Category Archives: Music

Services announced for Dr David O. Belcher

Western Carolina University has announced the services for Dr David O. Belcher.

The memorial will be Saturday, June 23, 2018, at 1:00pm EDT. It will be at the Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center on the WCU campus, where Dr. Belcher often performed.

A dessert reception will follow the service in the Bardo Arts Center Star Lobby.

It will be livestreamed on the WCU website here. (12 noon for those from the Missouri State University and University of Arkansas at Little Rock communities who might want to watch it.)

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Remembering Dr. David O. Belcher

As a undergraduate and later graduate student at then-Southwest Missouri State University, I first became aware of Dr. David O. Belcher.  I had several friends who were music majors, and they would speak glowingly of him.  Another friend, an accounting major, took piano lessons from him.

As the College of Arts and Letters had leadership vacancies, Dr. Belcher was tapped to fill them.  He was chosen because he was a visionary, a perfectionist, and a consensus builder.

My favorite memory of him during the time we were both in Springfield, however, is of him playing the piano portion of “Rhapsody in Blue” at the Grand Opening Gala of Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts.  Backed by the Springfield Symphony, he deftly handled this classic piece.  As a graduate assistant on the staff, I was able to listen to several rehearsals.  He always gave his all during every run-through.

A few years after I returned to Little Rock, I received a phone call from Jo Jones in the Chancellor’s office at UALR.  Dr. Joel Anderson was considering David to be his Provost.  Jo (a family friend) knew I had attended SMSU and wanted to know my thoughts about him.  I told her that due to the fact I was not involved directly in the music department, I had probably said fewer than 10 words to him, outside of “Hello” but then proceeded to tell her of his reputation, of what I had observed, and what I had heard from others.   A week or so later, she called to tell me that Dr. Anderson had just announced to the UALR faculty the hiring of Dr. Belcher.

I sent him an email to welcome him to Little Rock. Since he was a musician, and cultural affairs were part of my duties at the City of Little Rock, I was especially excited to have him come.  Some mutual friends asked me to also reach out to Susan. (I think they were not yet married but were engaged.) I was thrilled to do so.

Once they arrived, the Little Rock arts community embraced them, and they embraced it.  It was a definite mutual admiration society.  They became involved with the Symphony, the Rep, Wildwood, the Arts Center,  Accademia dell’Arte, and numerous music organizations.  They promoted the UALR arts to the community and supported on-campus efforts with their attendance and participation.  I was eventually able to convince David to serve on the City’s Arts+Culture Commission.  After service of  few months, he was asked to be the chair. Though busy with numerous major tasks at UALR, he agreed.

From time to time we would meet for lunch. Our conversations would veer between Springfield, Little Rock, and the arts in general.  They were always delightful.

In 2005, he was a finalist to become the next president at what would be Missouri State University.  At the time, I joked to Dr. Anderson that either way the selection went, I would benefit. He responded with a smile that he appreciated my response, but that he did not benefit if David left. He followed up by saying, “He is so good, I know I won’t be able to keep him here forever, but I want a few more years.”

While it was not meant for David and Susan to return to Springfield, he maintained many close ties. (He also poached several excellent faculty and administrators from Springfield to come to Little Rock.)

Alas for Little Rock, in 2011 he was hired by Western Carolina University to lead that campus.  Not only did it give him the chance to be a Chancellor, but it also took him closer to his family and his roots.

By all accounts, he was as dynamic and respected at WCU as he had been in Springfield and Little Rock.  Unfortunately, in 2016, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Through two years of treatments, surgery, improvements, and setbacks, he kept up as well as possible with his duties.

A page on the WCU website posted updates. He felt it was important for the faculty, students, and donors to know about his status.  A photo on that page shows hundreds of people standing in the rain at a rally to show support for him as he battled this.  On August 1, 2017, he announced the tumor had returned.  Later in the semester, he announced he would be going on medical leave effective December 31, 2017.

On June 14, 2018, the first update of the year was made. It noted he was in a care facility and receiving only family and close friends. It encouraged people to write notes and stressed that the Belchers wanted any tributes to be made for scholarships at WCU.

Following his death on June 17, 2018, his obituary also encouraged memorials be made to Furman (his alma mater), Missouri State University, and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.  Unselfish to the end, his last wishes paid tribute to the institutions which had prepared him to lead WCU.

Godspeed Dr. David O. Belcher.  The music will continue to play. But it will be a slightly different tune without your contributions.

Rocking the Tonys: The Boss in The Rock!

One guaranteed winner at the 2018 Tony Awards is Bruce Springsteen.   His show Springsteen on Broadway continues to sell out at the Walter Kerr Theatre.

His one man show is part concert, part conversation, and all hit.  After previews beginning in early October, it opened on October 27 for a run that was originally to be one month.  It has been extended multiple times, and is now set to conclude in December 2018 – a full 13 months later than the original plan.

He will perform on the Tony Awards and receive an Special Tony Award tonight in recognition of his artistic contributions (and the unspoken financial contributions) to this season.

On May 3, 1976, Springsteen appeared on stage at Robinson Auditorium.  He was on a national tour riding the wave of the success of his August 1975 album Born to Run.  His set list for the concert included:  “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” “Spirit in the Night,” “It’s My Life,” “Thunder Road,” “She’s the One,” “Born to Run,” “Pretty Flamingo,” “Growin’ Up,” “It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City,” “Backstreets,” “Jungleland,” and “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight).” The encore was “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” and “Detroit Medley.

