Tag Archives: family 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


Break the habit

Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem perform May 5 at the MIM in Phoenix

I’m rocking a nasty headache these days, deep in the throws of caffeine withdrawal suffered during periodic flirtations with the coffee-free lifestyle. There wasn’t much spring in my step this morning, until I popped a new CD into my laptop and gave a listen to “Ranky Tanky” by Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem. Despite living in the “i-everything” age, I’ve no intention of breaking my CD (or album) habit.

The CD opens with Yusaf Islam’s “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out.” Back in the day, we knew him as Cat Stevens. The first few notes had a real Jason Mraz vibe, but soon the foursome’s original stylings and unique arrangements came through. I was waking up, and ready to dance. And why not? I was alone with my kitchen, and dishes needed washing. No harm in having a little fun along the way.

Finding a CD fit for family consumption is harder than it seems, but this baby brings the perfect balance in song selection, musical arrangement and vocal performance. Its 17 tunes include the likes of “Tennessee Wig Walk,” “Morningtown Ride” and “Wildflowers.” Several, including “Kind Kangaroo” and “Bear to the Left,” feature animal themes. My personal favorite is a sweet, slower piece about a pony named “Tinny.”

“Ranky Tanky” took me back to preschool parenting days — when my three kids, now in college, loved throwing sheets over tables to make forts or building cities out of giant boxes in the back yard. Parents eager to help their children break high-tech habits have a friend in “Ranky Tanky.” Its sing-along stylings will get your kids off the couch and into movement. Don’t be surprised if they start foraging for materials to make their own musical instruments. They’ll be eager to recreate the diversity of sounds on this CD, so let them run with it.

While listening to “Ranky Tanky,” I pictured all the ways my children might have enjoyed it years ago. Grabbing purple markers to draw their own monsters after listening to “Purple People Eater.” Running out to tend the garden after hearing “Wildflowers.” Grabbing the books “Hats of Sale” off the shelf after enjoying “Where Did You Get That Hat?”

Kids hear plenty of noise that passes for music nowadays, but “Ranky Tanky” is the real thing. It’s fun to pick out various instruments as you’re listening, even pretending to play right along. Air guitar is so yesterday. Air veggie baster is where it’s at. Turns out the daisy mayhem foursome plays more than a dozen instruments on “Ranky Tanky” — from fiddle and ukelele to kazoo, jawharp and baloon kalimba. Four “extra super extra musicians play clarinet, trombone, trumpet, tuba, resonator banjo and mandolin.

Daisy mayhem (they like the lower case vibe) is a lovely ensemble of four vocalists and musicians  — Rani Arbo, Andrew Kinsey, Scott Kessel and Anand Nayak — who’ll be performing May 5 at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. It’s hard to imagine a better venue, since the MIM is home to an “Experience Gallery” where folks can try their hand at playing instruments from around the globe.

You could break a lot of bad habits listening to “Ranky Tanky.” Too much couch time. Too much caffeine. Too much computer time. Too much remote control time. But go ahead and Häagen Dazs it every now and again. Just be sure you’re dancing while you do it.

— Lynn

Coming up: Playwright profiles, Before there was the Web

Orchestral dreams

Joseph Young, resident conductor for The Phoenix Symphony

Joseph Young, the recently appointed resident conductor for The Phoenix Symphony, was still adjusting to the Arizona heat when we spoke by phone one August afternoon. “It’s almost over, right?” I didn’t have the heart to tell him otherwise.

Something tells me he’s looking forward to The Phoenix Symphony performance of “The Music of John Williams” at the Yavapai College Auditorium in Prescott come early October.

Still, the heat doesn’t appear to be cramping Young’s style. He’s enjoyed several hikes on Squaw Peak and speaks with enthusiasm about exploring Valley arts destinations like the Phoenix Art Museum.

Young serves as conductor for the Family Series at Symphony Hall

“I was surprised by the quality here,” he says of his early experiences with Arizona arts and culture. Seems some folks in other parts of the country underappreciate our arts scene, but Young’s tuned in to all sorts of dance and theater groups — and likes the way so many support and enrich each other. Young describes the Valley arts scene as “very inclusive.”

His parents never listened to classical music. Instead, Young grew up listening to gospel music and “top 40” tunes. Today he listens to lots of classical music, but also The Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga and “funk bands” like Earth, Wind and Fire.

Young, now 29, discovered musical instruments after a band program came to visit his school in South Carolina. “I saw the trumpet and my dad was looking for something to keep me out of trouble,” muses Young. “The trumpet was the only instrument I could make a sound on at the time.” He played through high school and college but caught the conducting bug at 16.

Young attended a five-week summer program where he not only played the trumpet but also took classes in music history, music theory and conducting. “That was the first time I got in touch with conducting,” recalls Young. “I’ve wanted to be an orchestral conductor since I was 16.”

