whatzup2nite • Monday, September 22

Click on the headings below for full calendars

DeKalb Co. Free Fall Fair

Live entertainment, midway, 4H events and more thru Saturday, Sept. 27, various downtown locations, Auburn, free,, 824-4351


Block Party for Preschoolers — Exhibit Hall, DeKalb County Fairground, 8 a.m.-12 noon

Carnival Open — Downtown Auburn, 4 p.m. (rides, $1 each)

Miss DeKalb County Queen Parade — Downtown Auburn, 7 p.m.

Miss DeKalb County Pageant — Main Stage, 11th and Union streets, Auburn, 8 p.m.

Things To Do

DeKalb County Free Fall Fair4-H fair featuring animal shows and exhibits, midway, parade, live music, food and craft vendors, dance performances, petting zoo and more, hours vary, daily thru Saturday, Sept. 27, Dekalb County Fairgrounds, Auburn, fees vary, 417-1945

National Shows

Click header for complete On the Road calendar

Music & Comedy

Jen Fisher — Variety at Deer Park, Fort Wayne, 6:30-8 p.m., no cover, 432-8966

Karaoke & DJs

Fort Wayne

American Idol Karaoke — at Latch String, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., ,

After Dark — Karaoke, 10:30 p.m.

Stage & Dance

Click header for complete Stage & Dance calendar


Click header for complete Movie times

Art & Artifacts

Caitlin Crowley & Alex Hall— Medium format film photography and whimsical paintings, Monday-Friday thru Sept. 30 (artist reception 6-9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 26), Northside Galleries, Fort Wayne, 483-6624

The Next Generation — Works by high school and college art students, daily thru Oct. 5, Clark Gallery, Honeywell Center, Wabash, 563-1102

Steven Anselm — Photography, daily thru Sept. 30, Firefly Coffee House, Fort Wayne, 373-0505

Featured Events

Fort Wayne Dance Collective — Workshops and classes for movement, dance, yoga and more offered by Fort Wayne Dance Collective, Fort Wayne, fees vary, 424-6574

IPFW Community Arts AcademyArt, dance, music and theatre classes for grades pre-K through 12 offered by IPFW College of Visual and Performing Arts, fees vary, 481-6977,

Sweetwater Academy of Music — Private lessons for a variety of instruments available from professional instructors, ongoing weekly lessons, Sweetwater Sound, Fort Wayne, $100 per month, 432-8176 ext. 1961,


Cole Swindell

7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24
Dekalb Fall Fair
Dekalb County Fairgrounds, Auburn

Cole Swindell

'Chillin' It' in the Bigs

Cole Swindell’s nomination for the CMA Best New Artist of the Year award is a big deal, but it’s just the latest in a series of milestones along the singer’s path from Music Row songwriter to one of country music’s hottest solo performers. It would be an impressive journey if it had taken a decade, but the fact that Swindell’s career as a solo recording artist got started a little over a year ago makes the whole thing seem, frankly, a little insane.

“It has been a crazy whirlwind year,” he says, “and I feel so fortunate that country music fans and country radio has embraced me in such a huge way. It’s what an artist dreams about.”

Earlier this year, Swindell was an opening act, taking the stage ahead of his friend and headliner Luke Bryan on Bryan’s big arena tour. Now, as summer is turning into fall, Swindell is still opening for Bryan, but he’s facing the prospect of being a bona fide headliner himself in the very near future.

Although much is made of his friendship with Bryan, it’s not as if Swindell has had anything handed to him because of the relationship. He and Bryan are Sigma Chi fraternity brothers, but they didn’t attend Georgia Southern University at the same time, and they weren’t frat house buddies. The pair met when Bryan returned to Georgia Southern to play a show, and they cemented their new friendship when Swindell moved to Nashville after he left school.

Swindell spent three years, between 2007 and 2010, on tour with Bryan, but the time on the road was a working apprenticeship, and his accomplishments weren’t earned on stage. Swindell sold merchandise at Bryan’s shows; he made $100 a night, and he learned the best way to manage inventory and fold shirts. But he kept his eye on his real priority – music – and took advantage of the tour atmosphere to hone his craft, writing songs on the bus in his spare time.

Swindell’s experience on the road and his developing songwriting skills eventually gained him entrance into the industry system back home in Nashville. He got a job as a writer on staff at Sony/ATV Music Publishing and very quickly became a guy that A-list writers and performers wanted to collaborate with.

“The publishing company told me, ‘People are calling back and wanting more dates,’” Swindell recalls. “I kept writing and paying my dues, working hard to get to the point where I deserved to be in the room with the major writers, people whose songs I was singing in college bars just a few years ago.”

