Phoenix Productions’ home at 56 Chestnut Street was painted over with a two-story mural last month. (Photo by Allan Bass. Click to enlarge.)

Press release from the Count Basie Center for the Arts

The Count Basie Center for the Arts and Red Bank-based Phoenix Productions intend to merge, allowing the community theatre company to officially become part of the organization which has hosted its productions for more than 30 years, the two nonprofits announced Tuesday.

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The nonprofit theater company Phoenix Productions is getting a hard-to-miss new look for its Red Bank home.

The two-story, full-width mural on the facade of the performing arts center at 59 Chestnut Street was approved by the borough council in November. The building’s neighbor out back, the Monmouth Conservatory of Music, also sports a full-facade mural.

Early reviews are welcome in the comments. (Photo by Allan Bass. Click to enlarge.)


Strings students at the Count Basie Center’s Monmouth Conservatory of Music gathered last weekend to pay a final farewell to Westeros with a student-and-instructor performance of the theme to HBO’s “Game Of Thrones.”

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Press release from Count Basie Theatre 

The Count Basie Theatre Performing Arts Academy today has announced a summer residency with famed Los Angeles Opera director Eli Villanueva, on a summer opera camp program for vocalists aged 10-17.

The two-week intensive, open to students of all vocal types, begins with auditions on Saturday, May 20 — and culminates with a pair of performances of Brundibar, the famed children’s opera originally staged at the Theresientadt concentration camp in occupied Czechoslovakia. Needs-based scholarships will be available to those students who qualify.

The public performances will take place on Saturday, August 19 at the Count Basie Theatre and on Sunday, August 20 at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts, located on the campus of Ocean County College in Toms River.

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Vladislav Kovalsky, below, plans to fold the Monmouth Conservatory of Music, which he’s headed since 1998, into the Count Basie Theatre.

In a move that further cements its place at the heart of the Greater Red Bank Green’s cultural life, the Count Basie Theatre plans to merge the borough-based Monmouth Conservatory of Music into its existing suite of musical training and performance programs.

In a statement released Wednesday, the theater’s board of directors detailed a plan to assume operations of the 53-year-old MCM as a component of the Basie’s slate of specialized instruction programs in jazz, classic rock and Broadway-style performing arts.

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vladkovalsky2Monmouth Conservatory director and pianist Vladislav Kovalsky, above, welcomes jazz pianist Sandy Sasso, below, for a holiday concert this Saturday.

sandy-sassoWe already know that the long-running, best-kept-secret Red Bank institution known as the Monmouth Conservatory of Music has been a blessing and a boon to the “classically curious” — those looking for an intimately scaled, no-pressure introduction to great music that’s packed with an impressive roster of guest artists, free of pretension, and often free of charge.

When the MCM’s Chamber Orchestra and executive director Vladislav Kovalsky perform a public-welcome holiday concert this Saturday, they’ll be offering up an “all Bach and Holiday” program of sacred and devotional music, one that should deliver the requisite warm ‘n fuzzies for aficionados of the form. It will also unpack a cool and sassy surprise.

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The Romantic Piano with David Dubal 5.30.13Emmy winning broadcaster, producer, educator and keyboardist David Dubal returns to the Monmouth Conservatory this Sunday for a public-welcome program on the great composer Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Those of us who are “classically curious” but put off by the prospect of such music-world clichés as starchy formalwear and intimidating ticket prices have a friend in the Monmouth Conservatory Of Music. The Red Bank institution’s long-running series of public-welcome concerts have brought an impressive roster of guest artists to town in a setting that’s free of pretension (and often free of charge).

Those of us whose appreciation of fine music is helped immeasurably by some enlightening background info — and who have been meaning to look in on one of the MCM’s monthly offerings at its downtown space — can do no better than to check out this Sunday’s return visit by David Dubal, the radio host, essayist, music professor and pianist whose encyclopedic expertise and engaging interview skills have netted him a Peabody, a Deems Taylor Award, and an Emmy (if not yet a Grammy).

