LANCE RANDALL: The Peaceful Co-Existence of Creativity, Community, and Capital


Every Sunday, you’ll find Lance Randall playing the organ at the Historic AME Church in Seattle, supporting 6 different choirs, including the “Angel Choir” for kids 3-11 years old. Watching how he interacts with the children and parents, it’s no surprise to learn that he’s a father himself, boasting 6 children of his own.

“There’s a great parallel between the electric organ and my role as a teacher,” Randall says. “The piano is the lead, and the organ is there to enhance without overpowering. Likewise, the child is the lead and I’m there to enhance their learning experience. The key is not to over-teach. Show them something new, then give them time to try it, to make mistakes, and to work through the problem to find a solution. Like the organ, I should be there as support, to occasionally push and pull the choir to its peak, then fade into the background. As an adult, we tend to over-talk and over-explain, when the children are ready to try it on their own.”


Outside of the church, Randall and his jazz-fusion group, “Lance Randall and the Nu Jazz Playas”, tour locally, with appearances at the Bite of Seattle, Taste of Tacoma, and the Museum of Flight. His experience as a working artist gives him great insight into the struggles that musicians and venues are having during this time of quarantine, as well as the issues of equity and sustainability encountered prior to the epidemic. This is where Randall’s experience as an economic developer is put to use.

Lance Randall is credited with three awards for his work in economic development, including the 2000 Robert B. Cassell Student Leadership Award, the 2001 Georgia Economic Developers Association Service to Existing Industry Award, and the 2015 Tabor 100 Crystal Eagle Award for Excellence in Business Development Leadership. In other words, he’s really smart. This helps when you’re working to help under-served communities and up & coming artists make a living. Creativity, Community, Financial Capital.


SouthEast Effective Development, also known as SEED, has a mission to improve the quality of life in Southeast Seattle by creating partnerships and inspiring investments in housing, arts, and economic development – with a special focus on residents with fewer opportunities and resources. Since it’s founding, SEED has helped revive the historic Columbia City business district, improve access to health care for residents, expand affordable housing in the area, and nurture arts and culture.

Today, SEED offers nearly 4000 affordable housing units at 13 individual properties, providing stability, dignity, and employment opportunities to seniors, artists, low-income, and special needs residents. Additionally, SEED provides commercial space for small business owners, and has sold condominium space in the past, allowing ownership of the property, preventing displacement and helping to slow the process of gentrification in Rainier Valley.

When Randall assumed a leadership position at SEED, he immediately took action to revitalize SEED owned Rainier Art Center and finished construction at KVRU 105.7fm radio. As a musician himself, he looked at the Rainier Art Center and saw two needs; first, an outdated sound system, and second, the need to make the venue affordable and accessible to financially limited groups.

Today, SEED offers nearly 4000 affordable housing units at 13 individual properties, providing stability, dignity, and employment opportunities to seniors, artists, low income, and special needs residents.

Initially, Randall donated sound equipment from his company, Affordable Sound, on a volunteer basis but quickly realized that there needed to be a permanent solution. Today, the Rainier Art Center has an industry-level sound and lighting system and is a prized venue for local and visiting talent.

In addition to upgrading facilities, Randall reminded us that part of economic development is helping his neighbors to establish and stabilize their businesses. Randall’s relationships at the City of Seattle and with various small and large companies throughout the County, have given him the ability to connect people with the right resources and financial capital needed to survive and thrive in today’s strained economic market. And the best part is that his role as a musician keeps him connected to the needs of front-line workers; giving daily reminders of what opportunities the arts community is facing.

Two great examples of economic development practices at work in both housing and financial viability are “Dignities for Divas”, and musician “Money Making Prince”.

In 2012, Randall assisted homeless advocate, Nikki Gane, in securing a stable location for her program, Dignity for Divas. Inspired by her own experience with homelessness, Nikki felt moved to help other vulnerable women during a frightening and devastating time in their lives. Today, DfD operates in Everett, Kent, Renton, Tacoma, and Bellevue. Between 2012 and 2017, DfD served over 30,000 people in need.

At 13 years of age, Lavell Cotton, aka Money Making Prince, went to prison. Upon release, Lavell faced the all-to-common barriers of those with an arrest record and probation-service status. Aware that the recidivism rate for black males is over 80%, Randall invited Lavell to meet with him to discuss opportunities in the music industry. Randall brought together SEED resources and Affordable Sound Company connections to provide Lavell with graphic design, printing costs, permits, venue booking, and a top of the line sound system to promote a live performance at Rainier Art Center. Today, Lavell is an established musician and author, with works available on Amazon, Spotify, Sound Cloud, and other platforms. Most importantly, he is financial stable and self-sufficient.


Randall serves as President of the Board of Directors for the SE Youth & Family Services. An organization providing mental health resources for youth and their families. He points out that the arts can be a great therapeutic tool, relevant and valuable in healing trauma and creating exercises that help with navigating the healing process. As such, he’d like to see the city partner with smaller agencies that sometimes have a hard time receiving funding due to complicated Request for Proposal (RFP) processes.


As a musician, Randall appreciates the deep musical history of Seattle; applauding the relationship between Ray Charles and Quincy Jones, and commending the creativity and courage shown during segregation, when Black artists from the East Coast and Down South found a safe haven and a welcome oasis in Seattle performance halls.

Randall reminisces about his own childhood in Macon Georgia, and learning piano from the legendary Gladys Williams, mentor and producer of Lena Horne, Otis Redding, and Little Richard. Who, in the last years of her life suffered with polio. It was through these lived experiences that Randall developed an appreciation for what our seniors are facing in their twilight years, including the challenges of financial stability, housing, and unexpected health issues.

Lance Randall’s commitment to civil rights has roots in Macon as well, where his Grandfather William P. Randall served as president of the local NAACP. William was a friend to Martin Luther King, Jr., and organized the historic Macon Civil Rights Bus Boycott.

It’s the combination of diverse personal experiences that inspire Lance Randall to work for a better quality of life for those around him. He sees the positive results of building coalitions between the arts community and the commercial district. It’s the ability to approach every situation with empathy and understanding that only comes with life experience and front-line service.

“…part of economic development is
helping his neighbors to establish and stabilize their businesses. giving them the ability to connect with the right resources and financial capital to survive and thrive in Seattle’s strained economic market.”

For now, Randall continues to work inside the confines of the Governors mandate, while looking forward to the day that we’ve contained Covid and are able to return to a life of community and congregation. In closing, he shared a story about Serena, the 3-year old star of the Angel Choir. Who, with the help of Randall, wrote her own original song which Randall taught to the choir, and Serena performed in front of the First AME audience while standing atop a pile of books so that she could be seen by the back row.

“Exposure to the Arts has a lasting impact on our youth. Artistic expression helps children grow, build character, and develop relationships with their peers. The church is following all the protocol’s that the Governor has put in place, with kids practicing at home and adhering to social distancing rules, and I know the same thing can be said for community groups and organizations throughout Seattle. Let’s be sure that when restrictions lift, that we are encouraging our youth as they adjust to post-Covid life by supporting youth enrichment programs throughout Seattle.”

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