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The Upper Bout named one of the top 100 U.S guitar dealers

The Upper Bout has recently been recognized as a Top 100 Dealer by the National Association of Music Merchants, a large accolade in the world of music retail.

Congrats, guys! We're always happy to see a C-U business on a national list.

From The Upper Bout's press release:

Champaign, IL – 4/27/2016 – The Upper Bout in Champaign, Illinois has been named a Top 100 Dealer by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM), the global association of music products and music retailers. The organization will recognize The Upper Bout on Friday, June 24 at the Top 100 Dealer Awards event held as part of the 2016 Summer NAMM Show in Nashville, Tennessee.

“The Upper Bout was selected by a discerning panel of judges as one of the very best among music retailers,” said Joe Lamond, NAMM President and CEO. “This special recognition signifies The Upper Bout’s commitment to providing an excellent retail experience for their customers, helping people of all ages discover the joys and benefits of making music, and to fostering a positive musical experience for their community at large.”

Dubbed the ‘retail Oscars’ by Music Inc. magazine, NAMM’s Top 100 Dealer Awards spotlights the industry’s very best music product retailers.  To determine the list, an independent panel of judges reviewed hundreds of submissions that are rated across categories that include customer service, music advocacy, store design, and promotions and are scored in accordance to determine the Top 100 list.

“It is an honor to be recognized alongside so many great stores” said Ricky Bright, Owner, The Upper Bout.

In addition to its honor as a Top 100 Dealer, The Upper Bout will be in consideration to receive a “Best Of” Award recognizing stand-out achievement in the following categories: Store Turnaround, Customer Service, Store Design, Marketing and Sales Promotion, Online Engagement, Emerging Dealer/Rookie of the Year, and the Music Makes a Difference award. The coveted Dealer of the Year award will go to one of the recipients in the aforementioned categories.


What You Will…Cyrano?

The What You Will Shakespeare Company, known for its roundabout productions of the Bard, is at it again...with a different playwright! (Don't worry, the play is still written in verse)

Coming off its also-not-Willy production of Doctor Faustus, WYWSCo is taking on the reknowned poet in the shadows, Cyrano de Bergerac, but as always, at an oblique angle. 

The traditional play focuses on the famous triangle between Roxane, Cyrano and Christian, but the What You Will Take on things is much broader. Following several secondary characters, it offers the audience the chance to discover the outcome of smaller decisions these people made throughout their lives. 

Says director Emaline Johnson, "In this show Christian is not stupid (the way he is commonly portrayed).  He is intelligent but not eloquent and adding that element to his character makes him much more relatable and tragic — we all have so much we want to say and sometimes when the time comes the words fail us.  Cyrano loves her and has the words to woo her but doesn't have enough faith in himself.  In that way they both use each other when winning her over, and they both know it."

This weekend, Friday and Saturday, April 29-30, head to the Channing Murray Foundation on campus at 7 p.m. for a $7 ticket to a new spin on an old classic. Details can be found on the group's facebook page.


The Land Connection’s Farmers’ Market reopens May 3rd

The Land Connection Champaign Farmers' Market, is reopening next week Tuesday,  and will continue every Tuesday through October from 4 p.m to 7 p.m.

To kick off the new season, The Land Connection is hosting a gift basket giveaway. Simply find Eggwardo in at least 7 of the following businesses, and you'll be eligible for the May 17 market giveaway: 

10,000 Villages, Columbia Street Roastery, Pizzeria Antica, Aroma Cafe, Fleurish, Skins n' Tins Drum Shop, Big Grove Tavern, Jane Addams Book Shop, Watson's Shack & Rail, Cafe Kopi, Orpheum Children's Science Museum, Circles, and Pekara Bakery & Bistro.

From The Land Connection's press release:

CHAMPAIGN, IL (April 19, 2016): People will have another delicious reason to visit downtown Champaign on Tuesday nights starting on May 3. Returning for its second season, the Champaign Farmers’ Market will take place in the parking lot at 310-330 N. Neil, immediately adjacent to the plaza at 1 West Main, from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. every week from May through October.

“Our inaugural season in 2015 was a very encouraging success, and we were thrilled to see over 17,500 shoppers turn out to support the Champaign Farmers’ Market’s mission of Healthy Farms, Healthy Food, Healthy Communities through eating locally grown, in-season produce”, said Sarah Simeziane, farmers’ market manager at The Land Connection.

The market also operates a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) doubling program, and gave out over $1,000 in matching funds last year. Simeziane noted, “with the help of our generous sponsors, we are once again able to double SNAP purchases up to $20 every week in an effort to make healthy, local food more accessible and affordable to our whole community.”

“From the very start, we have envisioned the kind of market where you can do your grocery shopping for the week – not just vegetables, but eggs, meat, and bread too,” said Cara Cummings, executive director of The Land Connection. The 2016 market will feature 15-20 vendors per week selling locally grown, raised, or produced food and farm products, including fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meat, fish, eggs, honey, flowers, baked goods, and desserts.

