Guest Artists, TAO: Seventeen Samurai

TAO: Seventeen Samurai
Family-friendly performance on Sunday, January 31 at 4pm at the Zoellner Arts Center
Tickets available here.


TAO: Seventeen Samurai showcases the Taiko drumming, precision, energy and stamina of athlete-drummers with “incomparable muscular zeal” (Chicago Tribune).  After years of intensive training at a mountainous compound in Japan, these performers, with their diverse backgrounds—one as a hard rock musician, another as a gymnast and another as a composer—have reached the highest level of virtuosity.  This show is part of Zoellner’s Family-Friendly series which features quality performances that are suitable for all ages for a fun family night out.  Tickets are $39/34.

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TAO started as a traditional Japanese drumming group over 15 years ago in Aichi, Japan.  After viewing an inspiring Cirque du Soleil performance, the group’s founding members decided to update the ancient art of wadaiko (Japanese drum) for modern audiences around the world.  A strict training regime is essential to be capable of the incredibly physical performances.  The troupe starts each day with a 20k run, followed by a few hours of muscle training, and at least two hours of basic drum training which involves continuous pounding of the taiko drum.

larry_pic2In conjunction with the performance, there is a free lecture and demonstration at 3 pm in the Goodman Lobby featuring Larry Stockton, a specialist in traditional Japanese music, specifically music of the Kabuki Theater, and percussion traditions from around the world.  He is a Lafayette College music professor and teaches courses in World Music Traditions, Jazz, East Asian Studies and various other courses.  He also directs the Percussion Ensemble and is active as a performer (percussion), conductor, and clinician, having performed and studied throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Europe, Japan, Korea, Ghana, and Indonesia. He has published numerous articles and conducted workshops and offered lectures on Japanese music and various world music traditions. He has produced and edited a four-volume set of concert band music for Toshiba-EMI, Ltd, The Masterpiece Series.

Performance Sponsor:
Ichiko and Joseph W. Long ’88 & Family
With support from LU Student Auxiliary Services

Prelude Sponsor: Youngs Advisory Group.

Connect with the artists on their:
Facebook Page
Twitter Feed


Curtis Stigers – TONIGHT at 7 PM

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Curtis Stigers, the voice behind the Sons of Anarchy theme song, performs at Zoellner Arts Center tonight at 7:00 PM.

Following a two-month European tour

“Rock ‘n’ roll and jazz share so many of the same artistic bloodlines that it’s remarkable the two don’t fuse more often into the kind of inspired marriage of visceral clout and intellectual savvy conjured by the singer, songwriter and saxophonist Curtis Stigers.” – The New York Times

Tickets are $35/25 and available here.

In conjunction with the concert, there will be a free pre-show lobby performance Doug Hawkat 6pm with Doug Hawk, the Lehigh Valley’s own funk/jazz/R&B artist fills the role of vocalist, keyboardist and principal composer in his myriad of groups. He presents a unique style, which can be described as historically soulful yet progressively hip.


Hooray-For-Love-YouTube-150x84Given his string of hit singles, millions of records sold and a 23-year recording career that has touched every continent and nearly every genre, one might expect Curtis Stigers to be very busy. The energetic singer/songwriter/saxophonist regularly barnstorms concert halls, festivals and clubs everywhere from Moscow to Manhattan, accompanied one night by his quartet, another by big band or orchestra. He has released new work nearly every year since he started recording, frequently collaborating with his musical heroes. Along the way, this musician who began his career playing standards in a Boise hotel lobby while moonlighting as drummer in a punk rock band has redefined the constitution of contemporary jazz.

Stigers’ repertoire is not so much eclectic as it is a reflection of his appreciation for the fundaments of tone and craft, for quality. (He credits his mentor, the late soul jazz pianist Gene Harris, for his first lessons in the art.) Though much has been made of Stigers’ perceived transformation from pop to jazz artist, in retrospect the progression of his work seems both organic and practical. “Pop used to be jazz. Jazz has always been about reinvention,” Stigers notes.

Throughout, Stigers makes it all look easy. “Hooray For Love [his latest CD] is the embodiment of what happens when everything works,” raves Critical Jazz. “Nothing short of amazing.”

