A Delightful Concert…..

Followers of the blog know I ‘ve been part of Homestead Center for the Arts (http://homesteadcenterforthearts.com) for quite some time now. There are almost two dozen Affiliate members within HCA – those are the structured groups devoted to arts and culture. Those are groups like Homestead Community Concerts, The Children’s Art Gallery and Center, etc. We also have two committees within HCA; one for the Bea Peskoe Lunchtime Lecture Series and the other for the Music Series (MuSe). In general, we have four lectures per season (Oct-April) and 3 MuSe events. Last night we had three wonderfully talented students from the Frost School of Music down from Miami. Miclen LaiPang was on violin, William Locke, cello, and Jonny Cruz, piano. I do not profess to “know” classical so I can’t speak knowledgeably about their selections other than to say it was a terrific concert. Bach, Beethoven, Paganini, Liszt, and Saint-Saens were featured.

Aside from their sheer talent, their stage presence was impressive. When we have classical music, we try to hold the events at City Church because the acoustics are so well-suited and the three young men agreed. We will see about having them again in the not too distant future. Hubby couldn’t attend last night so we don’t have cool photos. I took a couple with my phone and for whatever reason, the email I sent myself hasn’t worked. (Yet again, frustration with my lack of tech ability.) Anyway, I know how hard these guys must have worked to achieve what they have and their parents (and perhaps siblings) have no doubt made sacrifices of money/time to help them. I also know how proud they must feel when they watch them perform.

Women in Agriculture…..

I attend different community events and today was one of those annual gatherings you don’t find in every part of the country. Well, actually, you might these days. As I have mentioned before, the modern history of deep South Florida only dates to the late 1800s due to a lack of roads and the difficult environment of thick foliage, heat, humidity, bugs, and snakes. Once Henry Flagler extended his railroad, getting goods to markets was improved and big packing houses were commonly seen close to the tracks. The large agricultural area here is still “hidden” from many people in Miami who don’t realize the sheer number of acres being grown. And the face of agriculture has changed over the decades. Small family farms have never been easy to keep going and there are new challenges for multiple reasons.

With that said, twelve years ago the Dade County Farm Bureau Women in Agriculture Committee looked closely at the statistics of agriculture in our region and realized numbers backed up something they already knew – women were a significant force in local agriculture. They had the first annual luncheon to publicly acknowledge a woman who made special contributions for that year. These are women who farm along side husbands/parents or in some cases, start their own business. They participate in programs like Ag in the Classroom, helping plant gardens at schools, are advocates for agricultural issues and much more. I didn’t know until today that more than 36% of our farms are owned by women. Today’s honorees were in fact a mother and daughter representing the 3rd and 4th generation of a family who came south in 1917 to plant their first local fields. Although the mother did marry into the farming family, the daughter started with chores and responsibilities at an early age and plans to continue with the family tradition. Right at 100 people were present today at Schnebly’s Winerary and Brewery which is the perfect setting for such an event. It was a delight to be surrounded by these strong women, and yes, there were men there as well.

Silver Sort of Sparkles….

Okay, silver doesn’t tend to have the actual glow of gold or sparkle like diamonds, but in this case, it definitely has a special sheen. The particular silver won’t ever hang around my neck or that of most people because it belongs to an Olympic silver medal. Several years ago, someone contacted the South Dade News Leader, the community paper I wrote regularly for and still contribute to occasionally. They told the editor there was a kid who went to their church who was a great gymnast and could possibly make it to the Olympics, but even more so, the family had a wonderful story. I was sent to see what the deal was and it was one of those heartwarming situations that makes you want to cheer. At the time, Danell Leyva Gonzalez and his parents, Maria Gonzalez and Yin Alvarez, didn’t know how far Danell could go as he was working through the competitions for an eventual shot at the Olympic team. I was so impressed with them, I did a post for the blog after I wrote the article for the paper. This is a family that left Cuba with nothing when Danell was a toddler. Both Maria and Yin were national gymnasts, but for them, life away from Communism was more important than their own glory. They were finally able to open a gym in South Miami where a huge Olympic banner hung. Their point was it does take a certain level of talent, but determination and the willingness to work hard with the proper coaching were more important than belonging to a prestigious program. As Danell grew and honed his skills, he did indeed make the 2012 Olympic team and brought home a bronze medal.

