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Jazz St. Louis hosts a Virtual 25th Anniversary

Gene Dobbs Bradford, President & CEO of Jazz St. Louis, located in The Harold and Dorothy Steward Center for Jazz in Grand Center (3536 Washington) announced recently that programming would remain virtual for the remainder of 2020. That includes a celebration of the beloved organization’s 25th Anniversary which will take place this Friday, October 2.

The anniversary party will include a special, open-to-all streamed event that features artists from across the country. The evening will focus on the impact the organization has had on jazz in the St. Louis Community and nurturing the Jazz St. Louis Family throughout the years.

Pull up a chair and raise a glass to support Jazz St. Louis at 25. The online festivities begin at 6:30 p.m.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings  Jazz St. Louis Gene Dobbs Bradford

Jazz St. Louis will only have one 25th anniversary, and we can’t wait to celebrate it with you! On October 2, we’ll be throwing a party unlike anything we’ve ever done before.

Around the world, jazz fans will make a toast to everyone who has been along for the ride the last 25 years as Jazz St. Louis transformed from a small music program to an internationally renowned jazz venue with jazz education programs for all ages, and forum for thought-provoking community outreach.

This music-filled and mission-driven virtual celebration will include performances by some of our favorite local and national artists, stories from education partners and families, and many special surprises.

And because a party’s only as good as its guests, we want to include everybody—musicians, patrons, donors, and supporters of all stripes from the last quarter-century. Whether you’re a 20+ season ticketholder or a curious spectator, we want to see you there. So, for the first time ever, we’re giving away all the tickets for free.

Jazz St. Louis’ 25th Anniversary Virtual Celebration
Friday, October 2, 2020
6:30pm Pre-event Concert
Arrive at your leisure to a performance by our JazzU Students
7:00pm The Big Event
Gene Dobbs Bradford & Peter Martin host with performances by Regina Carter, The Bad Plus, Ann Hampton Callaway & more!
8:00pm After-Party
Denise Thimes caps off the evening with a special set not to be missed.

Help us celebrate 25 years of the uniquely American art of jazz in St. Louis by RSVPing today, and bring your friends!

RSVP and More Information

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings  Jazz St. Louis Gene Dobbs Bradford

Snapshots from St. Louis Shakespeare Festival’s “A Late Summer Night’s Stroll”

2020 was set to be a banner year for Shakespeare Festival St. Louis. To celebrate its 20th anniversary, a name change —St. Louis Shakespeare Festival— was announced early in the year, and planning for this season’s production of Much Ado About Nothing was in full gear. Then COVID 19 appeared on the world stage, and “Much Ado…” became “what to do…”

Producing Artistic Director Tom Ridgely and his staff may have taken a cue from the Bard himself while they struggled to cobble some sort of production together. It was interesting to learn recently that the actor and playwright William Shakespeare learned to work around frequent plagues throughout his lifetime. (You can read more about this in an article in STL Magazine authored by Shakespeare Festival’s Tom Ridgely or Stephen Greenblatt’s piece in The New Yorker: WhaShakespeare Actually Wrote About the Plague.)

After 20 years of staging free Shakespeare performances in Forest Park, which drew an average of 2000 per night (some performances saw crowds of 3 to 5,000 people), Shakespeare Festival’s Development Associate Tori Rezek came up with an inventive performance, a walk through the Forest Park titled A Late Summer Night’s Stroll.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings  Tom Ridgely St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

Photos courtesy of CWEnders Beki Marsh & Janice Forsyth

With backing from 14 generous sponsors, the event, which took place August 12 through September 6, featured 14 arches created by 14 local artists that meandered from Shakespeare Glen across from the Saint Louis Art Museum down the hill to Government Drive, around the Boathouse to the foot of the Grand Basin. Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings  Tom Ridgely St. Louis Shakespeare Festival  Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings  Tom Ridgely St. Louis Shakespeare Festival  What awaited guests as they followed the path were performances by over 50 actors and musicians from 12 area arts organizations.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings  Tom Ridgely St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

Shakespeare wrote the script for the 1st and 14th stops, while dialogue at the remaining 12 was written or composed by the presenting arts organization with vetting by the Shakespeare staff.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings  Tom Ridgely St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

As a nod to current times, masks and measuring tape were incorporated as props.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings  Tom Ridgely St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings  Tom Ridgely St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings  Tom Ridgely St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

About 1,000 people (scheduled in socially distanced groups of 10) were able to attend A Late Summer Night’s Stroll  over 23 nights. It’s estimated that an additional 2,000 people scanned QR codes and took self-guided tours during the festival. The self-guided tour featured excerpts read by local actors paired with music inspired by or thematically related to the play.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings  Tom Ridgely St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

St. Louis Shakespeare Festival’s annual gala, which is vital to the organization’s bottom line, was on the calendar for early spring. Unfortunately, this event collided with the coronavirus shutdown so organizers quickly pivoted to a virtual gala, “To Thy Own Self Be True,” which was hugely successful netting more than was raised in previous years. And 2020’s gala was featured in an entertaining Bloomberg News report about hosting galas around the country during the pandemic titled Tuxedo Tops and Pajama Bottoms.

Thanks to CWEnder and Artistic Producing Director Tom Ridgely for sharing so much helpful information for this post, to CWEnder and Shakespeare Board Member Jessica Holzer for her input, and to CWEnders Beki Marsh and Janice Forsyth for all the great photographs.

