Saturday, April 27, 2013

So Long Radio Manilow - Hello "Harmony" at Alliance Theatre

"Radio Manilow" on iHeartRadio had been my regular office roommate since the day it debuted.  The station was a way to enjoy music and commentary from someone who knows far more than I ever will.  When I had to work in the evenings, I could turn the kids over to my husband, close the door and get down to business without feeling blocked in to my teeny tiny office.  And still be available to have good-nite hugs at bedtimes.

You learn a lot about someone by what's on their iPod and what they have to say about it.  I heard songs in a way I never would have imagined or figured out.  ("Eleanor Rigby" from the Beatles was in high rotation.)  I had a few "What in the f*ck is he thinking" moments. (that weirdo "Abadaba" chimp song that made me want to walk to Los Angeles and beat the hell out of someone.)  Some got me interested in music or other creations I never heard of.   Biggest was the theme from "I Want to Live" (1958).  It landed on Barry's play list because Gerry Mulligan played sax on it.  So I recognized and took interest in the picture when it made the play list on my local PBS station.

When you think of movies from the 1950s, it's either musicals ("Singin' in the Rain") or really bad science fiction, usually centered around something radioactive ("Them").  I learned from this picture how intense psychological dramas could be at that time, and how direct the commentary about sociopolitical topics.  The end of the picture is a blatant and realistic depiction of execution by gas chamber (sorry for the spoiler).  That would raise eyebrows even today.  Thanks to that song and commentary, I got a view of mid-century media that I never would have found.

The station couldn't last forever, but it's still a bummer that it had to shut down.  I got a lot out of it though, and I'm grateful it was up for the time that it was.

In other news, "Harmony" is finally ....  FINALLY.....  making it to the stage.  If that's not enough, it's going to debut right in my own backyard at Alliance Theatre.  As I'm getting the kids back to school, I'll be scanning the papers and blogs for major updates on rehearsals and show times.  Maybe we'll even luck out with a special guest visit to Jazz at the High.  A girl can dream.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Manilow Music Project in Gwinnett Co, GA

Last week, the Arena at Gwinnett Center blasted an email to their email marketing list announcing the Manilow Music Project instrument drive coinciding with Barry's show later this month.

Manilow Music Project
benefiting Gwinnett County Public Schools

Barry Manilow has donated a new Yamaha piano to kick off a music instrument drive for Gwinnett County Public Schools.  Anyone who donates a new or gently used musical instrument to The Arena at Gwinnett Center will receive two (2) complimentary tickets.*

When: Now-April 27
Where: The Arena at Gwinnett Center Box Office
Times: 10:00AM-5:00PM (Monday-Friday)

*Tickets are valid for pre-selected seat locations. Not valid with any other offer. Subject to availability.
 Click here to purchase your tickets!

April 27

I believe that the cancelled show last year may have been several blessings in disguise.  
First, the three venues at Gwinnett Center are very hospitable to fundraisers and other charitable events.  (Case in point:  the Tripp Halstead fundraiser night hosted by minor-league hockey Gwinnett Gladiators.  This event raised money for a toddler who was hit in the head by a fallen tree branch during Sandy last year.)

Second, Gwinnett County is one of the few counties in metro ATL with a focus on student achievement and not adult politics.

School systems in Georgia are mostly based at the county level, rather than individual cities.  For most of the state, that works as most of Georgia is very rural.  In 1995, a clause was added to the state constitution that fixes the number of school districts (current city-based systems were grandfathered in) and none could be created.  Creating new school districts would be racist, you see.  (Do NOT get me started on that one.)

So with few exceptions, school districts are mired in adult politics with devastating consequences.  Clayton County, south of Atlanta, lost its accreditation a few years back.  That meant a cut off of some government funding and a loss of not only college scholarships, but college acceptances for many high school students.  DeKalb County is on its third superintendent in as many years, each of which was not qualified for the position.  The parade of stories about race baiting, nepotism, and spectacular financial waste reads like a low-budget horror flick.  A former DeKalb superintendent was indicted under RICO for contract manipulation.  The most recent disgrace is City of Atlanta Public Schools, recently indicted by the Grand Jury in the largest standardized test cheating scandal in American history.  That former superintendent is also under indictment for RICO charges and almost three dozen teachers and other admin staff are expected to be arrested today for systematically instructing children to cheat on annual standardized exams.  There were even "test changing parties" to "correct" tests in groups.  All for the financial benefit of the school admins.

There's more, but you get the picture.

If Barry had kept his previous gig (Chastain Park), that would have put him squarely in Atlanta Public Schools.  He would have had to make the choice between not having the drive at all, and holding a drive for a school system that was deliberately cheating their students.  When a school system is in the kind of distress described above (which, by the way, is NOT an exaggeration by any means.  I wish it was.  Google it.) no donation or material support of any kind will be of any benefit to the families they serve.  They have to get their house in order first, no matter how difficult or painful that process is.  No donation to Atlanta, DeKalb, Clayton, or other school systems in crisis is going to benefit the students because the adults are not in a place to put the gifts to use for the students.  Because the students are not their primary focus and education is not the primary goal.

Gwinnett County has, to date, avoided these quagmires.  With a diverse and continually evolving population in terms of race, socioeconomic status, religion, etc, Gwinnett educates more students than either Atlanta or DeKalb with less money and less conflict among the school leadership.  Not to say they don't have problems, there's always something to be chased down in one schoolhouse or another.  But unlike their neighbors, you don't have school board members threatening to hit a reporter in front of their crew with the cameras rolling, or having a meeting at someone's house to fill in students' annual tests for them.  That actually happens here.

Got my tickets for 4/27, dead-center of the arena so the sound should be *perfect* - not too close that you can't appreciate the stage show, not so far away that Barry is a dot on the stage.  Contact info for Arena at Gwinnett Center for instrument donations is above