Fast forward to this year when my husband looked up from the paper and said, “Hey, your guy just missed making the Olympic team, but one of the other guys was injured so he’s back on.” I knew immediately which “guy” he was talking about. Perhaps it was Fate stepping in, perhaps not, yet Danell has won two silvers this time and I’m not certain what other events are on the schedule. For him, his family, and his country, these are proud moments. You can Google him and watch the video clips if you want to see his terrific performance.

It’s Not Taking a Chance on Chance…..

Okay, I was interrupted in writing this post and I can’t resist a good pun. We, as in the Homestead Center for the Arts (HCA), put together a special committee to work on an exciting project. They’ve been working very hard and it’s time to share the news. This is the centennial for the National Parks System and with Homestead being the Gateway to the famous Everglades and the less well-known Biscayne Park, we have a special relationship with them. For those who may not have been there, Biscayne Park is mostly underwater, but sitting on the boardwalk with a cup of coffee and watching the sun rise is a great view for we morning people. Anyway, there are obviously a lot of different things being done to celebrate the Centennial and based on a recommendation from one of our favorite park rangers, HCA has booked the ensemble Chance to perform Friday, Oct 21st at the Seminole Theater. Chance has played in many National Park settings, internationally, and on public television and radio. Their music is categorized as Urban Chamber, but think Celtic crossed with folk and a dash of country mixed in. They pay special tribute to John Muir, who is more well-known for his work with the Western parks.

Concert tickets are $35 each and went on sale last week. There will be a limited seating cocktail party before the concert also for $35, but there will be an opportunity to speak with the group after the concert as well. It’s going to be a wonderful evening and I would urge everyone to go ahead and book their tickets as soon as possible. You can go to either the HCA website or Seminole Theater. http://homesteadcenterforthearts.com and http://www.seminoletheatre.org or if you want to hear the details about the group, their website is http://www.chanceworld.com

If you have friends or family who come seasonally or visit occasionally, I recommend you talk to them about coming in time to share this experience.

Even More Fun Than I Expected…..

In promoting the Seminole Theater (http://seminoletheatre.org), we have mostly attended concerts, although I would have liked to have been in town when the What If Works one-act plays were performed. (Check out WIW as an affiliate member of http://homesteadcenterforthearts.com)

Anyway, the terrific Seminole Director was contacted by a member of the WLRN Radio Theater organization a few months ago about having a SciFi Summer after the regular season ended. Like many people, I wasn’t aware the Public Broadcasting WLRN had a Radio Theater component and I’ll get to that part later in the post. Although I never heard the radio drama, War of the Worlds, I had heard my grandparents and parents talk about it. The way the presentation at the Seminole was described was intriguing in that the “broadcast booth” would be on-stage and as the audience, we would be seeing inside as the historic broadcast took place. In reality, it was a bit different, and indeed even more fun than I expected.

The director came on stage to explain the concept and urged everyone to stay for a bit after the performance when they would elaborate about the production and take questions. The script they were using was the original with the customization of changing the location to Florida instead of NJ as written by Orson Wells. The marvelous sounds effects expert, absolutely vital to radio theater, not only had his array of equipment, he had cue cards for the audience. We were to be prompted with “Applause, Crowd Noise, and Scream.” The lights dimmed and we were all set for a thoroughly entertaining evening. Another slight variation was the actors did have some movements and costume additions to allow for visuals for the audience which of course wasn’t necessary back in the day of radio theater when no audience was present.

During the post-performance session, we learned the company has revived many radio dramas and adapted numerous movie/play scripts to the format. I knew the second part of SciFi Summer was to be Plan Nine From Outer Space (called the worst movie ever made). I had told Hubby I wasn’t going even though he said he wanted to. I will now be buying tickets for us both because I am a total convert and look forward to any future events with WLRN Radio Theater at the Seminole.