Perhaps because he has penned so many notable songs himself, as well as writing with the likes of Carole King and Barry Mann, Stigers has come to recognize the small, perfect things that are a great melody and lyric, and how to capture them on paper and on tape. But it is his rich singing voice — singular, balletic, at turns mournful and playful — that has landed him on records with the likes of Al Green and Shawn Colvin, in studios with venerated producers like Larry Klein, Danny Kortchmar, and Glen Ballard, and onstage with a plethora of legends, including pop and rock greats Eric Clapton, Elton John, Bonnie Raitt, Rod Stewart, and The Allman Brothers, and jazz giants Nancy Wilson, Al Jarreau, Gerry Mulligan, Randy and Michael Brecker, Chuck Mangione, Toots Thielmans, Wynton Marsalis, Diana Krall, and many more. The voice, of course, is the thing: hearing Stigers’ confident, nuanced delivery is akin to seeing a celebrated actor lose himself in a role.

That talent was recognized early on by music business impresario Clive Davis, who signed Stigers to a record deal after seeing him in a New York dive. A debut album sold over 1.5 million copies worldwide on the strength of self-penned hit singles like “I Wonder Why,” “You’re All That Matters to Me,” and “Never Saw a Miracle.” A year later, Stigers contributed a cover version of Nick Lowe’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding” to The Bodyguard Soundtrack, which sold over 40 million copies worldwide. Multiple appearances on The Tonight Show, David Letterman, The Today Show, and countless international TV shows, put Stigers directly in the spotlight of popular culture.

More accolades followed. Stigers’ 2003 release You Inspire Me was The Sunday Times (UK) Jazz Album of the Year; in 2007 BBC Radio 2 awarded him Jazz Artist of the Year. In 2010 and 2013, Deutsche Phono-Akademie named Stigers International Male Jazz Singer of the Year at the Jazz Echo Awards; he received an Emmy nomination for “This Life,” a song he co-wrote and sang for the popular television show Sons of Anarchy. Stigers also recently recorded a duet of Cole Porter’s classic “Well Did You Evah” with Family Guy creator/actor/producer Seth MacFarlane and the John Wilson Orchestra, and he made a cameo appearance in MacFarlane’s movie Ted.

But Stigers seems to be the rare artist who has not allowed his success to influence his artistry, or his sense of self. Born in Hollywood, raised in Boise, and transplanted to Manhattan, he now resides, between gigs, in his hometown back in Idaho, a place where he says he can can raise his daughter and “live a real life.” Here, between blue mountains and green fields, Stigers is able to write and discover the songs he wants to sing.

Here’s a bit of Curtis… come swoon with us at Zoellner tonight.


American Repertory Ballet – A Midsummer Night’s Dream comes to Lehigh Friday, March 6

The next Zoellner Guest Artist is a welcome respite from the droll winter weather. The American Repertory Ballet Company will present “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” accompanied by the music of Felix Mendelssohn. This is a new production by the New Jersey company this season. Artistic Director Douglas Martin has envisioned the work to focus on the characters; their stories with balance to the attention typically paid to the “dream.”

“The traditional ballet A Midsummer Night’s Dream, most famously, Sir Frederick Ashton’s production, is performed in one act to Mendelssohn’s score “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,'” Martin explains. “My new version of the ballet will be in two acts. Act II is set to Mendelssohn’s score for the ballet, and the Act I is set to music from his First Symphony.  I wanted to make a version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that offered something new, but still choreographed in a very classical ballet vocabulary,” Martin explains. “In the studio, we’ve been working on creating very strong characters – both among the Athenians and the fairies. I love the worlds we have created, and look forward to sharing them with the public.”

Douglas Martin will also present a pre-performance lecture at 6:30pm.

The performance will be this Friday, March 6 at 7:30pm. Tickets are available at this link.


Links to Darlene Love

Building excitement around a living legend is on one hand exciting, but on the other, intimidating! There’s so much about Darlene Love’s upcoming concert to get excited about. For our readers, here is a compilation of links to Darlene Love’s impressive work and some other interesting things collected along the way:

A list of 15 videos of Darlene Love:

Darlene Love’s first performance of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” on David Letterman, 1986

Nice 3:29 video recap of her earlier work:

Articles worth reading:

Darlene Love is mentioned in this Huffington Post article, “The Unsung Hero of Sixties Music

David Letterman Says Goodbye to a Nearly 30-Year-Old Holiday Tradition

Darlene Love on Oscars, Letterman farewell, Springsteen-annointed Album

BvmBRvlIIAA-B6f-1Rolling Stone article on Darlene Love’s new album produced by Stevie Van Sandt

John Moser of The Morning Call interview and article

Dustin Schoof of The Express Times article Singer Darlene Love says fans will be ‘shocked’ by new solo album


Connecting the Dots – Teaching Resources:

From the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation Online Curriculum – “How the Other Half Lives: The Best of Girl Group Rock” by  Greil Marcus. (Now that’s an author worth reading more.)

