Point of View

Lincoln Bicentennial
November 10, 2009, 6:47 pm
Filed under: At the Center

When Abraham Lincoln was a young man, he feared he would not achieve anything that he would be remembered for. Today, the 16th American President tops the list of most influential and honored citizens of our time. Lincoln is commemorated in music, poetry and sculpture. Cities, highways and schools bearing his name are endless. His words are quoted by poets and politicians, and his face appears on stamps, coins, mountains and currency. 

Abraham Lincoln turns 200 years old this year, so indeed, the occasion called for a grand celebration. Miami was one of just 11 cities chosen by the congressionally-established Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission for a national series of events celebrating the life and achievements of our most revered President. The Adrienne Arsht Center and the local Lincoln Bicentennial Committee, along with the generous support of the John S. James L. Knight Foundation joined forces to make it an affair to remember in our community.

“We are delighted to bring the celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s life and legacy to Miami, a city that embraces and celebrates its cultural and ethnic diversity perhaps more than any other American city,” said Eileen Mackevich, executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.  “It’s fitting that we gather in Miami to talk about his life and about the American Dream.  In so many ways, Abraham Lincoln exemplified that dream and, during his life, worked tirelessly to make the American Dream a worthy and attainable pursuit for generations to come.”

The festivities celebrated in our community throughout past months included a Chautauqua-style conversation at Coral Gables Congressional Church, where national-scholar actors held a discussion dressed as Lincoln and Frederick Douglas, the well-renowned civil-war era activist. There is also an exhibit open through January 24 at The Historical Museum of Southern Florida, including artifacts and court records – among many other things – exploring South Florida and its history of African Americans.

The grand finale of the Lincoln Bicentennial Celebration took place on November 1st at the Adrienne Arsht Center in the John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall. The event was called “A Lincoln Town Hall: Lincoln, Miami and the American Dream,” and over a thousand excited South Florida residents showed up for the festivities. “This has been a remarkable event on behalf of the lessons of a remarkable man’s life,” said David Lawrence Jr., who chaired the organizing committee and was the driving force behind this event.  “It speaks so well to Miami that we had the largest crowd — almost double the size — of any other of the cities hosting Lincoln bicentennial events.”

When attendees first entered the Knight Concert Hall, they were met with a display of Lincoln memorabilia from Miami citizen Norman Braman’s collection, including a portrait of Lincoln taken by Mathew Brady, a well-known Civil War era photographer; a clipping from the Hartford Evening Press announcing Lincoln’s assassination in 1865; and a playbill for “Our American Cousin,” the comedic play Lincoln was attending the night of his assassination.

The night began with orchestral and choral performances by the New World School of the Arts’ Wind Ensemble conducted by Lee Michael Morrison and the Florida Memorial University Ambassador Chorale directed by Mel White featuring music from Lincoln’s era, including “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”, which received the first of several standing ovations throughout the night.

Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., author of Lincoln on Race and Slavery, delivered a keynote address on Lincoln’s lessons for Miami. Dr. Gates, who is also director of the W.E.B Du Bois Institute for African and African American Studies at Harvard University, spoke of Lincoln’s morality, and the struggles he faced with his own beliefs on equality and discrimination. Eventually, Lincoln would be on the forefront of abolishing slavery.

Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Studies, Harvard University 2

Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Studies, Harvard University; Photo by Manny Diaz

Lincoln was born in 1809 in Kentucky in a tiny log cabin. The family moved to Indiana where he was raised. In Illinois, Lincoln became a frontier lawyer, served as a state legislator and won election to the Presidency at a time when the nation’s very survival was at risk. Inaugurated in 1861, he served throughout the Civil War, working to break the grip of slavery and to put the country back together until an assassin, John Wilkes Booth, brought him down. He felt his most enduring achievement was the Emancipation Proclamation, which helped free thousands of slaves.