 

An Interesting Coincidence……

“Okay, why would someone who is assigned to Hawaii come to Key Largo to get their scuba certification?” When Hubby is notified about an upcoming class, he’s provided as much background as is available, but in some cases, that isn’t much. In some cases, details get a bit mixed up, and when he was told there were some Navy guys from Hawaii he would be doing an Open Water Certification for, that seemed odd. Open Water is the basic step in certification and there are dive shops all over Hawaii. However, once he learned the situation, it not only made sense; it is a particularly cool  story because of a professional connection.

For starters, the individuals are in Key Largo to receive critical training for something else and the timing was right for them to dovetail scuba classes with that training. Okay, sure. The professional reason they’re taking scuba is because they are members of a unit called Joint Task Force Full Accounting. This isn’t a well-known unit in general, but they do make the news periodically. When you read or hear a story about the long lost remains of American military being located and returned home, in all likelihood, JTF Full Accounting is involved. Their mission is to follow every lead and physically go around the world investigating missing service members and recovering the remains whenever possible.

Their capability is fascinating and while military personnel of all services (that’s the Joint part) rotate through the unit, there are civilian experts who have been there for years. They are forensics and other experts such as in military equipment. Based on their experience, they can take scraps of metal or pieces of fabric and determine what type of aircraft or uniform the items came from. The teams from JTF have been up in mountains, deep in jungles, and in tiny villages where planes might have crashed or wounded servicemen might have died and been hastily buried. As technology advances and more places in the world are accessed, there are increasing discoveries of information about missing military personnel. Being scuba certified comes in since some of those missing includes personnel who perished underwater.

Neither Hubby nor I have been personally involved in a recovery, but a good friend of ours was with JTF Full Accounting while we were in Hawaii and we had the opportunity to learn details about their work. For some families, they vaguely knew where a member was lost, but the resources to pinpoint and bring the individual home did not exist at the time. For them, even decades after the loss, to have that loved one honorably returned to them is incredibly important.

Painting Parties…

I don’t know who came up with the idea of “Painting Parties” or even where it really got started, but it does appear to be a trend. It’s especially nice to see that the two great ladies of Art for Good seem to be doing well with them. Let me explain a bit if you’re not familiar with either. I’ve posted about Art for Good (https://www.artforgoodusa.org) previously and yes, they are an Affiliate Member of Homestead Center for the Arts. Suzanne Moe and Marcela Noriega are truly awesome women and to quote from their website, “Here at Art For Good we believe art can help integrate community, build self-esteem and promote mutual respect. We recognize art and creative thinking as valuable tools to find solutions to social problems in our community and to benefit society.

We invite and inspire people to be agents of positive change by staging fun art events and activities which bring community together for the common good. These events help raise awareness and funds for Art For Good projects and programs.”

Of course they accept straight out donations, but their Paint Parties are growing in popularity and they fall into the category of being what I call a, “Fundraiser with the emphasis on Fun“. The concept is remarkably simple and the party is usually held in a place where wine (or your preferred beverage) can flow along with the paint and laughter. You start with a blank canvas and an image to work toward. You don’t need to have ever held a paintbrush to be part of the fun and you might surprise yourself as Suzanne and Marcela give you pointers. They hold private and public events and three public ones are scheduled for 6, 19, and 21 July. The price is around $30 per person, but that varies depending on what food and drink are included. Pop onto their website for details.

If you’re looking for something interesting for the summer, I highly recommend checking  this option out.

Amazing Talent…..

The event has passed, but somewhere on your calendar, make a note to start checking around next April for the 3rd annual Homestead Community Concert Scholarship Showcase. Two years ago, HHC, one of the longstanding members of Homestead Center for the Arts,  (http://homesetadcenterforthearts.com) decided to have scholarships for music students. Although the scholarships are limited, for the tens of thousands of dollars it costs to train a talented musician, any external amount is appreciated. Last year, there was 1,2,3 place and two honorable mentions. The turnout was larger this year and the competition so close, someone stepped up and donated funding for a third honorable mention. The ages of these students (must be 18 or younger) ranged from 14 to 18 and their awards and accomplishments to date make you wonder if they ever have time to sleep.

