Throughout her young life, Ella Parks has been surrounded by artists who inspire her, including her aunt – a ceramics artist, her dad – a photographer and her mom – a musician.
Now a junior at Homer High School, she is sharing her own talents with local and Anchorage audiences, belting out blues and jazz songs from some of her favorite singers, including Etta James, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and Adele.
Sometimes everything just falls into place. Such was the case recently for Linda Reinhart, who had been scratching her head for several years over how to bring music instruction to more Homer youth.
Reinhart, who is involved in and a proponent of the Kenai Peninsula Youth String Orchestra, had searched for a way to encourage more youth to join the orchestra. But until last winter, all her ideas had run into roadblocks. Private lessons were expensive. Afterschool programs required an expensive transportation component.
Not even the rain could dampen the spirits of music-goers at the Ninilchik Fairgrounds for the sixth installment of the annual music festival in early August, known as Salmonfest.
Salmonfest bills itself as “Three Days of Fish, Love & Music,” presented by the Kachemak Bay Conservation Society, is a blend of music, education, conservation, food and beer spread over three days. Cook Inletkeeper has joined the festival as a primary sponsor and partner as a “Fish First” advocacy and plays a crucial role in coordinating educational and outreach components of the festival.
Salmonfest successfully blends a small-town country atmosphere on the shores of the Cook Inlet with the flavor of a large music festival in an intimate setting at the fairgrounds.
Now in its 20th year, the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra will offer an Aug. 7 Homer concert entitled, “Pictures at an Exhibition,” that localizes a 141-year-old story of friendship between a composer and his artist friend. KPO then takes the show to Kenai for a performance on Aug. 8.
In an effort to whet music lovers’ appetites, the orchestra is offering two weeks of smaller concerts meant to reach all ages and audiences at cafes, galleries and the library.
The grand finale at the Homer Mariner Theatre was written for the piano by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky in 1874. He wrote it in remembrance of his friend, Viktor Hartmann, after getting inspired by Hartmann’s work following his death.
When Shawn Zuke first saw a photograph of a leather-vested, tassel-wearing Emily Lou Harris performing on stage, she had no idea who the woman was — only that she wanted to be like her; singing onstage like a hippie rock star.
Zuke grew up listening to her parent’s eight-track tapes, and her first two albums were Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” and the self-titled “Fleetwood Mac.” She got her first guitar when she was in her early 20s, and this January, she released her fourth album, “Undefined.”
Zuke describes her music as being all about messages of peace, love and learning to be still and calm in the midst of turbulent times. The lyrics of her recent title track song begins with, “calm yourself down, don’t give into the feeling, you can turn it all around, just by breathing …”
For the past 36 years, Michael “Hawkeye” Herman has taught Blues in the Schools programs to more than half a million students in more than 500 schools. He’s visited learning establishments from elementary to college level, in 30 states and 10 foreign nations.
“All popular music has its roots in the blues,” Hawkeye said. “From rock to pop — and even to country music.”
Lesson plans apply blues music to fields of study including African American studies, English, art, math, science, American history and music. The goal of the program is to teach students the history and importance of the music.
“The Blues shares the truth about life and is the depository for African American history,” he said. “If you want to know what they were wearing, thinking, driving or eating at any time up until the late 20th century, listen to a blues song.”
Music is what feeds Andrew Vait’s soul.
“When I write a new song, I think, ‘this is what it feels like to be alive’,” he said.
In 2011, the Seattle-based, Homer-born-and-raised singer/songwriter released “Closer To The Setting Sun.” He describes this set of solo recordings as having a “folksy, country vibe.”
When you get a group of creative youth together to form their own production, anything can happen.
When Jessica Anne Williams’ Coast Guard husband told her they were moving to Alaska, at first she thought he was kidding.
Jessica and Tristen Williams
“When Tristen called to tell me we were moving to Alaska, I was in Chicago, sitting outside on an 80-degree day, near the Trump Tower building and looking at the river,” she said. “At first I laughed because I thought he was joking, but when I realized he was serious, I imagined the trees and mountains and thought to myself how beautiful and refreshing it would be.”
The name “Mothers Superior” may not immediately bring to mind a varied cast of Homer musicians, but that’s exactly what you’ll find at Alice’s this weekend. Led by guitarist and producer Steve Collins – a staple of local band Holy Santos Gang – the group of 17 musicians is taking on the Beatles’ acclaimed White Album. All of it.