It’s likely that when Andrej Kurti was growing up in Belgrade, Serbia he had no idea that he would move to the Southern part of the United States and become a violin professor in Central Louisiana. Prior to becoming a professor of violin at Northwestern State University of Louisiana he earned both his graduate degrees and doctorate in violin performance from the University of Georgia. According to Kurti he had one job interview, at Northwestern State University who hired him and he hasn’t looked back since.
This Saturday night, March 14 Kurti will be performing for the third time at the Sharon K. Deane retical hall on the campus of Pittsburg State. The concert begins at 7:30 pm and is open to the public. He has traveled and performed around the world, including in Serbia, Montenegro, Italy, Greece, Russia and Colombia. He also appeared as a chamber performer in Spain, France, Latvia, Canada, Colombia and South Korea. Director of Orchestras at Pittsburg State Raul Munguia recently spoke with Andrej Kurti via Skype from his home in Louisiana. Raul first asked Kurti to introduce himself to listeners who may have only heard him for the first time on KRPS.
Kurti’s performance which is open to the public will feature what he describes as the “Mount Everest’s” of violin music” the 24 Caprices for Solo Violin written by Niccolò Paganini between 1802 and 1817. This is also a sneak peak of a new studio album that Kurti will release later this year of Paganini’s 24 Caprices. He revealed during the interview that grew up hoping that one day he would be able to perform just one of the Caprices but to complete all 24 could be the apex of his career accomplishments.
As a fellow violist himself PSU’s Raul Munguia knows the level of difficultly and commitment that is required to learn not just one of the Caprices but all 24 of them. During his long career as a professional musician Munguia says that he has only seen Paganini’s 24 Caprices for Solo Violin in its entity only once before and he describes it as a “wild ride”.
The performance on Saturday March 14 at Sharon K. Deane recital hall starts at 7:30 pm and is open to the public. This is a direct link to some of Kurti’s earlier performances.
The month of February in the US is well known for being Black History Month, but did you know that the month long remembrance that reflect s back on the important people and events of the African diaspora has roots that date back to 1926? The week was chosen because it coincided with the birthday of Abraham Lincoln on February 12 and of Frederick Douglass on February 14, both of which dates black communities had celebrated together since the late 19th century.
Locally, the Joplin Public Library will be holding a Black History Celebration on Saturday February 22 from 1030 am until noon. At the event, Nanda Nunnelly will portray Ona Judge, who was an enslaved woman who escaped from and was relentlessly pursued by our first president, George Washington. Recently KRPS’s Fred Fletcher-Fierro spoke with Nanda Nunnelly will portray Judgeand JPL’s Black History Month Celebration.
Researchers believe that Judge was born in 1773 and lived until the age of 75 when she passed away on February 25, 1848. It wasn’t until the late 1990’s when African-American and US Historian Erica Armstrong Dunbar, now a professor of at Rutgers University was researching archives on free blacks in Philadelphia in the late 1800’s. In 2017 Dunbar published “Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit Of Their Runaway Slave, One Judge” which chronicles the escape of the 22-year old Judge and Martha and George’s relentless pursuit to locate what they believed was their property.
Nunnelly started portraying Judge a couple of years ago after she read Dunbar’s book, Never Caught and was inspired to informs others about her story and life. Nunnelly, who has a background in the performing arts has experience working with the Stone’s Throw Dinner Theater and The Joplin Little Theater. That’s in addition to working in the McDonald County School District and at The Minnie Hackney Community Center in Joplin Nunnelly would be asked to presentations during Black History Month. She combined her great interest in Judge’s life and background in theater so that more people would be informed about Ona Judge and her life spent on the run from our countries first President, George Washington.
Making their second appearance in the past five years in Joplin the Horszowski Trio will be performing on Thursday February 22, 2020 at Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School. The concert, which is being hosted by ProMusica Joplin starts at 7:00 pm is open to the public although donations will be accepted.
Since the group formed nearly ten years ago the Horszowski Trio have performed coast to coast here in the US, in addition to touring in Japan and India. After their debut performance at Rockfeller University in late 2011 the group booked and performed their first 200 shows. Recently KRPS’s Fred Fletcher-Fierro spoke with the Trio’s two-time Grammy nominated violinist Jesse Mills who started playing at the age of 3. Jesse reveals that two-thirds of the group was formed even before he turned 13 years old.
The group has been hailed by numerous publications such as the New York Times who called the Horszowski Trio“impressive, lithe, persuasive.” That’s in addition to BBC Radio saying, they play with “great care and affection” and, The Strad, a UK-based monthly classical music magazine about string instruments proclaiming the Horszowski Trio “fresh, supple and fantastic.” Jesse believes that chamber music remains popular both in the US and abroad because of the solo voices it can provide listeners in addition to the overall playing power of groups.
Encouraged by his Mother Jesse Mills starting playing the violin when he was a toddler. By the time he was 12-years old he was attending summer music camp and met Raman Ramakrishnan who would become the cello player for the Horszowski Trio. According to Jesse all he ever wanted to do was play in a trio and he is living out his dream.
