An American In Paris is the new Tony Award®-winning musical about an American soldier, a mysterious French girl and an indomitable European city, each yearning for a new beginning in the aftermath of war. Acclaimed director/choreographer and 2015 Tony Award®-winner Christopher Wheeldon brings the magic and romance of Paris into perfect harmony with unforgettable songs from George and Ira Gershwin in the show that earned more awards than any other musical in the 2015 season!Read More
Come hear some of the most memorable songs in theater history, including “Cabaret,” “Willkommen” and “Maybe This Time.” Leave your troubles outside – life is beautiful at Cabaret – John Kander, Fred Ebb and Joe Masteroff's Tony®-winning musical about following your heart while the world loses its way.Read More
January 19-21, 2018
Welcome to the infamous Kit Kat Klub, where the Emcee, Sally Bowles and a raucous ensemble take the stage nightly to tantalize the crowd – and to leave their troubles outside. But as life in pre-WWII Germany grows more and more uncertain, will the decadent allure of Berlin nightlife be enough to get them through their dangerous times?Read More
The winner of Broadway.com’s Audience Choice Award for Best Musical, this breathtaking smash “captures the kid-at-heart,” says TIME Magazine. Vogue cheers, “It’s a must-see you’ll remember for years to come!” Directed by visionary Tony®-winner Diane Paulus and based on the critically-acclaimed Academy Award® winning film, Finding Neverland tells the incredible story behind one of the world’s most beloved characters: Peter Pan.
Playwright J.M. Barrie struggles to find inspiration until he meets four young brothers and their beautiful widowed mother. Spellbound by the boys’ enchanting make-believe adventures, he sets out to write a play that will astound London theatergoers. With a little bit of pixie dust and a lot of faith, Barrie takes this monumental leap, leaving his old world behind for Neverland, where nothing is impossible and the wonder of childhood lasts forever. The magic of Barrie’s classic tale springs spectacularly to life in this heartwarming theatrical event. Finding Neverland is “far and away the best musical of the year!” (NPR).
10x10 Arts Series
The British vocal ensemble VOCES8 is now established as one of the world’s most versatile and best-loved singing groups. Touring extensively throughout Europe, North America and Asia, the ensemble performs a repertory from Renaissance polyphony to contemporary commissions as well as popular arrangements. VOCES8 regularly commissions and collaborates with world- renowned contemporary composers including Ola Gjeilo, Roxanna Panufnik, Thomas Hewitt Jones, Alexander Levine and Ben Parry.Read More
December 19-23, 2017
A stellar collection of today’s superstars covering pop, rock, R&B and everything in between have come together to pay tribute to Broadway’s newest musical, FINDING NEVERLAND. But these aren’t just re-recordings of the show’s amazing music - these songs have been RE-IMAGINED by the artists who are singing them. You just have to BELIEVE!Read More
Cas Public stakes its reputation on the exceptional quality of their works, which can be seen as a compendium of observations on the age-old enigma of the human condition. Its fiery choreographic scores − with intense physicality and an innate sense of theater − stand markedly apart from established codes and cast a sharp yet sensitive light on our human foibles.
Founded in 1989 by choreographer Hélène Blackburn, the company favors the renewal of contemporary approaches to dance. Cas Public continually strives to revitalize their approach, focusing on the depth of experiences by incorporating effective themes and treating them with vigor and a touch of humor.
For over 25 years, each creation has marked Cas Public’s evolution to their pursuit of excellence through the renewal of gestural codes.
Cas Public, Founder & Choreographer
1. When did you first become passionate about dance?
I was a very active child and to help channel my energy, my parents chose to enroll me in dance lessons from a very early age. Dance has always been part of my life. Looking back, I'm not sure that the initial idea of channeling my energy was a success. I remember how I would annoy my mother by constantly practicing my dance steps in the middle of our little kitchen. My parents were very patient and accepted my career choice even though the idea of becoming a choreographer might’ve seemed wacky at the time, especially when one comes from a small town in northern Quebec.
2. How does your work connect to the larger world?
I began my career in the ‘80s at a time of great effervescence in the arts in Quebec. Dancing was no exception. It was very inspiring. It was around the same time as Cirque du Soleil, La La Human Steps, Ex-Machina (Robert Lepage) and other large companies were created. It seemed that everything was possible – a time when artistic circles began opening up to the world. Very early in my career, I had the opportunity to present my work in Europe and Canada even before Cas Public was founded. Now, I have the chance to present my work in many countries, meet different audiences and carry out creative projects all over the world. This openness to the world colors my work and leads me to more humanistic concerns!
3. What is a typical rehearsal and/or performance day like?
Dance is an art that requires many artists. It is a privilege to be on stage − we must be remarkable and out of the ordinary. We work a lot. Each day of rehearsal or show always begins with a ballet class or a specific training according to our needs. Currently, we have added martial arts training for the company's female dancers. Coming from ballet training, I needed them to feel strong and develop an attack power similar to that of a fighter. It is a very physically demanding undertaking, but it has interesting results. In rehearsals, we work 5-6 hours a day as needed. If we are performing, we do the technical work then we rehearse dance sections of the show. Often we put in more hours than the rehearsal days and dance the show twice on the same day; that way, we have the stamina to come on stage and give the best of ourselves.
4. What Moves you to create a new project?
All of my creations from the last 10 years are based on strong musical works from a classical repertoire that is rewritten and remixed for our projects. Behind these sources of inspiration, there are often references to classical ballet works, as is the case for Symphonie Dramatique – inspired by Romeo and Juliet. However before approaching a work, I try to find a thread of inspiration that resonates with contemporary life. Symphonie Dramatique came from my need to talk about love and the sometimes-tragic consequences that love entails. I created this piece four years ago after a famous trial in Canada, based on what has been described as a "crime of honor." My daughter was about the same age as the protagonists when I began the work, which made me realize how complex life and love is for these young people living in communities with a cultural diversity. When I look at the rise of racist stigma here and elsewhere, it is clear that the young people of today live in a terribly complex world… It is infinitely sad to think that love can lead to death.
5. Pick 5 words—that start with the letter ‘C’—that best describe Cas Public.
6. How would you classify Cas Public’s style of dance; and what makes it unique?
I am not presumptuous enough to say that the style of Cas Public is unique, but I believe the extreme demand of our dance – its virtuosity, its sincerity and the courage of our dancers- who make it a special experience. I also believe that we have developed a great refinement at the theatrical level that makes our work stand out.
7. Whom do you define as a visionary?
Beautiful question. Several artists inspire me with the past and the present: Jean-Sébastien Bach for classical music, Gleen Gould for his completely reinvented interpretation of Bach's music, the whole period of the Ballets Russes is very inspiring, notably, the work of Nijinsky as a dancer but also as a choreographer, more recently, choreographers like Wilson Forsythe, Jill Killian, and Quebec choreographers such as Édouard Lock and Jean-Pierre Perreault.
