"Inspiring" -- Audience Reviews on Soweto Gospel Choir

Walton Arts Center was thrilled to have the Soweto Gospel Choir as part of our 10x10 Arts Series last week. Baum Walker Hall was filled with patrons of all ages who gave us lots of positive feedback, and around 1,000 Northwest Arkansas students were able to see the performance through performing arts field trips with their schools--the cherry on top of the Choir's visit to NWA.

If you missed out on this amazing show, don't worry! We still have several 10x10 performances remaining this season. Our next 10x10 show is coming up on Wednesday, April 23, so go ahead and add the hilarious Improvised Shakespeare Company to your planner. You definitely won't want to miss out on a night of laughter with this talented group!

Here are a few more comments we received from you after the show:

“My heart was full! Soweto Choir Rules!"

“Wonderful cultural experience” 

“My favorite 10x10!”

Thank you so much to everyone who came out and made the Soweto Gospel Choir performance such a success! We hope to see you for our next 10x10 performance!

Clara, The Mouse King and NWA kids!

Back by popular demand, Moscow Classical Ballet's The Nutcracker returns next weekend for four performances. We love this production for many reasons, one of which is the fact that local children get to audition & be a part of the show! 

We held auditions last week and it was a difficult task to make selections as all the children are adorable & great fun to work with. Alas, we had to narrow it down, and here is our final list of stars!

Kaya Beeler 

Grant Bowman

Kaitlin Drake

Madison Gates

Ella Kestner

Paige Koch

Hayden McClure

Wryn Pitts

Sloane Pitts

Makiah Lynn Ragsdale

Julia Rain Sowerwine

Ashlynn Watson

There was representation from many of the surrounding cities, and our finalists come from Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville & Farmington. 

Join us next weekend, December 20-22 as we welcome Moscow Classical Ballet's The Nutcracker back to Northwest Arkansas and cheer on our local performers! 

Thanks for bringing “Hope for the Holidays!”

We had an awesome opportunity this month to partner with the United Way of Northwest Arkansas and help families across our region.

In Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, friends Bob and Phil go out of their way to improve the fortunes of their former commanding officer Gen. Waverly, after the lack of snow ruins his business season. From Nov. 1-16, $1 was donated to United Way NWA for every ticket purchased to Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, running Tuesday, Nov. 19 through Sunday, Nov. 24. (Limited tickets are still available.)

We are excited to say the campaign was a great success! With your help, we were able to donate $1000 to United Way NWA to support a variety of community programs! The mission of United Way of Northwest Arkansas is to build a stronger community by identifying needs around education, income and health, then mobilizing resources to effectively meet them. 

United Way + Community

United Way NWA is part of United Way Worldwide, a service and training center that helps raise awareness about United Way on a national level and sets standards of excellence for local United Ways. Money contributed to United Way of NWA is distributed to programs in our community, to help meet more needs. United Way NWA also has its own initiatives, like Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library that provides free books to young children, the NWA Diaper Bank that distributes diapers to community agencies and the 2-1-1 call center that connects families to aid and digs deeper to reach the root of their difficulties.

Thank you all so much for participating and supporting such a great cause! 

Introducing...Bear State of Mind!

In 2010, Walton Arts Center partnered with Trike Theater to create Digging Up Arkansas – an engaging Arkansas history production for students in grades 3rd through 5th.

Now, a new play has been developed for K-2nd grades, called Bear State of Mind!  WAC, along with partners Trike Theatre, NWA playwright Ashley Edwards and songwriter Shannon Wurst, produced Bear State of Mind as a way to help students learn about Arkansas. The play uses experiential theater techniques, music and puppetry to meet Common Core State Learning Standards, including Arkansas history and social studies curriculums.  Pre- and post-show lesson plans, activities and materials were developed by our Learning & Engagement Team for schools, to deepen students’ understandings of Arkansas history.

More than 2,000 area students from 14 schools have already seen Bear State this year, and seeing them experience this show has been great!

The story is about Bear, who travels through three of Arkansas’ geographic regions and meets new friends and uncovers native wildlife, folklore and state symbols. The unique staging of the play makes the most of 5-8 year olds’ natural tendency to explore their surroundings; seating them under a tree canopy in a “Magical Forest” to help facilitate their physical participation in the performance.   

Students at a performance of Bear State of Mind. Photos by Ironside Photograpy.

As the students entered the Bear State campground in Starr Theater, they couldn’t contain their excitement! “Wow!” “It’s so dark!” “Oo!” They turned to their friends and giggled in excitement as they followed their teachers inside.

The children sat on their sleeping bags and tarps around the campfire, full of energy, excitement and wonder. Their heads whipped around each time a new sound came through the speakers, crickets and cicadas chirping, a bird’s song, frogs croaking.

Bear State performers Jason Suel, (top right) Shannon Wurst and Julie Gabel. Photos by Ironside Photography.

