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Go Skateboarding Day (June 21st) has become a tradition throughout the entire skate community. It’s also an opportunity to give back to all who support skateboarding year round…the SKATEBOARDERS. With the consistent support from the Skateboarding Industry, we at Cowtown have been fortunate to watch it grow over the years. Its always been a good time and we are looking forward to this years events.
Cowtown is proud to have partnered with eS to bring the eS Game of S.K.A.T.E. back to AZ for the first time since 2011! It’s a perfect fit for Go Skateboarding Day.
On top of that we’ll be giving out free food and drinks, premiering Orchards Stone Soup, Product Giveaways and finishing it up with a nighttime session in the streets of Downtown Phoenix.
Its a free event on June 21st with registration starting at 5pm. The eS Game of S.K.A.T.E. will start at 6. Orchards Stone Soup video will premier about 9.
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
View From the Tracks: The Light Rail Plays
Rising Youth Theatre, a new theatre company that creates socially relevant original plays with youth will present the world premiere of View from the Tracks: The Light Rail Plays on June 6, 7, and 8, 2014 on the Valley Metro Rail system. Eight short plays will be performed on the trains and at the stations from Roosevelt/Central Ave. to Central Ave./Camelback, and explore the idea of “how Phoenix moves from place to place.” Performances will happen throughout the evening each night, from 6:00 – 8:00pm.
Eight adult performers: Liliana Gomez, Cody Goulder, Anthony Kelley, Kim Manning, Elizabeth Polen, Julie Rada, Tomas Stanton, and Charlie Steak are paired with eight youth perfomers: Clare Emmert, Monica Essig-Aberg, Za’Nea Jackson, Bridget Marlowe, Xavier Ramirez, Stephanie Santa Cruz, Alex Tuchi, and Colt Watkiss to develop the plays. Professional designers Samantha Bostwick, Anastasia Schneider and Joey Trahan work alongside youth designers Victoria Arora, Maria Ramirez and James Tanner to create the aesthetic of the plays in an alternative performance environment. Even the stage management follows the youth/adult pairing model, with stage manager Rachel Solis working alongside youth stage manager Lyric Jackson.
Rising Youth Theatre received funding for this project from the Arizona Commission on the Arts as part of the Art Tank funding program. The project received $10,000 (the highest level of funding) at the Art Tank West event.
RYT has worked in close partnership with Valley Metro to develop the project, and looks forward to exploring what theatre on light rail can look like in Phoenix.
If you would like to reserve a “ticket” to View from the Tracks: The Light Rail Plays, you can reserve your spot and a free transit pass at lightrailplays.eventbrite.com (limited availability). You can also attend the show without pre-registering, enjoying any combination of the eight different plays.
Photo courtesy of Rising Youth Theatre’s Facebook page.
Downtown Phoenix is home to Arizona School for the Arts (ASA), a unique campus where the performing arts are deeply infused into an academically rigorous curriculum. Next week, on the evenings of May 28 and 29, the ASA Showcase 2014 at the Orpheum Theatre offers a special opportunity for the public to sample the range of student talent.
Leah Fregulia Roberts helped found ASA in 1995; she started as a curriculum specialist and English teacher and worked her way up to her current position as Head of School.
“This is a dual program,” says Roberts, describing ASA’s mission as a college preparatory and performing arts school with top-ranked academic programs. English, social studies, math and science form a required core program beginning in the 5th grade. “Middle school students have to take a fifth academic class split between piano for half the time and what we call ‘life skills,’ which is really academic skills, college planning, et cetera for half the period.”
“High school has the same academic core,” she continues, “but they replace piano and life skills class with foreign language. …So they’re getting the most rigorous programs that all college prep kids are getting — the only difference is that their additional programs all center around the performing arts.”
Since ASA students must take piano and choir classes through the 8th grade, says Roberts, “Music is really the foundation.” Older students can choose to focus on an instrument, choir, dance, or theater arts, but those core programs remain equally important.
