Tag Archives: Phoenix concerts

Mom meets musician

Rani Arbo (right) recently talked mothering and music with writer Lynn Trimble. Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem are headed to the MIM in Phoenix. (Photo: Mary Beth Meehan)

When I chatted recently with mom and musician Rani Arbo, who’ll be performing this week at the MIM, we talked first about her eight-year-old son. Arbo performs with Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem, a foursome that includes her husband Scott Kessel, so I expected to hear that their only child spent most days holed up in his room making music. Not so, says Arbo.

“We’ve been stage parents his whole life,” she shared. Seems their son had already seen thirty states by the time he was two years old. “Doing live music meant we were on stage, unavailable to him.” Though their home contains “a whole pile of percussion instruments” plus everything from ukelele to accordian, Arbo says their son has been “slow to come around to music on his own terms.”

I get it. After enjoying all sorts of live performance art with my daughter for nearly two decades, I had to step back once Lizabeth started studying theater. Her artistic journey is her own, and my “Stage Mom” musings should never interfere with that. Still, it’s lovely when children develop interests that give family members a little something in common besides their neuroses.

Nowadays, 8-year-old Quinn is playing “a bunch of piano.” Most recently, he’s been playing a Harry Potter piece by ear. Lizabeth once played the same piece, which was plenty challenging even with the help of sheet music. Seems Arbo’s son is fond of the sustain pedal and playing at top volume at around 7:30am in the morning. And, like most kids, he’s not a big fan of being told what to do. Hence adventures in Kindermusik and such didn’t quite stick.

Arbo notes that Quinn showed more early aptitude for rhythm than for singing in tune, so early Suzuki lessons in something like violin didn’t feel like a good fit — proof that she’s mastered a prime principle of good parenting. If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t force it. Arbo describes Quinn as a late bloomer who was more ready for music lessons by age eight or so. Another pearl — timing is everything.

Arbo grew up playing cello and singing with a local chorus. The first she did alone, the latter with people — something that informed her belief that “music needs to be social for kids.” Quinn’s got that one covered after forming a Beatles cover band with two friends. Quinn plays drums while fellow musicians, blond twins, do their guitar thing. Arbo tells me one rocks the E string, while the other rocks the A string.

When I asked Arbo about music education, she quickly broadened the topic to include all the arts. “Art and music is for everybody,” says Arbo. “Kids blossom and flower in all forms of art.” She’s grateful for the hour of music Quinn gets each week in public school, but knows it’s challenging to make music with more than two dozen kids to a class. Hence the importance of experiences, like their concert at the MIM, that expose kids to additional arts offerings.

In an age that’s seeing kids increasingly isolated by “social” media, Arbo considers music “a different way for kids to interact socially.” Sure, says Arbo, music helps logic and math. But music does something more. “Music is beyond thinking,” says Arbo. “There’s not that much in schools that does that.”

“Kids need to be human,” says Arbo, “and music challenges them to do that.” The feeling of doing something together, even if it’s singing along to a recorded track, is important. Making music with others is about being “part of something bigger than you are.”

Schools tyically judge students on individual performance, observes Arbo. So “students don’t often get the joyful experience of disappearing into a hole bigger than you.” Through music, she says, kids learn to listen for things — and listen to each other. Though not from a religious family, Arbo says that “sacred space is often held by music.” It’s what they work to create in each show — a fun, uplifting and safe space for folks to think, search and feel. “Like church,” says Arbo, “but not church.”

Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem perform two concerts at the MIM this week –”American roots with a suitcase drum” at 7pm on Fri, May 4 and “family-friendly folk music” at 2:30pm on Sat, May 5. Click here to enjoy a taste of their tunes, and here for ticket information.

– Lynn

Note: The Phoenix Children’s Chorus holds auditions May 4 & 5 in Phoenix and May 17 in the East Valley. They’re open to all students currently in grades one to 11, and all auditioners get a free ticket to the group’s May 19 concert at Mesa Arts Center. Click here for details. If you have an audition or event for the magazine’s online calendar, please send info to calendar@raisingarizonakids.com.

