J.R.R. Tolkien’s Great Grandson Makes His Filmmaking Debut in Santa Barbara

Nicholas Tolkien at Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara, CA

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In 1968, just a few years before his death, J.R.R. Tolkien sold the movie rights to his famous Lord of the Rings trilogy for a mere 10,000 pounds ($24,000 at the time), plus 7.5% of future revenues. And when the first of Peter Jackson’s much anticipated films, The Fellowship of the Ring, was released in 2001, young Nicholas Tolkien was 11 years-old and expecting to earn some serious street cred. But instead, he was teased mightily at school, and called “hobbit”. Plus, with the films earning $3 billion at the box office, the Tolkien family heirs had to sue New Line Cinema in a highly publicized battle to get their share of the revenues. AND, the mere making of the films created a Tolkien family feud that continues today. But despite all the negativity that swirled around the film trilogy, young Nicholas began dreaming of becoming a filmmaker, and at the age of 17, after graduating high school in England at 16, he traveled across the pond by himself in what he calls an “unbelievably misguided journey” into Hollywood. It didn’t take long for Nicholas to realize that his famous name would only get him so far. (Produced by Karen Pelland, aired on Here & Now, 2/2/12)

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In a Rare Treat, the Boston Symphony Orchestra Comes to Santa Barbara (but without James Levine!)

Maestro Ludovic Morlot

LISTEN: Part 1
LISTEN: Part 2
It’s been 58 years since the legendary Boston Symphony Orchestra performed in Santa Barbara, and all eyes will be on the exciting and talented young conductor Ludovic Morlot. With Maestro James Levine having recently stepped down from the post due to health problems, a string of guest conductors is being closely watched to predict who might replace Levine on one of the most prestigious podiums in the world. The 37-year old Frenchman was assistant conductor at the BSO under Levine from 2004-2007, so he’s not only familiar with the orchestra, but also with the unique seating arrangement Levine instituted when he came to Boston. Pulitzer Prize-winning classical music critic for the Boston Phoenix, Lloyd Schwartz, says Levine’s adjustments to the orchestra made it sound more beautiful than ever, and that Morlot’s talent and reverence for those methods leave him well poised as a top contender to replace him.

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Santa Maria Non-Profit Teaches English and Changes Lives

Students in Guadalupe, CA, learning from a volunteer tutor with the Central Coast Literacy Council

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The non-profit Central Coast Literacy Council has been around since 1983, teaching English for free to anybody who walks through their doors, no matter where they came from. Whether you’re an illegal immigrant, a doctor, a homeless person, or a foreign-born grandparent hoping to better communicate with your grandchildren, the CCLC will help you. Based in Santa Maria and with various class locations throughout northern Santa Barbara County, the CCLC is able to make a difference in people’s lives and futures largely due to the generosity of its all-volunteer staff of tutors, and the donation of office and classroom space. And they are always looking for tutors, who they will train for free.

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The Santa Barbara Children’s Chorus Hits the Big Time with La Bohème

Members of the Santa Barbara Children's Chorus in costume for La Bohème

LISTEN: Part 1
LISTEN: Part 2
The Santa Barbara Children’s Chorus began in 1993, but over the last 10 years, for various reason, it slowly began to decline and was nearly defunct a year ago. That’s when the group’s new Artistic Director, Paul Freeman, helped rescue the organization from the brink. And now, currently in its second semester, the newly invigorated choir teaches not only choir and solo singing to kids 8-14 yrs. old, but also music theory and how to perform as an ensemble. And when the current crop of young singers were told they’d likely participate in a real live opera with Opera Santa Barbara, they weren’t quite sure what that meant… that is, until the first rehearsal.

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Mind and Body Therapy… on Horses!!

12 year-old Peter Gonzales and "Sage" at Hearts Therapeutic Equestrian Center in Santa Barbara, CA

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There’s nothing like horseback riding. The physical movement and relationship between rider and horse can’t be replicated artificially, and the benefit to people with special needs is incalculable. Riders at the non-profit Hearts Therapeutic Equestrian Center in Santa Barbara, CA range in age from 3 to 95, they have a wide range of physical and mental handicaps, and the time they spend riding horses has greatly improved the quality of their lives and enriched their spirit. Not only does the simple act of riding a moving horse use muscles most of us take for granted and help with balance and focus, riders with learning disorders and developmental conditions like autism have experienced virtual “awakenings” through the relationship they develop with their horses.

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Silent Film Era Comes to Life at Santa Barbara’s Arlington Theater

1928 Wonder Morton Theater Pipe Organ at the Arlington Theater in Santa Barbara, CA

LISTEN: Part 1 – Organist Scott FoppianoLISTEN: Part 2 – How the Organ Works
Once upon a time, during the silent film era, theaters employed live orchestras to accompany the films, creating all manner of moods and sound effects. But the advent of the theater pipe organ in the 1920’s spelled the end of live orchestral accompaniment. For a lot cheaper, one organ, and one organ player, could do it all. Once numbering in the thousands in theaters across the country, today these unique instruments are rare, and the Arlington Theater in Santa Barbara, CA is fortunate to have one of the most impressive and largest around. Scott Foppiano is an award winning theater organist and silent film accompanist, and this weekend he’ll be in Santa Barbara to play this instrument — a 1928 Wonder Morton Theater Pipe Organ, one of only five of its kind ever made. He’ll be accompanying the legendary 1922 silent film “Nosferatu”. Originally installed in the Loews Jersey City movie theater in Jersey City, NJ and in danger of becoming landfill in the 1980’s, the organ and its 2,000 or so pipes were rescued and restored (and are continuously maintained) by the Santa Barbara Theater Organ Society. It’s been housed at the Arlington Theater since 1988.

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Picasso and Braque – A “Bro-mance” That Forever Changed the Art World

Georges Braque, 'Glass on a Table', 1909-10

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It’s a rare thing when artists who usually work alone, collaborate. It’s even rarer when that collaboration proves to be a revolutionary moment in the history of the genre. Such was the case with artists Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. From 1910 to 1912, they barely left each other’s side. Their collective work during this brief period is known as analytic “cubism”. Eik Kahng is Chief Curator at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and she explains why the work of these two men during this brief two-year period was an artistic game changer. “Picasso and Braque: The Cubist Experiment, 1910-1912” is on display at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art through January 8th.

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Legendary Venezuelan Music Education Program Takes Root in Santa Barbara, CA

ICAN Music students at Franklin Elementary in Santa Barbara learning the violin

LISTEN: Part 1 (w/Adam Johnston)LISTEN: Part 2 (at Franklin Elementary)
In 1975, one man decided to attack the increasing social and civic problems in Venezuela be teaching music to the country’s youth. The program is called El Sistema, and it has not only spawned some of the world’s greatest musicians, but has given joy, hope, and a sense of community to millions of Venezuelan youth over the decades. Inspired by El Sistema, 26 year-old Adam Johnston spearheaded the creation of the ICAN Music Program in Santa Barbara, which currently operates after school at Franklin Elementary.

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Mozart’s Requiem Rolls Across America, Marking 10th Anniversary of 9/11

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Mozart’s Requiem was first commissioned in 1791 by a man wanting to commemorate the anniversary of his wife’s death. Over the centuries it has become a haunting and moving tribute to the departed, and on the first anniversary of 9/11 in 2002, choruses around the world performed the piece, rolling from time zone to time zone. And to mark the 10th anniversary, The Santa Barbara Choral Society has organized a U.S. version, wherein over 60 choruses will perform the enigmatic piece at 3pm local time, rolling from New England to Hawaii. Santa Barbara’s free concert will take place at the First Presbyterian Church, and KDB Radio will broadcast the event later in the evening at 9pm.

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Local Guitar Maker Shares His Craft

Robert Carbonaro, in his Santa Barbara studio

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In 1974, Robert Carbonaro wandered into a San Francisco guitar shop in which the proprietors were holding guitar making classes. He signed up and never looked back. Today, Robert makes custom guitars out of his Santa Barbara home studio, specializing in flat top and arch top models. He makes about eight guitars per year, give or take, spending up to 200 hours on each instrument, and selling them anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000. This weekend he’ll open his doors to the public to give a tour and talk about his craft. The event is part of the 2011 Santa Barbara County Arts Fund Open Dialogue Salon Series.

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