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items tagged with St. Ambrose University

At the Intersection of Bluegrass and Brazil: Quad City Arts Visiting Artists Matuto, September 21 at the Galvin Fine Arts Center
Written By: Mike Schulz
Section: Music

Category: Feature Stories

2013-09-10 18:50:00

Matuto, photographed by Vincent SoyezDepending on the source, the English-language equivalent of the Brazilian slang term “matuto” appears to be “country boy” or “bumpkin” or “hillbilly.” What it absolutely isn’t is “critically lauded ensemble selected as American Musical Ambassadors for the U.S. State Department.”

Yet that is indeed a fitting description for the capitalized Matuto, the sextet of touring musicians appearing locally as Quad City Arts’ latest Visiting Artists. After a week spent conducting workshops and performing for area students, these dynamic, adventurous artists and educators will present a September 21 concert at St. Ambrose University’s Galvin Fine Arts Center, where they hope to excite many more listeners with the infectious thrill of Brazilian bluegrass.

That’s right: Brazilian bluegrass. Don’t feel embarrassed if you’ve never heard of it.


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Beauty from Different Angles: Ethel, April 12 at St. Ambrose’s Rogalski Center
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Music

Category: Feature Stories

2013-04-03 11:25:10

Ethel. Photo by James Ewing.

The string quartet Ethel refers to itself as a “band” and uses amplified classical instruments and improvisation. It’s called a “post-classical” ensemble, and the group has toured with Todd Rundgren and appeared on guitarist/songwriter/singer Kaki King’s 2012 album Glow.

Ethel is the very definition of “crossover,” and if all that doesn’t scare you, try this sample from Pitchfork.com’s (strongly positive) review of Heavy, its 2012 record: “The violins peel off into glass shards, and the cello starts moaning. It’s a relief from the opening melee, but only insofar as scalp-prickling fear that there is a serial killer lurking in your home is technically preferable to the certainty of being stabbed to death.”

At Ethel’s April 12 performance at St. Ambrose University, don’t expect quite that level of eclecticism. Or violence.

But the Present Beauty program Ethel will play still covers plenty of territory on the theme of “what it is to experience beauty from different angles,” said violinist Tema Watstein in a phone interview last month.


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Critical Mass: Mike Schulz and Thom White Discuss Area Theatre in 2012
Written By: Mike Schulz
Section: Theatre

Category: Feature Stories

2012-12-31 12:00:00

Mitch Donahue, Alexander Robin Kass, Samantha Pauly, Kristin Gilbert, and Tristan Layne Tapscott in the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse's Legally Blonde: The MusicalFor our third-annual conversation on the Year in Theatre, Thom White – the Reader’s chief theatre reviewer – and I thought we’d shake things up a bit. So instead of meeting for an hours-long breakfast to discuss the area stage scene, we met for an hours-long dinner to discuss the area stage scene.

And while I managed to keep things lively by spilling a completely full glass of water not 10 minutes after sitting down, we also managed to touch on many of the varied experiences that Thom (occasionally accompanied by his partner’s daughter Madison) and/or I had during another eventful year for fans of the theatre. Pack a lunch, sit back, and dive in ... .


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A Passage to India: Singer/Songwriter Kiran Ahluwalia, November 9 at St. Ambrose University
Written By: Mike Schulz
Section: Music

Category: Feature Stories

2012-11-01 12:00:00

Kiran AhluwaliaHer first CD, Kashish – Attraction, earned her a Best Global Album nomination at the 2002 Juno Awards, the Canadian equivalent of the Grammys. Her second, 2003’s Beyond Boundaries, received the Juno for Best World Music Album of the Year. Her latest, 2011’s Aam Zameen – Common Ground, made her a two-time Juno winner in that category.

Consequently, the estimable world musician and frequent touring artist Kiran Ahluwalia must be feeling relatively secure about career longevity, yes?

“No,” says the Indo-Canadian singer/songwriter, with a laugh, during a recent phone interview. “Oh, God, no.

“I mean,” she continues, “I released my fifth CD last year, and I’ve been doing this full-time for 12 years now, and I definitely feel like I have enough gigs lined up for the next two years. But there really isn’t any security in my portion of the industry. So you kind of have to have short-term plans – a year down the road, two years maximum. Because after that, who knows what’s going to happen?”


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“A Real Renaissance Man”: St. Ambrose Art Professor Leslie Bell (Sort of) Retires After 38 Years
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Art

Category: Feature Stories

2012-03-15 12:34:02

Leslie Bell in his office. Photo Corey Wieckhorst.

One minute, St. Ambrose art professor Leslie Bell is talking about his paintings – mostly allegorical scenes featuring women and girls. The next minute he’s talking about his students – especially the female ones – without having shifted gears.

“On a really basic level, I’m trying to kindle a spark of quirky individuality in each person I paint,” he said in an interview last week. “I don’t want them to come across as generic. And ... through body language, environment, to a lesser extent facial expression – because my characters tend to be a little bit on the deadpan side – even fashion or dress ... I want to communicate a kind of self-made-ness.”

He then says he doesn’t want to be cheesy – the simplistic idea that girls can be carpenters or play chess: “I want it to be more what we deal with everyday in the studio, which is following what you’re interested in, sort out the ‘should’ voice in you ... , acknowledge that there is peer pressure and that there are societal pressures and that there are laws, but then make as much use of the freedoms that you have to cultivate your interests, develop your interests, don’t be ashamed to be an intellectual, fight me as a professor ... .”

One can see that shift happening even more quickly here, in a single sentence: “I want my work to be really affirmative of women’s and girls’ abilities to create themselves, to stick to their own ideals, to find ways of proving to whoever might be skeptical of what it is to be a woman artist or just a woman that there are as many paths to maturity as there are people attempting to mature.”

This conflation is illuminating, as Bell’s artistic interest in female experience and identity seems inseparable from his teaching responsibility to help young artists develop their own voices. He notes that well over half of the students in the St. Ambrose art department are women, and it’s easy to infer that his painting is akin to homework, a way to develop empathy and connections with his female students. They’re also a way of leading by example, of showing through art a path to authenticity.


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