Performances like Bear State and DUA allow us to bring these benefits to the classroom, and reach students who may not otherwise have access to these opportunities! A recent study showed that field trips to WAC provide students with long term benefits, like higher tolerance and empathy and a desire to participate in cultural activities. For a synopsis of the recent WAC study, visit EducationNext

Check out these comments from teachers who brought their classes to see Bear State:

  • “One of the best performances I have ever attended with students!” Anne Garrett, Root Elementary, Kindergarten
  • “This was a fantastic performance! Students were actively engaged the entire time.  I can’t wait to get back and discuss the content with them.”  Root Elementary Teacher, Grade 1
  • “I have always enjoyed Walton Arts Center performances, and this was the best – aligned with expectations for student learning.”  Delia Gorder, Root Elementary, Grade 1
  • “Fantastic and engaging show.  Relevant to our kids’ lives and super interesting.  Lots of details & hidden surprises.  Our kids loved it!”  Ms. Ogle, Washington Elementary, Grade 1
  • “Probably the best show we have seen!  Very entertaining and age appropriate!”  Washington Elementary Teacher – Grade 1

Bear State performers Shannon Wurst, Jason Suel and Julie Gabel. Photos by Ironside Photography.


10x10 Arts Series Kick-off with AnDa Union!

We’re excited to kick-off our 10x10 Arts Series next Friday, Oct. 4 with AnDa Union! This amazing musicians and vocalists are unlike anything hosted on the WAC stage before. Coming from nearly 7,000 miles away, the young musicians in AnDa Union take you on a hauntingly beautiful musical journey, uniting the diverse traditions and styles of both Inner and Outter Mongolia through all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.

AnDa Union

We had the chance to ask the performers a few questions! Check out band members Saikhannakhaa and Chinggel's answers below, and then watch a video of them performing.

  • What are you most looking forward to on this US Tour?

We love playing concerts!

  • What is your favorite Mongolian tradition? 

Mongolian music

  • What size of audiences and whom do you typically perform for in Inner Mongolia? 

Over 1,000 people – especially younger people. 

  • How did you learn how to play your instrument? When?

We trained at music school from the age of 13. 

  • What makes you unique from other performers?

The way we combine Mongolian music and singing style.

  • What are 3 goals of your performances?

That the audience have a good time, that they learn about Mongolian culture and that they leave feeling the world is a better place.

  • What do you want audiences to walk away with?

Happy memories of our music, culture and grasslands.

  • Was there some great advice you received as you began your artistic journey? 

Be true to your music and your heart.  

  • Is there something you enjoy collecting?  

Instruments! And music. 

  • What profession other than yours would you most like to attempt? 

A teacher, or maybe start a Mongolian restaurant.  



Tickets are still available, so help us welcome these amazing musicians to NWA! Join the Facebook Event to stay up to date with all the information on our pre-show Creative Conversation with a member of the AnDa Union team, and the post-show party where you can mingle with the performers and enjoy a signature 10x10 cocktail!

Long-Term Benefits of Field Trips to the Walton Arts Center

Some exciting news came to Walton Arts Center this week: A recent study shows that field trips to Walton Arts Center can provide long term benefits to students! Last year alone, more than 50,000 students experienced the arts through programs like Digging Up Arkansas, the Colgate Classroom Series, and other master classes and activities with WAC performing artists.

In tandem with a study on the educational value of museum field trips conducted at Crystal Bridges, University of Arkansas researchers Jay P. Greene and Brian Kisida investigated the long term benefits of student field trips to Walton Arts Center.

More than 2,000 7th graders from around the area participated in a survey asking about their participation in cultural activities and their values like tolerance and empathy. The students’ answers were analyzed based on how many WAC performances they had been to throughout their school careers. 

For each field trip students took to WAC, there was a statistically significant difference in students’ desire to attend cultural events. And more than that, field trip participation increased student desire to participate in cultural activities, not just attend them. Also notable, the study found that students who participate in arts field trips are more tolerant and empathetic than other students. The study will help educators better understand the important benefits that field trips to arts institutions offer students.

Engaging the Community through the Artosphere Partner Grant

Although it seems like 2013 Artosphere just happened, here at Walton Arts Center we’re already getting excited for the 2014 Artosphere: Arkansas’ Arts & Nature Festival!

One of the most unique aspects of Artsophere is the way projects inspire and engage the community. The annual Artosphere Partner Grant helps fund artist projects that support the mission and theme of Artosphere (to celebrate artists, influenced by nature, who inspire us to live more sustainable lives).

This year, a total of $20,000 will be awarded among 1-5 2014 Artosphere Partner Grant winners.


In the last two years, the grant has funded several projects, including 2013 Artosphere’s The Herd and The Swarm by Tasha Lewis and Sun Boxes by Craig Colorusso.

Tasha Lewis’s installation of The Herd was placed in Walton Arts Center’s Cynthia H. Coughlin Gallery Lobby. More than 17 sculptures of antelopes, impalas and gazelles were sculpted from printed fabrics and featured emerging and disappearing into walls. More than 1,400 students and teachers were able to experience these majestic animals while visiting Walton Arts Center last Spring. 


For The Swarm, more than 1,000 butterflies were printed in various sizes with cyanotype on fabric and constructed with the help of community volunteers. Small but powerful magnets placed on their bellies allowed the installation to move around throughout 2013 Artosphere, appearing at multiple sites throughout Artosphere without leaving a trace. At each location, viewers were able to move the butterflies around the site, allowing them to both experience the project and help it evolve. In a final send-off of the installation, community members were invited to help the butterflies “migrate” by taking one or two of these beautiful butterflies home with them. We are certain they all found good homes.