8. What is the best advice that you have been given; and what advice would you give to dancers in the audience?
I was fortunate to collaborate with several great Québécois choreographers. Including Jean-Pierre Perrault for whom I danced, Paul-André Fortier who directed my masters degree dissertation and Edouard Lock – whose company I led for a few years. I learned from each of them. Paul-André taught me that a career is built in the long-term and that we must continue to reinvent ourselves. Jean-Pierre Perreault taught me about meticulousness – an obsession for the smallest detail within large spaces. Edouard Lock taught me how to execute a dance using my extreme exigency as an artist. Everyone, in his or her own way, taught me that everything starts with work. Jean-Pierre often said, "dancers are made to rehearse." This is certainly true for the dancers of Cas Public but also for me when I consider my obsessive behavior when I develop a new project.
As for what I say to the dancers, I like to say that they must be mythical on stage- offering all they have to give to the public. Each performance is unique and valuable, even if we have the chance to dance 100 performances a year, at the end of a life we spend a very short amount of time on stage – missing a single chance is not an option.
9. What do you hope the audience will take away from tonight’s performance?
I hope that the audience will be moved by the energy of our dance and that this energy will turn into emotion. I believe the primary strength of dance is to make us feel things deeply, physically and emotionally. The experience of this direct and inexpressible connection between the body and heart seem to be uniquely particular to dance.
10. What songs, artists or styles of music are you currently listening to?
Alexandre Desilets “Windigo,” Charlotte Cardin “Big Boy” and Nelly “Dear Criminals”
Prokofiev: Cinderella, op. 97 (transcriptions for piano solo); Bach’s Partita No. 1-3 prelude and fughetta in G (played by Glenn Gould); “My tribute to Yehudi Menuhin” and “Spheres” by Daniel Hope
Sufjan Stevens Carrie & Lowell, Lana del Rey “Honeymoon,” The Libertines Anthems for Doomed Youth and LP “Into the Wild”
Symphonie Dramatique Contemporary Dance
Thursday, Oct. 26 at 7:30pm | Tickets $10
Cas Public's Symphonie Dramatique is a mordant look at the mythical couple of Romeo & Juliet. Their adaptation draws from Shakespeare’s romantic masterpiece to evoke notions of seduction, desire, unchained passion and death. In this contemporary version, the company’s dancers present a vibrant homage to the original tale tinged with impetuousness and contagious energy. Conflict and inner turmoil are magnificently rendered by the dance and the music, achieving a unique resonance.
The 10x10 Arts Series brings groundbreaking artists and awe-inspiring performances to Northwest Arkansas…. at a price that is right for the whole community!
All 10x10 performances include pre-show Creative Conversations, a post-show party with artists and the popular Post-It® responses!
Irving Berlin's White Christmas
November 7-12, 2017
Telling the story of a song-and-dance team putting on a show in a magical Vermont inn, Irving Berlin's White Christmas is an old-fashioned, heartwarming story. World War II buddies make up the dazzling showbiz team and fall for a performing sister-act in a patriotic theme that is hard not to like.Read More
Emergence brings the depth and range of Ballet Arkansas to the forefront. Highlighted within the program is the regional hit “Under the Lights” by Chris Stuart, set to the music of Johnny Cash. Also featured is the timeless “Valse Fantaisie” by George Balanchine, a world premiere by 2017 Winter “Visions” winner Mariana Oliveira, and other critically acclaimed classical and contemporary repertoire that provides for a captivating evening of dance.Read More
The King and I
October 3-8, 2017
Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I
Set in 1860’s Bangkok, the musical tells the story of the unconventional and tempestuous relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher whom the modernist King - in an imperialistic world - brings to Siam to teach his many wives and children.
A Beloved Story
"Five stars. Grand and glorious." — Time Out New York
The Lincoln Center production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic tale has received rave reviews across the country. The Chicago Tribune called the show, "a magnificent, genuinely revelatory production," and the Star Tribune proclaimed, “'King and I' reminds us why musicals exist.”
This production of The King and I bridges the gap of time, combining tradition and innovation in a stunning performance that is properly honored and purposely refreshed for the 21st century.
The production boasts a score that features beloved classics such as “Getting To Know You,” “Hello Young Lovers,” “Shall We Dance,” “I Have Dreamed” and “Something Wonderful.” Exceptionally grand and opulently staged, this musical revival stays true to the elegance of classic Broadway while tackling troupes that feel modern.
Award-winning Cast & Crew
Cast and crew come together in a massive scale with opulent costumes and a set designed to be dazzling, elegant, panoramic and personal.
The King & I, directed by Tony Award® winner Bartlett Sher, won four 2015 Tony Awards® including Best Revival of a Musical. Hailed as "too beautiful to miss" (New York Magazine), the production played 538 performances on Broadway at the Vivian Beaumont Theater being going on tour!
Reawakening the role, Laura Michelle Kelly plays a "smart, scrappy" Anna O'Hara (The New York Times). Kelly is an Olivier Award-winning actress for her role as Mary Poppins in London and has a long list of Broadway and West End credits including the 2004 revival of Fiddler on the Roof, Beauty and the Beast and Les Miserables. Every note Kelly sings as Ms. O'Hara takes on a wistful tune that infuses something wonderful into the musical.
Paired perfectly, Jose Llana plays the King of Siam. The chemistry of the two artists adds a playful element to the seasoned, award-winning cast. “Jose was so superb on Broadway in The King and I that I begged him to join us on the tour and l feel we are incredibly lucky to have him. He brings such joy and virility and strength to the King. And he is one of Broadway's great talents," says Director Bartlett Sher.
Too beautiful to miss!
Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I
Oct. 3-8, 2017
Eight shows! Part of the 2017-18 Procter & Gamble Broadway Series.
Tuesday, October 3 at 7pm GET TICKETS!
Wednesday, October 4 at 7pm GET TICKETS!
Thursday, October 5 at 1:30pm GET TICKETS!
Thursday, October 5 at 7pm GET TICKETS!
Friday, October 6 at 8pm GET TICKETS!
Saturday, October 7 at 2pm GET TICKETS!
Saturday, October 7 at 8pm GET TICKETS!
Sunday, October 8 at 2pm GET TICKETS!
"A landmark production and a shot of purest rapture. I never wanted it to end." — The Hollywood Reporter
Walton Arts Center CEO Peter Lane recently returned from a trip to Hong Kong where he attended the Vocal Asia Festival. Now in its seventh year, the Vocal Asia Festival and its founder Clare Chen are the inspiration behind Walton Art Center’s annual acapella competition.Read More
Walton Arts Center initiatives look to enrich the Northwest Arkansas community by offering programs that engage students through performance. Foundational to Walton Arts Center is the Arts with Education Institute. Arts with Education Institute began prior to the 1992 opening of Walton Arts Center's doors and has been a driving direction for community impact.Read More
10x10 Arts Series
Groundbreaking artists, inspiring performances and a price that makes it accessible to all. The 10x10 Art Series connects our community to the world of performing arts in numerous categories. Dance, vocalists, musicians and full orchestras will take the Walton Arts Center stage with a goal to stir the creative souls of the audience and awaken a love of performing arts in all.Read More
The Arts & Economic Prosperity® Study is conducted nationally every five years. AEP5, the fifth study to be completed, documents the economic contributions of the nonprofit arts industry across the country as well as in 341 study regions, representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia during Fiscal Year 2015. Northwest Arkansas (defined for this study as Benton and Washington counties) was the only Arkansas study region included in the report.
