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Behind the Scenes: Whatcom Jazz Music Arts Center hosts ‘soft’ opening concert Oct. 26 at the Majestic

A few months ago, Bellingham drummer Julian MacDonough was seeking a space for what he envisioned as a performance and educational space for local musicians. When plans for the original space he had in mind (at Bay Street Village) fell through, he kept looking.

A couple of weeks ago, he found a space.

The Whatcom Jazz Music Arts Center will open celebrate a grand opening Nov. 5 at the downstairs club space at the Majestic, 1027 N. Forest St. The center will offer a weekly high school jazz combo program on Mondays, weekly jazz programming on Wednesdays, as well as more formal jazz concerts on weekends.

But he’s preparing for a “soft opening” that will feature New York City saxophonist Eric Alexander and pianist David Hazeltine and their quartet at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 26.

“Definitely a burning way to open our doors,” MacDonough says.

The high school jazz combo program will begin Nov. 3 with some of the area’s best jazz musicians mentoring students in jazz combo performance and improvisation. The program hopes to grow jazz talent and jazz awareness in high school students through the weekly classes, as well as giving them the opportunity to hear music performed live in the all-ages space, MacDonough says. There will be additional concerts booked for touring national acts, such as Sunday’s concert.

From now until the end of November this season’s membership is $25 a month. After that membership will go up to $35. Admission cost for the weekly Wednesday concerts will be $10; the Saturday matinee will be $5; and any national acts will cost $20 to $25, but are free for members.

MacDonough is also working on details for snacks and drinks (including wine and beer options).

There are two ways to become a member: Go to boxleysplace.com/bellingham and click on “become a member.” Or pay by check for the first six months ($150). Make checks payable to the Boxley’s Music Fund Bellingham. Checks can be sent to Julian MacDonough, 2612 Alabama St., Unit B, Bellingham WA 98229.

Details: julianmacdonough@hotmail.com.

WWU honors Vietnam War veterans in two dramatic plays

Western Washington University’s Department of Theatre and Dance presents two plays, “Streamers” by David Rabe and “A Piece of My Heart” by Shirley Lauro, in rotation from Thursday, Oct. 23, to Nov. 1 at the DUG Theatre in the Performing Arts Center on Western’s campus.

Both plays examine the personal impact of the Vietnam War. The performances are in observance of the 50th anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, generally regarded as the start of the Vietnam War.

“Streamers” is the final installation in Rabe’s Vietnam War trilogy, and focuses on the interactions and personal conflicts of a group of soldiers preparing to ship out to fight in Southeast Asia. The action is driven by differences of class, race, and questions of personal commitment and patriotism.

Mark Kuntz, director of “Streamers,” has organized and directed the annual Veterans Day musical celebration in Bellingham for many years.

“A Piece of My Heart” is directed by Deb Currier, daughter of Sgt. Noah James Greer, a Green Beret medic from 1966 to 1968. Currier has worked with Veterans of Foreign Wars members in Montana and Oregon to create performances and pieces of art exploring combat, war, and grief from the soldiers’ perspective.

“As a medic in the Army Special Forces Green Beret who served in Vietnam, my father’s input and experiences have been a vital part in shaping our production of ‘A Piece of My Heart,’ as it is the play which revolves in large part around the field nurses who served in Vietnam and their experiences of the horrific results of bloody combat,” says Currier, an associate professor in Western’s theater and dance department.

“We had five Whatcom County Vietnam War veterans come and do a panel-type presentation and Q-&-A with our student casts and design crew on Sept, 18,” she says. “They have served as a sort of ‘advisory board’ for the productions, and their stories and willingness to speak candidly with our students has made this project a unique and fulfilling one.”

“Talking with my cast in ‘A Piece of My Heart,’ the experiences the vets have shared have really shaped how they have perceived their characters and added dimensions and depth of understanding to the process we would not have had without the generous help of our vets,” Currier says.

The plays are recommended for viewers 12 and older.

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