Tag Archives: jazz music

Artists fight hunger

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I had good company while driving to Tucson on Tuesday for day one of this year’s Arizona Library Association conference with an “Imagine: The Future” theme. The E Street Radio channel on Sirius XM was airing a program highlighting “Hungerthon 2011” — which asks us all to “Imagine There’s No Hunger,” then work together to make it so.

The Hungerthon is part of WhyHunger’s campaign to end hunger and poverty through grassroots advocacy and action. WhyHunger was started by talk show host Bill Ayres and singer-songwriter Harry Chapin, and its programs include “Artists Against Hunger and Poverty.” Participating artists include Chicago, Santana, Springsteen and many more.

Younger, lesser-known artists have been doing their part right here in Arizona, painting bowls for something called the “Empty Bowls Project,” an international effort to end hunger. Their work will be part of Thursday’s Empty Bowls event at Scottsdale Community College — located at 9000 E. Chaparral Rd. just east of Hwy. 101.

SCC notes that Empty Bowls began in 1990 when a high school art teacher in Michigan and his students brainstormed fundraising ideas to support a local food drive. They decided to sell hand-painted bowls filled with soup — hoping the bowls, once emptied, would serves as reminders of those not fortunate enough to have full bowls or bellies.

Folks who attend the free gathering, taking place Dec. 1 from 11am-6pm, can buy a hand-painted bowl, filled with pasta prepared by SCC culinary arts students, for just $10.00. Or skip the carbs, and go big on just the bowls — which are great for taking along to all those holiday gift exchanges where you want to have something affordable but priceless.

I’m told you’ll have about 4oo bowls to choose from, created by children from Vista del Camino’s after-school program, Paiute Neighborhood Center’s after-school program, Horizon Community Center, Greenway Middle School and Fees Middle School. Also local Girl Scouts, plus teachers and students from the Scottsdale Unified School District.  

Proceeds from Thursday’s event — a collaboration between SCC and Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Vista del Camino Community Center, the Paiute Neighborhood Center, Concerned Citizens for Community Health and the Scottsdale Unified School District — will “help restock the shelves at Vista del Camino’s Food Bank, a community organization that responds to numerous requests each year for emergency services of food, clothing and shelter.”

Art. Pasta. Easy holiday shopping. Making a difference. Life is good. 

— Lynn

Note: The SCC Jazz Band will play jazz standards as the event kicks off at 11am in the school cafeteria, located near the center of campus — and folks who attend early can also enjoy a silent auction for “higher end bowls” that’ll be awarded at 1pm. Only cash or checks will be accepted, but there is an ATM machine on campus.

Coming up: Gingerbread tales

Update: This post was updated to include photos taken during this year’s event — which runs until 6pm on Dec. 1. I bought the peace sign bowl pictured above, plus a heart theme bowl created by a Via del Camino teen named Amie who loves to cook. And I’m hoping I was the top bidder on a kokopelli bowl featured in the silent auction.


Sounds of the season

Guitar ornaments from the Museum Shop at the Musical Instrument Museum

My search for concerts with a holiday theme began at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, where I recently spotted a festive collection of ornaments with a music vibe. Here’s a nifty summary, provided by the MIM, of their holiday concert offerings — always check before going to confirm details…

December 3, Saturday

Museum Encounter: Holiday Favorites with the Desert Echoes Flute Project. 11:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., Main Courtyard. Get in the holiday mood as this 22-member ensemble performs holiday favorites with flutes of all shapes and sizes. Tickets: Free with museum admission. 

Concert: Deck the Halls – Family Holiday Classics with the Phoenix Opera. 2:30 p.m., MIM Music Theater. Holiday songs enchant even the youngest listener. Revel in the beauty of “O Holy Night,” sing along with “Jingle Bells,” and even meet Santa as you and your family celebrate the season with the Phoenix Opera and the Phoenix Opera Orchestra. Tickets: $25 (includes dessert). 

Concert: Hallelujah! Joys of the Season with the Phoenix Opera. 7:00 p.m., MIM Music Theater. Phoenix Opera and the Phoenix Opera Orchestra present a tribute to the holidays, featuring highlights from the Christmas portion of Handel’s Messiah as well as traditional and international holiday gems. Tickets: $35. 

