A dinosaur zoo (plus a dinosaur-themed dinner) roar into Elgin!

Dinosaur Zoo LiveWe’re so excited to have Dinosaur Zoo Live visit Elgin this April. This interactive,  educational, and very fun theatrical production hails from Australia and was created by ERTH Visual & Physical Theatre, INC., a company that specializes in “giant puppetry, stilt-walkers, inflatable environments, aerial and flying creatures.” A Dinosaur Zoo is right up their alley and we can wait to meet all these magnificient prehistoric creatures, both big and small, on Tuesday, April 1 at 7 p.m. and Wednesday, April 2 at 9:45 a.m.

~Colonial LOGO 2014But that’s not all! In honor of Dinosaur Zoo Live, Colonial Café will be offering a special dinosaur-themed kids menu on April 1 and 2. Check out the super-fun the menu: Prehistoric Punch, Pterodactyl Tenders, Brontosaurus Burgers, and a Swamp Sundae. All guests will also receive a coloring sheet and a special dinosaur prize. The dinosaur menu will be available at the Colonial Cafés on McLean Blvd. (conveniently located right next to ECC’s main entrance) and the St. Charles-West restaurant located on Randall Rd. The menu will be available from 4-10 p.m. on Tuesday, April 1 and by request for lunch on Wednesday, April 2.

Check out a preview of Dinosaur Zoo Live below and get ready to meet the dinosaurs!

The Elgin Community College Arts Center presents Dinosaur Zoo Live on Tuesday, April 1 and Wednesday, April 2. For performance tickets and information, call the ECC Arts Center box office at 847-622-0300 or visit tickets.elgin.edu. For more information on Colonial Café, visit colonialcafe.com.

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Trivia Time: Into the Woods

The set of ECC Musical Theatre's production of Into the Woods

The set of ECC Musical Theatre’s production of Into the Woods

ECC Musical Theatre’s production of Into the Woods starts its second weekend of performances tonight so we thought it was a good time to brush on some of our Into the Woods trivia. Did you know that this is the third time this musical has been produced here at ECC?  It was the last musical performed in the ATC auditorium (now called the Spartan Auditorium) prior to the opening of the Arts Center building in 1994. It was performed in the Arts Center in 1999 on the Blizzard Theatre Stage. 15 years later, ECC Musical Theatre has headed “into the woods” once more.

This musical has been around for 28 years, so let’s take a look at some of its non-ECC production history:

  • Into the Woods debuted in the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego California, on December 4, 1986. James Lapine directed the original production (he also wrote the book) and the show ran for 50 performances.
  • When Into the Woods moved to Broadway, the majority of the performers from the first production appeared in the Broadway cast.
  • It premiered on Broadway on November 5, 1987.
  • Bernadette Peters played the Witch in the original Broadway run of  Into The Woods.
  • The original Broadway production of Into the Woods won several Tony Awards, including Best Score, Best Book, and Best Actress in a Musical (Joanna Gleason in the role of Baker’s Wife), in a year dominated by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera.
  • Into the Woods has been produced many times throughout the years including a 1988 US national tour, a 1990 West End production, a 1991 television production, a 1997 tenth anniversary concert, a 2002 Broadway revival, a 2010 London revival and as part of New York City’s outdoor Shakespeare in the Park series in 2012 (which featured Amy Adams in the role of Baker’s Wife).
  • The 2002 Broadway revival of Into the Woods was also directed by James Lapine and it won the Tony Award for Best Revival of Musical.
  • Walt Disney Pictures is producing a film adaptation of Into the Woods, directed by Rob Marshall and starring Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Emily Blunt, and Chris Pine. Original book writer and director James Lapine wrote the screenplay.

The movie adaptation is set to open in December, 2014, but you don’t have to wait 8 months to get your musical fairytale fix: experience ECC Musical Theatre’s production this weekend! Into The Woods runs through March 2. For tickets and information, visit tickets.elgin.edu.

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A look inside American Grands: Part 2

American Grands

Another view of the American Grands stage

Today we’re posting the second of two pieces profiling American Grands participants’ experiences. Guest blogger Stu Ainsworth, who has been part of American Grands since the beginning and even has a copy of its very first poster, interviewed two year participant Jillian Chase about both her experience with American Grands and her experiences in music therapy as Arts Manager for Helping Hand Center in Countryside. Read on for Stu’s great interview with Jillian that touches on the amazing therapeutic benefits of music. Thank you to Stu and Jillian!

