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2 Come see the best that Denton has to offer Arts & Jazz Fest

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3 Arts & Jazz Fest

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4 Patrice Rushen set to perform Friday night Arts & Jazz Fest

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By Caitlyn Jones Staff Writer

When a young Patrice Rushen sat down at the piano on a September day in 1972, she didn’t know what she would become. She was in good company at the Monterey Jazz Festival, sharing the bill with the likes of Joe Williams, Herbie Hancock and Quincy Jones. Rushen would go on to learn from and perform with these giants, but that day, she was the undiscovered talent. Still a student at Locke High School in south-central Los Angeles, Rushen’s jazz combo won a high school contest and a set at Monterey was their prize. As she situated herself on the bench and stretched out her baby fingers (a nickname she would come by later because of her small hands,) Rushen began to pour her soul over the keys. She had no idea she would grow into a revered songwriter, singer and pianist. She didn’t know she would develop a style of music all her own and launch

a beaded hairstyle copied by millions. She wasn’t thinking about the Grammy-nominated records that would come or the string of television programming she would set the music for. All she wanted to do was make magic. And she did. Rushen is bringing some of that magic to Denton for this year’s Arts and Jazz Festival. She will headline the Jazz Stage at 9 p.m. on Friday, April 29, to perform her signature mix of jazz, funk and rhythm and blues. “I’ve never known a life without music,” Rushen said in an interview last year with L.A. radio personality Tavis Smiley. “Music is everything. It’s allowed me to travel the world, meet people and work with amazing and brilliant artists of all types. Now, I have a chance to kind of spread that understanding of how important it is to find your calling and passion.” Born on September 30, 1954 in L.A. to Allen and Ruth Rushen, a young Patrice began taking

piano lessons at the University of Southern California at age three. Although no one in her family was a professional musician, there was a love of music in the household. “I’m the first one to take on music as a profession but I was surrounded by music as a kid,” she told Vanessa Conde in an iRock Jazz Live Chat in 2014. “The television was on, the radio was on. We listened to recordings and records all the time.” As a teen, Rushen continued singing and playing piano. She even made appearances as a dancer on the popular show “Soul Train.” Years later, she would return as a musical guest. When she performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1972, she caught the eye of producers from the Prestige music label. She signed a contract and dropped her debut album “Prelusion” two years later. “Having a recording contract at that time was really not on my radar,” she said in a 2014 interview with Soul Train. “I really didn’t want to pursue it. I didn’t

think I was ready. I was getting ready to go to college. I just loved to play and write music and that’s what I wanted to do. But I also needed money so I could go to school. So when an opportunity like that came up as a result of being seen at that Monterey Jazz Festival, it seemed like a good idea.” After she received her degree in music from USC, she went on to record “Before the Dawn” and “Shout it Out” with Prestige. She then signed with the Elektra label and recorded five more albums: “Patrice,” “Pizzazz,” “Posh,” “Straight from the Heart” and “Now.” These albums produced tracks that spanned across genres. Her hits “Haven’t You Heard” and “Forget Me Nots” topped the jazz and R&B charts and also earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. Her singles have also stood the test of time. “Haven’t You Heard” was sampled for Kirk Franklin’s gospel hit “Looking for You” while actor and musician Will Smith used bits of “Forget Me Nots” for the 1997 title track for “Men in Black.” “I’m thrilled when somebody wants to use any of my music years and years after it was created and recorded,” she told Soul Train. “It’s completely difficult to find words to articulate why certain things resonate with people over a long period of time. It’s really a very high compliment.” After her solo success in the 80s, Rushen turned her attention to scoring music for movies and TV shows. She composed the score for major motion pictures like “Just a Dream,” “The Killing Yard” and “Our America” as well as small screen jewels like “Brewster Place,” a weekly TV series starring Oprah Winfrey. “That’s really what I wanted to do,” Rushen said of TV and film composition. “This was at a time when you didn’t see many women or that many black people either, only a few. I enjoyed the collaborative process of putting music to other things, putting music to dance and song.” Rushen also broke barriers by becoming the first female musical director for the Gram-

