Nestled into the heart of East Rogers Park's arts district on the cobblestoned Glenwood Avenue, sits Chicago's newest award-winning jazz club, Le Piano.
Club Owner/Musician Chad Willetts, like other small business owners, is complying with the city's order closing all bars and restaurants due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Feeling a responsibility to do his part in this time of crisis, Willetts woke up after a doze on the couch to the blurried, endless pleas from newscasters reporting on the lack of mask inventory, particularly for our professional medical and clinical front line..... " I got up at 11pm, walked a few blocks to the club, looked at what I had to work with, which was 1000's of sheets of waxed deli paper, rubberbands, and a stapler, and made the prototype by midnight." It was clear to him that his masks were not going into an ER or surgery, or even a hospital, but he felt they could be useful somewhere.
Willetts was concerned by the fact that the exemption of grocery stores from Governor Pritzker's statewide "stay-at-home" order leaves us all exposed at one of the most vulnerable points of contact: grocery stores, where we provision our homes with food. Many people, including store employees, are exposed out of the mere necessity that employees have show up for work and their customers have to feed themselves. Six feet is the prescribed guideline for social distancing; not easily accomplished when meeting and passing other shoppers in store aisles and checkout lines. Another factor Willetts considered was simply the shelved inventory of items; all of which become transfer vehicles from store to kitchens throughout our community.; a daunting thought to say the least. Grocery stores emerged as the logical destination for his disposable masks.
Willetts upped the ante and invited the club's staff and featured artists who perform regularly there, to participate in the collaborative effort to film and sound record a music video as a sort of PSA (public service announcement) aiming to inspire manufacturers at large, to consider converting their idle facilities into producers of CDC certified clinical masks.
With that determination in mind, Willetts recognized that, in order to lend credibility to that invitation to participate, "…we too, needed to convert our jazz club, known for world famous 'Happy Endings' under a grand piano, which is an exquisite aural experience, into a disposable mask factory of our own". If a little jazz club in Rogers Park could make a difference at the local level, perhaps others too, could also participate at the national level.
Le Piano is seeking funding and/or underwriting to support their roster of artists as well as the dedicated staff required to put on shows 7 nights a week, which has been the standard breakneck speed from their November 20, 2018 opening night!
"We have produced over 700 masks in two days, and have installed them in racks at three neighborhood grocery stores. It was key to Willetts that these disposable, non-clinical, droplet deterrent masks be available to the public at no charge.
Chad Willetts has clearly given it all he's got!"Where there is life, there is music, and there is art." – Chad Willetts
Here's to Life
Music Artie Butler
Lyric Phyllis Molinary
"A Le Piano tradition"
"No complaints and no regrets
I still believe in chasing dreams and placing bets
But I had learn that all you give is all you get
So give it all you got."