Q: Jillian, how many years have you performed in American Grands concerts?

A: This will be my second year performing in the concert. I moved to the area in the fall of 2012 and found out about from a friend.

Q: You work at the Helping Hand Center in Countryside as Arts Manager a role that involves art, music, and library programs. Can you tell us more about your role there? 

A: I am in charge of several major areas including curriculum development for the areas of art, drama, library and music. I am in direct leadership of the music program and the music therapist we have on staff. I work with her to help write goals for our clients, which we help them achieve through using music. I also run all of Helping Hand Center’s music performance groups [...] My main work is with adults with developmental disabilities. Helping Hand also has a school for autism.

Q: What part does music play in your client’s programs and activities?

A: Music is a part of most of our client’s daily schedules […] Over half of our groups are music therapy focused groups, which means that the individuals in these groups, have specific goals that we address using music in various forms. We work on goals such as socialization, physical movement, self-expression, as well as other personal and specific needs. Some of our other groups focus solely on music as recreation.

Q: What benefits are derived from these programs?

A: In the last eight years, I have seen amazing things [result] from these programs in music. In our general music therapy groups, I have seen self-confidence flourish and for some appear when they have had none. I have seen clients who could not move their arms or had jerky movement, relax and move to/with the music. I have seen clients who have had a hard time socially, talk and make friends with their peers, or express their thoughts on a song. I have had amazing experiences with having clients come sit at the piano with me and just start to play. I accompany them based on what they are playing and a person who might have had a problem with behavior, might be able to express anger, sadness or happiness through playing it out on the piano. In our kids groups, I have seen a child be able to focus for five minutes, when in the past five seconds might have seemed difficult.

Q: Music Therapy Adaption is an activity/program in which you have developed unique expertise. Can you provide insight on how this applies to piano lessons and successes realized by many of your students?

A: The piano seems to be an instrument that can do amazing things […] When I first started, I was working with a colleague who had created an assessment with some of her music therapy colleagues that addressed the needs and amount of adaption that would be required for a child who had special needs […] I would work with these students on the basics of piano, like any teacher, but the approach had to be different. It was some trial and error at first […] it tends to be finding what method works best. I have adapted using colors, using numbers, using games, using many different things that work for each individual and for many it is repetition, or structure. Colors has worked very well for some. Each note is associated with a color, and you do this with an octave. You then create songs based on the colors with the note names, take out the note names, leave the colors, then finally take away the colors. Others do well with games. One child I worked with learned everything by playing a version of the game memory. He would match a pair and then go show me on the piano where it was and play it. It worked great. A child who might not be able to focus for five minutes, was after two lessons sitting through thirty minutes straight and was asking at the end if I could stay longer. His mother was amazed.

Thank you to Jillian for sharing her story with us. And to Jillian and the 461 other pianists that will be performing in American Grands XIX: break a leg this Saturday!

American Grands performances will take place on Saturday, January 25 at 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. For tickets and information, visit elgin.edu/arts.

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A look inside American Grands: Part 1

A view of the stage at American Grands

A view of the stage at American Grands

This month we welcome back guest blogger Stu Ainsworth  to Standing Room Only. Stu has been part of American Grands since the beginning and even has a copy of its very first poster. In recent years, he’s written pieces for us on the history of American Grands. This year Stu interviewed two American Grands participants  and today we’re posting the first of two pieces profiling these participants’ experiences. Read on for American Grands Elementary Coordinator and longtime participant Stephanie Spolum’s take on the performance experience of our younger participants. Thank you to Stu and Stephanie!

American Grands is a true gift for the more than 450 participating pianists, as well as sold-out houses containing their communities, families, and friends. So says Stephanie Spolum, who has played in American Grands concerts since 2008, and has had as many as 20 of her piano students involved annually.

This is the second year Stephanie has served as Director of Performance for Elementary Level players, the majority of whom are ages 7 and 8.  With a Bachelor of Science degree in piano performance from Michigan State, she will soon complete her work for a Master of Arts in Elementary Education. She has also been a private piano teacher in St. Charles for ten years and, as Music Director at St. Patrick’s Elementary School in St. Charles, she is quite aware of what motivates  young musicians. Shephanie shared some great insight into the joys and benefits of the American Grands performances for young musicians.

