Free Drum & Dance Performance

The best way to fight cabin fever is to embrace the cold and venture forth in search of entertainment.  The place you want to be on Sunday, January 26, 2014 is the Quiet Reading Room in the Main Library First Floor at 4400 Forbes Avenue.  I am a big proponent for all our local libraries and love to promote the wide scope of events they offer.  They are known for digging up the best talent in Pittsburgh and offering it to the public free of charge.  If you show up between 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM you can catch a performance of a unique African arrangement.

In December of 2007 Yamoussa Camara formed Camara Drum & Dance to perform the music and dance of Guinea and West Africa.   He includes unique and exciting arrangements of West African music punctuated by original choreography and authentic costumes made for the group in Guinea.  Camara was born in the village of Boke, Guinea, West Africa in 1966 and took to his drum at an early age. In 1995 he immigrated to the United States. He taught drum and dance at Yale University for 10 years then traveled the U.S. teaching, performing, choreographing and polishing presentations for various dance ensembles.  We are indeed fortunate that he has decided to call our region home and join the huge base of talent our city holds.

Mito Camara

Yamoussa Camara currently resides in Pittsburgh and teaches West African dance at Carnegie Mellon University, the African Drum Ensemble at the University of Pittsburgh and West African drumming at The Irma Freeman Center for Imagination.  This is a busy guy with lots of positive energy you can absorb from every performance.  Hey, maybe you even want to take a class.   He teaches drum and dance workshops for children and adults.   This Renaissance man can be contacted for private classes or performances as well.  What better way to warm up on a cold winter night.   You can reach him at 412-403-7502 or check out his website



Zuma Zuma at Shadyside Academy

Yes, that is zuma zuma not zumba zumba.  But they both have African origins and have added a lot of spice and vitality to our midwestern culture.   A Cirque Zuma Zuma performance is coming to The Hillman Center for Performing Arts at Shady Side Academy.  I am emphasizing the school because I drove around Fox Chapel for 30 minutes looking for the center the first time I went there for a performance.  Your jaw will drop when you first drive through the campus if you have not been there before.  It truly is another world and the atmosphere is conducive to absorbing education in a mellifluous manner.

There is also not a bad seat in this center for performing arts that has become a gathering place for cultured enthusiasts.  The Zuma Zuma acrobats stunned the audience during their America’s Got Talent performance in 2011.  You will find splashed across the stage over 120 talented singers, dancers, contortionists, and tumblers from 16 African nations who will amaze you with a high- energy, action-packed performance on February 15.

   zuma-zulu-dance-207   zuma-zuma-contortionists-205  zuma-zulu-dance-201  IMG_0708

The location address is 423 Fox Chapel Road and the phone is 412-968-3040.  You can always buy tickets at the door or simply check the website

John Jacob is the producer of Cirque Zuma Zuma and traveled the world as an acrobat, circus and street performer.  He returned to his African homeland to gather young talent and founded a circus training school to give them a professional edge.  The school creates shows  featuring an array of never before seen talents mixed with some of the best cultural skills associated with African variety arts.  Many describe it as an African-style Cirque du Soleil.  They have definitely earned the same standard of performers and high quality live musical scores.

It is a great way to get in from the cold and beat these winter blues.  Transport yourself to Africa and let this performance heat you up.


Third Annual Bad Art Sale

There are a lot of talented artists in Pittsburgh.  When I worked at CMU people would strategically watch the dumpster outside the College of Fine Arts and unabashedly dumpster dive when the students threw out their unwanted masterpieces.  This was mainly due to sheer volume and space issues.  Those art students produced a lot of work and a dorm room can only hold so much.  Plus, those large canvasses are not that easy to haul around.  I’m sure that someone has an early Andy Warhol or Burton Morris treasure squirreled away from this sought after quest.  I was never able to time it right to find anything since the artwork disappeared within minutes and I don’t doubt that people staked out spots in sleeping bags to get to the best pieces first.