The installation of Sun Boxes was created by Rogers-based artist Craig Colorusso. Each sun box is a solar powered speaker, operating independently and programed with a guitar note that plays on a loop. Together, the notes form a Bb chord, slowly changing and evolving over time because of the different lengths for each note’s loop. Listen here!  In a community yoga event held by Soul Yoga Lounge at the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks in Fayetteville, local yogis joined together to celebrate nature and practice yoga to the sunrise and the ethereal sounds of Sun Boxes.

The 2012 Artosphere Partner Grant also led to the Artist’s Laboratory Theatre’s production of “Alley 38,” a theatrical walking expedition through the uncharted places of downtown Fayetteville, and the installation “Karst” by Massey Burke, which still stands on West Avenue today!

 “Supporting artists that give the community new ways to think about art and nature is important for the vision of Artosphere. For the past two years, the Partner Grant Program has been successful in generating thoughtful and collaborative work and we look forward to reviewing new proposals that are challenging and exciting.” - Laura Goodwin, VP of Learning and Engagement at Walton Arts Center

If you are interested in applying for a grant, submissions are due November 1, 2013 at 11:59pm, and the award announcement will be made on December 1, 2013. To submit a proposal or learn more about the application criteria, click here. 

Program Evaluation Criteria:

  • Relationship to and support of the Artosphere Festival
  • Artistic quality
  • Degree of community involvement
  • Visibility – the estimated number of people who will experience your project
  • Projects must occur in Northwest Arkansas and be presented within May 1 - June 7, 2014 

Project ideas include but are not limited to:

  • Theme specific theatrical performances, musical performances, visual arts installations (indoor, outdoor, etc.)
  • Public improvisation activities, concerts or artistic expression
  • Community collaborations
  • “Festival within a festival”
  • Artosphere event enhancements (pre or post-show activities, events or experiences in support of Artosphere programming)

Save & Close

Creativity and diversity are highly encouraged in support of the Artosphere Festival. 


Welcome to NWA Jersey Boys!

Wednesday morning we held a Broadway Breakfast here at Walton Arts Center with not 1, not 2, not even 3, but all 4 of the Jersey Boys stars!

WAC's own Lydia Corbell took the stage with stars to facilitate a conversation about Jersey Boys and their roles. 

(L to R) Nicolas Dromard (Tommy DeVito), Jason Kappus (Bob Gaudio), Nick Cosgrove (Frankie Valli) and Brandon Andrus (Nick Massi).

The guys shared stories about all the work it took to get cast in Jersey Boys, their start in theater and the things to come! 

Nick Cosgrove, is living the dream! While in high school, he saw a production of Jersey Boys at the Bank of America Theater in Chicago, and realized that was what he wanted to do, and Frankie Valli was his dream roll! Now, at 25, not only is he playing Frankie Valli, but he was able to return to that theater in Chicago and perform for his family and friends.

But before there was even an opening for the roll, he had to audition through the intense "Frankie Camp" and be molded into the authentic Jersey personality. 30 actors go in, less than 10 potential Frankies walk out!

Both Jason Kappus and Brandon Andrus have been touring with this production of Jersey Boys since it started almost two years ago.

When Jason auditioned for the role of Bob Gaudio, he had to portray the character in front of the man himself! 

Brandon Andrus describes himself as the group's "resident tourist." As they tour from city to city, he likes to take time to see the sights, and what makes each area special. He's already got Hammontree's and Crystal Bridges on his radar for NWA!

Nicolas Dromard talked about working with a vocal coach so they could all master the true Four Seasons Jersey accent. They spent hours mastering the accent, going through their scripts so everything is phonetically accurate, and they even have CDs to listen to so they can keep their accents strong.

The cast all expressed their love for being part of such a great production, and the power of the audience to keep the show fresh and exciting for them week after week. Let's make sure to show them a big NWA welcome each night!

"Every night it's a ride from start to finish that we love being on," Nicolas Dromard said.

The show runs until Sunday, with two performances on both Saturday and Sunday, but tickets are going fast! Grab yours here, and for the best seating availability check out Sunday night!

10x10 Arts Series Giveaway!

Here at Walton Arts Center we are eagerly anticipating the upcoming season! The shows on our 10x10 Arts Series are always audience favorites as they provide unique entertainment experiences with pre and post-show activities and conversations.

In celebration of the new season, we are giving one lucky audience member the chance to see all of the 10x10 Arts Series shows for free with our 10x10 Giveaway! It's super easy to enter - there's a Rafflecopter widget at the bottom of this post, just follow the steps & voila! You're entered! 

This season’s 10x10 Arts Series is a unique collection of music, dance and comedy. All of the shows on this series start at $10 per ticket. Here is a look at all the performances the winner of our giveaway, and all audience members will be enjoying this season:

AnDa Union 

Friday, October 4 at 8 pm

From Inner Mongolia, AnDa Union draws inspiration from Mongolian music that nearly disappeared during China’s tumultuous past. This acoustic group of 14 musicians and vocalists creates unforgettable rhythms with throat singing and traditional instruments including the morin khuur (a horse-hair fiddle) and the maodun chaoer (a three-holed flute).