December 4, Sunday 

Museum Encounter: Bartholomew Faire and Stories of the Yuletide. 12:30 and 3:30 p.m., Main Courtyard. Hear the ancient musical roots of our holiday traditions with Bartholomew Faire and ancient Welsh, Irish, and German poems and stories selected for the yuletide. Tickets: Free with museum admission. 

Museum Encounter: James Gerber and Holiday Favorites on the Rathke Organ. 2:00 p.m., Alcove 3. Join James Gerber, one of MIM’s own, to celebrate the season with a performance of holiday favorites on the Rathke “Visible” Organ. Tickets: Free with museum admission.

December 10, Saturday  

Museum Encounter: Bells of Paradise. 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., North El Río. The entire family will enjoy this five-octave, 15-member handbell and chime choir from Paradise Valley United Methodist Church. Tickets: Free with museum admission.

Museum Encounter: Dickens Carolers. 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. A quartet dressed in Victorian-era attire will delight the audience with four-part holiday songs. Tickets: Free with museum admission. 

December 11, Sunday 

Museum Encounter: Chai Tones Klezmer. 11:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., Main Courtyard. Although their specialty is klezmer―the heart and soul of their Jewish roots―the musicians of the Chai Tones also incorporate jazz, country and western, baroque, and Irish jigs into their music. Tickets: Free with museum admission. 

Museum Encounter: Arizona Opera and the Gift of Music. 12:30 and 3:00 p.m., Alcove 1. Four talented singers from the Arizona Opera Singer Circle will perform a celebration of songs that embraces the spirit of the season. Tickets: Free with museum admission. 

December 17, Saturday 

Concert: Jazz Holiday Celebration. 7:00 p.m., MIM Music Theater. Don’t miss this continuing winter tradition at MIM! Special guests join forces with the “who’s who” of local Valley talent for a jazzy evening of winter and holiday favorites from around the world. Tickets: $25. 

December 30, Friday 

Celebrate with SOUND! Noisemakers for New Year’s Eve. 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. Get ready to party! Make a fun, festive and noisy instrument to welcome the New Year. We provide the materials, instructions, and guidance–you provide the music! Tickets: $2 per craft with museum admission.

For a comprehensive calendar of events for families, consult Raising Arizona Kids magazine in print and online.


Coming up: Fun with holiday ornaments, Guitar tales, Giving thanks for veterans, More Christmas concert fare, “Munchkin” tales

For the love of Lilly!

D. Scott Withers (center) as Lilly's teacher, Mr. Singer

Childsplay recently opened its 35th season with “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse” by Kevin Kling, a whimsical work based on books by Kevin Henkes.

Lilly (Yolanda London) doing her drama queen thing

It’s directed by Childsplay’s founding artistic director David Saar. But don’t tell Lilly. She’s “Queen of Everything.” Lilly is perfectly good-natured until a baby brother named Julius falls from the sky. Soon tantrums lead to time in the “uncooperative chair” as Lilly loses that ‘I’m so special’ feeling.

But it’s restored after a bit of quality time with grandma, who buys Lilly a purse unlike any other. Lilly discovers that her purple plastic purse makes music when she opens it, which is perfectly wonderful unless you’re sitting in a classroom with a teacher who takes the same “hush, hush” and “not now” tone as your parents. After Lilly writes a not-so-nice note to her teacher, things get a bit complicated.

Lilly (Yolanda London) enjoys a special outing with her grandma

You’ll love the way this story, recommended for ages four and up, weaves themes of family, friendship and forgiveness into a medley of music, mice and misadventures.

Lilly (Yolanda London) wants to be an opera singer when she grows up

“Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse” features a cast of eight, including Yolanda London as Lilly, Dwayne Hartford as Dad and Debra K. Stevens at Mom. D. Scott Withers plays Lilly’s teacher, Mr. Slinger — who has a nifty trick for helping students deal with larger-than-life emotions. Jon Gentry and Nathan Dobson play best friends Wilson and Chester.

If your children have ever attended classes, camps or workshops with Childsplay artists, they’ll recognize these actors, who masterfully cultivate in children a love of storytelling that reflects the joy each actor exudes on stage.

Childsplay sets, costumes, choreography and such are always a delight, as evidenced by their many wins at this year’s Arizoni Awards. But it’s the music for “Lilly” — mostly jazz with a fun splattering of opera — that I enjoyed most in this production. “Lilly” gives opera, too often labeled “stuffy,” a serious kick of spunk.