The main thing is that art is subjective.  A student’s rejected failure may be the best piece of art you’ve ever seen.  One man’s trash is another man’s treasure literally.  I think that is the reason that the annual Shaw Gallery  bad art sale has become such a wildly popular event.  It will take place on Friday, January 24 and Saturday, January 25 from from 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.  These are pieces that gallery owner Kurt Shaw has secretly procured and hidden away over the past eleven years.  He is adding to the booty this year by including used art books, art supplies, mats and frames.  I think he may be a bit of an obsessive compulsive buyer.  You can find him and his bounty at 805 Liberty Avenue in the heart of the cultural district.  In fact, there is a gallery crawl this weekend where you can check out lots of great places in this artistically restored downtown section.

So warm up with a bottle of wine and gaze at the new painting of the Côte d’Azur you just picked up for a steal at the bad art sale.  Build a fire and bundle up.  Great art soothes the soul.

Familylinks Social Media Jazz Contest

Familylinks serves nearly 8,000 people annually through its service locations throughout Southwestern PA.  It plays a unique role in keeping troubled families whole, strong, independent and productive while providing  services that benefit children, youth and families.  It provides each of its clients with a compassionate response designed specifically to deal with their own distinct problems.  They provide critical services in three broad areas:  behavioral health, education/community services and youth/family services.  Last year they assisted a total of 7, 737 people who turned to them for help.

They are having a fabulous fundraiser on March 21, 2014 at the Twentieth Century Club in Oakland called Just Jazz II that they are combining with a YouTube video contest.  I just love people who think outside the box! Applicants need to be students in high school or college. They can perform individually or in dance combos, trios, quartets and quintets.  To apply just upload a video to Familylinks’ Dropbox account by 11:59 p.m. on February 1 (log-in information is available at Judges that include vocalist Lisa Ferraro and jazz trumpeter Benny Benack III will choose five finalists for the public to vote on.

Finalists will be announced on February 8 and those videos will be posted to Familylinks’ YouTube page. Voting will run from February 8-28 and will be calculated by each like the video receives. The video with the most likes will be declared the winner on March 1 and the video will be marketed through social media and e-blasts prior to the event. The winners will then perform during Just Jazz II’s cocktail hour!

Benny Benack, III and Elevations are scheduled to open the show and you can cap off the night at an after party at the James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy on the Northside.   One of my favorite jazz artists, Houston Person, is performing along with Lisa Ferraro, Roger Humphries, Dwayne Dolphin and Max Leake.  VIP tickets are $150 while general admission tickets are $75.  Click here to purchase tickets!


I Have A Dream

Martin Luther King Junior’s I Have A Dream speech is the most moving piece of verbal delivery I have ever heard. I had a lot to compare it to since I took rhetoric in college and studied a lot of famous speeches. But Dr. King was a natural speaker with a persuasive ability that cannot be taught. He also spoke from the heart and was as passionate about promoting peace as he was compassionate about human suffering. He was a great man and an admirable leader.

Carnegie Mellon is one of the few universities that does not close on Martin Luther King Day but they do have a good rationale. They call it a day on instead of a day off and offer events throughout the day to honor this great man. All classes are also cancelled after 12:30 p.m. The events are free and open to the public. These are great events to take your children to since they are off from school and will prove to be an enriching cultural experience.  This is also a great chance to see the Josh & Gab Show that I blogged about recently.


Happy Birthday Martin Luther King, Jr.!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Rangos Ballroom, University Center

Join President Subra Suresh for a special listening tour dedicated to the university’s commitment to diversity.
12:30 pm -3:00 pm

Children’s Programs/Activities

Check the information desk at the University Center located beside the football field for exact locations but most events will be held in the same building.  Activities and presentations appropriate for children of all ages will be offered. The Josh & Gab Show team will present a special Anti-Bullying Musical Comedy program for kids at 1:30 pm.  The Children’s School will feature arts and craft activities and story time. Children will also be decorating a Freedom Mural and a collage to be on display in the University Center. Snacks will be provided.

