Musician Steve Rashid plans Chicago-area concert at Studio5 venue he helped create

CHICAGO — The creative life can be, to borrow some words from the musical “Annie,” a “hard knock life,” or, as writer Maya Angelou once put it more gently, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

Few people I know have more energetically devoted their life and talents to creating than Steve Rashid. Don’t know that name? I’m not surprised because, even though he has been a fixture of the local music and theater scene for decades, he has never been given to self-promotion.

“My wife is always after me because I’m reluctant to promote myself so I promised I would let you know about an upcoming event,” he told me a few days ago. “I know you’ve always encouraged me to let you know when I’m doing new stuff, and so here I am.”

This new stuff includes a six-song EP titled “is it beautiful there?” that was released last year. He never did an album release concert for it, he said. “Now I’m on the edge of recording my next batch of tunes and thought it would be good to do a concert of all new music, some already recorded, and some in process.”

And so there will be performances in early May at Studio5, the Evanston venue started in 2016 by Rashid and his wife Béa, who is a choreographer, dance educator and theatrical director, as well as director of Dance Center Evanston and founder of the Evanston Dance Ensemble.

I have seen many shows there. It is one of the area’s great spaces. As my former Tribune colleague, critic Howard Reich, tells me, “Studio5 somehow manages to combine the best of two worlds: the seriousness of a concert hall with the intimacy of a jazz club. So from the moment you enter, there’s no doubt that you’re here to listen closely, as you might at a classical recital. And yet the way the room looks — cafe tables upfront, huge rug on the floor, and wide-open/dance-studio vibe — conveys the relaxed atmosphere you usually find in the great jazz rooms. I’ve rarely felt more warmly embraced by a listening room.”

A Wisconsin native, Rashid went to Ripon College and later Northwestern University and then began his professional life as producer, recording engineer, composer, performer, radio host and co-owner of Studio5.

Few people have known Rashid longer than Paul Barrosse and Victoria Zielinski, married Northwestern University alums who were among the founders in 1979 of the fabled Practical Theater Company, which also included Julia Louis-Dreyfus and husband Brad Hall (married in 1987) until they went on to, ahem, other things.

Barrosse recalls, “In 1983 and 1984, Steve would fill in as the piano player for our comedy revues. As Steve’s many talents were revealed, we were happy to take advantage of each and every one of them. Since 1986, he not only played piano with us, he became a featured member of the cast. He had his own songs, and we figured out how damned funny he is. Since then, he has been the Practical Theatre’s musical director and a central character in our shows. … Steve’s role in keeping jazz alive and thriving on the North Shore is not to be overlooked.”

Zielinski adds, “He’s also a master juggler and there are always so many balls in the air at the same time, not the least of which is the day to day business of programming and running Studio5. He sees it as a community thing, bringing world class jazz into what he calls “our artistic playground.” And there he is, writing arrangements for the band, composing a witty tune about cancel culture and political correctness, drafting another message for the website, booking another season of jazz, recording his own music late into the night in his home studio, composing for the dance ensemble, preparing and editing his weekly radio broadcast on WDCB, arranging the musical program for the Community Church. He gets it all done.”

Of next weekend’s show, Rashid says, “I’m kind of pulling out all the stops, putting together an octet of some of my favorite musicians. In addition, Béa is choreographing one of the pieces and will have one of her former students (a Juilliard grad, now a professional dancer) perform with us. Also, our son Daniel created a video for another piece which we will be projecting while I perform live to it, and our other son Robert will be the drummer/percussionist in the ensemble. So, very much a family affair.”


Steve Rashid octet-EP release: “is it beautiful there?” will be 8 p.m. May 3-4 at Studio5, 1934 Dempster St., Evanston;