Tag Archives: world music

Thumbs up!

Part of the MIM sanza exhibit

It’s “thumbs up!” at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, where 200 sanzas, better known as thumb pianos, will be exhibited Feb. 25-Oct. 1.

Families who visit the museum’s Target Galley will see sanzas from the MIM’s own collection and a museum in Central Africa. But most hail from a private Belgian collection spotted a year or so ago by a MIM board member and funder during travels abroad.

Manuel Jordán, chief curator and director of collections at MIM, says that in a museum filled with diverse instruments from across the globe, it’s nice to add an experience that “focuses on one specific instrument and all its ramifications” — from how it’s created and built to how it’s played and used in various cultures.

Sanzas are created in different sizes and feature designs ranging from simple to elaborate. “When you see them in person,” reflects Jordán, “it’s almost like each one has a personality.” Like people, they’re all different and unique. “You can’t help but have favorites,” says Jordán — though he’s reticent to pick just one or two. Seems he’s fallen in love with “a good twenty to twenty five of them.”

Sanza featured in an upcoming MIM exhibit

When our children were younger, we often bought sanzas and other small instruments when visiting museum gift shops, and they’re still living in a basket our kids used to haul out for playdates. The thumb pianos were always a hit because they’re so easy to play and carry from place to place.

“There’s a certain simplicity to the instrument,” says Jordán. “You don’t need lessons to play one.” Folks who pay for general admission to the MIM are free to explore the sanza exhibit — plus play various instruments, including sanzas, inside the MIM Experience Gallery.

Jordán recalls seeing his first sanza during a two-year stint in Africa. Three children were carrying the instrument, which had been crafted of wood and branches pulled down from a banana tree. Jordán notes that sanza is “the music that accompanies storytelling in African villages.”

Seems the sanza has plenty of fans — including groups like Genesis and Earth, Wind and Fire. It’s the only musical instrument you’ll hear behind the vocals of Canadian Laura Barrett, according to Jordán. Angolan musician Victor Gama “has experimented with thumb pianos with a futurist tilt.” Jordán notes that many “look like things out of another planet.”

Part of the MIM sanza exhibit

Jordán adds that renowned American banjo player Béla Fleck uses them too, as does Tanzania musician Anania Ngoliga. “Lots of world music uses it,” shares Jordán, along with lots of other percussion instruments.

Because of Africa’s interaction with other parts of the world, says Jordán, you can find the sanza in many cultures. Jordán says folks who find sanzas in the museum’s Africa exhibits will find them in Latin American exhibits too.

Those who wonder how they got there can follow the path of music through history to learn about the slave trade and ways African culture has merged with other cultures over time.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to explore MIM offerings and learn more about the sanza exhibit.

Coming up: Art meets television


Shakespeare shorts

Snippets of Shakespeare are being performed all over the Valley this week. An intermediate class at Childsplay in Tempe has 8-12 year olds working on Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” this week. And Paradise Valley Community College performs “Twelfth Night” for a final weekend — June 24 & 25 at 7:30pm and June 26 at 2pm — at the PVCC Center for the Performing Arts.

A “youth and education” cable channel operated by the City of Phoenix, know99 Television, presents “Shakespeare Shorts” this Thurs, June 23 at 8am and noon. It features leading actors discussing the motivations of major characters in scenes chosen from five Shakespeare plays, using clips from past television and film versions of the works.

These Shakespeare shorts from Cafe Press feature a quote from Twelfth Night

If you’ve never explored know99 offerings, you can click here to learn more. Turns out they offer programming in six subject areas they call “teach,” “word,” “think,” “arts,” “science,” and “society.” They even have “know99 stories” on things like the Audubon Center, Academic Decathlon and Ballet Folklorico — plus a place for viewers to suggest story ideas.

The education access channel also offers something called “Student Film Presentation” every night at 10:30pm. It “showcases the productions of elementary, high school and college students.” The channel “accepts documentaries, shorts and full-length films” (click here for submission details). Local films they’ve featured include “The Artist” by Jennifer McCuen and Heather O’Neil, “Writers Block” by Jake Cibik and many others.

Evening programming on know99 Television includes “Inside Creative Minds” (which “showcases the work, knowledge, passion, and talent of people throughout the Valley”), “Beyond Our Borders” (which features “living images of world cultures”) and “Link” (which focuses on “world music, current events, films & documentaries”). “Explore” segments feature documentaries “showcasing nonprofit efforts & leaders around the world.”

