Music

Mostly Female Musicians In The Spotlight For Summer Concert Series In Coral Gables

Written By Josie Gulliksen
June 12, 2024 at 11:40 AM

New Orleans clarinetist Doreen Ketchens, known as the Clarinet Queen of New Orleans, performs on Thursday, Aug. 8 as part of the Community Arts Program (CAP) Summer Concert Series at Coral Gables Congregational Church. The series kicks off Thursday, June 14 with Hot Fiddle. (Photo courtesy of CAP)

For nearly 40 years, the Community Arts Program (CAP) has been providing a cultural musical outlet during the slower summer months at Coral Gables Congregational Church.

At the helm of the program and growing it since 2002 is Mark Hart, CAP executive and artistic director, who this year proudly boasts CAP’s Summer Concert Series is made up of predominantly women performers. And, he says, that was his goal in planning this year’s series, which runs every other Thursday from June 13 through Aug. 22.

Husband and wife duo, virtuoso violinist Ashley Liberty and pianist Daniel Strange known as Hot Fiddle, open the summer series on Thursday, June 13 during the Community Arts Program (CAP) Summer Concert Series at Coral Gables Congregational Church. (Photo courtesy of CAP)

“I wanted to include more women in performance and as the planning went along, everyone that I booked and that was interested in booking were women, so it happened organically as well,” says Hart.

(CAP) has a rich history that began in 1985 with the formation of a Summer Concert Series at the historic Coral Gables Congregational Church. It was created by the Reverend Dr. Gary Miller and University of Miami Administrator Dr. Paul Blaney. The series grew to feature some of the most renowned musicians, including jazz greats Milt Jackson, Shirley Horn, and Ernestine Anderson.

“It was quite the task to follow. I remember taking the reins as a consultant in 2001, and bringing the likes of jazz trumpeter Randy Brecker, jazz vocalist Kurt Elling, classical pianist Leon Fleisher, and the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, among others. I recall thinking, this is a cool playground to work in,” says Hart.

The 2024 lineup is all female except for the opening concert on Thursday, June 13 by husband-and-wife performers violinist Ashley Liberty and pianist Daniel Strang best known as Hot Fiddle. And, on July 11 when the Anderson Brothers, twin jazz saxophonists Pete and Will Anderson perform with pianist Rossano Sortiello accompanying.

Twin brothers and jazz saxophonists Peter and Will Anderson, accompanied by pianist Rossano Sortiello, perform on July 11 during the Community Arts Program (CAP) Summer Concert Series at Coral Gables Congregational Church. (Photo courtesy of John Herr)

“Our entire series features some incredible performers that span a wider range of music  . . Hot Fiddle plays everything from classical to jazz to fiddle to rock, a wide genre of music,” says Hart.

For the June 27 concert, Hart was looking for something unique in a performer so he reached out to New World Symphony percussion fellow Jennifer Marasti. Upon booking her “I came up with a marimba program, making it both a visual and audio approach to classical music. It is something you don’t get to hear very often.”

Marasti will be performing a solo marimba program and says, “this is the first time I’ve been offered to do something like this because percussion is so unique, so I jumped at the opportunity. I remember talking to Mark and he said they usually do piano and violin, but it was so nice he wanted to do something different and special in that way.”

It’s the first time, she says, she will be performing solo and will be performing eight pieces total, with most of the beginning pieces adapted to marimba. Marasti will also be treating the audience to a transcription of “Blackbird” a 1968 Beatles song, as well as performing ragtime music from the 1920s.

New World Symphony Percussion Fellow Jennifer Marasti performs a marimba concert on June 27 at the Community Arts Program (CAP) Summer Concert Series at Coral Gables Congregational Church. (Photo courtesy of CAP)

“Everything I am performing will be in chronological order so the audience can experience the beginnings of marimba music all the way to snippets of newer pieces,” says the percussionist.

Marasti admits having a tough skin and refusing to quit worked in her favor saying that “percussion can still be a bit of a boys’ club. In high school, I was big on drum sets in jazz but when I got to college I switched to orchestral because I was uncomfortable with the boys club attitude in the jazz world.”

And although a lot of women play percussion, as they progress and get better at it as a profession “it is kind of tough as a woman to fit in and want to continue. It’s kind of a shame that women percussion is not as prominent,” said Marasti.

