Taking Motown to the Schools

By: Thom Cooper

Music is timeless and crosses all ages. Never is that more true than with the music of Motown. This spring, Miller was able to bring a deeper level of appreciation of Motown to the three Kalamazoo Public Schools high schools.

With the help of Motown legends Bertha McNeal and Cal Street of The Velvelettes, we were able to work with choir directors, Theresa Williams-Johnson of Kalamazoo Central, Julie Pelligrino of Loy Norrix and Phoenix High, to educate a group of approximately 50 high school students on the history of the Motor City’s famous music powerhouse. I had the chance to follow along on the once-in-a-lifetime experience that started in the classroom, but took to the road.

Ms. McNeal and Ms. Street went to the high schools and conducted mini history lessons on how The Velvelettes were formed right here on the campus of Western Michigan University for a student talent show. They also gave background on the group and where they’ve been and how they still perform today with the original lineup. The ladies provided each group with a behind the scenes look at what it was like to be a part of the Motown Cavalcade.

123_1

Students learned about the etiquette and finishing school classes that all stars were required to attend, under the tutelage of Miss Maxine Powell. In fact, Motown was the only in-house finishing school at any American record label. The artists were taught how to sit, stand, walk and talk. They may have come to Hitsville U.S.A. as voices in the rough, but they went out on stage polished to meet kings and queens.

One of the activities the students enjoyed was learning a Motown hit and choreographing a number themselves. Each school had one group of young ladies do a number of The Velvelettes or The Supremes and one group of gentlemen do a Temptations piece. Watching the groups perform was very entertaining.

123_12

As part of the educational journey, the groups went to the Motown Museum in Detroit to see where it all started. We toured the house that Berry Gordy bought with an $800 loan from his family and recorded some of the most famous songs in the world. We saw the second-story area where Berry and his family lived, the attic where they ran mixes to create the reverb that is so much a part of the Motown Sound and the first floor office area that was where it all happened.

IMG_5805

Finally, we were able to attend opening night of MOTOWN THE MUSICAL at Miller Auditorium. We were able to see and hear the story, as told by Berry Gordy himself. After the show, we participated in a Q & A with ten cast members. They were kind enough to stay, chat and even take photos with us. What more can I say? For the past month, we have had a great time immersing ourselves in everything Motown. Hopefully, you got a chance to come see MOTOWN THE MUSICAL at Miller and were dancing in your seat!

IMG_6491

2017 Tony Nominations

3a97772f526115e1_tony_thm_16.9_1920x1080

By: Jimmy Brand

There are precious few things on this planet that will get me out of bed early, but the Tony Awards® nominations are one of the events that compel me to do so. The 2017 nominations did not disappoint this year

Personally, the first thing I do when reviewing the total list of nominations is to see which show raked in the most. Leading the pack this year is Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, which took home 12 nominations with Hello, Dolly! and Dear Evan Hansen coming in second and third with 10 and 9 noms respectively.

Also of note were the numbers of Best Musical nominees! In a Broadway season with so many wonderful shows, many wondered if the nominators would choose to honor a fifth show with a Best Musical nom, as they did last year. Comet, Hansen, Groundhog Day and Come From Away were the lucky four this year. These four represent a highly eclectic range of shows and unlike last year’s Hamilton runaway, this year looks like it may be a photo finish.

The Hello, Dolly! nominations likely resulted in a very happy Bette Midler, as this is marks The Divine Miss M’s first ever Tony nomination.

Also this year, all four playwrights in best play slots, Paula Vogel, Lynn Nottage, J.T. Rogers and Lucas Hnath, were making their Broadway Debuts—an almost unheard of feat.

The full list of nominees can be found here: https://www.tonyawards.com/index.html

The 71st Annual Tony Awards® air live on Sunday, June 11, 2017 at 8 p.m. EST on CBS, so grab a popcorn and unwrap your hard candy. It is awards season. Don’t forget to turn off your cell phones, Patti LuPone is nominated for War Paint and you don’t want her to catch you with a phone.

PattiP