Rock the Oscars 2019: John Houseman

Image result for john houseman paper chaseIn March 1968, future Oscar winner John Houseman visited the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock.

Mr. Houseman was here to audition actors for his new acting conservatory at Lincoln Center. Though media accounts did not identify it at the time, this became the new Drama Division of Julliard, which he led until 1976.

He had been aware of Dugald MacArthur’s acting program as part of the Arkansas Arts Center School of Art and Drama.  When he learned that it would be closing in May 1968, Mr. Houseman decided to come to Little Rock to audition actors to be part of his initial 20 member class.  Five actors from the Arkansas Arts Center were chosen to be part of that original class.

After sporadic acting appearances, he was cast in 1973’s The Paper Chase. It was for this performance, as a demanding contract law school professor, that Mr. Houseman won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.  The film was directed by University of Central Arkansas alum and Arkansas native, James Bridges. The two had known each other from Houseman’s UCLA theatre days. When several name actors declined the role, Mr. Houseman was approached and set up an audition.

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ODE TO JOY and Spoken Word winners presented by Arkansas Symphony Orchestra this weekend

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and Music Director and Conductor Philip Mann present the fourth concert of the 2018-2019 Stella Boyle Smith Masterworks season, Beethoven’s 9th: Ode to Joy on Saturday, February 23rd and Sunday, February 24th at the Robinson Center.

The concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, and 3:00 p.m. on Sunday. The program opens with a spoken word performance presented in partnership with the Central Arkansas Library System. After the spoken word segment, more than 300 singers from eight Arkansas collegiate and professional choirs will take the stage with ASO for Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, which also features vocal soloists soprano Maria Fasciano, mezzo soprano Christin-Marie Hill, tenor Vernon Di Carlo, and bass Adam Cioffari.

All concert ticket holders are also invited to Concert Conversations, a pre-concert talk one hour before each Masterworks concert in the Upper Tier Lobby of the Robinson Center. These talks feature insights from the Maestro and guest artists, and feature musical examples to enrich the concert experience.

Tickets are $16, $36, $57 and $68; active duty military and student tickets are $10 and can be purchased online at www.ArkansasSymphony.org; at the Robinson Center street-level box office beginning 90 minutes prior to a concert; or by phone at 501-666-1761, ext. 100. All Arkansas students grades K-12 are admitted to Sunday’s matinee free of charge with the purchase of an adult ticket using the Entergy Kids’ Ticket, downloadable at https://www.arkansassymphony.org/freekids.

Philip Mann, conductor

Spoken Word Performers
Osyrus Bolly
Brooke Elliott
Rosslyn Elliott
Red Hawk
Kristy Ikanih
Jamee McAdoo
Dariane LyJoi Mull
Marvin Schwartz

Beethoven Soloists 
Maria Fasciano, soprano
Christin-Marie Hill, mezzo soprano
Vernon Di Carlo, tenor
Adam Cioffari, bass

Arkansas Intercollegiate and Professional Chorus
Arkansas Chamber Singers, John Erwin, director
Arkansas State University, Cherie Collins, director
Harding University, Cliff Ganus, director
Lyon College, Michael Oriatti, director
Ouachita Baptist University, Gary Gerber, director
Southern Arkansas University Magnolia, David DeSeguirant, director
University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Jerron Liddell, director
University of Central Arkansas, John Erwin, director

Program
VARIOUS – Spoken Word Performances
BEETHOVEN – Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125

Rock the Grammys – Jimmy Driftwood

Image result for jimmy driftwoodThe 61st Grammy Awards are tonight.  Over the years, many Arkansans and those with Arkansas connections have been Grammy winners and nominees.

But the first Arkansan to win a Grammy took place at the second Grammy ceremony on November 29, 1959 – Jimmy Driftwood.

Born in Timbo as James Morris in 1907, he later studied what is now John Brown University before graduating with a teaching degree from what is now the University of Central Arkansas.

In his 20s, he alternated between teaching school and traveling the country as a drifter.  In 1936, he both got married and returned to Arkansas as well as wrote the song “The Battle of New Orleans” to help explain history to a class he was teaching.

By 1957, he had changed his name to Jimmy Driftwood, both publicly and legally.  That year, a Nashville, TN, song publisher learned of him and offered him his first record deal.  That first record did not sell particularly well.  But he did start getting notice.

Driftwood left Arkansas for Nashville and became popular by his appearances on programs including the Grand Ole Opry, Ozark Jubilee, and Louisiana Hayride. He was invited to sing for Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev as an example of traditional American music during the leader’s 1959 state visit to the United States. He became a member of the Opry in the 1950s.