“Arts and Economic Prosperity 5 quantifies the economic benefits of arts and culture organizations within a community,” said Randy Cohen, vice president of Research and Policy for the American for the Arts. “This study changes the conversation about the arts from that of a ‘charity’ to one about an ‘industry’ that provides both cultural and economic benefits to the community.” Cohen detailed the findings today during a news conference at the Rogers World Trade Center.
Walton Arts Center staff compiled data for the study from 23 eligible nonprofit arts and cultural organizations located in Northwest Arkansas. Each partner provided detailed budget information for FY15 including labor, payments to local and nonlocal artists, operations, administration, programming, facilities and capital expenditures/asset acquisition. Patrons also were surveyed about spending around their attendance to arts events. Project economists customized input-output models for each study region to ensure reliable and actionable localized results.
Key AEP5 Findings for NWA:
- Nearly 1.8 million people attended arts and culture events in Northwest Arkansas in 2015. Event-related spending by these attendees totaled $63.7 million, excluding the cost of admission, or roughly $35.89 per person. That’s slightly higher than the national average of $31.47 per person and almost double the $19.54 per person spending in the Northwest Arkansas region documented by Arts and Economic Prosperity IV (AEPIV), covering Fiscal Year 2010.
- The economic impact of the arts accounts for more than the monies spent in communities by residents. Cultural tourists spend money, as well. Twenty-five percent of attendees traveled from outside of the county in which the event took place. Their event-related spending on average was 199% more per person than local attendees ($71.20 vs. $23.85).
- A vibrant arts community not only keeps residents and their discretionary spending closer to home, it also attracts visitors who spend money and help local businesses thrive. Eighty-six percent of nonlocal attendees indicated that the primary purpose of their visit was “specifically to attend this arts or cultural event."
- Among local attendees, 42 percent said they would have traveled to a different community to attend a similar cultural event, if the arts event they wanted to attend was not taking place.
- Comparing results from AEPIV and AEP5 shows that the arts industry in Northwest Arkansas has grown significantly, due in large part to the addition of the Walmart AMP and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art between FY10 and FY15.
- Total economic impact is up 124%
- Number of jobs is up 212%
- Local and state revenue is up 248%
- Resident spending is up by 50% and non-resident spending is up 97%
Key AEP5 Findings Nationally:
- Nonprofit arts industry generated $166.3 billion of economic activity in 2015—$63.8 billion in spending by arts and cultural organizations and an additional $102.5 billion in event-related expenditures by their audiences.
- This industry supported 4.6 million jobs and generated $27.5 billion in revenue to local, state, and federal governments—a yield well beyond their collective $5 billion in arts allocations.
- Money spent by nonprofit arts and cultural organizations supported a larger share of the U.S. workforce—0.83 percent—than the legal or public safety sectors.
“With current threats of cutting funding for nonprofit organizations, this study is timely,” Cohen said. “The $27.5 billion generated in revenue by the arts industry nationally back to the government shows that municipal, state and federal arts support is not a one-way street. Arts organizations provide jobs, support the economy and the government while they also educate, entertain and increase our quality of lives.”
The full report, a map of the 341 study regions and an economic impact summary for each can be found at www.AmericansForTheArts.org/EconomicImpact.
With over 50 shows to choose from, there is something for everyone during our 2017-18 season! And now, you can get early access to the best seats at the best price with a Create Your Own subscription package. All you have to do is choose 3, 5 or 7 shows that you want to see. The more you buy, the more you save!
Here are a just a few of the great shows coming this season...
Blues legends Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’ are uniting for a historic cross-generational collaboration to kick off our new season. TajMo marks the convergence of these two talented and unique American artists. The partnership brings out the best in both artists—merging their distinctive voices, personalities and guitar styles to create vibrant music that’s firmly rooted in tradition yet ruled by a playful sense of adventure.
Rodgers & Hamerstein’s The King and I will take the stage later in October. This breathtakingly exquisite Broadway musical tells the story of Anna Leonowens, governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the 1860s. The plot follows the experiences of Anna and her relationship with the King that is marked by conflict, cultural barriers and a deep love to which neither can admit.
Jake Shimabukuro returns to the WAC on Oct. 18 to demonstrate his rich and varied catalog that perfectly captures the diverse moods of the ukulele. Remembered for his unique arrangements of popular songs like Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsady,” this highly acclaimed artist continues to prove that an instrument is limited only by the imagination and creativity of the person playing it.
Then, kick off the new year in style with At This Performance™. This critically acclaimed celebration of Broadway standbys and understudies gives some of New York’s finest musical performers their chance in the spotlight. No longer “waiting in the wings,” they take their well-deserved place center stage.
Produced and hosted by New York Casting Director Stephen DeAngelis, the performers will showcase their great talents and versatility, share backstage behind-the-scenes anecdotes about their experiences, and conduct an enlightening Q&A session with the audience in an evening created exclusively for WAC. You'll want to secure your seat for what will be a “can’t miss event” for theatrical audiences and entertainment industry insiders in this rare opportunity to see the Broadway stars of tomorrow, today.
Poisoned apples. Glass slippers. Who needs 'em?! Not Snow White and her posse of disenchanted princesses in the hilarious hit musical that’s anything but Grimm. Forget the princesses you think you know – the original story book heroines have come back to life to set the record straight in Disenchanted. After multiple sold-out runs nationwide, these royal renegades tossed off their tiaras to bring their hilariously subversive, not-for-the-kiddies musical to you. What you thought about princesses will never be the same!
While these shows are impressive in their own right, they barely scratch the surface of a season that is packed with music, comedy, Broadway and memorable arts experiences for the whole family!
For access to the best seats at the best price, visit waltonartscenter.org/cyo and select the shows YOU want to see before single tickets go on sale in August! Or, call our Box Office at 479.443.5600.
The 2017-18 Procter & Gamble Broadway Series debuts this fall at Walton Arts Center, and it might just be the biggest season yet with eight brilliant productions. It’s a great combination of timeless classics and some of Broadway’s hottest new hits.
2017-18 Procter & Gamble Broadway Series
1. Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I: October 3-8, 2017
Kicking off the series is Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I, which tells the timeless story of an unconventional and tempestuous relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher who the modernist King, in an imperialistic world, brings to Siam to teach his many wives and children. Winner of the 2015 Tony Award® for Best Musical Revival.
2. Irving Berlin’s White Christmas: November 7-12, 2017
The next Broadway musical will put you in the holiday spirit and remind you that “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing.” Irving Berlin’s White Christmas has been adapted for the stage in a lavish new production that is full of dancing and laughter, and some of the best songs ever written.
3. Finding Neverland: December 19-23, 2017
The winner of Broadway.com’s Audience Choice Award for Best Musical, Finding Neverland tells the incredible story behind one of the world’s most beloved characters: Peter Pan. The magic of playwright J.M. Barrie’s classic tale spring to life in this heartwarming theatrical event.
4. Cabaret: January 19-21, 2018
Cabaret makes its Walton Arts Center debut in January. This award-winning production invites you into the Kit Kat Klub where a raucous ensemble takes the stage nightly to tease the crowd. Leave your troubles outside. Life is beautiful at Cabaret.
5. An American in Paris: February 6-11, 2018
The next musical takes us to Paris for a romantic story about an American soldier and a mysterious French girl, each yearning for a new beginning in the aftermath of war. An American in Paris brings with it the unforgettable songs from George and Ira Gershwin in a show that earned more awards than any other musical in the 2015 season.
6. RENT 20th Anniversary Tour: March 2-4, 2018
Two decades after its initial and unprecedented debut, RENT The 20th Anniversary Tour comes to Northwest Arkansas in March. With its inspiring message of joy and hope in the face of fear, RENT is a timeless celebration of friendship and reminds us to measure our lives with the only thing that truly matters—love.
7. Beautiful – The Carole King Musical: April 24-29, 2018
The celebration of love and courage continues with Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, the true story of King’s remarkable rise to stardom. Long before she was Carole King, chart-topping music legend, she was Carol Klein, Brooklyn girl with passion and chutzpah. She fought her way into the record business as a teenager and, by the time she reached her twenties, had a flourishing career writing hits for the biggest acts in rock ‘n’ roll. But it wasn’t until her personal life began to crack that she finally managed to find her true voice.
8. The Sound of Music: May 15-20, 2018
Our Broadway series ends with another Rodgers & Hammerstein classic, The Sound of Music. This spirited, romantic and beloved story of Maria and the von Trapp Family will once again thrill audiences with its Tony®, Grammy® and Academy Award® winning Best Score, including “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi,” “Edelweiss” and the title song.
With this amazing lineup of shows, who wouldn’t love the chance to secure your seats to each one today? Each Broadway subscription includes Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I, Finding Neverland, An American in Paris, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical and The Sound of Music. You can complete your package by choosing between Cabaret, RENT The 20th Anniversary Tour and Irving Berlin’s White Christmas—or by selecting all three.
“We’ve given our season ticket holders the opportunity to customize their subscription this year by including five standard shows in every package then allowing subscribers to select one, two or all three additional shows to complete their package,” says Scott Galbraith, VP of Programming and Executive Producer.
A Broadway Subscription also gives you priority purchasing opportunities for Walton Arts Center shows and special events, discounted pricing on shows throughout the season and the ability to exchange your seats for tickets to another show within the same production to better suit your schedule.
With these added benefits and the power to choose exactly what you want to see, what’s not to love about being a Broadway subscriber? Mark your calendars and start planning the shows you’ll choose to complete your package.
We asked Azam Ali 10 questions about transcendent visual and musical group Niyaz - here are his insightful answers...
1. What inspired the creation of Niyaz?
We created Niyaz as a platform to explore our cultural identity and love for the ancient poetry and folk songs of our region in a modern context. We wanted to tell the story of our generation of Iranian immigrants who are trying to find our place in the world within the culture of our homeland in the East and the culture of our new home in the West. Our aim was and still is to bring these two seemingly disparate elements of music together, and create a bridge between the past and the present, the East and West, and unite audiences from different backgrounds in a shared human experience.
2. How was the name Niyaz chosen?
Niyaz means “yearning” in several languages: Farsi, Turkish, Urdu, as well as many Farsi-based dialects in Afghanistan and Central Asia. We loved the idea of choosing a word that had a shared meaning among different cultures because that is a big message in our music. We also chose the name because it has a very spiritual component. Niyaz is a yearning for something greater and deeper related to the soul and its search for truth. The spiritual impact of music is something we also aim to preserve.
3. How does your work connect to the larger world?
The most impactful art is that which stems from honesty. When you are truthful in what you express, it naturally connects to people’s hearts. I’ve seen it time and time again and this is why we have legends in music, painting, writing, etc. I hope that our music will have such a legacy.
4. What is a typical rehearsal and/or performance day like?
Rehearsal days are more relaxed because we take a lot of breaks and eat, talk with one another. On shows days, each of us is extremely focused on what needs to get done to make the show run smoothly. Sometimes it gets stressful, but for the most part we all work together to ensure that when the show begins we can give our very best to the audience.
5. Pick five words—that start with the letter ‘N’—that best describe NIYAZ.
Nostalgic, Nothingness, Nourishment, Nowhere, Now
6. What moves the company to create a new project (e.g.: a musical piece or life experience)?
We are mostly inspired by the music we hear and are constantly listening to different kinds of music. We usually start writing and producing songs as a way to remain inspired and explore new ideas. When we have a few pieces recorded, the new project begins to take shape and that’s when we decide to really focus on creating a new full album.
7. How do you manage to push the boundaries of world music while staying true to your Middle Eastern roots?
Authenticity is very important for us so we never dilute the essence of a folk melody or a poem. We try to keep that intact by first performing all the acoustic elements and actually composing a song with proper verses, choruses and instrumental interludes. Once that has taken shape we slowly begin to add electronic beats and sounds with the intent of enhancing what is already there. Our goal is to create a true hybrid of acoustic and electronic music. This is a bit of an unusual approach because most producers first create electronic music and then record some ethnic vocals or instruments over the electronic bed. This approach lacks form and direction so we avoid writing that way. Actual songwriting is very important to us.
8. What is the best advice that you have been given?
Never stop writing and creating.
9. Whom do you define as a visionary?
Visionaries are those who have a very clear picture in their mind’s eye about what they want to create. The process of creation is a journey of self-discovery, learning, defeat and triumph. However, the vision always remains intact as a source of inspiration and we continuously strive to get closer to it.
10. What do you hope the audience will take away from your performance?
When an audience comes to our show, I want them to forget who they are, where they were born and what they believe. I want them for that moment in time that we are together, to transcend all the walls and boundaries that divide us and to feel connected to something deeper, which I believe is our shared humanity.
Niyaz will be at WAC April 13, 2017, at 7pm. Tickets are $10. Don't miss out!
The Student Volunteer Corps is a high school job shadow program designed to give local students insight into the business of arts presenting. Twenty students from across Northwest Arkansas were selected to participate after submitting an application, referrals and an essay on their interest in the arts. From January to May, they will shadow Walton Arts Center staff and working theatre professionals at Trike Theatre, University of Arkansas and Theatre Squared. The final component of the program is to attend a 10x10 Series performance and write a one page review, in an effort to get them thinking critically about theatre. Three students came for Edward Simon and Anfinidad’s performance featuring Imani Winds.
Written By Zhiwen Xu, 10th Grade, Fayetteville High School
Edward Simon & Afinidad with Imani Winds Critique
The Edward Simon & Afinidad with Imani Wind performed on Saturday, March 18, 2017, at the Walton Arts Center for one of the 10x10 Arts Series. The concert includes six movements exploring the cross-cultural between jazz and classic; furthermore, their music incorporates traditions from Europe, Africa, North and South America. I have enjoyed the whole concert; their music style is unique and impressive, with nine people playing in unison but with totally contrasting melody at the same time amazed me. Also, the atmospheres between the audiences were supportive, and everyone is here for the same purpose. The light crews had set the right tone for the concert with sometimes red and blue, or all blue, or all purple; where it had created a magical environment.
The host speaker introduced the upcoming group and talked about Jazz appreciate month (April). Then Afinidad—the jazz ensemble walked in with tidy black outfit to open the concert with their first piece, the light suddenly went dim, and only the backlight shone red and blue. This forward minded ensemble is co-lead by pianist Edward Simon and saxophonist David Binney; moreover, the quartet is completed by kindred- spirit rhythm section of bassist Matt Penman and drummer Obed Calvaire. As the instruments plucked in unison, Binney entered with a slow melody, and the mood became more dramatic as it progressed. The pace of the music became faster, and the texture became more intense when various music rhythms entered simultaneously. The piece is overall very upbeat, and every member seems to be very intrigued with the music.
The second work of the evening begun with the addition of the Imani Winds— they are one of the most successful chamber music ensembles in the U.S. Since 1997, the Grammy Award® nominated quintet has carved out a vital presence in the classical music world with its dynamic playing, and adventurous collaborations. It consists of Valerie Coleman—flute; Toyin Spellman-Diaz—oboe; Mark Dover—clarinet; Monica Ellis—bassoon; Jeff Scott—french horn. At the beginning of the second piece, the beautiful solo oboe melody had set a lighthearted tone to the piece. As the two ensembles performed together, difference taste of music clashed. I liked the oboe solo part, where its melody sounded enchanted.
On the contrast of melancholy, the third movement had several high-pitched ethereal sounds, suggesting another worldly character. I was impressed by the fast-paced lyric and high-pitched notes. The incredibly lyrical closing theme brought an element of glory to the entire concerto or another word majestic.
Throughout the concert, my favorites were Venezuela and Beauty of Space, which was the fourth and fifth piece. It was the most inspiring and moving passages of the entire concert. The Beauty of Space reminded me of the vast open land in the Midwest, where breezes of wind blowing the grasses which created a peaceful, beautiful, joyful, and cheerful feeling overall.
There’s a plenty parts that will amaze you, where the ensemble did a fantastic job on blending classic and jazz into one concert. It will be fascinating if they could incorporate a drum solo into the concert. As this group marching on to the globe stage, I am excited and looking forward to more excellent music they will produce in the future.
Written By Elaine Sello, 10th Grade, Fayetteville High School
On March 18, the Walton Arts Center housed the Edward Simon show featuring Afinidad and Imani Winds. Afinidad, a group consisting of 4 members which are pianist/composer Edward Simon, saxophonist David Binney, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade, was joined by Imani Winds; consisting of flutist Valerie Coleman, oboist Toyin Spellman-Diaz, clarinettist Mark Dover, French hornist Jeff Scott and bassoonist Monica Ellis. Most of the show’s music reflects the composer's memories and emotion towards those memories. The Edward Simon show is definitely a show worth watching with only a few minor problems that can easily be overlooked.
The music itself didn't clearly convey the composer's purpose but it was interesting to listen to because of the various instruments used. Before each piece Edward Simon, the composer, introduced the song and gave the audience a brief summary of what it meant to him. This gesture was helpful in giving the music meaning and making each song unique in sound.
The sound of the music was alluring because of the various crescendos, decrescendos and trills. Each instrument almost perfectly harmonized with the other yet most times, the saxophone overpowered other instrument. This could be overlooked but at certain times, the instruments lacked harmony. But each time you felt the sound was too much, they also got better. The variety of instruments also effectively helped portray the composer's purpose when writing the music although this was only true when he told you the intent behind the work. The individual players also helped to set a mood of good feeling as they clearly facially expressed their approval to each instrument's part. Not only did they appear to enjoy themselves, they also played their instruments clearly, with no squeaks.
The Edward Simon show was an interesting jazz ensemble that beautifully expressed nostalgia and other emotions yet was at some points not enjoyable. The show left some feeling bored yet for those who took the time to truly listen, it was an enjoyable show.
Written by Olivia Smith, 10th Grade, Fayetteville High School
Edward Simon & Afinidad with Imani Winds Review
Edward Simon, a ‘world-renowned’ pianist alongside his jazz quartet, Afinidad, performed with Imani Winds, a wind quintet from New York City to produce multicultural, modern and sometimes even dramatic jazz music. The performance often incorporated various different genres of music (including latin) to contribute to the cross-cultural effect of the show. The performance in general provided a gratifying, memorable experience.
Edward Simon’s commentary, (or sometimes introduction) gave the audience background on what the songs meant to him or why they were written. It gave the audience some background on each piece and what it was meant for. Even though Simon was essentially telling the audience how to interpret each piece, the the audience was still able to take whatever they wanted from the song.
Although Simon’s commentary and reasoning for his music was interesting to listen to, it may have made the music more interesting if the audience was forced to draw their own conclusions completely instead of having a base for their conclusions. This would make the audience’s imagination take over instead of already knowing what to think.
The blending of different of cultures were important components of the performance. Edward Simon noted throughout the show the influence of Venezuela in his work, as well as told stories of his adventures while on tour. Traveling and experiences made the performance what it was and it definitely was a significant factor.
Edward Simon & Afinidad and Imani Winds made seamless transitions into each new \song. Each song (along with the combination of the changing of lighting), added to the ‘theatre’ effect of the performance. The music truly did tell a story — each music piece also had a creative title to go along with it. Different musical effects (such as crescendo, decrescendo, trill and slurring) contributed to the uniqueness and artistry. The music often had a more dramatic, theatrical effect and sometimes exchanged that for a modern jazz approach.
All the musicians performing seemed to be passionate about their craft (or jazz in general) which contributed to the quality of the music. The pieces had an even balance of high tempo, mid tempo and slow tempo.
Not only was the overall performance entertaining, but the chemistry between the performers enhanced the experience of the show. All the performers looked comfortable with each other on stage, often making eye contact, smiling, and giving encouraging looks to one another on stage. It was obvious that musicians were all more than familiar with each other, which created a warm atmosphere.
The transition from certain instruments having solos to all the instruments playing together was a perfect shift. The combination of wind and string instruments were an interesting mix.
Overall, the performance was definitely the kind that one would want to see live. It would not be as nearly entertaining if it was viewed on a screen or recorded in any way. The way the sound filled the room was a component that would be better enjoyed live.
If given the opportunity, I would definitely go see another performance with Edward Simon & Afinidad with Imani Winds. The two bands definitely make great music together.
The Student Volunteer Corps is a high school job shadow program designed to give local students insight into the business of arts presenting. Twenty students from across Northwest Arkansas were selected to participate after submitting an application, referrals and an essay on their interest in the arts. From January to May, they will shadow Walton Arts Center staff and working theatre professionals at Trike Theatre, University of Arkansas and Theatre Squared. The final component of the program is to attend a 10x10 Series performance and write a one page review, in an effort to get them thinking critically about theatre. Our next five students came for Third Coast Percussion’s performance of ‘Lyrical Geometry’.
Written By: Jeremia Lo, 10th Grade, Fayetteville High School
Third Coast Percussion: Lyrical Geometry
The 10x10 series brings a variety of diverse and innovative performances to Walton Arts Center, and none better illustrates this than Third Coast Percussion. The Chicago based ensemble was formed in 2005, and has since forged a path in the diverse arts of percussion and contemporary classical music. As a Grammy Award® winning quartet, they have developed an international reputation for their unique and dynamic performances, as well as an amazing ability to connect to the audience.
Lyrical Geometry exhibits both the energy of percussion and its elegance by showcasing an assortment of different objects and instruments, from tables to bells; truly illustrating how everyday objects have the potential to create music. The program features new work from TCP’s Grammy Award® winning album, collaboration pieces with acclaimed composers Augusta Read Thomas and Glenn Kotche, and original music by TCP members.
TCP got off to a lively start with the performances of Steve Reich’s Mallet Quartet and Glenn Kotche’s Wild Sound, showing off classic keyboard instrument pieces with impressive energy; the audience could tell that the ensemble enjoyed what they were doing and in turn, shared the feeling with us. I appreciated how one of the members would introduce each piece’s background and their own thoughts on the work and if there was one, their connection with the collaborator. The ensemble also succeeded in covering the more unconventional forms of percussion through Augusta Read Thomas’ Resounding Earth and Thierry de May’s Table Music. The excerpt from Resounding Earth was elegant, hypnotic and executed with immense precision as needed to create the shimmering sound from Japanese prayer bowls and other sorts of metallic instruments. This type of music is not for everyone, I noticed increased shifting in a few audience members around me who grew restless at the slow pace and mystical tone of the work, but I enjoyed the fluidity of the piece and how each separate instrument came together to create a cohesive composition. In contrast, Table Music featured an original upbeat rhythm played on sound enhanced tables, and the coordination and skill required to effectuate such was nothing less than sensational. The incorporated humor in flipping the sheet music was also a nice touch. The program ended with one of my personal favorites, David Skidmore’s Aliens with Extraordinary Abilities. With Skidmore as one of the ensemble members, it is evident that not only does TCP consist of amazing performers, but of composers as well. The background video provided an interesting visual in correspondence to the music and introduced a new layer of interpretation.
At the end of the performance I felt like I had been missing out on an entire world of music, even though I had listened to percussion music before. TCP successfully introduced me to contemporary percussion and left me longing for more. The ensemble was mesmerizing to watch and listen to, and Lyrical Geometry consisted of a great selection of music, of which I would recommend to anyone.
Written By: Madison Smith, 11th Grade, Fayetteville High School
Also check out Madison’s blog: Reeditclari.net
The Grammy Award® winning percussion quartet, Third Coast Percussion, recently visited the Northwest Arkansas area to perform in the Walton Arts Centers 10x10 Arts Series. The 10x10 Arts Series is a season of 10 performances hosted by the Walton Arts Center with the intent to bring new and unique art forms to the Northwest Arkansas Community at the low cost of $10 a ticket. Third Coast Percussion has been performing and expanding the depth of the world of percussion.
Who is Third Coast Percussion?
Each of the four quartet members are classically trained percussionists and composers. Based in Chicago, Third Coast Percussion is the ensemble-in-residence at the University of Notre Dame's DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. Third Coast Percussion put on an outstanding performance that was full of new experiences that blew their audience away.
Throughout the week, the ensemble put on multiple master classes, and performances involving students of all ages and local musicians. Each of the members of Third Coast Percussion have been music educators at some point in their careers. This leads them be very passionate about their community outreach. They believe that "art is an invaluable experience for people of all ages."
The program they performed Friday night, Lyrical Geometry , is a unique and energetic collaboration of both traditional percussion and unconditional instruments. During the performance, quartet member Robert Dillon commented on the diverse selection of instrumentation; asking "What is a percussion instrument?" The definition of a percussion instrument is "a musical instrument that is sounded by being struck or scrapped", but Third Coast Percussion believe that a percussion instrument is "anything you ask a percussionist to play and they say yes" or anything "that the other musicians won’t play." This seemed to be the general theme for this concert. The program included obscure instruments such as Japanese Temple Bowls and amplified table tops.
The Lyrical Geometry Program :
Composed by Glenn Kotche, Wild Sound uses a combination of marimbas and vibraphones that create an almost "wild" sound with its very fast and systematic layering of rhythms. At some points the rhythms were complementary, and at others, it was almost overwhelming. However, none of this distracted from the enjoyment of the piece. I was impressed by the way that the musicians maintained their inner pulse and were able to pull off such a feat so that their listeners did not get lost or distracted. This piece was an introduction to the rest of the performance by establishing the traditional percussion techniques with new flourishes and flares to establish a new art form all together.
Composed by Theirry De Mey, Table Music was by far the audience’s favorite piece in the program. After the show, everyone was wondering which of the Third Coast Percussion Albums had a recording of Table Music on it. Sadly, Third Coast Percussion has not yet released a recording of them playing this piece. I was blown away by the use of amplified tables in the Table Music piece performed by Peter Martin, Sean Connors and David Skidmore. As a tap dancer, I found the idea of making rhythms with your hands amazing. The music for this piece includes descriptions of the exact way to hit or touch the table to make a particular sound. This makes the piece resemble both music and choreographed dance at the same time.
Resounding Earth mvt. II Prayer
Composed by Augusta Read Thomas, Resounding Earth was composed for and dedicated to Third Coast Percussion. This is a very unique piece that requires the use of hundreds of metal instruments including singing bowls and bells from numerous different cultures. This piece celebrates the idea that music brings cultures together and the vast variety of musical instruments. The piece is made up of four movements: Invocation, Prayer, Mantra and Reverie. As Robert Dillon explained the entire work is about 30 minutes long. So for time's sake, Third Coast Percussion only performed the third movement, Prayer. Prayer, is an even distribution of eeriness and beauty that seems to grow out of nothingness. Third Coast Percussion had me sitting on the edge of my seat afraid to move or disturb the perfect balance of silence and music.
Composed by Steve Reich, Mallet Percussion, is another composition written for two marimbas and two vibraphones with multiple movements. Third Coast Percussion played all three of these movements: Fast, Slow, and Fast. In the two Fast movements, the two marimbas provide the foundation cannon like background that continues throughout the piece while the two vibraphones take turns playing the solo-like melody. I admire Sean and Robert for their fluidity as they seamlessly passed around the melody without delay. During the Slow movement, the instrumentation thins out. I enjoyed how the ensemble did not pause between the three movements and they seemed to just flow into one fluid song despite the contrast between slow and fast movements.
Composed by ensemble member, Peter Martin, BEND, is composed for a percussion quartet using two marimbas. This piece uses various different mallets, bows, and sticking techniques to create a unique sound. The bows create a very different sound when they are run across the edge of the keys that sounds like the bending of music. The piece ebbs and flows in an unpredictable and pattern-less way. As soon as a common theme is established, it is abruptly changed with the introduction of a new sound, or a drastic change of dynamics. This was a very entertaining piece that I was not expecting to hear. I especially enjoyed the use of the other end of the mallets.
Composed by ensemble member, Robert Dillon, Ordering-instincts, is a 10 minute piece including the only two drums in the program, wooden blocks, and a few metal "disks". It was easy to get lost in all the new sounds you were hearing. But with the aid of a live video streaming to a screen above the stage, you could see the choreographed dance of the musicians. Their music provided a road map to guide them through the traffic of the piece. Creating perfectly organized sound, music.
Composed by Isaac Schankler, Blindness, is composed for 4 percussionists playing on one vibraphone accompanied by an electronic recording. At first I was a little skeptical about how 4 grown men could play the same instruments at the same time, but all of my doubts were put to rest the moment they began playing. In the past, my personal experiences playing with an electronic backing track have not been successful. But in this composition the electronic track did not take away from the ensembles performance, but added additional sound effects resembling sounds one would expect to hear if they were blind.
Aliens with Extraordinary Abilities
Composed by ensemble member, David Skidmore, Aliens with Extraordinary Abilities, was the perfect end to a phenomenal program. This piece incorporated visual art by projecting an animated design that was mesmerizing and moved with the music. This addition to the program emphasized how all art forms are connected in their abilities to express feelings and movement without out the use of traditional language. Art: music, design, dance and literature are all abstract forms of communication used to express what one does not have the courage to express on their own. I feel that this composition described the diversity of life and talents among people.
I am not a percussionist but as a musician, I am enamored by new art forms and Third Coast Percussion did not disappoint. Each piece introduced a new theme accompanied by a perfect blend of traditional instruments and new sounds. The program was a perfect arrangements of pieces that made a statement: the art world is changing. I had never seen or heard anything remotely familiar to what Third Coast Percussion played. Third Coast Percussion never ceased to impress me.
A Percussion Quartet is not the norm, but Third Coast Percussion despite skepticism from friends, they did it anyway and won a Grammy for it! In the 59th Annual Grammy Awards, the quartet won their first Grammy for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance on their album featuring works by Steve Reich, an iconic percussionist and composer. In their Performance at the Grammy Awards, they performed the third movement Steve Reich’s Mallet Quartet with jazz saxophonist, Ravi Coltrane. This is a huge game changer for the world of percussion as it is the first time a percussion ensemble has won a Grammy in a Chamber Music category.
Third Coast Percussion is opening doors for future generations of percussionists. Percussion has come a long way since the 18th century and the invention of the drum. Percussionists are constantly looking for new things to play around with to create new sounds. Third Coast Percussion is always pushing the boundaries of what percussion is. Modernist composer, Edgard Varèse, once said that music is "organized sound" when referring to his own musical style. I feel that this definition of music describes Third Coasts Percussion perfectly.
Written By: Joshua Deck, 9th Grade, Fayetteville High School
Third Coast Percussion Critique
The most recent installment of the Walton Arts Center’s acclaimed 10x10 Arts Series, Third Coast Percussion, toured to Northwest Arkansas for one night only, bringing too many instruments to count and an impressive repertoire along with them. The four Chicago natives, David Skidmore, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin and Sean Connors display their wide range and their truth that “… a percussion instrument is anything that you ask a percussionist to play and they say yes.”
Founded out of a passion for fine music and a wish to change the way that we all think of modern music, the Grammy Award® winning ensemble takes an audience through an auditory experience like no other, an experience that hundreds of school children and a theater full of patrons were happy to join in on.
When we combine their overwhelming talent and creativity, you get a show that uses the most out of the box instruments, including a box, to create beautiful art and a technical masterpiece. The performance is outstandingly visual, with movements choreographed as well as any of the incredible Broadway shows that have graced the same stage. The show that was performed, Lyrical Geometry, features a mix of songs that are original, commissioned, or covers. They performed pieces from acclaimed percussionists Augusta Read Thomas and Steve Reich, which have been designed for a foursome, a rarity in the musical and percussion fields.
Although there are many modern techniques used in this performance, the four classically trained musicians, one a Yale graduate, clearly respect those that came before, and excited to put their own twist on it. Their modern style not only captures the minds of young children who are usually restless in their seats, but the minds of people used to traditional styles of percussion.
While watching four men play keyboards and bells for two hours can easily sound like an auditory experience, but there was never a dry eye in the audience. This show combined stellar music with extraordinary visuals and produced a concert like no other, great for all ages and anyone who likes music. The Lyrical Geometry concert series is definitely a show to see, hear and become surrounded in. Although it may be a while before the group returns to Northwest Arkansas, it is certainly worth your time to pursue them.
Written By: Morgan Heflin, 10th Grade, Fayetteville High School
On Friday, February 24th, an eager audience trickled into Walton Arts Center to attend Third Coast Percussion’s Lyrical Geometry. The show promised musical entertainment to people of all ages, from families with elementary-age children, to the well-seasoned Walton Arts Center attendee. Lyrical Geometry is meant to bring the great possibilities of percussion together, featuring Grammy-winning music written by Steve Reich, as well as respected artists like Augusta Read Thomas. Using a complementary combination of percussion instruments, including some seeming unconventional, few groups can rival the thought and creativity Third Coast Percussion put into their show.
While some may consider the performance a sort of unusual percussion, Third Coast Percussion integrated all their instruments beautifully, making the audience feel at home with new instruments and ideas. Many would name a drum when asked to name a percussion instrument, but much of the instrumental focus fell upon vibraphones and rin, Japanese prayer bowls. Drums, the familiar percussion instrument, were used, but in a raspy, haunting manner, created by dragging a rubber mallet across the surface of the drum.