When asked about the benefits and skills young musicians gain by performing with other pianists at American Grands, Stephanie says “they learn to work as a team member, while preparing and presenting music with other players. They gain confidence when performing as part of an ensemble; [which is] especially important with pianists, who are commonly “solo performers”. They learn to budget personal time between sports, other school activities, homework and of course piano practice. There is also accountability to other pianists and their piano teacher.”

Stephanie adds “realizing the thrill of knowing you are performing before your parents, other family members, and hundreds of audience members at the American Grands concert and the unique thrill of recessing into the auditorium at the concert conclusion to the music of “Stars and Stripes Forever” as performed on 12 grand pianos and 24 skilled pianists. It’s very cool.”

When asked  if there will be any new music opportunities for the elementary players in this year’s program, Stephanie shared a neat new feature of this year’s performance. “For two very clever compositions a young player will be joined on the same bench by a very experienced player. What a thrill!”

This is American Grands 19th year of performances. Its over 450 pianists, ages 6 through 85, will be playing their hearts and fingers out on January 25 as they perform on 12 ebony grand pianos provided by Cordogan’s Pianoland before a full house of family and friends from communities throughout northeastern Illinois. Now that’s a shared experience that occurs only once a year, and only in Elgin during a fantastic American Grands concert.

American Grands performances will take place on Saturday, January 25 at 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. For tickets and information, visit elgin.edu/arts.

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Our song(s) of the week: STELLA!

Stella_001Our Club season gets a head start this year with a performance by Stella! (yep, the exclamation point is intentional and appropriate-they are awesome!) on November 23. Stella! is a four-piece, all-women, American roots band from Detroit, Michigan. We are so excited to have their Americana musical stylings open our Club season that we decided to feature more than one of their songs this week! We, of course, have an ulterior motive, which is to show off the range of this band.  Stella!’s songs spring from the minds of four skilled songwriters and, as a result, each song has a different style and shows off yet another facet of this band. We love the sweetness of “I Suppose”, the whimsy of “Down in the Cellar,” the swingin’ sound of “Pay For What You Get,” and the bluesy vocals on  “One in A Million.” We think you will, too. Enjoy!

Stella! will appear in the ECC Arts Center Club on Saturday, November 23. For tickets and information, visit elgin.edu/arts or call the ECC Arts Center box office at 847-622-0300.

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Our Song of the Week: “I Keep Holding On” by Lizz Wright and Raul Midón

Lizz Wright and Raul MidonWhat happens when two master songwriters/musicians join forces? We’ll find out fully on October 26 when Lizz Wright and Raul Midón share the stage here at the Arts Center BUT we got a sneak peak of what we can expect with the song “I Keep Holding On,” which is co-written by the two musicians. With it’s intoxicating rhythm and the beautiful contrast of Lizz and Raul’s contrasting voices, we can’t get enough of this song so we thought we’d share. Enjoy!

Lizz Wright and Raul Midón will perform at the ECC Arts Center on Saturday, October 26 at 7:30 p.m. For tickets and information, visit elgin.edu/arts.

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Urinetown: What’s in a name?

Urinetown, The MusicalWe’ve received a lot of inquiries regarding ECC Musical Theatre’s production of Urinetown, the Musical and we thought our blog would be a great place to address some of those questions and share our excitement about this production that opens July 19.

  1. Yep, the title of the show is Urinetown, the Musical. And yes, this musical’s plot does involve toilets. Urinetown was conceived when Greg Kotis (who wrote the book and lyrics) was traveling abroad with limited funds and encountered some public amenities that charged for their use. The musical goes a step further and imagines a city in which one malevolent company (The Urine Good Company) charges all of its citizens for using the bathroom. The people, needless to say, are not happy and a revolution occurs.
  2. Urinetown is also about so much more than that! It has underlying themes of self-determination, freedom, and environmentalism. It pays homage to a host of classic musicals: such as Les Misérables, West Side Story, and Hello, Dolly! PLUS, it’s FUNNY!! Upon its Broadway debut, The New York Post called it a “wild and happy mix of biting satire and loving parody.”
  3. Did we mention that it’s award-winning? Nominated for ten Tony Awards in 2002, Urinetown won Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, and Best Direction of a Musical against some pretty tough competition: other new musicals nominated that year included Mamma Mia! and Thoroughly Modern Millie.
  4. Don’t let the title scare you off, this musical is rated PG. And while it may not have the title you’d expect for a musical, it does have all the song, dance, and fun of a classic.

Urinetown, the Musical opens July 19 and runs through August 4. For tickets and information, visit elgin.edu/arts.

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