Archive for October, 2017

  • Chapter 148- Milwaukee Music

    Need one more reason to love this city?  Look no farther than the music scene!  I’ve found a ton of opportunities to take my kids to see some live and GOOD music here in town, and I wanted to share some of them with you.

    Let me first say why I think music is important to kids and families.  We have a vibrant scene here in Milwaukee, and by taking your kids to attend events/listen to their neighbors making music, you’re supporting your community.  And making it stronger.  The other reason I value music so much is because like all art, it’s a form of self expression.  We all (kids included!) have emotions and ideas inside, and music is just one way to get those feelings out.  When your kids see adults, teenagers, and even kids performing, it can be an encouraging way to tell your kids “Hey you’re important!” and that by expressing yourself you might even help other people get their feelings out.

    We spend quite a few nights over the summer at our amazing Milwaukee County Parks for Concerts in the Parks.  Almost every day of the week, you can find some free and family-friendly music around town.  Most parks are busy with families and picnic dinners, kids running around, dancing, and adults sharing a drink.  Check out MKE County Parks’ website for schedules (though I’m sure next summer’s lineups aren’t out quite yet).

    88Nine Radio Milwaukee is constantly offering ways to see music, with kids and without.  This summer they held a block party to celebrate their 10 year anniversary, and we were able to attend this fun free event!  My kids had been hearing the band Reyna on the radio, so I did some Instagram stalking to introduce myself.  After we saw this sister duo perform, we then got to say hi in person and snag a photo!

    88Nine also offers 414 Music Live, one of my favorite perks of the radio station.  At these sessions, you can watch musicians perform and chat with radio hosts.  We’ve been lucky enough to see and meet Sonny Knight & The Lakers, Siren, Lex Allen, WebsterX, Grace Weber, Kaleo, The Bahamas, Sister Strings and Jack Garrett.  Most of those performers are local…what a great way to support your community!  Check their schedule here.

    I don’t have any photos, but check out Free Space at the Jazz Gallery in Riverwest, and DJ Bizzon’s Scratch Sessions.  Free Space is a community event held the third Wednesday of every month, and opens up its doors to youth who want to explore music.  The Scratch Sessions offer free lessons on turntables for youth ages 12-19.

    Anodyne Coffee Roasters has some interesting and free and family-friendly events as well!  Last year I took the kids to see a jazz bass player and it was a really new and unique experience for them.  They were a little out of their element, looking around with wide eyes as if to ask “is this music, Mom?”  But I feel very strongly that exposure to new and different things creates appreciation for the arts.  As much as I hated being dragged to classical music performances as a kid, I’m so happy to have that as a foundation in my life.  Thanks Mom!

     

    Colectivo hosts Gospel Sundays, MSO Mondays and more chances to see some great music.  Check out the schedules and get yourself to one of the events, if just to say you tried it once.

    And then there’s the Festival city Symphony’s Pajama Jamborees.  If your kids can hang a little later in the evening, get them in their pjs and head to see some lovely music.  It’s a free event held a few times a year, and the concerts typically surround a theme like holidays or classic stories.

    Fox and Branch know how to bring down the house.   They’re a local duo who play bluegrass when they’re not entertaining kids.  Check out their schedule for chances to see them (like at Anodyne Coffee and this event at the Washington Park Library).

    I commend the Milwaukee Public Library for offering such a fun and out-of-the-ordinary event…Library Out Loud Days!  It’s a fun way to explore our libraries, by being loud.  They’ve hosted shows (we saw New Age Narcissism this past summer, where adults got to drink a beer while kids danced and played and explored), and this month they have what looks like a really fun event.  Haunted Central will be alive with “haunted-themed” events and activities for two days this weekend.  Check it out!

    The Milwaukee Art Museum has free days (first Thursday of every month) and great weekend events, many of which offer music.  Kids under age 12 are always free at the museum, so if you get a chance to attend one of the special events, please take advantage of it!

    And my last tip for introducing your kids to music is to have some instruments lying around your house.  Ours are all second hand from rummage sales, and the microphone we have doesn’t even work.  But kids get curious and want to explore things hands-on, so when they have the chance to pick/pluck/strike/sing, I say let them.  I’ve also enjoyed seeing my kids be able to play some music, whether on our Fisher Price cassette player from the 80’s, or putting on their favorite album on the record player.

