To the standard University of Oregon student, The Shedd Institute may not mean much, but The Shedd is an important cultural establishment for the Eugene community. Executive director Jim Ralph and his wife Ginevra established the institute in its current location in 2002 and repurposed the venue from an old church to what it is today, a live music venue and music school. In fact, The Shedd stemmed from the success of the Oregon Festival of American Music.
“A lot of what we decided to do here was to create an institution where we can actually respond to people,” Ralph said. “The whole gig is to say, ‘What do people want?’ and we can’t reach everyone but we can reach a lot of people.”
Unlike many popular venues, The Shedd focuses on more art-centric styles of musical performance rather than appealing to the popular culture community. For example, The Shedd caters to audiences that are more interested in jazz, classical music and other more niche genres.
“This past weekend, we had Robin Williams, but you probably have no idea and don’t care about the Monterey Jazz Festival on tour,” Ralph said. “But there is a pocket of people (in Eugene) that do care about that.”
The venue also functions as a nonprofit, indie performing arts center that provides classes for vocalists, instrumentalists and dancers. Moreover, they offer classes with a wide range of experience levels, from children to more advanced musicians and performers.
The Shedd isn’t your standard venue and production company. It deliberately strives to provide different events with different cultural perspectives. “We’re more of an independent (venue) doing a lot of different stuff,” Ralph said. “So we have a bit of reputation mostly among people who are more arts-oriented … We do more jazz here than they even do in Portland in terms of presenting jazz from around the country. We do it and we do it quite deliberately.”