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The Canadian Festival of New Musicals Unveils Three New Works

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This Saturday, thanks to the theatre gods of Toronto, I was gifted with the chance to experience the next wave of new Canadian musicals. Getting underway earlier this week, the inaugural season of The Canadian Festival of New Musicals, running from May 23rd – 26th at the Berkeley St Theatre, unveiled a few new musicals. Presented by The Musical Stage Company in association with Canadian Stage, the three new shows were given the grand opportunity to present snippets of their work-in-progress; new musicals that are being experimented with, played with, and developed for our theatrical enjoyment. And what a joy it was to be in the room with all these enthusiastic souls.

New Voices. New Stories. New Musicals.” is the Festival’s motto, as I made my way downtown to join the celebration of creativity, innovation, and collaboration, giving the audience a glimpse of three of the Musical Stage Company’s musicals in development.

Featuring excerpts from IN REAL LIFE, AFTER THE RAIN, and COWBOY TEMPEST CABARET, the Canadian Festival of New Musicals was an electrifying showcase that gave audiences a first look and listen at the new stories being created by some of our country’s most promising lyricists, composers, and writers, and delivered by some amazing performers, such as Brandon Antonio (Broadway’s & Juliet), Raquel Duffy (Coal Mine’s Apppropriate), Eva Foote (Stratford’s Hamlet-911), Brendan Wall (MSC’s Natasha, Pierre…), and the phenomenal Elm Reyes (Factory’s Trojan Girls…). The festival also provided opportunities for music theatre creators to meet new collaborators, learn more from experts in the field, and engage in the conversation around the development of new musical theatre in Canada.

These musicals are all being developed for full-length productions, with AFTER THE RAIN already programmed into the upcoming Tarragon season, a production that I am super excited to have the chance to experience again.

THE CANADIAN FESTIVAL OF NEW MUSICALS

Details and schedule:

AFTER THE RAIN (Double bill with COWBOY TEMPEST CABARET)

May 23RD 8:00pm and May 25th 3:30pm

Co-Commissioned and Co-Developed by The Musical Stage Company and Tarragon Theatre

Book by Rose Napoli

Music & Lyrics by Suzy Wilde

Featuring Eva Foote, Raquel Duffy, Brendan Wall, and Shaemus Swets

Her parents are famous. Her boyfriend is stupid. And Suzie is a mess.

When she accepts a mature piano student obsessed with mastering only one song, Erik Satie’s “Gymnopedie No. 1”, struggling songwriter Suzie’s life takes an unforeseen turn. Full of family turmoil, life’s complexities, and centered around a devastating discovery, AFTER THE RAIN is a musical based on a true story about the healing power of music.

COWBOY TEMPEST CABARET (Double bill w AFTER THE RAIN)

May 23rd 8:00pm and May 25th 3:30pm

Commissioned and Developed by The Musical Stage Company

Book by Niall McNeil, Lucy McNulty & Anton Lipovetsky,

Music by Anton Lipovetsky

Lyrics by Niall McNeil

Featuring Brandon Antonio, Raquel Duffy, Eva Foote, Dylan Harman, Yousef Kadoura, Elm Reyes, Shaemus Swets, and Brendan Wall

Guns and magic. Love and hurt. When gunslinger Prospero conjures a storm in the desert, he begins a chain of events that forces every cowboy and spirit into a fight for freedom. Created by an artist with Down Syndrome and his longtime collaborators, Cowboy Tempest Cabaret is a totally lawless adaptation of Shakespeare’s Tempest musicalized in the styles of rock, folk and country & western music.

