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Events You Don’t Want to Miss: An Appalachian Summer Festival Returns on July 1st


Kool and the Gang will perform on July 7th.

By Savannah R. Watts

Celebrating its 34th season this year, An Appalachian Summer Festival returns to Appalachian State University’s campus next month! An Appalachian Summer brings music, dance, theatre and film from a diverse range of genres to celebrate culture here in the High Country. Since 1984, this festival has been providing locals and visitors alike with an eclectic display of culture the whole month of July.

An Appalachian Summer Festival is presented by Appalachian State University’s Office of Arts and Cultural Programs in celebration of performing and visual arts. Held in many venues around campus, this festival has expanded from original lineup of chamber music to now include other artistic tastes and preferences. An Appalachian Summer is nationally acclaimed for the breadth and quality of its programming and was even selected by the Southeast Tourism Society as one of the “Top 20 Events in the Southeast.”

The festival began as a means to educate people about the intricate and eclectic culture of the Appalachian community. The festival is founded on the principle of promoting young American artists while supporting the university mission of enhancing cultural diversity and providing a gateway onto Appalachian State’s campus.

This year, An Appalachian Summer Festival features 27 events, beginning with the Broyhill Chamber Ensemble on July 1st and ending with Kristin Chenowethon August 4th. The festival includes films, classic music, ballet groups, modern dance, a sculpture walk and more. Though all of the events lined up are extraordinary artistic expressions, this year’s appearances will include Kool & The Gang, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, The Hot Sardines, BODYTRAFFIC, and Kritsen Chenoweth. 

On July 7th, R&B legend Kool & the Gang will perform in the Holmes Convocation Center at 7:30 p.m. Kool & the Gang has influenced three generations with its music over the past 54 years. As the longest-running group in R&B history, they have sold over 70 million albums worldwide. Founded in 1964 by brothers Robert “Kool” Bell and Ronald “Khalis” Bell, the brothers joined Jersey City boys George “Funky” Brown, Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas and the late Charles Smith. Their combination of jazz, soul and funk lead them to produce hits like “Celebration,” “Cherish,” “Jungle Boogie,” “Summer Madness” and “Open Sesame,” paving their way to 2 Grammy Awards, 7 American Music Awards, 25 Top R&B Hit songs, 9 songs in the Top 10 Pop Hits, and 31 gold and platinum records.

Kool & the Gang started out by supporting acts like Bill Cosby, Ritchie Havens, and Richard Pryor before making their break in 1969 with their self-titled first album. Since then, they have produced 17 albums and dominated the charts even into the early 2000s. Kool & the Gang is one performance you don’t want to miss as they’re sure to “take you higher” with their performance.

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet will perform on July 11th.

On July 11th, the American Southwest ballet company, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet will perform in the Schaefer Center at 8:00 p.m. ASFB is a contemporary ballet company known for their adventurous repertoire and bold vision. Founded in 1996, the company has since been labeled as the epitome of contemporary-classical ballet with their European sensibilities combined with American athleticism. Their energetic and diverse performances hold true to founder Bebe Schweppe’s initial vision to make ASFB the “project of a lifetime.” ASFB is committed to commissioning new works with global choreographers performed by the most virtuoso dancers, providing audiences with innovative and creative performances that made this ground-breaking dance company successful.

ASFB is located in the dual cities of Aspen, Colorado and Santa Fe, Arizona. ASFB is a multidimensional arts organization, and their ballets have shaped not only their area but the dance field at large. Tom Mossbrucker, ASFB’s Artistic Director, emphasizes the value of building relationships with their choreographers—many of whom have gone on to become in high-demand across the globe. Many of the works ASFB perform come from inspiration found in the natural beauty of Aspen and Santa Fe’s surroundings. Their current company of 11 members will perform three allusive and emotional ballets including Return to a Strange Land, Dream Play and Huma Rojo which was commissioned for the company’s 20th anniversary in 2016.

The Hot Sardines will perform on July 21st.

