Southfield’s Star-Studded Kimmie Horne Jazz Festival

Southfield’s Star-Studded Kimmie Horne Jazz Festival

Southfield’s Star-Studded Kimmie Horne Jazz Festival 1200 800 sccadmin

When Kimmie Horne takes the stage, there’s no doubt you’re in the presence of a first-class performer whose unique mix of jazz, pop and rhythm & blues has delighted audiences around the world.

And if you’re one of thousands of Metro Detroiters aware of the Kimmie Horne Jazz Festival, held in Southfield every summer, there’s no doubt you’ve added August 9th and 10th to your calendar for the chance to experience exceptional music by Horne and other talented jazz artists — all free of charge.

But Horne, who exudes positive energy, has more than just performing on her mind as she gears up for the 8th annual festival, held on the lawn of the Southfield Municipal Campus.

For this internationally known performer, the festival requires months of planning every detail — from securing sponsors and lining up top performers, to organizing vendors, meeting with sound engineers, planning her repertoire and more.

She does it all with the help of a well-seasoned team spearheaded by long-time partner Michael Cash, whom she recently wed. It’s a labor of love in many ways.

The beginning of it all

The newlyweds launched the festival in 2016 with the goal of bringing jazz to a small, intimate venue in Lathrup Village. Two years later, the festival moved to Southfield at the request of Mayor Kenson J. Siver and Delores Flagg, chair of the Southfield Public Arts Commission. It has since become one of the city’s premiere events, according to Siver.

The free, outdoor event fills the lawn of the Southfield Municipal Campus along Evergreen Road, where jazz lovers spread blankets or set up lawn chairs in anticipation of hearing well-known performers along with a few talented newcomers.

“The Kimmie Horne Jazz Festival has become Southfield’s signature summer event,” says Siver, noting that approximately 4,000 people filled the front lawn of the municipal campus last August.

“At first I wasn’t prepared to have the Jazz Festival under my name,” says Horne. But Cash saw beyond her hesitation. “He told me, ‘You have a powerful name, you have a legacy.’ And so, when I accepted that, it was the best move I could have made. Michael’s vision is what helped bring this to life,” Horne says, adding, “The festival became our baby.”

Music in her blood

Horne’s love of music began early, inspired by her father, a musician and carpenter, her great aunt, the legendary singer and actress Lena Horne, and her singer/songwriter uncle, Cleveland Horne of the group the Fantastic Four.

One of seven children born and raised in Detroit, Horne’s plans to become a journalist took a dramatic turn when she discovered her musical voice. She says she “fell into singing” with help from her eldest brother, Tony, also a musician.

“I went to the studio and started singing with him. Unbeknownst to me, the sound engineer was Stevie Wonder’s hit-making songwriter Henry R. Cosby. He said, ‘Kimmie, I want to try you on another song.’ I sang the song, and then he played it back. As I sat there in this studio listening to myself, it’s like my whole trajectory changed. I thought, I need to be in the music industry. And I’ve been doing it ever since.

“I truly embrace and carry on my family’s musical connection, and I accept this as my purpose,” Horne says. “As an international performer, I have the great pleasure of engaging audiences around the world.”

Transcending the language barrier

In addition to the love she has for her Southfield audience, Horne admits to being especially fond of performing in Japan, which she describes as her “second home.”

“I just really dove into the culture there, and I found that love transcends the language barrier.” That love was evident when Horne met a group known as the Japanese Supremes and helped them perfect their performance. “I produced and choreographed these talented Japanese singers and helped with their costuming. They were so eager for me to teach them,” she says.

The passion Horne feels extends to all audiences. “I try to engage my audience. I really paying attention to different audiences all around the world.”

One stage, many stars

Closer to home, Horne says the Kimmie Horne Jazz Festival allows her to bring her musical talent as well as the talent of other performers together on one stage.

“I want to be able to offer myself from my own stage, but also to welcome different musicians — my musical peers — to share the stage. It’s like having a musical family reunion,” she says. Past performers have included such recognizable names as Martha Reeves, Freda Payne and Duane Parham.

This year, true to her vision, Horne has invited 10 performers to share the stage to entertain thousands of concertgoers at what she describes as a “boutique festival that offers something for everyone: kids, parents, grandparents, black, white — all races.”

With the backing and support of Southfield Mayor Siver and Flagg, who now also coordinates the festival, Horne says she has seen her vision grow larger each year.

“Southfield is an amazing, groundbreaking place because it truly is the center of it all. It allows me to let my freedom go with not only live entertainment, but with the boutique vendors, food truck vendors, fitness activities and a bike cruise … everything. It’s so creatively rewarding for me.”

Finding inspiration

Horne says she continues to be inspired by jazz greats such as Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald as well as up-and-comers like Samara Joy. But she’s also inspired by the businesses/sponsors she forms partnerships with. “All of it encourages and inspires me.”

Just as important as providing great entertainment is the festival’s philanthropic initiatives, another inspiration for Horne. “We’ve given back to such organizations as Ronald McDonald House and Make A Wish Foundation. This year we’re supporting the John Evan Cash Foundation, an organization that provides mental health education and services to those in need.”

Horne sums up her festival and legacy: “I want people to know that when you come to the Kimmie Horne Jazz Festival, you’re going to get great music and much more. It’s a weekend extravaganza — a fun-filled experience for everyone. It’s just amazing.”

For more details about the Kimmie Horne Jazz Festival, visit