The channel also offers “youth at-risk/prevention” programming. There’s “Connect With Kids” (with “true stories of youth dealing with issues like bullying and drugs”), “Four More Days” (showing “dangers of drinking while driving”), “Online Predators: Invading MySpace & A Parent’s Guide” (about how to protect yourself online) and more. Even something called “Scenarios USA” — with winning teen scripts made into short films with the help of Hollywood producers.

The beauty of Shakespeare Shorts on TV is the fact that you can watch them in your Shakespeare shorts

Shakespeare knew a thing or two about youth (and adults) enjoying risky behaviors only to suffer heartbreaking or hilarious consequences. Check out “Shakespeare Shorts” this week to learn more about his take on human nature. Then enjoy all the jealousy, mistaken identity, cross-dressing and dueling of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” at Paradise Valley Community College.

If you find yourself wanting more, stay tuned for 2011/2012 offerings from Arizona’s own Southwest Shakespeare Company — and consider a family trip to the Utah Shakespeare Festival, where you can enjoy several of Shakespeare’s works over the course of just a few days.

— Lynn

Note: PVCC’s production of “Twelfth Night” is directed by Eric Schoen, well-known to Valley theater goers for performances with Southwest Shakespeare Company, Arizona Jewish Theatre Company and more. Schoen is also the founder and artistic director of Class 6 Theatre in Phoenix, which just completed its second season.

Coming up: Art meets market, Bullying and the arts, Bike shorts? (featuring an update from the Blue Bike Kids Show, which has the honor of being “Kickstarter” of the day today)

Images from www.cafepress.com

Free museum days!

Every year since 1977 museums around the globe have celebrated “International Museum Day” with free admission, special offers or admission discounts. More than 30,000 museums in more than 100 countries organize “International Museum Day” activities, according to the Central Arizona Museum Association (also known as CAMA).

CAMA describes itself as “a regional consortium of museums dedicated to fostering professional development and promoting museums in Gila, Maricopa, Pinal, and Yavapai Counties.” The CAMA website lists more than 50 museums, and lets you search museums by name, location or type.

“International Museum Day” is designed to raise awareness about the vital role museums play in their communities. As summer months with soaring temperatures loom, they’re especially important for Valley families who seek cool places to enjoy educational and entertaining experiences together.

If you’re only visiting museums when traveling other places for business or pleasure, you’re missing some of the world’s great museums right here in your own backyard — like the Musical Instrument Museum and Heard Museum, both in Phoenix. For children, we’ve got the Children’s Museum of Phoenix and the Arizona Museum for Youth.

Celebrate at the MIM with reduced ticket prices -- plus free performances and demonstrations -- May 19 from 5pm to 9pm (Photo: Lynn Trimble)

Here’s a sampling of Valley museums offering special pricing for “International Museum Day” this year (with thanks to the fine folks at CAMA for putting this list together)…

Arizona Historical Society Museum at Papago Park in Tempe offers free admission Wed, May 18 from 10am-4pm.

Arizona Military Museum in Phoenix offers free admission Wed, May 18 from 1-4pm.

Arizona Museum of Natural History in Mesa offers one free admission with the purchase of another (free admission must be equal to or less than the price of the purchased ticket) Wed, May 18 from 1-4pm.

Barbara Anderson Girl Scout Museum in Phoenix offers free admission Wed, May 18 from 9am-4pm.

Deer Valley Rock Art Center in Phoenix offers two-for-one admission Wed, May 18 from 8am-2pm.

Heard Museum in Phoenix and North Scottsdale offers two-for-one admission (for up to four people) Wed, May 18 from 9:30am-5pm.

Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix offers $5 off admission and “a range of free performances and demonstrations” Thurs, May 19 from 5-9pm.

Pueblo Grande Museum and Archeological Park in Phoenix offers free admission Wed, May 18 from 9am-4:45pm.

River of Time Museum in Fountain Hills offers free admission Wed, May 18 from 1-4pm.

Scottsdale Historical Museum in Scottsdale offers free admission Wed, May 18 from 10am-5pm.

Shemer Art Center and Museum offers free admission Wed, May 18 from 10am-3pm.

Call ahead if you plan to tour with a large group, and remember that most offers cannot be combined with other discounts or coupons. In some cases, museum gift shops are offering discounts.

Make museum visits more enjoyable by taking children when they’re well rested, letting children help decide which museums to visit and taking along items children can use to make museum visits more fun (a camera, if allowed — or paper and colored pencils for drawing what they see).