Coming up: Museum meets mental health, A “Topia” tale, Playwriting for social justice, The road to “Red”

Update: Rani just shared this great article she wrote when Quinn was just 2 1/2 years old — http://wondertime.go.com/parent-to-parent/article/music-class.html. It’s a fun read! Also note that my blog has been corrected to reflect the fact that Quinn is now 8 (he’s actually 8 1/2) rather than 9, and visited 30 states before he was two. 5/3/12

Musical memories

There’s “The Rhythm of Life” from the musical “Sweet Charity,” which debuted on Broadway in 1966 — and “The Circle of Life” from the 1997 musical “The Lion King.”

History is full of music marking the times of our lives — whether serene, somber, soulful or celebratory. I got to thinking about my own musical journeys after learning of “Respect: A Musical Journey of Women.”

This perky performance featuring more than fifty “top 40″ songs of the past 100 years takes to the Herberger Theater Center stage through Feb 12, 2011. Grab your girlfriends, your daughters, even your grandma — and go.

In the years following my mother’s death, I was especially moved each time I heard Bette Midler’s recording of “The Wind Beneath My Wings.”

I also think of my mom each time one of her own favorite songs, like Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer,” reverberates from my radio.

Certain songs call to mind particular times in my life.

Songs like “Mahogany” (from the 1975 movie) and “Wildflower” (first recorded by Skylark) seemed the perfect anthems for my teenage angst. 

Dan Fogelberg’s “Part of the Plan” was woven into a valedictorian speech I gave at graduation, and Bob Seger’s “Against the Wind” became a sort of theme songs as I got older and life became infinitely more complicated.

Even now, music is something shared with family and friends as a way to express our feelings for each other and our thoughts about the world around us.

For Christmas this year, my husband James gave me both Bruce Springsteen’s “The Promise” and a Bob Welch CD that opens with the track “Sentimental Lady.”

My son, Christopher, has long wished I would leave the digital “Dark Ages” and enter the magnificent modern age of mp3 players.

Perhaps one day I will — but only to record a sort of soundtrack of my life that might give my children more insights into their mom as not only parent, but also person.

I love to tell my kids about some of my favorite concert experiences, like the Springsteen concert James and I attended that opened with the Elvis classic “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” 

Or Jackson Browne’s Phoenix concert held the night before we’d all learn who had won the 2008 presidential election. More than a few hippies in the house found special meaning in songs like “Where Were You” and “The Drums of War.”

We’re an eclectic bunch when it comes to musical tastes. Jennifer favors country and Lizabeth loves Broadway. Christopher can’t get enough of the ’80s. I’m still stuck in the ’70s. And James is slightly less retro thanks to music of the ’90s.

It’s easy to take both people and music for granted. Make time during the post-holiday lull to enjoy music together — whether you’re making noisemakers with your children at a local musuem or attending a performance like “Respect: A Musical Journey.”

For music is the stuff that dreams, memories and journeys are made of.

– Lynn

Note: Local museums that routinely feature musical experiences for children and adults include the Arizona Museum for Youth, the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, the Heard Museum, the Musical Instrument Museum and more.

Coming up: Meet more “Stage Moms”

Stories & songs with Bill Harley

Maybe you didn’t make it to the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix for the recent celebration of John Lennon’s 70th birthday.

Bill Harley brings family-friendly story and song to the MIM in Phoenix on Sunday (Photo: Tom Thurston)

No worries. Sunday will be another fabulous day at the MIM as Grammy Award winner Bill Harley brings his family-friendly fare to the MIM Music Theater.

I spoke recently with the prolific singer/songwriter, storyteller, author and playwright — and his team was kind enough to send me review copies of his latest CD (“The Best Candy in the Whole World”) and soon-to-be-published paperback (“Between Home and School.”)

