Hai Ho! Hai Ho! It’s Off to Taiko We Go! – In Mt. Shasta: Taiko Classes for Youth

© Lisa Shara; Published at North State Parent

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Taiko is an ancient Japanese style of drumming that, in the last half century, has undergone an evolution into an ensemble performing art. If you’ve been fortunate enough to have seen a taiko performance, you may already be hooked on the excitement, skill and team work exemplified.

Julie Bennett has been a member of Northern California’s Shasta Taiko ensemble for 16 years. The ensemble was formed by Jeanne Mercer and Russel Baba over 25 years ago.  Last February Julie began fulfilling a personal dream: “I have wanted to teach taiko to children for a long time,” she says. “Having seen taiko performers who have grown up in the world of drumming, I realize how it can impact a child’s growth and talent, and motivate them to pursue their artistic passions.”

art-115-taiko3“The young people I see in taiko today are centered, focused, extremely dedicated and disciplined.  I am so impressed with their maturity and abilities,” says Julie. In her classes, students work together as a team through exercise, creativity and rhythmic awareness, as well as solo improvisation. Keller King, age 6, was a student in Julie’s first children’s class series. He says, “Taiko was really fun. We learned patterns, how to count to ten in Japanese, and drum beats.”

Movement is an important aspect of taiko, explains Julie. “Taiko is based on the elements of nature: the taiko stance or “kata” (body position) Continue reading

Frank Yamma “Nguta Waljilpa”

One of my favorite songs (became part of the soundtrack of my life some years back), written and sung by Frank Yamma. “Nguta Waljilpa” is found on Frank’s album “Countryman” released late 2010/early 2011. Son of the late singer/songwriter Issac Yamma (1940-1990), Frank speaks five languages. He sings primarily in Pitjantjatjara (Central Australia’s Western Dessert) and English. “Unesco considers Pitjantjatjara to be a “vulnerable” language, Austlang considers Pitjantjatjara to be “definitely endangered” (grade 3).”

Recording has some issues (sounds like ceiling fans are making a whooshing noise), but love that this was recorded at all – The Festival Youth Choir performs Ngura Watjilpa at the opening of the 2011 Castlemaine State Festival.

For those with facebook, one other touching acoustic performance:

Just Believe – Artistic Sibling Duo Unites Community In Music And Dance

© Lisa Shara; Published in North State Parent January 2014
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In Chico, the powerhouse brother-sister team of Sarah Blakley and Jeff Schneeweis brings a strong mix of creative talents to their new company, Believe Productions. The duo developed separate careers in the arts, and say they have always been inspired by each other’s work. It’s no stretch to understand why.

Blakley works as a choreographer, director and dance educator. She owns and operates Hype Dance Studio in Chico, recently celebrating its 10th anniversary. Along with a staff of 13, she provides classes for all levels of dancers. Blakley also founded and directs the award-winning Fusion Dance Company, providing dancers additional professional-level training. She choreographs for music videos, commercials, industrials, and for professional sports organizations. Currently she is choreographer for the NBA Sacramento Kings Dancers, and has been both a dancer and choreographer for the NBA Golden State Warriors Dance Team.

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Schneeweis is a singer, songwriter, musician and producer. In addition to vocals, he plays drums, guitar and keyboard. He owns Old Sailor Studios, a recording studio in Chico, and is a member of two bands: Number One Gun, a Christian rock band, and The Make, an indie pop group. Also a diverse solo artist, Schneeweis has released original music throughout his career. His eclectic and heartfelt versions of popular songs have become immensely popular on YouTube. Continue reading

How Does a Small Town & Small School Make Room for Music Education?

© Lisa Shara; Published in North State Parent January 2014

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McCloud is a small rural town on the southern slope of Mount Shasta. It’s also an exemplary model of promoting arts in education – each year the town proves that communities and educators can work together to keep music alive in public schools.

McCloud Elementary School, in collaboration with arts non-profit Young Imaginations, provides music education to its student body of approximately 85 children. Principal Shelley Cain makes sure time is scheduled for weekly music classes. Students in grades 4–8 attend choral classes, and many also attend an after-school SAFE instrumental program designed for their age group. For its younger students, ages 3-8, classes are based on Kodály and Orff methodologies and introduce children to singing, playing instruments, and the mysteries of reading music.