Keep visits shorter for younger children, leaving before they get too frazzled even if it means you’re unable to see everything a particular museum has to offer during a single trip. Consider buying memberships at favorite museums — which make shorter, more frequent trips economical and offer other benefits like gift shop savings.

Look for museums with hands-on activities that engage children’s bodies and minds. Choose museums for playdates, and add a picnic lunch or park time into the mix. Think museums for family get-togethers so nobody has to clean house and the turf feels neutral.

And when you need some time away from the kiddos, consider a stroll through your local museum. Museums are perfect for enjoying quiet time and peaceful reflection. Just promise me you won’t hole up there for the night…

— Lynn

Note: Always call ahead to confirm museum location/directions, days/hours of operation and ticketing information. And remember that museum exhibits are noted in both the print and online editions of the Raising Arizona Kids Magazine calendar.

Coming up: A sweet theater find

Update: The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is also offering free admission and special activities on Wed, May 18 for International Museum Day. And the Phoenix Art Museum has announced that their members receive free admission to the Children’s Museum of Phoenix and the Arizona Science Center, also in central/downtown Phoenix, May 18-22 (just show your membership card).

J is for Jersey — and Juneau

“Alaskan Fiddling Poet” Ken Waldman, who’ll be performing at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix next weekend, does plenty of traveling as a sort of modern day troubador.

I’ll bet Waldman didn’t expect to be in New Jersey late last week – but he was a stowaway of sorts as I traveled to the East Coast with one of my daughters.

When I went to rev up my laptop, I discovered Waldman’s bright green “D is for Dog Team” CD inside.

I’d listened to several of his CDs, and read two of his books, just a few weeks before. He was kind enough to send them my way so I could get a feel for his work before he hits the Valley with his family-friendly blend of music, poetry and storytelling.

One book, a memoir titled “Are You Famous?,” is a detailed read standing in sharp contrast to the mini-memoirs I write in many of my posts. Perhaps he’s not ready to accept rumors of readers’ shortening attention spans. Or maybe he just gives people more credit than most.

Waldman’s “D is for Denali” — featuring Alaskan acrostics from A to Z — is more my style. There’s “A is for Avalanche,” “I is for Iditarod,” “R is for Reindeer” and more.

It reminds me of the years I spent living in Anchorage — and my mom’s brother Bob, who lived with his family in Juneau.

Its development was “made possible in part through a grant from the New Jersey-based Puffin Foundation” — an organization dedicated to “continuing the dialogue between art and the lives of ordinary people.”

The name of the non-profit caught my eye because my daughter Jennifer, who’ll turn 20 this week, was quite the puffin fan during childhood.

Animals are a common subject in Waldman’s works. The “D is for Dog Team” CD includes “Stubborn Old Mule,” “I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground,” “Duck River” and several other selections.

Another offering — a pair of CDs titled “All Originals, All Traditionals” — features one CD with 28 instrumentals and another with fiddle tunes and poems.

When you open the packaging, you see a poem titled “Suffering Democracy” — one of my favorite little gems from Waldman’s world.

Head to the Musical Instrument Museum this Friday (April 29) at 4pm for “Experience the Music: Ken Waldman and Poetry and Storytelling for Kids.” The event, designed for kids ages 4-8 (with a parent), is just $15/child.

Waldman also performs a series of three free events at the MIM on Saturday, April 30. Other MIM activities that weekend include “Listen to the World” — a celebration of the museums’s first anniversary, complete with music, dance and workshops.

If “M is for Moose Pass” — then “MIM” is for music, imagination and memories. It’s unlikely you’ll see a moose around these parts. But thanks to the MIM — music exhibits, performance and education are always available right here in Arizona.

Now if only I could get New Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen to pay a visit to the MIM…

— Lynn

Note: Waldman is currently a featured poet on the website for “49 Writers,” an Alaskan non-profit supporting writers and their work. Click here to learn more.

Coming up: Costume shop treasures

Arizona meets Smithsonian

I’ve always been awed by the size and scope of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. — which describes itself as “the world’s largest museum and research complex, with 19 museums, 9 research centers and more than 140 affiliate museums around the world.”