IN REAL LIFE

May 24th and 25th at 8:00pm, May 26th at 2:00pm

Commissioned by The Musical Stage Company and Co-Developed by The Musical Stage Company and fu-GEN Theatre Company

Book & Lyrics by Nick Green

Music & Lyrics by Kevin Wong

Featuring Alicia Ault, Janelle Cooper, Colleen Furlan, Hailey Gillis, Matthew Joseph, William Lincoln, Jacob McInnis, and Daniel Williston

Set in a dystopian future, technological prodigy Max is an ideal student with a bright future, until, with a single swipe, he sets out on a journey to forbidden corners of the Internet, underground societies, and forgotten parts of himself. A story filled with twists and turns, In Real Life examines the complexities of power, technology, and freedom in the digital era.

For more information, click here.

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

Cabaret

Jumaane Smith Plays To Sold Out Crowd at Birdland

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This past week Jumaane Smith and his quartet performed for a full house at Birdland in New York City. Jumaane is one of the greatest trumpeter performing today. Like Louis Armstrong he is strong on both trumpet and vocals, playful on stage.

Jumaane has collaborated with Quincy Jones, Aretha Franklin, and Stevie Wonder, andperformed with Michael Buble for 17 years. and Harry Connick Jr. Smith is stepping onto center stage with the release of his new album “Come On Home” on August 16. This deeply emotional and predominantly original work traverses the rich landscapes of jazz, blues, and contemporary soul, echoing the timeless influence of classic albums from these genres. Known for his exceptional talent and versatility, the LP and his performance encapsulates themes of love, loss, overcoming challenges, redemption, and joy.
A highlight if the night was”I Know,” about finding your soulmate—the one person who stands by you against the world, the person you long to see at the end of the day.
Smith was backed by outstanding musicians Chris Lewis – Saxophone, Al Street – Guitar, Carmen Intorre Jr – drums, Will Gorman – organ.
It’s always a treat to be in the audience enjoying an evening with Jamaane Smith and his incredible music
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Entertainment

Summertime—don’t let the livin’ get too easy! Part I

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So tempting, isn’t it, to while away the summer in a cozy hammock or beach chair.  But then by Labor Day you have nothing to show for all that valuable time.  Here are a few suggestions that you might find enticing:

Be a Pioneer!

Or at least take a ride on one!  The 1885 Schooner Pioneer leaves from the South Street Seaport and a sunset ride around lower Manhattan is not to be missed.  https://southstreetseaportmuseum.org

Or Be a Reader!

There are many lists of what you should/could be reading, but I’d rather recommend authors you’ll be grateful to get to know.

NYC-based Amor Towles has a new book out Table for Two, a collection of short stories, the final of which is a prequel to his first novel.  Each of his four books is a complete joy, leaving one with a most satisfying experience.  If you plan to travel, his middle books are perfect companions.

A NYC transplant from Virginia, the brilliant Tom Wolfe wrote many long, and worthwhile, novels. But for a rather jaundiced peek inside the NYC art world, try his uncharacteristically short yet powerfully revealed The Painted Word. You’ll never see museums in the same light again.

Transsexuality is a topic that can be difficult to understand. Jan Morris, who wrote many books as James Morris, tells a tale of transition in Conundrum, a brief book detailing his motivation in a way that was intelligent and easy to understand.

If you’ve ever wondered about what it takes to produce a musical, composer Douglas J. Cohen reveals all the travails and joys of the experience in How To Survive a Killer Musical, about what it took to produce his musicalization of No Way to Treat a Lady.  It’s a must-read for anyone seriously interested in theatre.

Fill a Day with Fun and Games and Music

Many remember when it was known as “Needle Park”, but Bryant Park is now approaching amusement park status. A quick check of their website reveals a cornucopia of events to please every palate. Movie nights, concerts, theater and games galore are offered—all for free! A recent visit provided a relaxing respite of ragtime in the middle of an afternoon provided by Terry Waldo and his band.

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Celebrity

The Glorious Corner

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G.H. Harding

CAMPBELL’S KITCHEN — (Via Ultimate Classic Rock) Mike Campbell  has been making records since the ’70s, most famously as a member of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

“I’m grateful that I was part of that whole experience,” Campbell recently told UCR, speaking to his Heartbreaker days. It’s been a full decade since the band released their last album, 2014’s Hypnotic Eye, and six and a half years since Petty’s passing, which effectively ended the Heartbreakers.

