Tag Archives: Alan Jackson

For the love of country

A work of art available in the museum shop at the Musical Instrument Museum

Hank Williams, Jr. made headlines this week for likening America’s president to one particular genocidal monster, an analogy that doesn’t do justice to the patriotism evident in so much of country music.

My daughter Jennifer, a cultural anthropology major at ASU, is a longtime fan of country music who’s introduced me to a smarter, kinder side of the genre long-affiliated with love of country and — at its best — love of fellow citizens.

Recently she pulled me aside to watch a videotaped performance from this year’s Academy of Country Music Awards ceremony. It featured Darius Rucker performing with 25 campers from the “ACM Lifting Lives Music Camp.”

They sang “Music from the Heart,” which songwriters Brett James and Chris Young composed with campers during the summer of 2010. “Lifting Lives” is the philanthropic arm of the ACM, which sponsored last summer’s camp.

The music camp has been hosted for six years by the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center in Tennessee, which works to “facilitate discoveries and best practices that make positive differences in the lives of persons with developmental disabilities and their families.”

It wasn’t the first time I’d spotted a country/Kennedy connection. Alan Jackson opened the Kennedy Center’s 9/11 memorial in Washington, D.C. with his song titled “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning.”

Those of you seeking country music closer to home can look forward to several concerts coming to Valley stages this season. Vince Gill performs at the Mesa Arts Center on Oct. 23, and Josh Gracin performs with special guest Nick Nicholson at the Higley Center for the Performing Arts on Nov. 9.

Chandler Center for the Arts presents Lorrie Morgan and Pam Tillis on Feb. 4, 2012 and Marty Stuart on March 31, 2012. I hope someone gives me a call when Roseanne Cash comes to town.

The Musical Instrument Museum, already home to country western fare, says exhibits about Toby Keith and Buck Owens will go up later this month in the Artists Gallery

I was intrigued to see several country music-related exhibits being prepared during my last visit to the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, and I’m told that Suzy Boggus will be performing at the MIM on March 23, 2012.

It’s always fun to explore country western-related artifacts at the MIM. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a genuine “Nudie suit” — named for the Russian-born American tailor who crafted rhinestone-studded garb for lots of country western superstars.

And it’s nice to know, in a day and age when some use their celebrity to pedal hate and intolerance, that others are using their own good fortune to enhance the lives of others.

— Lynn

Coming up: Art meets Americana, Spending time at the “Spitfire Grill”

Arts in Education Week

During a recent episode of “Jeopardy,” the final question required knowledge of both children’s literature and opera. Think Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh” meets Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado.” Only one contestant seemed to know much about either — and he walked away with the cash. I’m guessing there’s an art teacher he ought to be thanking back home.

It’s been heartening to see arts and culture play such a pivotal role in 9/11 anniversary ceremonies. Sunday’s event at the newly opened 9/11 Memorial in NYC featured Yo-Yo Ma, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Emi Ferguson, Paul Simon and James Taylor. Opening remarks by Michael Bloomberg quoted Shakespeare, and poetry was prevalent throughout.

The Pushcart Players perform one of five school shows offered by Mesa Arts Center this season

Too often our nation forgets all that has been forged by arts and culture, and fails to appreciate the role they can play in moving us forward. So I’m delighted that Congress passed a bill last year designating the second week of September “National Arts in Education Week.”

For those who love the arts, no explanation of their impact or importance is needed. Art is an instinct, in impulse. An adventure of imagination as necessary as air. For others, they seem a mere nicety at best — perhaps because the joys of art never touched their lives as children.

But those unmoved by art’s aesthetic power should recognize its more tangible benefits. Art creates jobs. Creates cities where people want to live. Creates schools full of innovators and imaginators. Maybe even the “creative class” touted by a presidential candidate in his stump speeches.

Ninety percent of Arizonans believe that arts education is either important or very important, according to results of a public opinion poll conducted by ASU in May 2009 — a poll cited in the background report for this year’s Arizona Town Hall, the first of 98 Arizona Town Halls to focus on Arizona arts and culture. www.aztownhall.org.

The Arizona Arts Education section of the report was authored by Mandy Buscas (then director of arts learning for the Arizona Commission on the Arts, now the arts education outreach coordinator for Mesa Arts Center) and Lynn Tuttle (director of arts education for the Arizona Department of Education).

MAC presents Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters for grades K-6

Their work considers results of the 2009 Arts Education Census. It also looks at federal, state and local educational policies — noting that state support for arts in education has suffered significant losses of late due to “efforts to close significant stage budget shortfalls.”

Their reporting on the arts census notes that “20% of schools offered no courses in any arts discipline” and that “79% of schools spend less than $1 per year per student for arts instruction.” This despite the fact that U.S. employers rank creativity/innovation among the top five skills growing in importance.

So what can be done to move Arizona forward? A report issued after the Arizona Town Hall on arts and culture says that “Arizona residents need to speak up, stand for what we support, and make that support known at the ballot box at all levels, from the legislature, to the superintendent of public instruction, and to local school boards.”

It sounds rather daunting if you’re not accustomed to advocating for issues with local and stage officials, but there are plenty of resources to help you get started — including Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts. www.azcitizensforthearts.org.

The report also urges the arts and culture community to partner with the business community to “lobby for improved arts education” — and calls on nonprofit organizations and arts professionals in our communities to “continue augmenting arts education in the schools.” Think artist residencies, school field trips and such.

There’s plenty we can do as parents. Volunteer to help with art projects in the classroom. Coordinate field trips to places like libraries, performing arts venues, museums and exhibit spaces. Donate art-related supplies to local schools. Urge schools to integrate arts learning into other subjects. Vote art at every opportunity.

MAC presents Native American Song & Dance for grades K-12

Folks who separate art from the other disciplines, orchestrating false dichotomies that pit science and math against music and theater should learn more about artists like Emi Ferguson, a distinguished student of both music and epidemiology. Or scientists like Oliver Sacks.

To learn more about arts and education in Arizona, sign up for the free arts learning newsletter from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. www.azarts.gov.

The latest issue features details on the Poetry Out Loud program, a student art competition, an opportunity to participate in the Kennedy Center Partners in Education program, Target field trip grants, teacher workshops and more.

As for the “Jeopardy” answer that won the big bucks, it was “Pooh-bah.”

— Lynn

Note: Additional arts in education resources include the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities (www.pcah.gov), Americans for the Arts (www.artsusa.org) and the Arts Education Partnership (www.aep-arts.org). Learn more about Mesa Arts Center arts education programs at www.mesaartscenter.com.

Coming up: Country music meets arts and culture, Art meets airport, Who let the cats out?, Shakespeare meets Sweeney Todd