my’s, the NAACP Image Awards, the People’s Choice Awards and HBO’s Comic Relief. “In terms of being the first woman, I didn’t give that any thought,” she told Soul Train. “My attention was focused on doing a great job and trying to live up to what I felt was important as far as the level of the music, the excellence and enhancing the awards show. But later on looking back on it now and knowing I had this particular first, all I can say is that it was great and I hope I won’t be the last.” Most recently, Rushen has taken on teaching roles at prestigious music schools. After receiving an honorary doctorate from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, she accepted a professorship at the school in 2008. She also serves as the chair of the popular music program at USC. She also advocates for music programs in public schools despite a recent push to cut arts programs because of budgetary constraints. “When music was a part of every child’s education in public schools, there was a lot of exposure to the joy of music making and music just being part of well rounded education,” she said in the Soul Train interview. “When music was taken out of schools due to budget cuts, the potential there was to mess with a part of the creative energy that allow kids and everybody to have an experience with something outside themselves that is just based on pure joy.” It makes sense, then, that she’ll come to a city where young adults soak up music at one of the best collegiate programs in the nation. The music students at the University of North Texas, as well as the creative souls of Denton, will have the opportunity to listen to and learn from the sweet soulfulness of Rushen and her band. Just like in 1972, she’ll stretch her fingers over the keys and command the attention of the audience. But this time, it will be her mentoring those in the crowd listening with open ears and open hearts.


The Flatlanders will take stage on Saturday night By Sydney Wilburn For the Denton Record-Chronicle

On a dark night in the 1970s, Joe Ely was driving down a barren road in West Texas when he spotted a hitchhiker carrying a guitar. A musician himself, Ely pulled over and offered the man a ride. In thanks, the hitchhiker gave Ely a copy of the record he had just produced in California. Ely drove to the house of his friend and fellow musician Jimmie Dale Gilmore to listen to the record. The hitchhiker, they later found out, was Townes Van Zandt, who would become a famous American singer-songwriter. “They were inspired by the quality of songwriting and the fact that [Ely] had met someone who didn’t have means but could still make a record,” said Lance Webb, the manager of The Flatlanders. Inspired, Ely and Gilmore teamed up with Butch Hancock, another friend and musician, to create The Flatlanders, a band known today as “the forefathers of Americana.” The Flatlanders will perform at the Arts and Jazz Festival this Saturday at 9:00 pm on the main stage. The band’s manager Lance Webb foretells a good va-

riety of music on their set list, from the unearthed classics of “The Odessa Tapes” to songs from the more recent “Hills and Valleys.” “People will be seeing a truly interesting mix of a career retrospective,” said Webb of the set list for Saturday. The band has played in Denton several times in the past but never at the Denton Arts & Jazz Festival. But on Saturday night,

they'll be playing on the Jazz Stage, showcasing their flatland music for North Texans' enjoyment. “One of the great things about Denton is the fact that there’s such a high level of musicianship and such dedication to the craft of music of all genres,” said Webb. The Flatlanders is comprised of three classic singer-songwriters from surprisingly different

genres: Joe Ely (rock), Butch Hancock (folk), and Jimmie Dale Gilmore (country). The Texan musicians formed the band in Lubbock in 1972, naming it after the vast, flat landscape of West Texas they call home. “They didn’t have the same kind of entertainment options that other places did, so they made it up on their own,” said Webb. “One way to fill that vast,

huge expanse and sky was with music.” The combination of rock, folk and traditional country music is seen today in bands like The Avett Brothers, The Lumineers and Mumford and Sons. This sound, however, was groundbreaking when The Flatlanders first came together in the 1970s. “They blended multiple styles that really changed the landscape of music,” said Webb. “And 40 years later, you can see the kind of influence they had on other bands that may not even know the trail was blazed by The Flatlanders.” The Flatlanders first created this unique sound in 1972 while recording a few songs in a small studio outside of Midland, Texas. These tracks, though influential to starting the band’s career, were thought to be lost. Almost 40 years later, they were discovered. These perfectly preserved records from The Flatlanders’ inception were released in the album “The Odessa Tapes” in 2012. “The Flatlanders kinda joke about how they’ve lived their careers in reverse,” said Webb. “The very first recording that they ever did together as a band was the last recording that they released.”