Campbell describes himself as “still grieving,” but tries not to spend too much time dwelling. “If I think about it too hard, I’ll just get sad,” he says. In the past four years, he’s kept himself busy with new work, recording and performing with his band the Dirty Knobs. As Campbell sees it, their third album, Vagabound, Virgins & Misfits (out June 14 via BMG), marks “huge growth” for him both lyrically and vocally. After years of operating as Petty’s right-hand man and usually taking the backseat when it came to singing — Campbell sang lead on exactly one Heartbreakers song, “I Don’t Wanna Fight” from 1999’s Echo — it’s taken three albums worth of work to reach a place where he feels self-assured of his ability to front a band. “A lot of it is confidence,” he says.

UCR caught up with Campbell and talked about Vagabonds, Virgins & Misfits, including its various guest stars.

This is your third album with the Dirty Knobs, but obviously you’ve been in this business a long time. How would you say your approach to songwriting has changed from your early days to this new album?

Well, my approach to songwriting is the same as it’s ever been. Except when I was partnered with Tom, I mostly just did music. I would make music tracks and give them to him and if he liked it, he would write the words. Now that he’s gone, I have my own band, I’m exploring the lyrics and the characters, as well as the music. So that’s a new frontier, but I’m really taking to it and I’m just trying to get good at it, you know? I see a huge growth in three albums. This new album, I think, has some really good lyrics, and the band, as always. And just, you know, the music is just — it’s always there. I write all the time, you know, and that hasn’t waned at all.

I would like to mention though, just to carry on what you said before about the female’s perspective. (This writer spoke with Campbell previously about another upcoming album, Petty Country: A Country Music Celebration of Tom Petty.) One thing on this album that I love, which was an afterthought, was Lucinda Williams’ addition of her words in the song “Hell or High Water.” [I] cut it as a Dirty Knobs song, and then listening back, it occurred to me and George Drakoulias, the producer: Wouldn’t it be great if this female character in the song actually came in and sang on the song? When I thought of Lucinda, I thought, God, if she would do it, that would be perfect. And she came through with flying colors, she put so much heart and soul into that verse. So, there’s an example [of a] song from a woman’s perspective adding much more depth to the song.

Totally. It would have been an entirely different track without that. It’s great that you have these contacts at your disposal that you can call up.

The guests on the record were not me going out and cherry-picking people. They’re just people who seemed to show up. Like Graham Nash, who did an incredible job. He was doing an interview with me and I got up the courage to ask him if he would maybe sing on one song (“Dare to Dream”), which he did. Chris Stapleton, I think was in town that weekend getting a Grammy or something and he came by the house. Here, would you sing on this song? And [Benmont Tench came over] and put piano on it, you know. So, the guests were kind of afterthoughts, but in each case, they made the song way better.

Did Graham record his parts remotely or did he also come by your studio? I know he lives in New York and you’re in L.A.

No, I had already cut the song. It was finished. And I did the interview with him, and you know, I’m a huge Hollies fan, the ’60s, all those bands. So just being able to have a conversation with him was wonderful. And I was really kind of sheepish like, I didn’t think he would say yes. … I said “Would you be interested maybe in trying to sing on something?” And he goes, “Sure, I’ll make your song better.” [Laughs] So I had the track. He went back to New York. I sent him the track, as a lot of people do now, he did his vocals and mailed it back to me and I lost my mind. It was so good.

There were several tracks on this album that when I heard them, I thought “Wow, Mike’s voice sounds great.” You’ve really grown into your role as lead singer, from the first Dirty Knobs album (2020’s Wreckless Abandon) to this one. How do you feel about your singing now?