AnDa Union

Los Angeles Guitar Quartet

Thursday, October 10 at 7:30 pm

Playing to sold-out houses world-wide, this Grammy®-winning quartet is one of the most multifaceted groups in any genre. Comprised of four accomplished guitarists (John Dearman, William Kanengiser, Scott Tennant, and Matthew Greif) who bring a new energy to the stage, their programs range from Bluegrass to Bach and guarantee a night of musical delight.

Los Angeles Guitar Quartet

Mnozil Brass

Friday, October 25 at 8 pm

A brass ensemble like you’ve never seen before, Mnozil Brass is simultaneously an orchestra, ballet, chorus and ensemble of soloists. These seven musicians have been called the “Monty Pythons of music” due to their humor and comedic timing.

Mnozil Brass

Compagnie Käfig

Thursday, January 23 at 8 pm

Artistic director Mourad Merzouki is at the forefront of the international hip-hop dance scene. Käfig’s sensational double bill of Correria andAgwa showcases the all-male ensemble of 11 Brazilian dancers in an irresistible mix of athletic samba, hip-hop and capoeira dance styles, highlighting astonishing acrobatic skills and dazzling virtuosity.

Compagnie Kafig photo by Christopher Duggan

Chucho Valdes

Friday, February 14 at 8 pm

With five Grammys® and numerous other awards, Chucho Valdes is one of the most influential Latin musicians and jazz pianists ever. It’s a night for lovers, and lovers of jazz! 

Chucho Valdes


Friday, February 21 at 8 pm

LEO is an astonishing show that asks you to forget the rules of the universe and enter an entirely different world. This fantastical, witty one-man show from Berlin blends brilliant physical theater, acrobatics, and mind-bending animation, challenging perception of reality through the clever interplay of live performance and video projection.


Soweto Gospel Choir

Thursday, March 6 at 7:30 pm

The 24 member Grammy®-winning choir from South Africa is dedicated to sharing their faith and their music.  Some of Soweto’s most famous songs include Grammy®-winning “Baba Yetu (Our Father)” and the Oscar nominated “Down to Earth.” 

Soweto Gospel Choir photo by Tony Lewis

The Improvised Shakespeare Company

Wednesday, April 23 at 7:30 pm

Based on audience suggestion, the Company creates a fully improvised play in Elizabethan style. Each of the players has brushed up on his “thee’s” and “thou’s” to bring you an evening of off-the-cuff comedy using the language and themes of William Shakespeare.

The Improvised Shakespeare Company

Trey McIntyre Project

Friday, May 16 at 8 pm

Trey McIntyre’s innovative and notably American brand of dance was called “amazingly fresh” by The New York Times. The evening will include a new ballet choreographed by Artistic Director Trey McIntyre, set to chamber music and premiering in spring 2014.

Trey McIntyre Project photo by Lois Greenfield

Time for Three with the Artosphere Festival Orchestra

Saturday, May 31 at 8 pm

The Artosphere Festival Orchestra under the direction of Corrado Rovaris headlines the 2014 Artosphere Festival with a program featuring Time for Three, the high-energy string trio that wowed 10x10 audiences in 2012 with their assortment of bluegrass, jazz, folk and hybrid styles.

Time for ThreeEnter the Rafflecopter giveaway below for a chance to win tickets to all ten shows on the 10x10 Arts Series this season! We will choose a winner by September 25, and notify them by email. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Engaging students at Walton Arts Center

Walton Arts Center strives to improve the entire learning process of Northwest Arkansas students by providing multiple ways to investigate the arts. We have looked at a few arts-integration professional development opportunities for the teachers of NWA, but we also offer programs that directly interact with students. This past year, WAC’s student engagement programs have positively impacted over 6,200 people! 

Workshops, master classes and chances to meet and work with touring artists allow students to step out of their learning norm and engage in creative experiences. One new approach to learning is Youth Volunteer Corps which gives students the chance to work one-on-one with WAC professional staff.

Photo by Ironside Photography

WAC partnered with Camp War Eagle in an effort to recruit participants for the program, provide transportation and English to Spanish language translations of all documents. Students were chosen based on a written essay and four letters of teacher recommendation. 

“My appreciation and love for the arts sparked and sky rocketed!” said a Youth Volunteer Corps participant.  The semester-long program involved students in the everyday events of working and presenting the arts to the public. Students were involved in backstage tours, job orientations and learning about the business of presenting – including areas like Box Office, Communications, Development, Programming, Educations, Production and Tech. An end product of their delving into the arts was participation in five education shows. The students worked and presented the shows to over 2,000 audience members!

Photo by Ironside Photography

Concluding the program was a reception honoring the students, a viewing of War Horse and final evaluations of the students’ progress. Through the final evaluations WAC gained a better understanding of how the students responded to the lessons taught at Youth Volunteer Corps. Feedback included 100 percent of the students gained confidence and a better understanding of themselves, understand more about careers available in the presenting arts and feel better prepared to make school, class or career choices. 

We are proud of the students that participated in Youth Volunteer Corps, as well as all of our student engagement programs! For more information about Youth Volunteer Corps watch Walton Arts Center Youth Volunteer Corp Video presented by CampWarEagle365. Visit our website to learn about more community opportunities with Walton Arts Center! 