An audience favorite by far was Table Music, which is exactly as it sounds – music made with a table. Mini “tables” with integrated microphones were placed on a life-sized table, and three band members used their hands to play the tables with the same fluidity they would an ordinary instrument. Different strokes, strikes, and motions elicited their own unique sound, and the band even managed to integrate turning the page on their sheet music in a way that fit into the music, but was humorous to the audience.
The show seemed to be engaging for a majority of the audience, although people were often seen shifting in their seat or exchanging glances when a piece seemed to be lingering in a slow spot or dragging on. To me, it seemed that Table Music was most thoroughly enjoyed by the audience, with the constant movement of the band, focused lighting, and unique instrument ideas. I remained engaged for the entire show, as the band was just as interesting to watch as they were to listen to. On top of this, the band members seemed like they were having a good time as well. You could often see them grin as they played a particularly difficult portion, step to the beat of what they were playing, or nod their head as another member played.
Though other artists had written a few of the songs played, it was evident that Third Coast Percussion had taken that music and made it their own. They didn’t just play the music; they were with the music, invested in each piece played. Their own, David Skidmore, had written the last piece performed, titled Aliens With Extraordinary Abilities. With this song came unique graphics that responded to every high and low in the music, and definitely seemed to fit the title of the song. This was probably my personal favorite piece, as the visual effects really added a lot to the music. On the other hand, other audience members may have found the graphics random, too flashy, or even exhaustive, as they were constantly moving and changing. I enjoyed the graphics for the reason that they were exhaustive, and really seemed to cover each little note with a flash of color or pattern.
Overall, I was impressed by Third Coast Percussion’s Lyrical Geometry, and completely enjoyed the show. Their music showed diversity, and I think anyone could enjoy it, regardless of age or music tastes.
Written By: Kamrin Thornton, 10th Grade, Fayetteville High School
Third Coast Percussion
Recently, I had the privilege to attend a performance by Third Coast Percussion, a music group that has won the ensemble regional and national recognition. Sean Connors, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin and David Skidmore, the members of this group established in 2005, put together an astounding show called Lyrical Geometry. This group of musicians is most interesting because of the fact that they are a percussion quartet. A percussion quartet is not typical in the music world and that may very well be why the group was so impressive. I believe they formed the group not only to learn and grow in music as a group of four, but also to shed light onto the percussion world; they want to show that though percussion quartets are atypical, they have a world of magic to offer. Third Coast Percussion adds a nice, refreshing aspect to the music world.
Third Coast Percussion knew that the audience wouldn’t be all musical professionals, so they formulated a performance that had some good variety. They showcased keyboard percussion, table music, prayer bowls and various effects like violin bows, plastic wrapped sticks, and audio/visual playback. I personally loved the performance. I loved how enthusiastic every musician looked on stage; how they were absorbed in the music, never looking bored. I enjoyed the variety and the energy they brought to the auditorium. They did a good job showing that percussion is not always just keyboards and drums. There was a lack of drumming in the show, in fact, which was both a positive and a drawback. Being a percussionist myself, I can appreciate the effort they put into showing the other sides of percussion, the sides no one pays attention to when drums are in the way. However, some people who are not as much intrigued by music that is not “banging” and loud were a little caught off guard. Some were a bit disappointed, but others were just surprised. Still, even though some audience members’ expectations were different, the room was still swallowed in applause at the finish.
I also think that the music selection was a hit or miss. Again, I appreciated the intricate pieces, but some of the seemingly slower ones that require a trained ear and a certain taste, such as the prayer bowls, caused the crowd to get a little restless. After a few minutes of what seems like random bell sounds to someone who doesn’t know the music or how the song is supposed to go, one can begin to feel like maybe they just don’t understand percussion the way they’re supposed to. However, for those who were very interested in music, the song choice that Third Coast Percussion made gave us a taste of the versatility of percussion. The visuals they projected onto a screen almost hypnotized me, and in combination with the music they were playing, I was sent to another world. I believe that Third Coast Percussion achieved their aim to show that percussion quartets aren’t as crazy as they may seem. Additionally, they successfully demonstrated John Cage’s principle that all sound is music. It was still a quite refined performance, not just trying to make loud noises to get people to listen. The different effects and changes in the music definitely kept the crowd intrigued for the most part.
Even though the musical concept and literature was quite advanced for some of the audience who may have just been there to “see something cool”, overall, Third Coast Percussion’s performance was stellar. The passion that could be seen in each and every one of the performers made for a moving immersion into the world of percussion music. After getting to see Lyrical Geometry, there is something to be said about the world of percussion, and that is that the versatility of the instruments makes for an exciting journey through the world of sound and music.
We asked virtuoso mandolin-player Sierra Hull 10 questions to learn a little more about this genius musician.
1. Who or what inspired you to play the mandolin?
My dad is the reason why I picked up the mandolin. He was learning to play himself and after I became interested, he showed me my first tunes and chords and started taking me to local jams and festivals.
2. How has your sound evolved over time?
I grew up playing bluegrass and have such a deep love and respect for that style of music and the community. Over the past couple of years, I’ve been exploring a lot of other styles of music. As a result, I’ve been playing in a solo or duo setting more often, which is quite different than the band format I grew up playing around with bluegrass music.
3. What is your favorite aspect of writing music?
There is freedom in creating new music when you don’t put yourself in a box. It’s exciting to just follow your muse in a moment and see where a song leads.
4. What are some artists or bands you’re currently listening to?
I’ve recently been listening to everything from Beyoncé to classical mandolinist, Avi Avital. I truly love all styles of music.
5. Pick 5 words—that start with the letter ‘S’—that best describe your work.
Smooth, Surprising, Sensitive, Somber, Spontaneous
6. What has been one of your most exciting performances to date?
Getting to play at the White House with my hero Alison Krauss was certainly a huge honor for me and something that I’ll never forget.
7. What are the defining characteristics of tonight’s performance; what story does it tell?
Tonight’s performance will feature mostly original pieces that I’ve written - many from the album Weighted Mind. The album is themed around coming into my early 20’s and trying to find my way, both musically and personally.
8. What do you hope the coming years will bring for your career?
I think every artist dreams of an all-around continued success. Success brings security and freedom to create the kind of music you’d want and helps establish trust between the artist and the listener. I want to be able to continue to tour and make albums and have people go on this journey with me.
9. What is the best advice that you have been given; and what advice would you give the young musicians in the audience?
The best advice I have been given is to just be myself. Sometimes there is a pressure to compare yourself to this person or that person, feeling the need to measure up somehow. But the truth is - you are enough. I am enough. As an artist, I’ve found comfort in that idea over the past couple of years.
10. What do you hope listeners take away from your music?
I hope the listeners hear honesty in my music. I try to be true to my heart and play the music that I love. I figure if I do what I love, people will feel that and connect with it.
Sierra Hull will be at WAC April 7, 2017, at 8pm. Tickets are $10. Don't miss out!