Wow, can I send you some flowers? [Laughs] I thank you for saying that. I’m getting used to it, you know? And I have a little Florida slang that comes through now and then. But I don’t sound like Tom. When I first started singing…I actually did sound a lot like him because we talk a lot the same and stuff. But I think I’ve worked hard to kind of filter that out through the three albums, and there will always be little bit of that Southern thing in there. I think I found a voice that I’m comfortable with. I’m not a Roy Orbison, [but] I have the personality of certain characters that I put across. And a lot of it is confidence, Allison. If you get confident and work on the voice a little bit and believe that you pulled it off, you know, that’s a lot of the game right there. So, my confidence has grown as I keep working on it. But thank you for that compliment, that was wonderful.

And that goes for live shows, too. I would imagine that you also feel some confidence when you’re up in front of a crowd that’s encouraging you.

Oh, yeah. You know, it’s interesting, because I play with the Dirty Knobs, it’s our songs, it’s our trip, but I’m still a member of this legacy. And I sometimes will do a few Heartbreakers songs just out of respect for Tom because the crowd likes them and I like singing some of them. But the crowd, yeah. When they’re there for you and supporting you…I get the sense that a lot of the people in the audience that know me and my years are pulling for me. … I’m trying to find my own way and they’re supporting me and they’re helping me get there

Speaking of singing, your wife, Marcie, sings some backing vocals on the song “Hands Are Tied.” Is that the first time she’s done that on one of your albums?

That’s a funny story. Because, you know, she usually sings around the house. She’s not a singer per se, but all through my life — you know, I’ll be doing a demo and I’ll say “Why don’t you come in and put a little part on this?” “No, no, no, I don’t sing.” On this album…she goes, “You know what? I think I’d like to sing on this one.” And I said “Really?” I was in shock. I said “Okay, well, we got this song. All you got to do is go ahhhhh.” [Laughs] And her sound and her feel on it really helped the song a lot.

You have a note in your credits thanking Stevie Nicks for the “cool dulcimer.” And you’re actually holding the instrument on the cover of the album. Can you tell me about that?

Yeah, I hope she sees the cover, ’cause I think she will appreciate it. There’s a story with that. When I was doing the Mac project, we were at rehearsal one day, and Mick Fleetwood came in with one of those customized dulcimers, just beautiful. And I was talking to him about it and saying “Oh, this is really a nice instrument.” I guess she overheard the conversation and a week later, I walk in and she says “Here, this is for you.” She went and bought one just like it for me. I was blown away. In fact, I even wrote the song — “Innocent Man” was written on that dulcimer, on the album. But the funny thing is, I took it home and played it — it’s in my studio — and then a couple of weeks later, she came up, she said, “You probably never even play it, do you?” [Laughs] I said “I play it all the time!” You know, that’s so Stevie. So, I hope that she sees the cover and knows that I covered it and used it.

You’ve had a number of full circle moments, so to speak, in the last few years. I’m thinking of your time touring with Fleetwood Mac and reconnecting with Stevie Nicks, or playing with Bob Dylane at Farm Aid last year. You also shot the “Dare to Dream” music video with the Dirty Knobs at the Church Studio in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which was where the Heartbreakers signed their very first record deal. Is there anything else along those lines you’d like to do? Anything you want to revisit?

Well, I enjoyed the Tulsa thing quite a bit. That was not my idea, but the idea came up [from] management. And I thought it was very touching to go back where Tom and I had passed through on the way to get a record deal and to revisit that energy and those ghosts in the studio there. I enjoyed that a lot. But to be honest with you, I’d rather like, think forward and not think backward because sometimes nostalgia can be sad, you know? I’m real proud of that video, though. But I think I want to move forward and think forward.

Speaking of blasts from the past: The Wallflowers are going to be playing a show in L.A. later this year and the plan is for them to perform the entirety of their album Bringing Down the Horse, which you played on, and also the entirety of the Heartbreakers’ Long After Dark. What do you think about that?