Following Dr. Gates address was a panel discussion, as well as a question and answer session with audience members, moderated by CBS Channel 4 Anchorman Antonio Mora. The panel included: Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez, Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, Florida Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Author and former FIU professor Dr. Marvin Dunn, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibargüen, Florida Immigrant and Advocacy Center Executive Director Cheryl Little, Sant La Haitian Neighborhood Center Executive Director Gepsie Metellus, Florida International University American history professor Dr. Darden Pyron and Dade Community Foundation retired President Ruth Shack.


During the discussion, one audience member asked how Lincoln would handle current economic issues in Miami-Dade County, specifically budget cuts. Alvarez said the county was in fact facing difficult times; however, he said the fearless Lincoln would have tackled the issues head on. Another audience member asked how Lincoln would deal with children in foster care in our communities. Carvalho said more focus would have to be put on those children while they are in the crucial ages of Kindergarten through 3rd grade. Alvarez topped it off by urging attendees to get involved by contacting their State Representatives and voicing their opinions.

The Lincoln Town Hall ended with an emotional performance of Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait,” by the orchestra with narration by philanthropist and Former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning to which the crowd gave an overwhelming standing ovation.

The Lincoln Town Hall was followed by a reception at the Freedom Tower, where guests were treated to featured music from the Lincoln-era, as well as hors d’oeuvres and refreshments inspired by Lincoln White House menus. Lincoln artifacts on loan from the Henry Ford Museum were also on display, including a bronze cast of Lincoln’s hand and memorabilia related to the 1860 presidential election.

Alvarez said that if Lincoln visited Miami-Dade County today, he would be proud to see his legacy of equality among people is alive and well.

“In Miami-Dade County, we find genuine strength in our diversity and our rich cultural heritage.  It’s what sets this community apart from any other I know,” he said.  “But merely embracing our differences is not enough. We always need to find ways to strengthen communities by bringing people from diverse backgrounds closer together. Tonight’s event accomplished that.”

Ricky Arriola Joins Committee on the Arts and Humanities
November 10, 2009, 6:42 pm
Filed under: Awards and Recognition

In a move that solidifies Miami’s place as one of the nation’s most dynamic and culturally-important cities, President Barack Obama has handpicked Performing Arts Center Trust chair Ricky Arriola to serve on his Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

Ricky Arriola HiRes

Ricky Arriola

The 26-person Committee – regarded as the nation’s preeminent body focused on arts and humanities education, cultural diplomacy, and economic revitalization through the arts and humanities – serves as a liaison between The White House and federal cultural agencies, as well as civic, corporate, foundation, and private funders that seek to further the nation’s investment in the arts and humanities. 

Other appointees include actors Sarah Jessica Parker, Forrest Whitaker, Alfre Woodard and Edward Norton, musician Yo Yo Ma, fashion luminary Anna Wintour, and philanthropist Teresa Heinz. First Lady Michelle Obama serves as the Committee’s Honorary Chair. Mr. Arriola is the only appointee from Florida. 

“I am confident that these talented individuals will be valued additions to our administration and will offer wise counsel in their respective roles,” said President Obama. “I look forward to working with them in the coming months and years.” 

As chair of Miami’s Performing Arts Center Trust, Arriola has been a driving force in the Adrienne Arsht Center’s emergence as one of the nation’s leading performing arts organizations. Today, the Center serves as a model public-private partnership, having balanced its budget for the second-consecutive year, paid off its last remaining bank debt seven years early, and elevated its role as a catalyst for economic development in Miami’s urban core.

“Ricky Arriola is one of the Adrienne Arsht Center’s most valuable assets,” said M. John Richard, President and CEO of the Adrienne Arsht Center. “As chairman of our board, Ricky has demonstrated an innate ability to at once set a clear vision for our organization while rolling up his sleeves and making a direct impact on Miami’s cultural community. I have no doubt that Ricky will apply the same degrees of leadership and passion as a member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.”

The President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities has served every president since 1982. Achievements include the origination of the Presidential Medals in the arts and humanities; groundbreaking cultural delegations to China and Mexico; and the creation of signature programs, such as “Save America’s Treasures” and the “Coming Up Taller” awards, which recognize exemplary after school arts and humanities programs for the nation’s youth.