View the AWE teachers in action!

Walton Arts Center’s 2013 Arts with Education Institute concluded last week, and we are so excited for the impact arts-integration teaching will have on Northwest Arkansas schools this fall!  The teachers were a part of professional development workshops, lectures and discussions with artists.  To learn more about how and what the AWE teachers were preparing for the classroom, we have a video to summarize the week’s events!       

To learn more about Arts with Education Institute visit our website!

2013 Arts with Education Institute

Walton Arts Center was excited to host the 2013 Arts with Education Institute (AWE) last week! The annual week-long professional development is designed to train Northwest Arkansas teachers to integrate the arts into everyday lesson plans, connecting to core curriculum.  

WAC hopes to positively impact the classroom learning experience for both teachers and the almost 1,200 students that are influenced by the AWE teachers each year. “Arts integrating will help my students build their cooperation muscles,” said an AWE teacher about the foreseen benefits of the program. 

Arkansas History, Social Studies and Visual Arts were the focus areas for AWE 2013. Teachers learned how to integrate the arts in these subject areas with hands-on, interactive workshops presented by John F. Kennedy Center professionals. “My students will be better in communicating,” said an AWE teacher about the program.              

The experts from the Kennedy Center believe in and teach the three main ways arts can be interjected into students’ learning experiences. Arts as curriculum involves music, art, drama or dance teachers, and students learn particular art forms. Arts-enhanced curriculum uses the arts as a “hook” to engage students when learning in other curriculum areas. Finally, an arts-integrated curriculum, which is the goal of programs like AWE, uses the arts as the approach to teaching and learning. Students gain knowledge of both the utilized art form and another subject.  (The Kennedy Center Arts Edge)

 Chart courtesy of The Kennedy Center Arts Edge

This year’s AWE featured lectures and workshops led by Sean Layne from The Kennedy Center. Layne has a B.F.A. in Acting, and has been a part of numerous arts education programs such as founding Focus 5 Inc., arts coaching for the Kennedy Center’s Changing Education Through the Arts (CETA) program, directing and set designing for the InterAct Story Theatre and internationally representing the Wolf Trap Institute Early Learning Through the Arts program. Some of the workshops led by Layne at AWE this year were Intro to Arts Integration, Acting Right, One Minute Challenges, Strategies for Memorization Text Cards and Connections to Common Core. Trike Theatre teaching artists assisted directly in the teaching of AWE, and will help teachers throughout the year by periodically stepping into the classrooms.   

AWE teachers are given a presentation on arts-integration learning

Along with working at the Walton Arts Center, the AWE teachers travelled to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art for additional hands-on instruction. Lectures and workshops at CBMAA included an Introduction to Teaching from Art lecture and a Teaching Content with Artwork workshop given by teaching artists.    

While at Crystal Bridges, School Programs Manager Anne Kraybill began a lesson plan revolving around visual essays with an introduction to Visual Essay Instruction. This was followed by Creating Visual Essays given by a team of leaders. After the teachers were introduced to the concept and structure of visual essays, they were taught how to implement the learning technique in the classroom with the facilitated reflection Bringing Visual Essay Back to the Classroom. “My students will be highly engaged and own their learning,” said one AWE teacher about the lesson plans.  

The AWE Institute 2013 creating tableaus

We are excited to see these teachers take what they learned about arts-integration back to their classrooms this fall! To learn more about Arts with Education Institute visit our website! Funding for AWE is provided in part by Crayola® with additional funding from Arkansas Arts Council and Walton Arts Center supporters and benefactors.  

Jersey Boys - behind the scenes with the creative team!

As we mentioned last week, here at Walton Arts Center we are excited for the start of this year’s Procter & Gamble Broadway Series with the opening of Jersey Boys, Sept. 3 – 8!  We have already looked at the amazing cast of this production, and now we are onto the creative team that is equally impressive!

The creative team includes Des McAnuff (director), Bob Gaudio (composer) and Sergio Trujillo (choreographer).    

McAnuff is a two-time Tony Award® winning director with a broad résumé. Immediate past Artistic Director of the Stratford Festival and Artistic Director Emeritus of La Jolla Playhouse are a few of his titles in the directing world. While working with La Jolla Playhouse, McAnuff directed over 35 productions, including Broadway’s The Who’s Tommy (Tony and Olivier Award: Best Director), Big River (Tony Award: Best Director, Best Musical), Caesar and Cleopatra and 700 Sundays (Tony Award: Best Special Theatrical Event). Under his direction, Jersey Boys went on to win the Best Musical title from the Tony Awards® and Olivier Awards.   

'The Sit Down' scene from Jersey Boys. Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Along with being a founding member of the Four Seasons where he was the primary songwriter, Gaudio has worked as a producer and composer. Gaudio produced albums for Frank Sinatra, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson and Neil Diamond. His work with Diamond led to the hit collaboration with Barbara Streisand “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” which earned a Grammy® nomination for Record of the Year. Gaudio also produced the soundtrack for Little Shop of Horrors and the Four Seasons’ album Who Loves You. He has been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1990, the Four Seasons) and the Songwriters Hall of Fame (1995). His production and songwriting abilities created the hit “December 1963 (Oh What a Night)” that stayed on Billboard’s singles list for 54 weeks, and would later add to the renowned soundtrack of Jersey Boys.  

