Weekly Update, Jan 28, 2014

MPC Theater crisis; New Music Works’ Main Drag

By Philip Pearce

A cross-section of the local theater world stood up last Wednesday to emphasize Monterey Peninsula College’s Theater Arts Department’s impact on professional theater training, personal cultural enrichment and area community life. In a widely touted open meeting, the MPC Board of Trustees heard reactions to and suggestions about budget cuts college President Walter Tribley has proposed to meet a daunting $2.5 million deficit.

“The Board is listening,” Tribley declared. “There’s been no straw poll. We are real people. We know jobs will be impacted. Our aim is to avoid drastic cuts to our basic goals.”

Toward that end, Theater Arts Chairman Gary Bolen announced that the original plan to lop off four full-time theater jobs would deal a death blow to the department. He has offered the administration a counter proposal that would save two of the threatened jobs and leave MPC theater majors with an ability to transfer elsewhere to four-year theater degree courses.

There would still be a significant decrease in the number of productions at the newly renovated Morgan Stock Stage, with the suggested possibility of three per year. 

In his remarks, Tribley acknowledged the vulnerability of theater studies in the face of cuts voted in by a state legislature which controls 88 percent of MPC funding. Sacramento, in the words of several board speakers, has a “one-size-fits-all” attitude, which forbids more than one funded repetition of a given course and accordingly undervalues arts-centered study undertaken for personal and community enrichment rather than for a degree or certificate.

Bolen deplored the way the Board’s austerity plan was announced on the second to last day before the close of last term. The pressure of exams and other end-of-term events produced a response he felt was reactive and unhelpful. The advent of the compromise plan had then raised the misconception “that the bullet has hit and we dodged it. Not so. What we dodged was a cannon ball.” Insisting that the department is in new territory, he admitted that, if asked how it will all work “…and I say, ‘I don’t know,’ I am not being flippant. We appeal to the college for openness in exploring how this new system will work. From the community we need you to continue your passion and dedication to volunteerism and sponsorships,” then added, “We need your patience and your loyalty in maintaining our place in the community.”

While the Board considers a way forward, its members seemed agreed that the next step for the many MPC theater arts supporters who have written to board members about the cuts should be a new blitz of letters to their short-sighted representatives in Sacramento.

Philip Pearce is PAMB’s senior theater critic

New Music Works hits the Main Drag

Always with an edgy theme, Santa Cruz’s New Music Works takes you down the Main Drag this Saturday at Cabrillo College’s Samper Recital Hall, which happens to be located on the old Main Drag between Santa Cruz and Monterey, ie., Soquel Drive/Highway 1. In the spirit of Jack Kerouac and Willie Nelson—who is coming to Sunset Center on April 10—NMW takes you and me into brave new territory with world premieres by local talents Michael McGushin, Christopher Pratorius and the California-born, Santa Cruz-trained, German-residing Daniel James Wolf. McGushin and Pratorius are music lecturers at UC Santa Cruz, the former well-known as the artistic director of the Ariose Singers, the latter as a favorite composer of Phil Collins and the NMW Ensemble. Featured soloist is the über-versatile double bassist Stan Poplin, who teaches jazz at UCSC. 20090531__CSS145C06~3_Gallery

Poplin will be joined by McGushin and Pratorius for John Cage’s Ryoanji. Pratorius’s Untogether, Not Apart, an NMW commission, is a chamber concerto and McGushin will hear his own String Quartet of 2013, while Steed Cowart’s octet Tryst, an NMW commission from 1986, will be revived.  Wolf’s piece, Double Hocket, for quintet implies hiccups where notes of a melody are played alternately by the different instruments and where the harmony is “disfunctional”  according to the composer. The Main Drag that will conclude the program is a “road piece for nine or more players” by Frederic Rzewski, major American composer and virtuoso pianist. See our Calendar for more details.

We are so proud of our Next Gen musicians

The California Band Directors Association has named Monterey Bay high school and middle school musicians selected, by audition, to participate in All State youth orchestras and bands in February. Listed according to their respective schools, they are

Peter Mellinger, Steve Yoo, Edie Ellison and Ari Freedman (Carmel High)

Kenshi Husted, Timothy Willis, Ryan Porch, Caleb Kim, Gemma Baek and Joo Seung Kim (Carmel Middle)

Arielle Isack and Jinhyun Kim (Pacific Grove High)

Ella Schwirzke (Pacific Grove Middle)

Grace Padgett and Alyssa Stegall (Stevenson Middle)

Most of these students are actively drawn from such independent programs as the Monterey Jazz Festival’s Jazz Education program, Santa Cruz Youth Symphony, Youth Music Monterey and Youth Orchestra Salinas. Most of those mentioned above have been nurtured through YMM. Obviously the programs in Salinas and Santa Cruz need extra support to encourage their students to audition for these honors.

Santa Cruz Symphony’s “outstanding” Sunday concert

Find it on our Music Reviews page here.

Mother of Bach Festival soloist survived NAZI holocaust

Anita Wallfisch, mother of cellist Rafael Wallfisch, tells her story of survival to The Guardian. Read it here, or on our Links of Interest page.  

Congrats to Tim Jackson of the Monterey Jazz Festival who just sent us this:

Monterey Jazz Festival is pleased to announce that it was voted as the #1 Festival in the 2013 JazzTimes Readers Poll in the “Best of the Jazz Industry” category. The 56th Monterey Jazz Festival took top honors over the Newport, Montreal and North Sea jazz festivals respectively.

Scott MacClelland, editor; Stan Poplin photo by Shmuel Thaler