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Volume 26, Number 4 — April 2019

Mary B. Martin School of the Arts announces spring line-up

The Sybarite5 string quartet performs at ETSU.
The Sybarite5 string quartet performs at ETSU.
Additional photos below »

December 26, 2018

Rock stars of musical innovation, a quirky Quaker comedian and independent documentaries brimming with whimsy, skateboards and insights into the human condition populate the budding spring season at Mary B. Martin School of the Arts at East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee.


“Innovation is the theme for our spring season,” says Anita DeAngelis, director of the Martin School of the Arts. “Our ticketed events feature musical artists and a storyteller/comedian who are pushing the boundaries in each of their fields, and our three South Arts filmmakers this spring have also been lauded for their ground-breaking techniques and ways of addressing cinematic storytelling.”


The stars come out in February, beginning with the “powerful and inspiring” film about the dark secret shared by the three sisters of the world-renowned piano quintet, The 5 Browns. “Digging Through the Darkness,” Monday, Feb. 4, or Tuesday, Feb. 5, at 7:30 p.m. is the featured event for An Evening of Health, Wellness and the Arts, co-sponsored annually by the Martin School and the ETSU College of Public Health.


In “Digging Through the Darkness,” filmmaker Ben Niles unveils The 5 Browns’ journey through the disclosure of the family’s struggle with a painful past and the subsequent healing brought by music and social justice for the sisters, survivors of child sex abuse.


Sisters Deondra and Desirae attend the free screening and hold a Q&A with the audience afterward, as well as work with ETSU piano students while on campus.


On Monday, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m., the award-winning documentary “306 Hollywood” chronicles a journey through the life of two siblings’ late grandmother, based on the objects she left behind. First Showing calls “306 Hollywood” “wildly creative, magical” while The Verge dubs the film “unforgettable.”


Later that week, Feb. 22, the Sybarite5 string quintet brings its innovative programming from Bowie to Radiohead and Akiho to Assad and new sounds to Johnson City at 7:30 p.m. Their mission, they say, is to engage the senses and redefine the rules, and music reviewers have taken notice. “Their rock star status ... is well deserved,” says the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. “Their classically honed technique mixed with grit and all-out passionate attack transfixes the audience.”


What Peterson Toscano calls a “quirky” look at issues including sexism, racism, privilege, gender, LGBTQ and climate change is on the horizon for late February as the storyteller, actor and activist visits campus. Toscano, a Quaker from Pennsylvania and self-proclaimed Bible scholar, presents “Everything is Connected: A Collection of Stories Most Weird, Many True” Thursday, Feb. 28 at 7:30 p.m. in Bud Frank Theatre, Gilbreath Hall.


“He does such a good job at taking really big and scary issues ... and is able to present them in a way that is accessible,” says Justin Adkins, associate dean and director of the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access and Social Justice Center at Allegheny College.


March dawns with the South Arts Southern Circuit Tour documentary “Hale County This Morning, This Evening,” a film that its director RaMell Ross calls “a lyrical innovation to the form of portraiture that boldly ruptures racist aesthetic frameworks.” Adapting James Agee’s concept of organizing by light and mood, Ross follows the ordinary lives of his Deep South subjects through 11 days, from sunrise to sunset to sunrise again, as their lives progress through college and fatherhood. “Hale County” screens March 4 at 7 p.m., with the location for all the South Arts films to be determined.


On March 7 at 7:30 p.m., two more young music luminaries bring their repertoire of classics and new music to Johnson City. Lawler + Fadoul Zara Lawler, flutist, and Paul Fadoul, marimbist have been called “a great treat” by Classical WETA in Washington, D.C., and “collaborative artistry at its finest” by reviewer Amanda Cook.


The duo promises “an unexpected mélange of classical virtuosity, lively commentary, theatrical flair and a small dose of indie rock sensibility.”


Next is pianist Christopher Taylor, performing at Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church, Thursday, April 4 at 7:30 p.m. Hailed as “the leading American pianist of his generation” by The Boston Globe and “frighteningly talented” by The New York Times, Taylor has performed and won piano competition honors around the globe, as well as being known for his agility on the Steinway double-keyboard piano.


In addition to piano chops, Taylor holds a mathematics degree from Harvard and is known for his innovations in computer programming and philosophy. “Taylor possesses one of the great keyboard techniques of our time and has a probing mind, musical and otherwise,” says Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times, who noted that Taylor makes “the keys all but levitate.”


The spring season closes Monday, April 15 at 7 p.m., with another free screening, of an award-winning new documentary by filmmaker Bing Liu, “Minding the Gap.” Through the lens of skateboarders, Liu “delves into some of the most painful and intimate details of his friends’ lives and his own, and then layers his observations into a rich, devastating essay on race, class and manhood in 21st-century America,” says The New York Times.


“Minding the Gap” was deemed the “Best Reviewed Film of 2018” by Metacritic, nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards and five Critics Choice awards and an official selection at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.


“We have quite a season of extraordinary artists and arts experiences,” DeAngelis says. “We can’t wait to share it with the campus and the community.”


For more information about the Martin School of the Arts’ spring events or tickets, visit www.etsu.edu/martin or call 423-439-8587. For disability accommodations, call the ETSU Office of Disability Services at 423-439-8346. Follow the Martin School of the Arts on Twitter and Instagram @artsatetsu and on Facebook.




"Digging Through The Darkness" will be shown Feb. 4 and 5 at ETSU in Johnson City, Tenn.