Harley is the father of two grown sons and currently lives with his wife Debbie near Providence, Rhode Island. He grew up in Indianapolis and Connecticut.

Two of Harley’s “Best Candy” stories are originals – while others are adapted from the British Isles, Africa and Appalachia. While you’re at the MIM for Harley’s concert, take some time to experience musical instruments from these (and other) regions.

"Best Candy" from Bill Harley is a decadent dessert for those with a sweet tooth for storytelling

I asked Harley whether storytelling seems a dying art. “It can’t really die,” shared Harley, “because it’s what people do.” Storytelling, says Harley, is what makes people human.

While talking about the family-friendly nature of his show, Harley noted that “songs and stories always go hand in hand culturally.” But what exactly is a story?

Story is “saying what happens before and imagining what happens after,” reflects Harley. “History is the winner telling the story.”

“My job,” says Harley, “is to watch, listen and pay attention” — adding that artists help others take a second look, to notice things they might otherwise miss.

So what are we missing as parents today? Many would say it’s family together time. Or ways to connect and communicate with our kids. Which is why a shared experience of story and song might be just the ticket this weekend.

Bill Harley's "Between Home and School" is an ode to the fine art of communicating

“I’ve done my job,” says Harley, “if I give kids and parents a common language.” Harley loves seeing parents and children in the audience elbowing each other during his show with a “Yup, that’s us” grin.

We focus too often, observes Harley, on what we think kids need to learn in order to grow up. It’s no less important, he says, to honor children’s emotional lives.

Harley describes his work as more descriptive than prescriptive — hoping concertgoers will leave considering not simply what they know, but what they feel.

–Lynn

Note: Harley performs this Sunday at 2:30pm at the MIM Music Theater. Visit www.themim.org or call 480-478-6000 to learn more about this concert and others in the MIM 2010-2011 Concert & Film Season.

Coming up: Reflections on NPR, “Glee” and GQ magazine

Storytellers grace Arizona stages

The fine folks at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe tell me I’ll have to wait a few more weeks before reading the never-before-released autobiography (or at least the first volume) from one of my favorite storytellers — Mark Twain.

But Valley fans of the fine art of storytelling will be enjoying two contemporary storytellers during the next several days as John Lithgow and Bill Harley hit Valley venues.

John Lithgow performs in Scottsdale Thursday and Friday night

Renaissance man John Lithgow, veteran artist of many mediums – from theater, film and television to writing and musical performance — shares “Stories by Heart” for two nights at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

Lithgow considers storytelling “the unacknowledged tie that binds humanity.” “Stories by Heart” takes place Thurs, Oct 21, at 7:30pm and Fri, Oct 22, at 8pm. Go. Relish. Acknowledge.

You may not think of yourself as an aficionado of the art of storytelling, but consider for a moment that storytelling is all around us. Ads. Tweets. Musical theater. News. All variations on storytelling, for better or worse.

Bill Harley performs songs and stories “portraying contemporary American life with a slight off-center bent” at the Musical Instrument Museum on Sun, Oct 24, at 2pm.

Bill Harley performs in Phoenix Sunday

The musician, storyteller, author and playwright will share family-friendly fare with audiences at the MIM’s Music Theater — which routinely features performances by musicians from around the globe.

I spoke by phone with Harley not too long ago, and will share a bit of our conversation in a future post.

Harley’s recent works include a book titled “Between Home and School” (available Nov 1) and a CD titled “The Best Candy in the Whole World.”

We aren’t only listeners. We’re storytellers too. Especially in the words we share with our children each and ever day.

I’d like to get better at it. I’d like to feel part of the larger storytelling community. I think time spent with Lithgow and Harley will jump-start my journey.

How about you?

–Lynn

Note: Local resources for storytelling and creative writing include the Storytelling Institute at South Mountain Community College and the ASU Young Writers Program,

Coming up: Upcoming Arizona premieres, Getting to know Tetra Quartet, Local First and the arts