This weekend at the Clinton Center – Fusion 2019: Arts+Humanities Arkansas looks at “The Mighty Mississippi: A Mosaic of America’s Growth”

Fusion: Arts + Humanities Arkansas The third edition of FUSION: Arts + Humanities Arkansas takes place on February 10 and 11 at the Clinton Presidential Center.

There is a Fusion public symposium, The Mighty Mississippi: A Mosaic of America’s Growth, on Sunday, February 10, at 5:30 p.m. The program will include a keynote address featuring nationally-recognized photographer, filmmaker, and folklorist Tom Rankin; a Delta Blues musical performance by Grammy Award-winning musician David Evans; and special performances by the Arkansas Symphony Youth Orchestra Jazz Ensemble and North Little Rock High School theater students.

While flowing more than 2,300 miles through ten states and defining eight state borders, the Mighty Mississippi River is an imperative physical aspect that continues to play an integral role in the shaping of our nation’s economics, politics, geography, and culture.

An accompanying exhibit will take you on a journey down the Mississippi River as you view dozens of artifacts and ephemera, including first editions of Mark Twain’s novels, The Prince and the Pauper and The Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court; original Norman Rockwell lithographs from Twain’s works; the Epiphone guitar and playing knife of Helena native and famed blues guitar player Cedell Davis; and more.

RSVP for the Fusion Public Symposium

Fusion: Arts + Humanities Arkansas
The Mighty Mississippi: A Mosaic of America’s Growth
Sunday, February 10, 2019
Doors Open: 5 p.m. | Program Begins: 5:30 p.m.

Reception and exhibit tours to follow the program
Clinton Presidential Center, Great Hall
Fusion 2019 is made possible because of the generous support of the Quapaw Tribe, Centennial Bank, and the Little Rock Port Authority.

Arkansas Symphony Youth Ensembles in concert tonight

Image result for music notes

Come see the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra Youth Ensembles perform in the annual Mid-Winter Youth Orchestra concert at 6 pm at the Maumelle Performing Arts Center.

The four groups performing will be:

  • Preparatory Orchestra, conducted by Casey Buck
  • Prelude Orchestra, co-conducted by Andrew Irvin and Kiril Laskarov
  • Academy Orchestra, conducted by Tom McDonald
  • Youth Orchestra, conducted by Geoffrey Robson

Ranging in age from 9-18 and traveling from over 37 communities throughout the state, the ASYO has grown to over 200 members.

These youth work hard throughout the year on the music, which is often over and above their efforts with school music programs and individual private lessons.  The conductors choose music that is challenging for them but also appropriate for the level of the ensemble.  They also have the opportunity to interact with the professional musicians of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra throughout the year.

$10 tickets can be purchased at the door or


Thank You Little Rock concert by Arkansas Symphony tonight

aso-thankyou_ticketOn November 1, 2016, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra distributed free tickets to tonight’s “Thank You, Little Rock” concert.  In 39 minutes, they were all given away.

But for those without tickets, there is still an opportunity to see this concert from the stage of Robinson Center Performance Hall.  A livestream will be available at the ASO website .

The program for tonight’s concert (under the direction of Maestro Philip Mann) consists of:

  • arr. Toscanini – Star Spangled Banner
  • DVORAK – Carnival Overture
  • BERG, Stephanie – Breathe **WORLD PREMIERE feat. ASO with Youth Strings**
  • MUSSORGSKY – Pictures at an Exhibition

The concert is sponsored by the Stella Boyle Smith Trust and the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau.


RobinsoNovember: Dr. William Grant Still

bhm StillLast night, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra’s Opus Ball was the first public event in the William Grant Still Ballroom of Robinson Center.  This afternoon at 3pm, the Arkansas Symphony Youth Orchestra is playing a Still composition in a performance with Ballet Arkansas at the Albert Pike Memorial Temple on Scott Street.

