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Just Buffalo enlists Kickstarter to help fund "Wordplay"

With traditional funding sources for arts in education programs generally less available as a result of the ongoing recession, some established organizations are turning to more innovative approaches to fundraising to support their programming.

One such local organization is Just Buffalo Literary Center, which is partnering with Kickstarter -- the online pledging platform for creative projects that employs the model known as "crowdfunding" -- to support the publication of "Wordplay," the annual anthology of student writing culled from the organization's writers-in-education program.

Each year as many as a dozen Just Buffalo sponsored professional teaching artists visit over 100 K-12 classrooms in as many as 30 Buffalo area schools to help young people discover the beauty and power of the written word, and to introduce them to the use of some basic poetic and prose forms from a writer's perspective.  In recent years, as many as 4000 students have participated in the program, which places special emphasis on serving high-need schools in the City of Buffalo where over 70% of students are living at or below poverty level.

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Goo Goo Dolls on 'Good Morning America'

Review video chat with Simon, Miers

News Arts Editor Jeff Simon and Pop Music Critic Jeff Miers hosted their weekly live chat at noon today. At 12:30 p.m. they shifted in front of the camera and continued to answer your questions live.

Podcast of video chat:

Download the audio and take it with you

'As You Like It' opens tonight


Morgan Chard, Norman Sham and Anne Roaldi star in Shakespeare in Delaware Park's production of "As You Like It."

Shakespeare in Delaware Park, after a run of "The Merchant of Venice" that was said to have the highest attendance of any SDP show in at least the past six years, is ready to kick off part two of its summer season. The company, which like many local cultural organizations suffered massive Erie County budget cuts this year, will open its production of "As You Like It," the Bard's beloved comedy, tonight at 7:30 on Shakespeare Hill. Look for Ted Hadley's review of the production in Sunday's edition of Gusto Extra.

--Colin Dabkowski

Just Buffalo puts the spotlight on youth tonight

E.J. Lazewski, 17, reads poetry during the open mic session at the Just Buffalo Literary Center in Buffalo in February, 2005. Photo by Elizabeth Mundschenk / The Buffalo News.

Tonight, the Just Buffalo Literary Center hosts its periodic "Spotlight on Youth" open mic, an event that gives creative young men and women an opportunity to share their artistic, poetic and musical talents. The event gets started at 6:30 p.m. in Trinity Church (371 Delaware Ave.), and is open to participants from 12 to 21. Here's a story I wrote about the event back in 2005.

--Colin Dabkowski

New names added to 'Cultural Walk of Fame'

Charles Griffasi, the indefatigable arts advocate and community event organizer who has put his stamp dozens of cultural festivals and initiatives over the past half-century, is at it again.

His Cultural Walk of Fame, a sort of idiosyncratic tribute to some of Western New York's most interesting cultural exports, has been an curious fixture on a short stretch of Elmwood Avenue for the past several years. And last Friday, Griffasi and his organization, Cultural Concert International, added 10 new names to the sidewalk tribute.

They include the composer David Shire, Lucille Ball, dancer Tony DeMarco, actress Amanda Blake, television writer Tom Fontana, concert pianist Leonard Pennario, singer Rick James, philanthropist Seymour H. Knox, Jr.

I haven't been by yet to see if the suggestion I made last year -- for Griffasi to hire a copy editor to avoid the sorts of embarrassing mistakes that have appeared in past additions to the walk -- was taken to heart. But typos or no, the Cultural Walk is a welcome addition a busy pedestrian thoroughfare and a worthy tribute to the region's cultural heritage.

--Colin Dabkowski

A candid chat with Semyon Bychkov

Bychkovnorman Semyon Bychkov, former Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra music director, is in the limelight this week. He is being interviewed by well-known music author Norman Lebrecht in "The Lebrecht Interview" on the BBC. Lebrecht was in Buffalo last fall, reading from his book "Why Mahler?" He is on the left in the picture. Bychkov is on the right.

The interview can be heard free on the Internet for the next six days.

There is a lot in it! I will say that right off.

Bychkov talks about his life in Russia under the Communists and what a nightmare it was. He was denied an exit visa, his father was unable to work because the government forbade him, and at one point, musicians ratted him out for being, as he put it, "politically unreliable." It is terrible to think of the situations people faced in that regime.

Finally, mysteriously, he was allowed to emigrate.

Both Bychkov and Lebrecht -- I have had the honor of talking with both of them -- are charming and positive people, and I was impressed by how genuine both of them seemed. They laugh frequently throughout this interview, which definitely has its light moments. It is also a pleasure to listen to their accents! Lebrecht has a beautifully modulated British voice and Bychkov -- well, Bychkov is Bychkov.

It is amazing to hear the maestro tell about how as a penniless emigre from Russia, he stood in front of the Vienna State Opera, gazing at a poster for Wagner's "Lohengrin," longing to see the production, but unable to buy a ticket. Thirty years later, he was back standing in front of the opera house. There was another poster for "Lohengrin," and his name was on it.

What a story. Lebrecht points out how unusual it has been. And yes, they mention Buffalo.

Bychkov has bounced around among orchestras. He spent 10 years at the L'Orchestre de Paris -- an orchestra he brought to Buffalo on tour -- and he now likens the Paris job to a bad marriage. "It isn't to say they were angels and I was a villain, or that I was an angel and they were villains. It was basic incompatibility."

"I never had a game plan," Bychkov says. "Because I never viewed life as a game."

Bychkov also talks about the difficult relationship he had with his estranged brother, Jakov Kreizberg, who was seven years younger than Bychkov and was also a conductor. Kreizberg died earlier this year. In this portion of the interview, I found myself appreciating Lebrecht's style. He is probing, but not rude. He asks the tough personal questions journalists sometimes have to ask. He does it so gracefully. And he knows when he has to stop.

Another sticky subject is the admiration Bychkov, who is Jewish, has for the music of Wagner. "I cannot live without it," he says flatly. "I have to have this music in my life." The conversation goes from there.

Oh, well. I could go on and on! Listen to the interview. Try to make time for it. It's worth it!

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

Ingram to play at Taste of Country BBQ Nationals

The Taste of Country BBQ Nationals arrives in Western New York for a competition from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 6 on the Eastern Hills Mall front parking lot off of Transit Road in Williamsville.

The free event includes kids games and activities, food and live music with performances by West of the Mark, Gregg Sansone, Ransomville and featured performer Jack Ingram (performing at 5 p.m.).

For more information, visit

Spin Doctors to visit the Town Ballroom

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of "Pocket Full of Kryptonite," the Spin Doctors will perform that album in its entirety (plus more) in concert at 7 p.m. Oct. 20 in the Town Ballroom (681 Main St.). The disc spawned such hits as "Two Princes" and "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong."

Tickets are $20 advance, $24 day of show and go on sale at noon July 22 through the box office, online at or charge by phone at (888) 223-6000.

For more information, visit or call 852-3900.

George Winston to perform at Babeville

Pianist George Winston will perform at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 30 in Asbury Hall at Babeville (341 Delaware Ave.).

Tickets for the show are $30 advance, $35 day of show and go on sale July 23 through the box office, in Rust Belt Books (202 Allen St.), online at or charge by phone at (888) 223-6000.

For more information, call 852-3835 or visit

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