Denton’s Brave Combo returns to Arts and Jazz Festival By Haley Yates For the Denton Record-Chronicle

Denton’s Brave Combo is no stranger to Arts and Jazz Fest. The two-time Grammy winning quintet played Spring Fling Fest in Denton before it became the Arts and Jazz festival, and has been closing out the event nearly every year since. This year, three of the four original members will be performing with the current members. Saxophonist Tim Walsh and Bassist Lyle Atkinson will join founder Carl Finch, on the Jazz Stage at 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 1. Finch said Brave Combo’s performance at Arts and Jazz has become the apex of a family reunion that the festival has become for Denton locals. While the music is important, the festival acts as an event for everyone to come together and be back home, he said. “We feel like we’re the big finale of the family reunion,” Finch said. “It’s important that we serve up a big helping of comfort food.” Comfort food comes in the form of songs like The Hokey Pokey, The Twist and other crowd favorites. The group will be serving songs that the crowd associates with Brave Combo and the festival. Tons of kids will be

expecting to mosh, Finch said, and they know what songs they want to mosh to. “We’re expecting the biggest chicken dance in the state at that moment,” Finch said. “The magnitude of the fest is always exciting.” When the group first got together, Finch said it was a goal for the original members to find the most hated form of music by the mainstream, and maneuver it into mainstream consciousness. Nuclear polka sprouted as the band’s brainchild, and morphed into dozens of different genres the band has reinvented. Brave Combo takes old standards nobody is playing anymore and adds psychedelic and alternative twists. Recently, Finch said he has been personally influenced by Ska, reggae and EDM music, which has bled into new creations that will be featured at Arts and Jazz. Trumpet player Danny Obrien, who joined the group in 1992, said Brave Combo has always been a melting pot of sound, with a focus on how to appeal to listeners’ interest. “When the band started, it was always more than just doing it for kicks,” he said. “We would break it down, like how do we capture the energy and make it enjoyable for

the people.” Obrien said the fest has never lost the feel of being homegrown. From the beginning, he said, the band has been playing for a crowd of familiar faces. Of the thousands of people that show each year, Finch said he knows about 10% of them. Brave Combo plays so many shows in Denton and surrounding cities, but Arts and Jazz is when fans can touch base with the band once a year, he said. At the end of the set at Arts and Jazz, Finch said the only thing on his mind is the 15 minutes of cuddle time he gets each night with his one-eyed cat, Spunky. “For what it’s worth, when I’m done with the show I’m about 10 minutes from home,” Finch said. “You can’t beat that.”

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Children’s magician, balloon artist ready to entertain By Sydney Wilburn For the Denton Record-Chronicle

Al Curlett wants kids to get in on the magic. When “Big Al” Curlett performs onstage, he often calls members of his audience up on stage to be his pint-sized magician’s assistants, helping him with the “wild, colorful, and fun” show in front of their parents and friends. “You have to think like a kid, and it means more for them if they get to say ‘I got to help with the magic!’” Curlett said. “You have to constantly build up their little spirits—it’s what makes life fun.” “Big Al” Curlett will be located in the Children’s Tent alongside The Singing Cowboy at the Arts and Jazz Festival this Saturday and Sunday. He’ll be taking requests for crazy, customized balloon sculptures and when The Singing Cowboy isn’t performing, Big Al will be on stage with his magic show. “It’s a blast!” Curlett said of the Arts and Jazz Festival. “Whenever you have a constant flow of people, it makes it a lot more fun because I can interact

with them. They’ve never seen anything like my stuff before!” Al Curlett, a children’s magician and balloon artist, has been performing and crafting balloon creations for about 24 years. Curlett prides himself in his unique sculptures and the oneon-one interactions he has with his customers as he creates their masterpiece. “A little girl will come up to me and ask for something sim-

ple, like a butterfly,” Curlett said. “And I’ll ask, ‘You could get a butterfly—that’s three balloons—or I could make you a princess, and that’s seven balloons!’ Well, guess what happens? I’m making the princess!” Curlett got his start in the entertainment field volunteering his time to lift spirits with his ventriloquist dummy at a hospital in New Jersey. After a while, some of the patients suggested

that he learn how to make balloon sculptures, so he taught himself the basics—swords, dogs, and other classic balloon shapes. However he soon grew bored with these common requests, and attended a balloon convention in Austin, Texas, to learn about new techniques in balloon sculpture. “The things that people were doing, I had never seen,” Curlett

said. “There are some balloon artists that can do absolutely amazing things.” Seeing other artists’ unique ideas at the balloon convention inspired him to begin experimenting with more balloons and in different combinations to create the sculptures he makes today, like hats, princesses, skateboards, and even rings and bracelets. “I’m an artist, and [balloons] are simply another medium,” Curlett said. “I allowed myself to get creative and come up with some stuff that’s extremely fun.” Curlett has been living in Denton for the past 13 years, making magic and balloon sculptures all around the North Texas area at company parties, bar mitzvahs, and other events. Earlier this year, Curlett experienced a bad fall and tore his rotator cuff. After surgery and weeks of physical therapy, he enthusiastically returned back to work for the first time on Easter weekend. “I told the therapist, ‘You have to get me good enough so that I can work Easter weekend and the Arts and Jazz Festival!’” Curlett said.


