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Volume 26, Number 5 — May 2019

Spring season of events at ETSU School of the Arts sows seeds of music, poetry, fun; traces quests and journeys

 The Mayhem Poets are on a mission to change the face of spoken-word poetry by using a blend of theater, improv, comedy and hip-hop.
The Mayhem Poets are on a mission to change the face of spoken-word poetry by using a blend of theater, improv, comedy and hip-hop.

January 30, 2018

Mayhem and poetry. Strings and keys. Visual art and health care. Polyphony and percussion. Children's stories and the ravages of poverty and AIDS. A North Philadelphia creative sanctuary and three minutes of terror.

While the connections may not be immediately apparent, spring 2018 at East Tennessee State University's Mary B. Martin School of the Arts weaves these and more dichotomies into a season that features vocal and instrumental music, slam poetry, comedy, life journeys, visual vistas and a touch of introspective horror all with a harmonious result.

The season begins with a look "Along the Horizon at Contemporary Drawing in Tennessee." This exhibition focuses on drawing as a useful medium for artists. The exhibition, displaying the work of 13 contemporary Tennessee artists, is at Reece Museum and Slocumb Galleries and runs through mid-February.

Highlighting the exhibition is an artist panel discussion exploring the range and limits of the medium Thursday, Feb. 15, at 5:30 p.m. in Ball Hall room 127. A reception in Reece Museum follows at 7 p.m.

On Tuesday, Feb. 6 at 7:30 p.m. in Martha Street Culp Auditorium, the School of the Arts brings some merry mayhem to campus, in the form of three poets The Mayhem Poets who are on a mission to change the face of spoken-word poetry. Using a blend of theater, improv, comedy and hip-hop, The Mayhem Poets take audiences on what The New York Times calls "an amazing ride." Their kinetic performances have been called "The Simpsons meets Malcolm X at a Notorious B.I.G. concert."

"This will be a somewhat different approach to poetry than many people might expect," says Anita DeAngelis, director of the Martin School of the Arts. "There will be a little bit theater, a little bit of slam poetry, a little bit of comedy and a lot of fun."

While The Mayhem Poets have their say verbally, activist/artist Regina Holliday uses her artwork to speak volumes on the subject of access to medical records and its effects on health care and mortality. After losing her husband to kidney cancer in 2009, Holliday started The Walking Gallery, painting health care-related images on jackets and other attire, so that as the wearer walks, the message is spread.

Holliday shares her personal and public journeys at ETSU Thursday, Feb. 15, at 7 p.m. in Culp Auditorium as the visiting artist for the annual Evening of Health, Wellness and the Arts, sponsored by ETSU's College of Public Health, Martin School of the Arts and Quillen College of Medicine.

Harmony begins building as March opens, with a performance by the London-based a cappella group The Swingles Thursday, March 1, at 7:30 p.m. in the Mary B. Martin Auditorium, Seeger Chapel, Milligan College. The five-time Grammy-winning vocal ensemble has numerous film and TV soundtrack credits, including "Sex and the City," "Milk," "Grey's Anatomy," "Glee" and "Downsizing."

The Swingles seven young singers, including Greeneville, Tenn., native Sara Davey boast a repertoire from Bach and Debussy to The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel and Turkish folk songs. They stroll "relaxedly from one grouping to another, turn to each other while singing, show pleasure in the sounds they are creating," reinventing classics and pop songs that are known to "hush the audience to complete rapt silence," says the Irish Examiner.

Mid-March cues the percussion, Third Coast Percussion, to be exact, another Grammy winning group March 22, at 7:30 p.m. in Science Hill High School Auditorium. Third Coast Percussion is an artist-run quartet of four classically trained percussionists praised for their direct connection with the audience, elegance, wit and "inspirational sense of fun and curiosity," says the Minnesota Star-Tribune.

While in Johnson City, Third Coast has a master class with ETSU music students, and with SHHS percussionists. "Third Coast is so much fun and has so much talent," DeAngelis says. "We are excited that they will be able to share their expertise with both ETSU and Science Hill students. The Martin School of the Arts loves to make those campus-community connections."

Some discordant notes join the chorus on April 9 as Martin School of the Arts screens "Voices from Chernobyl," an award-winning film that documents the stories of the 1986 nuclear power plant disaster from the perspective of the people affected by it. Citizens and responders of all ages, reflect on the mystery of Chernobyl and the future in a now-dystopian landscape. The free screening April 9, at 7 p.m. in Ball Hall 127, is part of ETSU's Earth Month festivities.

The season crescendos with harmonious interplay between the Parker Quartet yet another Grammy winner and ETSU piano faculty member Dr. Esther Park. Following a 2017 summer season that had the string ensemble crossing North America for appearances at music festivals in Maine, Colorado and Virginia, the Parker Quartet will begin its fourth year in-residence at Harvard University, as well as performing around the country. Pianist Park is a graduate of Yale's School of Music, with a master's and doctorate in musical arts.

The New York Times says a Parker Quartet concert is "something extraordinary," while The Washington Post praises the group's "exceptional virtuosity [and] imaginative interpretation."

Spring 2018 at ETSU's Martin School also features three additional films in the 2017-18 South Arts Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers series featuring animated and live personal journeys and suspenseful reflections.

On Feb. 12, the combination of documentary and animated feature "Liyana" follows a young Swazi girl on her heroic trek to rescue her two young brothers. The vivid film uses the power of storytelling, to address the effects of poverty, alcohol and HIV/AIDS. On March 12, film-goers meet a North Philadelphia family and share their joys and crises in the "eloquent" documentary "Quest." Then, April 16, the screeching strings, plunging knife, 78 camera set-ups and 52 edits of Hitchcock's classic "Psycho" shower scene is the focus of 78/52.

At ETSU, all Southern Circuit films are free of charge and are followed by a catered light reception with the filmmakers, who also provide a talkback after each screening. All spring Southern Circuit films are on Mondays at 7 p.m. "Liyana" and "Quest" are screened in ETSU's Culp Auditorium, while "78/52" screens in Ball Hall 127.

For more information about ETSU's Mary B. Martin School of the Arts or to purchase tickets, visit or call 423-439-8587.