According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), only 19 states provided funding for arts education grant programs in 2016. That’s just 38 percent of the country, and it shows the downward trend for arts programs in public schools; three years ago, “U.S. News” reported that since 2008, funds for schools had been cut in more than 80 percent of school districts – and arts programs are usually among the first curricular victims of budget cuts.
The importance of visual and performing arts programs – particularly music education – has been emphasized by everyone from educators and celebrities to scientists and students. Nonprofits and fundraising drives have appeared all over the country, including arts programs-deprived Arizona (which does not require credits in the arts for high school graduation, and does not require schools provide arts programs to be accredited). One of the local people trying to make a difference is Phoenix filmmaker Matty Steinkamp, creative director of Sundawg Media. He filmed and interviewed musicians, music educators, and students from all over the world for the documentary “Play,” to showcase the importance and magic of music in peoples’ lives. Among them are local music producer Bob Hoag, Phoenix-based musician Henri Bernard, and Nate Anderson of nonprofits Ear Candy and Little Kids Rock.
“Play: The Documentary” has screened in theaters around the U.S., and Steinkamp uses the screenings to raise funds for music education programs, and to provide instruments to schools. “Play” will show at the Higley Center for the Performing Arts in Gilbert on January 11, and all profits will go to the Foundation for Arts, Culture and Education of the East Valley (event details here ).
We recently caught up with Steinkamp to talk more about the movie and music education.
For years, Roosevelt Row in Downtown Phoenix has been known as the city’s main arts district. The area along Roosevelt Street from Seventh Street to Seventh Avenue once housed innumerable local art galleries, but over the past several years, many galleries have closed and many artists have left the neighborhood as developers construct new housing and rents rise. That’s one reason local creative Pete Petrisko thinks Roosevelt Row (aka “RoRo”) needs to stop being called an “Arts District” and be rebranded as a “Luxury Living & Good Eats” district.
Just prior to the First Friday art walk on Roosevelt Row in December, Petrisko designed a field guide and several rebranding stickers. The field guide was distributed at local venues, and nearly a hundred “Luxury Living & Good Eats” stickers were affixed to utility poles. We recently spoke with Petrisko regarding his rebrand project, which will be visible this First Friday in January.
#1: Jerusafunk at Valley Bar, January 8
In this show dubbed “East Meets West,” Phoenix’s own “klezmer gypsy jazz” band, Jerusafunk, performs their unique brand of boogie on a bill that also includes local rabab prodigy Qais Essar and his new backing band, The Qosmonauts, and L.A.-based Jewish cultural revival band Mostly Kosher. $5. 8 p.m. January 8 at Valley Bar. www.facebook.com/events/1607808399527245/
What better way to spend this twilight zone week between Christmas and the start of 2017 than by planning the perfect New Year’s Eve celebration? Because we all know New Year’s celebrations always live up to your every expectation… cough…
Even if you’re not delusional and are remaining realistic about how off the chain any given Sunday can be, get a leg up on your potential for fun-having by dropping by one of the many soirees being thrown across the Valley. We’ve got your run-down of NYE parities, whether you’re looking for a family friendly fiesta or an adults-only shindig to let loose in your sparkly finest.
#1: The Music of David Bowie at Symphony Hall, December 30
Backed by a full rock band and the Phoenix Symphony under the direction of conductor Martin Herman, vocalist Tony Vincent pays tribute to the late David Bowie, singing tunes from the flamboyant star’s vast hit list. Audiences can expect to hear renditions of “Rebel Rebel,” “Space Oddity,” “Fame,” “China Girl,” and “Changes,” among others. $59-$119. 7:30 p.m. December 30 at Symphony Hall. phoenixsymphony.org
#1: Blind Boys of Alabama at Musical Instrument Museum, December 23-24
Formed in the late 1930s at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind, Blind Boys of Alabama continue to tour and perform their spirited gospel songs. Tunes from their latest album, “Talkin’ Christmas,” will also be on tap this tour. $48.50-$63.50. 7:30 p.m. December 23 and 2 p.m. December 24 at Musical Instrument Museum. mim.org
When it comes to introducing children to the works of William Shakespeare, there may be no more fitting entree than “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The Bard’s tale of star-crossed lovers, magical meddling, and musical fairy merriment is a comic romp kids can follow even with the playwright’s original dialogue. So it’s fitting that Southwest Shakespeare Company has been touring Phoenix schools with their adaptation, titled “A Midwinter Night’s Dream.” The company’s performance at Kerr Cultural Center on December 9 marked the first time they performed it for adults, and it was a good look at what audiences can expect when SSC performs “A Midwinter Night’s Dream” at Taliesin West this weekend.
If it’s true that “silence is golden,” then the trend of “silent reading clubs” around the Valley is rich indeed. The idea of people showing up at a bar or a coffee shop with books and simply sitting and quietly reading together has its appeal, especially considering how much “information” we’re barraged with these days. This month, two local silent reading groups are hosting events – and one is breaking the silence.
#1: Cirque de la Symphonie at Orpheum Theatre, December 16-18
Aerialists twirl on festive red curtains high above the Phoenix Symphony in this spectacular collaboration with the Cirque troupe. The special holiday production also features seasonal music such as “Deck the Halls,” “White Christmas,” and movements from “Swan Lake” and “The Nutcracker,” performed by the symphony while painted strongmen, hula hoop artists and jugglers dazzle the audience. $30-$109. Call for show times. December 16-18 at Orpheum Theatre. phoenixsymphony.org
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