In 1959, he had six songs on the popular and country music charts including Johnny Horton’s recording of “The Battle of New Orleans.” It was that recording that was named “Song of the Year” by the Grammys. That award goes to the songwriter, which meant Driftwood took home the trophy.  He later won three other Grammys.

By the 1960s, he alternated his time between touring and spending more time in Northwest and North Central Arkansas.  In April 1963, he held the first Arkansas Folk Festival in Mountain View.  He later helped established the Ozark Folk Center, which is now part of the Arkansas State Park system. He was also active in defeating the plan to dam the Buffalo River and in efforts to establish the Buffalo National River and the preservation of the Blanchard Springs Caverns.

Due to his knowledge of folk music, Driftwood served on the Advisory Committee of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and worked with the National Geographic Society.

His final years were spent in Fayetteville. He died there of a heart attack in 1998.

The Oxford American Jazz Series presents Sarah Elizabeth Charles & SCOPE tonight

Sarah Elizabeth Charles & SCOPE [Jazz Series]The Oxford American welcomes Sarah Elizabeth Charles & SCOPE to Little Rock! This is the second show in their 2018-19 Jazz Series. Doors open at 6:00 PM at South on Main, with dinner and drinks available for purchase at that time. The series is made possible in part by presenting sponsor UCA College of Fine Arts & Communication.

Additional season partners include Stella Boyle Smith Trust, Chris & Jo Harkins, J. Mark & Christy Davis, EVO Business Environments, Downtown Little Rock Partnership, Stacy Hamilton of Pulaski Heights Realty, Margaret Ferguson Pope, Arkansas Arts Council, Department of Arkansas Heritage, Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, Capital Hotel, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Rosen Music Company, and Steinway Piano Gallery of Little Rock.

Tickets are $35 (General Admission), $42 (Reserved), and $44 (Premium Reserved). Please take a look at this very important ticketing and seating information before purchasing your tickets (view reserved seating chart). Full season ticket pricing and options are also available in a consolidated format, here.


Sarah Elizabeth Charles is a rising vocalist/composer based in New York City. She has worked and studied with artists such as George Cables, Geri Allen, Nicholas Payton, Sheila Jordan, Jimmy Owens, and Carmen Lundy and released her debut record, Red in September of 2012 with her band SCOPE. As the active vocalist in a number of bands (including SCOPE, AJOYO, Manner Effect, Transient Beings, Enoch Smith Jr., and Benjamin Rando), Charles has performed at many venues throughout her career. These have included The White House, Carnegie Hall, the first annual Culture Summit in Abu Dhabi, The Kennedy Center, the Bern International Jazz Festival in Switzerland, the Port-au-Prince International Jazz Festival, the Sicca Jazz Festival in Tunisia, the Blue Note in New York City, Gillette Stadium as a National Anthem singer for the New England Patriots, the Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival, the Burlington Jazz Festival, the Apollo Music Café, Le Poisson Rouge, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, the Rose Theatre with Jazz at Lincoln Center, and many more.

In addition to her performances, Charles is also an active educator. She works as a teaching artist with Carnegie Hall’s Sing Sing Correctional Facility, Lullaby, and Future Music Project Youth workshops, has a private lessons studio in New York City, and is developing an early childhood music education program with Rise2Shine, a non-profit organization based in Fond Parisien, Haiti.

Charles’s musical output has been described as a “genre of one” (DownBeat Magazine), “soulfully articulate,” (New York Times) and “an unmatched sound” (Jay Z’s Life+Times). Her critically acclaimed sophomore project, Inner Dialogue, released in 2015 on Truth Revolution Records, features her band along with co-producer/special guest Christian Scott. Her third album, Free of Form, was released in the fall of 2017 on Ropeadope/Stretch Music, and featured SCOPE as well as Scott as co-producer and special guest. One can only look to the future for more unique and boundary-pushing music from this one-of-a-kind artist.

LR Culture Vulture turns 7

The Little Rock Culture Vulture debuted on Saturday, October 1, 2011, to kick off Arts & Humanities Month.

The first feature was on the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, which was kicking off its 2011-2012 season that evening.  The program consisted of Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 in A, Op. 90, Rossini’s, Overture to The Italian Girl in Algiers, Puccini’s Chrysanthemums and Respighi’s Pines of Rome.  In addition to the orchestra musicians, there was an organ on stage for this concert.

Since then, there have been 10,107 persons/places/things “tagged” in the blog.  This is the 3,773rd entry. (The symmetry to the number is purely coincidental–or is it?)  It has been viewed over 288,600 times, and over 400 readers have made comments.  It is apparently also a reference on Wikipedia.

