The Green Room

Your weekly dose of arts and culture, airing every Friday morning on IPR News Radio & Classical IPR.  

John Larson is the owner of one of Traverse City's newest restaurants, Mama Lu's.
Dan Wanschura

When chef John Larson and his family moved from Chicago to Traverse City last spring, he soon realized that getting a table at a downtown restaurant was a bit difficult at times.

"There weren't enough restaurants," says Larson. "I noticed every single place was on a two-hour wait during the summer months."

That was good news for the entrepreneur from Chicago. 

Just over a year later, Mama Lu's is now open for business just in time for the busy summer months in Traverse City.

Poet Mike Delp addresses a men's gathering in Cedar, Michigan. He recently authored a new collection of poetry called, 'Lying in the River's Dark Bed.'
Dan Wanschura

On a recent Saturday evening in Cedar, Michigan, about 40 guys are gathered in the home of Jeff Smith, the editor of Traverse magazine. The night is centered around beer and poetry. The beverage of choice is from the recently opened Lake Ann Brewing Company. The poet is Mike Delp.

Mike Delp has a new book titled Lying in the River’s Dark Bed. It’s what he calls the confluence of the Deadman and the Mad Angler— characters he’s has been crafting for years.  

 

Mary Sue Wilkinson leads a sing-along session at Orchard Creek Supportive Care in Traverse City. Residents who suffer from dementia are still able to connect with the music from years before.
Dan Wanschura


Mary Sue Wilkinson remembers how sad she felt when she used to visit her father-in-law who was suffering from dementia. He was a former minister, but near the end of his life he couldn’t talk. 

Whether out of desperation or instinct, Mary Sue took her guitar and started to sing the old Gospel hymn, I’ll Fly Away. He made eye contact and began to sing along. 

"He sang every word in perfect harmony; perfect pitch," says Mary Sue. "He was so happy you could just see that he was experiencing the competence of that.” 

Jema Hewitt says if you see someone wearing a pair of goggles with a top hat, you've spotted a steampunk.
"It's kind of like a secret sign," says Hewitt. "If you spot someone, and they're wearing a pair goggles like you would an Alice band, you kind of go, 'Ahah, you're a steampunk!'"


Big Samir (left) and Aja Black (right) of The Reminders in studio with DJ Man-o-Wax.
Antar Hanif - iAMSHOOTER.COM

Aja Black says that misogyny and violence often show up in hip-hop music. But she believes the reason we have that subject matter in the music is because it’s reflective of our current culture.

“So, what we’re trying to do with our hip-hop music is just show that there’s a perspective that’s not being put into the mainstream media that’s positive and encouraging,” explains Black. “Inviting people to get along with one another and to love one another.”

Black and her husband Big Samir form the hip-hop group The Reminders. The group is in Traverse City performing as a part of Caravansarai. It’s a tour bringing Muslim-American performers to different parts of the country to share contemporary creative expressions.

Natalie Douglas is an award-winning cabaret singer from New York, and is out with a new album.
Natalie Douglas

If you have your portrait hanging on the Birdland Jazz Club Wall of Fame, you’re kind of a big deal.

Natalie Douglas is an award-winning singer who has her picture hanging in the legendary New York City establishment, and yes, she’s a big deal in the world of cabaret. 

Earlier this year, she released a new album, Human Heart.

Natalie Douglas says creating an album using classic, cabaret songs, was pretty straightforward for her.

"Selecting songs for the cd was really easy," explains Douglas. "They're 12 songs I truly love and that I wanted to sing and do in this way."

Mei Stone will perform with 'The President's Own' United States Marine Band, this Sunday in Washington, D.C.
Dan Wanschura

This time of year can be an especially busy time for seniors in high school. There are all kinds of things going on — exams, dances, senior skip days, college applications and so on.

It’s even more hectic when you’re a top-notch young musician like Mei Stone, a senior studying flute performance at Interlochen Arts Academy. 


April Fool's Day likely originated in the Netherland's at the beginning of the 16th century.
Yanik Chauvin / istockphoto.com

One of the better April Fool’s Day pranks in recent memory happened right here in Michigan just a couple years ago. A group of seven students at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids decided to prank their economics professor. Turns out, the professor had a policy about cell phones in the classroom— if your phone rang during class, you had to answer the call on speaker phone in front of everybody.

