Life and Times in Arkansas and the Midwest

I have thought long and hard about this segment and how to present it. Let’s just get down to business about the gig artist and teacher affiliated with Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Arkansas Arts Commission and the Mid America Arts Alliance. On my personal time line, I was based out of Little Rock, Arkansas in the early to mid 1980’s, leaving there in 1985 for the green pastures of Tennessee, New York and Chicago. During that time frame in Arkansas, I developed as a true professional, performing with the theatre company and any other “gigs” that I was called for. What a wonderful life living in the Quapaw Quarter in Little Rock at the time. I did 3 different musicals with Arkansas Rep during that time frame, “Ain’t Misbehavin” with the cast pulled from Memphis, Tennessee and Playhouse on the Square, “Sing For Your Supper” which we toured for a year throughout the Midwest into Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and the eastern part of Texas and “Good Woman Of Szechzuan” , a new musical written by Michael Rice in the Arkansas Arts Center, McArthur Park, Little Rock, Arkansas.
Through the Mid America Arts Alliance and with a wonderful tour manager, things were set up in advance for me to work with the junior high and high school bands in all these states as we toured and were in the area. I met a lot of kids and had fun teaching them some of the basic rudiments of the performing arts. The band directors were nothing short of Gems themselves, struggling with financials and still turning out some great ensembles and kids.
One special spot I remember was in Nebraska, the backwoods so to speak and the week we spent there, seeing the country side and working with the schools. Movement, Discipline and Character were the primary goals of this personal mission and I really enjoyed pulling out the horns and playing along with the kids during this time frame. Very attentive and enthralled with the professional aspects of this gentleman sight reading what they were working on and having fun doing it. Laughter with a serious side has always been my benchmark.
Coming back to Conway, Arkansas and working with the bands both there and in Preston, Little Rock and even down to Pine Bluff was a challenge and yet very rewarding. I was also playing a lot in various church’s and other places, such as the Governor’s Mansion. Conroe and Preston offered me that small town entity where I felt very comfortable both staying with Rick Moncrief and his Mother in the country just off the Air Force Base there, a lot of good food and good times. Rick is a professional drummer and we worked a lot together during that time frame.
One of my fondest memories was going to a church there and being asked to play the piano, nice Presbyterian church with some great people. What a Friend We Have in Jesus and When The Roll is Called up Yonder never sounded as good as they did then with the Baptist Rolling Tenths and a great instrument to play on.
Preston was a fun place to be around back then, Air Force was the order of the day as it was in Conroe and I fit right into the military city attitude that prevailed there. Sitting in with various rock bands and jazz combo’s became a Saturday and Sunday thing when we were not performing a Matinee or otherwise engaged in travel or such.
I do believe I signed more autographs during this time frame with kids and their parents. It’s a great thing stepping out of the performance situation and sharing a great skill with others in whatever way is wanted or needed. Back to Nebraska, the first town I gave my time, contractually I might add, to the local program, it seemingly packed the auditorium for the performances with all of the kids and their families waiting at the “stage door” to say thank you and wish us all well on our travels

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About ukitena

“My purpose is to empower students and avid artistic connoisseurs to think for themselves. I will empower students and avid artistic connoisseurs to think for themselves through my performing, teaching, speaking and jovial actions. I will empower creativity in daily life and living and give the artistic connoisseur the feeling it is ok to be creative and push boundaries in their lives and way of living.”

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