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How I Fell in Love with the Symphony

by Llalan Fowler

When I was a kid and just getting into music, my grandmother started taking me to all the Sunday matinees with the Mansfield Symphony Orchestra. The whole experience of going to the Renaissance Theatre was a “to-do,” as she might say. Dressing up, buying drinks and popcorn, getting escorted to our seats like we were important.

I was just learning how to listen to music — how to pull apart an orchestra and listen to one section at a time. There’s the low brass, there’s the high woodwinds, I think that’s a viola? And how to watch an orchestra, too — how to see the players watch the baton of the conductor, the rows of string players watching the first chair, the percussion section watching everything. I was learning a new language. I could already read music, but reading a new language is quite a different thing than understanding a conversation.

I wonder if perhaps you have to grow up with symphonic music to continue seeking it out as you age. My elementary school music teacher was a passionate man. Passionate enough to throw blackboard erasers into the chatty percussion section, gesticulate so wildly as to dislodge his comb over, and to rain insults and spittle down upon the first unlucky row of flutes. Most of the kids hated him. I would have, had he not kept playing fantastic recordings for us: Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, Goodman’s Sing, Sing, Sing, and Gershwin. I took a tape of Rhapsody in Blue out of the library and listened to it again and again in my room, letting the music take shape and color in my mind.

My grandmother loved that I was exploring the big band music of her youth and encouraged me with her own stories of the bands that played when she was a young woman. She still remembered all the words and sang along in her ageless soprano to my CDs of Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, and The Andrews Sisters.

As I got older and my tastes refined, my grandmother took me to even more shows. We saw one of Mel Tormé’s last concerts and even saw Yo-Yo Ma, whose luggage had been lost so he and his accompanist wore lumberjack flannels. We spent several summer evenings on a lawn in Columbus, picnicking and listening to The Canadian Brass, laughing at their jokes even if we’d heard them last year. I played trombone and wanted to be the first lady in the brass quintet.

I played in high school — symphonic band, orchestra, jazz band, marching band — and continued to play through undergrad. I worry that music is accessible only to those who already speak the language. Those of us who recognize all the different voices that combine to one. Those of us who have felt the power in that moment between the last note and the applause. But how much knowledge and history behind a certain piece do you need to “get it?” When I look at Van Gogh’s Starry Night, I know little of his life and of the story behind the piece; but I do know it is crushingly beautiful.

I want to share the beauty of this music with others, but don’t always know how to convince my Millennial-aged peers to come to an orchestra concert with me. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of them do come, but I greedily want everyone to try it. I don’t know if it’s some presumption that symphony-goers are stuffy and pretentious or if it’s intimidation by the unknown that prevents more people my age from joining me there. I certainly don’t know everything about each piece that’s played in a concert. Rather than feeling ill-educated and uncomfortable at the end, however, I feel refreshed and new and as if I learned something just by sitting there. Like the first time I heard Rhapsody in Blue, I didn’t feel stuffy and pretentious — I felt like something bold and new was let loose inside me.

This Saturday, I will be going to the “When Swing Was King” pops concert, and I’ll be bringing my now-91-year-old grandmother. We will dress up, we’ll go to the Altered Eats catered dinner beforehand, we’ll gets drinks, and we’ll be escorted to our seats. We’ll sit in the dark and listen as the chaos of tuning instruments transforms into the asymmetrical jive of Shaw, Miller, and Dorsey. I suspect we’ll sing along.

 

 

Four Events You Won’t Want to Miss in 2017

by Colleen Cook 

Few things carry as much potential as a fresh, blank calendar. There’s just something about that blank space that feels free and exciting as you look at the next 365 days knowing they can be whatever you choose.

If you’re like me, then you’re probably thinking a lot about what you can do less of, what you want to do more of, and how you want to spend your days this year as you fill in your calendar with birthdays, appointments, social plans, and more. For me, this year I will be working to ensure that the time I’m with my family is spent more intentionally. We’ll be spending more time making memories that will last, rather than binging a Netflix show or scrollaxing through our various devices.

Here are four events that I’m putting on my calendar, and why:

January 27th: The Second City Game Night

The Second City's Game Night

I have always wanted to see The Second City in person, and this is the year! Bonus: I don’t have to make the trek into Chicago! Having been a HUGE Saturday Night Live fan since I was too young to be watching it, as SNL fans know, The Second City is the breeding ground for great improv comedians. Alumni include Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Steven Colbert, Steve Carrell, Bill Murray… and our own Michael Thomas! So, we’re calling a babysitter and making sure we don’t miss this night.

February 18th: Pre-Concert Dinner & When Swing Was King Concert

When Swing Was King

My husband and I sometimes downplay Valentine’s Day, but for no good reason. Our love is worth celebrating, and we never regret making a big deal out of silly greeting card holidays – because good memories last way longer than the cards and candy. So, this year, we’ll be celebrating at the Mansfield Symphony’s pre-concert gourmet dinner by Rasul Welch and Anne Massie of Altered Eats, followed by a night of swing music with the Mansfield Symphony and world-renowned conductor Carl Topilow!

April 7th: Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood LIVE

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood Live

We have a preschooler in our house, and Daniel Tiger and his neighbors are like a third parent in our household. We count on Daniel to reinforce some really important lessons for our kids using earworms musical jingles like, “Use your words,” and “When you feel jealous, talk about it and we’ll figure something out,” and of course, “You can take a turn, and then I’ll get it back.” Seeing the joy on our daughter’s face last year at this event made it an early contender for our 2017 calendar.

May 20: Classic Albums Live plays The Eagles’ “Hotel California”

Classic Albums Live: The Eagles' Hotel California

As a kid, I remember listening to the “Hotel California” on vinyl in my parents’ basement, the richness of the incredible acoustic guitars and the band’s gritty authentic sound pouring over me. Classic Albums Live has gained quite a reputation as the quintessential authentic recreation of these incredible albums, live – playing every note, every cut, just the way you remember it. And, these guys are good. I’ve been excited to see this group since we started talking about it more than year ago, and you can be sure this event is on my personal calendar.


Comment and tell us, what events are your must-sees this year?

 

3 Things You Support By Giving to the Annual Fund Campaign

By Jessica Dulle & Colleen Cook

1. Education

Teddy Bear Concert - Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

Teddy Bear Concert – Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

The Renaissance proudly boasts that our Education Department serves 15,000 students each year! We have 13 distinct programs, numerous collaborations with area schools and agencies, and serve individuals of all ages and abilities!

2. Live Performances

Beauty and the Beast 2016 - Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

Beauty and the Beast 2016 – Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

Whether it’s our locally-produced professional Broadway-style productions, touring bands,  artists, or comedians, or offering a venue to local emerging artists and acts, the Renaissance exists to make outstanding live performances available and accessible for everyone in our region! (Did you know that no one is turned away for an inability to pay for a ticket, thanks to our Angel Ticket Program?)

3.The Mansfield Symphony

The Mansfield Symphony Orchestra - Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

The Mansfield Symphony Orchestra – Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

A cultural establishment in Mansfield for over 85 years, the Mansfield Symphony Orchestra is one of the premiere mid-size symphonies in the country. This season, the MSO is able to offer 6 concerts to the public, plus four educational concerts and numerous community outreach performances. As Ben Folds recently said, “Symphonies symbolize the epitome of civilization, i.e., people working together. If you go to a town without an orchestra or a bad orchestra, it’s a crappy town.”

You can give to the Renaissance Annual Fund Campaign $100,000 Matching Grant Challenge and have your gift matched 2:1 by the Landers Foundation and the Hire Foundation anytime between now and December 31, 2016! To give, click here.

Giving Tuesday 2016

#GivingTuesday – What is it? How do I participate?

by Jessica Dulle, Director of Development

You’ve probably heard of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, or even Cyber Monday, but there is another important commerce day celebrated each year and that’s Giving Tuesday. For social media followers, it’s #GivingTuesday.

So, what is exactly is Giving Tuesday? Per their organizational website, “#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration”. In the non-profit industry, it officially kicks off the charitable season during the holidays.

Basically, Giving Tuesday is the one day every year where nonprofits rally together to encourage you to donate to worthy causes whether global or local.

The movement has been popular since its inception only a handful of years ago and is celebrated the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.).

You might be thinking, I like the idea of investing in some of my favorite charities, but how do I get involved? The good news is the process is easy. You can visit your charity of choice website and personally donate online or you can utilize a crowd raising platform such as Razoo.com.

Most donations made via Giving Tuesday are online, but organizations will happily enjoy snail mail or in-person gifts.

If you’re living in Richland County (Ohio), getting involved in #RichlandGives is the way to go! Thanks to the wonderful staff at the Richland County Foundation, they have coordinated the logistics with all the participating non-profits in our area that are taking part in Giving Tuesday.

To participate, visit https://richlandgives.razoo.com/us/story/Renaissance-Performing-Arts-Association on Tuesday, November 29th between the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Things to remember during Giving Tuesday:

  • You can give to multiple organizations at once
  • The process is safe and easy
  • Sometimes incentive gifts are provided to non-profits who participate so this is a great day to donate
  • You can become a hero for the day to your favorite charity(s)

If you have more questions about Giving Tuesday, I encourage you to contact your favorite local charity(s).