“I know we have a reputation for the arts,” says faculty member Johnathan Robinson, “but the academics are actually very, very good and strenuous as well.” Robinson is pursuing his doctorate in clarinet performance at Arizona State University, and he’s taught single reed and bassoon studies at ASA since 2011.
“I’m always amazed by the kids because they’re very articulate,” he says. “They get the best of both worlds…public speaking and performance…it transfers over into the music as well. The academics definitely help the arts.”
Robinson believes the nurturing atmosphere of ASA sets the school apart. “It’s the culture,” he explains. “It’s a very communal-type base where everyone knows everyone, so we’re all very supportive of each other, and I think the students benefit the most from that.”
Despite ASA’s reputation for elite arts and academics, cutthroat behavior isn’t a problem, says Robinson. “It’s never a super-competitive environment — all the kids applaud for each other after all their tests…I guess they realize where their strengths lie, and what they need to work on to fix it…. I think that…speaks to the culture itself, that we’re very accepting of what we can and can’t do.”
ASA students also enjoy the benefits of partnerships with numerous other arts organizations like the Musical Instrument Museum and Phoenix Chamber Music Society, says Head of School Roberts. “That’s the special sauce on top of a really great arts program,” she says with a smile. “They get exposure to all these other artists…and performances across the Valley.” In this past season, for example, ASA students appeared as the children’s chorus in Arizona Opera’s production of La Bohème.
Graduating senior Max Beckman looks forward to jazz studies in upright bass performance at ASU, but he’s already spent a semester in a combo with Scottsdale Community College, and he plays in a community band with Young Sounds of Arizona.
“I’m very active outside of ASA,” Beckman says. “I have two regular gigs, one at Carly’s Bistro…and one at Copper Star Coffee.” He’s attended ASA since the 5th grade. “I like…the freedom that you have to build your own arts curriculum,” he adds. “I’m choosing to go on with my art forms…I think I was pretty lucky because of that.” At school Beckman participates in Jazz Orchestra, Jazz Combo, and Symphony Orchestra, as well as serving as a teacher’s assistant with low strings.
On May 28 and 29, he’ll play with all three ensembles in ASA’s Showcase 2014 concerts at the Orpheum Theatre, the school’s annual end-of-year production. “We’re playing a pretty cool orchestra piece — it’s called The Firebird Suite [by Igor Stravinsky],” Beckman says, “…and then the jazz combo is playing some cool jazz and hard bop tunes, like Blue Rondo à la Turk and St. Thomas.”
“It’s the opportunity for the students to showcase their arts achievements for the year and for us to really highlight what’s been going on in our programs,” says Roberts, “and it’s also one of the few times…when we get to integrate the arts amongst one another…whether it’s in the massed choir or one of the bigger bands or the combined orchestras; the entire ballet program performs, so it’s every student on the stage.”
“There’s always a theme,” she continues. “This year [it’s] the four elements: earth, water, fire and air, so all selections will embody one of those elements in some way.” Roberts sees the elements as analogies for ASA’s “essential building blocks” of academic quality, arts quality, a culture of safety and excellence, and community partnerships. Although the students perform regularly throughout the year, Showcase is “the big fundraising performance of the year,” Roberts adds.
Each night features a different program, but both evenings will include an ASA Theater Department production of Bertolt Brecht’s 1944 play The Caucasian Chalk Circle along with ballet performances set to excerpts from Handel’s Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks. Wednesday, May 28 offers a piano arrangement of Wagner’s “The Ride of the Valkyries,” and Thursday night includes orchestral performances of Tchaikovsky’s popular waltz from The Sleeping Beauty and Manuel de Falla’s “Ritual Fire Dance.”
“It’s kind of…a kaleidoscope of everything that we do throughout the year,” describes faculty member Robinson. “You get a tasting of every arts area that we have to offer…it’s like the best of the best.” ASA students finished their final exams on May 21, leaving them free to focus on Showcase rehearsals.
Olivia Freeman, an ASA graduating senior and saxophonist who plans to attend Chicago’s DePaul University, is currently sitting first chair in Wind Ensemble. “We’re playing Vesuvius [Thursday night],” she says, “…a very interesting piece and very intricate — there’s a lot of little melody lines within the bigger piece.”