The Season’s First Family Fest is Dog Gone Great
November 10, 2009, 6:34 pm
Filed under: Family Fun

The 09-10 season’s first Family Fest was a big hit with families and some four-legged friends! On Saturday November 7th families gathered on the Thomson Plaza for the Arts for the first of four Family Fests scheduled for the season. Family Fest is comprised of outdoor arts-related activities and performances in the Plaza followed by free professional music, theater, or dance performances inside the Ziff Ballet Opera House or Knight Concert Hall. The Paws on the Plaza ticket on-sale event for Broadway’s 101 Dalmatians started off the day with a doggie talent show and contest that named a Doggie Ambassador for the upcoming family musical. Families and dog lovers alike were entertained by 17 finalists as 3 judges narrowed it down to one final winner on the Family Fest stage.


Paws on Plaza; Photo by Mitchell Zachs

Immediately following Paws on the Plaza, the outdoor Family Fest activities included performances by Japanese Taiko drumming group Fushu Daiko, earth friendly blues and rock and roll with Earthman Lanny Smith, and West African drumming and dancing by Ballet Brika. The hands-on activities included an instrument petting zoo where kids could try out all the instruments in the orchestra and instrument making in the Craft Corner featuring Maraca-Tambourines. Rounding out the day was face painting, vendors and roaming costumed characters. The outdoor fun was followed by a spectacular orchestral performance by Miami Music Project, led by James Judd, in the Knight Concert Hall. Families were treated to classical favorites that took the audience on a journey around the world in a performance that featured dancers and audience participation.

Photo by Mitchell Zachs

The next Family Fest is scheduled for January 9th at 11:30 am followed by a special performance of Cinderella by the Miami City Ballet School in the Ziff Ballet Opera House.

The Color Purple is the Hottest Ticket in Town
November 10, 2009, 6:28 pm
Filed under: Broadway Across America

Kicking off one of the strongest Broadway musical seasons Miami has seen in years, OPRAH WINFREY PRESENTS THE COLOR PURPLE took Miami audiences and press critics by storm. During its Miami run (October 27 – November 1), THE COLOR PURPLE captured the hearts of young and old at the Sanford and Dolores Ziff Ballet Opera House. Nearly 17,000 tickets were sold for the eight performances, making the Tony Award-winning hit musical the highest sold single-week Broadway show in the Adrienne Arsht Center’s history. It was the “hottest ticket in town!”

The Color Purple Photo by Paul Kolnick

The Color Purple; Photo by Paul Kolnick

This soul-stirring musical is based on the classic Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker and the Oscar-nominated film by Steven Spielberg. It is the unforgettable and inspiring story of a woman named Celie, who triumphs over tremendous odds to find not only joy in life, but also her true inner beauty. Nominated for eleven Tony® Awards, THE COLOR PURPLE is a landmark theatrical event with a GRAMMY®-nominated score featuring jazz, gospel and blues. Cheering crowds took pleasure in watching two of the stars of the production—Kenita R. Miller, who played Celie, and LaToya London, an American Idol third season finalist, who played Celie’s sister Nettie.

The Arsht Center also partnered with community groups to have choirs perform before select performances. The participating choirs included those from Christian Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, New Birth Baptist Church Cathedral and Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church.

The success of THE COLOR PURPLE shows that Miami audiences have a tremendous appetite fort diverse programming. It was inspiring and uplifting to see the diverse audiences that came together to see this musical.; it is a testament to the fact that multicultural programming that crosses ethnic and socio-economic lines unites the community in an appreciation of the diversity that is South Florida.

Dr. John and Buddy Guy Rock the Knight Concert Hall
November 10, 2009, 6:13 pm
Filed under: Jazz Roots

Last Friday night, over 1,600 jazz and blues fans packed the Knight Concert Hall for an unforgettable start to the 09/10 JAZZ ROOTS season. The season opener featured New Orleans legend Dr. John alongside Chicago blues icon Buddy Guy.

Dr. John started the night off with his band, the Lower 911. He treated the audience to such beloved hits as “Mama Roux” and “Right Place Wrong Time” along with songs from his recent Grammy award-winning album “City that Care Forgot”.

