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Don Chisholm, Ann Arbor Jazz Hero

Apr 24, 2015

Don Chisholm’s career has been focused on Ann Arbor’s commercial and residential real estate development, but support for the arts and the development of musical expression - especially jazz - never has been far from his heart.

For his years of generous service and philanthropy for jazz and musical theatre in Ann Arbor, property developer Don Chisholm has been selected to receive a 2015 National Jazz Hero Award from the Jazz Journalist’s Association.

 The awards are part of America’s national celebration of jazz every April, Jazz Appreciation Month.  Don Chisholm’s award will be presented on Sunday, April 26, 2015 at Kerrytown Concert House in conjunction with pianist Ellen Rowe’s 4PM “Art of The Trio” concert.   

Getting Started


  Don was one of the original board members of the Southeastern Michigan Jazz Association, providing assistance with artistic expenses including hospitality when Ron Brooks, owner of the Bird of Paradise Jazz Club, founded the association 1987. Don Chisholm provided transportation for visiting musicians to and from Detroit Metropolitan airport, and lodgings in a one-bedroom-two bath apartment with fully stocked kitchen, within walking distance from the Bird Of Paradise Jazz Club.

Jazz greats such as Ray Brown, Shirley Horn, Chucho Valdes, Cedar Walton, Ernestine Anderson, Dizzy Gillespie, Diana Krall and Toots Thielemans were at ease conducting Ann Arbor workshops, concerts and club dates. They knew their comfortable and elegant lodgings were covered at a quietly assumed cost to Don Chisholm which must have reached into the tens of thousands.

Presence in Southeastern Michigan

The Bird of Paradise is no more, yet Don’s contributions to jazz and other arts continues. Besides remaining in the Southeastern Michigan Jazz Association, he is a major donor to The Kerrytown Concert House, Ann Arbor's primary venue for intimate concerts. His “Friends of Jazz” group sustains Ann Arbor as a viable destination for touring bands and jazz clinicians. He also supports University of Michigan music students, assuring that they can practice and hone their craft.


Don Chisholm was born in Hackensack, New Jersey in 1934.  He attended The University of Michigan and received his BA in 1955 followed by his MBA in 1956.  A stint in the Army followed graduation from UM along with marriage.  Don Chisholm and his bride, Betts relocated to Toledo, Ohio where Don was a successful corporate market analyst often consulting in New York City.  Yet, he missed Ann Arbor’s intellectual and artistic community - and its easy access to first rate golf courses.  He and Betts returned to the city of his Alma Mater where he joined the Hobbs-Schmidt Real Estate firm.  

Two years later he formed Ann Arbor Associates, a firm that developed attractive and practical buildings for Ann Arbor’s booming business and residential needs.  Bechtel Tower, Hidden Valley Apartments, Wolverine Tower, Waterworks Plaza, The Burlington Office Buildings, Park Place for Business, The Stonebridge Golf Course and residences and Sloan Plaza are among Don Chisholm’s many development accomplishments.  Sloan Plaza may be dearest to Don’s heart as it is named for his mother, Margaret Sloan, a gifted concert pianist and music teacher.  When musicians stay in Chisholm’s Sloan Plaza apartment they practice on Margaret’s 1928 Steinway.

Ann Arbor Focused

Don Chisholm cares deeply about Ann Arbor.  Over the years he has served on The Ann Arbor Hospice Board, U-M Music School Advisory Board, The Michigan Theatre and The Summer Festival Advisory Board.  His philanthropy extends to all of these organizations, but his main focus of charitable giving has been the U-M School of Music and The Kerrytown Concert House.  Since 1987, Don has supported jazz and musical theatre students with partial tuition awards through The Chisholm Jazz Scholarship and The Chisholm Musical Theater Scholarship.

In recent years Don added support for jazz department master classes including the 2014-2015 Don Chisholm Jazz Master Class Series.  

Don's Support

With a group of fellow jazz lovers, Don Chisholm provides financial support for concerts at The Kerrytown Concert House.  The Don Chisholm Friends of Jazz at KCH have made it possible for Ann Arbor music lovers to enjoy Jackie Ryan, Tamir Hendelman, Jeff Hamilton, Terry Lower, Gwilym Simcock, The JaLaLa Trio, Mr. B, Peter Bernstein, Randy Napoleon, James Dapogny and many others in the elegant and intimate Kerrytown Concert House.  

Award Winning

For his music philanthropy and his generous heart, Don Chisholm is a fitting recipient for the 2015 Jazz Journalist’s Association “Jazz Hero” Award.  Don will receive the award on Sunday, April 26th at Kerrytown Concert House at the conclusion of Ellen Rowe’s “All About The Trio” tribute to George Shearing which begins at 4PM.  To make reservations for the concert and award presentation, call Kerrytown Concert House at 734-769-2999.  For more information visit www.kerrytownconcerthouse.com.