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radiancechamberensembleThe Radiance Chamber Ensemble brings a ray of sunshine to the Middletown Library Sunday with a free program that celebrates winter’s frosty pleasures.

As last weekend’s positively polar plunge confirmed, winter is still very much a thing in this neck of the Greater Red Bank Green. But if the season of the single digits boasts of any truly elegant pleasures, it’s the ability to warm oneself in front of a chamber-music hearth while the outside world goes slipping and cursing about its business.

And the days and nights to come offer music lovers several opportunities to slip into something a bit more civilized; all of them free of charge. Read More »


njso chamberThe Chamber Players of the NJ Symphony Orchestra (above) come to Navesink’s Old Stone Church Sunday. Piano prodigy Michael Davidman (below) tackles keyboard classics at Red Bank’s Monmouth Conservatory.

mike davidAh, to have the ability to be in three places at once. This Sunday offers a trio of riches for Red Bank-area music lovers in the 4 p.m. hour — beginning with one that takes interactivity to the next level.

Back for a 15th edition, the annual “United We Sing” Celebration once again invites people of all faiths to lend their voices and join in an intercultural service of music, word and dance at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Monmouth County on West Front Street in Lincroft.

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jacques-lacombe-parcourt-monde-avecJacques Lacombe (above) leads the New Jersey Symphony in a Saturday night salute to George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein. Renaissance man David Dubal (below) delivers a special Sunday afternoon concert and presentation at Monmouth Conservatory.

dubalOther burgs may stake their rep as “music towns” through their unassailable credentials in rock, and rhythm ‘n blues. But in addition to its deep roots in jazz, Red Bank finds few competitors as a go-to destination for vocal and instrumental classical sounds.

But leave the gowns and tuxes in storage, and bring your passion and curiosity — because no matter your age or level of concert-going experience, two weekend events are making it very easy for new audiences to explore and enjoy all that our borough’s cultural institutions have to offer.

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Vladislav Kovalsky discusses the 50th anniversary commemorations of the Monmouth Conservatory of Music on a recent news program. (Click to enlarge)

After a long run, it remains one of Red Bank’s best-kept-secret arts treasures: the public-welcome series of free classical music concerts that occur on a regular basis at the Monmouth Conservatory of Music on White Street.

Mixing guest performances by internationally touring artists with the showcased talents of the school’s faculty and students, the events are merely the most visible and audible manifestations of an entity that has trained generations of young musicians for 50 years.

This Saturday afternoon, the staff and students of MCM travel from their home in the heart of the downtown business district  to the Count Basie Theatre, where executive director Vladislav Kovalsky and company will cap a yearlong Golden Anniversary observance with a pair of world-premiere works by New Jersey composers. They’ll also salute the man who first got the notion of establishing a serious music school in the borough that birthed the bandleader-legend Bill Basie.

And they’ll be joined by some special young guests, too.

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GussmanKovalskyMonmouth Conservatory of Music exec director Vladislav Kovalsky (right) is the special guest, as conductor Roy Gussman and the Monmouth Symphony Orchestra celebrate MCM’s golden anniversary with a Sunday afternoon concert at the Count Basie.

A weekend of symphonic sounds heralds the coming of Spring at the Count Basie Theatre, drawing inspiration from the great masters of word and music — and their roots from the Garden State soil — with a pair of original works by NJ composers.

It all happens here in the area’s undisputed capital for classical music, and it all begins at 8 pm on Saturday, March 21, when conductor Jacques Lacombe and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra welcome internationally lauded pianist Serhiy Salov for a program highlighted by Tchaikovsky’s Sixth (or Pathétique) Symphony, “a heart-wrenching meditation on the transforming power of love and the inexorable workings of fate.” Vocalist Mary Fahl also joins the NJSO for an evening that further features Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody — as well as a first local listen to an original work by Orchestra violinist Darryl Kubian.  Commissioned as part of the New Jersey Roots Project, and inspired by William Shakespeare, O for a Muse of Fire closes out the Roots initiative on a program for which tickets ($23 – $88) are available here.