Jersey Boys perform 'Cry for Me.' Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Trujillo's choreography has been featured in shows all the way from Broadway to television! His Broadway work includes Memphis (Tony Award: Best Musical), Leap of Faith and The Addams Family. Trujillo has more than once served more than role while working on shows. He choreographed and judged on “So You Think You Can Dance: Canada” and “Broadway: The American Musical” (PBS), and simultaneously choreographed and directed a production of Flashdance. His work extends to Off-Broadway shows such as A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Saved and Romeo & Juliet (Public), as well as a number of regional and international productions.

The finale song and dance. Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Jersey Boys is sure to be an audience favorite with a star-studded creative team and cast! For tickets, call the Walton Arts Center box office at 479.443.5600 or visit our website. For more information on Jersey Boys, visit jerseyboysinfo.com

A closer look at the cast of Jersey Boys!

We LOVE Broadway here at Walton Arts Center, so it’s no surprise that we are eagerly anticipating the kick off to this year’s Procter & Gamble Broadway Series with eight performances of Jersey BoysSeptember 3 – 8!  

Jersey Boys has everything a good all-American story needs: climb to fame, success and Rock and Roll! This musical chronicles the story of how four blue-collared kids became Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, the Four Seasons: Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi. The show is complete with classic hits from the Four Seasons, such as “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “December 1963 (Oh What a Night).”  

We wanted to learn more about the crew of the smash hit that gained over 42 major accolades, including the 2006 Tony Award® for Best Musical, the 2006 Grammy® Award for Best Musical Show Album and the 2009 Olivier Award for Best New Musical! We are going to focus on the impressive cast today, and then later this week we will take a look at the awe-inspiring creative team that has developed this sensational production! 

The Four Seasons are played by Nick Cosgrove (Frankie Valli), Jason Kappus (Bob Gaudio), Nicolas Dromard (Tommy DeVito) and Brandon Andurs (Nick Massi). These four actors have gained experience with shows ranging from Broadway to regional productions.    

Nick Cosgrove

Off-Broadway: Where’s Charley? (Encores!)

Regional productions: Joseph…Technicolor Dreamcoat (Joseph), Sound of Music (Rolf) and Snapshots (Danny).  

Nick Cosgrove as Frankie Valli. Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Jason Kappus

Broadway: American Idiot

National tours: Legally Blonde

Regional shows: Catch Me if You Can, West Side Story, Hairspray and High School Musical 

Jason Kappus as Bob Gaudio. Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Nicolas Dromard

Broadway: Mary Poppins (Bert) 

Three national tours

Four regional shows  

(From left): Brandon Andrus, Nick Cosgrove, Jason Kappus and Nicolas Dromard as the Four Seasons. Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Brandon Andrus

National tours: Oklahoma! (Curly)

Other shows: Xanadu (Sonny), All Shook Up (Chad), Damn Yankees (Rocky), Annie Get Your Gun (Frank), Camelot (Sir Lionel), Illyria (Duke Orsino), Romeo & Juliet: The Musical (Capulet), Snow White an Enchanting Musical (The Prince) and Guiding Light (Tucker)

(From left): Jason Kappus, Nicolas Dromard, Nick Cosgrove and Brandon Andrus perform "Sherry." Photo: Jeremy Daniel

You will not want to miss seeing this amazing cast in action! Be sure to check back later this week to read more about the creative team of Jersey Boys! For tickets, call the Walton Arts Center box office at 479.443.5600 or visit our website. For more information on Jersey Boys, visit jerseyboysinfo.com.  

Student Engagement with Colgate Classroom Series

Walton Arts Center believes it is vital to expose children to the arts.  Our Colgate Classroom Series (CCS) provides us with a way to give the children of Northwest Arkansas access to live matinee performances of theater, dance, puppetry and world music.  This year, our focused efforts allowed growth in the reach of the program and cultivated new relationships with a Rural School Initiative.   

Since 2009, our reach has doubled - with 100 schools attending CCS performances this past year.  The number of registered seats grew as well, reaching 34,000 seats, compared to 2011’s 30,000.  Our goal next year is to register more than 40,000 students for the Colgate Classroom Series. 

Students arriving at Walton Arts Center

This growth is due in part to efforts to make participation as affordable as possible for the schools.  Two types of partnerships, Smart Partners and 100% Smart Partner Schools, allow us to work with the schools through every aspect of CCS.  Both partnerships receive assistance in ticket prices, online performance guides which support classroom instruction by helping educators connect art forms with core curriculum standards, and transportation subsidies from J.B. Hunt Transportation Inc.

Another way we expanded our reach this year was by focusing on rural schools in NWA. Of the 15 schools targeted, one third attended CCS performances, including Gentry, Pea Ridge, Farmington, West Fork and Decatur. Rural schools in the area account for 5500 students, and we are happy to have made great contacts in order to reach these students in years to come.  The goal next year is to have participation from at least half of these schools.   