Cailyn and Payton of Phoenix rocking the Lilly look

Like all Childsplay productions, there’s much to learn from “Lilly” — for kids and grown-ups alike. Lobby activities extend important lessons in lighthearted ways, and Childsplay offers souvenirs for sale to help the memories linger.

Before heading to my car after Sunday’s 1 pm performance, I stopped a pair of moms to ask about taking pictures of their daughters. Both were gracious — and one even mentioned being an RAK subscriber. The girls, both six years old, were rockin’ their “Lilly” gear — the truest testament to an afternoon well spent at the theater.

— Lynn

Note: “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse” runs through Oct 16 at Tempe Center for the Arts. Visit www.childsplayaz.org to learn more. Additional cast and creative team members include Michelle Cunneen (Female), Kate Haas (Garland), Katie McFadzen (assistant director), Molly Lajoie (choreographer), Carey Wong (scenic designer), Connie Furr-Soloman (costume designer), Rick Paulsen (lighting designer), Anthony Runfola (sound and projection designer) and Samantha Monson (stage manager).

Coming up: The Arizona adventures of “Dora the Explorer”

New season “sneak peeks”

Families can enjoy a taste of Broadway in Arizona this month as ASU Gammage in Tempe presents their 2011-2012 season preview event Mon, July 25 at 7:30pm. The event features a free “sneak peek” at the upcoming season — which includes classics like “West Side Story” and “South Pacific” plus newer works like ‘Million Dollar Quartet” and “American Idiot.”

ASU Gammage promises pre-event family activities in the ASU Gammage lobby, special guest appearances and free dessert after the preview event. The preview event will be your first opportunity to purchase mini-package subscriptions if you’d like to attend only some of the shows in this season’s line-up.

Tempe Center for the Arts presents their “TCA Fall Arts Kick-off” Fri, Aug 19 from 6-8pm. It features live music, artist demonstrations, gallery tours and more. Fall season information and special advance ticket pricing will be available.

Popular TCA programs include the Lakeshore Jazz Series, Performance With a View, Poetry in April, Songwriters’ Showcase, Sonoran Chamber Music Series, Tempe Symphony Orchestra and Walk-in Wednesday Open Mic Night.

Several “partner groups” perform at the TCA — including A Ludwig Dance Theatre, Arizona Academy of the Performing Arts, Arizona Wind Symphony, Childsplay, CONDER/dance, Desert Dance Theatre, Tempe Community Chorus, Tempe Live! Theater and Tempe Symphonic Wind Ensemble.

The last “sneak peek” event I attended was presented by Mesa Arts Center, which has a lovely complement of founding resident companies including Ballet Etudes, East Valley Children’s Theater, Mesa Encore Theater, Metropolitan Youth Symphony, Sonoran Desert Chorale, Southwest Shakespeare Company, Symphony of the Southwest and Xico Inc.

I had a great time gathering information about diverse programs, meeting fascinating artists and chatting with fellow art lovers. The next MAC preview event is a three-day “Season Kick-Off Festival” taking place Sept 9-11.

Keep an eye on Valley venues like Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts because many hold fall or spring “preview” events that offer a taste of their dance, music and theater menus. Who doesn’t love a free nibble now and then?

— Lynn

Note: A “Fall for the Arts Festival” presented by Arizona Broadway Theatre and Leadership West Oct 8 from 10am-4pm will feature live performance by various arts groups, creative activities for children and more.

Coming up: Introducing kids to classical music, Disney musicals on Valley stages, Art promoting peace

Bark if you love art

ABC’s “World News with Diane Sawyer” runs a “Person of the Week” piece each Friday evening. Their most recent honoree was Esperanza Spalding, a young jazz musician who captured the “Artist of the Year” award during the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards.

Their story shared a bit about Spalding’s background — noting that her decision to make music came at the tender age of five after she saw and heard cellist Yo-Yo Ma perform on the PBS television show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

It reminded me at first of watching Yo-Yo Ma receive our nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, earlier in the week. He looked like a kid who arrived at school one day only to discover it had been transformed into a giant candy factory.

Check out PBS' "Martha Speaks" this week for new episodes with an arts focus

But then I remembered an e-mail that recently came my way — about a PBS television show titled “Martha Speaks.”