Taylor Nefcy was a theater major at Aquinas, and she came up with the idea of using that rule to her advantage in creating a prank. 

Penny (left) and Radel Rosin of Oh Brother Big Sister are out with their first original album.
Dan Wanschura

Just a couple years ago, Penny and Radel Rosin were performing in separate bands. The two siblings from Grayling, Michigan had grown up in a musical family and had gotten used to the performance life at an early age. But, being in a band with multiple members and schedules can be difficult to coordinate at times. That was a big reason why Radel eventually approached Penny about creating their own music act.

“Yeah, Del just pretty much just called me up and he said, ‘We’re going to start a duo, and we’re going to call it Oh Brother Big Sister,’” Penny recalls. “And I said, ‘Alright, sounds good.’”

Jay Allison is an award-winning independent broadcast journalist. He produces 'The Moth Radio Hour.'
dancutrona.com

Imagine several raconteurs relaxing on a front porch swapping true tales on a warm summer night in Georgia. There's probably plenty of iced tea, maybe a few cans of beer, and the occasional fluttering of a moth's wings can be heard as it flies to the cozy glow of the porch light.

Those laid-back, informal gatherings eventually gave rise to The Moth storytelling events, which are now held around the world. The format remains simple — live stories told by everyday people without notes. The show stops in Traverse City on Friday night at the City Opera House.

'American Dad!' creative designer Jim Feeley shows off his rough sketch IPR's Kate Botello.
Dan Wanschura

Jim Feeley has always liked to paint, draw and doodle. But once he graduated from high school, art school wasn’t even anywhere on his horizon. He enrolled at Boston College and graduated with an English Literature degree. He didn't really think that his hobby would be a viable career.

Eventually, he moved across country to Los Angeles and worked for Film Roman— the studio responsible for shows like The Simpsons and King of the Hill. Once a week the studio would host a free drawing workshop. Even though Jim was working in production, he decided to give the workshop a try.

Longtime Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell.
mwlguide via Wikimedia Commons

Spring is in the air! 

Or, at least Spring Training is in the air.

Before the first pitch, baseball fans expect to hear the national anthem performed by countless individuals throughout the long season.

The 88th Academy Awards ceremony takes place Sunday evening.
Davidlohr Bueso / flickr

Meg Weichman doesn’t get to vote in the Oscars. But the creative director for the Traverse City Film Fest still has plenty of hot takes on the 88th Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday.

This year, eight films were nominated for Best Picture. Out of those eight, Meg says three really separate themselves from he rest of the group: The Revenant, Spotlight and The Big Short.

 


Mucca Pazza brings its show to Interlochen on Saturday.
Mucca Pazza

It’s kind of difficult to explain exactly what Mucca Pazza is. Even it’s own members have trouble describing the group at times.

To some, Mucca Pazza is a marching band that doesn’t march. Others say it’s a marching band that thinks it’s a rock n’ roll band. 

Whatever description fits best, Mucca Pazza is a group of about 30 self-described misfits who missed the days of high school band, theater and cheer. And so, they came up with their own group.

On Saturday, Interlochen Center for the Arts will be hosting a free Mucca Pazza performance, as part of the annual Winterlochen festivities.

Mixtapes can be the perfect way to say, "I love you."
Leah Tihia/via Flickr

Hopefully you're aware of this by now, but Sunday is Valentine’s Day. 

If you’re in love with someone special, you might expect to get some roses, perhaps some chocolates, maybe even a diamond necklace. And pretty much the only thing that could ever possibly top some bling on V-Day would be a handpicked mixtape from the love of your life, right?


Missy Elliott (left) joined Katy Perry during the 2015 Super Bowl halftime show.
Christopher Polk/Getty Images Sport

More than 120 million people are expected to tune in to Super Bowl 50 this Sunday in San Francisco. 

But it’s not just the football game that glues so many people to their television sets on Super Bowl Sunday - it’s also the commercials and the celebrity-laden halftime show. 

When did the Super Bowl halftime show become such a huge cultural event? 

John Robert Williams converted an old elementary school gym into his new studio.
John Robert Williams Photography

John Robert Williams is a photographer with an eye for potential. 

