Music for nothin'

Posted: Thursday, May 14, 2009

It's not often one can spend a lunch hour listening to smooth jazz on par with some of the best. Nor is it commonplace to sit at UAS enjoying good food, arts and crafts and music for little more than a couple dollars. But at the Juneau Jazz & Classics concert series, May 15 through May 24, you can. In fact anyone can. And it's free.

Jeanne Pedersen, executive director for the Juneau Jazz & Classics, said the free events are a way to give back to a community rich in and devoted to the arts.

"Our mission is to bring that rich cultural experience to everybody," she said.

Pedersen also noted that many of the events are geared toward youngsters and families, as well as the general public. It's her feeling that it's important to "teach and enrich the kids" in the local community.

And during a time when many are looking to save a penny, there may not always be room in the budget for entertainment.

"We have to acknowledge (the recession)," said Pedersen. "I definitely think people are looking for a bargain."

There are four free events happening at this year's series. Here's the highlights:

Gilles Apap String Workshop:

"This guy is world-renowned," Pedersen said. "(Anyone) can come and jam with this guy, and that is like the coolest thing."

At the Northern Light United Church on Sunday, May 17, Gilles Apap will be leading a workshop for all stringed instrument players. Age and experience are of no concern, but participants should bring their own instrument.

Apap, a violinist, is known his passion for classical, jazz and Celtic tunes.

"We have these great artists in town and here is an opportunity to play with a professional," Pedersen said.

Brown Bag Concert Series:

These noon-hour concerts happen daily beginning Tuesday, May 19, and run through Friday, May 21. (Monday's scheduled lunch had to be canceled due to an Alaska Airlines schedule change.) Each features Juneau Jazz & Classics artists in a "casual, entertaining and kid-friendly" setting. Tuesday through Thursday performances will be held at the state office building in the eighth-floor atrium. On Friday, music can be heard at the Nugget Mall.

Pedersen said one of the sponsors, Princess Tours, will be providing transportation to nearly 500 students from schools around the district.

"This is the most we've ever had, I think, because of all the coordination we've been doing," she said.

Extended Stay Delux is also sponsoring the series.

Alaska Airlines Family Concert:

Saturday, May 24 from 2-3 p.m., Evan Drachman will be headlining this animal-themed musical adventure at the University of Alaska Southeast in the Egan Lecture Hall. Works such as "Flight of the Bumblebee" and "The Swan" will be featured.

The concert is one for all ages and is "imaginative and entertaining."

"It's really engaging," said Pedersen. "He (Drachman) really gets the kids into it. He's just brilliant."

Pedersen said she couldn't thank Alaska Airlines enough, as this is the first year the event has been free of charge for the public.

Community Day on Campus:

This year's community day will be held Saturday, May 23, at the Auke Lake Campus at UAS. Pedersen said this festival-like setting will have a little bit for everyone. There will be food, arts and crafts, exhibits and, of course, music.

Back-to-back concerts will be held all day and will feature "local youth ensembles, school orchestras, jazz big bands" and a selection of this year's festival guest artists.

The event is happening through a partnership with the Arts and Humanities Council, a sponsorship from UAS and is supported in part by Alaska Litho.

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