UNT’s One O’Clock Band scheduled to perform twice By Julian Gill

Arts & Jazz Fest

Staff Writer

Inside Kenton Hall in the University of North Texas Music Building, saxophones hummed and twitched like a swarm of bees. It was disorganized sound--almost chaotic. Then came the trumpets and trombones with a powerful swell, building tension before a decisive resolve. The room became calm. A piano lightly twinkled. Then there was silence. On Wednesday afternoon, UNT’s One O’ Clock Lab Band practiced second-year master’s student Garrett Wingfield’s arrangement of a Thelonious Monk song, “Trinkle, Tinkle.” It’s one of several songs that are being considered for the band’s new album, and Wingfield said there’s a chance it will be performed at the Denton Arts and Jazz festival at the end of month. The band will perform most if not all of the songs being considered for the album when they play at 7 p.m. April 29 on the Jazz Stage and 9 p.m. April 30 on the UNT Showcase Stage. “[The album] is going to have a nice balance between thinking music and feeling music,” said Wingfield, a saxophone player. “It’s music that’s very groove oriented—it makes you feel good—and music that’s sort of intellectual and makes you think. But it still upholds that traditional style of writing.” The One O’ Clock makes an album every year with multiple student-written arrangements. Wingfield said they are still narrowing down the songs that will appear on the new album, but it’s starting to take shape. “We like to pick music that showcases the band really well, but also they have to be wellcrafted compositions because there’s a history of that,” Wingfield said. “There’s been so many large ensemble writers who have come through this program.” The One O’ Clock’s reputation as the premier big band in North Texas is bolstered by its six Grammy nominations since the 1970s and more than 60 recordings logged in its rich history. But according to Jay Saunders, the band’s director, Gram-

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Jay Saunders, director of the University of North Texas One O' clock Lab Band, is retiring after this semester.

my nominations aren’t as important as making sure the musicians develop throughout each semester. “My favorite part is Just watching how much they grow in a year’s time,” he said. “The bands change every semester. The way they sound in September is different than the way they sound in May because there’s just so much growth.” By the time the festival rolls around, most of the bands will have already played several times in UNT’s Syndicate for their weekly performances. Saunders said Arts and Jazz gives students a chance to stretch their legs and perform things they wouldn’t normally play. He said festivalgoers can expect to hear all of the songs on their upcoming album as well as some North Texas favorites like “Hey, That’s my Bike!” and “Race to the Finish.” Saunders, who spent 11 years directing the Two O’ Clock Lab Band, has been serving as the One O’ Clock’s interim director for the past two years. He plans to retire after this

spring semester, and Alan Baylock, chief arranger for the U.S. Air Force jazz band, will take over. Saunders said he’s looking forward to seeing all of his students together for his final per-

formances at the festival. “There’s kind of that camaraderie amongst all of the jazz students because all of the jazz students play during the festival,” he said. “It gives them a chance to hang out with all of their friends

before the semester is over. It’s a lot of fun. ” After the festival, the band will tour around Australia for two and a half weeks before heading back to the States to record the new album.


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Woolery brings jazz to Denton High School students

Arts & Jazz Fest

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By Caitlyn Jones Staff Writer

Jesse Woolery walks through the halls of Denton High School on a bright Friday morning. At every turn, a different student rushes up to the band director with another pressing problem: missing sheets of music, faulty equipment, a band member running late. Calmly, he gives each a solution and enters the rehearsal room with an approachable authority. “Alright guys, I don’t want you blowing your chops all over the place” he said, cautioning the high schoolers against overplaying. “It’s all about balance today. Pull up ‘Rat Race.’ Tune us up please, Hannah.” And with the sound of a single piano key, the music begins. The Denton High School jazz band made the trip to Norman, Oklahoma, that day to participate in the University of Oklahoma Jazz Festival. This will kick off a whirlwind few months of contests, showcases and the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival. Woolery and all three of his lab bands will take the Festival Stage beginning at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 29. He will also direct a gospel ensemble Sunday at 5 p.m.