Visit St. Louis Shakespeare Festival website to stay updated on what’s next.

CWEnder Laura Holman Byrne’s Tater Tot dishes on The Golden Rule

Nicki's Central West End Guide Books, Dance, Music, Theater CWE Pets  The Cup Tater Tot Laura Byrne Emily Hart Clearwater Creek Elementary School

When CWEnders Laura Holman Byrne, a science and communications professional, and her husband Dennis, a hospitality executive, adopted an English bulldog, it never crossed their minds that “Tater Tot,” the runt of the litter, would one day become the subject of a life lessons adventures book series teaching children (and adults) lessons on how to follow the Golden Rule.

The effect their smushy-faced pup had on people of all ages surprised them. “There’s almost no one who hasn’t melted into a smile when they meet him,” Laura Byrne said. “Barriers and prejudices seemed to melt away, so while my husband and I were taken aback by the reaction, we knew we had to do something.”

Byrne’s experience in marketing and advertising was the catalyst for using Tater Tot as the perfect “fall guy” for demonstrating how important it is to show others respect, even in the smallest ways.  “It’s obviously written as a children’s book,” explains the author, “but it is also a subtle and fun way for adults to to think about their own behavior too.”

Last December Tater Tot posed for photos on the red carpet outside The Cup, 28 Maryland Plaza Rear, before a reading of Byrne’s latest book, Tater Tot at The Chase: Too Much! The Cup proprietor Ericka Frank’s background as a registered dietician inspired the author to feature moderation as a character-building life lesson. You’ll find more on Tater Tot’s connection to The Cup later in this post.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Books, Dance, Music, Theater CWE Pets  The Cup Tater Tot Laura Byrne Emily Hart Clearwater Creek Elementary School  So much has changed since December—to put it mildly—that Byrne and I finally met recently for the first time on Zoom, while Tater Tot snoozed in the background.

Laura and Dennis Byrne moved to the CWE  7 years ago.  When they were exploring neighborhoods in St. Louis, the CWE reminded them of their former neighborhood, Russian Hill in San Francisco. Byrne said that they’ve moved so often over the years that “we’ve made a pact to love wherever we live.”

In our conversation the author explained that “the goal of all of Tater Tot’s Adventures is to provide a non-judgmental way to discuss behaviors that engender respect for everyone in any situation.”   Each volume focuses on very simple behaviors that are easy enough for the youngest readers, ages 4 to 8, teenagers, and most “stubborn” adults, to understand.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Books, Dance, Music, Theater CWE Pets  The Cup Tater Tot Laura Byrne Emily Hart Clearwater Creek Elementary School

Byrne practices what she preaches in the Tater Tot books. She  has gifted over 3,000 books to military schools and organizations, children’s hospitals, elementary schools, pediatric cancer foundations and neurosurgery centers around the world.  The signing event at The Cup benefited Carol House Quick Fix Pet Clinic.

Tater Tot became known to employees at The Cup long before the book was published.  On early morning walks with Laura, the pup caught the attention of Emily Hart, the production supervisor at The Cup, when he barked at the door to the employee entrance. The visits became more frequent, the staff became smitten, and soon Hart developed a “pupcake,” taste tested by Tater Tot, which is now frequently on the menu at the neighborhood’s cupcake shop.

Hart continued: “Our experience with Tater Tot shows how connected the CWE community is. While working in a cupcake shop it’s rather hard to practice moderation, as discussed  in Too Much!, but we try our best to heed his advice.”

Nicki's Central West End Guide Books, Dance, Music, Theater CWE Pets  The Cup Tater Tot Laura Byrne Emily Hart Clearwater Creek Elementary School  One of Tater Tot’s many appearances was at Coldwater Elementary School in the Hazelwood School District. Teacher Carrie Fisher could not have surprised her students more after reading Tater Tot’s first adventure, A Happy Helper, when there was a knock at the door and Tater Tot and the author were standing outside with bags of books for the students. Byrne could not have considered anything more worthwhile than sharing books with these students who showed such a sincere interest in learning and showing kindness. “They make you want to be a better person,” the author said of her visit.

Fenton elementary reading specialist Diana Stites emailed that Tater Tot is a character her students love “because he’s not only cute, they can relate to the lessons he learns in the books.”

Stiles continued: “Laura’s stories provide strong character elements that help students see the transformation Tater Tot makes as he learns and grows. The illustrations are engaging and enhance the story’s examples of respect, kindness, and learning from our mistakes. Tater Tot’s books provide a perfect example of an excellent character in a lovable imperfect pup.”

Nicki's Central West End Guide Books, Dance, Music, Theater CWE Pets  The Cup Tater Tot Laura Byrne Emily Hart Clearwater Creek Elementary School

I followed up with Byrne the other day to see how an outgoing pup like Tater Tot is handling social-distancing guidelines:

“Tater Tot has been virtually busy,” she said. “Now more than ever with all the new ways to communicate, Tater Tot is showing people how to be virtually respectful!. FaceTime, Zooming, webexing, you name it. He’s been talking directly with friends and fans.”  So when you see him out in the neighborhood, be sure to say hello—from a distance of course.

Tater Tot Adventures™  can be ordered at MrTaterTot.com for $17.99 each, $30 for the set. The books are proudly printed in Missouri by Garlich Printing.

P.S. – Thanks to Laura Byrne for providing all the terrific photos.