He’s careful to distinguish “classical” music from “orchestral” music. Today’s orchestras play more than classical selections, as evidenced by offerings in this season’s “Target Family Series” from The Phoenix Symphony.

Young also heads up Symphony in the Schools and Classroom Concerts

The series includes “Holiday Celebration” (Dec), “Beethoven Lives Upstairs” (Jan), “Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs & Ham” (March), “Musical Fables” (April) and “High Flying! Cirque de la Symphonie” (May). Families can purchase individual tickets or save by getting a season package.

Though he’s not a parent, Young seems very much in tune with today’s children and teens. Young spent three years teaching high school music, which left him with a deep appreciation for the balancing act of managing a myriad of activities in a complex world. “We have to bring music to the kids,” he says, “without forcing it.”

The Phoenix Symphony has charged Young with “programming, rehearsing and conducting” their pops and family concerts, and two education programs — Symphony in the Schools and Classroom Concerts. He also conducts at special events.

When describing his work, Young speaks not only of conducting but also his role as music “advocate.” He’s got lots of ideas for making orchestral experiences fresh and fun for both children and their grown-ups.

You’ll find Young in the Symphony Hall lobby after most family series concerts. Seems he enjoys showing children how to conduct. Also answering their questions about music and getting feedback about their concert experiences. He’s even game when families want him to pose with their children for photos.

Something tells me bulletin boards in kids’ rooms all over the Valley will be sporting these pictures before too long. How wonderful to grow up in a city where conductors are right up there with all our other superheroes.

— Lynn

Note: Watch for details on The Phoenix Symphony’s education and community programs in a future issue of Raising Arizona Kids magazine or visit www.phoenixsymphony.org to explore their offerings right away. Photos from www.josephfyoung.com.

Coming up: Crepes & creativity, Zoo tales

Update: Joseph Young was recently featured in an Eight Arizona PBS “Arizona ArtBeat” segment — click here to watch it online. Updated 11/16/11.

Of treadmills and thumb pianos

My friends at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix know I never met a musical instrument I didn’t like. So when they shared news of upcoming events for kids, I got right to work.

I tried hair dye. Wrinkle cream. Time on the treadmill. Even painting on a pair of jeggings. Everything short of Botox or scratching the year of birth off my drivers license like it was a lottery ticket.

But all to no avail. I can’t pass for 12 any more than I can play the Taiko drums. Pity, really, because if I was just a wee bit younger, I’d be able to get my hot little hands on those Taiko drums at the MIM this summer.

I did a bit of drumming during my first tour of the MIM Experience Gallery, where kids of all ages can play all sorts of musical instruments

The “Summer Series for Kids at MIM” kicks off June 4 with “Apache Gourd Rattles, Song and Storytelling” with Tony Duncan and his father Ken, who’ll help kids learn about Apache culture. The event is open to children ages 6-11, who’ll learn how to make their own Apache gourd rattles.

Taiko Drumming” for ages 12-16 takes place June 18. Eileen Morgan will “teach teens about the history of Taiko drums, the significance of Japanese music, and how they can express themselves through music.” Sounds perfect for teens who think music is all about hoarding the most digital downloads.

Kuniko Yamamoto: Japanese Origami and Music” for ages 6-11 is scheduled for June 19. Japanese musician and artist Kunito Yamamoto will “teach kids about Japanese origami and culture” and perform for them on flute and koto. Families can enjoy her concert at the MIM later that afternoon (at additional cost).

This portion of a MIM exhibit always reminds me of time my daughter Lizabeth spent learning and performing flamenco with the School of Ballet Arizona

Flamenco!” with Lena and Chris Burton takes place July 9. A younger group (ages 6-11) will “learn basic flamenco dancing patterns and vocabulary” and teens (ages 12-16) will “learn in-depth about flamenco and visit the MIM galleries to learn about gypsy culture.”

Burton Jacome hails from Mesa, where hometown fans are surely celebrating news of his recent win in the “World” category of “The John Lennon Songwriting Contest” for 2010. The winning work, “Ritmo-Canix,” is on his latest CD, titled “Levanto.”

The Roma exhibit at the MIM helps museum-goers learn more about gypsy culture

The “MIM Summer Series for Kids” wraps up with “Kalimba Magic” with Mark Holdaway, who’ll teach kids ages 6-11 about kalimbas (thumb pianos) and African culture — using the instrument to tell a story and showing kids how to make kid-friendly kalimbas.

My thumbs feel a little neglected at the end of the day since they rarely get quality time with anything other than the space bar on my laptop. I may have to revisit our family collection of thumb pianos. I suspect they’ve been feeling neglected too.