Dr. John and the Lower 911 Band

Dr. John and the Lower 911 Band

Following Dr. John, Buddy Guy took the stage, thrilling the audience with an exciting performance that had everyone up on their feet. At one point, Buddy Guy stepped out into the crowd, playing his guitar up through the aisles, out into the lobby, having a great time as he made his way back up to the stage. Altogether, it was an electrifying show.

Buddy Guy

Buddy Guy

Earlier that afternoon, 150 jazz students from the Miami-Dade Public School System also got a special treat when they watched the band sound check and participated in a Q&A with Dr. John’s music director, Herman “Roscoe” Ernest. The kids also learned about the history of the blues with FIU professor, Robert Grabowski, before taking their seats in the theater to enjoy the concert.

The evening marked the opening of an exciting season of JAZZ ROOTS concerts, in partnership with Bank of America, the 09/10 sponsor for the series. The concerts continue on December 4th with “An Evening with Dave Grusin” and into the spring with four more concerts including “Vocalese”, “Jazz and Soul”, “A Tribute to Frank Sinatra” and “Piano Latino”.

Royal Philharmonic Takes it to the Stars
November 10, 2009, 5:46 pm
Filed under: At the Center

Anyone walking backstage at the Ziff Ballet Opera House on October 29th would have thought they were on a Hollywood soundstage. In reality, the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra was in residence at the Adrienne Arsht Center rehearsing John Williams’ incredible scores for the six Star Wars epic movies. The orchestra arrived in South Florida to begin a thirty-one city leg of a forty-six city tour of Star Wars: In Concert, a new, spectacular production combining a live symphony orchestra, chorus, and footage from all six Star Wars movies.


Royal Philharmonic rehearses; photo by Mitchell Zachs

The critically-acclaimed production is touring the world with actor, Anthony Daniels, better known as C3PO, serving as narrator. The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, London’s equivalent to the Boston Pops, continuously tours the world, previously reaching South Florida with Andrea Bocelli, and again in A Royal Christmas, starring Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, and Charlotte Church. The Orchestra is being conducted by Dirk Brossé, recently named director of the prestigious Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia. Star Wars: In Concert is expected in South Florida with future tours set for this coming spring, as well as the summer of 2010. After two lengthy rehearsals, the conductor, orchestra managers, and one of the show’s producers had dinner upstairs at the new Barton G. Prelude Restaurant. They were so impressed with the Adrienne Arsht Center, that the orchestra’s management is looking to bring the Royal Philharmonic back for a performance at the Knight Concert Hall. Stay Tuned!

Volkswagen Eos Ready for You
November 10, 2009, 5:42 pm
Filed under: At the Center

It’s red, it’s shiny, and it could be all yours! Meet the Volkswagen Eos, the award-winning hardtop convertible from Volkswagen, living in the lobby of the Ziff Ballet Opera House for the next few months. It’s named after the goddess of wind and dawn and if that sounds like music to your ears—and feels like wind through your hair—then the Eos might be right for you!


“With this exceptional contribution from the Esserman Automotive Group,  the Adrienne Arsht Center and its resident companies will be able to reach its fundraising goal through this exciting initiative in which the entire community can participate!” stated John Richard, President and CEO of the Arsht Center. The Adrienne Arsht Center and its resident companies, Florida Grand Opera, Miami City Ballet and New World Symphony, America’s Orchestral Academy, jointly will benefit from the drawing entry contributions.

The contribution is a fundraising centerpiece of the upcoming gala, Arts Odyssey: A Collaboration, the sales period will continue beyond the gala, through the holidays and will take place on the evening of Valentine’s Day – February 14, 2010 at the Adrienne Arsht Center (event and time to be announced).

The suggested minimum contribution is $100 per ticket—limit of 10 tickets per person.  There will be a sales close out after 1,000 tickets are sold for the drawing. If you’re feeling lucky, enter the drawing at the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Ziff Ballet Opera House Lobby during performances or call 786.468.2243.

For more information visit www.arshtcenter.org/gala09/drawing.aspx

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