Those people included American Idol winner Scotty McCreery, for whom Swindell co-wrote “Water Tower Town” and “Carolina Eyes,” Craig Campbell, whose single “Outta My Head” bears Swindell’s co-writing credit, and Chris Young, whose “Nothin’ But the Cooler Left” was also co-written by Swindell. Swindell also had a hand in Thomas Rhett’s “Get Me Some of That,” and he teamed up with Bryan, Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley to write Florida Georgia Line’s “This Is How We Roll.”

It was Swindell’s ongoing professional relationship with Bryan, however, that remained most productive. Swindell contributed his writing talents to close to a dozen of Bryan’s songs, including “Roller Coaster,” “Just a Sip” and “Love in a College Town.”

Between 2011 and 2014, Swindell’s songwriting career has taken off—he was named Music Row’s Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year for 2014—but he is more than just a writer. He is a performer, too, and he loves being on stage. As long as he’s been in Nashville, he’s played solo when he could, and he opened for established performers when he got the chance. Here, Bryan came through again, giving Swindell the opening slot during many of his shows, including a stint on the current “That’s My Kind of Party Tour.”

When it came time to truly establish himself as a solo performer, though, Swindell’s been doing it all on his own, without much help, at least initially, from the industry. In the spring of 2013, he released his first single, “Chillin’ It,” independently, counting on social-media word-of-mouth and airplay on independent country radio stations to spread the word. It’s a DIY approach made possible by 21st-century technology, and it worked perfectly. Sirius XM put the song into the rotation of one of its country channels, and from there sales exploded; as of the spring of 2014, the song had sold over a million copies.

After “Chillin’ It” hit the big time, record labels took notice, and Swindell was suddenly a hot commodity, not just as a songwriter, but as a performer as well. He signed a deal with Warner Music Nashville, and his self-titled debut album was released in February of this year; as of last month, it had sold nearly a quarter million copies.

Now he’s proven that he can play in the big leagues as both a writer and a recording artist, but Swindell is determined to be the kind of live performer that keeps his audiences excited about what they’re hearing and seeing.

“I don’t want to have a song where people feel comfortable going to get a beer,” he says. “Once we get started, I don’t want them to risk missing what’s next. I want them to leave saying, ‘That’s the best show I’ve ever seen.’”

Swindell will stay on the road through the fall on Bryan’s tour, and he’ll squeeze in solo shows like the one at the Dekalb County Fair when he can. Once the fall tour is over, he’ll do what any performer who loves performing would do: he’ll head back out on another tour, this time as the headliner. He’ll kick off his Down Home Tour in Florida on November 13, and he’ll hop around the South before heading for the Midwest in December. That month is going to see him back here in Indiana, where he’ll play shows in South Bend and Indianapolis before wrapping up the whole tour with a final show here in Fort Wayne.

It’s an ambitious schedule, particularly for a guy who admits that he gets a little nervous before he goes on stage. Audiences needn’t worry, though; once he starts singing, he’s going to give it everything’s he’s got, every night.

“It’s like football in high school,” he says. “On the kickoff, once you get that first hit in, you’re in your groove. From then on, it’s wide open. I’m having fun.”

Evan Gillespie


A Sort of Homecoming

If you’re worried about the coming zombie apocalypse, stop. Kevin May, one half of the Irish singing-songwriting duo Storyman, predicts that when the world ends it’ll be more with a whimper than a feast of foot dragging, flesh eating and one-hundred-yard staring.

“As much as I enjoy thinking about it, I’m pretty positive it’s not going to happen,” he told me via phone from Storyman’s Park Slope studios where he and his partner-in-crime, Mick Lynch, were rehearsing for their fall tour. “The world might end, but I doubt zombies will be around to watch it go down.”

Our conversation got around to zombies thanks to Storyman’s recent single, “Cherry Red,” which posits this hairy query: If you knew the end was near, who would you choose to spend your last moments on earth with? 

May admitted it was a tough question to answer. “I’m going to need some time on this one,” he said.

“Oh come on,” I said. “We all know the answer’s Mick.”

“Of course,” May said. “Mick. Who else?”

Who else, indeed. May and Lynch, natives of Ireland’s County Mayo, have been official bandmates since 2005 when they formed The Guggenheim Grotto, but they played in various bands together before that. Their decision to form a stripped-down, two-man melodic act was a fateful one, and the resulting sound, which proved not only surprisingly full but full of surprises, has earned them countless fans on this side of the pond and enough stateside bookings to keep them on the road for the greater part of the last nine years. 