You know, it’s wonderful that people are pulling out this music and revisiting it, you know, and I love Dylan — Jakob Dylan. I played on their first single, “Sixth Avenue [Heartache],” which was really fun and I’ve always been proud of his career. And I think he’s taken on a lot to do all those songs in one set, but more power to him. I’m sure he’ll do a great job.

What are you most looking forward to about touring with this new Knobs music?

I’m thrilled beyond to go out on the road with my band and play the new album. I’m real proud of it and the songs sound great in rehearsal. And the show will be a lot of the new album, and I’ll be throwing in a couple of surprise Heartbreaker songs that I think people will like here and there.

Howie Mandel

SHORT TAKES — Why does Howie Mandel seem to be channeling Boy George’s fashion-look on the new America’s Got Talent season. A cry for help for sure …

I got a memo about a co-op for sale located at 12 West 21st Street in NYC. It took me a minute to recall that that was the address for the long gone and much missed Private Eyes club; where Scott Blackwell was DJ. Great memories for sure: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Private_Eyes_(nightclub)

The Eagles will do a residency at the Sphere in Las Vegas: https://www.forbes.com/sites/hughmcintyre/2024/06/13/the-eagles-announce-new-residency-at-las-vegas-sphere/

Seth Meyers

Is NBC really cutting the 8G band (led by Fred Armisen) for the Late Night with Seth Meyers? Read Roger Friedman’s exclusive take on this development: https://www.showbiz411.com/2024/06/12/nbc-cheaps-out-cuts-seth-meyers-live-band-from-show-beginning-in-september ..

PR-pasha David Salidor called to tell  us about a new book project. Steven J. Immerman’s In Search of Pleasure Island.  Here’s the logline: “In Search of Pleasure Island” delves into the bowels of ‘international sex trafficking’ as Dr. MATHEW NOBLE (a professor of criminology and retired special warfare operator) journeys across the globe in the search for his daughter and the men responsible for her abduction and his wife’s murder – stay tuned for more on this … Happy Bday Roger Friedman …

Mark James

RIP Tony LoBianco and Mark James, who wrote “Suspicious Minds” and “Hooked On A Feeling.”

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Tony Seidel; Mark Bego; Robert Shalom; Anni Bella; Terry Guerin; Terry Jastrow; Deb Caponetta; Melissa Davis; Dan Zelinski; Adam White; Glenn Friscia; Glenn Friscia; Vito Bruno; Lush Ice; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Mitch Dolan; Race Taylor; Kent & Laura Denmark; Kevin Costner; Tony King; Elton John; Freddie Mercury; Donald Fagen; Warner LeRoy; and CHIP!

Images on this page have been licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

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Broadway

James Monroe Iglehart At The Drama Desk and A Rap For A Wonderful World: The Louis Armstrong Musical

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T2C was at the Drama Desk Awards and talked to our friend James Monroe Iglehart. Years ago I learned that James could make up raps instantaneously, so I had him do one at the Hamilton opening night for Lin Manuel Miranda. Since James is opening up in October in A Wonderful World: The Louis Armstrong Musical, I ask him to do a rap to plug his show. This is the result.

James’s new musical is about the life and loves of Louis Armstrong and Tony Award® winner James Monroe Iglehart is the legendary American icon. A Wonderful World charts Armstrong’s incredible journey from the birth of jazz in his native New Orleans through his international stardom. It features beloved songs recorded and made popular by Armstrong, including favorites like “What a Wonderful World” and “When You’re Smiling,” among many other standard favorites.

The show is conceived by Tony Award® nominee and Drama Desk Award winner Christopher Renshaw (Broadway’s The King and I, Taboo), and novelist Andrew Delaplaine. Book by Aurin Squire (“This is Us,” “The Good Fight”). Directed by Renshaw, with choreography by Rickey Tripp (Associate Choreographer for Broadway’s Hell’s Kitchen, Once on This Island, and Choir Boy). Featuring classic songs from Armstrong’s catalogue.

We look forward to seeing James and this new musical.

