In The News

Panel discusses impact and future of house music

This article appeared in the Windy City Times

By Gretchen Rachel Blickensderfer

The art, jewelry and accessories of The Silver Room in Wicker Park serve to make the entire space one of daring and limitless expression that pays no heed to a more conservative rulebook. It was thus the perfect venue for a July 10 discussion about the impact and future of house music.

Entitled “Old School/Future Classics,” the event formed a part of the Illinois Humanities Council’s “We The People” series and was co-presented by the Silver Room’s 12th Annual Sound System Block Party, the Center on Halsted and Slo ‘Mo: Slow Jams for Homos ( and their Fans ).

Born in Chicago 30 years ago at legendary venues such as The Warehouse and The Music Box through the groundbreaking work of iconic names like the late Frankie Knuckles, Alan King, Wayne Williams and Ron Hardy, house music became the art form in which a community found freedom. Gay kids who would sneak into clubs in the earliest days of the genre were at liberty to express themselves and become empowered in music that eclipsed race, orientation, gender and eventually international boundaries.

The Silver Room audience who took every available seat for the evening panel perfectly complimented the uniting force behind house music. There was no racial, sexual or gender majority to be found among them as they enthusiastically traded memories and opinions with a panel that included Maurice “Judge” Chaytor, a five-year assistant to Knuckles and a director at the Modern Dance Music Research and Archiving Foundation; Kristen Kaza, the creator and host of Slo ‘Mo; innovative sound engineer and DJ Craig Loftis; dancer, vocalist DJ and producer Shaun J. Wright; and Brown University Ph.D. candidate Micah Salkind—who was also a part of the panel at the Out at CHM discussion on house music earlier in the year.

The panelists had brought along tracks that were personal to them and helped shape their own perceptions of the genre. Frankie Knuckle’s “The Whistle Song,” Hercules and Love Affair’s 2008 hit “Blind,” Whitney Houston’s cover of Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” and Beyonce’s “Flawless,” to name a few, were brough; each selection spurred as much nostalgia as it did debate.

“The way people react to that song—whenever they hear it—is like no other song I’ve ever played,” Kaza said in reference to Houston’s 1992 hit. “It changes the way people interact. It’s why I love being part of the music community, because it is a collective experience.”

“One thing we can walk away from here is that we’ve all been very fortune to be part of a social medium was born in a gay environment,” Chaytor said. “Its rhythms were celebrated within the gay community and it became both a culture and a sub-culture.”

“We don’t always remember, but house music started as people defying genre. It was non-commercial,” Salkind added.

But what of its future? The panel discussed the fact that it is much harder for LGBTQ teens to follow the covert footsteps of the 70’s and 80’s generation into nightclubs and there are fewer age-appropriate safe-space venues available to them. “Are there spaces today where a 15 or 16-year-old young gay person can dance with their friends in public?” Salkind wondered.”And if not, what do they have to help them create a musical culture like House?”