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Category Archives: Performing
Kansas City’s Fountain City Brass Band will be performing their Christmas concert, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, at the Bell Cultural Events Center, MidAmerica Nazarene University, Olathe, KS, on Saturday evening, December 14, 2013, at 7:30 p.m.
The Fountain City Brass Band was founded in 2002 as a volunteer musical ensemble based in the greater Kansas City area, and draws its membership from around the United States. The band is committed to a mission of cultural enrichment through the presentation of concerts that are both entertaining and educational. They perform a wide variety of music including opera, jazz, popular, and classical music, bridging the gap between the various musical genres.
Winners of multiple competitions in North America and the Scottish Open in 2009, they recently won their sixth U.S. Open Band Championship in November, 2013. They strive—and succeed—to keep alive the British and early American heritage of brass bands.
Music Director, Dr. Joseph Parisi, is a Professor of Music at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance. He serves as chair of music education/music therapy and associate director of bands as UMKC. He has been musical director and conductor of Fountain City Brass Band since 2006.
Dr. Lee Harrelson, the founder of the Fountain City Brass Band, serves as artistic director and principal euphonium player as well as a frequent arranger for the band. Lee is an Assistant Professor of Music at Missouri Western State University.
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas will feature a wide variety of holiday favorites from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and O Holy Night and selections from The Nutcracker and Santa Claustrophobia. There will also be a guest appearance by members of the Fountain City Youth Brass Academy. A free reception will follow the concert with a chance to meet and chat with members of the Fountain City Brass Band.
Bell Cultural Events Center is a prime location for a concert by this prestigious ensemble. The 541-seat auditorium is as close to acoustically perfect as possible, allowing for an amazing musical experience with Fountain City Brass Band. There is easy access to the facility and free parking.
The international hit musical Les Misérables will open the 2013-2014 season at the White Theatre at the Jewish Community Center.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled,” said JCC’s Director of Cultural Arts Krista Blackwood. “Les Misérables has been a worldwide smash for more than 25 years, but only just now became available to regional theaters. We jumped at the chance to finally bring it to our stage. Les Mis at the White Theatre will be a must see for the 2013-2014 theater season.”
Based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel, Les Misérables is an epic and uplifting story about the survival of the human spirit. The magnificent score includes the classic songs I Dreamed a Dream, On My Own, Stars, Bring Him Home, Do You Hear the People Sing? One Day More, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, Master Of The House and many more.
Making their directorial debut at the White Theatre are stage director Barb Nichols and music director Martha Risser. The dynamic team has worked together many times in the past, most recently to produce the musical Chess at the Barn Players. “The White Theatre is a tremendous space and lends itself well to the power and expanse of a show like Les Misérables,” Nichols says. “Directing a show in a new space always comes with new challenges, but working with such a talented staff and crew has set the stage for a really special performance.”
The production team also includes prop design by Bill Christie, who worked for American Heartland Theatre until it closed in August. “Les Misérables is a beautiful, thrilling show being produced by a very talented and giving company in the exciting and compelling White Theatre,” Christie says. “I am so pleased to have been asked to contribute to this beautiful effort and be part of such a proud theater family.”
The cast is chock-full of local talent. “Most of these local actors have been preparing for these roles since they first saw Les Misérables on Broadway 25 years ago,” Blackwood says with a smile. “We’re proud to be able to highlight the vast pool of local talent in the Kansas City area as we bring this show to life.”
Les Misérables opens November 9 and runs through November 24. For ticket information, go online to www.jcckc.org/lesmis or contact the White Theatre Box Office at 913-327-8054.
Director – Barb Nichols
Music Director -Martha Risser
Asst. Music Director -Michalis Koutsoupides
Choreographer – Ann McCroskey
Asst. Choreographer -Heide Harrelson-Williams
Prop Design -Bill Christie
Jean Valjean – Robert J. Hingula
Javert -Paul Secor Morel
Fantine – Julie Kaul
Marius - Joel Morrison
Eponine – Jennifer Cannady Thezan
Cosette – Katie Bartow
Enjolras – Brian King
Thenardier – Reed Uthe
Mme. Thenardier – Jeannette Bonjour
Combeferre -Milan Naster
Courfeyrac – Rob Reeder
Feuilly Cory -James Dowman
Grantaire – Alex Bigus
Lesgles – Josh Krueger
Provaire – James Wearing
Bishop / Ensemble – Russ Barker
Gavrouche – Ryan Sanford
Young Cosette – Olivia Loepp
Young Eponine – Margo Roberts
Sniper / Asst. S – Don Arnott
Joly – Brad Clay
Ensemble -Kathryn Major, Chuck Chambers, Chip Buckner, Ali Watson, Lauryn Hurley, Andrea Strickler, Ron McKeown, David Martin, Rebecca Brungardt, Whitney Harper and Katie Meador
Students – Chris Gleeson and Michael Peterson
Lovely Ladies -Meagan Edmonds, Jessica Loschke, Whitney Armstrong, Stasha Case, Cara Hampton, Trudy Hurley, Rebecca Johnston and Vanessa Harper
The story of The Nutcracker has been around for almost 200 years. In the hands of the dancers and musicians with the Owen/Cox Dance Group, the fairy tale takes on a vibrancy of movement that captures tradition and melds it with whimsy and charm. Like ribbons of color and light, the performers find energy and fun in this avant-garde rendition.