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Events

Lin Manuel and The Miranda Family Honored by The Jazz Power Initiative

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Lin-Manuel greeting Jazz Power Initiative’s Eli Yamin, Co-Founder, Managing and Creative Director at 20th anniversary celebration where The Miranda Family were honored. Photo by Tatsiana Kulesh

On a rainy New York evening it was all sunshine, joy and music at 1 Vanderbilt Avenue, where the 20th floor, location of TD Bank’s Conference Center, had been transformed for the 20th anniversary celebration of Jazz Power Initiative, an organization founded by two friends: writer/educator Clifford Carlson, and jazz musician/educator Dr. Eli Yamin.  Over the last two decades, under the leadership of Dr. Yamin who is now managing and artistic director, the organization has become an influential part of the NYC arts education community.


Through the power of Jazz and the Afro-Latin rhythms that have contributed to the growth of this truly American music genre, and the inclusion of original jazz musicals, written by Clifford Carlson and Eli Yamin for the children, the organization has transformed the lives of young people from Upper Manhattan, Washington Heights, and the Bronx.  Engaging young people in music, theatre, and dance programs, that are taught by award-winning professional artists, helping them find their creative voice, fostering positive self-expression, and building community – is what JPI does so well.

Lin-Manuel greeting Jazz Power Initiative’s Eli Yamin, Co-Founder, Managing and Creative Director at 20th anniversary celebration where The Miranda Family were honored. Photo by Tatsiana Kulesh

This year the organization was delighted to honor three unwavering supporters who have helped them achieve incredible success and growth, and who have been there continuously.  The staunch support of people and organizations over the past 20 years – including the leadership of those being honored – has helped Jazz Power Initiative to achieve its mission in Northern Manhattan.  They have been able to serve thousands of New Yorkers and visitors annually – including students, teachers, artists, families, and general audiences ages 6-80, to build more creative and inclusive communities through jazz music, arts education, and performance.

The Honorees

Tanya LeMelle, an executive with TD Bank, and a Jazz Power Initiative board member talked about the corporate giant’s investment in the communities they serve.  “TD Bank is a long-standing supporter of the Jazz Power Initiative and our community focused efforts, which closely align with the bank’s own work to support and create dialogues in arts and culture that reflect diverse voices.”

The organization was the recipient of the Corporate Social Responsibility award presented to TD Bank and accepted by Ralph Bumbaca, TD Bank’s Market President-Commercial for the New York City Market, who echoed the sentiments expressed by his colleague.

The extraordinary, award-winning founder of The Afro Latin Jazz Alliance, leader of the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, an educator, composer – Arturo O’Farrill took the podium to introduce his friends, The Mirandas.  His remarks began with the words, “Jazz is sacred music!” And it proved to be just that when the young Zah! group took the stage that night. He went on to list the contributions made over the past 40-years, by The Mirandas, as champions of community activism, and their support of institutions like Jazz Power Initiative that have “uplifted underserved populations in upper Manhattan, including those across New York City, across the country and in Puerto Rico.  And their continued commitment and advocacy for education in the arts and social justice.”

Dr. Luz Towns-Miranda, the matriarch of the family, flanked by members of her family, Lucecita Miranda-Crespo, Lin-Manuel and Miguel Towns were all on hand to receive the inaugural Philanthropy Award.  “Music is very important to our family,” she began. “When Luis and I met, one of our many connections was around our shared love of music.”  She spoke about the importance of music and the arts in teaching and imbuing young people with empathy.

The youngest member of the family, Miguel Towns spoke about the power of music and quoted Stevie Wonder, “Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand.”  He went on to explain what music represents, “…it is the only art which is experienced through sound and lets us experience or convey emotions with one another, in a way unique to the human experience.”