Next month, “one of the best jazz bands in New York today” (Forbes) will perform in the Schaefer Center on July 21st at 8:00 p.m. The Hot Sardines will send the audience back nearly 100 years to the sounds of classic jazz that filled New York speakeasies, Parisian cabarets, and New Orleans jazz halls. Using brassy instruments, tearing up piano keys, and serenading audiences with raspy vocals, The Hot Sardines are creating a jazz revival for the 21st century. Fueled by the belief that classic jazz feeds the heart and soul, The Hot Sardines are on a mission to make old sounds new again and prove that joyful music can bring people together in a disconnected world.

This New York based ensemble was founded in 2007 by band leader and pianist Evan Palazzo and lead vocalist Elizabeth Bougerol. The two met by responding to the same Craigslist advertisement for a “traditional jazz jam” near Times Square in Manhatttan. Palazzo, an NYC native, had just returned from college in Philadelphia while Bougerol was an educated travel writer from the London School of Economics. This unusual pair instantaneously bonded over their favorite classic artists which lead to a series of performances to this day including the Newport Jazz Festival and Montreal Hass Festival. Their first self-titled album was released in 2014 and was named by iTunes as the best of jazz, remaining on the Billboard Jazz Chart for over a year.

Performing old favorites and songs from their new album French Fries and Champagne, The Hot Sardines will transport the Schaefer Center audience back to the jazz age and invite them to listen as they blur the lines between luxury and comfort. “Just be yourself and do what you like,” says Evan. “[It’s] how we approach playing music.”

BODYTRAFFIC will perform on July 28th.

Named in Dance Magazine’s 25 To Watch, Los Angeles based contemporary dance company BODYTRAFFIC will perform in the Schaefer Center on July 28th at 8:00 p.m. Founded in 2007 by Lillian Barbeit and Tine Finkelman Berkett, this young company has already been internationally recognized and named “the company of the future” (Joyce Theatre Foundation). Their repertoire includes works from many high-demand choreographers, leading BODYTRAFFIC to the forefront of contemporary dance. They have performed for sold-out audiences in prestigious theaters and festivals in locations that include New York City, Vancouver, Santa Monica, Philadelphia and Boston.

BODYTRAFFIC incorporates advanced choreography that includes death-defying stunts and light allusions to supplement their bold artistic dances. The company is currently comprised of 8 members from across the United States and Madrid, Spain. “BODYTRAFFIC suggests invention, attitude, and urban edge,” says Karen Campbell of The Boston Globe. This critically acclaimed contemporary dance group is one to love as they continue to pave the way into dance companies of the future.

Kristin Chenoweth will be the finishing act on August 4th.

Ending An Appalachian Summer Festival is actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth. Born in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, Chenoweth grew up singing gospel music before pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Musical Theatre and a Master’s in Opera Performance. She was also second runner-up for Miss Oklahoma in 1991. In her career, Chenoweth has performed in a variety of television series, films, and theatre productions. She won an Emmy Award for “Best Supporting Actress” in Pushing Daisies (2009) and a Tony Award for You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown (1999). She was nominated for a Tony Award in 2004 for her phenomenal portrayal of “Glinda the Good Witch” in the original cast of Broadway’s Wicked and received two Emmy nominations for her performance in the television series Glee. Her memoir, A Little Bit Wicked, was among the New York Times hardcover nonfiction bestseller’s list of 2009.

Chenoweth is an inductee into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. She has charity partnership with Broken Arrows Performing Arts Center where she hosts a Broadway Bootcamp for children. In 2012, the Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center Foundation renamed its theatre “The Kristin Chenoweth Theatre.”

In 2016, Chenoweth released The Art of Elegance, her first album of American songbook classics. The album debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Current Jazz and Traditional Jazz Charts, and #1 on Amazon’s Pop Vocal Chart. On August 4th at 8:00 p.m. she will be filling the Schaefer center with songs from her new album as well as some of her most memorable songs from Wicked, Promises Promises, and Glee.

In addition to these five notable acts, An Appalachian Summer brings 22 other events filled with diversity, culture, and artistic expression. Focused on enlightening and educating guests, the festival offers discounted children’s tickets, school coupons, ticket prices that are typically 30-40% lower than comparable events. But don’t wait too long, tickets are selling quick!

For more information about these events, visit http://appsummer.org/ or call the box office for ticket information. Make this Appalachian Summer your best summer yet!