To the diverse group of heroes out there, whether they be individuals, communities, or organizations, thank you for joining forces on Tuesday, November 29, 2016 to celebrate and encourage giving. In a simple click on your computer or touch of your finger on your phone, you can make a lasting impact in the lives of so many.

White Christmas, 2015. Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

A Few of Our Favorite Things: Mansfield Holiday Gift Guide

by Colleen Cook, Director of Marketing (and mom of 2 little ones)

The holidays are upon us and if you’re like me, you’ve already been listening to your Christmas playlists on Spotify and have begun your holiday shopping. One of my goals this year is to simplify – less of everything. Less stuff, less busy-ness, less stress – just, less.

So, this year we’re starting a tradition in our house that will reel in the insanity when it comes to gifts for our kids. (I didn’t invent this, just came across it on the internet) the philosophy is that you buy just 7 good gifts per child, each representing a category:

  1. Something to wear
  2. Something to read
  3. Something you want
  4. Something you need
  5. Something to do
  6. Something for me (think: keepsake)
  7. Something for family

The Renaissance is so proud to be a part of an innovative, incredible community. So, we wanted to take an opportunity to highlight just a few of the area’s greatest finds for this holiday season.

Small Business Saturday is coming up on November 26th and Mansfield shows up in a big way! Many local businesses have terrific specials on that day, so be sure to include them in your holiday shopping.

(Quick note: the Renaissance is supported by and partnered with many local businesses as a part of how we support the programming for our non-profit. This post was not in any way influenced by those relationships, but some of those supporters may show up in this gift guide, and others are well-deserving, but might not fit this list this time.)

Here’s our shortlist for where you might want to do your holiday shopping this year:

Something to wear:

With winter putting a chill in the air, keep those toes warm with a great pair of boots from The Boot Life, with an incredible inventory of boutique options unmatched in our region. Visit their store at 36 West Fourth St. in Downtown Mansfield.

Something to read:

Main Street Books is your one-stop shop for a carefully curated selection of incredible books. Their “book lady,” Llalan Fowler is one of the most interesting and thoughtful people in Mansfield, so be sure to ask her for her recommendations when you stop in. They’re located right by the Carrousel in Downtown Mansfield at 104 North Main Street.

Something you want:

Visit the Mansfield Art Center for a unique and one-of-a-kind gift. Their classes for kids make an awesome grandparent gift, and their pieces for sale are memorable gifts perfect for anyone on your list this year. You can visit them at 700 Marion Avenue in Mansfield.

Something you need:

Did you know that Relax, It’s Just Coffee has some of the best coffee around? Their innovative and delicious (not to mention beautiful) drinks are a requirement for any groggy winter morning. A bag of their fresh-roasted coffee or a gift card makes a pretty awesome gift! Visit them at 105 North Main Street in the Carrousel District of Downtown Mansfield.

Something to do:

We’d be remiss if we didn’t put in a plug here for our Renaissance Gift Certificates! They never expire, and can be used on anything in our season – from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood to Diamond Rio, and more. We’ll be offering discounts for Small Business Saturday, as well as extended hours this holiday season. Visit our box office from 12-5, Tues- Fri. at 138 Park Ave W.

So that we’re not just self-promoting with this list, we’d also like to recommend Tog Loft’s great photography classes and photo sessions! Our staff took the Intro to DSLR class about a year ago, and we’re still using their great tips on a regular basis – this would make a great companion gift for someone getting a new camera this year. Their mini sessions are the perfect way to squeeze in a photo shoot when your family’s too busy to schedule a session. You can visit them 41 B East 4th Street in Downtown Mansfield.

Something for me:

One thing that separates a local, independent jeweler is the opportunity to find that perfect keepsake that is unique and special, just for the person you love. Our friends at Miller’s Diamond Jewelry have just the thing to make your season a little more sparkly, and incredibly special for the one you love – even if you don’t have a huge budget! Visit them at the Appleseed Shopping Center at 1442 Lexington Avenue in Mansfield.

Something for family:

If you haven’t visited the Little Ren exhibit at Little Buckeye Children’s Museum yet, you are in for a treat! We love this special place for families to experience and explore in Mansfield, and a family membership for a year only costs $100 – you actually can’t beat that! Visit the in the Carrousel District of Downtown Mansfield at 44 West Fourth St.

 

Happy Holidays!