Miguel was followed by Lin-Manuel who was exuberant about being on-hand to receive the inaugural Philanthropy Award, on behalf of his family.  “Thank you all for being here, and thank you for this tremendous honor,” he said, before reminding his friend Arturo, that one of the great moments of his life as a composer, was having Arturo do an arrangement of Piragua, from In The Heights.   He went on to reflect on “how much Eli and Jazz Power” have been a part of his life and childhood community. “I come not just as a musician, but as a product of the privilege of a wonderful public-school arts education, which underscores the importance of what Jazz Power does.”

The message that resonated most during the night, as Lin-Manuel emphasized was the importance of Jazz Power’s contributions – “it brings music to young people at the most important time in their lives; when they are connecting music to their own emotions and how they are feeling.”

Filmmaker, Phil Bertelsen, who received two extraordinary introductions, due to traffic.  Rachel Dretzin, who has worked with Bertelsen on Who Killed Malcom X (Netflix series) and author/educator, Donald Bogel who was supposed to introduce him, but arrived late due to New York traffic congestion, recalled how impressive he was as a student of his at NYU, and how later he hired him to help research a book on Dorothy Dandridge that he was in the midst of writing.

Phil received the Changemaker Award from the organization he has had the pleasure of working with for some time now.  For him, the moment was humbling, “Change is not something that comes easy and it’s not something we do alone.” He acknowledged many of the people who have had a hand in helping him along the way as he made his “avocation, his vocation.” Phil has won numerous awards, among them a Peabody and an Emmy for his work which he considers a way of paying it forward by telling interesting and important stories that make a difference.

What began as an idea in 1998, thanks to a grant from Meet the Composer/New Music for Schools, in tandem with funding from the Louis Armstrong Education Foundation awarded to acclaimed jazz musician and educator Eli Yamin, led to the first iteration of the organization.  In 2003 it incorporated as The Jazz Drama Program, and later underwent another evolutionary transition to become a nonprofit organization in 2004.  Then it rebranded in 2017 as Jazz Power Initiative the organization that has become a permanent fixture in schools and in the communities it services.

In its 20-year existence, under the leadership of a brilliant staff headed by Dr. Eli Yamin – the organization has touched the lives of over 6,000 young people; engaged the knowledge and experience of some 1,000 educators; and cultivated an inclusive audience, of over 100,000, reached through live performance attendance and virtual participation.

Eli summed up the evening and his joy at being at the helm of this important organization as follows – “As a child of the 1960s, born in 1968, I find myself often wondering about that time and how it shaped me through my parents, my mentors, and my friends.  I watched a documentary about Bobby Kennedy and when asked what drove him to do the work he was doing, he said:  ‘What I think is satisfying…what makes it worthwhile is that you feel that you can have an effect and perhaps do some good for other people…that there is the possibility that if you make the right kind of an effort that their lives are going to change and that therefore their whole existence is going to change and therefore, their children’s lives are going to change…’”. Jazz Power Initiative has been changing lives and adding a sense of joy through their various programs:

-Jazz Power Youth – provides vocal, dance and theatre training in culturally diverse environments, to build courage, curiosity, and compassion.
-Jazz Power Community – provides education in jazz music, dance, and theatre to inspire and empower.
-Jazz Power Musicals – through the creation and commission of original jazz musicals that address socially relevant issues, JPI hopes to inspire and unite audiences.
-The Power Pro – offering professional, experiential training to educators and business leaders.
The evening wrapped with a call to action to make the next 20 years of Jazz Power Initiative even better.  Felix Hernandez, WBGO Radio personality and host of Rhythm Revue on Saturdays and Sundays, turned the night into a dynamic party to remember.

If you wish to get more information about the organization, or if you would like to donate to Jazz Power Initiative, please go to www.jazzpower.org.

Jazz Power Initiative (JPI, a dba of The Jazz Drama Program), a non-profit, 501 (c) (3) organization founded in 2003, serves thousands of New Yorkers and visitors annually – students, teachers, artists, seniors, and general audiences, ages 8-80+, to promote music education, and build more creative and inclusive communities through jazz music, theater, dance education, and performance.   

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