The contemporary dance troupe Owen/Cox Dance Group returns to the original E.T.A. Hoffman story dating from 1816 for their inspiration. As with other stories, the Nutcracker comes to life and battles the Mouse King and then whisks the female lead, named Marie in this tale, to the magical kingdom populated by dolls. It was another 76 years when Tchaikovsky turned Alexander Dumas’ adaptation into the ballet.
For choreographer and dancer Jennifer Owen and composer and musician Brad Cox, the strains of Tchaikovsky are always part of their holiday work, but the similarities really end there. Going on its fifth year, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King musically falls into the hands of Cox and the People’s Liberation Big Band of Greater Kansas City. The first act is the battle scene with the second act with the divertissements arranged by different members of the band including bassist Jeff Harshbarger, percussionist Pat Conway and Cox. The costumes are as unique as the modern jazz phrases that run through the show. These numbers are the various dances of the sweets.
The costumes are as unique as the modern jazz phrases that run through the show. Distinctive designer Peggy Noland designed the costuming. Artist Peregrine Honig and Ari Fish’s creations can also be seen in the ballet.
“The costumes really represent her imagination and not a specific historical time period,” Cox says. Owen says the costumes are bright with stripes and checkered patterns that may harken to the harlequins. “It’s a fun project each year,” Owen says. Cox enjoys some of the expectations in rehearsal. “We know the show, but there are always revisions and improvisations,” he says. “That helps keep everything fresh.”
Nine professional dancers and six students from the Paseo Academy of the Fine and Performing Arts along with 16 members of the band will take to the Polsky Theatre at Johnson County Community College Dec. 21 and 22. “The students are often juniors and seniors. I am fortunate this year that I have three returning students. It’s a lot of material and requires an incredible amount of focus.”
The two are serving as artists-in-residence at Johnson County Community College and Owen is working with teachers on how to incorporate movement into lessons.
As with musical improvisation, live performances bring about the unknown. “You are only offering up a few performances, but each time is in that moment and there is often an element of surprise,” Owen says. Horn sculptor and instrumentalist Mark Southerland is also part of the dance. He portrays the Mouse King. The move to the Polsky Theatre has given Owen and Cox a chance to return the musicians to the stage. “They are an important element and we present them visually too,” Owen says. Cox serves as the onstage narrator, playing the iconic Drosselmeier, the mysterious godfather to the children in the ballet.
As far as changing choreography, Owen plans on tinkering with the Russian dance and Cox will alter the overture. Ironically the People’s Liberation Big Band of Greater Kansas City took on The Nutcracker as a musical concert two years before dance was added. Then Cox says the first three years had an almost workshop like atmosphere. “Nothing really is ever static,” he says.
Owen says she has a difficult time identifying her favorite piece in the production. “However, I really like the waltz of the snowflakes. I love the music for the section. I also like that all the characters are involved. It is a section that builds and resolves. It’s definitely a highlight of the production, and I never get tired of listening to it come to life onstage.”
The ballet has been performed at such venues as the Folly Theater and Union Station. “With the move to Johnson County, we can expand our audience. We are serving as the artists-in-residence there,” Cox says. Owen is part of the continuing education at the community college and works with teacher on the use of movement in class.
As with Cox playing the narrator, Owen dances. However, her roles have been diverse. “My favorite role to dance is the role of Fritz, who also gets to do the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy in Act 2. It’s simply difficult to choose when dance in the production is my favorite,” she says. “I enjoy watching the dancers put themselves into the work and make each
Those unique qualities are a sort of signature to all that Cox and Owen do, but they still pay homage to the traditional.
“The importance of The Nutcracker is the appeal, that fascination with the fundamental fairy tale,” Cox says. “The trials and tribulations are there and in that regard, it’s similar to a Beauty and the Beast sort of treatment as there is a curse. That curse ends if he gains the love of a woman. He acts nobly and gains the required faith. It is transformative.” Owen agrees, but sees Marie as the character she understands. “This is a girl coming of age. She is passing through childhood and growing.”
In the future, Owen/Cox could tour the productions more. Expansion may be the name of the game as Owen and Cox have been partners not only in creating performing art, but in marriage too. “When you see our version of The Nutcracker, you will see things that you recognize and love. However, you will see many of them through a new filter. That keeps them fresh and exciting,” Cox says. Owens, flowing into her husband’s thoughts, calls their version accessible. “It is entertaining for all ages. There’s not a boring moment with the variety in music and choreography. It’s a thrilling and enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours during the holiday season.”
