As we begin the merry month of May with spring in the air, I’m looking forward to an exciting summer of artistic delights in Southeast Alaska. This is the 25th Anniversary of Juneau Jazz & Classics, a world-class assemblage of some of the most exciting musical talent of our times right here in Alaska’s capital city.
Jazz & Classics 2011 kicks off this Wednesday the 4th of May with the brilliant and charming Linda Rosenthal taking her audience on a tour of three famous string quartets by Ludwig van Beethoven at the Canvas, and runs through the 21st of the month with Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers putting on the finale at the Treadwell Ice Arena. Believe me, there’s an amazing amount of first-rate entertainment sandwiched in between.
Some of the alluring concerts in this year’s line-up include the Jaspar String Quartet at the Shrine of St. Therese on Saturday the 14th of June and the blues cruises out of Auke Bay later that evening with Rick Estrin & the Nightcats. While tickets are not cheap for many of the show, the folks behind Jazz & Classics are committed to ensuring as much accessibility and participation as possible. There are many free concerts, including a Bock & Bach event sponsored by the Alaskan Brewing Company on Tuesday the 10th at their new downtown merchandise outlet. Check out the finely-tuned Jazz & Classics website at http://jazzandclassics.org to explore ways to make the next few weeks of your life a little jazzier and more classical all at the same time.
As far as free concerts go, the hard-working board and staff of the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council will be putting on outdoor concerts at two venues around the capital city. The Concert-in-the-Park series on the 3rd of June starts serving up an eclectic mix of entertainment all summer long on Friday evenings in Marine Park. If it’s looking like a Concert-in-the-Sideways-Rain things move to the Juneau Arts & Culture Center (JACC). The Savikko Park Pavilion in Douglas will feature family-friendly free concerts on Sundays from 4 until 5.30 pm all summer. The Juneau Artists’ Market at the JACC will also be back, with buskers performing at these Sunday get-togethers, outdoors as our so changeable weather permits.
Over in Sitka the Summer Music Festival will unfold for three weeks in June, thanks to the vision of violinist and arts-advocate extraordinaire Paul Rosenthal. This event started when several generous Alaskans in 1972 donated funding just sufficient to bring an amazing roster of musicians to Sitka to perform. The people who came to listen to and learn from these talents chipped in the just enough moolah to get the visitors back home. Every year since this event has inspired and titillated Alaskans and people from around the world, with unparalleled provision of in-kind talent services.
Last fall Paul Rosenthal was awarded the Governor’s Award for the Arts for Lifetime Achievement in recognition for his many contributions, but because he was touring in the Lower 48 he was unable to receive this honor in Fairbanks. As the Chairman of the Alaska State Council on the Arts, I very much hope we can find an opportunity to honor in person this giant of the arts world next month in Sitka.
For those who want something a little more down-to-earth, the Southeast Alaska State Fair will rock and roll in Haines the last four days of July. Haines is a beautiful town, and it’s very worthwhile to take the time to get up there to soak in this gathering. There will be some great imported talent this year, including Curtis Salgado and Hillstomp, but the organizers are still looking for local talent to fill out there roster.
We can’t afford to take the arts for granted in Alaska. All of the wonderful opportunities I’ve outlined above would not occur but for the efforts of dedicated volunteers and the partnering of the public and private sectors in support of artistic activity that directly improved the quality of life in Alaska. The City & Borough of Juneau, the State of Alaska, and the National Endowment for the Arts receive extremely small allocations of money when compared to the expenditures made at the local, state, and federal levels on everything else. Arts funding need not be lavish to make a difference, but it does have to be sustainable and sufficient to leverage other sources of support. In the tough times facing our country, it is reasonable to expect some diminution in federal arts funding, which makes it all the more important that state and local support remain firmly in place.
I hope to see the concerts around Southeast this summer full of happy Alaskan families enjoying the arts, and I am confident that we’ll find ways in the future to ensure sustainable support for arts and culture in Alaska.
• Brown is an attorney who lives in Juneau.