It features a talking dog named Martha who’ll be introducing young viewers (and their cats) to a wonderful thing called arts and culture this week (Feb 21-25).

The show is based on the works of New Jersey author and illustrator Susan Meddaugh, for whom “Martha” was once a family pet (of the non-verbal variety).

Apparently Martha has something to say about all sorts of art-related topics — from theater and classical music to Greek myths and opera. I’m all for it, since the show also promotes language development and other skills children will need one day as they journey through a world where myths abound.

The show’s stated “educational goal” is teaching new words to children ages 4 to 7. This is a great relief to those of us who’ve tired of hearing children utter unsavory words gleaned from older sibs or even prime time television offerings.

"Martha Speaks" couples words with art on PBS this week

There are, of course, other means for expanding one’s vocabulary.

Just this evening I learned from a television talk show host that “paralepsis” refers to a rhetorical strategy of raising a point by appearing to pass over it.

Can’t wait to hear Martha use that one in a sentence.

I’m utterly convinced that children learn language best by interacting with others who use language. The “Talking Elmo” doll is a fine start, but word play is really the purview of parents.

I’m glad there’s public television, offering tools for parents and teachers who do society’s most imporant work — assuring literacy for future generations.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about the many fun and fascinating characters of “Martha Speaks.”

Coming up: Abe Lincoln meets modern dance

Finding film in unexpected places

For those still skeptical of Arizona’s arts and cultural landscape, there’s plenty of proof on the film horizon that it’s actually a rather magnificent view.

Consider this roundup of films coming your way in unexpected places — then keep an eye out for the many film festivals soon to offer further film fare.


“The Exiles” at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. Aug 30 at 1:30pm. Chronicles one night with American Indian youth living in L.A. while exploring the legacy of government relocations of Indians from reservations to urban areas.


“Marks of the Ancestors: Indian Rock Art of Arizona” presented by the Heard Museum in Scottsdale at the Appaloosa Library. Sept 2 at 12:30pm. Explores eclectic works by and about indigenous peoples with post-screening discussion.

“Cezanne in Provence” at the Phoenix Art Museum. Sept 8 at 7pm. Documentary illuminates connections between the history/region of Cezanne and the man dubbed by many as ‘the father of modern art.’

“Tallchief” at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. Sept 13 at 1:30pm. Follows childhood and career path of an Osage ballet dancer who performed with Ballet Russes and danced in original roles created for her by famed choreographer George Balanchine.

“The Rape of the Sabine Women” at the Phoenix Art Museum. Sept 15 at 7pm. Contemporary reinterpretation of Roman myth with an operatic sound-scape rather than dialogue.

“The Cotton Club” at the Phoenix Art Museum. Sept 19 at 1pm. Look at famed Depression-era nightclub that gave birth to some of the era’s hottest jazz and most notorious criminals. Intro/Q and A with local expert.

“Water Flowing Together” at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. Sept 20 at 1:30pm. Chronicles life of Navajo principal dancer with the New York City Ballet while exploring his journey home to reconnect with the culture he left behind.

“Collapse” co-presented by Changing Hands Bookstore at Hoodlums Music and Movies in Tempe. Sept 24 at 6pm. Considers the possibility that the global economy, and perhaps civilization itself, will collapse once we run out of fossil fuels.

“Treasure Island” presented by Arizona Opera at the Phoenix Art Museum. Sept 26 at 1pm. Follows the adventures of a yooung man seeking buried treasure amidst a motley crew of cutthroats.

“Dancing from the Heart: Journey of a Pueblo Dance Family” at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. Sept 27 at 1:30pm. Chronicles the life of a family dance group.


“Chiefs” at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. Oct 4 at 1:30pm. Documentary following team of American Indian teens as they seek a sports championship amidst poverty, alcoholism, drugs and racism.

“Miss Navajo” presented by the Heard Museum Scottsdale at the Appaloosa Library. Oct 7 at 12:30pm. Documents beauty pageant while showing the importance of cultural preservation and the meaning of being a Navajo woman.

“The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant” at the Phoenix Art Museum. Oct 10 at 1pm. The tale of a fashion designer in the throws of complex and shifting relationships.

“Lady Warriors” at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. Oct 11 at 1:30pm. Follows girls athletic team pursuing an unprecendented fourth consecutive championship in their sport.

“When Your Hands Are Tied” at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. Oct 16 at 1:30pm. Explores unique ways young Native people express themselves in contemporary society while maintaining traditional lives.