There were three pianists, two cellists, and one violinist; most of whom played classical pieces with one modern jazz selection in the mix. Aside from their talent, their stage presence was impressive and every parent must have felt tremendous pride in watching and listening. I don’t know how many of the students will go on to have careers in music – like all the arts, it’s difficult to make a living as a musician. What I do know is it’s a performance you’ll enjoy if you like classical music. As part of the presentation, there was also a salute to the sacrifices parents make to support their children with both considerable financial requirements and an incredible amount of time with driving to lessons, competitions, etc. The applause that rose for them was well-deserved.

Events like these cannot happen without a lot of hard work and that too gets a big “Thank You” for the volunteers who devote their time.

Quietly Quilting….

I wrote routinely for our community newspaper, the South Dade News Leader for a couple of years. I met a lot of interesting people since my focus was on human interest stories and history of the area. There were plenty of uplifting stories and among them were women who made quilts to send to deployed troops. I had met some of them when doing research for the Small Town Lies quilting series and that led me to hearing about the other project for the troops. That, in turn, led me to learn of the Quilts of Valor Foundation (http://www.qovf.org). It is a national foundation based in Iowa with this as their mission: “The mission of the Quilts of Valor Foundation is to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor.” In some cases they send quilts to hospitals and at other times, make direct presentations to military members selected in special recognition.

Yesterday, I attended a luncheon where six active duty soldiers and one retired naval officer were given quilts and it was a great pleasure to do so. The woman who linked multiple organizations together had created one of the quilts. There are several different quilting groups around and in this situation, there is a “mini-group” within the larger group and they focus on the Quilts for Valor contributions. There are also different organizations that are comprised of retired military and/or those who have a connection to the military. May is Military Appreciation Month and presenting the quilts at the May meeting of the MOAA has now become a tradition. (MOAA is Military Officers Association of America). The soldiers were present (two with their wives) and the retiree was unable to attend, but his wife and daughter were there. A short paragraph was read about each individual; particularly about a combat event in which his actions were notable. The Colonel who was reading the paragraph made an interesting comment before he began about how none of the men there viewed their actions as “special” in the sense they all did what they expected each of them to do under those circumstances. And not surprisingly, none of them chose to speak, but merely to smile and say, “Thank you for this honor.”

I don’t have a photo of the individual quilts, but as you can imagine, there was definitely a “red, white, and blue” theme. Each of the quilts was carefully “packed” inside an “pillowcase” that had also been crated as a holder for it. There were all double-bed/queen size.

 

New Jersey, Day Two of Show…..

One of the things about attending these shows is indeed the people you meet, especially the legends and pioneers of scuba. Because of the age range (and there are a delightful number of children in attendance), certain men and women were in the truly early days of scuba when technology was very limited. The entrance to the show has large-size photos on display of “Legends of the Sea”, many of whom are no longer with us, yet advanced the knowledge and understanding of scuba throughout their lives.

An individual who is very much still with us is Nuno Gomes. He was in the same presentation room as we were in, but on at an earlier time. Then by chance we were at the bar together at the hotel and I did not initially recognize the name. You can Google him to see the YouTube  videos that are amazing as he has gone around the world setting a variety of depth records. From Wikapedia: “He is the holder of two world records in deep diving (independently verified and approved by Guinness World Records), the cave diving record from 1996 to 2015 and the sea water record from 2005 to 2014.” Yeah, diving below 1,000 feet will get you into the records books.

Why, you may ask? Part of it is the, “Because it’s there”, and part of it is the incredible drive of certain individuals who want to stretch themselves to whatever particular boundary they choose to engage in; to say, “I don’t know, let’s see if we can’t go beyond that.” This is not some daredevil, thinly disguised death wish, but rather a carefully thought out reasoning of how to push and demonstrate human ability supported by technology. Aside from being an amazing diver, he’s an interesting guy to have a drink with.