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Meet Ron and Karen Toshner

Ron and Karen Toshner were introduced to the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra by a board member and found that attending concerts full of beautiful classical music rounded out their musical interests. As FVSO Season Ticket Holders, the two had enjoyed several performances at both Lawrence and Pickard Auditorium before the Center was completed in 2002. Now, they are Season Ticket Holders for both the Symphony and the Broadway Series here, and also choose to support the mission of the Center as Annual Partners.

Meet the Toshners

toshner-photoHow did you first get involved with the Center?

We were delighted when the Symphony moved to the Performing Arts Center after its completion in 2002. We were very pleased with the quality of the acoustics and how the FVSO was enhanced by performing in this venue. Shortly after, we also started attending Broadway performances. We have been FVSO Season Ticket Holders for about 14 years and Season Ticket Holders for the Broadway Series at the Fox Cities P.A.C. for about 12 years.

What made you interested in becoming a Season Ticket Holder at the Center?

We enjoyed the performances and the variety of performances available at the Center. We had attended some performances in Green Bay, Milwaukee and Chicago but the convenience of attending high quality performances made the center even more attractive. As the Fox Cities P.A.C.’s reputation grew, we were very pleased to see a number of premiere performances in Wisconsin of Broadway shows at the Center.

When did you first decide to become an Annual Partner?  

We believe that children and adults in our community should be exposed to the arts at multiple levels. The performing arts provide a richness of experience that can not only entertain us but also challenge us to learn more about others’ views. Because of that belief, we felt it was important for us to do what we could to support the arts in our community.

Being an Annual Partner is rewarding knowing that you are personally helping to provide outstanding performances for others in our community. And it’s very easy to do!

In your own words, what does it mean to you to have the Fox Cities P.A.C. in Appleton?

We believe the Fox Cities P.A.C greatly enhances the quality of life in Appleton by providing an extensive array of experiences that are convenient, affordable, and well-produced.

Artist Q&A: Sonny Knight

Sonny Knight, a Mississippi native who grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, developed his love of music going to church as a child. Now retired from his day job as a truck driver, Knight is touring his fresh sound with the group The Lakers, and will visit the Fox Cities P.A.C. as a kickoff to our Spotlight Series this November. Check out what he had to say about the show in this Q&A.

DSC_5517 By Mike Madison.jpg

Photo by Mike Madison

What first made you interested in music?
I think first of all it started way back down south when I was a kid. I went to church with my grandma and when I went to church we’d see these gospel quartets and one guy singing and I found that fascinating. I’m not much of a guitar player but I started messing around with that and I developed an ear for singing and started listening to lots of music.

 

You go by Sonny Knight- where did you get “The Lakers” from?
The Lakers, you know, the basketball team, was in Minnesota (in the 50s) but actually it’s quite different than that. Since it’s the Great Lakes, a laker is a kind of ship that stays in fresh water around the lakes. Plus, the studio was on Lake Street so there’s that dual meaning.

Your focus for your album as well as performing is the feel of live music. What makes that so different than something that’s recorded?
I believe in giving people what you hear on the record. I don’t think somebody would want to go somewhere and hear something different. We try to give people the sound exactly the way it was recorded. Lots of energy, feeling in the song and different things like that. No matter how big or how small the crowd, it will be the same show all the way around.
I pride myself in doing that and putting a lot of feeling into the songs we do. I like to get the audience involved because that’s what I’m there for and to have fun with the audience and making sure they are having fun! I guess I’m kind of like the host on the trip of the musical voyage and I will be your steward. How may I serve you today? That’s how we do it.

Finish this sentence: I’m most excited to visit Appleton because I hear…
I’ve always liked Wisconsin. Being a (retired) truck driver I didn’t get to see half the things I do on tour. I’ve always had a curiosity to go to Appleton and this time to play I get to meet the people and see a little bit more than what I’d normally see.

What can people expect when they come to the show?
They can expect to see high energy group playing good songs, a well-rehearsed group, join in to sing along and have fun dancing. It’s a good show all around. We’re looking forward to coming to Appleton to play. When I’m there come up and just say hi.

 

Don’t miss Sonny Knight and The Lakers Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m. in the Kimberly-Clark Theater. Tickets are $30 and are on sale now.

Artist Q&A: Larry Larson of Art of Time Ensemble

Sgt Pepper_logo2.jpgIn your own words, what is Art of Time Ensemble?

An amazing collective of artists (musicians, singers, dancers) handpicked by Artistic Director Andrew Burashko, who all come together to bring to life whatever innovative new program Andrew has envisioned for that particular concert. Oftentimes this can be a group of artists who have never met nor worked together in the past, but whom Andrew knows will form the perfect ensemble to present a particular program. It’s absolutely fascinating and invigorating to be a part of this kind of collaboration.

