Marysville's kids buck school funding woes --to an African beat.
The chest wound in Portland's public-school budget wreaks a lot of havoc. One of the worst of many curricular tragedies: music's demise. Of the city's 60 public elementary schools slated to open next year (down from 63), only 32 will offer music programs--if Measure 26-48 passed yesterday.
So hand it to Eric Schopmeyer and Adrienne Leverette: in an age of funding anemia, they lead the Marysville Elementary Marimba Band, possibly the city's most successful kid-music project.
Schopmeyer, until recently the leader of local rock band Slackjaw, started the school's marimba program with ESL teacher Jeff Powers, who also plays in local marimba band White Rhino. Their young charges get wild on many different marimbas--xylophonelike wood keys attached to brass resonators--as well as a few drums and cymbals. Just like you'd hear in Zimbabwe or Mali, except banged out by a bunch of fresh-faced Southeast PDX schoolkids.
"It's perfect for kids because of the high energy and accessibility of the music," Schopmeyer explains. "They can get a good sound on their instrument right away--unlike a traditional wind-band scenario, where you spend the year figuring out how to produce a sound."
Twice as many kids want into the program as it can hold. "For some kids, it's the only positive thing about school," Schopmeyer says. "Kids who struggle in every other subject become some of our best players."
Besides being Schopmeyer's belle and partner in the documentary filmmaking project archipelago, Leverette is a classically trained musician in her own right. She helps direct the marimba band's public performances, which are fast becoming a mainstay of local festivals and community events.
She says of the band: "They aren't afraid of making mistakes. The uninhibited enthusiasm that they bring to the music makes them so enjoyable to watch."
Sadly, Marysville's success story stands in stark contrast to what's happening--or not--elsewhere. "An ensemble experience for kids just doesn't happen much anymore," says Glenn Ludtke of Portland Public Schools. "We've cut band programs; we've cut choral programs. With part-time teachers assigned to a student body of 600 or 700, what can you really offer?"
All the more reason to turn out for Marysville's pre-teen musicians, buy their CD and support what few music opportunities are left for public-school children in our city. (Brian Libby)
The Marysville Marimba Band plays Friday, May 23, in the South Park Blocks. Noon. All ages.
You Don't Stop
Portland's first Hip-Hop Appreciation Week is positively positive.
You'd think that after 30 years, hip-hop could drop the Dangerfield act. Criminal-minded stereotype dies hard, though, so the genre still finds itself demanding respect.
Six years ago, the legendary KRS-One planted the seed for Hip-Hop Appreciation Week, envisioned as a national celebration of hip-hop music, fashion, dance, art, street life and politics. Already on the cultural agendae of NYC, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia, Hip-Hop Appreciation Week makes its Portland debut with eight days of educational events and nightclub fetes.
"Hip-hop isn't what you see on TV," says Melissa Blem, the event's 27-year-old spokeswoman and co-organizer. "Artists out in the streets, struggling to make it, hanging posters on poles--that's hip-hop. We want to teach kids this is an artistic outlet. You can be productive with it, but you have to be responsible and conscious."
Workshops at the Blazers Boys and Girls Club will feature art, dancing, fashion and poetry. For the grown-ups, the week includes a freestyle battle and special editions of nightclub events already established on PDX's hip-hop social calendar.
"The club nights aren't really the focus," Blem says. "This is more about letting people know that this is more than music: It's a culture, and this is how we carry it forward in a productive way." (Zach Dundas)
Nightclub events for Wednesday, May 21, include Phat Chain Night with DJ Izm at East Chinatown Lounge and a freestyle battle at Roc's Bar & Grill. On Friday, May 23, Bookies hosts the Soul Food poetry and soul night, while the week wraps with a closing party at Red Sea on Sunday night. Various cover charges may apply.
Free, all-ages events at the Blazers Boys & Girls Club (5250 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 282-8480) include a live (and legal) grafitti demonstration, 4-6 pm Wednesday; a reading circle and B-Boy Expo, 4-6 pm Friday; and a talent, fashion and poetry show, 7-11 pm Saturday.
HISS and VINEGAR
KBOO SLAPS PADLOCK ON "CHURCH"
Local-music fans have one less place to worship--and we're not talking about the closure of Our Lady of Satyricon. The longtime host of The Church of Northwest Music, KBOO's long-running live and local show, aired his last weekly episode on the left-of-the-dial community station Wednesday, May 14, amid controversy and mudslinging.
While some deplored its chattiness and choice of bands, the Church was a Portland institution, exposing up-and-coming acts to a healthy radio audience. It focused on alternative rock, broadcasting hometown heroes like Everclear, Carmina Piranha, Hazel, Sunset Valley and the Francis Farmer Gals over the years.
Apparently, that lineup wasn't diverse enough for some at the station. KBOO sources, both anonymous and otherwise, fault host Marc Baker for sticking primarily to a narrow range of genres. Program director Chris Merrick wonders why jazz, salsa and hip-hop were rarely preached to the Church's congregation. Many KBOO programs focus on specific genres, but Merrick says the Church originated as an all-inclusive local showcase.
"It was created to be a vehicle for local music, not alternative rock or Marc's-favorite-band music," Merrick says.
Spider Moccasin, the station's outreach coordinator, says he had "diversity issues" with Baker's show. "Not only with the participants but with [Baker] being a Caucasian man," Moccasin says. "We need more women, people of color, queers.... He wasn't booking that."
Baker, meanwhile, blasted back, portraying himself as an innocent done wrong in a lengthy letter to the music industry zine Two Louies. The magazine ran a cover photo showing Baker with "KBOO" printed across his chest, hands bound, his mouth covered with a slice of tape labeled "local music."
Baker tells Hiss & Vinegar he submitted a proposal to share his time slot with other radio hosts, then fielded three questions from the station's programming committee: two relating to his "commitment to KBOO" and one asking whether he played R&B. He says he told a station committee he didn't play much R&B because he received very little from local musicians. Later, he was canned.
Local musicians circulated emails, demanding reinstatement of the show. Merrick's initial response cited confidential personnel issues, adding that other popular Wednesday-night shows are "usually unable to have live bands, because we can't do more than one musical setup."
"What are these people talking about?" Baker counters. "Last week I had a live band, and then the show after me had a live band."
Merrick later told Hiss the show was canceled because Baker only wanted to host it half-time. But don't other KBOO hosts share time slots? "The problem is him," Merrick responds. He says Baker aimed to retain creative control even when other hosts manned the mic. As for Baker's Q&A session with the committee, it was part of a regular evaluation to which all KBOO shows are subject. While Baker apparently refused for the past several years to participate in station fundraising activities required of each host, Merrick said that the Church was evaluated on its programming content alone.
So Baker is left with burned bridges, KBOO is left with a PR nightmare, and fans are left with a worse taste in their mouths than last night's PBR. Watch this space for more--and to find out how KBOO will fill the hole in its popular Wednesday-night lineup. --Tiffany Lee Brown