World Renown Jazz Guitarist, Singer John Pizzarelli Kicks Off Lively Arts Season

by Lauren Somers

John Pizzarelli

John Pizzarelli

Montgomery County Community College will launch its 2014-15 Lively Arts season with the classically creative jazz, pop and swing stylings of John Pizzarelli―an internationally known guitarist and singer who effortlessly channels legends from Frank Sinatra to the Beatles―on Saturday, Oct. 18, at 8 p.m. in the Science Center Theater, 340 DeKalb Pike, Blue Bell. Tickets cost $38. Visit or call 215-641-6518 for more information and tickets.

An Ella Fitzgerald Award winner called “madly creative” by the Los Angeles Times, Pizzarelli has established himself as one of the prime interpreters of classic and contemporary music. He brings to audiences a 21st-century take on standards as well as more contemporary music, paying homage to a wide spectrum of artists and songwriters from Nat “King” Cole to Richard Rodgers to James Taylor. He has performed with the Boston Pops, opened for Sinatra and been hailed by the Boston Globe for “reinvigorating the Great American Songbook and re-popularizing jazz.” With 10 albums under his belt, Pizzarelli has recorded songs with Paul McCartney, Kristin Chenoweth, Rickie Lee Jones and Rosemary Clooney. In addition to performing throughout the world and on America’s most popular national television shows, he has hosted a nationally syndicated radio program and led a 40-member live orchestra at Radio City Music Hall for a Sinatra tribute.

Pizzarelli fans may also enjoy some of this year’s other Lively Arts performers, including American jazz/pop singer, pianist and two-time Grammy Award winner Diane “Deedles” Schurr on Nov.15; Grammy-winning jazz-soul fusion artist Gregory Porter on Feb. 8 (Sunday, at 4 p.m.); Thelonious Monk Competition winner Cécile McLorin Salvant on Feb. 21; Latin American folkloric and jazz musician Miguel Zenón on March 21; and legendary harmonica player Grégoire Maret on April 18.

The College’s Lively Arts programs have connected the community for more than a quarter century. In addition to performances from internationally acclaimed artists, each season features a Young Arts Explorers series; student choral, jazz ensemble, guitar, dance and theater performances; the Presidential Symposium and Richard K. Bennett Distinguished Lectureship for Peace and Social Justice; and the Betzwood Film Festival. Most Lively Arts events are held at the College’s Central Campus in Blue Bell, with selected events held offsite or at the College’s West Campus in Pottstown. Tickets can be purchased individually or you can Create-Your-Own Subscription by selecting any four shows. Season subscription benefits include premium guaranteed seating and savings on regular ticket prices.

For more information, visit, email or call the Box Office at 215-641-6518. Follow the College’s “Destination Arts” page on Facebook at

Show Your Support for Student Candace Benson: Vote Now-Aug. 30

by Diane VanDyke

BLOG Candace Sunday BestMontgomery County Community College student Candace Benson, of Pottstown, made her final performance on BET’s Sunday Best competition Sunday. Now it’s up to the audience to determine the winner of the two finalists—Benson or Geoffrey Golden—by voting via phone or online.

Click HERE to Vote For Candace

Benson, a 22-year-old music education and audio production major at the College, auditioned last April with hundreds of hopeful singers to compete in the weekly gospel-based singing competition. She was one of 20 contestants selected to sing on the weekly television show starting in July. Throughout the past several weeks, she successfully made it through each round getting closer to her dream of winning the competition.

Now, she seeks the support of her ever-growing fan base, family, and friends and supporters at the College, Montgomery County and beyond to vote for through noon EST on Saturday, Aug. 30. The winner will be announced on Sunday, Aug. 31.

To vote for Benson, call 1-888-5-BEST-01 or 888-523-7801 or go online at and follow the instructions to complete the voting process. You can also vote by using the BET Now mobile app.

Voting is limited to 15 votes via the toll-free landline method and is unlimited via online and BET Now app. Airtime and roaming charges may apply if using a cell phone to call the landline numbers.