Freeman entered ASA from the public school system. “There was a huge difference,” she says. “When I came to ASA I was asked to analyze…my thought process. It was basically asking me to think in a whole new different way, so that was obviously a tough transition at first, but now I think it’s helped me in the long run through problem-solving….” She adds, “I’ve learned how to work in a group successfully.”
Head of School Roberts points out that, although the waiting list for ASA can be quite lengthy after the 5th grade enrollment, openings for new students often become available between the 8th and 9th grades. “Sometimes…people forget to take another look at us in high school,” she says. Showcase 2014 is a great opportunity to see ASA’s students in action.
All photos courtesy Arizona School for the Arts.
If you go:
Where: Orpheum Theatre, 203 W. Adams:
When: Two different programs are scheduled:
- Pre-show — ASA Jazz Combo performs outside each night at 6:15 p.m.
- Concert: Wednesday, May 28, 7 p.m.
- Concert: Thursday, May 29, 7 p.m.
Tickets: Purchase tickets here. Tickets are $55/$40/$25, with proceeds benefiting ASA
Every city has its hidden gems—those under-the-radar places you walk by a million times, never realizing that history is being made behind the unassuming walls. One such example in Phoenix is Chaton Studios, a state-of-the-art recording studio located near the Coronado district in downtown.
The creative force behind this Chaton Studios is Otto D’Agnolo, a record producer, audio engineer, musician, singer and songwriter.
D’Agnolo received his audio production training in the early ’80s in his home state of Illinois before relocating to Phoenix in 1989. Soon after, he went to work at a recording studio in Paradise Valley, then known as Chaton Recordings.
“I worked there for 10 years, and when they wanted to close up shop, I said, ‘should I go to California for a job or build a studio?’ So I offered to buy all their gear and license the name and build my own studio,” says D’Agnolo.
He re-established the business, calling it Chaton Studios, and moved it to its current location in central Phoenix.
In his time as a record producer, he has worked with some impressive talent, including artists like Waylon Jennings, Glen Campbell, Kenny Rogers, Lou Rawls, Nils Lofgren, and Jordin Sparks, to name a few.
D’Agnolo also records and releases his own music, which has been featured on national television shows, like Jersey Shore, One Tree Hill and Punk’d. And due to his undeniable physical and vocal resemblance to John Lennon, he fronts a tribute show devoted to the legendary Beatle called “Working Class Hero.”
When he’s not lending his more than 30 years of experience to major label acts and independent artists alike, he’s contributing projects to Phoenix’s creative cache.
He developed a website called therecordingartist.com, which recently featured a live broadcast of local bands producing a track over the course of three hours. Fans bought memberships to the site so they could watch the process unfold. The show featured local artists like Sarah Robinson and the Midnight Special, Banana Gun, Dry River Yacht Club, and Ghetto Cowgirl. The show was in production from 2012-2013, and it is D’Agnolo’s hope that it will be live again soon.
D’Agnolo is putting his experience to work for the next generation of Arizona’s artists. “So many parents have kids with talent and don’t know how to help them. Someone like me can evaluate them and provide objective feedback,” he says.
“One of my hopes is that parents living and working downtown, whose sons or daughters want to pursue a career in music, discover that they have someone right here that they can go to for information and assistance in helping those careers stay on track.”
With his proven track record, he’s shown that artists don’t have to go to L.A. or other larger cities for high-quality music production. “Production work can be done in a lot of places,” he says, “so I think it’s sad when bands feel like they have to leave the Phoenix market to record. Because they don’t have to.”
Additionally, Phoenix has a wealth of music and recording talent that attracts artists from other cities according to D’Agnolo. “I have a client who’s flying here from San Diego constantly to do his country record because of the musicians here. I have another artist who has been working in Nashville and she’s coming back to work here.”
After years of making records with some of the music industry’s biggest names, helping independent artists elevate their careers, and attracting clients from all over the world to work with him, D’Agnolo has shown that this “hidden gem” is an essential element of Phoenix’s artistic and cultural landscape.
