South Philadelphia: Clef Club Director Stays for the Long Run

Director Dom Gardner has a lot on his desk for the upcoming months.
Director Dom Gardner has a lot on his desk for the upcoming months.
Director Dom Gardner has a lot on his desk for the upcoming months.

Director Dom Gardner has been with the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts since it first opened in 1966. “I was in the union and I left town,” Gardner said. “When I moved back in 1985, I got involved again and have been here ever since.”

When he first started the job, he didn’t try to attain the director position. “Getting to this point is just a matter of different people going, and they finally said you take over,” Gardner said. “One of the things I didn’t try for. But they tried other people and it didn’t work out, so I’m it.”

Gardner said his job as the director has made him become the overseer of everything at the Clef Club.

“You’re the boss but you ain’t this boss. It’s a matter of finding the right people to do the right thing. It’s like any other business really,” Gardner said.

Currently located at 738 S. Broad St., the Clef Club is now in its fourth building. Gardner said the first building was bought by the city to build a school, but it was never built. The project was moved to the corner of 13th Street and Washington Avenue because the building had been sold to Buddhists, Gardner said. However, the organization moved to another building until the Broad Street location was completed in 1995.

Gardner said the goals of the organization are to perpetuate the music, teach it, archive for history and let kids know where they come from. Unfortunately, funding has become difficult because there are other nonprofits searching for the same assistance and there is less money out there for everyone. However, the program has made money by renting and teaching children music and performing arts.

Its staff is currently working in the Universal Institute Charter School and the Imani Educational Circle Charter School. In fact, four kids went to Berkley University last year and five kids will be going this year. For Gardner, this has left him thinking the Clef Club must doing something right.

Although the Clef Club doesn’t have shows every week, Gardner said April is a busy month The staff will also be trying to find different approaches for finding support.

“We’re starting to deal with the different medias and all that kinda of stuff too. We find that’s where everyone is going nowadays,” Gardner said.

Gardner said it isn’t easy for him to learn because he is an “old head.” However, he said he does intend to adapt to help keep the Clef Club moving forward.

For more information about the Clef Club’s educational programs and events, visit its website at

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