Other coming programs for the Owen/Cox Dance group include The Sonata Project with another collaboration with the Bach Aria Soloists. The performance April 5 will be at the Folly and look at dances teamed to the music of Maurice Ravel, Mark O’Connor and Sonata No. 2 by J.S. Bach. The Memory Palace is a performance to be scheduled in June and teams Owen/Cox with New Orleans cellist Helen Gillet. Again friends Southerland and Honig will join the performance. Cox is also working on scoring three silent films.•
Ailey II Residency 2013, presented by Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey, comes in to the community including performances Oct. 10-12 at The Folly Theater. Alvin Ailey saw Kansas City as a second home for his company almost 30 years ago. He laid down a mission and vision that continues today. The mission is “to make dance accessible to all people by presenting the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Ailey II, teaching young people critical life skills through dance and modeling interracial and multicultural community partnerships.” The vision reflects Ailey’s personal vision to see a diverse community united by dance to inspire and change lives.
“The calendar includes the school programs, adult fitness classes, Ailey Trio and Setting the Stage, the wrap-up concert, Ailey Camp in the summer, and a partnership with the Upper Room that aids 3,000 kids at 18 sites,” says Executive Director Tyrone Aiken.
The Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey has a broad reach. First there is a 25-year collaboration with the Kansas City, Mo. Schools. The Kansas City, Kan. School District is a more recent collaboration as is the Paseo High School for the Performing Arts. “We provide support to the dance department,” he says.
Next year marks the KCFAA’s 30th year. Aiken and the team have begun working with Michael Kaiser, who currently serves as president of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Kaiser began his career as the general manager of the Kansas City Ballet In 1985. Subsequent jobs have included executive directorships with the Royal Opera Company, American Ballet Theatre, and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre Foundation.
As an arts management consultant, Kaiser has advised such institutions as The Jewish Museum, the Market Theatre (Johannesburg), Detroit Symphony, Glimmerglass Opera, New York City Opera, and many others. Aiken hopes that Kaiser can help reignite and re-energize the organization. “We are beginning this process. We will look at how we will continue to develop talent and exposure through more classes.”
Education and Artistic Programs Director Michael Joy says the need is to be ever-evolving with all the programs. With the Ailey Camp, Joy knows students are different and he and the teachers are mindful. “We have to find the ways to reach them and excite them.” This past year’s camp ran for four weeks and students explored dance, creative writing and drumming. The Missouri camp had 80 campers and the Kansas camp had 70.
“The underlying goal is to help create and shape world citizens,” Aiken says. “For most students, camp can be their chance to help inspire their imaginations and dreams. So often, they don’t stray far from the neighborhoods they live in, but we are hoping to spark that interest to see the world. The arts we offer are valuable to show that the world is bigger and these classes can provide that path for discovery and investigation.”
The design of the camp is to give a different experience than school, Joy says. “The teachers and artists who come in to help also share what they do and model behavior. Kids see everything we do and if we want them to be better people, we have to take that chance to challenge students and give them opportunities to dance,” Joy says. The future could hold expanded opportunities in partnerships and places to dance. “We also hope that there may be better access to public transit. If the street car plan moves forward, we need to be on the route,” Aiken says.
As part of a developing community, the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey wants to be part of the conversation about the arts and the benefits, especially in arts education. “In third grade, I started playing clarinet and joined the orchestra in fourth grade. It taught me a lot about working together; art makes a different impact that can stretch experiences on for years,” Aiken says. “For me, everyone is an artist. Art is freedom to imagine, think and breathe. The other joy is the shared experience with others who join in the arts as a community. We can always be inspired by the ways people present themselves.”
He says the way people participate in culture and expression is critical. Alvin Ailey helps with this. “There is enrichment and a way to learn about the American experience through the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre,” Aiken explains. Ailey II is universally renowned for merging the spirit and energy of the country’s best young dance talent with the passion and creative vision of today’s most outstanding emerging choreographers. Founded in 1974, the company embodies Ailey’s pioneering mission to establish an extended cultural community that provides dance performances, training, and community programs for all people.
Ailey II Artistic Director Troy Powell leads the group. Aiken says the group may bring in Ailey’s own Revelations. Using African-American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs and holy blues, Revelations fervently explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul. Aiken suspects other numbers will include pieces from minority choreographers mixing ballet, jazz and Afro-Caribbean dance with hip-hop.
There’s something almost magical as the calendar year rolls toward September and October. Opening seasons for performing arts groups across the metropolitan area are getting ready for opening season. Some artistic directors and spokespeople for various venues offer their thoughts about the opening show or the shows early on that might just stand out for the audience.
Olathe Civic Theatre Association
Company by Stephen Sondheim, book by George Furth
Directed by Jason Coats
Sept. 6-Sept. 8, Sept. 13-15, Sept. 20-22
The Olathe Civic Theatre Association, renamed from Olathe Community, kicks off its 40th season with Stephen Sondheim’s COMPANY.
Coats says, “COMPANY is considered by many to be the first ‘concept’ musical. That is, there is a concept, or idea, that drives the show forward, rather than a linear plot. Events occur out of ‘real time.’ In our version, these occur in the main character Bobby’s memory, as he tries to process the consequences of turning 35 and being single. These memories, and the commentary that surrounds them, push Bobby through his personal crisis. The music was first produced in 1970 and was very reflective of the time’s culture. When it was revived on Broadway in 1995, some revisions were made to make it feel more current. There is still controversy among some as to whether the themes of COMPANY are too unique to the 70s culture to be re-set, or are universal and can surpass time restrictions. OCTA’s production is set in the present, and subtle elements of the design help accomplish this without altering the show itself.”
