The Association: South Side organization advances creative music at Velvet Lounge

The Association for the Advancement of Creative Music (AACM) is a not-for-profit organization created in Chicago in 1965 during an era of social and racial strife. Forty-two years later, Fred Anderson, one of the officers of The Velvet Lounge (a frequent stage for AACM musicians and “all musicians of the Chicago community”) assures me that the AACM is still very socially involved within the city’s vibrant communities, giving many free concerts around Chicago. Needless to say, the AACM is involved in many projects. For one, it has its very own music school, the AACM School of Music, which caters to the city’s disadvantaged youth.

The success of the AACM is undeniably attributed to the organization’s leadership in Chicago’s urban community, most notably on the South Side, where the AACM headquarters are located. In the words of Anderson, the AACM “covers the ram”–musicians play everything from “yesterday’s to today’s music.” The AACM is an exceptional organization as much for its social work as for its work with young and emerging artists. Therefore it isn’t strange that a frequent platform of the AACM, aside from the Velvet Lounge, has been the University of Chicago. What better place to perform experimental and eclectic music than a campus of young students in a college known for promoting “the life of the mind”? After all, the AACM strives to further social and cultural advancement through music and the arts, which is no easy task.

To experience the many talents and facets of the AACM in the next week, a brisk walk to one of the campus’ auditoriums will not do. Instead, a trip on public transportation will be necessary to reach the Velvet Lounge, situated at 67 E Cermak Road, where the AACM’s Great Black Music Ensemble will perform live on October 21, from 6 to 8pm.

However–and this is where the bad news kicks in–students who are not 21 or older will not be allowed to enter the Velvet Lounge; though Anderson did suggest that younger students could get in if they were accompanied by an adult who was visibly older than 21. Of course, finding such an adult might not be the easiest task on a college campus where most students are between the ages of 18 and 22.

Regardless, the Velvet Lounge, like the AACM, is another South Side landmark and has called the South Loop its home since 1982 when Anderson relocated from the North Side. Open 5 days a week, the Velvet Lounge is a great venue for diverse live performances, and like the AACM, it should not be overlooked. Such valuable organizations and music spaces should not be taken for granted, especially when one considers that both rely on continual financial support from the public. In fact, the AACM’s website states that one of its primary goals right now is the “purchase of a building where the AACM will house and expand its activities,” since currently it relies on a small rental space. Both the Velvet Lounge and the AACM are sites of rich Chicago history entrenched in a community that absolutely needs them. It is no exaggeration to state that not only the South Side but the entire city of Chicago would suffer a resounding loss if the AACM or the Velvet Lounge were forced to close or relocate.

AACM, Velvet Lounge, 67 E Cermak Rd. October 20-21. Saturday-Sunday, 9pm. (312) 791-9050.