Residents of Pittsburg will have an opportunity to have their voices heard at the next Imagine Pittsburg 2030 Community Conversation taking place on Thursday February 27 at Butler’s Quarters, at 513 North Broadway, in Pittsburg. The event starts at 6 pm. The steering committee for IP 2030 was established now over a decade ago to provide guidance and planning for what the city would look like in 20 years time. The committee laid out six areas of importance that would help shape and improve the lives of Pittsburg residents in 2030. They include Economic Development, Infrastructure, Public Wellness, Education, Marketing and Housing. Recently KRPS’s Fred Fletcher-Fierro spoke with Community Development & Housing Director and Pittsburg State grad Quentin Holmes about the need for housing in the city and the broader goals of IP 2030.
The most recent IP 2030 community conversation was this past December and according to Holmes Pittsburg residents that are curious about the future of the city are encouraged to attend on Feb. 27th. The meetings are a way for residents to speak up and tell the IP 2030 committee members what’s important to them so that they can bring the needs of the city more into focus. Prior to attending the IP 2030 meeting on Thursday February 27 you’re also encouraged to RSVP so that there is enough room for everybody.
With a focus on the future and newer housing in Pittsburg the city over the past five years has demolished over 200 houses to make way for the opportunity for local residents to build new houses. Another aspect of the IP 2030 plan that Holmes points to is the city of Pittsburg establishing a planned development, which he says the city hasn’t had since the 1970’s. Another option for residents of Pittsburg who are looking to build a new home is to take advantage of the Pittsburg Land Bank. The land bank, which currently has 51 pieces of property available throughout the city according to Holmes, “focuses on the conversion of vacant, abandoned, tax-delinquent, or otherwise underused properties into productive use” according to the city website.
Jennifer Knapp has lived a few lives. Today, at the age of 45, living in Nashville, Tennessee she recently graduated from Vanderbilt University with a graduate degree in Theological Studies. Perhaps now is the perfect time to both look back at her start in Southeast Kansas and ahead to the next step in her career. Originally from Chanute she graduated from Chanute High School and attended Pittsburg State on a music scholarship.
Knapp released her first professional recording at the age of 20 while still an undergrad at Pittsburg State in 1994. She became better known for her album titled, Kansas that followed 4 years later in 1998 and the single “Undo Me”. According to Knapp she recorded her first CD in Pittsburg and remembers playing at Memorial Hall for a CD debut party. Her performance later this month will mark the first time that she’s performed in Southeast Kansas in over 20 years.
Since her start in Kansas in the mid and late 1990’s Knapp has traveled and performed all over the US and internationally. You might think that performing at your alma mater (PSU) might be a piece of cake but that isn’t the case for her. Even though her first three albums sold over a million copies she reveals that she’s got butterflies for the performance at the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts on Saturday February 22nd. She still visits Southeast Kansas on occasion so that she can see family some of whom will be in the audience for her concert.
Since Knapp came on to the Christian music scene two decades ago a lot has changed both in the music business and society. At the peak of her popularity after being nominated for Grammy’s in 2000 for Lay It Down and in 2001 for The Way I Am she decided to stop writing music and performing. Her final performance before a long break and moving to Australia was in September of 2002. She’d revealed that the constant stress of touring wore on her and that she needed a break. In a 2004 interview with Relevant Magazine “she said that she was talking a break from music and leaving the future in gods hands.” Later in 2010, in interviews given to Christianity Today, Reuters and The Advocate Knapp revealed that she was gay and had been in a same sex relationship since 2002. She reflects back on her early song writing success and how the events of her life are reflected in her music.
After all of this, Christianity is still an important aspect of Knapp’s life so much so that she earned a Graduate degree in Theological Studies from Vanderbilt University. Knapp says that shes, “not just interested in writing shiny poetry but the kind of poetry that really says something truthful and that takes a lot more digging and a lot more depth.” She continues to be curious about God but today she’s just as concerned about being functional in life and how the two intersect.
To learn more about Jennifer Knapp’s performance Saturday February 22 at the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts click this link.
Saturday, February 8 the Neosho Arts Council is set to host Art Con 2020 at its new location, Carver Elementary School. The one day event has grown larger each year and includes special guests such as Corin Nemec star of Stargate and Smallville and Arron Kuder creator and artist for Ghost Rider and Superman. While Art Con 2020 has grown in stature and the number of visitors it draws to SW Missouri each year one aspect that hasn’t changed is the low general admission price of $5, with both kids 5 and under and parking free.
Recently KRPS’s Fred Fletcher-Fierro spoke with Sarah Serio President of the Neosho Arts Council about Art Con 2020. Serio says that while Art Con 2020 will have special guests and games for visitors to play they will also hold panel discussions. One discussion is going to be lead by JP Pool, host of Egotastic Fun Time that will focus on which digital platform is right for you. Should you develop a podcast? Or a YouTube channel?
Art Con 2020 continues to maintain its affordable price this year of the general admission of only $5. But there are other opportunities if you want to engage in the panel discussions, receive an autograph ticket or purchase a photograph opportunity of Corin Nemec. The photograph session with Corin starts at 11 am while the panel kicks off at 1 pm.