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DSC01384_-_CopyRed Bank Regional music teacher Jeffrey Boga leads members of the RBR string ensemble (pictured left to right): Olivia Barkey, Salvatore Giglio, Maittie Avilia and Kevin Velazquez during a performance at the Monmouth Conservatory of Music.

Press release from Red Bank Regional High School

The Visual and Performing Arts Academy at Red Bank Regional High School has been training Monmouth County artists for over thirty years. For the past eight of those years, a strings program  — featuring a chamber ensemble and string majors incorporated into the main school orchestra — has been building partnerships to promote instrumental music in the community.

This year, the Red Bank Regional Chamber Ensemble performs in a series of chamber music events at the Red Bank Library, hosts an inter-district strings festival in April for middle and elementary school students, and joins the Monmouth Conservatory for its 50th anniversary celebration at the Count Basie Theatre in June.

The program is led by strings teacher Jeffrey Boga, a gifted musician who volunteered to conduct a free afterschool program at the high school for the elementary and middle school students at the beginning of the school year, when the Red Bank School District announced the cessation of its strings program in the Middle School for budgetary reasons. Thankfully, that provision was no longer necessary with the recent resumption of the program in mid-fall through private fundraising.

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ChristmasConcert-960x300Matthew Van Dyke directs the 50-voice Tower Hill Choir in a free, public-welcome performance of traditional Christmas choral music, Saturday evening at First Presbyterian Church. 

From the sacred to the secularly sophisticated, lovers of classical music — which is to say, music other than the classic rock sounds that permeate the Count Basie Theatre in the nights to come — can find comfort and joy in a pair of back-to-back events that are offered free of charge this Saturday, at two of Red Bank borough’s most musically minded institutions.

The music begins at 4 pm on the afternoon of December 20, at a venue that remains one of the community’s best kept secrets — the Monmouth Conservatory Of Music, host for the latest in an acclaimed series of public-welcome guest artist concerts. December’s spotlight falls on a special program of Baroque era chamber music, as composed by J. S. Bach, Diego Ortiz, Frescobaldi, Mayone, Scarlatti and Graupner — and performed by a pair of Russian-born specialists: violist Elena Kraineva, and pianist Raisa Isaacs. The international touring artists and educators perform in the casual and quite convenient setting of the MCM’s downtown White Street all-purpose room — just steps from the hustle/bustle of that last shopping-season Saturday in Red Bank, but a world and an ocean of time away from the Yule Log’s slow-burn, high-pressure smolder and spark. Best of all, admission’s by free-will donation exclusively, and the hour-long program leaves plenty of time to catch a bite, maybe do a bit of shop, and head up the hill to the next must-see event.

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Brandau KovalskyMonmouth Conservatory of Music exec director Vladislav Kovalsky (right) is the special guest, as Dr. Ryan Brandau and the Monmouth Civic Chorus  celebrate MCM’s golden anniversary with a Saturday afternoon concert on Tower Hill.

The name of Felix Molzer, while perhaps not a household word in millennial Red Bank, is a significant one in the cultural history of a little borough that’s cast a giant profile on the area’s music scene. It was the European-born educator, composer and arranger — a former conductor of the Vienna Boys Choir in his native Austria — who established what became the Monmouth Conservatory Of Music upon relocating to the Red Bank green in the early 1960s. Before retiring as the MCM’s director in 1992, Molzer, who passed away in 2005 at age 83, also served as director of another source of local pride among serious music buffs: the venerable Monmouth Civic Chorus.

This Saturday afternoon, November 8, the MCC and its assembled voices (now under the baton of Dr. Ryan Brandau) pay tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Conservatory’s founding, in a concert dedicated to Molzer’s memory — and featuring the guest talents of his successor, the internationally renowned pianist Vladislav Kovalsky.