In many ways May and Lynch have all the trappings of an old, married couple. They finish each other’s sentences; they have a list of inside jokes a mile long; they anticipate what the other might do on stage. Perhaps their decades-long friendship deserves some credit for the beautiful music they make together, which is often compared to the work of Leonard Cohen, Radiohead and, of course, Simon and Garfunkel.

“When we started out the partnership worked well because we loved what we were doing and we had a passion for the same things,” May said, “and now it’s like you get older and you know how to handle the other person, you know what you have to do to keep everything working smoothly.”

Until very recently, May and Lynch kept a home base on the Emerald Isle, coming to the U.S. only to tour. Now, like so many other musicians, writers and other creative types making a real go of it, they reside in Brooklyn. The move to New York has brought about a number of changes for the two friends. Prior to their latest album and their first under the Storyman name, May and Lynch served as writers, performers and producers on all of their full-length efforts – 2006’s Waltzing Alone, 2009’s Happy the Man and 2010’s  The Universe is Laughing – giving top priority to vocals, melody and instrumentation over production. For This Time Round they were happy to enlist the aid of producer Chris Kuffner who’s worked with Ingrid Michaelson, Regina Spector and A Great Big World.

Speaking of big, that was the sound May and Lynch were going for on This Time Round, which came out in November of last year.

“When we were producing our own stuff, we were a little afraid to shift to a higher gear,” May said, “but some songs really call for that, like ‘Cherry Red,’ which is a ukulele song and, if left in our hands, would have been very nice, very sweet, but given that it’s about the end of the world, we wanted a crescendo, a big, dramatic finale and Chris helped us achieve that.” 

The dramatics also came courtesy of a band made up of Kuffner on electric guitars, bass and keys, Elliott Jacobson on percussion and Katie Costello, Lelia Broussard and Hannah Winkler on backup vocals. But, when Storyman come to C2G Music Hall Friday, September 26 at 8 p.m., it’ll just be May, Lynch, their instruments and those voices which, after all, is what Fort Wayne fans are used to. 

And it’s true that Fort Wayne has been lucky enough to have had the time and opportunity to grow quite fond of May and Lynch who, for the most part, stick to oft sold-out venues in much bigger towns.  When I asked May what his fellow Brooklyn musicians say when he tells them he’s headed back to Indiana for the umpteenth time, he said they’re not as shocked as you might think. 

“It’s not all that strange for a particular place to take certain musicians under their wing. Sometimes it’s a city or even a small country that embraces you. We’re glad it’s Fort Wayne that’s adopted us.”

Deborah Kennedy

Dekalb Free Fall Fair

Cole Swindell w/Cheyenne
7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24
Molly Hatchet
w/Big Caddy Daddy
7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 25
Saliva & Fuel
w/Infantry of Noise
7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 26
8 .m. Saturday, Sept. 27
Dekalb Fall Fair
708 Union St., Auburn

Dekalb Free Fall Fair

A DeKalb Co. Free for All

So long, summer! Hello, changing leaves, football and pumpkin everything!

The DeKalb County Free Fall Fair in Auburn has been the region’s unofficial welcome to the cooler months for 83 years. It’s one of the state’s largest street fairs and features a mix of art, horticulture, livestock exhibits, parades, carnival rides, a merchant tent, music, entertainment and more. Over the decades, the DeKalb County Free Fall Fair has grown to a six-day event to accommodate the wide variety of attractions and activities.

“Our volunteers and committees work hard to make this event the success that it is,” said entertainment/ride and concession manager Mike Good. “The fair executive board and volunteers work year-round to meet our mission statement to provide a traditional community event that promotes agriculture, education and entertainment in a safe, family-friendly environment.”

  And that traditional community environment is exactly what keeps hundreds of thousands of people coming back to the DeKalb County Free Fall Fair, he says. Many local residents have memories of first dates, family trips, and reunions with friends at the fair. Each September is a chance to relive that magic.

“We have many fairs in our region,” Good said, “but I think that strong community tie is one of our biggest differentiators. The DeKalb County Free Fall Fair is 83 years old because of the community. That enduring tradition of families and friends attending the event every year has grown into the fair’s slogan ‘America’s Family Reunion.’ Fair attendees from all over the United States come home for the fair each year to preserve the family tradition of taking their children, family and friends to the event.”

Good says you’ll be hard pressed to find another event like the DeKalb County Free Fall Fair in our region – especially for free admission. Given all there is to take in, people frequently visit the fair more than one day, with some attendees making an entire week of it.