Recently KRPS’s Fred Fletcher-Fierro spoke with C2C’s Community Arts Director Emily Frankoski about Missouri Citizens’ Day for the Arts taking place on Wednesday February 5th starting at 10 am. The one day annual event in Jefferson City focuses on the monetary impact of the arts throughout the state. According to Emily, you should attend if you’re an artist, part of an arts organization or somebody that just want to advocate on behalf of the arts. Online registration is both free and required.
Another aspect of the arts are the funds needed to support them and how they support the community. According the most recent economic impact report available from Americans for the Arts the economic impact of the nonprofit arts and culture industry in Southwest Missouri is likely larger than you think. According to the 2015 report in Joplin alone, 191 jobs were either created or sustained by arts and culture spending. And event related spending, excluding the cost of admission to the event raised $3.6 million dollars. Frankoski points out that this study was completed prior to Connect2Culture establishing their Curtains Up Series which hosts four nationally touring shows every year in Joplin. The next study is slated to take place in 2020 and be made available in 2021.
Even though the Bicknell as been around for 5-years worth of performances and events, there are still collaborations that are new. According to Joe, the first event held at the Bicknell in 2020 is the Pittsburg State Opera accompanied by the Southeast Kansas Symphony. The performances are taking place on Friday February 14 at 7:30 pm and against on Sunday February 16 at 3 pm. “Cosi fan tutte” by W. A. Mozart — a story in which two officers are convinced their fiancés will remain faithful, but a friendly wager with another officer that they will not leads to chaos.
Just 6 days after the Sunday February 16th performance of PSU Opera and SEKS Pittsburg State’s own Jennier Knapp will perform for the first time at the Bicknell. The Grammy-nominated Signer-Songwriter is originally from Chanute, Kansas and has sold more than 1-million albums in her first three releases. Knapp, who moved to Australia in 2002 has toured the globe speaking about Christianity and her LGBTQ identity. Her most recent album released in 2017 is titled, Love Comes Back Around.
According to the non-profit Feeding America there were 38 million people living in poverty across the United States in 2019. 37 million of those people also struggle with hunger and 11 million of those are children. Also, children are the most vulnerable group of Americans to face food insecurity. Locally, Crosslines Pantry in Joplin collects food donations from residents, local businesses and religious organizations and that serve 220 families on a monthly basis.
In an effort to raise awareness of food insecurity, while also providing non-perishable can food products to local residents through Crosslines and supporting local businesses Jomo Restaurant Week was established in 2015. KRPS’s Fred Fletcher-Fierro recently spoke with Monica Burlingame of Crosslines Pantry who says that the Jomo Restaurant Week was originally created as a way to increase the amount of donations during a traditionally slow month after the busy holiday season.
The months of November and December are two of the busiest for food donations at Crosslines and as the calendar changes to the new year the amount of donations tapers off. According to Monica, donations reach a peak during the holiday season but the need from the community also climbs to its highest levels during those months also.
Taking part in JOMO Restaurant week is easy. You bring non perishable canned food items with you when you visit participating local businesses or restaurants. In return for your donation will they provide a discount or specials and you’ll be able to enter a drawing for 1 of 30 $25 gift cards from one of the 30 local businesses that are participating.
In 2019 JOMO Restaurant Week took in 3 tons of non-perishable canned food goods that were directly donated to Crosslines Pantry and assisted residents of SW Missouri. This year the organization has set a goal of 4-tons. The need for food donations to help struggling families is a year around effort and events like JOMO RW highlight just how vulnerable local families are to being hungry.
2019 was a banner year for the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts. The facility celebrated its 5th-anniversary in early December and hosted countless events from the Best of Broadway to the Pittsburg State Jazz Festival and former Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice. This year is scheduled to be another busy year at the center according to Joe Firman, Director of the Bicknell who joined KRPS’s Fred Fletcher-Fierro recently on the ‘Crimson and Gold Connection’.
The Best of Broadway returns to Southeast Kansas for another year of award winning performances. The national tour of ‘Finding Neverland’ stops at Pittsburg State for one night only, on Sunday January 26 at 7:30. The production is based on the film that was released in 2004 and starred Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet. Firman says that the show has a local connection, with one of the performers hailing from Miami, Oklahoma.
Firman, who helped open the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts over 5-years ago reflects back on what it was like in December of 2014. One of the aspect that he’s most proudest of is to share the facility with local groups that now call the Bicknell home. This includes the Southeast Kansas Symphony which was the first musical group to perform inside of the Bicknell.
If you miss one of the live performances at the Bicknell you can catch up by tuning into ‘Live From The Bicknell Center’ Sunday evenings at 6 and Monday afternoons at 3 on KRPS. It’s a collaboration that has been beneficial for listeners throughout the Four States who perhaps have never been able to visit the center or even Pittsburg State. Behind the scenes, Firman says that the Bicknell’s Technical Director Jonathon Eastman produces the series including the ‘Best of Holiday Extravaganza’ episode which include 5-years worth of performances from the SEK Symphony, the Bells of the Balkans and other local groups.