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Orchestra asks, CommUNITY responds; Lowertown Guitar Festival

ALSO: Cynthia Kraack, “Leaving Ashwood,” at SubText; Billy Martin’s Wicked Knee at the Dakota; “The Band Wagon” screens at Heights Theater; and more.

Minnesota Orchestra performing "Carmina Burana" during a recent concert.
Photo by Tim Rummelhoff

On June 27, the Minnesota Orchestra asked us for money. It wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last, but this time was different. It wasn’t just the Minnesota Orchestral Association asking, the governing body with its board and staff and development department. It was the MOA, the musicians, and a first-time-in-orchestra-history task force that included people from the grassroots community groups Orchestrate Excellence (OX) and Save Our Symphony Minnesota (SOSMN), representatives from Friends of the Minnesota Orchestra, board members, audience members, orchestra musicians and staff. 

Orchestra supporter and attorney Lee Henderson got the ball rolling by offering to raise $100,000 to serve as a challenge grant. If the orchestra could raise another $100K by July 31, it could have the first $100K for a total of $200K. When Henderson reached out to potential donors on his list, they gave $115K. And when the appropriately named CommUNITY Challenge was issued June 27 by the orchestra, more than 750 people (including 48 orchestra musicians) gave $174K, bringing the grand total to nearly $290,000 in donations. Gifts ranged from $10 to $10,000. The campaign was conducted largely online.

In a statement issued yesterday by the MOA, board vice chair Karen Himle called the campaign “a true barn-raising effort, led by community members.” The task force also worked on other projects: focus groups aimed at attracting younger audience members, plans for fundraising house parties, outreach to seniors, recruiting volunteers to serve at Minnesota Orchestra community events. Himle praised the group, saying, “I think our collaborative work has created unity and strong relationships that will continue to serve the Orchestra into the season ahead and beyond.” The $290,000 is a solid start.

Call this the not-quite-as-short film festival. Last Friday, the Minnesota Museum of American Art hosted a series of six-second videos on the topic of “What is Minnesota to you?” On Monday, Oct. 20, Mill City Museum will screen a series of 60-second films on the topic of the Mississippi River as it winds through downtown Minneapolis. The Mississippi Minute Film Festival will be part of the Minneapolis Riverfront Summit, the annual, open-to-the-public gathering of the Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership, a state-chartered nonprofit that is revitalizing the Mississippi riverfront in the city. Ten winners will be announced, Mayor Betsy Hodges will speak, and the winning films will be shown. They may be shown again at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival in April. There may be a You Tube channel that features the films. Here’s the skinny, including the rules and entry form. Submission deadline: Sept. 4.

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Apropos of nothing, except that everyone we know plays Scrabble, there’s a new Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, Fifth Edition out today that includes 5,000 new playable words. Among them are four new two-letter words – da, gi, po and te as a variant of ti. To serious Scrabble players, two-letter words are caviar on a cracker. Among the other new words are beatbox, bromance, buzzkill, chillax, frenemy, hashtag, mixtape, qajaq (you’ll need a blank for that one), qigong, quinzhee, schmutz, selfie, sudoku and texter. It’s too much to hope that some of those new words will go away by the sixth edition. 

The Picks

Tonight (Wednesday, Aug. 6) at the Dakota: Billy Martin’s Wicked Knee. The drummer for Medeski, Martin & Wood, Billy Martin has a new brass band, and it’s only brass and drums: no piano, no guitar. With Curtis Fowlkes on trombone, Marcus Rojas on tuba, and Steven Bernstein on trumpet, this show will be serious fun. Here’s a video from a recording session. If you missed it yesterday, here’s Mordecai Specktor’s interview with Bernstein. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25).

Tonight at SubText Books: Cynthia Kraack, “Leaving Ashwood.” This is the final book in Kraack’s Ashwood trilogy, which asks, “If mega-multinational corporations ruled the world, would life be all that bad?” Published by St. Cloud publisher North Star Press, Kraack’s books are set in the decades following a deep global economic depression. Uh-oh. 7 p.m. Free.

Thursday at the Heights Theater: “The Band Wagon.” Screening in 35mm, this 1953 film by Vincente Minnelli stars Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse and Oscar Levant. It’s part of a month-long series of Minnelli Thursdays co-presented by Take-Up Productions (of the Trylon Microcinema) and the Heights, the beautiful old Beaux Arts movie house in Columbia Heights. Coming up Aug. 14: “An American in Paris” (Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron). Aug. 21: “The Bad and the Beautiful” (Kirk Douglas, Gloria Grahame). Aug. 28: “Gigi” (Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier). You can probably stream them all at home, but movies really are better on a big screen in a room full of strangers munching popcorn. FMI and tickets ($8).

The Weekend

Saturday at Mears Park in St. Paul: The Second Annual Lowertown Guitar Festival. A day of music presented by McNally Smith College of Music features an eclectic lineup including five-time Grammy nominee and jazz/blues guy Robben Ford (he’s played with Miles Davis, George Harrison and Joni Mitchell), Fender bluesman Greg Koch, Jim Campilongo (Norah Jones, Cake), rockabilly/country player Rosie Flores and National Fingerstyle Guitar Champion Phil Heywood. Molly Maher will emcee and perform with guitarist/vocalist Gabriela Sweet on the festival’s Acoustic Stage. 2–10 p.m. Free. FMI.

Plan Ahead

On sale now at the Dakota: an amazing line-up of shows just added to the calendar. Sept. 10: Evan Christopher’s Clarinet Road pays tribute to Sidney Bechet with “In Sidney’s Footsteps.” Christopher is one of today’s most important clarinet players; steeped in tradition, he makes it all sound brand-new. Sept. 11: Lisa Fischer. The show-stealing back-up singer from the Oscar-winning documentary “Twenty Feet from Stardom.” Sept. 22: Raul Midón. A silky, soulful singer-songwriter. Make this a date night. Oct. 10: Pieta Brown. Greg Brown’s lovely daughter is on tour with her new CD, “Paradise Outlaw.” Oct. 5 and 6: Hiromi: The Trio Project. Piano mastery and volcanic energy. Nov. 16: John McEuen and John Carter Cash. The founder of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and the only child of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash play music from the landmark album “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”