When he moved out of his downtown Traverse City studio last year, and into an old elementary school gymnasium, he began dreaming of all the different ways he could use the space. Where most people would probably see a big, mostly empty room, Williams sees a studio full of potential.

“I lie awake at night thinking of cool new things and shots I can do,” says Williams.


Members of the chorus gossip about Medea's fate during a recent rehearsal.
Parallel 45 Theatre

Parallel 45 Theatre company is out with a fresh take on the ancient Greek tragedy Medea.
Throughout their advertising campaign, the company has been comparing what it meant to be a celebrity during Medea's day, versus what it means today, with the likes of Kim Kardashian and Lindsey Lohan.
Is it determined by the history books, or trends on Twitter?

The music world lost two legendary figures recently: composer and conductor Pierre Boulez and rock star David Bowie. 

Bowie lost his battle with cancer at age 69— just three days after releasing his latest album Blackstar. Pierre Boulez, while perhaps less of a household name, was a giant in the classical music world. He passed away last week at age 90. 

While drastically different in certain senses, these two artists shattered the perceptions of their musical genres, and took creative risk-taking to another level.


One of the unique things about Interlochen Public Radio is that the people who work here are often full of surprises. Take, for example, Classical IPR host Amanda Sewell.

Amanda is a musicologist and has studied plenty of traditional classical music from the likes of Bach, Beethoven and Mozart. But, she’s also published academic studies on hip-hop. During her music studies, she discovered a hip-hop niche called "nerdcore." 

 


Ruby John performs in many fiddle styles, including Métis.
Aaron Selbig

America has long been thought of as a melting pot; a place where people from different backgrounds come together and in so doing, create new and unique cultures. As the fur trade in the upper Great Lakes region blossomed in the late 1600’s, French voyageurs and trappers began to marry Native American women. People with this mix of native and European heritage became known as Métis. 

Métis is a French word that roughly translated means “mixed blood” or “of mixed descent.”


As the Creative Director for The Traverse City Film Festival, Meg Weichman, has seen a lot of films over the years. This week, she stopped by our studio to give us her top five holiday films of all time. “When I put together this list, it was pretty agonizing,” says Weichman. And don’t think the conversation stops at her top five either— Meg also reveals what holiday film offends her most basic sensibilities. 

Plus, our own Aaron Selbig will make his pitch as to why the film Die Hard, is and should be considered a classic Christmas flick.  


Kyle Novy will embark on a 52-song music project in 2016.
Kyle Novy

Kyle Novy is a singer-songwriter who teaches at Interlochen Arts Academy, and he’s embarked on an ambitious music project called Mount Valor.

Kyle sees himself as offering some alternatives to the often times, shallow pop music of today. His goal is to write songs that have a rich depth of meaning and that peer above the fray. Stylistically, he’ll be all across the board— from piano ballads, to folk music, to what he calls journeying songs, with sweeping string sections and tom-tom drums. 

During a recent crowdfunding campaign, Kyle raised over $22,000 dollars from fans, and people who believe in his vision as an artist.

Kyle says often times today, artists are simply viewed as entertainers. And while he says he doesn’t have a problem with people who are focused on entertaining others, that’s not his ultimate goal.


When Joseph Morrissey took the position of Director of Dance at Interlochen Arts Academy earlier this year, one of the shows he was most excited about producing was The Nutcracker.

“One of the first things I asked about is, ‘Do you have a Nutcracker?’ And they said, ‘Not only do we have a Nutcracker, but we’re building a brand new set.’”

Morrissey has high ambitions for this classic, and wants to make sure it appeals to a variety of audiences. He says there are a lot of different elements—  romance, comedy, and some suspense. 

“Especially with the mice,” says Morrissey. “They are supposed to be scary— they are the conflict of the story. But we also have to keep in mind this is a holiday production. So, there is a lot of comedy as well,” he says. 

 


Todd and Brad Reed Photography

Sara Kassien is not a photographer. She was in the right place though on Sunday, August 2nd, driving home from work when the storm that had wrecked Glen Arbor swept over Traverse City.

“I saw all these other people pulled over,” she remembers. “I’m like, ‘That’s a good idea, I should do that.’ I followed the crowd.”


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