Fayetteville High School Students Get A Close-Up Look at Edward Simon & Afinidad's Performance with Imani Winds

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.