The arts are the little engine that could

One of my favorite books when I was a boy was The Little Engine That Could.  This American classic of can-do optimism (“I think I can – I think I can – I think I can”) appealed to me when I was young and it appeals to me now.  Everyone can benefit from its message of patience, perseverance, and belief in oneself, including and perhaps especially artists, who in this country must often pursue their passion with little outside support.  This week I am highlighting three events notable for what I see as the strength of their conviction.  Even as the still-struggling economy continues to create a difficult context for the arts, every day there are people who get up and put one foot in front of the other, always moving forward on the path of making their visions become realities.

This Friday, Urban Renewal, a new jazz vocal ensemble conducted by Sean Boulware, will present a concert at the Santa Catalina Performing Arts Center in Monterey.  I have heard Boulware, his wife, and son perform in various MPC musicals and have been consistently impressed by the family’s abundant musical intelligence and gifts.  Featuring twenty-six local singers, Urban Renewal is a new ensemble created by Boulware, who teaches voice at the Dennis Murphy School of Music.  Friday’s program will include music by Pat Metheny, Kurt Elling, Sting, as well as jazz standards, and will also feature special guests Janice Perl and the Franklin Street Voices, a six-piece vocal ensemble from Trinity High School.

Also on Friday, All Saints’ Church presents Trio Globo in Carmel (photo above).  Drawing from the traditions of jazz, classical, sacred and world music, Trio Globo specializes in its own personal alchemy of contemporary acoustic jazz.  The trio’s musicians—Eugene Friesen (cello), Howard Levy (piano and harmonica) and Glen Velez (percussion)—have performed with such groups as the Paul Winter Consort, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Kenny Loggins, Paquito d’Rivera, and Steve Reich.  This is All Saints’ second season of presenting concerts.  The Peninsula is awash in several outstanding well-established presenting organizations.  To start a new music series in this environment takes courage, and I am delighted to see that All Saints is choosing such compelling performers for their series.

Finally, Friday also marks the opening night of “Parallel Lives,” a new production at the Stardust Playhouse, in Monterey.  A two-woman show by Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney, “Parallel Lives” offers a sharp-tongued comic vision of the creation of the world by two supreme goddesses with opinions to spare.  The Stardust is in its second year of operation, and is another example of real artistic chutzpah.  Director and founder Kirsten Clapp is a strong local talent—her production of “Bug,” at the Paper Wing, was the best show I’ve yet to see at that theatre—and I applaud her vision of an intimate, family-run independent theatre.  There are many theatres on the Monterey Peninsula, more, it can seem at times, than there are audiences to fill them.  But when it is sincere, and rooted in a deep sense of commitment, art is like love—there is always room for more.

Urban Renewal, at the Santa Catalina Performing Arts Center, Friday, January 25, 7:00 p.m.  Tickets: $20 (in advance), $25 (at the door), $10 (students high school or younger).  Tickets are available at the door or online at  For more info call (831) 920-1310.

Trio Globo, at All Saints’ Church, in Carmel, Friday, January 25.  Tickets are available at Bookmark Music, in Pacific Grove, by calling (831) 624-3883 or visiting

“Parallel Lives,” opens Friday, January 25 at the Stardust Playhouse.  For tickets and information, call (831) 402-8940 or visit