Tag Archives: glee club

GRAMMY Foundation honors Arizona school

When tickets went on sale recently for two year-end “Showcase” performances by Arizona School for the Arts, I was first in line to get mine — for both May 31 and June 1 at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Phoenix.

Arizona School for the Arts is a Phoenix charter school for grades 5-12 that prides itself on coupling rigorous academics with conservatory level performing arts training in music, theater and dance.

My daughter Lizabeth is in the senior class, and will be performing both evenings with fellow students in the theater department. When last I heard, the ASA Glee/Show Choir (with select Jazz Band members) was scheduled to open the May 31 performance with a song from the Broadway musical “American Idiot.”

She’s especially thrilled having seen “American Idiot” with her dad just a few months ago at the St. James Theater in NYC.

Other ASA groups performing Tuesday evening include Advanced Guitar, Ballet Corps Intensive, Chamber Singers, High School Piano Team, Intermediate Dance, Jazz Band Combos, Wind Ensemble and more.

Students from ASA perform during their 2010 Showcase

Turns out that the ASA music department will be enjoying a rather special honor that evening — as a representative from the GRAMMY Foundation presents ASA one of its 2011 GRAMMY Signature Schools Enterprise Awards.

Laura Apperson, ASA arts director and professional musician, notes that ASA is the first and only school in Arizona ever to receive the prestigious award. The application process, says Apperson, included submitting extensive written materials and recordings of music performance by ASA students.

Resonation Multimedia helped ASA prepare the CD submitted to the GRAMMY Foundation — which included performances by the following groups: Chamber Singers, Orchestra, Sinfonia, Wind Ensemble, Percussion Ensemble, Jazz Band, Guitar Ensemble and Piano Quartet.

The GRAMMY Foundation reports that each of the 27 schools receiving the Enterprise Award this year will receive a $5,500 grant. Apperson is thrilled that the funds will help ASA invest in mixers, mics and other recording equipment for use in classroom and performance settings.

Several ASA music groups are performing during Wednesday’s “Showcase” at the Orpheum Theatre — including 5th and 6th Grade Choirs, Men’s Choirs, Percussion Ensemble, the Showcase Orchestra and more. Additional June 1 performance groups include Ballet Foundations I & II, Intro to Dance, Theatre and more.

Students from ASA perform during their 2010 Showcase

I have to admit that when I first learned of ASA’s GRAMMY Foundation award, I thought for a second that they’d received a GRAMMY Award for vocal performance.

Last time I heard one of ASA’s advanced choral ensembles perform, under the direction of Craig Westendorf, it brought tears to my eyes. I’m convinced that it was one of the best choral performances I’ve ever experienced — anywhere. But alas, they won’t let me give those Grammy puppies out on the spot.

I hope you’ll join me for ASA Showcase 2011 on May 31 and/or June 1. I’ll be the one in the lobby humming the little ditty by Green Day.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn about the work of this “Excelling” (from the Arizona Department of Education) and “Blue Ribbon” (from the U.S. Department of Education) school.

Coming up: SMoCA young@art gallery welcomes new exhibit, What’s new in Shakespeare?, Art meets the Arizona State Capitol, Charmed (literally) by Childsplay

Photos courtesy of Arizona School for the Arts

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Ballet on the brain


Having spent a decade or so as a ballet mom to my youngest daughter Lizabeth, part of my daily ritual includes reading dance-related stories in various publications, including The New York Times. Still, the number of stories I’ve read pales in comparison to the number of tightly-twisted ballet buns I’ve precisely pinned to a particular spot on the back of Lizabeth’s head.

I always take special joy in seeing photographs of one dancer in particular — David Hallberg, principal with American Ballet Theatre in New York. He was one of many older dancers Lizabeth looked up to during her training with Kee-Juan Han at Arizona Ballet School (now the School of Ballet Arizona), and also attended Arizona School for the Arts.

I came home Thursday evening to a press release from ASA noting that Hallberg will be a featured guest at an upcoming event honoring ASA’s 15th anniversary and recent expansion. The March 1 “Breakfast Club” is free and open to the public, but I’m guessing it will fill up quickly thanks to highlights like Hallberg and performances by current ASA students. Watch the ASA website for details.

Earlier in the week, I got news of Ballet Arizona’s 2011-2012 season — which includes two works based on popular children’s tales. A world premiere production of “Cinderella” choreographed by Ballet Arizona artistic director Ib Andersen will be performed in October of 2011, and the company will perform Andersen’s “Sleeping Beauty” in February of 2012.

Other exciting news out of Ballet Arizona includes the advent of Thursday night performances during the opening week for each show, the addition of early Sunday evening performances of the “full-length story ballets” and earlier curtain times in general. All but one production will be performed at Symphony Hall in Phoenix — featuring music by the Phoenix Symphony conducted by Timothy Russell.

My latest foray into ballet world was a delightful conversation with actor Rich Hebert. He’s performing the role of “Dad” in the touring production of Billy Elliot, which comes to ASU Gammage in Tempe April 26-May 8. Billy’s dad wears a hardhat, not a leotard — and the macho miner must come to grips with his son’s determination to dance rather than follow in his father’s footsteps.

I’ll share more about Hebert’s background and “Billy” musings in a future post titled “Being Billy’s dad.” Hebert actually awakens each day grateful to be five-year-old Neely’s dad (he shares the credit with Neely’s mom Natasha). Neely has yet to formally don the tutu, but Hebert tells me she’s already quite the performer.