The winner will receive a new Ford Fusion, a national recording contract with Fo Yo Soul/RCA Records and a cash prize. For Benson, this is her opportunity of a lifetime and represents the culmination of singing performances at her church, locally and during Music Wednesdays

Click HERE to Vote For Candace

Dance Program Offered in Pottstown This Fall

by Diane VanDyke

Dance students perform during the fall Performing Arts Showcase at Montgomery County Community College. Photo by Sandi Yanisko

Dance students perform during the fall Performing Arts Showcase at Montgomery County Community College. Photo by Sandi Yanisko

Montgomery County Community College is now accepting registration for its Associate in Arts degree program in Dance to be offered at its West Campus in Pottstown starting Fall 2014.

This 63-credit program provides both a liberal arts background and dance courses comparable to classes offered during the first two years at a four-year institution. Classes include modern dance, ballet, jazz, hip hop, dance improvisation, dance composition, dance repertory and performance, dance wellness and fitness and dance history.

“The program is unique in that it offers courses for dancers of all levels, from beginners to experienced dancers,” said Dr. Melinda Copel, Coordinator of Dance, indicating that novices can take fundamentals-level dance courses while simultaneously taking degree courses.

Dance classes are open to all students, regardless of their majors, and will meet core education requirements for Exercise and Health Sciences and Aesthetic Sensibility and the Arts.

The Associate in Arts degree program in Dance allows students to transfer into a baccalaureate program in dance at many colleges and universities.

“There are a number of career possibilities in dance including performer, choreographer, teacher, dance or movement therapist, dance historian and writer, dance critic, arts administrator, and dance notator,” Dr. Copel said. “There are performance opportunities in a variety of settings including dance concerts, opera, musical theater, musical productions, television, movies, music videos, cruise ships and theme parks, such as Disney World or Sesame Place.”

“Many dancers combine performance with careers in dance education or choreography,” she said. “Dance educators teach in higher education, K-12 schools, private dance studios and community centers. Some open their own studios. Students may wish to combine their studies in dance with a related field such as technical theater or physical therapy. The arts are a big industry in the Philadelphia area, and there are plenty of opportunities.”

Beyond courses, students have performance opportunities with the College’s Dance Performance Ensemble, which is open to all students. Both the Dance Ensemble and the Dance Repertory class perform at the end of each semester.

For more information or to register, contact Dr. Melinda Copel at or 215-641-6346.

2014-15 Lively Arts Season Preview

by Lauren Somers

Montgomery County Community College has announced its 2014-15 Lively Arts season, “Old School, New School” ― with a nod to the resurging popular interest in jazz, Americana and eclectic dance and theater, by presenting a generation- and genre-spanning collection of exhilarating performers. From the classically creative jazz stylings of John Pizzarelli―a world-renowned guitarist and singer who effortlessly channels Sinatra, Gershwin and the Beatles―to the innovative choreography of Brian Sanders, hailed as “Philly’s most imaginative perpetrator of dare-devilish physical theater,” the traditional and the modern blend seamlessly in this year’s series. Visit or call 215-641-6518 for more information and tickets.

For more than a quarter century, the Lively Arts series has connected the community artistically through breathtaking musical, dance and theater performances, sidesplitting political satire, thought-provoking art, stimulating workshops and lectures, Young Arts Explorers events and meet-the-artist receptions. This year’s series reflects the ageless continuity of the arts, offering an electrifying season of events that include performances by:

