Driving past 510 Hartbrook Drive in Hartland, there isn't anything out of the ordinary. The office building fits in with its surroundings in this quiet part of town with a park and another office building next door. A chiropractic office and a drivers education company call the building home.
Aside from a few piles of brick in the front, it's impossible to tell that Dave Meister, the building's owner, is nearly done constructing a spitting image of the legendary rock 'n' roll venue the Cavern Club, where the Beatles got their start in Liverpool, England.
It's all part of Meister's plan for BlueSky Jazz, a nonprofit organization that will create a music venue where military veterans and students can learn, perform and someday record music with professionals. He also plans to use the space as a venue for fundraisers to benefit veterans.
“Music is therapy,” Meister said.
The venue is a bold undertaking for a man with no interior design experience. The basement includes the Cavern Club, which, true to its name, has vaulted brick ceilings and small arches in the walls. There is a lounge area in the basement with a refrigerator built to look like a red British phone booth. Upstairs he is developing a jazz club with a lounge area and several murals, all decked out in a fine attention to art deco style.
The floor leading to the door into the basement Cavern Club will be painted like Abbey Road, the famous Beatles' record cover, and the stairs to the club will feature framed records by bands from the British Invasion. He will also have a replica of the drumset used by Ringo Starr, the Beatles' drummer.
It's all about setting the mood and taking people somewhere else through music, Meister said.
“How can you visually tell someone that they're going there?” Meister said of the two very different styles of the clubs. “I didn't expect to do this. I didn't know how it was going to turn out, but one thing led to another, and it just evolved."
The project has been about three years in the making, according to Meister. A tenant moved out during that time, and the floor plan was not really marketable to any other type of business, so he began doing demolition work on the first floor. He knew he wanted to host a music venue.
Last year, Meister and his two sons attended a fundraiser in New York City hosted by Gary Sinise, the actor who played Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump. The Gary Sinise Foundation raises money for veterans and men and women currently serving in the military.
Meister realized that the foundation was helping to raise money to buy recreational wheelchairs for veterans wounded during their military service. He wondered why private citizens instead of the Veterans Administration were paying for what, to Meister, seemed like something the government owes those who served.
So Meister went to Washington and met with the staffs of several senators and representatives. He asked why the VA doesn't provide these recreational wheelchairs. And he found out that no one in Congress was even aware of the issue.
So he founded another nonprofit organization, Make A Difference America, which aims to get a bill passed in Congress to give all service-wounded veterans recreational wheelchairs.
“These are the men and women that have protected us, have helped other countries and sacrificed the most," Meister said. "And just hands down, we have to provide them with as much as we can to make their lives as whole as possible.”
That's where BlueSky Jazz comes into play. Meister sees it as a perfect place to host fundraisers for veterans, while giving them a creative space to call their own.
Eventually, he would like to put in a state-of-the-art recording studio that professional artists will pay to use. With the money he gets from the studio, he wants to hire teaching staff and create music scholarships for students and vets.
“That's what I want to do with my life is to bring joy and happiness to as many people as we can through good works,” he said.
To find out more about BlueSky Jazz, visit blueskyjazz.org. More information can be found on Make A Difference America at makeadifferenceamerica.org.