But I’ve often taken for granted the fact that there are several Smithsonian Affiliates right here in Arizona, including the following:

  • Arizona Historical Society (Tucson)
  • Arizona State Museum (Tucson)
  • Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum (Bisbee)
  • Challenger Space Center (Peoria)
  • Heard Museum (Phoenix)
  • Sharlot Hall Museum (Prescott)
  • Tucson Unified School District (Tucson)

The newest Arizona museum to earn Smithsonian Affiliate status is the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, another museum that never ceases to amaze thanks to the breadth and depth of diverse offerings both musical and music-related.

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I’ve always found that trips to the MIM feel more like exhilerating jaunts around the world than stuffy strolls through museum corridors. Just as the Heard Museum in Phoenix features a comprehensive collection of American Indian arts and culture, the MIM features a comprehensive collection of music-related artifacts.

If you’ve yet to explore the Musical Instrument Museum, or other museums noted above, you’re missing the opportunity to enjoy some of the country’s finest museums right in your own backyard.

— Lynn

Coming up: Valley venues performing Broadway classics

Photos courtesy of the Musical Instrument Museum

We ♥ teachers

Tackling the rumblings of some Wisconsin legislators who seem to believe that public school teachers are living large off taxpayer dollars, Jon Stewart put together a little ditty titled “Cribs: Teachers Edition” inspired by the real “Cribs” series on MTV.

It follows correspondent Samantha Bee as she visits the New York City homes of two public school teachers — only to discover that both women do, in fact, have a bathroom (albeit tiny) and a closet (nearly empty).

But it doesn’t stop there. One has a futon, while the other has a dishwasher. One even lets her daughter have a small bedroom rather than sleeping in the bathtub. You can see how wildly out of control these teachers have become.

I’m guessing plenty of Arizona teachers don’t fare nearly as well. So I was thrilled to learn that the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix is offering free admission to teachers during March 2011.

Someone who appreciates teachers? That's music to my ears! (Photo: Lynn Trimble)

The complimentary admission applies to “all Arizona K-12 teachers, registered student teachers, school principals, and home-school educators who present a school-issued ID or (for home-school educators) an affidavit of intent at the Guest Service desk upon entering the museum.”

“Each educator can bring one guest (of any age) for free,” according to MIM education manager Sarah Weber — who coordinates school field trips and other education programs at the MIM. “The offer is good,” adds Weber, “for any day in March 2011.”

But teachers, beware. You’ll be tempted to buy a few treats at the Cafe while you’re there, much to the dismay of all those naysayers who think the taxpayers might be better served if you ate out of restaurant reject bins.

And you’ll probably even explore the Museum Store in search of gifts for special occasions or materials for your classroom — proving to detractors that you have way too much spare change and time on your hands.

So remember to explain, if asked about your musical journey around the world, that the Musical Instrument Museum waived their admission fee for you. We certainly wouldn’t want our own state legislators thinking that Arizona teachers make enough to enjoy local hotbeds of global arts and culture.

— Lynn

Note: The Musical Instrument Museum also has a Music Theater — so if you like what you see the day you visit, consider a return trip to share global music with family and friends.

Coming up: Perspectives on public broadcasting

When Irish eyes are smiling

Irish eyes were smiling Saturday as wearers of the green descended on Margaret T. Hance park in Central Phoenix for the 2011 “Arizona Irish Festival.”

I spent some time mingling with the folks who attended, and snapped the following photos to help you get in the mood for St. Patrick’s Day this Thursday, March 17…

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The Irish Cultural Center in Phoenix says they have “all kinds of things planned” for St. Patrick’s Day. They open at 10am and plan to show Irish movies during the day before featuring live music and dance performance in the evening.

The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix presents Irish music by “Slide” in the MIM Music Theater that evening — but the event is already sold out. (Keep an eye on their calendar since all sorts of music finds its way there.)

If your organization or venue is offering a St. Patrick’s Day celebration with an art, dance, music or theater twist, please comment below to let our readers know.

If you’ve ever entertained the idea of learning Irish music or dance, check out the “Academy of Irish & Celtic Studies” at the Irish Cultural Center. Their next class session — which also includes language instruction — begins April 11.

Special thanks to all the parents who graciously let me photograph their children — even though some of their Irish eyes stopped smiling once I whipped out my camera. Perhaps their parents have taught them well — and they know better than to trust a woman who wears black to an Irish Festival.

I suspect my green shoes were a tad too subtle.

 — Lynn

Note: If your organization or venue offers classes in Irish music or dance, please let me know at rakstagemom@gmail.com and you might be featured in a future post.

Coming up: My second visit to “Avenue Q”