  • John Pizzarelli, an Ella Fitzgerald Award winner called “madly creative” by the Los Angeles Times, on October 18;
  • Kathy Mattea, an American country and bluegrass performer who brings folk, Celtic and traditional country sounds to her music and has recorded 17 albums featuring numerous chart-topping singles, on October 25;
  • Diane “Deedles” Schuur, an American jazz/pop singer, pianist and two-time Grammy Award winner who has performed with B.B. King, Dizzy Gillespie and Stevie Wonder, on November 15;
  • Papo Vázquez Mighty Pirates Troubadours, a group led by the Grammy-nominated trombonist and composer whose remarkable career spans three dozen years in the jazz, Latin, Afro-Caribbean and classical music and recording worlds, on November 22;
  • Monnette Sudler’s Philadelphia Guitar Summit featuring Lionel Loueke, a West African native and veteran of bands led by Terence Blanchard and Herbie Hancock whose performance caps on January 24;
  • Gregory Porter, a Grammy-winning jazz-soul fusion artist heralded as “the next great male jazz singer” channeling the “soulful spirit of the ’70s,” on February 8;
  • Cécile McLorin Salvant, a prodigy and Thelonious Monk Competition winner who shares interpretations of rare jazz and blues compositions while extending the lineage of Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald, on February 21;
  • Brian Sanders’ JUNK, a troupe led by “the city’s most exciting choreographer” performing an innovative dance theater piece featuring the ingenious use of found objects and clever inventions, on February 28;
  • Miguel Zenón, a Guggenheim and MacArthur fellow who blends Latin American folkloric music and jazz and has been heralded for “re-establishing the artistic, cultural and social tradition of jazz while creating an entirely new jazz language for the 21st century,” on March 21;
  • Grégoire Maret, one of the world’s most sought-after harmonica players who has played with such legendary musicians as Youssou N’Dour, Meshell Nedegeocello, Pete Seeger, David Sanborn and George Benson, on April 18; and
  • The Capitol Steps, a popular political satirist group performing song parodies and skits that play off recent headlines in this year’s “Fiscal Shades of Gray,” on May 2.

In its Young Arts Explorers series, the College will engage children and families through several highly entertaining, educational performances, including:

  • Janet’s Planet: Tour Through our Solar System, a live performance from Janet Ivey of the popular TV show in which she will explore the wonders of the galaxy through an imaginative, interactive learning adventure, on January 22;
  • Cuentos: Tales from the Latino World by David Gonzalez, who paints a vivid picture of the people and rich cultures of the Spanish-speaking world with colorful Afro-Cuban tales from the Caribbean, South America and the Bronx, on February 12 at 9:30 a.m.;
  • Finding North by David Gonzalez, who brings the powerful stories of the strivings, sacrifices and dreams to the stage of the African-American Underground Railroad hero John P. Parker, as well as contemporary American immigrants on February 12 at 1 p.m.; and
  • SKINK, by Brian Sanders’ JUNK, a collection of 14 fast-paced vignettes designed for younger audiences in which performers use unusual props, costumes, lighting effects, dance and physical theater to create worlds of magic and wonder set to a wide range of music from pop to classical, on February 27.

Each year the Lively Arts season also features student performances in music, dance and theater. The Fall Performing Arts Showcases will be held December 1, 3 and 4 with a special 10th Anniversary Celebration of the MCCC Choir on December 3. The Spring Performing Arts Showcases will be held April 27, 29 and 30. Dance Performance Ensemble Concerts are December 5 and April 24, and the Chamber Strings Concerts are scheduled for December 7 and May 3. A special Faculty Music Concert will be held on November 7.

The Theatre Arts Program and West End Student Theatre will present “Rabbit Hole” Nov. 13-15 and “Black Comedy” April 23-25 in the South Hall Community Room at the West Campus, Pottstown. The Theatre Arts Program and Drama Club will present “The Glass Menagerie” Nov. 20-23 and “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” April 16-19 in the Black Box Theatre, Central Campus, Blue Bell.

The series also features the College’s annual Presidential Symposium with Poet Richard Blanco on March 26 and the Richard K. Bennett Distinguished Lectureship for Peace and Social Justice with investigative journalist and author Sonia Shah on March 9.

The season closes out with a bang on May 9 with the annual Betzwood Film Festival, which celebrates the works and history of Betzwood Studios―Montgomery County’s own version of Hollywood―where more than 100 films were produced and circulated worldwide in the early 1900s. This year’s festival showcases a retrospective of the adventurous life and films of Wilna Hervey, an acclaimed fine artist who starred in “Powerful Katrinka” and hosted some of the Catskills’ wildest parties. The retrospective, which will feature film clips accompanied by live organist Don Kinnier, will be followed by a “Meet the Author” reception and book signing with festival founder Joseph Eckhardt, author of the Hervey biography “Living Large.”