The concert sold poorly. Springsteen vowed never to return to Little Rock again.  He did eventually come back, but it would be the year 2000.

Open Studios Little Rock today (6/2) from 10am to 4pm

The City of Little Rock Arts+Culture Commission is hosting the second annual Open Studios Little Rock on Saturday, June 2, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A map of participating artists is available here: 2018 OSLR Map FINAL.

Guests can gain access to over 20 artist studios and cultural institutions that will open their doors and give you a firsthand look at their creative process. The lineup of studios visits includes artists working in the visual and performing arts, plus cultural institutions that will open their respective studios for guided tours and demonstrations.

The public can participate in FREE, self-guided tours of art-related studios, live-in/work studios and homes, galleries, schools, and other creative spaces. (Please note, some of the participating cultural institutions may have admission fees for specific exhibits.)

Referred to as a city-wide exhibition, Open Studios gives you unparalleled access to artists living and working in Little Rock. Studio visits are free and open to the public.

Artists who are unable to welcome the public into their studios will showcase their work at the Alternative Space hosted at the Bobby L. Roberts Library of Arkansas History and Art at 401 President Clinton Ave.  A welcome station will also be set up there with maps of all the participating artists and information on them.

During Open Studios, the colorful “Open Studio” signs will alert you to Open Studio spaces.

Participating Artists:

  • Co-Op Art – 7509 Cantrell Rd (back side)
  • Creative Art Studio – 7509 Cantrell Rd (back side)
  • Jennifer Cox Coleman Fine Art – 2207 Hidden Valley Dr., Suite 203
  • Amanda Heinbockel – 1701 Louisiana St, Apt 2
  • The Little Rock Violin Shop – 316 E. 11th St.
  • McCafferty Academy of Irish Dance – 6805 W 12th Street, Suite D
  • Daniella Napolitano – 916 Scott St, Apt A
  • Jenn Perren Studio – 1701 Louisiana St, Apt 4
  • Catherine Rodgers Contemporary Art – 2207 Hidden Valley Dr., Suite 202
  • Liz Smith’s Ceramics Studio – 125 Dennison St.
  • South Main Creative – 1600 Main St
  • Michael Warrick – 19 Mohawk Circ.
  • Elizabeth Weber – 11901 Hilaro Springs Rd

 Alternative Space (401 President Clinton Avenue):

  • Jericho Way Art Class
  • MNHenry Artwork
  • Paintings by Glenda McCune
  • Sheri Simon
  • Michael Ward

 Participating Cultural Institutions:

  • Arkansas Arts Center
  • Esse Purse Museum
  • Historic Arkansas Museum
  • Mosaic Templars Cultural Center
  • Old State House Museum

The Little Rock Arts+Culture Commission cultivates connections between diverse audiences and the City’s creative community. More information (including maps and artist bios) available at https://lrartsculturecommission.com/open-studios-little-rock/.

Frampton Comes Alive Tonight in return to Little Rock

Tonight, Peter Frampton takes the stage in Little Rock as part of RiverFest.  It marks at least his fifth visit to the city.

In 1979, still riding the crest of the “Frampton Comes Alive” popularity, he played at Barton Coliseum on June 24.

He has appeared in Riverfront Park in May 1992, June 1998 (opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd), and at the 2013 edition of Riverfest.  Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of that appearance.

Over the years he has also played concert venues in Northwest Arkansas and Hot Springs.

Little Rock Look Back: Arkansas Arts Center concludes opening festivities with Beaux Arts Ball

Starting at 9:00 p.m. on May 18, 1963, the Beaux Arts Ball capped off the opening weekend festivities for the Arkansas Arts Center.

Chaired by Jeane Hamilton and Jean Gordon (both of whom are still going strong 55 years later!), the Beaux Arts Ball featured the music of Henry King and his Orchestra as well as a performance by jazz legend Dave Brubeck and his Quartet.  King played on the dance floor while Brubeck gave concerts in the theatre at 9:00 p.m., 10:15 p.m., and 11:30 p.m.

Special guests for this black tie event included  Oscar winner Joan Fontaine, cartoonist Charles Addams (creator of The Addams Family), and James Rorimer of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The event concluded at 1:00 a.m. as exhausted and exhilarated guests made their way home.

Little Rock Look Back: Media preview, Gordon MacRae concert prior to Arkansas Arts Center Opening

Photo of singer Gordon MacRae from the 1963 Arkansas Arts Center dedication booklet

On Friday, May 17, 1963, Little Rock’s media were treated to a preview of the new Arkansas Arts Center.  It was set to open to the public the next day.  The media were invited to attend between 6:30pm and 10:00pm.

One of the highlights was the chance to view the exhibit:  Five Centuries of European Painting.  The works were from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Arts.  The exhibition featured works by Titian, El Greco, van Dyck, Murillo, Gainsborough, Monet, Courbet, Renoir, Degas, Pissarro, and Gauguin.  Another artist featured was Paul Signac.  Today the Arts Center has one of the largest collections or works by Signac due to the generosity of collector James T. Dyke.

At 8pm that evening, there was a concert appearance by film and recording star Gordon MacRae.  This took place in the Arts Center’s theatre for Arts Center patrons. (Or at least the 389 who could get tickets to it.)  At 10pm, the press were treated to an encore performance by Mr. MacRae.

After it concluded around 11pm, it was time for the staff and volunteers to wind down for the evening and get ready for two major events on May 18, 1963.