Watch for more ballet tales in coming posts — and in the meantime, check out this review of the movie “Black Swan” written by Alastair Macaulay of The New York Times.

— Lynn

Note: Last call for glee club/show choir photos. Please include name of group, hosting school or organization, and person who took the photo (if available). Send to rakstagemom@gmail.com for possible use in a future post.

Coming up: My fondness for “Fiddler,” Get your “Glee” on!, Performing parents

Update: David Hallberg recently accepted the position of premier with the Bolshoi Ballet in Russia — www.nytimes.com/2011/09/21/arts/dance/american-to-join-the-bolshoi-ballet.html?_r=2&hp. Visit www.balletaz.org to learn about this week’s “Ballet Under the Stars” offerings from Ballet Arizona. — 9/20/11

Don’t push my buttons!

Pushing buttons…

It’s a common occurrence when the “teen taxi” is in service.

Sometimes it’s the emotional kind, but usually it’s just the radio that’s in play. I push the ‘70s button, Christopher pushes the ‘80s button, Jennifer pushes the country/western button and Lizabeth pushes the Broadway button.

'50s crooner Eddie Fisher

We get a ‘50s station thanks to Sirius XM, but it’s never had its own button. James and I are at the back of the “Boomers,” born in the ‘60s after the heyday of soda jerks and juke boxes.

So it surprised me when I actually got chills listening to the cast of Greasepaint Youtheatre’s The Sound of Plaid” perform the show’s final number, “Love is a Many Splendored Thing.”

The show—an Arizona premiere of “The Sound of Plaid: The New Glee Club Version of Forever Plaid”—features mostly music popularized in the ‘50s. Think “Lady of Spain” and “Three Coins in the Fountain.”

I attended the Saturday matinee at Greasepaint Youtheatre (formerly Stagebrush Theatre) in Scottsdale, which was also enjoyed by youth from a variety of non-profit organizations—including Free Arts of Arizona, Chrysalis and Girl Scouts.

Collaboration is a many splendored thing, and Phoenix Theatre does it so well.

I never met a mic I didn't like

I’m also rather partial to their take on all things plaid. If ever there was a show with the potential to be a monotonous “one note”—this has to be it. I’m more of a spandex and disco ball kind of a gal, so I really didn’t expect to find this show all that enchanting.

Contemporary crooner Michael Buble

But they had me with the very first notes out of the tuxedo-clad quartet that opened the show (all looking a bit like Michael Buble brandishing braces)—which follows the performance of a high school glee club who’ve come back to earth after perishing in a 1964 crash with another school bus.

Students on the other fictional bus, en route to watch the Beatles’ debut on the Ed Sullivan show, survived—but that’s the last we hear of them. They haven’t got the power of the plaid.

I loved the show’s many references to all things nostalgic. The club sang a round rather than a rap. They pined over LPs instead of iPods. They used words more common many decades ago—uranium, Korea, harmonic convergence—even “Holy cannoli!”

Ed Sullivan & the "Fab Four"

The show featured especially strong vocals, with plenty of stunning solos and heartfelt harmonies. I’d have to give the best overall performance award to Ryan Kitkowski, an Arcadia High School sophomore who plays Jinx with true comedic flair.

I was also impressed by the balance of various creative elements—the live music (piano, bass and drums), the simple but sophisticated scenic design, the polished costumes and the playful props.

The youngest trio of cast members—including 2nd grader Alex Kirby (Gladys), 3rd grader Sam Primack (Lionel) and 4th grader Madeline Bates (Irene)–were both capable and cute. Madeline is the youngest of three Bates siblings in the show, and the cast member I’d pick for “most likely to make it big as a dancer” one day.

The Andrew Sisters

As always, the Greasepaint Theatre lobby was transformed into a world reflecting the cultural context of the show. Patrons enjoyed clips of songs like “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” by the Andrew Sisters on a tiny black and white television. And yup, they even managed to dig up an old record player.

Exhibits featured photos and descriptions of cultural icons like American Bandstand—and true American idols like Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Big Mama Thornton and Bing Crosby. A mock recording studio with stand-up mic and “On the Air” sign made a great setting for snapping souvenir photos.

“The Sound of Plaid” makes for a refreshing afternoon or evening of theater for all ages (recommended for 5 & up). If you want to treat the grandparents in your life to some quality time with the grandkids, get them tickets to see this show.

Dick Clark

Or if you want your child to see the polished, but not plastic, performance of a real live “glee club”—this is the show for you. Long before 3-D televisions invade our family rooms and kitchens, we’ll have plenty of live performance art to transport young imaginations to new dimensions.

But don’t get me started. The tragedy of television time taking over theater time is one of my hot buttons…

–Lynn

Patsy Cline

Note: If, like my daughter Jennifer, the radio button you’re most fond of pushing is for country/western tunes, don’t miss the presentation of “Always…Patsy Cline” coming to Phoenix Theatre on May 19. It’s a touching glimpse into the world of singer Patsy Cline, whose life was cut tragically short by a plane crash in 1963 when she was just 30 years old.

Coming up: Spotlight on summer theater camps, including those offered by Phoenix Theatre, Childsplay, Valley Youth Theatre and more. If your child has had a positive experience with a Valley theater camp (or you’ve seen another youth theater production you’d like to recommend), feel free to comment below to let our readers know.