Most Lively Arts events are held at the College’s Central Campus in Blue Bell, with selected events held offsite or at the College’s West Campus in Pottstown. Patrons can create their own subscription by selecting any four performances. Season subscription benefits include premium guaranteed seating and savings on regular ticket prices.

For more information, visit, email or call the Box Office at 215-641-6518 between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Follow the College’s “Destination Arts” page on Facebook at

Chamber Strings Ensemble Performs April 27

by Diane VanDyke

Montgomery County Community College invites the community to come and enjoy a free Chamber Strings Concert on Sunday, April 27, at 3 p.m. in the Science Center Theater, 340 DeKalb Pike, Blue Bell.

The Chamber Strings Ensemble will be featuring music selections of Grieg, Vivaldi, Hovhaness and Bartok under the direction of Chamber and Applied Strings Instructor Dr. Elizabeth M. Guerriero. Guest soloist Eric Coyne will also perform.

As a special feature, the Chamber Strings will perform an original composition, “Ode to the Ironwolves, Op.1,” written by student composer Otto Kuehrmann of Glenside. Kuehrmann, who is graduating in May 2014, is dedicating the composition to MCCC in honor of its 50th anniversary this year.

According to Kuehrmann, “Ode to the Ironwolves” is heavily influenced by the video gaming music of Hitoshi Sakimoto, Derek Duke, Russell Brower and C418, as well as the works of 20th century composer Alan Hovhaness. The piece is about the incarnation of and release of tension and utilizes techniques such as complex rhythmic writing and chorale style.

The College’s Chamber Strings is open to all players of violin, viola, cello, and string bass. The College also offers Jazz, Wind and Choir ensembles opportunities, as well as Music Theory and Digital Music classes held in state-of-the-art music labs.

Soloist Coyne has been an active teacher, performer, and chamber musician in the Philadelphia region since 2001. In addition to teaching cello, he has taught at Community Music School since 2002 and has been a Master Faculty member since 2009. He holds a B.M. in Cello Performance from the University of Iowa, and an M.M. and Performance-Pedagogy Professional Certificate from Temple University.

Dr. Guerriero, in addition to teaching at MCCC, teaches strings at Rider University, N.J. She has also taught applied violin and music education courses at the Westminster Choir College, University of Denver, and Penn State University. Dr. Guerriero serves as assistant director of the New Jersey Suzuki Workshop and director of the Keep It Going Summer Strings Camp. Dr. Guerriero graduated fromPenn State University and completed her B.M. in violin performance at the Hartt School of Music (Suzuki Books 1-4) and M.M. in violin performance and Suzuki pedagogy (Suzuki Books 1-9 and Practicum) from the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver. For more information about the Chamber Strings Ensemble, contact Dr. Elizabeth M. Guerriero at

The College’s Music program offers students a broad variety of opportunities to explore music, and classes are open to all students, regardless of their majors. Since MCCC’s music coursework is transferrable, students are able to prepare for entry into a four-year music program. Students completing the AA program have gone on to complete their music degrees at West Chester, Temple, University of the Arts, Mansfield University, and many other fine music schools. For more information, visit

Chamber Strings Ensemble. Photo by Matt Carlin

Chamber Strings Ensemble. Photo by Matt Carlin

West End Student Theatre Presents ’10 Minute Play Fest’

by Diane VanDyke

PDC_10minfestMontgomery County Community College’s West End Student Theatre and Theatre Arts program are proud to present “10 Minute Play Fest,” a collection of short, fantastic and foolishly humorous plays April 9, 10 and 11, at 7 p.m. in the South Hall Community Room, 101 College Drive, Pottstown.

