This summer, the Midwest Trust Center (MTC) at Johnson County Community College (JCCC) showcases some of the best musical variety Kansas City has to offer during its free outdoor concerts. The Light Up the Lawn series closes out the summer with Calvin Arsenia August 19, Making Movies August 26 and Victor & Penny September 2. Concerts start at 8:30 p.m. on the lawn of the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art on the JCCC campus.
Calvin Arsenia — Turning the Arts World on Its Head
His voice may be angelic, but the sound emanating from his harp is “definitely not another harp concert.” Whether it’s through Britney Spears’ “Toxic” or his latest single, the haunting “Back to You,” Arsenia plans very specific moments to take the audience “into a transcendence that will benefit them the rest of their lives.”
The 6-foot-6-inch harpist consumes the space in which he plays. But his performances are more than just a concert as he crafts the perfect moment for his audience through visuals, accompanying instruments, stories and song choice.
Voted Kansas City’s Best Musician by The Pitch 2018 through 2021, the Olathe native is excited to perform August 19 on the campus he attended and was named a talent show winner. He anticipates the outdoor stage will give him the opportunity to express a bolder, more dynamic range of music than a smaller, indoor venue would. “In an outside space, you can be just a little bit bigger,” Arsenia notes. “I plan to bring a band — it could be a traditional rock outfit with bass and guitar. I also could have some strings or horns.”
One of the hallmarks of Arsenia’s concerts is the music is never the same twice. He loves to showcase women & LGBTQIA2S+ musicians and says his music keeps him pursuing and encouraging bridges of empathy. “I want people who attend my concerts to leave feeling confident, validated and inspired,” Arsenia says. “I want us to keep learning about one another. That way, where we might have resisted before, maybe we can take an extra moment to listen to others.”
Connect with Arsenia on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sign up for emails to get his latest news.
Making Movies — Breaking Down Walls While Breaking Through Genres
The music of Making Movies has been described as everything from “Afro-Latino rhythms with psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll” to “LatinX rock” to “rock ‘n’ roll you can salsa dance to.” But perhaps lead singer and electric guitarist Enrique Chi says it best: “This is American music. The world collided here — in the Americas. All these stories of music are more connected than we might have thought.”
Regardless of how you describe their music, Making Movies has an important message: “We are all immigrants.” Formed by Panamanian brothers Enrique and Diego Chi (bass), the group includes Mexican American percussionist and keyboardist Juan-Carlos Chaurand and drummer Duncan Burnett. They often showcase their roots by incorporating traditional instruments like the Panamanian mejorana and swapping drums and percussion for a dueling zapateado huasteco (Mexican folk music and a kind of tap dance). The band has collaborated with legends, including Los Lobos and Rubén Blades. Their song “No te Calles” was the first track on the Latin Grammy nominated album Paraiso Road Gang.
The group looks forward to reconnecting with longtime audiences and connecting with new audiences at their August 26 Light Up the Lawn concert — a perfect follow-up to the release of their new album, XOPA, with 10 original songs and three music videos. “It definitely will be a party,” says Chi.
Raised in the area since grade school, Chi says the group recently opened a recording studio in downtown Overland Park. The nationally recognized group also is committed to using music and songwriting to reach underserved young people across the metro. Over the past two years, through their Rebel Song Academy, they’ve connected dozens of young Kansas City artists with international artists like Los Lobos and Black Pumas.
They are looking to expand their program regionally — and possibly nationally — as a way to address mental health issues in young people. “I remember what it was like to be an immigrant, being scared as hell,” Chi says. “Maybe we can’t change the world or immigration policy, but we can do something for our community.”
Connect with Making Movies on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Stay up to date on the group’s upcoming shows and releases.
Victor & Penny — Swing-infused Folk-jazz That’s a Rollicking Good Time
Something magical happens when Jeff Freling and Erin McGrane — Victor & Penny — play together. Known for their high-energy concerts featuring original compositions and music from the 1920s to the 1950s, the duo is planning a lot of fun for their September 2 Light Up the Lawn concert — their first live performance with their band in nearly two years. “We can’t wait. Bring your dancing shoes!” says McGrane.
Although Victor & Penny stayed busy the past two years with additional training and education, community arts development projects and virtual performances, they say the give-and-take relationship between artists and a live audience can’t be replicated through a screen.
“It’s going to be so much fun to select the songs for this concert,” McGrane says. “We’ll play all the hits, for sure, as well as some new tunes. We want everyone to put down their troubles and enjoy the music, the night, the community. We can’t wait to share some joy with everyone who comes!”
Freling and McGrane created Victor & Penny more than a decade ago when the ukulele was becoming mainstream. But while most artists use it to carry the melody, McGrane — who plays her father’s 1951 Hofner — decided to use it more like a bass. She compares her role to the little chugging train engine that keeps the rhythm going. She describes Jeff — a very talented guitarist and improvisationalist — as the conductor, making the decisions on where to go next.
Victor & Penny will be accompanied by their band, Loose Change Orchestra, made up of Rick Willoughby on bass and reeds virtuoso James Isaac, as they deliver sterling musicianship with a modern Kansas City voice to original tunes, swing and prohibition era jazz.
Connect with Victor & Penny on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And learn more about their upcoming events.
–Susan Tolleson, JCCC Writer
MIDWEST TRUST CENTER
August & September Performances
LIGHT UP THE LAWN CONCERTS, presented in partnership with the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art
Free event | 8:30 p.m. | Nerman lawn
Aug. 19 – Calvin Arsenia
Aug. 26 – Making Movies
JCCC music students will join Making Movies for select numbers.
Sept. 2 – Victor & Penny
THE 2022-23 MTC SERIES PRESENTS:
Aug. 24 | 7:30 p.m. | Yardley Hall
New Dance Partners: The Ultimate Collaboration
Four choreographers, four dance companies, four world premieres!
Sep. 16 & 17 | 8 p.m. | Yardley Hall
Opus 76 – Quartet Glass, Beethoven and Mendelssohn
Sept. 25 | 2 p.m. | Polsky Theatre
DEAFinitely Dope featuring Matt Maxey
A partnership with JCCC Access Services
Sept. 29 | 7:30 p.m. | Polsky Theatre
A partnership with the Friends of Chamber Music – Kansas City
Sept. 30 | 8 p.m. | Yardley Hall
Purchase tickets at jccc.edu/MidwestTrustCenter.
Midwest Trust Center Box Office (913-469-4445)
Mon. – Fri., 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
As with all in-person and outdoor events, plans can change. Stay updated at jccc.edu/MidwestTrustCenter