And Coats wants people to hear a jazz club with the sounds similar to Vince Guraldi Trio. “The orchestrations are going to lean this way for this show,” he says.
Venus in Fur
To kick off the 40th season at the Unicorn, Director Cynthia Levin takes the 2012 Tony-nominated play and puts it on the Jerome Stage as the season opener. Actors Vanessa Severo and Rusty Sneary play the actress and playwright who take an audition to a whole new level.
“I will continue the mission to find the best, most interesting and most provocative plays. The trick is to grab them when I find them. First and foremost, I fall in love with the plays and then I go about getting the rights. With Venus in Fur, it was one of the first plays I got for the 2013-2014 season and I always like the opening show to be provocative. It’s not the typical Broadway show, but when I saw it, 15 minutes in, I knew I had to do the play. Two-character plays are interesting and for these two characters, you have an actress who seems to be ill-prepared for an audition, but slowly through the play, this seemingly powerless woman shows how to use sex and power. It’s shifting roles and male and female relationships and as things get brought up, they are a surprise to the audience and to the characters.”
Levin knew she had to have two actors who trust each other and her. “I have worked with Vanessa and Rusty worked several times so I wanted to dive right in. … I have been doing this for 35 years because of what we get to learn about behaviors and situations. The journey is so exciting with this play. It’s not a safe and easy play, but it’s the perfect Unicorn Theatre show.”
City in Motion
Dance in the Park
Artistic Co-Director Andrea Skowronek says City in Motion’s professional company has started its season with the Dance in the Park. “We are co-producers with five neighborhood associations – Volker, Roanoke, Valentine, Coleman Highlands, and West Plaza. The show in Roanoke Park marks our 15th anniversary. It’s really special because we have gotten to know the great people of the neighborhoods and because it is a free program.”
The dance program brings in different ethnic groups to offer up their cultural dances, Skowronek says. “In the past, we have had West African dance, Flamenco and Indian. We also had an aerial group, the Moon Drop Circus. It’s a way for local groups to get exposure.” The average attendance is about 1,000 people. “Some people may not be able to afford a dance performance, but with the wide variety of dance, we can inspire people, perhaps even inspire them to take a dance class. It’s a feel-good event to see all these people in the community enjoying the performance.” The children’s dance theater also performs, she says.
Devon Carney understands balance. He has spent more than 40 years in the world of ballet and recognizes striking symmetry between leading the way and then getting out of the way to allow the dance to take its own spotlight. As the new artistic director of the Kansas City Ballet, don’t be surprised to see Carney mold the company, the school and the community to see the balance in dance – the elegance of classical narratives with flirtatious short modern pieces.
Carney was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he began his dance training. In between dance classes, he attended a movie theater and watched actors like Errol Flynn and Humphrey Bogart. “It’s not like today’s grittier films, but the character development that made them three-dimensional. In dance, it’s not easy to do, but when dancers can act as well, it’s a gift. I enjoy helping dancers with characterization.” He expects to start this process from the first performance with Fancy Free, into Nutcracker and then forward into the late winter show, Dracula and even Cinderella in the spring. “As ballet master in Boston, I worked with Michael Pink on Hunchback of Notre Dame,” he says. “I learned how deeply he sought to shape the character and add the dynamic to ballets. It’s about adding texture, and Michael provides the dancers a chance to do so with Dracula. Cinderella in the spring will be lighter, but the whimsical nature will be clear. No matter what, the company will get to experience creating a richer character development.”
He started in 1978 with the Boston Ballet and was promoted to principal in 1986. During his 21- year professional dance career, he performed many leading roles in well-known classical ballets such as Giselle, Swan Lake, Don Quixote, and The Sleeping Beauty. He also was able to dance roles choreographed by cutting-edge choreographers. These roles include Paul Taylor’s Company B, Merce Cunningham’s Breakers, Sir Frederick Ashton’s Monotones 1, Elisa Monte’s VII for VIII, Mark Morris’ Mort Subite, Susan Marshall’s Overture, and Daniel Pelzig’s Nine Lives: Songs of Lyle Lovett. His George Balanchine repertoire includes principal roles in Square Dance, Serenade, Agon, Rubies, La Sonnambula, The Four Temperaments, and Theme and Variations.
Moving into teaching, he became artistic director for the Boston Ballet Summer Dance Program in 1994 and served in this capacity for nine years. Teaching credits include Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre, Arizona Ballet Summer Program, Austin Ballet, Guangzhou Ballet of China, University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music Dance Department and various regional ballet companies and schools across the United States and Europe. Four years after the appointment as summer program director, he served as Ballet Master for Boston Ballet from 1998 to 2003.
Carney was most recently the associate artistic director of the Cincinnati Ballet and had been with the Cincinnati Ballet since 2003. He recently created a new version of the full-length version of the world renowned Sleeping Beauty to great critical acclaim.
Looking ahead as the new artistic director for the Kansas City Ballet, Carney knows the 2013-2014 season is already set, but he has breathing room to communicate how he wants to move forward. “I plan to teach a lot. I want to work on technique with the dancers; I will teach three times a week. I want the company dancers to learn from me. The other chance is to learn about the internal operations of the Kansas City Ballet. I can learn about the administration and I have room to work on the following season.”
In shaping a season for 2014-2015, Carney expects to look at schedules, budgets, the “hot” choreographers he wants to work with and see if it is feasible to stage their work. “It’s like being way in front of the bull rather than finding the horns. We are going to look at everything from the performances in the studio and to those on stage.”
The first time Carney saw the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, he caught a few minutes of the May 3 performance when he came to town for interviews, meetings and a chance to see the facilities. “Ironically it was during the late spring snowstorm and I felt these giant flakes falling. I love winter and I thought it must be a good sign.” He was almost a competitive ski racer until dancing proved the greater love. The Kansas City Ballets’ Board of Directors made the announcement that Carney was offered and accepted the position May 24.
In Boston, Carney helped shape the ballet school and he wants to help here as well. He also wants to see a second company of young up-and-coming dancers who can go out into the community and share dance. Coming to Kansas City also gave him the chance to step into the artistic directorship. “Cincinnati is a similar-sized city and budget and I appreciate what we have developed there. However, Kansas City is that dream company with guidance from a strong executive director in Jeff Bentley, an attractive budget, and good solid dancers. I see a hungry group of dancers who want to be the best they can be.”
He plans to take the ballet into the communities and make the dancers ambassadors. “I want people to come be a part of dance. Come see what moves you and understand more than before they saw us dance.” Executive Director Jeff Bentley calls Carney’s selection as a continuation of the tradition the board has in choosing strong leaders. “Devon is a wonderful combination of deep experience in the field as performer, coach, and director, and an engaging personality. He is totally devoted to moving this company and our school forward to its next moment. I am so pleased to be able to have the opportunity to partner with Devon.”
Carney describes his leadership style as hands-on. “I am first and foremost a teacher. I am also one who appreciates all my coworkers. I respect every job from the custodian who cleans the Bolender Center to the general manager because our goal is a common one … we are all working together to put out the best product and that’s giving the very best on stage. My biggest challenge is to delegate because as a hands-on individual, it’s tough to hand off certain aspects.”
Carney has an extensive knowledge of classical works and current pieces. “I gravitate toward good works. They can be classical pieces from the 1700s and 1800s or contemporary. No matter what, they need to be high quality. I am a chameleon myself and my voice is constantly changing. I may choreograph a neo-classical piece to Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto Number 4 and then turn around and use Take Five’s music or electronica contemporary artist Moby. For me, it’s first about the music. It will tell me what to do. The music moves me.”
He plans to make sure current choreographers will become part of the landscape. “That’s the future. It’s where the art form is going.” Carney expects some discovery with emerging choreographers as well as searching for that next voice. “The balance has to be a mix of the masterpieces, those classic full lengths, with the new works.”
Carney has a hard time standing in the spotlight now, even if it is to introduce himself to the metropolitan area. “It’s not about me; it’s about the art form. It’s about furthering the art form and getting the word out. It’s about letting people know what we are and what we can provide. We all have a story to tell and we can share it. We are going to help shape a dance landscape. It’s going to be enrichment. We are going to stress that the cultural arts are necessary to our lives. The arts aren’t ancillary, but necessary. Through our company, people will see dance. They will see that we are vibrant; we will take ballet into more schools. Art makes us well-rounded people and ballet can be that avenue of expression that gives them a way into dance.”
And never fear, Carney has a deep personal reservoir of inspiration. He comes from artistic parents as his father taught art at Tulane and his mother taught comparative literature. His sister is a ceramist and his brother leads his own dance company. “Someday he and I will collaborate,” Carney says. “My wife danced and my step-mother did too. I was in band in high school. I played third chair trumpet. First chair was Wynton Marsalis and Branford was in the band too.” He even enjoys following a classical music score if and when he can.
The opening show Fancy Free in mid-October will give Carney a chance to see the dancers perform live and see their strengths. “I want to see what gets them excited. I want the audiences to see a bright future with a new director. I want us to be nationally recognized all the time. I want to be on the leading edge with more performances and more people experiencing the world of ballet. We are in a place to start the next new chapter and there is optimism. I sensed that from the minute I walked in the door and that carries me forward.”
Photo courtesy Kansas City Ballet and Photo by Ken Coit
Bill Shapiro, host of Cyprus Avenue, often shares discoveries and treasures from the world of rock. While new music or the latest cool musician may be on tap for the Public Radio show, Shapiro also relies on the trusted sound of musicians whose presence and sometimes their legacy is long and steady.
Here are his top 10 albums:
1. Elvis Presley, Sun Sessions
2. Beatles, Revolver
3. Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited
4. Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On
5. Van Morrison, Astral Weeks
6. Ray Charles, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music
7. Frank Sinatra, Only the Lonely
8. Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run
9. Aretha Franklin, I Never Loved a Man The Way I Love You
10. Bob Marley, Legend
Best concert: The best concert Shapiro ever saw took place at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kan. on a Sunday night in 1976. He saw Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run tour. “It was not even sold out. He came on about five or six minutes after 8 p.m. and left five or six minutes before midnight. It was the essence of the heart of Rock and Roll.”
Since opening the doors of their home, the Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity in August 2011, Kansas City Ballet has been, well, creative in their approach to appealing to Kansas Citians with an interest in dance.
In addition to the performing stage at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts the Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity, the permanent home of Kansas City Ballet, provides the community with a stunning, award-winning space for dance experiences. Each season the series begins with a Free Community Event called KC Dance Day. This year’s event will take place on Saturday, Aug. 24 beginning at 9:30 a.m. and running through 6:30 p.m.
Attendees will have a wealth of dance opportunities available to them, all at no cost. From free ballet dance classes for kids and adults dance classes from ballet to Zumba® to world dances from India, Ireland, China and more. In addition to classes, attendees can enjoy kid-friendly performances from Starlight Stars of Tomorrow, Ailey Camp and Kansas City Youth Ballet—the performing ensemble for Kansas City Ballet School in the morning, multi-cultural dance presentations in the early afternoon, and wrap up the day with KC’s Best Dance Showcase featuring companies like Seamless, City in Motion, and the Kansas City Ballet.
In addition to KC Dance Day, the “At the Bolender Center” Series opens its doors to other community events throughout the season. From Free First Friday events to Kansas City Youth Ballet performances and even a choreographic workshop for KCB dancers called Dancers Making Dances, there are so many opportunities for people to engage with the city’s dance company. Director of Community Programs Linda Martin says, “Often when people get to see the company rehearsing, they will buy tickets and become audience members right afterward. It’s been a great tool for building audiences.”
Ballet Marketing Director Mike Alley says he enjoys helping to promote the Bolender Center as the destination for dance. “We are working hard and are one of the top five dance facilities, right up there with the Houston Ballet and the Alvin Ailey studios in New York. While we have gained inroads with the local professionals and the amateurs, our ‘At the Bolender Center’ Series reminds the rest of the dance community that we are a destination for dance.” Executive Director Jeff Bentley wants to see the facility, anchored by the ballet and become the destination for dance in the metropolitan area.
The former power station for Union Station regained a second life as Kansas City Ballet’s rehearsal space, ballet school and administrative offices, but it is not limited to only KCB dancers using the facilities.
Director of Production Amy Taylor has a hand in the coordination of the center and helps organizations and groups seeking to use the center. “If a chorale group needs certain lights, I help. The idea is to meet specific needs and create the looks that are wanted. Sure, in the past two years, we have felt our way along, but we knew we wanted to open this building up for groups that may not have a permanent space for performances and rehearsals. We have had weekend yogathons and development departments of non-profits hold cocktail events here.”
Whether it is an outside dance, arts or non-profit organization that seeks to share the space or an event created by the ballet staff, Taylor says each event gives her a burst of creativity. “Looking to the future, I can’t wait to see what more we will bring in while continuing to do what we do best.” Organizations interested in renting the space should contact Rene Horne for more information at 816-931-2232 x1346 or email@example.com.
The UMKC Conservatory’s Composition faculty and alumni shine brightly in the firmament of composers’ awards and commissions. Together they, along with their students, are changing the face of contemporary music here and abroad.
Composer Narong Prangcharoen (DMA, composition 2010) has been awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship, Creative Arts, 2013–14. Narong, who teaches at the Conservatory’s Academy, joins all four of UMKC’s Composition faculty, Narong’s mentors, as a Guggenheim Fellow: James Mobberley (1992), Zhou Long (1994), Chen Yi (1996), and Paul Rudy (2008).
Narong has an international reputation and has been called “absolutely captivating” by the Chicago Sun Times. His international prizes include the Alexander Zemlinsky International Composition Competition Prize, the Pacific Symphony’s American Composers Competition Prize, and the Annapolis Charter 300 International Composers Competition Prize, among many others. Recently, he won the 20th Annual American Composers Orchestra Underwood New Music Commission and the Audience Choice Award.
In 2007, the Thai government named Prangcharoen a Contemporary National Artist and awarded him the Silapathorn Award, one of Thailand’s most prestigious honors.
Narong’s works that helped to solidify his Guggenheim appointment include Illuminations (2012) for orchestra, premiered by China National Center for Performing Arts Orchestra, Lu Jia, conductor; Anatman (2012) for cello and wind ensemble, premiered by the UMKC Conservatory Wind Symphony, Steven Davis, conductor and Carter Enyeart, cello; and The Dawn of Darkness (2012) for saxophone and orchestra, premiered by Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra, Dariusz Mikulski, conductor and Wisuwat Pruksavanich, saxophone.
One of Narong’s many accomplishments is as founder of the Thailand International Composition Festival, which is in its successful ninth year. It is the largest composition festival in Southeast Asia and especially important for promoting new music. Composers (including Conservatory faculty and students) and performers from around the world participate in this important festival.
Pulitzer Prize winning composer and faculty Zhou Long is awarded the 2012–13 Elise L. Stoeger Prize for composers by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. The Stoeger Prize is a $25,000 cash award. The largest prize of its kind, it is given every two years in recognition of significant contributions to the field of chamber music composition.
Chamber Music Society Artistic Directors David Finckel and Wu Han noted, “We are thrilled that Zhou Long has been named the 2012–13 Stoeger Prize Winner. With his rich and diverse catalogue of chamber music, we cannot think of a more deserving composer for this award. Not only is his voice original and exacting, but his ability to synthesize Western and Eastern sensibilities is unsurpassed in our estimation. He joins a truly stellar roster of contemporary composers who have been awarded the Stoeger Prize, adding luster to an already incandescent list of chamber music’s greatest living advocates.”
The Stoeger Prize for composers of chamber music was established by a generous gift from Milan Stoeger as a memorial to his wife, Elise, and in gratitude for the music that had been one of the principal joys of their lives. The Prize is awarded in recognition of achievement in the field of chamber music composition rather than for a specific work.
The Elise L. Stoeger Prize is the largest award given for chamber music composition, and is given to recognize composers who have made substantial contributions to the field of chamber music. Zhou Long joins a prestigious list of awardees since the prize was first given in 1987, including Conservatory faculty Chen Yi, and former Conservatory Barr Institute Laureate Stephen Hartke.
A new work by Zhou Long, co-commissioned by Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and London’s Wigmore Hall, for clarinet, violin, viola, and piano will receive its U.S. premiere May 6, 2014 at Alice Tully Hall.
UMKC Conservatory faculty, students, and alumni continue to enrich international, musical, and creative territories with their outstanding artistry.
An apprentice is one who learns by practical experience under skilled workers or individuals in a trade, art, or calling. For Artistic Director Ward Holmquist, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and its apprentice program aids developing opera singers with a rare opportunity to continue to hone their art and shape their voices along a more confident path. Those who are selected participate in a two-year program of training and performances, which includes supporting roles in main stage operas, vocal coaching, and serving as ambassadors for their art form.
The Lyric Opera’s apprentice program accepts participants from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and the University of Kansas voice department. The program ties with UMKC have been around for more than two decades. Holmquist says the program has always been robust. The KU program is similar, having been around for roughly 15 years. “What makes our program rare is the partnership with the universities. Most opera companies don’t have this. We are fortunate to have the teaching and training at the university level so close to the opera. These young artists already have good professional potential and are working toward a graduate degree of some sort. Adding this apprenticeship gives them even more ability. They get supporting and smaller roles. We look to them to be understudies. We want them to be ambassadors in the community,” Holmquist says.
Holmquist appreciates the veracity of an apprenticeship. “I am an example of how an apprenticeship benefits a young person. I had my training with the Houston Grand Opera. I had a good education in music and knew about the operatic art form, but I didn’t have any professional experience. I learned how to value all the aspects to the art and craft of presenting opera. It was utterly invaluable. I don’t think I would have had the career I have without this starting point.”
Expectations for participants are high. The singers are advancing in their education, their training and their physical age. “Opera is one of the few disciplines where age is a benefit. Because the voice is a tool, the muscles have to develop and age helps that. Singing is one aspect, but learning how you as a performer fit with the stage crafts, costuming and more … it’s just critical,” Holmquist says. “The apprenticeship is two years. First there’s a period of adjustment and then we start charting out where we think the participants need to develop. We will see how comfortable they are on stage and how familiar they are as actors and actresses. Can they move and sing at the same time? Sometimes they come into opera later in life so as they are figuring out the art form; we are also trying to give them what they need.”
Student apprentices leave the program “almost professionally blossoming,” Holmquist says. “From an artistic point of view, their voices and techniques have grown. They are refining their talent and ready to start either pursuing a professional career or they may explore another opera apprenticeship with a bigger opera. We go to see these festivals such as those in Chicago and San Francisco. The places serve somewhat as finishing schools.”
Three apprentices shared their stories. First, mezzo-soprano Tara Cooper debuted in the role of Inez in Verdi’s Il Trovatore and was a chorus member in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer, and Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado.
She has also been selected to be a member of the Marcello Giordani Young Artist Program at the Crested Butte Music Festival this summer. Cooper is currently a student of KU Voice Professor Joyce Castle and a graduate teaching assistant in the voice program. Cooper grew up in the Northland and attended Park Hill High School. She then attended the University of Missouri to study voice and then onto Boston Conservatory for a master’s degree in operatic performance.