How did you get involved with the group?
In 2010, Andrew was doing a remount of his “Abbey Road Project,” and the original trumpet player in the ensemble was not able to do the dates. Luckily, Andrew had recalled working with me in the past on a symphony show we did together, so I got the call for “Abbey Road” – the first of the Beatles projects that Art of Time mounted.

When the group stops by the Fox Cities you will be performing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. What do you think makes that soundtrack so iconic?

All of the songs individually tell such incredible stories, meld so well together as a whole, and touch so many of us on different levels. I still have my vinyl copy that I got as a kid of 10 or 11, and never tire of listening to this masterpiece! Now at this stage of my life and career to be able to perform this incredible score in such a fresh and genius approach is truly one of the most rewarding projects in which I have ever been involved. It’s a gift to be able to tour this show once again this year! And in my home Midwest territory!

You get to play the iconic Penny Lane trumpet solo as a “bonus track” in the show. How does it feel to play a part that most people can hum along to?

Truly one of the greatest gifts of this show! As you may know, both “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” were originally recorded by the Beatles to be a part of “Sgt.Pepper,” but it was later decided by the lads to release them as a Double-A side 45rpm. Andrew’s decision to bookend our concert with these two numbers is brilliant! On a personal note, I had the great fortune to become friends with David Mason, the trumpet player who recorded this iconic tune. I travelled to London twice to hang out with him, and listened to his wonderful stories from his incredible career in London – as one of England’s most recognized orchestral trumpet player, and as Paul McCartney called him, “That high note guy!”

What is your favorite song to play in the show?
Honestly, ALL of these reworked charts are great throughout the album, as each of them has their specific challenges. I’ll give you a Top 3: “Penny Lane,”” Lovely Rita,”” Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.”

What song usually gets the biggest audience reaction?
I would say “A Day In The Life.” To say this arrangement is brilliant is selling it short, and for it to end the concert always brings the house down. It honestly gets me right here (as he points to his heart!) every time we play it!

headshot-larry-larsonFinish this sentence: I can’t travel without my…

Obviously my TRUMPET, but considering that is basically another appendage, I am lost without my brilliant noise-cancelling headphones and a vast array of listening material. I have ridiculously eclectic taste in music, so I must always have a plethora of material for listening, depending on my state of mind at any point during our bus trips!

Finish this sentence: When I visit a new city on tour the first thing I like to do is…

Find out where the best places are for breakfast, lunch, dinner, & craft brews! Eating well on the road is the best way to stay healthy and sane, so it is the priority on the road. As I have not been to Appleton since I was about 10 years old, any great suggestions?!?!?!

Finish this sentence: The one thing people always tell me about Wisconsin is…

How wonderfully friendly the people are! I know that for a fact from my trips to Wisconsin as a kid with my family. A great thing to be proud of, Wisconsin!

What can people expect when they come to the show on October 11?
To be truly blown away by how this iconic soundtrack of our lives can be honored with such innovative and fresh arrangements. Oh, and I have yet to mention how our 4 wonderful singers bring their own spin in their own voices to these great lyrics. These are not 4 imitators, but 4 voices unique to themselves who tell these tales. As I said earlier, this is absolutely one of the most rewarding projects in which I have ever been involved in my career. I can’t wait for us to present this show to you!

 

Tickets for Art of Time Ensemble Performs Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band; Andrew Burashko, Artistic Director; featuring Steve Page, Wesley Stace (aka John Wesley Harding), Craig Northey and Andy Maize start at $39 and are on sale now.

4 reasons to say ‘Hello’ to The Book of Mormon!

 

BOM_NASH_Season_Announcement_1000x1000If we had to pick only four reasons to see The Book of Mormon at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center Oct. 4-9, this would be our list:

1.The star-studded writing team

You may have heard the names Trey Parker and Matt Stone before, especially if you are a South Park fan. The two funny men created the musical along with Robert Lopez, the co-composer and co lyricist of Avenue Q (and subsequently Frozen). The trio worked together on the book, lyrics and music to create what The New York Times later would call “The best musical of this century.”

2.Witty, smart and hilarious are common descriptors

When you read reviews of the national touring production, you’ll often see words like “witty,” “smart” and “hilarious” describing everything from the writing, to the choreography and the music. It’s hard to disagree when Entertainment Weekly calls it “the funniest musical of all time.”

3.It has a lot of awards to its name

The musical is a 9 time Tony® winner, received 4 Drama Desk awards, and was recognized with 4 Outer Critics Awards. Oh, and the Grammy® Award for Best Musical Theater Album in 2012.

4. Last time it broke a house record, and it’s “even better the second time around”

The Book of Mormon was so well received during its 2014 Fox Cities stop, it broke a house record, grossing $1.38 million in a one-week engagement. According to the Daily Herald in Chicago, it’s even better the second time around, saying “If you think you’ve ‘been there done that’ — think again. I saw the show when it first opened and really enjoyed it, but this time I loved it.”

 

When will we be seeing you at the theater?