The Spark of Improvisation, Jazz in July, and Birdhouses

In the spring of 1989 I was studying architecture in Paris, comparing American and European urban design. It was my junior year of college. One evening a classmate invited me to see Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers at a local club. This intimate concert became one of the more transformative events of my youth.

Custom birdhouses designed by Silent Rivers Design+Build for Jazz in July

Mesmerized by the music, the band’s exuberance and the entire emotional experience, I was overwhelmed by the collective synergy of the band. Later, I reflected in my journal about the spirituality of jazz improvisation; a kind of spirituality that has long guided my love of music, but more importantly my belief in humanity and our capacity for greatness and beauty. This was an experience that began my realization that creative is infinitely capable of good, and as human beings, our capacity for change is equally infinite because we are in constant evolution.

Back then, these ideas helped define my senior year thesis. They also inspired my career as a design+build remodeler, working with people and their homes. Today, I continue to be inspired by connecting meaning to ‘home’ through integrating spirit and form, and weaving purpose into our business model. Similar to musical improvisation, the framework of design+build allows the artist to deviate and follow inspiration while returning to the framework for guidance and unity. Individual talent and personality combine with the voice of other team members to amplify each other while remaining cohesive.

Residential Improvisation

Chaden Halfhill of Silent Rivers Design+Build entertaining kids at Jazz in July in Des MoinesThe meaning of ‘home’ began to leave housing a long time ago as we industrialized the manufacturing of homes, but it’s finding a slow resurgence. At a time when restrictive housing covenants can distill personality and character from neighborhoods, there are neighborhoods throughout the metro that are celebrating their diversity and uniqueness. Rather than boasting uniformity, local neighborhood associations are embracing creative solutions for their streetscapes, their people and their services. They want to stand out while providing an opportunity for distinct, individual needs of homeowners.

With the help of organizations like Polk County Housing Trust FundNeighborhood Finance Corporation, and the Neighborhood Development Corporation, prior patterns of residential divestment from original neighborhoods has shifted towards reinvestment. The Des Moines metro is experiencing resurgence in connectivity and residential vibrancy. Maintenance of our homes, combined with both functional and visual upgrades protects the enduring value of each investment as well as the collective benefit of the neighborhood. Silent Rivers is proud to participate in changing Des Moines as we help homeowners remodel and improve their homes, one project at time.

Neighborhood Jazz around Metro Des Moines

Jazz in July 2014 trumpeterAs long-time supporters of Metro Arts Alliance’s Jazz in July, the team at Silent Rivers believes that diverse and engaged neighborhoods empower the larger community and provide the basis for a vibrant metro. The arts, should reach everyone and there is no better way to do so than in collaboration with neighborhood associations and individual neighbors. Jazz in July is a conduit; a way for a neighborhoods to attract others from across the region through the exuberance of Jazz and to highlight what makes them distinct.

Get Out and Vote for the Birds!

Birdhouse by Craig Seagren Silent Rivers for Jazz in JulyIn support of Jazz in July, some of us at Silent Rivers have built custom birdhouses as a fun way to share our passions as artisans and to inspire communities around the metro. We invited each team member at Silent Rivers to design and fabricate a birdhouse, encouraging them to let their creativity take wing using reclaimed or recycled materials to build their birdhouses. The results have been fun and most of our birdhouses will be on display at Jazz in July concerts. Collaborative and creative, we hope these birdhouses remind you of the individual impact you can have in shaping your own home and making Des Moines an even greater place to live.

Silent Rivers will be at each 2015 Jazz in July concert. Come see us and vote for your favorite birdhouse! At the conclusion of Jazz in July, we will hold a drawing from all the nominations and will give away the top six birdhouses. This drawing will be held during the Jazz in July Patron Party and Finale Concert on August 1, 2015. Please join us for this event on the outdoor patio of the Blue Moon Dueling Piano Bar from 5:00 to 6:00pm.

Held in partnership with neighborhood sites, Metro Arts Jazz in July is Iowa’s longest-running summer music festival and the only festival to focus exclusively on jazz. In 2015, the series will feature 147 musicians at 17 sites across the metro area.


Please visit the Silent Rivers Project Gallery to learn more about our commitment to craftsmanship, art in building, and historical preservation.


Share this Page: