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It's a fine time for music

Annual Smith Fine Arts Series lands a host of celebrated artists

Smith Fine Arts Series

Smith Fine Arts Series

October 01, 2013

MONMOUTH -- The 2013-14 Western Oregon University Smith Fine Arts Series is a veritable who's who in the world of acclaimed and celebrated musicians.

Featuring the world-renowned Chamber Orchestra of the Kremlin, Grammy award-winning jazz vocalist Kurt Elling, esteemed Celtic fiddler Kevin Burke and venerated jazz trumpeter Dave Douglas, the Smith Fine Arts Series has outdone itself.

In his fifth year as SFA coordinator, Keller Coker, music history and jazz studies professor at Western, might have had the easiest booking schedule yet as well.

"Two days after the Joe Lovano show last year, Kurt Elling's agent called me and said, `We heard the Lovano show was great. Mr. Elling would like to come out,'" Coker said. "I've been trying to get him on the series for quite a while; we have never been able to get anywhere near having him here."

Elling's last 10 albums have all been nominated for either best jazz vocal performance or best jazz vocal album, with his 2009 album "Dedicated to You" winning the Grammy for best jazz vocal album.

The continued success and notoriety of the Smith Fine Arts Series has lent itself to booking such acclaimed acts, Coker said.

In booking the Chamber Orchestra of the Kremlin, Coker had to guarantee just one thing: that Western Oregon University professor Kevin Walczyk write an original piece for them to debut at the series.

Done and done.

Walczyk previously worked with the chamber -- the group performed one of his pieces in Europe -- and when the group booked another date on the West Coast, it called Walczyk.

"We're the anchor for them coming out here. It's pretty spectacular," Coker said. "They're not something we would be able to afford normally. I said, `OK, (Kevin), you're writing a piece.'"

Shifting from years past, this year's series features only musical acts; the funding wasn't available to get the usually more expensive dance groups. However, Coker noted that the series is still strong and headed in the right direction.

"I'm already getting pitches for the 2014-15 season. I have a stack of six artist portfolios at home, all who are pitching to come out here," Coker said. "We've got a reputation. The work we do with the artists and the writing we do for the shows is amazing."

If You Go ...

* Season tickets for the 2013-14 Smith Fine Arts Series at Western Oregon University are still available.

Individual tickets are $25 in advance or $28 the day of the show for adults and $11 for students, and can be purchased online, by phone or at Rice Auditorium.

Because SFAS hands out a number of free tickets to students during the year, there's still a need for sponsorships. Tickets under this program are $11 apiece. Donations to the Smith Fine Arts Series are accepted and additional sponsorship opportunities are available.

For more information: 503-838-8333; email to fineart@wou.edu; online at www.wou.edu/sfa.

DAVE DOUGLAS WITH THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE ORCHESTRA

June 7

Completing the Smith Fine Arts Series schedule on June 7 will be acclaimed trumpet player Dave Douglas with the Western Hemisphere Orchestra. The performance will be at Western Oregon University at Rice Auditorium.

Completing the Smith Fine Arts Series schedule on June 7 will be acclaimed trumpet player Dave Douglas with the Western Hemisphere Orchestra. The performance will be at Western Oregon University at Rice Auditorium.

Acclaimed trumpet player Dave Douglas and his unique contributions to music have garnered distinguished recognition, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Aaron Copland award and two Grammy nominations. His widespread musical interests are reflected in the diversity of his recorded works. From Miles Davis-like explorations of the music of the 1960s to his recent Americana-styled album "Be Still," Douglas' musical language is beautiful and engaging.

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