Dr. William Grant Still was a legend in his own lifetime.  Dr. Still, who wrote more than 150 compositions ranging from operas to arrangements of folk themes, is best known as a pioneer. He was the first African-American in the United States to have a symphonic composition performed by a major orchestra. He was the first to conduct a major symphony orchestra in the US; the first to conduct a major symphony in the south; first to conduct a white radio orchestra in New York City; first to have an opera produced by a major company. Dr. Still was also the first African-American to have an opera televised over a national network

Dr. Still was born May 11, 1895 in Woodville, Mississippi to parents who were teachers and musicians. When Dr. Still was only a few months old, his father died and his mother took him to Little Rock. Inspired by RCA Red Seal operatic recordings, his musical education began with violin lessons.

After his studies at Wilberforce University and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, he played in orchestras and orchestrated for various employers including the great W. C. Handy. For several years he arranged and conducted the “Deep River Hour” over CBS and WOR.

In the 1920’s, Still made his first appearances as a serious composer in New York. Several fellowships and commissions followed. In 1994, his “Festive Overture” captured the Jubilee prize of the Cincinnati Symphony orchestra. In 1953, he won a Freedoms Foundation Award for “To You, America!” which honored West Point’s Sesquicentennial Celebration. In 1961, he received honors for this orchestral work, “The Peaceful Land”. Dr. Still also received numerous honorary degrees from various colleges and universities, as well as various awards and a citation from Arkansas Governor Dale Bumpers in 1972.

In 1939, Dr. Still married journalist and concert pianist Verna Avery, who became his principal collaborator. They remained together until Dr. Still’s death in 1978.  In a proclamation marking the centennial of Dr. Still’s birth, President Bill Clinton praised the composer for creating “works of such beauty and passion that they pierced the artificial barriers of race, nationality and time.”

In 1995, Dr. Still was posthumously inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.

Tonight at 7, Arkansas Sounds salutes composers Florence Price and William Grant Still at Ron Robinson Theater

AR Sounds price_stillTwo of the leading American classical music composers in the first half of the 20th Century were from Arkansas and were African American.  Tonight (February 26) Arkansas Sounds pays tribute to Florence B. Price and William Grant Still in a program at 7pm at the Ron Robinson Theater.

Arkansas Sounds pays tribute to two of Arkansas’s most highly acclaimed African American classical composers with a screening of The Caged Bird: The Life and Music of Florence B. Price followed by performances of Price’s and Still’s compositions by members of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra (ASO) and the ASO Youth Orchestra. The film’s length is approximately 1 hour.

Little Rock native Florence Price (1887-1953) was the first African American female classical composer to have her composition played by a major American symphony orchestra. The Caged Bird: The Life and Music of Florence B. Price traces Price’s life, detailing her cultured childhood in an extraordinarily gifted family, her struggles and eventual departure from the South due to racial tension, and her great artistic impact and success. Her compositions were favored by famed soprano Marian Anderson, and in 1933, her “Symphony in E Minor” was performed at the Chicago World’s Fair by the Chicago Symphony.

Born in Woodville, Mississippi, and raised in Little Rock, William Grant Still (1895-1978) achieved national and international acclaim as a composer of symphonic and popular music and, as an African American, was hailed for breaking race barriers of his time. His Afro-American Symphony was the first symphony composed by an African American to be played by a major symphony orchestra and is still performed today. Still was a prolific composer whose work includes symphonies, ballets, operas, chamber music, and works for solo instruments, totaling nearly 200. He also received numerous honors and achievements such as the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1934, 1935, and 1938. He also received eight honorary degrees from institutions such as Oberlin College, the University of Arkansas, Pepperdine University, and the Peabody Conservatory of Music.

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra (ASO) comprises the state’s most sought-after professional musicians and is celebrating its 50th season. The ASO Youth Orchestra comprises over 200 student musicians, ages 9-18, who travel from over thirty-seven communities throughout Arkansas.

Music inspired by Shakespeare focus of program with youth divisions of ASO and Ballet Arkansas

ballet_and_ASOYEThe future of the arts is on display tonight in downtown Little Rock at the Albert Pike Memorial Temple at 7:30pm

The Arkansas Symphony Youth Orchestra and Ballet Arkansas Preparatory Program present their annual partnership and a celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.  The music comes from musical works adapted from Shakespeare’s plays.