Connan Room & Wean Commons, University Center
12:30 pm– 1:30 pm
15th Anniversary Celebration for MLK Writing Awards

Rangos Ballroom, University Center
The School of Drama will feature a special chorale tribute in celebration of Dr. King.  Local high school and college students will also read personal narratives dealing with individual experiences with racial difference and discrimination. The students are recipients of writing awards sponsored by the Carnegie Mellon Creative Writing Program, Student Affairs and Office of the President.
1:30 pm – 2:30 pm

McConomy Auditorium, University Center

Students in Service: Habitat for Humanity Presentation –  there are nearly 2 billion people around the world who live in slum housing and more than 100 million are homeless. Habitat helps to building or renovate simple, decent houses in partnership with those in need.  This event will feature representatives from the HFH of Greater Pittsburgh and a local family. Learn more about how you can get involved with HFH local build opportunities, Habitat ReStore and student alternative break experiences – 2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m.

Danforth Lounge, University Center

Story Circles: Social Justice & Community – circle stories provide a nexus for artistic, educational and culturally relevant conversations. This informal conversation will feature local Pittsburgh community leaders who are engaged in innovative social justice issues- 2:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m.

Kirr Commons, University Center
Join teens from the Arts Greenhouse hip-hop program who will feature music and prose celebrating art and culture while exploring the bitter-sweet relevance of Martin Luther King, Jr. to Pittsburgh youth. The Arts Greenhouse is a music education outreach program for facilitated by Carnegie Mellon – 3:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. For more information, visit
Rangos Ballroom, University Center – Keynote Address and Dessert Reception
Featuring Jendayi E. Frazer, Ph.D – Former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, CMU Distinguished Service Professor, Council of Foreign Relations
‘Leading with Courage and Conviction” – 4:30 p.m.


Skibo Cafe, University Center 8 p.m.
MLK Late Night Spoken Word – Transcending the Dream “Force though Speech”

Presented by SPIRIT in conjunction with Pittsburgh Poetry Collective – this event will showcase spoken word artists from our campus and the surrounding Pittsburgh community. The featured poet for the evening will be William Evans of Columbus, Ohio. For more information about the Pittsburgh Poetry Collective/Steel City Slam, please visit

To find out more details about these events contact 412-268-2075.

Fun Free Family Sundays

Weekends are the times we want to reserve for quality family fun.  It is essential to keep children active and interested despite the challenge of dipping temperatures that lead to limited outdoor activities.  There are lots of things to choose from in Pittsburgh but it is worth the venture to check out the Westmoreland Museum of American Art. It really isn’t that far.  I used to work with someone who traveled from Westmoreland County to Oakland every single day.

The Westmoreland Museum of American Art was established in 1949 at the bequest of Mary Marchand Woods.  She was was a long time resident of Greensburg interested in the arts. This visionary founder bequeathed her entire estate for the museum to be built.  It sits 35 miles east of Pittsburgh and opened its doors to the public in 1959.  It focuses on American and Southwestern Pennsylvania art.

It is known for its many award-winning, curriculum-based educational programs which have reached thousands of students in the region and have received both state and federal funding. The innovative programs utilize the Museum’s collection to teach students in grades Kindergarten through high school about art and history.

But one of the best things going are the free Imagine Nation Studio Sundays.  Every Sunday from 12-3 PM children of all ages and their favorite adult can stop by the Museum for a free themed art activity. Kids learn about art and have fun creating their own art project in the studio. There is a different art project featured each week.

Imagine American Art

January: Shine On – We are drawn to shiny objects like large metal sculptures, pieces of jewelry, mirrors and glass. So, lets bring in the New Year all bright and shiny by making art from materials that reflect, glimmer and sparkle.

February: By Design – A simple line can be just vertical, horizontal or diagonal. Or this line can go on an adventure to create shapes, patterns, textures, and movement. Bring your imagination to the studio each Sunday this month and see what interesting art can be created with lines.

March: You’ve Got to Move It – The world in which we live is full of moving objects of one kind or another. Artists have been inspired by movement in nature and man-made items to create forms of art. Let the winds of March carry you into the studio and make art projects inspired by movement.

April: The Primaries – A splash of color here, there and all around as seen every day and its all brought to you by the primaries; red, yellow and blue. These are the colors that make all others happen. Youll mix and match colors to create 2D and 3D art that contrast and complement each other, and even set a mood using music.

May: Building Blocks – Wood is very versatile piece of art material. It can be carved, assembled, and formed. The studio this month offers you a chance to use these various techniques along with painting, fusing and transfer of other art materials to make unusual and interesting masterpieces to go.