The bands have been performing at the festival for the last eight years. “I love that my kids have no excuse not to go hear jazz that weekend,” Woolery said. “They can go to any stage and hear really cool stuff. I love that you can see almost any type of performing art from any level and that the community celebrates that.” Music has always been a staple in Woolery’s life. Growing up with a jazz drummer and director for a father and a choir director for a mother, he and his sister were destined to follow in their footsteps. After graduating with a music degree from the University of North Texas, Woolery held director positions in Dallas and Boyd before coming to Denton High. “I had loved Denton ever since I was a student here and as I became an adult, I just fell in love with it even more,” he said. “I kept pestering the director here and finally, they thought, ‘Maybe he’ll shut up if we give him a job.’” Currently in his ninth year as the assistant band director at Denton High, Woolery has grown the jazz program from four members to 80. He now teaches four jazz classes and has quite a few pupils who go on to pursue music in college.

“My goal is to get a lot of students listening to jazz, performing jazz and composing jazz,” he said. “Kids will bring stuff in that they’ve written and we’ll try to read it out, much like they do at North Texas.” In addition to playing jazz classics from legends like Duke Ellington and Miles Davis, the jazz band also tries out newer works from Woolery’s alma mater like Snarky Puppy and this year’s Grammy-nominated Richard DeRosa. “We’ve put Snarky Puppy and DeRosa into a little UNT compilation,” Woolery said. “We’re playing it at the [OU] festival today. Who knows, maybe they’ll laugh us off the stage.” They didn’t. The band received an Outstanding Jazz Ensemble award and won second place overall at the festival In his 15th year as a teacher and his lifetime as a musician, Woolery is reminded every day by the faces of his students how important it is to foster a love of music in the community. “As these kids grow up and struggle with expressing themselves, music channels into that emotion,” he said. “This is keeping their brains going, this is keeping them engaged and ultimately, society will benefit from it.”


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Ernie Benton weaves art and music together 13 Arts & Jazz Fest

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By Sydney Wilburn For the Denton Record-Chronicle

The Denton Arts and Jazz Festival is known for its effective pairing of music and art, two forms of expression that so often complement each other in powerful ways. This year’s featured artist, Ernie Benton, is what you might call an expert on the weaving together of music and art, two subjects he feels very passionately about. “I’m a passionate artist and a passionate person,” Benton said. “Music seems to bring out the passion, the beauty, the calmness, the strength, the pride— music is everything.” Ernie Benton’s booth will be located in the Fine Arts area in the Civic Center this Friday through Sunday at the Arts and Jazz Festival. He’ll have with him an assortment of abstract and figurative artwork, including his most recent abstract series. Ernie Benton grew up in Chicago, Illinois, in an artistic family. His father used to sing blues

and jazz, and Ernie’s mother sang in their church. His mother and grandmother played the piano and taught Ernie and his sisters to play when the children were very young. “We were always very passionate about music,” Benton said of his family growing up in Chicago. “I’ve been doing art for as long as I can remember.” Benton soon discovered his own artistic outlet through sketching with pencils at about 4 years old. Since then, Benton has taught himself all that he knows about artwork, taking inspiration from greats like Picasso, but also from his passion for music. “Learn the basics and then break all the rules—that’s what [art] is about, it’s a personal thing,” Benton said. “No one can dictate it, because it’s coming from you—it’s your emotions, what you see, what you want to present at the time.” Benton’s approach to incorporating music into his paintings is unique. Though many of his paintings portray a musician

playing their instrument, Benton often takes an abstract approach, melding the musician and the instrument together in some way to express their interconnected relationship. “I incorporate the music inside the character because I think music is a part of us,” Benton said. One such piece is “Beauty is Music II,” which depicts a woman’s profile, the keys of a piano inlaid over her face. Benton will incorporate many traditional blues and jazz instruments into his characters, including the piano, string bass, saxophone, and trumpet. “To be beautiful is music in itself,” Benton said. “Music does something to you, it’s an emotional thing.” Entirely self-taught, Benton works mainly with acrylics and pastels, creating vibrant artwork that has won many local and national competitions. Benton currently lives in Justin, Texas, and travels around the country to showcase his artwork in select festivals and exhibitions. His

