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Tiempo Libre

Sun Sentinel

A lesson in the fine arts

Sun Sentinel

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

by Ivette M. Yee

BOCA RATON — Music lovers attending the Festival of the Arts BOCA next month at Mizner Park may take in a sumptuous performance by violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman, but they won't get that coveted invite to see him rehearse.

That treat will be shared with hundreds of students in Palm Beach and Broward counties.

Festival of the Arts BOCA, an 11-day fine arts festival with performances by Perlman, the Russian National Orchestra and others, will not only provide arts aficionados with cultural entertainment, but also will give young people a lesson in the fine arts.

The March 1-11 festival includes an educational series for middle, high school and college students. Participating schools include Bak Middle School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, Spanish River High School in Boca Raton, Boca Raton High School, Cardinal Gibbons High School in Fort Lauderdale and the Pine Crest Schools in Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale.

"We have well over 100 artists who will be in town for 11 days and they wanted to do this," said Wendy Larsen, board chairwoman of the Centre for the Arts at Mizner Park. "The kids are part of our community, they're our future and if you don't bring good music to them they will never know it."

During the festival:

Russian cellist Nina Kotova will teach a class of 300 students at Lynn University.

Flutists Sir James and Lady Jeanne Galway will e-mail their music to flute students, who are invited to play along during a private performance.

Florida Atlantic University theater students will attend a lecture on the future of American theater by acclaimed playwright Edward Albee. Creative writing students will participate in a workshop about the business of writing by David Ebershoff, an author and editor for Random House.

All artists' rehearsals will be open to students only. Other featured stars are pianist Yefim Bronfman and jazz musician Arturo Sandoval.

"For these amazing professionals who we don't see every day to say we need to mentor the next generation is wonderful," said philanthropist Mercedes Mottek, a Centre for the Arts board memberwho is organizing the educational series. "The kids will gain an opportunity of a lifetime and learn from the musicians."

The festival's educational series kicked off with the beat of a drum -- a conga drum -- on Feb. 13, when two-time Grammy-nominated Latin Jazz group Tiempo Libre, of Cuba, entertained students at St. Andrew's School in Boca Raton. The group shared a history lesson on Afro-Cuban music.

Tiempo Libre is closing the festival on March 11. During their high-energy musical set, a student and teacher joined the group on stage and danced the rumba and cha-cha. Other students let loose in the aisles.

"This is a great opportunity and they came to us," said Jan Emigh, director of bands and chairwoman of the performing arts department at St. Andrew's. "The more these students can hear professionals play and observe, the better their listening skills become. Especially hearing improvisation."

And Tiempo Libre delivered their lesson with oomph.

Number after number, lead singer Joaquin Diaz powerfully sang lyrics in Spanish and rallied the audience to clap along.

"It was phenomenal," said Andre Davies, 17. "I don't think many of us have heard this kind of music before, so it was culturally invigorating. For a group on their level to come here is great."

Tiempo Libre's trumpeter, Pavel Diaz, said they wanted to take the students on a journey through Cuban music.

"This is something they don't normally get in school so they are interested," he said.

After the performance, students were invited to meet the group and talk music. Caleb Raymond, 16, a trumpeter in one of St. Andrew's jazz bands, approached Pavel Diaz and asked him about his musical influences, tips for improvising and warming up.

"There's only so much your teacher can teach you, but to learn from live musicians who are more accomplished than you is so interesting," Raymond said. "In school, you're always hearing the classics and jazz, but to hear them bring in their own style and improvise, not play straight from the sheet music, is great."

This year there was no funding set aside from the festival's $2 million budget for educational outreach, so officials relied on the artists to pitch in.

Next year, the Festival of the Arts will seek a grant from the Palm Beach County Cultural Council to expand the education series.

"It's essential to our mission to do this, bringing the experience of art and culture to all segments of our society, especially young people," Larsen said. "We already have hundreds of school students involved. We'd like there to be more than that."

Ivette M. Yee can be reached at or 561-243-6538.


The Festival of the Arts BOCA will take place March 1-11 at the Mizner Park Amphitheatre, 590 Plaza Real, Boca Raton.

Events will include public lectures by acclaimed playwright Edward Albee, 6 p.m. March 3; noted author Anna Quindlen, 7 p.m. March 5; performances by Itzhak Perlman with the Russian National Orchestra, 8 p.m. March 10; and the Boca Raton Symphonia Orchestra with Arturo Sandoval, 6 p.m. March 11.

For ticket prices and a complete list of events, see or call 866-571-2787.

For more information, call 561-368-8445.

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