    Thanks for stopping by and reading!  If you have suggestions for other ways to get your family involved in live and or local music, please drop a line!

  • Chapter 147- First Stage Theater (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang)

    While growing up in my family, Thanksgiving meant a 3-5 day celebration with aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends.  Wednesday was an all-night pizza party that ran right into Thursday morning turkey baking.  After our meal on Thursday, we’d play and nap and the kids would invariably get into some sort of trouble before movie time began.

    We’d watch classics like Swiss Family Robinson, E.T., Mary Poppins, and one of my favorites, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  It’s a tale of imagination and perseverance, and has a flying car in it so OF COURSE kids like it.  And I got the opportunity to see this magical movie come to life in a First Stage performance!

    If you’re not familiar with First Stage, it’s an incredible children’s theater here in Milwaukee that began in 1987.  First Stage offers professional theater productions like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, an academy for theater training and classes, and educational programs in schools and our communities.

    And on this past Sunday, I took my oldest and youngest daughters on a special date to see the play, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  My two kindergarteners actually get to see it with school later this month, so it was a really nice treat for the other two to get to see the production!

    (above photo credit Paul Ruffolo Photography: Jackson Evans, Malkia Stampley, Jack Trettin and Paige Landrum in CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG)

    And I have to tell you, it was nothing short of an incredible experience.  My 8 year old and almost 4 year old both loved the performance equally.  The theater is set up so there’s not a bad seat in the house, and the stage is recessed so everyone has a great view of the people and props on stage.

    (above photo credit Paul Ruffolo Photography)

    When the opening number began, I noticed the wide age range of actors.  We got to see some very young kids (the youngest appeared to be about 5 years old), adolescents, adults and even a “grandpa-aged” adult as my daughter said.  Some of these actors were entering and exiting through the audience, a great way for kids to see people and costumes up close!   I was also impressed with the use of stage…actors were standing on boxes and tables, getting close to the audience.  The pianist was pretty much in the audience which contributed to the almost hands-on feel of the show.

    (above photo credit Paul Ruffolo Photography: Rick Pendzich, Jackson Evans and young performer cast in CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG)

    As for the actual story and performance, it was so creative!  The props were used in such a way that I think encourages ingenuity and creativeness.  For example, when the car was to be floating on water, stagehands crawled under the car and “inflated” some floatation devices, waving them gently.

    (above photo credit Paul Ruffolo Photography)

    At one point in the movie, a blimp is flying through the air with a small hut hanging below.  The actors carried a miniature blimp and hut in the air, with their voices sounding far off, and gave the clear impression that they were in the air.  Even if some dialogue was lost for younger audience members, the action/set/singing/dancing carried them through without confusion.

    This interpretation of the movie really emphasized the message of adventure and persistence.  The family didn’t give up on rescuing their grandfather AND helping the children of Vulgaria (you’ll just have to see the play to know what I’m talking about).  I was moved by the song “The Roses of Success”, where Grandpa Potts was given the impossible talk of making the Baron’s car fly.  We’re told “…up from the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success…”.  In the next number, the rest of the Potts family is trying to save the children of the city and they sing “…we’re all together, a team can weather any storm they may go through, cause teamwork can make a dream work, if you’re not afraid to fight!”

    (above photo credit Paul Ruffolo Photography)

    Now perhaps I was inspired by these messages of hope, unity, grit and determination because of current affairs in our county (and ahem, worldwide).  I’m uneasy about our volatile political climate and worried about the future.  But spending a Sunday afternoon listening to reminders that we can work together for justice and a better life eased my mind.  And it offered the same lessons to my kids.

    We loved the Q&A (or talkback) session after the last scene.  The cast stayed on stage and took questions from the audience.  The actors took turns answering the questions, which was a neat way for my kids to see that the people on stage were regular people, too!

    Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is playing through November 5th, and I really hope you get a chance to see it.  Thank you First Stage for the wonderful experience!

    A. Storm