painting “Quaker Town” was commissioned by the City of Denton Texas Public Arts Projects and currently hangs in Denton City Hall. “As an artist, you always want to be involved with your surrounding communities. I always believe that although we do what we do, it is our responsibility to share and give back— whether it’s volunteering, or whatever,” Benton said. “My way of doing it is the festivals.” Benton is the featured artist of this year’s Arts and Jazz Festival. His painting, “Time to Play” is displayed on the cover of the Festival’s brochures. The inspiration behind the painting comes from both a literal and more figurative interpretation of “playing” with music and art. “One [meaning] would be the music itself, but it’s also a playful piece—I incorporated the violin with piano keys on it. The saxophone has the sound coming out in bubbles,” Benton said, with a laugh. “And sometimes I feel like I’m playing when I’m painting, because I’m having

so much fun!” Benton has been a participant of the Arts and Jazz Festival since he moved to Texas in 2003. He enjoys the local aspect of the festival and the opportunity to meet and talk with his customers. “To me, there’s nothing more exciting than interacting with your audience, talking about their passion and what inspires them,” Benton said. “They may feel or see something in your work that you didn’t see.” He tells the story of one young woman who came up to him during a festival after seeing his painting titled “Sisters.” The painting shows three women dressed in their Sunday best, lined up side by side. The young woman approached Benton in tears, telling him that the painting reminded her of her mother and sister, who had recently passed away. “Some of my work touch people in their personal lives,” Benton said. “You never know how your creation, your work, will touch people in different ways.”


14 Singing Cowboy entertains, empowers children Arts & Jazz Fest

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By Julian Gill Staff Writer

Joel Reese grew up on a California ranch when he was three years old, listening to county music spill out of an old A.M. radio that his mother gave him. It was his introduction to the western lifestyle — the boom of Johnny Cash’s voice; the intricacy of Glen Campbell’s guitar playing, and the raw energy — of Elvis Presley’s performances. Today, he has shaped these influences into a 26-year career as The Singing Cowboy. Both an entertainer and a musician, Reese strives to engage audiences of all ages. And he will bring his knack for entertaining children to the Denton Arts and Jazz festival on April 30 and May 1. “I’m an entertainer and artist first,” he said. “I like to engage people and make them feel good first, and then I’m a musician second.” Reese has a repertoire of original and classic country songs that range from folk ballads to foot-tapping sing-alongs.

He’s been creating albums as The Singing Cowboy since he was 22, recording hits like “Deep in the Heart of Texas”, “Home on the Range” and “If You’re Happy and You Know it”. This year, in his fifteenth performance at Denton Arts and Jazz, Reese said he will play songs that he co-wrote with young students. Although he primarily plays for an older audience near his home in Temecula, California, Reese embraces his role as a lively children’s entertainer. “It makes me feel good just to engage people in performance and art,” Reese said. “But I also feel very good that the gifts that we’re all given can be used for such a positive thing.” Reese said he was inspired to play for kids as soon as he learned how to play the guitar, which seemed like an overwhelming task before the summer of 1979. As a young teenager, Reese spent his summers on his grandparent’s ranch in Llano, Texas. That’s when Darrell Staedtler, an accomplished songwriter who was working on

the ranch at the time, made a 13year-old Reese believe he could play. “He said to me, ‘Joel can you count to eight?... Then it will be easy,’” Reese said. Staedtler eventually gave Reese an instructional guitar book he had written with a session player in Nashville. Within a month, Reese said he was playing songs on his own. “He planted positive seed in my mind,” Reese said. “That was the turning point for me.” Now Reese makes it a priority to empower children. Whenever they ask him for an autograph after a performance, Reese asks them to write down what they want to be when they grow up. Then he asks the kids for their autograph. “I was thinking, when I was a teenager and asked for a singer’s autograph, what kind of impact that would have made on me,” Reese said. At Denton Arts and Jazz, Reese said he will be alternating with a magician in the Children’s Art Tent from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 12 p.m. to 4:30

p.m. Sunday. If you want to find him, just look for the man wear-

ing a ten-gallon hat, cowboy boots and neckerchief.


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16 Not your everyday glassblowers Arts & Jazz Fest

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By Erica Wieting For the Denton Record-Chronicle

Leaving the furnaces, dyes, torches and miscellaneous cutting and shaping tools of their trade behind them in New Mexico, Dana and Karen Robbins are bringing an array of unique art pieces to Denton Arts & Jazz Festival. The fragile, reflective surfaces of their glass-blown artwork make the sunny outside location an ideal one for their display. In addition to relatively normal items like glass jewelry, paperweights, vases and bowls, they offer hummingbird feeders, spice jars, wine chiller sets, doorknobs and even functional Zippo lighters. “Furnace glass is hot, exciting, enticing,” Karen said. “[It’s] really the most fascinating art form I have worked with.”

