Gretchen Gonzales Davidson
For a diverse mix of music, Gretchen Gonzales Davidson had to do a little digging while growing up in Flint. “There was one place that you could go to for all-ages shows called Capitol Theatre. This probably started me on the path of seeking out something a little different.”
Today, she and her husband Ethan Daniel Davidson – son of the late Bill Davidson, former owner of the Pistons – have three sons and live in Birmingham, help pave the way for others as arts advocates and musicians.
Gretchen was recently appointed to chair of the Michigan Council of Arts and Cultural Affairs, a state agency dedicated to ensuring that every citizen and community in Michigan enjoys the civic, economic and educational benefits of arts and culture.
“I would love to help advance the transition from STEM to STEAM in Michigan’s educational system, bringing more access to art for all children,” she said. “I’m focused on increasing the exposure of opportunities the council offers Michigan residents. I’d like to help strengthen lines of communication from the community to government leaders to help those opportunities grow.”
Gretchen serves on many boards, including Cranbrook Art Academy, BasBlue, REBOOT, Henry Ford Health System and Detroit Children’s Fund. She is also active at Michigan Opera Theatre, where Ethan is chairman of the board.
In addition, she founded El Studio 444, the company that encompasses all of their productions, such as events, records and books, and has a reputation for unique friendraisers and fundraisers. Some of their favorites include Bizarre Bazaar for Center Galleries at the College for Creative Studies and Banger in the Hanger, a dual anniversary party and release show for Detroit’s own Adult and her band Universal Eyes in the hangar at City Airport.
They also hosted a 16 Hillary Clinton fundraiser event with a surprise performance by Aretha Franklin. “We had about a week to plan it and somehow pulled it off!!” said Gretchen. “Aretha and her band were over-the-top unbelievable and played RESPECT and Natural Woman. It's still hard to believe she played in our house on our piano.”
Gretchen plays lead guitar and sings backup vocals with Ethan. “It’s a little more of a folk or Americana sound that we call Ethan Daniel Davidson and sometimes Seedsmen to the World,” she explained.
She also improvises on guitar in a stream-of-consciousness band called Infinite River with Joey Mazzola of Sponge and Warren Defever. And she records on a homemade tabletop guitar in an experimental group called Universal Eyes with John Olson and Nate Young of Wolf Eyes. El Studio 444 helped put on their free music festival,s called Trip Metal that showcased improvisational and other outsider music.
Threshing Floor is a recording project she is working on that just released a single-sided LP after coming together for an online all-night festival called DAWN for REBOOT, an organization that reimagines and reinvents Jewish culture and traditions. She and her friend, David Katznelson, REBOOT CEO, put together a group of musicians, including Universal Eyes and Threshing Floor, to rescore the film “The Golem” which premiered October 28th.
Her musical influences are many. “I’ll listen to just about anything… from Turkish psychedelia like Erkin Koray to Coltrane to Flatlanders or the Byrds and anything in between! I just saw Detroit Opera Theatre’s production of BLISS, which replayed three sublime minutes of The Marriage of Figaro with the same cast and orchestra without pause for twelve hours, noon to midnight, in the old Michigan Theater that was transformed into a parking garage,” said Gretchen.
“It was everything I care about as an art activist. The tickets were pay-what-you-can, making it accessible to all, the setting was magnificent, and the sound would bring a tear to anyone’s eye.”
Story: Jeanine Matlow
Photo: Laurie Tennent