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By Marise Redmann / Monday, Aug. 5, 2013 06:48 am
Birch Creek Music Center: Ready, Set, BLOW!
Birch Creek exterior
“I don’t think you can go to a concert without having your mind blown,” Sue Vineyard, a Birch Creek Music Performance Center board member, told me.

I wanted to see what she was so excited about so I got tickets to a Percussion and Steel Band concert. We park in an open field just outside of Egg Harbor on County E and walk up to the farmstead courtyard, which is like taking a step back in time. There is a gazebo in the center of the courtyard surrounded by a farmhouse, a milk house, and an old majestic barn with faded grey siding. A plein air artist is sketching on the outskirts and a crowd stands around a young group of students singing African chants and drumming away. It’s like stepping into your own little paradise and being serenaded for your journey.

The pre-show entertainment ends and we saunter into the big barn, which has been transformed into a 500-seat music hall with beamed ceilings and great acoustics. The stage is set with a multitude of marimbas and xylophones, some the size of a VW Bug. The musicians enter and play their first song. Are these the students? Are these the faculty? We couldn’t tell. Both, we find out.

Sue Vineyard was right. I WAS blown away by these young, extremely talented students and the dynamic, inspiring faculty that played beside them and entertained us. There was laughter, showmanship, one-up-man-ship, emotional tributes and everything in between all taking place in this unpretentious, intimate setting.

There was a tambourine solo that stunned and amazed me. Faculty member, Clarice Castilho from Brazil,
made her tambourine sing, stutter, mock, drum and do things I’ve never even known a tambourine could do.

“When we think of the tambourine we think of the Partridge Family,” Alan Kopischke, Executive Director of Birch Creek, said. “Clarice goes so far beyond that. It’s amazing what she does.”

There were songs we all knew like Last Train to Clarksville by the Monkeys, Ob-La-Di, Ob-La- Da by the Beatles, Three Little Birds by Bob Marley all with an exciting and satisfying twist by being played on marimbas, xylophones, steel drums and a many-faceted cast of percussion instruments. There was a spontaneous conga line of audience and students dancing to the music. Everyone was having so much fun it made me want to take classes too.

“This group has more fun than what’s allowable by law,” Dan Moore, Birch Creek faculty member said.

“There is a magic to Birch Creek and everybody feels it,” Vineyard said.

Vineyard is referring to the total experience of the Birch Creek Academy by students, faculty and concert attendees. Even the 120 Associate Volunteers get swept up into the groove as they share their time by selling concessions, taking tickets, changing rooms over, cleaning and assisting in the kitchen.

“The board is a true working board and we ask ourselves what else we can do together for the kids. It’s all about the kids,” Vineyard said.

The “kids” include approximately 200 advanced musicians, ages 13-19, for four two-week sessions. The concerts are not reminiscent of student works, however.

“The faculty is teaching at a college and professional level,” Kopischke said. “They are giving the students a taste of what it will be like to be a professional musician.”

“The bar is set very high,” Vineyard said. “Placements are by audition or recommendation. And the quality of the faculty is not rivaled anywhere in America.”

Teachers come from all over and are the top in their fields. Reading the program is like a Who’s Who in the music world.

“These faculty members are soloists for some of the biggest bands,” Vineyard said, “and they love coming here to Door County to teach and mentor these kids.”

“It’s fun, it’s astounding and it’s pure entertainment,” Kopischke said.

Get in on the fun by checking the Birch Creek website at Birchcreek.org for special fundraising events, concert schedule, to purchase tickets, get more involved, listen to music and more.

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