Starting Out

Dana and Karen founded Robbins Ranch in 1996 and will be one of many booths set up at Denton’s three-day festival Friday, April 29 to Sunday, May 1. Though based out of New Mexico, the

two journey to arts and crafts festivals all over the southwestern United States, saying they enjoy the travel and the adventure of meeting the people they sell their art to. The glassblowing duo first came to the festival on recommendations from other artists. They have since attended Denton Arts & Jazz multiple times, only missing when their travel schedule wouldn’t allow it. “Denton Arts Festival is always fun — people are great and so is the music,” Karen said. “[And] we love jazz music. They’ve had some great bands here in the past.” Always involved in the creative disciplines because her mother was an art teacher, Karen graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a degree in film production, meeting her husband along the way. Dana, who started blowing glass in the 1980s in college after a long affair with ceramics, inspired Karen to change careers.

“He went to San Jose State University, where they taught hot glass blowing next to the ceramics department,” Karen said. “Once he discovered the glass class, he never looked back.”

Making Art

In the studio, Dana is the lead glassmith, or gaffer, and Karen acts as his assistant. She also conceives what the final pieces will look like and mixes the dyes to color each one. “He has the technical skills to blow glass and run a hot shop,” Karen said. “I have the color-mixing and design skills to make the work look bright and colorful.” Production times vary greatly. While something like a small ornament will take less than 10 minutes to make, a larger vase can take up to two hours, Karen said, and higher-end sculptures take weeks, months and even years to complete. Something like a mixed-media sculpture, which include two or more materials such as bronze and glass, take the longest

to finish. Some of the most intriguing and uncommon items sold at Robbins Ranch are miniature, glass-blown hot air balloons, which vary from 3.5 to 9 inches in diameter. As is all of the art, the balloons are customizable and can be tailor-made, meaning a customer could send in a photo of their own balloon and request a glass recreation. “[Dana] brings my ideas to fruition,” Karen said. “It’s a team effort.” Packing the fragile pieces is a process, and the long road from Moriarty, New Mexico to Denton becomes far more perilous and intimidating with hundreds of glass items in tow. But Karen said the couple is glad to be back for another year. “We hope people can appreciate all that it takes to get our artwork in front of them,” Karen said. “All the work is one-ofa-kind, colorful handblown glass — architectural, decorative and functional art.”


Blind artist brings live painting area back to festival By Haley Yates

Arts & Jazz Fest

For the Denton Record-Chronicle

John Bramblitt knows a painting is done when it feels right. Chunky lines of paint create a path that guide his fingers along the canvas. His brush strokes build mountains of paint, mapping out his masterpiece. Bramblitt began painting in 2002, a year after he lost his vision due to epileptic seizures. As his eyesight worsened, he feared he would lose his sense of color. He started painting in hopes of holding on to those senses. He will be featuring his work at Denton’s Arts and Jazz festival from April 29th until May 1st . “When I first started painting I was so angry and depressed, and all the colors were either grays or muddy, bloody reds, or very deep, dismal blues,” he said. “The more I paint, the brighter things become and the happier I am. Now I almost want to put batteries in the paint and hook them up to the wall to make them brighter.” The first year after he lost his vision, Bramblitt surrounded himself with music. The sounds translate into color in his head, and eventually became a huge motivator for his art. The Denton Arts and Jazz festival created a brilliant pool of color and sounds for Bramblitt to explore in the early years of his blindness. After years of painting for gallery shows and museums, Arts and Jazz became the first festival in which he featured his art. “One thing that’s great about Denton is the accessibility for disabled people,” he said. “At Arts and Jazz there’s sidewalks everywhere and people with wheelchairs get access to everything. I want to show people how I paint as a disability thing, but also just for fun because I love to paint.” UNT didn’t offer adaptive art techniques at the time, so Bramblitt began experimenting with paints and other mediums to see what would dry fast and create a textural element. At first he avoided detail and vibrant color. He only focused on familiarizing himself with the rhythm of painting. Now Bramblitt said he feels almost restricted by the colors

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people see. Sounds and music create colors in his mind, and they are brighter than the colors he used to see when he was sighted. For the past two years, Bramblitt’s tent at Arts and Jazz has been one of the last to shut down, and he says this year will be no different. People typically gather around his live painting area and watch his fingers guide the brush onto the canvas. As the last band is playing and festivalgoers are leaving, Bramblitt said he stays to chat with locals and engage them in his art. He encourages them to touch and interact with it. “If it weren’t for this town and the university, my life would be completely different,” Bramblitt said. “You walk around the festival and there’s different stages and different colors and vibes. It’s a blast and the music is brilliant.” Bramblitt said when he’s not painting at the festival, he’s asking people what music they like. He then can help guests find pieces that match the colors of the music. Connecting with people is a gift to him, he said, because

there was a time when he thought he would never be able to connect with others.