Hakim Bekkam from Caravanserai interacts with students

The Colgate Classroom Series gives every NWA school and their students access to world-class arts. Through research with the University of Arkansas we’re learning more about how attending live performances at Walton Arts Center benefits students.  In a recent research project, Junior High School students from Bentonville and Springdale who attended performances at Walton Arts Center as part of elementary school, were surveyed. The results were impressive. Students who attended more performances demonstrated more positive student values, including greater tolerance and empathy and were more likely to read for pleasure compared to students who attended less or not at all. This research begins to quantify some of the many important benefits the arts have for students.   

Students watching the CCS performance of STOMP

CCS performances are chosen for their ability to enrich class curriculum. To make the process easier for participating schools, we provide a list of the shows offered, a brief synopsis of each and the suggested grade levels that are appropriate for the shows. This past year a few of the select shows were Boats, Grug and Dinosaur Petting Zoo.  We are excited to further expand the CCS reach this next year with theater performances like Digging Up Arkansas, dance productions like Company Käfig and world music demonstrations like AnDa Union!  

For a complete listing of the upcoming Colgate Classroom Series, and to learn more about the program, visit our website

Learning & Engagement at Walton Arts Center

Here at Walton Arts Center, we strive to positively impact our community through learning and engagement.  One of our main goals is to strengthen school learning communities through arts integration teacher training by to sharing model arts integration programs with the State education community.

One way we reach this goal is by training teachers throughout the area on how to creatively integrate education about the arts into their classroom lesson plans.  There are three main programs designed for these teachers: AWE Institute, SmART Residency and ARTeacher Fellowship.

ARTeacher Fellows

This year’s ARTeacher Fellowship was held June 19-21.  Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the Northwest Arkansas Education Service Cooperative and the Center for Children and Youth joined the Walton Arts Center in an effort to provide this exemplary professional development. The Center for Children and Youth selected 27 Jr. high and high school literacy and social studies teachers to participate in the program, and they will implement the arts integration strategies across their curriculums for a year.

ARTeacher Fellows studied with The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts presenter, Randy Barron; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art School Programs Manager, Anne Krybill; and University of Arkansas’ Center for Children and Youth, Hung Pham and Dr. Chris Goering.

ARTeacher Fellowship teachers participating in an art integration strategy for the classroom

Last year, the ARTeacher Fellowship reached nearly 500 students with 10 teachers participating in the program, so there are great expectations for the impact this year’s 27 trained educators will have on Northwest Arkansas students.

Teachers being trained through the ARTeacher Fellowship with small group practices

All three programs have yielded positive results in the classroom, for teachers and students alike, all the while keeping the arts alive in schools.  Teachers have noticed that students respond well to art integration strategies with better attitudes, eagerness to participate and an overall preference to the strategies over traditional ones.  Teachers that have participated in the programs say they have gained confidence teaching literacy and social studies with the art integration strategies and 90% believe their teaching skills have improved through the training.

We are excited to see the talented teachers integrate the arts into their curriculum this upcoming school year!  To learn more about the arts integration teaching training programs, visit our website

Artosphere Festival Orchestra {sneak preview}

We had the honor of getting a sneak preview of the Artosphere Festival Orchestra performances while sitting on stage as they rehearsed this morning!  Under direction of Conductor Corrado Rovaris, the orchestra prepared Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92 for Friday night’s Evening of Beethoven concert at the Walton Arts Center.

AFO Rehearsal

With a “buon giorno” and a raise of his arms, Rovaris gained the full attention of the orchestra and the rehearsal began.  They played through the entire piece once, and then went back to perfect sections in order to express the emotion that Beethoven wanted to convey to the audience.  Rovaris described what was wanted by the musicians through a series of arm movements, humming sequences, facial expressions and a few words.  The musicians would listen intently to his instruction then play the notes even more beautifully than the first time.

Sitting on the left of the bassoonists and clarinetist, in front of the trumpets and timpani and behind an array of strings was an amazing experience.  The musicians that created the full, put-together orchestra sound were heard individually on stage.  It goes without saying, that the individual sounds were just as wonderful standing alone as with the entire group.  

AFO Musicians

It was interesting to hear the conversation that emerged between the woodwinds, brass, percussion and strings.  Call/answer sections were frequently featured that included a group of woodwinds and a group of strings.  The woodwinds would let their reed vibrations ring through the hall, answered by the sharpness of the bow against the strings. 

From our vantage point, we also saw the visual aspects that go into a performance.  Rovaris acted as a type of choreographer for the bows and fingers that controlled the instruments’ sounds.  The musicians also mimicked Rovaris’ facial expressions to add to the meaning behind the music.     

Music Director, Corrado Rovaris

After the musicians had perfected the emotions that they are to perform for the audience tomorrow night, Rovaris concluded the rehearsal with a flick of his wrist and baton.

This series of Artosphere Festival Orchestra performances is a must-see!  For more information about the concert series and to reserve tickets for the festival events visit our website, or call the box office at 479.443.5600. 

The Art of Wine

In spirit of the Art of Wine Festival this weekend, we decided to brush up on our wine sipping techniques!  Every aspect of drinking wine is outlined from which glasses to use with specific wines, to what food tastes best with wines and there is even a wine family tree! Luckily, we have some handy charts to help explain the vast world of wine.

Image via Wine FollyWith the exception of a tumbler, there are three basic components to a wine glass; bowl, stem and foot.  How large the bowl is, how long the stem is and how wide the foot is determines which glasses best suit different wines.  