At McCloud’s high school, music education includes a class where students learn piano/keyboard skills and music literacy; additionally the school has a student rock band, led by staff member Jeffrey Westcott. Continue reading

Where Adventure, Dreams, and Inspiration Begin – Raven and the Unicorn Children’s Theater

By Lisa Shara and Daria O’Brien; Published in North State Parent, January 2014

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The Raven and the Unicorn Children’s Theater is a proposed 800-seat theater designed specifically for child-centered performing arts programs and educational opportunities. The theater will be the only Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum-level certified children’s theater in the world, demonstrating environmentally sustainable construction and technologies. Continue reading

Mi Escuelita Maya Preschool & Children’s Performing Arts Program – A Place of Learning and Inspiration

© Lisa Shara; Published in North State Parent, January 2014

In a performing arts lesson celebrating European countries, Maria Trenda leads students using Braindancing technique as they learn about classical ballet.

In a performing arts lesson celebrating European countries, Maria Trenda leads students using Braindancing technique as they learn about classical ballet.

In a setting best described as welcoming and warm, where diversity is honored and creativity abounds, children go about the business of learning with great enthusiasm. Smiling teachers clearly are having as much fun as they guide students in discovery and play. The inspiration is palpable. Continue reading

Angélique Kidjo – Enough Energy, Passion & Focus to Influence the World

This article first appeared in North State Parent magazine in March 2008; © Lisa Shara

On March 15th, 2008, the legendary Angélique Kidjo came to Chico’s Laxson Auditorium Angelique Kidjo Cover to share her world-renowned music. Kidjo is also known for her role with UNICEF, her association with Oxfam, and for the organization she founded and holds close to her heart: Batonga Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to expand secondary school opportunities for poor and orphaned girls in sub-Saharan Africa.

Even in the flurry of activity following her recent Grammy win for Best Contemporary World Music Album for her 2007 release Djin Djin, Kidjo took time to speak with us about her passion for music, education, and for making a difference in the lives of children and teenagers.

Continue reading

Doctor Noize and his Friend Mr. Beethoven – Youth Concert with North State Symphony

Dr. Noize with young fans
On September 24th and 25th, 2009 award-winning children’s music artist Dr. Noize will be appearing in Chico and Redding, CA  in collaboration with the North State Symphony, in two special concerts geared for youth. North State Symphony Executive Director Keith Herritt encourages all parents to attend this fun musical experience with their children.
When asked what’s special about the upcoming concert Herritt chuckled, “It’s exciting because this will be the most ambitious, fun and original youth concert we’ve done to date-it’s the first time we’ve reached out to involve a guest artist like Dr. Noize. We’ll be playing some very familiar selections like Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, and we’ll also be playing short original works written specifically for the concert by Dr. Noize. It’s a great way to introduce kids to symphonic music.”

Dr. Noize & charactersAbout Dr. Noize

Dr. Noize (Cory Cullinan) performs across the country in family-oriented shows, sharing music in all its varieties with young audiences. He was raised and began his career in the San Francisco Bay Area, and more recently moved to Colorado with his wife and two young daughters. Continue reading

Chico Guild Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary and 43 Year History with North State Symphony Young Artist Auditions

art_0509_guild.jpgThe Chico Symphony Guild, founded in 1959, is celebrating its 50th anniversary year. Now called Chico Guild-North State Symphony, its mission has always been to both support the North State Symphony (NSS), and to nurture young talent.

One way the Guild enacts their mission is through their support and production of the Young Artist Auditions (YAA) event held annually in Chico, and open to junior high, high school and college students of the North State.

Held each February at the CSU, Chico Performing Arts Center, the public is always welcome to watch the audition process, from the Guild’s welcoming address to NSS Maestro Kyle Wiley Pickett’s outline of the audition procedure, to enjoying each contestant’s performance of their selected piece (accompanied by a musician of their choice). All instruments and voice are represented. Continue reading