“Talk Cinema” at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Oct 19 at 7pm. Series features screenings of independent and foreign films followed by moderated conversations hosted by distinguished critics. Spoiler alerts featuring film titles available just prior to screening dates.

“The Cinematic American Indian-A Three-Part Film Lecture Series” at the Heard Museum in Scottsdale. Oct 19, Oct 26 and Nov 2 at 11:30am.

“Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” sponsored by the ASU Center for Film, Media and Popular Culture at the Phoenix Art Museum. Oct 24 at 1pm. Follows the travels of a mother and son across the Southwest as they search for a better life. Intro and Q & A by local expert.

“Turquoise Rose” at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. Oct 25 at 1:30pm. Follows Native American college student who begrudgingly opts to care for her ailing grandmother rather than traveling to Europe with friends.

“Dirt! The Movie” co-presented by Changing Hands Bookstore at Hoodlums Music and Movies in Tempe. Oct 29 at 6pm. Examines the possible impact of the growing scarcity of workable soil in the face of environmental destruction.

I feel seriously smart just thinking about all these flicks. One can only hope I make it to enough of them to actually do the trick.

— Lynn

Note: Watch for Friday’s weekend roundup featuring additional film events in the Valley and more. Check with venues before attending to confirm date/time, location, recommended ages, cost, etc.

Coming up: Enjoying arts and culture at Valley community colleges; More film fare from performing arts venues, movie theaters and Arizona universities

Seek and ye shall find

Recently I went in search of arts events with a multicultural flair for an upcoming post featuring music, theater, dance and visual art inspired by other parts of the world.

I had only to open my newspapers on Sunday–unsoaked by sprinklers for the first time in a week–to find what I was looking for. And more.

It was the “2010/2011 season ASU Herberger Institute School of Music” calendar, a lovely fold-out poster that I quickly tacked to the bulletin boards in my tiny home office (formerly known as the dining room). First I had my son Christopher scan the cover so I could give you a peek.

I’ll share my multicultural finds another day so I can focus on ASU offerings today–noted in the calendar by categories that include choral concerts, lyric opera theatre, an organ series, a guitar series, jazz concerts, percussion concerts, a faculty artist series, a guest artist series and more.

There’s even a “Musical Instrument Museum” series being performed at the MIM in Phoenix, as well as a “Performance with a View” series at the Tempe Center for the Arts (also home to Childsplay performances–with ASU theatre and film alumni David Saar at the helm).

If your child is involved with music, dance or theater here in the Valley, there’s a good chance ASU music graduates have crossed your path as teachers, performers, directors and more.

Lizabeth started her senior year at Arizona School for the Arts on Monday, where she studies in the theatre arts department headed by Toby Yatso, whose long list of credentials includes a music degree from ASU.

Yatso is directing the ASA fall musical, a Flaherty and Ahrens work titled “Lucky Stiff,” to be performed Sept 29 (preview) to Oct 3 at Greasepaint Youtheatre (formerly Stagebrush Theatre) in Scottsdale. Yatso also heads up the new (and yet to be named) ASA glee club, and is an artist in residence with Phoenix Theatre.

There are plenty of treasures in the ASU School of Music mix this season–including a celebration of music and the visual arts, a concert featuring ‘composers in the concentration camp,’ an ‘around the world in song’ choral concert, an African drum ensemble and various student competitions (talent show, jazz composition and more). Here’s a peek at this season’s ASU Lyric Opera Theatre poster…

The ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts includes several departments beyond music, dance and theatre/film. There’s also architecture/landscape architecture, art, arts/media/engineering and design.

If they’ve got nifty poster-style calendars like the music department, I may have found a new ‘small space decorating’ solution–lining my office walls with all things ASU and the arts.

Though, come to think of it, that would require a bigger space…


Note: Several events are being presented this month, so call right away for a calendar (or click here for online info) if you want to pick your own favorites and join the fun. Visit ASU Gammage in Tempe during exhibit hours to see a collection of poems and pictures titled “When the Water Came: Evacuees of Hurricane Katrina” (through Oct 12).

Coming up: Forget the “freshman 15“–that’s nothing compared to the bounty of blogging. Watch for musings on the perils and perks of writing a daily arts blog in an upcoming post celebrating 300 consecutive days of blogging.