  “Every aspect of the fair strategically aligns with our mission of a family-friendly event – from the free admission, events for all ages, national and local entertainment and 4-H showcase to Indiana’s largest carnival of Poor Jack Amusements featuring adult and kiddie rides, games and food to the fair’s horse pulls, tractor pulls and livestock. We also feature exhibit entries by DeKalb County residents in arts, crafts, antiques, hobbies, photography and more. Plus the DeKalb County Free Fall Fair is home to Indiana’s largest merchant tent, spanning over six city blocks with over 200 vendors inside. This fair really has something for every attendee.”

The fun kicks off on Monday, September 22, and runs through Saturday, September 27. Each day is themed, with (nearly) a parade a day. Monday is Queen Day, with the queen parade highlighting the Miss DeKalb County contestants and their supporters prior to the Miss DeKalb County Queen Pageant. On Tuesday evening watch the Patriotic Bicycle Parade showcasing decorated bicycles and riders of all ages. Judging and prizes will be awarded. Wednesday is the Scout Parade featuring all scouting in DeKalb County. Thursday is the only day with no parade scheduled, but on Friday catch the Pet Parade of children and their pets with judging and prizes. Cap it all off on Saturday morning with the Grand Finale Parade, aptly named for this two-hour long showcase of bands, floats, local and regional business and more.    

  4-H competitions and livestock shows pepper the six-day stretch of the DeKalb County Free Fall Fair. The exhibit hall opens at 10 a.m. each day, featuring a variety of projects, arts, hobbies and crafts. For those looking for a thrill, checkout the fair midway for rides and games. It opens at 4 p.m. on weeknights, 10 a.m. on Friday and 11 a.m. on Saturday. If you’re a carnival ride junkie, your best bet is to purchase a wristband ($17 most days).

But what’s a fair without the music? With a lot of elbow grease and help from fair sponsors, the DeKalb County Free Fall Fair never fails to impress with its variety of regional and national musical talent – again, for free admission. If you’re into country and/or rock, downtown Auburn is the place to be the last week of September.

On Wednesday night, local contemporary country favorite Cheyenne heats up the stage followed by  the laid-back, national country sensation Cole Swindell. Come back Thursday night to see Hoosier party band Big Caddy Daddy and Southern rockers Molly Hatchet. The Friday lineup rocks, with local trio Infantry of Noise opening for Saliva followed by Fuel. Kashmir, the ultimate Led Zeppelin tribute band, closes out the festivities on Saturday. Most shows start at 7 or 8 p.m. on the main stage near the courthouse. Check the concert schedule for exact times. (Official fair guides are available at local Scott’s and Kroger supermarkets.)

  Let’s give summer a proper send-off, shall we? Raise those fair donuts high in the air and say cheers to traditions, small town hospitality and good times at the DeKalb County Free Fall Fair.

Ashley Motia

Los Lobos

The Wolf's Still Thriving

Los Lobos have spent the last 40 years becoming one of the, if not the, best Americana bands playing today. And by Americana I mean that amebic blend of rock, blues, R&B, Tex-Mex, folk and just about anything else they feel like playing. Their albums are always spirited and original, and their live shows vital and memorable.

Despite three Grammy wins and several more nominations, 14 studio albums, a growing list of live releases, a handful of compilations and countless guest spots to their credit, including playing the last gig with Levon Helm at his Barn concerts and a 2013 European tour with with Neil Young and Crazyhorse, Los Lobos tend to keep to the hills and valleys on the periphery of mainstream American music. Their biggest hit, “La Bamba,” reached No. 1 in 1987, largely on the coattails of the Ritchie Valens biopic of the same name. In the movie they played Valens’ band; suddenly they were everywhere. They had tour buses and screaming fans. But when the movie buzz died down, so did their fortunes.

Los Lobos survived the trauma of success by going back to their roots, back to the reasons they started playing music in the first place. They eschewed the lure of commercial success and wrote the music they wanted to write. By returning to the margins, they granted themselves the freedom to explore and create music they liked. The result is an an impressive catalog of finely crafted, wide-ranging albums, a loyal pack of fans and the unbounded respect of fellow musicians.

But for local fans of Los Lobos, the periphery is just fine. The periphery is where you can buy a ticket to a Los Lobos concert for as little as $23, which is the low end for their September 27 show at the Foellinger Theater in Fort Wayne.

