as to establish an endowment for that
The Jazz Studies Program is one of the significant strengths of
VCU's internationally known School of the Arts. "I am so pleased
that W.E. Singleton has chosen to invest in this magnificent way
in one of the nation's great schools of the arts and design," stated
VCU School of the Arts Dean Richard Toscan. "Mr. Singleton's focus
on jazz performance confirms the stellar reputation and high quality
of the VCU Jazz Studies Program, and will continually strengthen
the education of our students and performances for our community.
We will be proud to have his name on the W.E. Singleton Center for
the Performing Arts."
In March 2005 Mr. Singleton announced an additional $1,000,000 commitment in memory of his long-time friend, jazz pianist James W. Black, for whom the VCU Music Center building on Grove Avenue was renamed as The James W. Black Music Center on October 16, 2005. Black’s death in 2004 had stunned a host of devoted friends and jazz fans.
The October 16 concert event featured traditional New Orleans-style jazz artist Tom Saunders and the Midwest All-Stars; guitarist, banjo player, and vocalist “Fast Eddie” Erickson; vocalist Steve Bassett and the music of the Jimmy Black Trio, and the Daniel Clarke Quartet. All of the artists had played significant roles in the musical friendship of W. E. Singleton and Jimmy Black.
“I’ve heard a lot of jazz piano players over the last 55 years,” said W. E. Singleton. “Most of them play well, but not all of them make music. In the good ones that do, I hear style, creativity, subtle tempos and key changes and the general feeling of the fun of jazz. I heard it in Erroll Garner and I heard it in Fats Waller. And I heard it in Jimmy.”
back to top