Christopher recognized this thumb piano during his first trip to the MIM because we've got a lovely collection of them at home

Sorry, treadmill. Looks like you’ll have to wait…

— Lynn

Note: Please visit the MIM website for important details and registration information — and check out upcoming offerings in the MIM Music Theater, home to both a “2011 Summer Series” and a “2011-2012 Concert Season” (plus film selections and more). While you’re at the MIM, you can find thumb pianos and other fun fare at the MIM Museum Store.

Coming up: Art meets autism

Photos (except the one she’s in) by Lynn Trimble

My favorite F-words

When our three children were younger, we used to play a lot of word games… 

We’d play “hangman” on restaurant napkins while waiting for our food, look for objects beginning with certain letters as we drove to and from school, or see who could find the most words to rhyme when we found a fun word in a book we were reading together. 

Nowadays we enjoy crossword puzzles and Scrabble games on those lovely little hand-held electronic devices. (I figure there’s little point in learning their names since a new gizmo will debut about the time I master the lingo.) 

We never had much fun with math games. Fractions can be so frustrating for us ‘counting on fingers and toes’ folk. 

The “find a word that begins with…” game is easy and fun for all ages—and it never hurts to practice since you may encounter it in later life if your doctor decides a memory test might be in order. 

Here’s a little practice round: See how many F-words you can come up with during the next 60 seconds… 

The words you choose can be quite telling. For me, there’s “fudge” (an homage to my mom’s homemade goodies), “fridge” (a nod to my son’s voracious appetite) and “feline” (a shout out to our furriest pet). 

There’s “Fame” because that’s the title of the DVD I rented with Lizabeth for “girls night in” yesterday—and, of course, there’s “friends” and “family.” 

Did you come up with “free?” Or “fun?” If so, this is your kind of weekend. (And yes, you can add “Friday” to the favorites list.)

Tonight from 6-10pm you can enjoy “Free First Friday Night” with your family at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix. Notice how these overachievers got the three fabulous F-words in a single event title? Festivities (for the 10 & under set, accompanied by adults) include hands-on, interactive exhibits.

Saturday’s freebies include a 10am “Music Together” preview class presented by Music Together of Phoenix. It’s for kids (with parents) ages infant to four, and features songs, chants and music from around the world as well as instrument play. 

I can’t attend because it’d be hard to pass my 6’5 + son off as a preschooler, but I am going to spend part of my weekend listening to a free “Music Together” CD I picked up at the ASA Showcase silent auction the other night. Though Christopher is nearly 21 now, music continues to be one of our favorite things to enjoy together. 

Consider a trip to the Musical Instrument Museum of Phoenix if you’re a music lover with older kids eager to find a cool (temperature-wise and otherwise) place to explore. It isn’t free, but it’s fabulous–and you can up the fun factor by seeing who can find the most instruments with names that start with the letter “F” (like the Flugelhorn from Germany).

Families with younger children can enjoy the “Sounds Like Art” exhibit at the Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa with paid museum admission. The exhibit features both visual arts and hands-on music-making activities. I’m told there’s even a collective music-making experience featuring laser beams. 

Another Saturday freebie for families comes to you from the ASU Art Museum at the university’s Tempe campus. Guests ages 4-12 and their families can enjoy “First Saturday for Families” featuring hands-on activities and take-home art projects.

Music lovers can round out the weekend with the free “Sunday Night Concert Series” at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park. Bring blankets and lawn chairs to enjoy the music of “favorite local bands” (and don’t forget a wee bit of cash for train and carousel rides or trips to the concessions area). 

Finally, I leave you with the finest word of all for freelancers…



Note: Take special care when doing the rhyming thing with teens. You’re in trouble if you launch this game with words such as “luck,” “slam” or “ditch.”  And don’t even think suggesting words that rhyme with “flood.”

Coming up: Private studios offering classes in acting, voice and more; “Camp Broadway” at ASU Gammage

"Farfalle" coming soon to Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts

Update: Since writing this post, I’ve been alerted (via virtual and actual mailbox) to two freebies offered by the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts…

The first is a “Choose 3 or more performances and get one FREE” offer I discovered on their groovy new 2010-2011 season brochure (LOVE the cover art on this baby!). The offer applies to select performances (including L.A. Theatre Works, ScrapArtsMusic and more).

The second, also from the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, is a free open house previewing their upcoming season (which features more than 75 performances) with multi-media presentations and more. The June 11 (Fri) open house is scheduled for 5pm at the Virginia G. Piper Theater, with a 6pm reception to follow at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA).

I’m hoping to attend if not on Friday night teen taxi duty, so look for me in my unofficial red “Stage Mom” jacket (see photo above–of me, not Lord Farquaad) if you want to say hi, share blog ideas or tell me about family-friendly arts adventures in your neck of the woods.

Learn more at www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org or 480-994-ARTS (2787), ext. 2.