To commemorate their four decades as a band, Los Lobos recorded a live CD called Disconnected in New York City. Released about a year ago, it’s their fourth live disc, and it highlights the band’s breadth and versatility. Despite being acoustic, the album captures the energy and spirit of a full-on and amped-up Los Lobos concert. It also serves to compress time and space, squeezing 40 years of music into a tight 59 minutes and shrinking the distance between New York and Los Angeles, where the band got its start, until they seem like suburbs of the same megalopolis.

David Hidalgo, Cesar Rosas, Conrad Lorenz and Louie Pérez first got together to play music in East Los Angeles in 1973. They had all attended Garfield High School, and like most aspiring teenaged musicians in the early 70s, they listened to the R&B, blues and rock of the 50s, 60s and 70s. Sam and Dave and Willie Dixon shared space with Jimi Hendrix, Ry Cooder and Randy Newman. They had all played in different rock bands, but decided to explore traditional Mexican acoustic music. Along with another friend, Frank Gonzalez, they called themselves Los Lobos del Este. Gonzales left not long after, but the rest of Los Lobos spent the rest of the decade playing weddings and Chicano dances.

In 1976 they did a record of traditional songs, Si Se Puede!, with the proeeeds going to the United Farm Workers of America. Two years later they released Just Another Band from East L.A. But by this time they had grown tired of playing traditional music, despite their mastery of it, and began to add electric rock n’ roll to their sets. By 1980 they had made some inroads around Los Angeles and somehow found themselves opening for Public Image, LTD., the post-punk band of former Sex Pistol John Lydon. The Public Image fans responded by hurling everything that wasn’t bolted down at the stage.

The whole idea of the gig with Public Image, LTD., of course, was to expose Los Lobos to a wider audience. It worked. Two years later Los Lobos opened for the Blasters at the Whiskey A Go-Go. Steve Berlin, who played sax for the Blasters at the time, recalled watching Los Lobos and wondering “where did these guys come from?” Berlin was blown away by how good they were and how different the were from all the other bands playing around Los Angeles. Berlin and Los Lobos started hanging out together and by the time Los Lobos’ next album came out, an EP call ... And a Time to Dance, Berlin was in the band.

Though ... And a Time to Dance did not sell well, it was critically acclaimed and earned Los Lobos their first Grammy with the song “Anselma,” which won Best Mexican-American/Tejano Music Performance.

They followed the EP with their first major label record, How Will the Wolf Survive?, in 1984. In 1987, after another CD and years of constant touring, they scored a worldwide hit with “La Bamba,” the Ritchie Valens tune, which they recorded along with a few other for the soundtrack to the movie. The song reached No. 1 in the U.S. and the U.K., and soon they found themselves on tour with a couple of buses ushering them to sold out shows. But they were losing money in the process.

Rather than try to repeat the commercial experience and success of La Bamba, their next release was a record of traditional Mexican songs, 1988’s La Pistola y el Corazón, which earned them their second Grammy. Next came The Neighborhood, a rocker that, though well-received, did not satisfy the group. Hidalgo said they still felt hemmed-in by trying to fit their music into one or another genre.

The band was about ready to call it quits, but their label hooked them up with a new producer who encouraged them to follow their instincts. The result was 1992’s Kiko which was hailed as a masterpiece. The Wall Street Journal compared Kiko to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

In 2002 Los Lobos issued a remastered, extended version of the record. A live performance of the record has also been released.

After Kiko, Los Lobos continued to put out records of blues and rock side by side with traditional norteño and cumbia tunes. Their most recent record, 2010’s Tin Can Trust, is as strong as anything they’ve put out in 20 years. 

They’ve answered their own question: how will the wolf survive? Quite well, thank you. Quite well.  

Mark Hunter

Masterworks 1

Comings and Goings

Although Executive Director J.L. Nave  has announced his resignation from the Fort Wayne Philharmonic at the end of 2014, his influence is still keenly felt in the upcoming season of performances by the renowned orchestra. The upcoming change in leadership, as well as the recent departure of associate conductor Sameer Patel, may have come as surprises, but they only prove one thing: If there’s anything predictable about the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, it’s that they never stand pat.

Even their printed schedule, released in late July was soon lacking a significant date. Well after their brochure had gone to press, news came that Ben Folds would return to perform with the Philharmonic in an October show at the Embassy – clearly in response to public demand which followed his well-received 2008 appearance with the Phil.

“People tell me all the time that that was the best show they’ve seen,” says Nave. “We’re excited to have Ben come back. You know, when he came here six years ago, we were only the third show he did with an orchestra. He played with the Boston Pops, the Nashville Symphony and the Fort Wayne Philharmonic. At that point he was just starting to do those shows, so Adrian Mann, who is a member of our orchestra as well as our librarian and arranger, put together some of the charts that he still uses for the shows. But that show is definitely the concert I hear the most about.”