On July 11, the Peter & Will Anderson Trio, which Hart says Producer Quincy Jones is a fan of “is a great concert for someone who loves jazz standards with some flute and clarinet incorporated. Although their instrument is saxophone and they are both virtuosos, they also incorporate clarinet. They are repeat performers in the series due to popular demand,” says Hart.

Korean-born and Texas-based guitarist Bokyung Byun performs on July 25 at the Community Arts Program (CAP) Summer Concert Series at Coral Gables Congregational Church. (Photo courtesy of CAP)

Korean guitarist Bokyung Byun, who hails from Texas, takes the stage on July 25. She is the first female winner of the JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition and tours the country as a soloist and masterclass instructor. Byun has performed with orchestras and at festivals throughout the United States and Canada. Her repertoire ranges from 18th-century classicism to 20th-century works.

Clarinetist Doreen Ketchens is the first featured artist the following month, performing on Thursday, Aug. 8. Recently featured on “CBS Sunday Morning,” Hart watched the segment, an interview with legendary journalist Ted Koppel and immediately knew he had to contact Ketchens.

“First I heard Doreen on “CBS Sunday Morning” then on (late-night talk show) “Jimmy Kimmel Live” so I dug a little bit deeper and realized that she’s everywhere, so I was really happy to get her for this series especially since it is her first time in Miami,” says Hart.

Ketchens will be performing a concert of original Dixieland music with her daughter accompanying her on drums “so it will be a fun energetic scene,” according to Hart.

She recalls how the CAP artistic director approached her directly via email last March and how he was inquiring about a New Orleans Jazz clarinet concert appearance by Ketchens. “He wanted to check my availability because he had seen my videos and felt I would be a good addition to the community concert series,” she says.

Even with four decades of experience as a musician and performer, Ketchens stays humble, considering her extensive and successful career a miracle and says that performing alongside her husband is a true blessing.

Keenly aware since her junior year of high school that her path would be playing clarinet in an orchestra, she forged ahead with her dream despite her high school guidance counselor’s objections.

She and her husband attended the same college in Connecticut and despite having to both depart early to care for their mothers in New Orleans, the two quickly became a fixture as a talented duo playing the streets. Ketchens says playing on the streets could prove even more difficult than playing to a captive audience in a venue.

“We started on the street and when you’re talented playing on the street, people will form opinions. People look down on you. . . The better you sound the worse they think,” she says.

 

Armenian-American Jazz Vocalist Lucy Yeghiazaryan closes out the CAP concert series on Aug. 22  at Coral Gables Congregational Church. (Photo courtesy of CAP)

Decades later they are still living the dream, performing in both venues and, she says, on the streets to maintain their endurance and continue practicing their playing chops. Ketchens says rehearsals and performances don’t measure up to one day of street performing, which keeps her in better shape as a player. “My husband, Lawrence, and I still come to the street because that’s our mother that bore us, it created us,” she says.

During their performance, attendees can expect a few surprises, according to Ketchens, because she says their philosophy is to get to know their audience as they play and then they improvise the program a bit.

“Our performance is a cultural experience, and we always start out spiritual and I may introduce some of the songs and before we perform, we always open it up to requests,” she says.

The duo will be sticking around and teaching a masterclass the day after their performance. It will delve into the history of the New Orleans sound, providing a historical reference to the music and showcasing the scope of the words.

Closing out the series on Aug. 22 is vocalist Lucy Yeghiazaryan, one of the finalists in the Sarah Vaughn International Jazz Vocal competition. “Lucy brings a unique voice and character to the genre of jazz,” says Hart. Yeghiazaryan, who is Armenian American, will perform from the Great American Songbook.

With the spotlight on so many female performers for this year’s series, Hart says “(It) is definitely the biggest difference from other years.”

WHAT: Community Arts Program (CAP) Summer Concert Series

 WHERE: Coral Gables Congregational Church, 3010 DeSoto Blvd., Coral Gables

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. every other Thursday in June, July and August. Concert dates: June 13 and 27, July 11 and 25 and Aug. 8 and 22.

COST: $35 or $40 at the door; Individual Patron Ticket: $50 advance; $55 at the door includes reserved, general seating in rows 1-9;  Patron Series: $270 for a six concert package includes reserved, general seating in rows 1-9; Patron Mini-Series: $190 for a four concert package includes reserved, general seating in rows 1-9.

INFORMATION:  305-448-7421, ext. 120 or communityartsprogram.org

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music, and more. Don’t miss a story at www.artburstmiami.com.

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