The most popular pieces have been about Little Rock history and about people in Little Rock.

RIP David McCollum

I was not blessed with athletic ability.  Or coordination.  But I am very competitive.

My lack of skill did not stop me from dragging my parents to four years of soccer and a concurrent six years of basketball.

McCollum_David_400x400Because of my lack of talents on the field, and my interest in competition, I have found myself drawn to sports journalism and sports history.  Which, being in Central Arkansas, lead me to the writing of David McCollum.

Disclosure, for several years I attended church with him and his family.  My parents and sister still do.  But he was such an unassuming gentleman, my interest in his writing sprung not from familiarity with him. It came from what and how he wrote.

With a career of over 50 years, David entered the newspaper business as it was starting the transition from hot lead and pecking out a story on typewriters into the world of computers and electronic filing.  Likewise the field of sports journalism was transitioning from the era of colorful, hyperbolic language (which might not always be 100% accurate) into a time of bare facts crammed into increasingly shrinking column inches.

David did not try to be a colorful sportswriter. He was not trying to have the spotlight shown on him through his writing.  In his stories, David sought to serve the sports. But he brought to his writing a sense of history and style that hearkened back to bygone days without sacrificing the facts that he knew his readers wanted.  In serving his sports, he also served his readers.

While often the smartest guy in the room, especially when it came to Conway sports, David never acted like it.  In his prose, he shows his expertise without lording it over the reader.  He used his knowledge to let his readers be more informed. He was like that favorite teacher we all had at least once in high school or college. He wanted to bring us along on the journey.

For a sportswriter, working in Conway must have been a dream job.  Both UCA and Hendrix have active athletic programs.  And the Wampus Cats of Conway have long been dominant. In addition, during his career, David was able to see towns like Vilonia, Mayflower, and Greenbrier grow and develop into powerhouses in their own high school sports classifications.

Over the years, as I’ve been seeking to learn more about a sports topic, I’ve often gone back to his writing on a player, an event, a game.  Whether it was a story or an interview, his trademark understated and engaging prose was on display.  Earlier this year, I was needing background on a Little Rock Touchdown Club scholarship because we were honoring a recipient at Little Rock City Hall.

There it was.

In a column David wrote a few years ago, there were not just the facts, but the emotions. In writing about how some Texas Longhorns had created a scholarship in Little Rock to pay tribute to the memory of one of their own, David touched on the sentiment without being maudlin.  He did not pile on the irony of Longhorns who beat the Hogs in the 1969 shootout creating a scholarship here. He let the story speak for itself.  The kinship the two teams feel for each other now came through in David’s prose.

As David’s son Gavin said in making the announcement his father had died, “there were more stories for him to write.”  Yes, there were.  I feel sorry for future athletes in Faulkner County that they won’t get to be interviewed by him.  I feel sorry for the readers who won’t get his take on a future game.

David had seen enough games to know that the outcome does not always go your way.  As much as he would probably be uncomfortable with the outpouring of emotions that are now going on, I think he would understand we need to do this.  We need to express our sadness.  It helps us to move on to the next challenge.  And part of that challenge is a world without him.  I know he would be very pleased to see, just as a team rallies together, people are rallying together to support his wife and son.

So thank you, David McCollum. For your life and your commitment to excellence.  Though it has fallen out of usage these days, I’m old school enough to pay tribute to your life and career with an old journalism and PR tool to indicate the end.

David McCollum -30-

Central to Creativity – Rex DeLoney

Rex DeLoney’s colorful, vibrant artwork conveys the messages of hope, faith, and the everyday joys and struggles of life. His work is reflective of his life, past and present, a life that has been enriched with the love and desire to create art that tells a story and evokes memories for anyone that views his work.

After graduating from Northeast High School in 1983, DeLoney attended the University of Central Arkansas, where he received a B.A. degree in Commercial Art in 1988. It was during his time at UCA, that Deloney set forth a plan to enter into the sports illustration field as a free-lance illustrator.

In 1989 DeLoney moved to the Pacific Northwest and Yakima, Washington, to pursue a career as a free-lance sports illustrator. The move yielded many opportunities for the young artist to display his skills in various venues. As DeLoney evolved as an artist, he began to do more genre work centered on the African American way of life. DeLoney progressed from creating exciting sports imagery and portraiture to the current genre works created from spiritual themes and meaningful, thought-provoking expressions of humanity as it relates the African American’s experience.

Today, Rex DeLoney is an art instructor and Chairman of the Fine Arts Department at Little Rock Central High School, guiding a new generation of creative minds as they seek to tell their own stories through imagery.