Even before that late addition, the upcoming season was already packed full of diverse offerings, something the Philharmonic has delivered for many years. Attracting a wide-ranging audience helps boost ticket sales today and grow new audiences for generations to come. This season is no different, and Nave is happy to share some of his favorites from a season which he is clearly proud to tout. 

The Masterworks series boasts visits from three concertmasters in addition to a new installment of a Philharmonic series, The Composer: Revealed.

“This year we’ll be featuring ‘Tchaikovsky: Revealed’ in February, and it’s our fourth in the series but our first big stage Composer: Revealed. These are something we create in-house, and the first half has a theatrical element to it where we use dialogue to bring the composer to life. The orchestra is on-stage to provide snippets of music, but it’s mostly a narrative of the composer’s life. Then the second half of the show will be a performance of his ‘Sixth Symphony’ which is probably his most famous. These shows provide a very different, very multi-disciplinary experience.”

The Pops series is always a hit with audiences, particularly Holiday Pops in December. But Nave has a personal favorite among the options.

“I think the Pixar in Concert is my top favorite this season. Shows like this are always a lot of fun, and there will be scenes from each of the Pixar movies with the orchestra providing the soundtrack. These shows are very difficult for the orchestra because everything has to line up perfectly. The conductor will have an earpiece with a click track because it’s very difficult to keep all of the music in sync with the action on the screen. It’s a very challenging performance.”

Pops performances, particularly those with connections to animated films, have an obvious draw for younger audiences and their parents, but the Family Series is especially suited to a range of generations. Although certainly marketed to youngsters, Nave says there’s an appeal for everyone.

“For example, a show like Beethoven Lives Upstairs is a wonderful introduction to Beethoven’s music, and with the addition of Classical Kids Live it’s very interactive and just a wonderful children’s show. But it’s also something adults will enjoy as well. And that’s true of all of our Family Series. We have adults that come even if they don’t have children. It’s on a Sunday afternoon, and it’s the lowest ticket price we have. There also just a fun energy that comes from the performance because we do have a lot of kids there.”

Among Nave’s own favorite parts of the Philharmonic season schedule this year and in years past is the Freimann Series which provides an unusual way to experience the Fort Wayne Philharmonic.

“The concerts are great and provide the most intimate experience you can have with our orchestra. It’s small ensembles, and the audience is literally feet away from the musicians. Musicians program the concerts as well, and it’s very diverse. Almost nobody knows the music in advance unless they’re very well versed in chamber ensemble music. I’m usually unfamiliar with the pieces because this music isn’t in my background, so it’s one of my favorite performances to attend. It’s a very different experience, and I think one of our best-kept secrets.”

As is also their habit, the Philharmonic will be collaborating with other organizations this year, notably their annual spring performance with Fort Wayne Ballet which will this year be Don Quixote. Additionally, the week before Christmas will be highlighted with a performance of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Chorus with the orchestra of Handel’s Messiah.

Of course an added wrinkle this year will be the auditioning of conductors for the assistant conductor position. Patel, who held that position for the past three seasons, has opted to leave Fort Wayne due to a growing demand for his services elsewhere. Nave says that it’s part of the plan when bringing along a young talent in that position.

“We sign our assistant and associate conductors to two-year contracts with an option for a third year. We would have been very, very happy if Sameer had decided to stay, but we bring in those conductors to train and develop talent and provide experience to rising stars. That’s exactly what’s happened here because Sameer has been in great demand for guest conducting jobs, and his schedule for next season had reached a point where he wouldn’t have been able to meet the demands of this conducting job here. 

“I think it’s a testament to him and to his career path that his name keeps popping up for these jobs, and as he continues in his career we’ll be able to say he got a boost here in Fort Wayne.”

More than 100 hopefuls from six continents sent applications, and music director Andrew Constantine will be honing in on final candidates, with finalists visiting through the season. Guest conductors will be brought in for the early performances before those auditions have been scheduled. The search for a new conductor, and now for an executive director, demonstrates how the Philharmonic continues to move forward, and the year ahead will provide an exciting glimpse into its future.