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The Romantic Piano with David Dubal 5.30.13Emmy winning broadcaster, producer, educator and keyboardist David Dubal is the guest on Sunday, October 19, as the latest in the Monmouth Conservatory of Music’s free series of public-welcome performances.

Even as the White Street Municipal Parking Lot throngs with Halloween Parade participants on Sunday afternoon, right across the way preparations are being made for the latest entry in what remains one of the genuine best-kept-secrets of local cultural life — the free and always fascinating series of public-welcome concerts at Monmouth Conservatory Of Music.

Beginning at 4 pm, the October 19 edition of the long-running offering welcomes a particularly intriguing guest artist on October 19: David Dubal, the radio host, essayist, music professor and pianist whose encyclopedic expertise and engaging interview skills have netted him a Peabody, a Deems Taylor Award, and an Emmy (if not yet a Grammy).

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Calmes KoharskiKeith Calmes and carry on: the classical guitarist teams with flautist Marjorie Koharski for a free public recital at Middletown Library, on Monday evening.

Classical music connoisseurs in and around Red Bank have long known that the borough has stood as the county’s capital for quality orchestral, chamber and choral concert offerings — all of it accessible minus the gown-and-tux price tags of the big-city halls and theaters. A big reason for that is the Monmouth Conservatory Of Music, whose monthly series of weekend afternoon concerts (in the casual and quite convenient setting of their downtown White Street all-purpose room) resumes on Sunday, September 21, with a recital of rare pedigree.

Going up at 4 pm and presented free of charge, the concert is a mother-son duet featuring pianist Nina Kogan and violinist Daniel Miklis — respectively the daughter and the grandson of legendary violinists Leonid Kogan and Elizaveta Gilels. Kogan often performed with her Ukrainian-born father — one of the Soviet Union’s most celebrated international musical ambassadors — and she extends the family business into a new generation with this program of chamber selections with her son. Bring a free-will donation to the door — and take it around the corner for more.

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GerdLucianPianist Gerd Nowaczyk — pictured at left, with flautist and Monmouth Symphony associate conductor Lucian Rinando — performs a solo concert at Middletown Township Public Library on Tuesday afternoon.

“Whoever planned the library must have had a great knowledge and love for music,” the Monmouth Conservatory of Music exec director Vladislav Kovalsky said of Middletown Township Public Library, in a 2008 interview here on redbankgreen. “It seems to go against all laws of acoustics and building materials, but it’s been a wonderful place for music.”

Over the past several years, the Red Bank-based MCM and the MTPL have continued to make beautiful music together, via an ongoing series of free afternoon and evening chamber concerts in the library’s Community Room — a slate of offerings designed to bring many of the region’s first-quality classical performers to a broadly based, all-ages audience. The series continues at 3 pm this Tuesday, April 22, with an encore by acclaimed keyboard artist (and Conservatory faculty member) Gerd Nowaczyk.

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Monmouth Conservatory of Music executive director Vladislav Kovalsky will be honored at an April 27 event, in which a guest list of local dignitaries salute the MCM on its golden anniversary.

Press release from Monmouth Conservatory of Music

The Rumson Country Club will be the setting as the Monmouth Conservatory of Music hosts its 50th Anniversary Kick-Off Gala on Sunday, April 27.

Assemblywomen Mary Pat Angelini and Caroline Casagrande will present a special recognition award to the Conservatory’s Executive Director, world renowned pianist and a Steinway Artist Vladislav Kovalsky. Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna will also make a presentation at the event, and Lillian Burry, Director of the Monmouth County Freeholders, will also be in attendance.

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rb street fair 041413A first responder benefitting spring edition of Street Fair returns to Red Bank Sunday while, below, the one and only GROUCHO goes wild, in the person of Frank Ferrante, Friday night at the Basie. 

grouchoRED BANK: “We all want to be Groucho,” Frank Ferrante told us a few seasons back, “to be that wild, irreverent pulverizer of those in power.”