About myself and reflections on a master

Posted by Matthew Werkheiser, English Major, Class of 2014

I must admit, I have never written on a blogging site before, but I am greatly looking forward to using this outlet as a means of developing a more intimate style for myself. But first, I should introduce myself , my name is Matthew Werkheiser, I am a senior and an English Lit major with a fond love of Irish and existential literature, John Milton, and romanticism. I have only been at Lehigh since I was a junior, having previously attended Lebanon Valley College. I cannot attest to my undergraduate journey being a splendid one. It is, for lack of a better word…interesting…but as I am the culmination of all my experiences, I must appreciate it for what it has taught me. My freshman and sophomore years were rocky, but Lehigh has absolutely made everything worth it (even that semester when I thought I was a bio major) and I finally have found a community which has helped me grow not only as a scholar, but also as a human being. I just wish I had been able to experience a full four years here, rather than my short (yet deliciously sweet) two.

But, without getting too emotional, I would like to spend the rest of this post reflecting on a recent performance I had the opportunity to see. On Saturday (the 16th) John Lithgow graced the stage of Zoellner with his one-man-show, “Stories by Heart.” I myself am familiar with John Lithgow from his absolutely show-stopping guest performance as Arthur Mitchell in Showtimes serial-killer extravaganza, Dexter. And when I say show stopping, I literally mean show stopping. He ruined the show for me as a result of his eclipsing performance. He was the apex of Dexter‘s unwieldy eight season run. Every season after Lithgow’s performance was, in my opinion, a huge disappointment. If you want to see Lithgow as a force of nature, watch season four of Dexter. My love of Dexter aside, the man has been in other things: he was Lord Farquaad in Shrek, Reverend Moore in Footloose (unfortunately a movie now tainted with the meme tour-de-force that is Kevin Bacon), and Dr. Dick Solomon in 3rd Rock from the Sun.

As a lit major and lover of John Lithgow, “Stories By Heart” was something that, just by virtue of the title, I had to go see. I was not entirely sure what to expect. From everything I had read about it, the show was something spectacular, but from all the photos I saw I was sort of half expecting John Lithgow to be sitting in an arm chair telling the audience what it was like to be an actor and how the actor transforms the art of storytelling on the stage. I was half right, but I was delightfully half-wrong. He didn’t tell us of the transformation, but rather showed us. Beginning with the story of his father’s early life as a Shakespearean actor in Ohio and his own migratory childhood, Lithgow explains how storytelling was the glue that bound his family together despite their constant traveling. Fast forward to the early 2000’s, and Lithgow reminisces on his experience taking care of his father in his final months. He remembers how, after a corrective surgery, his father near lost the will to live, and was but a husk of the vibrant and colorful man he once was. In order to relight the fire within his father, Lithgow goes and finds the old storybook his father used to read to him from and finds his favorite story which he wishes to “read” to the audience. Before he sits to begin, he tells the audience of how his father smiled and looked alive for the first time in months, and for us to “see if [we] can tell where an old man started to laugh again.”

Lithgow started by read from the book but as he got through the first couple paragraphs, he began to read without looking at the pages. He kept reciting and then proceeded to close the book and get up from the chair. What was coming next was the part I was half-wrong about: he became a one-man show, weaving together his favorite childhood story in a way I was absolutely not expecting. His characters, his stage presence, his seamless transition from persona to persona was mesmerizing. I honestly could have listened to him all evening. Perhaps I am overly sensitive to the art that is storytelling, but this was the first time I actually truly saw it as art. The best way I can describe the experience is…try to remember back to a time when you were a child, and your capacity for imagination was not as bridled as it is now (I am of the opinion that the older we get, the more organized our imagination becomes)…but remember that sense of imagination or mental picture that our child brains could paint…Lithgow made tangible that mental spectacle we all used to so easily create before age and life caught up to us.

Reading a book is always a very insular experience. This was one of the few times I was truly aware of the difference between a story and storytelling, as storytelling focuses on that often forgotten sense of communal experience. I have not been read to in a very long time, honestly probably not since I was a child. But, I think for that entire audience, Lithgow all made us feel like children again, and he was our communal father, using his fantastic capacity for theatre and acting to create for us an experience many of us probably haven’t had in a very long time. What he did that night on stage, I cannot truly describe with words, nor do I have words that could do it justice. It was something that had to be felt, and I absolutely now understand how something as simple as a beloved story could stoke the coals inside his ailing father. “Stories By Heart” solidified within me what I love so much about reading and writing, and that it is the goal of all storytellers to incite that sort of simple passion within listeners. John Lithgow is a master craftsman, and despite the obnoxious laughter of the woman sitting to the left of me, I left wishing I could have him read to me every evening.