“It’s an incredible, immersive experience,” Bramblitt said. “By the end of the festival I’m so

burned out and tired, but I can’t wait to get back into the studio to paint.”


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Pied Piper of Percussion marches toward music education By Eric Wieting For the Denton Record-Chronicle

Sounds emanating from the petting zoo within Steve Gryb’s large tent at Denton Arts & Jazz Festival won’t be the expected baas, brays and cock-a-doodledoos of pet-able farm animals. Instead, something much more musical will take place. On Saturday, April 30 and Sunday, May 1, the self-named Pied Piper of Percussion will return for his seventh festival year to educate and entertain audience members of all ages with hundreds of one-of-a-kind instruments they can touch and play. For 30 - 45 minutes twice a day, he will also have an interactive one-man show called “The Rhythm is Going to Get You.” “My show is a percussion party — it’s sort of a cross between Mardi Gras and New Year’s Eve,” Gryb said. “People will learn about music; they’ll learn about rhythm. I believe that everyone has rhythm. My job is to bring it out of you.” The Pied Piper will be stationed from noon to 6 p.m. under a tent in the Children’s Art Area at the north end of Quakertown Park. State-of-the-art bubble machines will constantly shoot bubbles into the air around his location, setting it apart. Gryb came up with his “pied piper” title in the 1990s when he was teaching music at the University of Miami. He is based out of Florida and performs around the country, from Key West to Alaska. But Gryb said he often comes to Texas to perform, calling the Lone Star State his second home. He heard about the festival in 2010 when he was performing in the Dallas area and reached out to organizers. “They were very excited to hear what I had to offer because they’re all about wanting to encourage the promotion of the arts,” Gryb said. “I’ve been involved in art education and music education my whole life.” As a music professor, he would take jazz groups into different schools around the Miami area to entertain and educate them about jazz music. Passing out percussion instruments so children could play

along always received the biggest responses, and he made that the focus of his show. “[I thought], ‘If I put together a whole show dealing with percussion instruments, maybe this would be another way of reaching children of all ages and exposing them to all different styles of music,’ ” he said. “Edutainment” — a mixture of education and entertainment — is a concept Gryb prides himself on and maintains. At the petting zoo beneath his tent roof, people can interact with a myriad of percussion instruments, including inflatable bongo drums, rainmakers, colorful fruit and vegetable shakers and fish-shaped xylophones called glockenfishs.

His interactive musical performances are accomplished using a variety of instruments and minimal help. “I’m sort of known as an ambassador of percussion,” Gryb said. “I’m on a mission to stamp out musical illiteracy. I’ve found a way to open doors by utilizing the power of percussion.” Gryb discusses individual instruments and their respective uses after he performs, further educating attendees about percussion. “Percussion is a great way to get someone involved in music,” Gryb said. “There have been scientific studies done with… introducing young children to music. It’s great stimulation for the brain. [Music] promotes cre-

ativity, concentration, self-esteem, creative thinking, focus and engages many of the different motor skills that we need to develop.” Following the educational performance, Gryb passes out three rounds of instruments for those in attendance to try out and interact with: tambourines, hand drums and maracas. As audience members pound out musical beats in the first two rounds, Gryb teaches them basic rhythm and introduces what he calls the “three C’s” of percussion, which are coordination, cooperation and concentration. In the third round of his show, Gryb’s role as a pied piper comes into play. “We have a big percussion

parade,” he said. “I get everybody to wiggle, jiggle and jam and follow the Pied Piper as we dance around to the music and we shake our maracas.” To wrap up the show, Gryb gives away participation prizes contributed by a number of established and cutting-edge sponsors, who also donate many of the instruments he uses. Whistles are passed out in the final round for people to play. “I can put an instrument in everyone’s hand, and I can get them excited about making music and creating sounds,” Gryb said. “People are drawn to me because I’m able to make it fun, entertaining, educational, exciting. I’m opening doors to music for people.”


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Profile for Larry McBride

Arts & Jazz 2016  

Arts & Jazz 2016  

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