In the acclaimed stage show An Evening with Groucho, the actor-director gets to be all that and more, as his spot-on channeling of the classic comic force of nature Groucho Marx comes to the Count Basie Theatre for the first time. Performed with piano accompaniment, minimal set and trademark makeup, the 90-minute, all-ages friendly tour de farce mixes canonical Marxist quotes, anecdotes from a life in show business, signature silly songs (“Hooray for Captain Spalding,” “Lydia, the Tattooed Lady”), and — in a bracingly contemporary touch — an interactive element that finds Ferrante/Groucho duckwalking the theater aisles. “Fully one-third of it is improvised,” says Ferrante. “That’s what Groucho’s magic was, really – the ability to create comedy on the spot.” Get your tickets ($19 – $49) right here — and when you take it ’round the corner for more Weekender wonderment, tell ’em Groucho sent you.

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ice-boat-011011-500x375It’s an open house icebreaker when the nation’s longest-established ice boat club welcomes the public in from the cold for a Saturday of tours and presentations. Below, Bobby Bandiera brings the Rock ‘N Soul Revue back to the Basie for a Brill-iant bow to the hitmaking “American Troubadors.” 

Friday, March 21:

BobbyBandieraHallmarkIIok_zpsc164352eRED BANK: Taking the old recruitment slogan, “Join the Jovi and See the World” to heart, Bobby Bandiera has done his share of  globetrotting as touring guitarist with Bon Jovi. But when the veteran of more than 40 years’ worth of local barband gigs puts in to Shore, he tends to “relax” by staying audibly visible everywhere from the barstool in the corner at your favorite hometown watering hole to the Count Basie Theatre, where he intermittently assembles the jukebox Justice League known as the Jersey Shore Rock ‘N Soul Revue for a special salute to the “American Troubadors.”

When the 11-piece “Basie House Band” reconvenes Friday night at 8 pm, Bandiera and bandmates (including star-quality songbird Lisa Sherman, and Joe Jackson’s longtime bassist Graham Maby) will be paying trib to the great songwriter-performers of what’s commonly called the “Brill Building” era of late 50s-early 60s pop – a teenaged Tin Pan Alley that spawned some of the earliest and most immediately exhilarating work of Carole King (“The Loco-Motion”), Neil Diamond (“I’m a Believer”) and Burt Bacharach (“Baby It’s You”). Tickets ($25 – $99) can be reserved right here.

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mikesuperIllusionist extraordinaire Mike Super materializes for an evening of large-scale prestidigitation at the Basie tonight.

Friday, October 25:

RED BANK: At the Count Basie Theatre — where a “ghost light” is kept burning for passing Lantern Tours and house phantoms — the newly minted tradition of “Harley-ween” is kickstarted with the theater-scale area debut of America’s Favorite Mystifier, illusionist Mike Super. Last seen in an appearance at Brookdale College, the winner of the NBC TV competition Phenomenon materializes on the Basie boards with a spectacular 8 pm show that promises a live murder-mystery round of CLUE, a demonstration of voodoo mind control, and an outright repeal of the law of gravity. Most potentially amazing is the fact that all ticketholders are eligible to ride away with “the vehicle that Mike will make appear on stage” — a little item from Harley-Davidson of Long Branch. Tickets ($39 – $69) right here.

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Thomas Lauderdale, who appears with his band, Pink Martini, at the Count Basie tonight, discusses his music. Below, Owiso Odera and Roslyn Ruff in ‘Two Trains Running,’ at the Two River Theater. (Photo by Michal Daniel. Click to enlarge)

Friday, February 15
RED BANK: Two River Theater continues its presentation of August Wilson’s “Two Trains Running,” with performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. matinees Saturday and Sunday. Tickets range from $24 to $42 and are available online. 21 Bridge Avenue.

RED BANK: Pink Martini, “a rollicking around-the-world musical adventure” in the words of bandleader Thomas Lauderdale, sets up its tent at the Count Basie Theatre. Up to a dozen musicians create the Cosmopolitan World Music project, starting at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 to $75 and are available online. A portion of ticket sales supports breast cancer awareness. 99 Monmouth Street.

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