Michele DeVinney

Fort Wayne Ballet

Fare Warning

For more than half a century, Fort Wayne Ballet has been bringing exquisite dance performance to northeast Indiana. Best known, of course, for their annual contribution to Fort Wayne’s holiday celebration, the tradition-laden performances of The Nutcracker, the ballet has always maintained that they have much, much more to offer. While their spring performance is typically more classically oriented and features story ballets with very familiar titles, their fall performances have long been as eclectic as their class offerings. Not content to only present classic ballet, Fort Wayne Ballet has much in its arsenal, including modern and jazz performers, and it is often those styles featured in their inaugural performances of each season.

Just a few years ago, to honor the birthday of one of their biggest supporters, Fort Wayne Ballet’s fall performance featured “Birthday Variations,” a piece from the Gerald Arpino Trust at the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago. Not just anyone can decide to stage this piece since it’s closely guarded by the trust, but Fort Wayne Ballet was granted permission to do so for two consecutive fall shows.

This year, another Arpino piece is being debuted for Fort Wayne audiences. In addition, pieces by the late José Limón and Fort Wayne Ballet’s own David Ingram will give the evening a decidedly modern feel, though the company promises additional classic pieces to round out the two performances. The Friday evening performance on September 26, which begins at 7:30, will be preceded by a cocktail reception in the gallery above the Arts United stage where the production takes place. There will also be a matinee performance on Sunday, September 28 at 2:30 p.m. The matinee provides an excellent opportunity to take young dance enthusiasts to see some remarkable examples of modern and classical movement.

     Of course, there will be more details later about the annual production of The Nutcracker which this year opens on Friday, December 5, as well as the spring production of Don Quixote which opens on March 27. The Fort Wayne Ballet Family Series this year features Hansel & Gretel (October 4), Thumbelina (March 14) and The Secret Garden (May 9). 

   You can learn more about these performances as well as upcoming dates in the ArtsLab by visiting, where you can now order your tickets to any of the performances. You can also order tickets by calling 422-4226.

Michele DeVinney

Over the River and
Through the Woods

Curtain Call

You’ve been there, right? The overheated house? The overly loud conversation that somehow manages to feel like no one is listening to anyone? The comments about how they don’t know what you do for a living (even though you tell them every single time they ask). It can be exasperating. Yet, there it is again when you go to leave: that twinge in your heart that asks, “What if you don’t get to see them again, ever?”

Yep, another visit to the grands. Civic Theatre’s current production of Joe diPietro’s 1990s comedy Over the River and Through the Woods catches all the key points and then some, all wrapped up nice and light.

If the first act was the whole show, you might wonder, why bother? Sure, it goes by as easy as a sitcom, with enough laughs that some in the audience even had actual giggle fits. Guest Director Jeff Moore and his excellent cast have put all the pieces together, and with performing, those “Nuu Joizy” accents will pick up speed and Italian gestures will get broader, and the fun will roll even more. 

It’s the second act that moves this show past commonplace. The characters fill out and we warm up to them as they offer us those private glimpses of their inner thoughts. And the dilemmas that age and “tengo familia” and ambition sharpen shift the laughs to sniffles and the easy answers to tough ones. Whether you are the grandparent or the kid, life has a way of building up the bittersweet. 

Cory Schmidt as Nicky Cristano is just the kind of 20-something any grandma, Italian or not, would feel compelled to try to feed and advise. He’s not the sort to be able to pull off the tough guy Jersey boy; he’s just right for the smart, white collar kid like the hundreds who pour into Manhattan’s offices every morning. As the story opens, this is a unusual visit, and he has big news for his grandparents who dote on him as their last local family member.

Maggie Kole Hunter and John Brennan play Aida and Frank Gianelli, Nicky’s maternal grandparents. It is their house that is the location (very nicely done by the team of Robert Shoquist, Rob Pelance, Anthony Krick and Gregory Stieber and their crews). Aida and Frank both have very touching stories to tell Nicky in Act 2. 

JoAnne Kirchner and James Del Priore come to call as Emma and Nunzio Cristano, Nicky’s paternal grandparents. They add depth and a lot of humor to the evening, although they aren’t nearly as “loud” as they say they are. While the costumes and “look” are generally low-key, Nunzio’s look is particularly effective. The cast is completed by the inclusion of the charming friend of one of Emma’s Canasta buddies, Caitlin O-Hare, played with spunk and charm by Carolynn Stouder.

Don’t let the odd title throw you off, this is a small, sweet play about families, love and change, presented well in the Black Box setting. And it will stick with you for longer than you expected. Like lasagna.

Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra

Grand Masters of Funk

It’s fitting that this year’s Battle of the Bands XI competition ended on September 11. Normally, the competition doesn’t stretch into the last few weeks leading up to the official start of autumn, but there was uncertainty as to whether or not there would be a Battle of the Bands XI this year. 