Faculty member Jessica DalCanton leads student directors Zach Clark for “9 Hours to Fallujah” by Craig McNulty; Jeff Chernesky for “Median” by John Stinson; and Thomas Keller for “Black Paintings” by Neil Olsen. Additionally, DalCanton directs “The Hardy Boys and the Mystery of Where Babies Come From” by Christopher Durang.

The production ensemble includes Joseph Ricci, Rianna Isbell, Finbarr O’Connor, Ron Quay, Kendra Houck, Austin Moyer, Carly Watson, Ryland X. Beck, Leyna Gilleland, Zac Goodling and Michael Fitzpatrick.

The production is designed, produced and presented by the students of the West End Student Theatre under the guidance of Tim Gallagher and Jessica DalCanton.

The community is invited to this fun-filled evening of entertainment. Tickets cost $8 for general admission and $5 for students and seniors. To purchase tickets, visit or call 215-641-6518.

Civil Rights Advocate Judy Shepard to Present 2014 Presidential Symposium

by Diane VanDyke

Judy Shepard, mother of Mathew Shepard

Judy Shepard, mother of Mathew Shepard

Judy Shepard, the mother of Matthew Shepard who was the victim of a fatal anti-gay hate crime, will be the guest speaker at Montgomery County Community College’s Annual Presidential Symposium on Thursday, March 27 from 12:45 to 2:15 p.m. in the Science Center Theater, 340 DeKalb Pike, Blue Bell.

The program will be simulcast to the College’s South Hall Community Room, West Campus, 101 College Drive, Pottstown. The community is invited to come and hear Judy Shepard speak about how to make schools, workplaces and communities safe and accepting places for everyone. The lecture is free, but tickets are required. For tickets, call 215-641-6518 or visit

Since 1998, autumn has been most difficult time for the Shepard family, as they are haunted by the events of Oct. 6 when their son Matthew, a student at the University of Wyoming, was attacked by two men, tortured and beaten near Laramie, Wyoming. He later died on Oct. 12 from severe head injuries. During the trial, it was revealed that Matthew Shepard was targeted because he was gay.

In the aftermath of this dark tragedy, the nation reacted in shock, while the Shepard family mourned the death of their oldest son and brother. Compelled by their grief and motivated by a desire to prevent other hate acts, Judy and Dennis Shepard started the Matthew Shepard Foundation and became vocal advocates for civil rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) community.

As part of her advocacy efforts and as a tribute to Matthew, Judy Shepard wrote and published a book in 2009, The Meaning of Matthew: My Son’s Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed.  In October 2009, the U.S. Congress passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama.

While some progress has been made since the law was enacted, Judy Shepard continues to travel across the country advocating for the acceptance and equality of the LGBTQ community.

“We go to schools and companies and community groups to implore everyone there to embrace diversity,” Judy Shepard writes in a blog post published in The Huffington Post. “We try to give young people hope, despite their parents’ or peers’ rejection of them, that they have a bright future. We keep Matt’s story alive and look to turn bystanders into activists.”

The play and subsequent critically acclaimed HBO movie, “The Laramie Project,” by Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project, was written about Matthew and is performed frequently to increase awareness of equality for the LGBTQ community and to end hate crimes.

Montgomery County Community College’s Drama Club and Theatre Arts program will present “The Laramie Project,” on April 3, 4, and 5 at 8 p.m.; April 4 at 12:30 p.m.; and on April 5 and 6 at 2 p.m. in the Blackbox Theater, Lower Level Science Center, Central Campus, 340 DeKalb Pike, Blue Bell. Tickets cost $5. To order, call 215-641-6518 or visit

The Presidential Symposium and its civil rights advocacy mission is one of the many events scheduled by the College this year relating to its 50th Anniversary celebration. In 1964, the year the College was founded, the Civil Rights Act was signed and enacted into law. This landmark legislation strives to outlaw the major forms of discrimination and provide equal opportunities for all. Additionally, the students’ performances of “The Laramie Project” will highlight the significance of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, as an extension of the 1964 legislation.

For more information about the Matthew Shepard Foundation, visit