Image via Pinterest These guidelines show just how much wine ends up in your glass. This is especially useful when hosting dinners so you know how much you are serving your guests and how much is going into the food you are preparing. {As noted in the image, don't forget to treat yourself!}

Image via Wine Folly Did you know that the easiest foods to match to a wide variety of wines are starches? Or how about that the hardest foods to match with wines are an assortment of vegetables and chocolate? Here is the breakdown of what to eat with certain wines. Review this chart before your next meal to ensure a perfect blend of food and drink!

Image via PinterestThe ever-popular wine and cheese combination is explained with this wheel diagram. Take note of a few cheeses that go well with both a red and white wine, for example Swiss with Pinot Noir and Gewürztraminer.  

Image via Pinterest

We thought this was a fun way to show the wine family tree! Refer back to this periodic table of wine the next time you are in question of the origin and color of a specific wine.  

These tips to being a connoisseur of wine will definitely come in handy at the Art of Wine Festival events, June 13 – 15, and tickets are still available. Join us for a fun weekend of tasting delicious wines and enjoying the finest cuisine!  

Jeff Schomburger's Guest Commentary

This article can be read in the Sunday, June 9 edition of the Northwest Arkansas Times, or by visiting NWA Online.  


My family and I have lived in Fayetteville for 10 years and I have served on the Walton Arts Center Board for the past nine, including the last four years as chairman.

Growth at the arts center has been tremendous since its inception, and the past few years have been particularly exciting. The amount of discussion I’ve heard about the Walton Arts Center recently is particularly empowering as it underscores the widespread passion and commitment we all feel for it.

Our vision is to create a quality of life in Northwest Arkansas that is second to none by drawing worldclass arts and entertainment to our region. As we grow, our donors and patrons continue to ask for more programming options. From a business standpoint, we want to ensure Northwest Arkansas, and WaltonArts Center specifi cally, can get the same type of entertainment as Kansas City, St. Louis or Tulsa. We need more space to make this a reality. Our board made a deliberate decision to pursue a strategy of regional facility growth to meet these needs. Renovating Walton Arts Center on Dickson Street is the linchpin of that strategy as this facility is the cornerstone of our organization. We host nearly 350 events a year at WAC, and we see that number growing significantly in the future. I was pleased that at our last board meeting we passed amotion authorizing staff to begin the capital campaign for our $20 million-plus renovation of Walton Arts Center’s Fayetteville campus.

We will see a complete transformation in the next few years on Dickson Street.

We also made a decision to proceed with building a new Arkansas Music Pavilion.

The AMP is a project I have been particularly passionate about. People have asked me, however, how it fits into our plans.

We purchased the AMP nearly three years ago for two reasons: 1) large-scale popular concerts are the No. 1 unmet entertainment need in Northwest Arkansas, and if WAC manages it, we ensure we can program complementary acts and meet community demand; and 2) concerts are profitable. WAC is a nonprofit organization and every year, we raise nearly 50 percent of our annual budget from donations. Whenmoney comes in from AMP concerts, we can use that money to support our most important programs in the community - like engaging more than 50,000 school students in art programming and presenting our 10-by-10 arts series, for which tickets are only $10.

As excited as I am about the AMP, some people have told me they felt uninformed about the process around our decision to locate the AMP at Pinnacle Hills in Rogers. For that, I am sorry. I value constructive feedback, as does our staff , and changes are under way in response. As a nonprofi t arts organization, we rely on broad-based community support and our goal is to always be open and transparent. We shared Mrs. Johnelle Hunt’s gift of land with our board back in May 2012. Our facilities and executive committees met many times over the past 12 months to discuss the AMPand guide staff in the due diligence process. Recent funding for the project was secured, prompting immediate consideration by our full board. We feel confident with our decision.

But we recognize our community wants to be more engaged. In response to this, we will work to expand our communication and engagement eff orts.

I hope you will watch for public input sessions (some have already occurred) on both the WAC expansion and the AMP. Check the Walton Arts Center website for more continuous updates on the planning process, and look for proactive summaries coming out of our board meetings. If you have other ideas for how we can better communicate, I invite you to contact me.

Fayetteville is WAC’s home and, as we grow, will remain our operating headquarters.

With the majority of the arts center staff and 12 of the 20WAC board members living in Fayetteville, we value the character and artistic integrity that makes this community uniquely ours.

We recognize the support of our partners - the city of Fayetteville, the University of Arkansas and visionaries who made Walton Arts Center a reality more than 20 years ago. All of our growth strategies are predicated around ensuring Walton Arts Center remains the best performing arts center in Arkansas and beyond.

My family loves Walton Arts Center and Dickson Street. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to serve on the board and I look forward to exciting new arts endeavors in Fayetteville and around Northwest Arkansas.


Bringing War Horse to life on stage

We are excited for the War Horse performances next week!  In preparation for the shows, we learned how the puppet Joey works from diagrams provided by The Washington Post.  The puppet is intricate and the puppeteers work hard to bring the horse to life on stage. 

Joey's Head

Joey's Heart

Joey's Hind

Joey's Characteristics The Evolution of Joey

To reserve your tickets for War Horse, visit our website, and to read the full article visit The Washington Post.