The program includes music from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet Suite No. 2, Bernstein’s West Side Story and Mendelssohn’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” ASYO is the premier ensemble of the Arkansas Symphony Youth Ensembles Program.


For the 3rd consecutive year, the dancers from Ballet Arkansas’ Preparatory Program under the direction of Kim Nygren Cox join the members of the Arkansas Symphony Youth Orchestra under the direction of Geoffrey Robson for a joint performance.

Don’t miss this delighful collaboration! $20 General Admission, $10 for Students


Studio Show series of Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre launches with THE UGLY DUCKLING

aac ct ss UglyDuckling_posterThis year, the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre features three Studio Shows in addition to its mainstage shows.  Up first, The Ugly Duckling, Aug. 28-Sept. 6, 2015.

Devised and directed by Katie Campbell, The Ugly Duckling is a reimagining of the classic fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen. It follows a young girl as she embarks on a journey of self-discovery and personal transformation. This shadow play unfolds with three actor-puppeteers, two overhead projectors, nearly 100 paper puppets.

“The striking and graphic simplicity of the paper cutting along with the inherently cinematic quality of overhead projector puppetry lays the aesthetic foundation for the production,” Campbell said. “There is no dialogue as the narrative unfolds entirely in the visual language of puppetry and the emotional topography of music.”

Campbell, a North Carolina native, made her home in Little Rock eight years ago when she became a company member with the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre. The Ugly Duckling stemmed from a thesis project as she pursed an MFA in directing theatre for young audiences at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

“It happened out of necessity—I needed a story that could be told with very few actors and a minimalist set in order to share a tour van with another student,” Campbell said. “But I believe in the story so much. I love telling stories of personal transformation, so it was a natural fit for me to reimagine Andersen’s classic but to adapt it from my personal life lens.”

After touring in North Carolina, Campbell contacted the AACCT to gauge their interest in her show. “There’s never been a single idea that Brad [Bradley Anderson, AACCT artistic director] has said ‘no’ to,” Campbell said. “He and the Arts Center are just so supportive and encouraging of anyone with artistic ambition.”

Before the show could begin at the AAC Children’s Theatre, Campbell needed to find new music since the University of North Carolina at Greensboro owned the rights to the original scores. Enter the Jim Henson Foundation.

The Ugly Duckling was the recipient of a 2015 Jim Henson Foundation Family Grant which celebrates innovation and excellence in puppetry. The grant allowed Campbell to approach Jessica Drake Mosher to compose and arrange new, original music.

The two met through a mutual friend on Facebook, and after only a few months of comparing notes, the ensemble was complete. Mosher’s music will be performed live by a 15-piece ensemble from the Arkansas Symphony Youth Orchestra, directed by Geoffrey Robson.

“I have long been interested in collaborating with the Arkansas Arts Center and this is a wonderful opportunity for a first collaboration,” said Robson, associate conductor for the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.

“I was even more excited that Katie was commissioning new music to be written for this production,” Robson said. “It is always a thrill to be involved in a world premiere, and to give students the opportunity to work with a living composer. Performing a piece of music for the first time is a unique learning experience, and it is a thrill that all of this is happening as the Arts Center kicks off its Studio Series.”

“This is a true collaboration of arts organizations,” Campbell said. “I just consider myself a caretaker of this project because it would not have been possible without any of them.”

After the 36-minute show, the audience is invited to participate in a hands-on demonstration of the shadow puppetry process.

The Ugly Duckling is presented by The Philip R. Jonsson Foundation and sponsored by the Jim Henson Foundation. The 2015/2016 season of the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre is sponsored by: Presenting Sponsor, Arkansas BlueCross Blue Shield; Fall Season Sponsor, Centennial Bank; Spring Season Sponsors, The Fine Arts Club of Arkansas and Dr. Loren Bartole, ‘Family Foot Care’; Additional Support Provided by The Morris Foundation and Media Sponsor, Little Rock Family Magazine.

Show times: Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m.

Ticket prices: $10 General admission, $8 for Arkansas Arts Center members