“I am also working on my doctorate in vocal performance at KU,” she says. “I auditioned a year before for an apprenticeship and didn’t get it. I re-auditioned and was so very excited to make it.” During the experience, she has received her Union card. “One of the biggest things is to watch the more advanced singers and the guest directors. It’s invaluable to get to spend time with them, ask questions and
She also credits Holmquist with many of her vocal improvements. “We have run the gamut with everything from Verdi and Wagner to Gilbert and Sullivan. It has been a terrific experience so far.” Ironically her first opera was Madama Butterfly at the Lyric Opera as a 16 year old and then she sang in the chorus this past season. “Like some of the others, I was planning on musical theater and playing the flute. However, I wanted to sing correctly and opera became that tool. My voice started developing classically and I came to opera during my master’s degree.”
Elizabeth Tredent also sings mezzo-soprano. She attended Cleveland Institute of Music and is continuing her education at UMKC. “I came here for the apprenticeship. When I knew about it, this was where I wanted to be. Getting my master’s degree is icing on the cake. I was also shocked by how generous the apprenticeship is … a living stipend and funds for school.” Initially opera wasn’t the first love. She didn’t see an opera until her high school junior year.
During her tenure at the Lyric Opera, she has had roles in The Mikado and Madama Butterfly. “These two years were life-changing, especially with Ward Holmquist. He is a great mentor and watching him every day is a treat. You learn from him and from the international singers. You see how they navigate this career. I owe the Lyric so much. I am grateful.” Now Tredent will become an apprentice at the Sarasota Opera. “I will have to start working my way into the industry and hope that I can play the houses such as the MET (Metropolitan Opera).”
Casey Finnigan is a tenor who says being part of the apprenticeship was partly good luck and partly hard work. He received his undergraduate degree at the University of North Texas and his master’s in vocal performance at the University of Houston. “There was a call for more tenors and luckily a teacher of mine got in touch with UMKC and the Lyric. I wound up getting in and I just wrapped up my second year in the program. I gained several opportunities including singing the bigger role of the Steersman in The Flying Dutchman. However, part of it is what you create for yourself and put into the program.”
Finnigan say his parents met in music school so being involved in music seemed inescapable. “When I started off, I was aiming more for choral conducting. Then I had a couple of roles in a summer program. Opera gives you the opportunity to embrace all the art forms …” This summer, Finnigan will head to San Francisco to take part in the Merola Opera Program which has 20 to 25 participants out of a total of 800 who audition. He then is heading to another apprenticeship with Florida Grand Opera.•
Center Stage Young Professionals of Starlight Theatre Preserving the Stage for Future Generations.
Growing up in Kansas City, Tuesday nights in the summer meant Starlight Theatre. It still remains my favorite family outing — going out to dinner, and then watching a Broadway show under the stars in the cool summer breeze. Every time I step into Starlight I can feel the magic come alive, whether I’m watching Les Misérables or The Wizard of Oz – it’s a place I walk away from singing the tunes for days and days.
After I graduated from college and started my career, I realized how special not only Starlight was to me and my family, but also to Kansas City. Starlight Theatre is the oldest and largest performing arts organization in the city and the second largest venue of its kind in the United States. It is consistently ranked as one of the top performing arts venues by both local and national critics.
When I was asked to serve on Starlight’s board of directors, I was honored. I also realized that the torch had been passed – it is now my generation’s responsibility to preserve Starlight for future generations.
With this in mind, last year I helped Starlight launch a new membership organization: Center Stage – Young Professionals of Starlight Theatre. The mission of Center Stage is to engage young professionals to become advocates of Starlight Theatre and to provide networking, arts philanthropy and community development opportunities to its young professional members.
Our ideal members are young professionals who enjoy meeting new people and having fun. Events are year-round and have included after-parties at Starlight concerts and Broadway shows, often with cast members invited as special guests, a Happy Hour at Grand Street Café, a Coffee Talk with Starlight’s board president and board member, a pre-screening of the film Les Misérables, and special quote-along and screening of Monty Python and The Holy Grail at Alamo Drafthouse.
This summer, Center Stage – Young Professionals of Starlight Theatre is offering Happy Hours at Starlight with special seating and discounts for Broadway shows and select concerts that are available to both members and non-members. Individual memberships start at $75; corporate memberships start at $500 (benefits include discounted Broadway ticket packages). Sponsorships are also available. For more information about benefit levels and membership, contact Stacey Million at firstname.lastname@example.org or (816) 997-1137.
Center Stage – Young Professionals of Starlight Theatre has allowed me the opportunity to engage my peers and company in the live arts experience at Starlight in a new way. I cherish my childhood memories of Starlight and am excited to a encourage Young Professionals to support one of Kansas City’s oldest traditions. See you under the stars!
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Katie Dunn Fitzgerald is Co-chair of Starlight’s Center Stage for Young Professionals, a member of the Starlight Theatre Board of Directors, and a senior wealth consultant at Mariner Wealth Advisors (a sponsor of Starlight’s Center Stage). Katie was recently honored with the 2012 ATHENA Leadership Award, presented by the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. She has also been recognized as a 2012 Rising Star of Philanthropy by Nonprofit Connect and was honored in the 2011 class of Ingram’s “40 Under Forty.” In addition, she serves on the steering committee of the United Way, is a board member of St. Luke’s Crittenton Children’s Center, the Greater Kansas Community Foundation of Johnson County and is the president of the Mariner Foundation Board.