With whatzup scaling back its involvement this year, it was left to Richard Reprogle of Columbia Street West and Bob Roets of Wooden Nickel Records to organize and manage the competition, now in its 11th year.

That meant some changes, including a screening process in order to ensure that there would be a certain quality to the bands that would perform rather than the come one-come all approach of previous years. 

Reprogle said that if he saw a positive attitude in what the bands wrote down in their description on the application, and if he was already familiar with them, they would stand a greater chance of being allowed to participate. 

“I made a lot of phone calls, and we got a few bands that I didn’t know, but most of them I knew and already had a relationship with them,” Reprogle said.

The quality-over-quantity approach seemed to work, at least according to Roets, who said this year’s competition was among the best he’s seen in the seven years he has been a judge. 

The competition’s eventual winners, Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra would probably agree, as band leader Aaron King acknowleged in an interview some weeks ago that “the competition we’re going against is no joke.”

Nor are Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra. For a nine-member orchestra that’s only about six months old at this point, the group has already distinguished themselves in the local music scene as being one of the premiere acts of their chosen genre. With a single, “Elevatin’ the Funk,” and a victory in this season’s Battle of the Bands XI competition, the group has achieved some remarkable  feats in a relatively short amount of time. 

“It has really morphed into something even bigger than what I anticipated, and it’s been a lot quicker than I anticipated too,” King said, “We did Rock the Plaza with the Freak Brothers, we did a show with Hillbilly Casino, and we did a show with Orgone at the Botanical Conservatory. Those are pretty big shows for somebody just starting out.”

King describes the Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra as having more of a hip-hop feel while retaining the characteristics of classic funk. The group performs original tunes composed in the style of classic P-funk (a term coined by funk legends, Parliament-Funkadelic) as well as covers of classic gangsta funk hits to give their setlist more variety and accessibility. 

King believes the audience responds better to the band’s original material.

“Everybody wrote out their own part, and it just fits like a glove,” he said. “It’s genuine, and it’s really the music that we’re feeling.”

Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra consists of nine members, all of whom are veterans of the local music scene. Handling percussion are Jamont Simmons on drums, Dave Latchaw on piano, Will Brown on congos and Drake Bates on bass. The horn section includes Aaron King on trombone (and the occasional rap verse), Jason Westerman on trumpet and Quincy Sanders on alto and soprano saxophones. To round out the lineup, Dave “Catfish” Pagan plays guitar and sings backing vocals, and Tony Didier sings lead vocals.

Didier was the first person King contacted about forming Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra earlier this year, and from there it was just a matter of seeing who else he knew that would be on board to join the band. 

According to King, not a whole lot of persuasion was necessary to form this supergroup of sorts. 

“It didn’t even seem like a question. It seemed like it was meant to be.”

It helped that King was looking for personalities that would fit, as well as musical chops.

“I really wanted to put together a conglomerate of the best people I knew, and not just good players, but people who were low maintenance and are easy to get along with,” he said.

“That’s why to me it’s so special, because there’s no drama. Nobody’s bringing any outside garbage into our organization. Everybody here is real low key. They all work hard and play their butts off, and that’s my favorite part of it,” he said.

Cooperation among band members also means that writing songs is a collaborative effort where no one member is responsible for writing all of the music. According to King, everything the audience hears the band perform was written by the people playing it. 

The work ethic of the members and lack of internal drama has contributed towards the band’s success, but that doesn’t mean they don’t encounter some challenges along the way.

Latchaw said that one of the challenges includes finding enough time to practice.

“We’re all busy, and we have a lot of projects going, but when you have this collection of people, there’s a lot of us to organize. So the size of the band, that’s a bit of a challenge. But it’s an orchestra,” he laughed.

Early on in Battle of the Bands XI, Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra made an impression with both audiences and judges. One distinction that set them apart from other competitors was the fact that they were the only funk band competing this year. Another distinctive element was their years of experience on stage. 

“They all represent some of the finest artists in their particular instrument in town and to get them all together and on stage is great,” says Roets. “When they’re in the groove, it’s a great thing to see.”

The battle may be finished, but Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra have more gigs lined up in the coming months, performing at venues such as the Phoenix, Rack and Helens in New Haven, Piggy’s in Angola and yes, Columbia Street West. They have also been working on writing, organizing and rehearsing enough original material for a full-length LP which King hopes to release by summer 2015.

For now, the group feels blessed to have won Battle of the Bands with such formidable contenders in the mix. 

Colin McCallister


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