Shahida Mausi’s management company ensures each summer at Chene Park is better than the last.
It’s an era of anniversaries for Shahida Mausi and Chene Park Amphitheatre.
Last summer, downtown Detroit’s riverfront concert jewel celebrated its 30th year in operation, highlighted by the first-ever Chene Park performance from the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.
Now, the 2016 season marks the 20th anniversary for The Right Productions, the family-affair management company Mausi runs with her four sons to put on the shows at the city-owned park. The big buzz surrounding this summer’s lineup? Detroit’s homegrown diva, Diana Ross, taking the outdoor stage July 30.
We asked Mausi, a fifth-generation entrepreneur, if the magic of live music ever wears thin even at a showplace as glittering as Chene Park, once ranked by the concert industry guide Pollstar as one of the top 100 performance venues in the world. After all, the theater’s Wednesday night jazz series has been a tradition for decades, she gets to see every show, and—no, wait.
“No, I don’t! I never get to see the shows,” Mausi says, laughing. “I’m working! I might see 10 minutes. I would like someone to invite me to get on their boat someday and watch a show from the river. Nobody’s ever done it.”
BLAC: You must be excited to have Diana Ross coming home to play at your theater.
Mausi: Not only is she a magnificent performer, but it’s also her first time at Chene Park. It’s going to be a phenomenal night. Not just hearing the music that we all grew up to and loved, but Miss Thing does some fashion that can blow you away. I’m just looking forward to it.
B: We know you tried for years to book Aretha for Chene Park. That she finally performed there as the culmination of your 30th anniversary season—what do you remember about that night?
M: Things come together when they’re supposed to come together, and our 30th anniversary was the appropriate time and moment. When Aretha Franklin took the stage on that river’s edge, she went home. She didn’t leave the stage until 12:30! Her band, her dancers, they went with her, but they didn’t know how they were going to get there. That’s part of the magic of performing on that river. You know, when you bring it to the water, some other kinds of things happen.
B: You’ve booked your first pure hard rock concert this summer (Ratt, Warrant, Lita Ford and L.A. Guns, Aug. 6). Does that speak to the shifting demographics in the city?
M: It does. Chene Park was created to provide access to the waterfront for the people, and when the people are of one ethnic group we serve that ethnic group. As that demographic broadens, we serve more. And that’s a joy to bring new things. We’re going to have Ladysmith Black Mambazo with Sweet Honey in the Rock and Sean Blackman, who does a whole Brazilian thing, and that’s all on one night (July 10). Sheila E. is going to do a whole Prince tribute (July 22) that’s going to be amazing.
B: What would you say to those who have never come to the riverfront to experience the theater?
M: Not only are they missing out on an incredible, world-class venue, but it is physically more beautiful than most anything else you’re going to see in terms of an outdoor amphitheater. It’s larger than the Fox Theatre. The Fox seats 5,000; we have 6,000.
We keep prices affordable. We have lit, secured parking always. And more than that, there is a sense of community at Chene Park. You come here to experience a great evening. You leave your problems and issues at the curb. God has blessed us that people come to Chene Park with that kind of respect, that kind of camaraderie, that this is a place of peace.
It is our mission to do events that lift people, that take them higher, so that when they leave Chene Park they’re in a better place than when they came. And we do that through providing great music and great service. When you come here, you are king and queen of the world, as far as we’re concerned.
B: Each of your sons (Sulaiman, Dorian, Malik and Rashid) plays a pivotal role in your management company. What’s it been like working with your kids all these years?
M: It’s been incredible. As a family, we don’t hold grudges. So we might go at it every now and again over something we feel passionately about, but we respect each other’s opinions and perspectives and skill sets. At the end of the day we have a common goal, and we’re going to get there together. I could not have done this—we could not be serving the number of people we serve, growing the way we’ve been growing—without family. It’s been phenomenal.
JIM MCFARLIN IS A FREQUENT BLAC DETROIT CONTRIBUTOR AND LONGTIME DETROIT WRITER.
CHENE PARK’S SUMMER CALENDAR
Here’s what’s coming up at Chene Park Amphitheatre. For full details, ticket prices and box office information, visit CheneParkDetroit.com.
|June 8||Norman Brown, Rick Braun and Kirk Whalum|
|June 11||Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz and more|
|June 15||Brand New Heavies and Collective Peace|
|June 17||The Dramatics, Millie Jackson, Evelyn “Champagne” King|
|June 22||Ramsey Lewis and Terrence Blanchard|
|June 24||Kem and LaLah Hathaway|
|June 29||Maysa and Mike Phillips|
|July 1||Nelly and Keysha Cole|
|July 6||Ready for the World, Surface and Coco|
|July 10||Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Sweet Honey in the Rock and Sean Blackman|
|July 13||Patrice Rushen and Yancyy|
|July 15||New Edition|
|July 20||Spyro Gyra and immie Horne|
|July 22||Tower of Power, Sheila E. and the Infatuations|
|July 27||Eric Benet, Charity and Coco|
|July 30||Diana Ross|
|August 3||The S.O.S. Band, The Brothers Johnson and Mike Bonner|
|August 6||Ratt, Warrant, Lita Ford and L.A. Guns|
|August 10||Regina Belle, Gary Taylor and Mike Bonner|
|August 17||Will Downing and Lynn Marie|
|August 27||Maze featuring Frankie Beverly and Loose Ends|