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An afternoon of music – Jon Deshler brings live performances back to Mount Angel venue

By Brenna Wiegand

Jon Deshler, jazz trumpet player, globally published photographer and inspiring teacher, feels he has a lot to give.

The purchase of Mt. Angel Theater & Studio gives him a place to do so.

Built in 1912 as a silent movie theater, the 2,900-square-foot space at 220 E. Charles St., has been owned by Stu Rasmussen since 1982. Prior to his death in November, Rasmussen expressed his desire that friend and creative collaborator Jon Deshler take over the theater and video production studio and continue developing its potential into the future.

Rasmussen and Deshler met a dozen years ago and over the years continued supporting each other’s creative pursuits, sometimes collaborating and often crossing paths at the Woodburn Auction. 

When COVID hit, Deshler’s jazz gigs dwindled before his eyes. Winery jobs, photo shoots, lessons – all suspended.

The substitute teacher’s license he’d been working on arrived via email one hour before the schools were shut down. The writing was on the wall for his Abiqua Studio in Marquam.

Jon Deshler makes plans for the theater and production studio. He recently purchased the Mt. Angel Theater & Studio from the estate of Stu Rasmussen.

 

One day in early spring 2020, Deshler jumped on his motorcycle, slung his trumpet over his back, clamped his Galaxy S9 to the handlebars and hit the road. He ended up at Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm.

“I didn’t know if anyone wanted to listen to a lone trumpet player in a tulip field, but I decided to find out,” he said.

Thus Tune Tours was born. Deshler would gather some musician friends, throw a piano in the back of the truck and head for parts known and unknown. They ended up holding 25 “pop-up” concerts all over the state while their filming became more and more sophisticated.

“I was a master still photographer and because of COVID I’ve become a pretty good movie maker,” Deshler said. “I want to play with people and for people and give them some place to hang.”

Now, with his own place, Deshler envisions creating live music, multimedia performances and other educational and entertainment offerings in time. It begins humbly with Deshler and guitar player/creative partner Neal Grandstaff, who have both played with just about every jazz musician in Oregon.

Deshler has designed his inaugural spring concert series especially for his fellow seniors.

“I am hoping the retirees will help me with this vital space through these matinee offerings,” Deshler said. “I want to play my horn and to contribute, and if we get 40-50 people in here twice a week, I will be paying for the building and my guitar player.

“That would be the most phenomenal synergy that I could think of,” Deshler said. “If it works, I think we could have the beginnings of something special for our part of the Valley.”

It’s about sharing wisdom, entertaining and paying respect to others with knowledge to impart, including some of his retired friends who are excited to see
what’s next.

“The exterior is rough, but the inside is ready to go,” Deshler said. “I’m not trying to renovate it anytime soon; it’s functional and in working order and I just want to put it to use.

“If you do something special in a cool, special place you might be able to get people to come down from Portland and Salem eventually.

 

“It’s for me; it’s for Stu, and it’s for the community and I want it to always work that way; that those three things are being satisfied all at the same time every time that I’m doing something for the public,” Deshler said. “I also feel a responsibility to represent a bit of who Stu was in the community and there will be a very concerted effort to do at least annual things if not exactly in his honor, roughly in his honor.”

Meanwhile, Deshler is getting plenty of local substitute teaching jobs and has come to be known as “the guy with the trumpet on his back.”

“A big portion of my job is to see if I can stimulate an elastic synapse in any one of those kids’ brains,” Deshler said. “I can see it in their eyes when it happens, it’s a beautiful thing.”

Seeing the shortage of the arts in school, he envisions one day holding classes in photography, music and drama for both children and adults.

Right now, though, Deshler’s focus is on the upcoming series, no two alike.

“It starts with me, Neal Grandstaff and a digital projector,” Deshler said. “I don’t want this to be a movie house; it’s a multimedia, performance-based space.

“I have a professional and academic orientation which will inform our presentations,” he said. 

“Audiences will hear us play the music of the Great American Songbook of the last 150 years, and in between there will be historic slideshows, Tune Tour videos, and very soon, we hope, guest artists from all over joining us on a regular basis.

“We are looking for good interaction with our audiences resulting in entertaining fun and connection, while nurturing community and place through live performances,” he said.

Having performed for five years at Silverton Wine Bar and Bistro, Deshler knows a little about the local community.

“If we have any success with our two afternoons a week; if this thing starts filling up in the first three or four months, look out because then I will be emboldened to try to push the envelope for more diverse programs.”

Mt. Angel Theater Spring Program 

Performances Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2 to 5 p.m.
Beginning April 5
220 E Charles St., Mount Angel
Cost: $10

Tune Tours Trio plays at The Oregon Garden Resort Fireside Lounge, 8 to 11 p.m. fourth Saturday of every month

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