It’s hard to imagine how exciting it must have been to attend the 1913 premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, which ended in a riot because of the disturbing rhythms and incendiary musical patterns. Even Beethoven – now considered a staid staple of classical music – was once regarded as somewhat revolutionary in his harmonies.
A concert titled Opus II features premiere performances of works by members of the Arizona State University Society of Composers, Inc. (SCI) in the informal, inviting setting of Phoenix Art Museum, offering the chance to perhaps hear from a modern-day Stravinsky or Beethoven.
“The partnership with the museum is great,” says SCI president Collette Sipho Mabingani, “because…we have the same mission: exposing the public to this music that sometimes is not accessible.” Mabingani was born and raised in South Africa and obtained degrees at Grand Valley State University and Central Michigan University before earning his doctorate in music composition at ASU.
“I started with [percussion] performance,” he says, “and…you have to improvise, so you get this idea of creating…and I got tired of playing other people’s music. I love experimenting with new kinds of music, so I still try and discover something I’ve never heard before.” At Opus II Mabingani will perform his own composition, a solo autobiographical work using rhythms reflecting his personal journey from South Africa to the West, including Latin cadences.
Other composers will use various configurations of a “Pierrot ensemble” of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, percussion, and piano — named after the instrumentation used by Arnold Schoenberg in his landmark 1912 melodrama Pierrot Lunaire (Moonstruck Pierrot) –- plus saxophone.
“Even though it’s been around for over a hundred years,” says SCI public relations manager Elliot Sneider of the ensemble, “there’s something always new about it, for some reason. There’s a lot you can do with it, so it’s kind of fun to work with.” Shortly after Sneider wrote his dissertation analyzing blues in the music of Aaron Copland, Maurice Ravel, and George Gershwin, he composed Big Hands Blues for piano, then arranged it for Opus II.
“I…was drawn to jazz when I was very young,” he says, “…this pull to jazz composers like Charles Mingus and Thelonious Monk, and the idea of having these structures that…allow for improvisation.”
Sneider studied composition at New England Conservatory of Music and New York University, then received his DMA from ASU, where he was initially intrigued by the work of professor James DeMars. “I have a jazz background,” says Sneider, “so for me there’s always been a pull to accept other cultural music and ‘how do I bring things together?’” He continues, “I found he’s someone who has…made a career dealing with those issues, and so that’s why I wanted to study here.”
“He [DeMars] composes in the same way that I do, which is what we call ‘intercultural music’,” says Mabingani, who also found his advisor’s compositions appealing. “But he uses Native American music with Western music, combines it and makes it his own…so I just fell in love with the way he writes.”
“I think all of the composers at the school really have something unique to bring,” adds Sneider. “Usually you choose your composer and you work only with that person, but here [at ASU] they not only encourage but require you to…work with all of them for a much broader experience.”
“There’s no one dogma, or one style,” says Israeli composer and Doctor of Musical Arts student Gil Dori. “I really got into the music of [ASU professor] Glenn Hackbarth — he’s…into the music on the electronics side, and that’s what I’m interested in doing too.” Dori came to ASU for his master’s degree after graduating from Haifa University, which he describes as “really heavy on composition…the best composers in Israel.”
For Opus II, Dori wrote a work called Shevarim; “in Hebrew it means ‘fragments’ or ‘shards,’ he explains, “but it’s also one of the calls of the shofar [ram’s horn], and really that’s a work based on an old Eastern European Jewish folk tune…it just slowly emerges through this texture.” The piece is a duet for saxophone and bass clarinet, and Dori enjoyed integrating sound effects like tongue smacks, clicks, and breathing through the instruments.
Visit the Phoenix Art Museum this afternoon to hear these new works by Mabingani, Sneider, Dori, and other ASU composers — it’s free with museum admission, and the program promises previously unexplored treasures.
If you go:
When: Sunday, May 11 at 1PM
Where: Phoenix Art Museum
Cost: Free with museum admission
UPDATE (5/11/14 12:47PM): Here’s a live streaming link if you can’t attend the performance: http://ustre.am/1dGp0