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Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild: Valuable Nonprofit

Manchester Craftsmen's Guild Producer Marty Ashby

Marty Ashby speaks in a calm, articulate voice that hints at a background that includes work with Pittsburgh Symphony and Cleveland Orchestras. But the executive producer of MCG Jazz, the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild jazz series, proves he ain’t no stiff when he points to a full-page Nancy Wilson article from a recent Ebony in which the singer talks about working at the Guild with Pittsburgh musicians like Joe Negri. “You dig? Dig that, man, that’s huge!” he exclaims, voice rising. “That kind of opportunity is made available through this little school on the North Side of Pittsburgh in an industrial park. We’re creating world-class music.”

Wilson’s new album, R.S.V.P. (Rare Songs, Very Personal), is only one of several recent accomplishments that Pittsburgh’s Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild can add to a list that includes a recording and DVD editing studio that has given birth to 20 CD releases, including two Grammy winners, and a concert series that began its 18th season in September. Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer and the seller of 20 percent of all music recordings in the U.S., agreed earlier this year to distribute three specially designed MCG compilation discs and the Wilson album. The label reunited longtime friends Phil Woods and Herbie Mann in the studio for Beyond Brooklyn, which includes a recording made weeks before Mann passed away. What began as an arts program and vocational training center has gone on to become an arts institution committed to preserving jazz’s legacy-and its organizers see MCG as one step toward bringing the music back to a larger audience around the world.

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