"Sola Gratia Farm is so happy to return for a second year at The Land Connection's Tuesday Farmer's Market” said local farmer Traci Barkley. “We were the first to sign up for the new season! It was wonderful to see how this became a weekly ritual for so many because of the happening location, fun activities, and most importantly the great selection of local food.”

The Champaign Farmers’ Market is a producer-only market, and in line with the mission of The Land Connection, a Champaign-based nonprofit dedicated to training farmers and preserving farmland, everything to be sold at the market will be grown, raised or produced locally. To support their larger organizational mission, the market favors farms with sustainable growing practices and a commitment towards improving the land through environmentally friendly methods. The Land Connection also works to support new farmers and help them gain a stronger foothold on the local food scene.

For more information about the market and our Farm Fresh Now recipe card series, including how to become a volunteer, sponsor, or a vendor, visit here.

About The Land Connection:

The Land Connection is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting farmland, training sustainable and organic farmers, and promoting a vibrant local food system.


The Virginia Theatre is hosting Wes Anderson Week May 23-28

Virginia Theatre aims to celebrate our favorite quirky hipster director Wes Anderson, and his cult classic films, with Wes Anderson Week from May 23rd to May 28th.

One movie will be played every night at 7 pm. If interested, one can purchase advance tickets here, and find the full schedule below.

From Virginia Theatre's Facebook:


With his first films Bottle Rocket and Rushmore, Wes Anderson immediately found an audience for his quirky, gentle humor. This month, the Virginia screens four of his best.


May 23-24 Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) Rated PG (87 min)

May 25-26 The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) Rated R (110 min)

May 27 Rushmore (1998) Rated R (93 min)

May 28 Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) Rated R (99 min)


City of Champaign to celebrate Public Service Recognition Week May 1-7

From the press release:

City of Champaign to Celebrate Public Service Recognition Week May 1-7

The City of Champaign will proudly celebrate Public Service Recognition Week May 1-7 in a number of exciting ways.  A national event, Public Service Recognition Week honors the men and women who serve our country at the local, county, state, and federal level. The City of Champaign will use this opportunity to engage with the public, to encourage residents to connect with their local government, and to promote the rewarding aspects of a career in public service.

“The City’s employees are the backbone of our community,” said Mayor Deborah Frank Feinen.  “They build and maintain our streets, ensure the public’s safety, promote healthy neighborhoods, and responsibly manage public resources in order to maintain and improve our vibrant and diverse city.  I hope the community will join me in thanking City staff for their hard work and dedication during Public Service Recognition Week.” 

On May 3, 2016, from 4-7 p.m., City staff will interact with the public and share information about City services at the Champaign Farmer’s Market (downtown parking lot near Neil and Main).  Residents and visitors are encouraged to bring their families by the City’s tent and plant seeds to take home for their own gardens or pose for a photo in a firefighter’s helmet or other City-related prop.


More activities are planned and will be announced during Public Service Recognition Week, including a volunteer opportunity for City staff to give back to their community.


Non-tenure-track faculty call for five-day strike

NTFC Local #6546, the union that represents roughly 500 non-tenure-track faculty at the University of Illinois, voted overwhelmingly last night to strike again, this time for five days.

Non-tenure track faculty, most of whom work on nine-month contracts, are asking for non-monetary improvements to their working conditions. These improvements include evaluations, the opportunity to participate in professional development, timely notices of re-appointment in advance of the school year, and two-year contracts for those who have worked for the University for at least five years. At UIC, non-tenure-track faculty already enjoy many of these provisions in their contract, but the UIUC administration continues to claim that our non-tenure-track faculty cannot be accorded the same.

The requests of non-tenure-track faculty would, of course, benefit students, who deserve to have instructors who will be around in future semesters to mentor them and provide them letters of recommendation. But these requests would also benefit C-U as a whole. Multiyear contracts for non-tenure-track faculty mean that a greater number of faculty members would put down roots in C-U: buying homes, joining community organizations, and becoming familiar with local businesses and services. NTFC is asking for job security, which is necessary to strengthen one's ties to a community. 

The University of Illinois administration's continued disregard for NTFC's very basic requests shows a complete lack of respect for these faculty members and the educations they provide to their students.


NCSA-enabled IMAX movie A Beautiful Planet premiering at Savoy 16 May 1st

From the NCSA website:

The National Center of Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is bringing the Hollywood red carpet experience to Champaign County! The Advanced Visualization Laboratory (AVL) at NCSA recently worked on "A Beautiful Planet," the latest 3D space documentary from acclaimed filmmaker Toni Myers and IMAX Entertainment, made in cooperation with NASA. NCSA will host a red carpet event at the Goodrich Savoy 16 IMAX Theater on Sunday, May 1, 2016 at 11:00 a.m.

Members of the AVL team will introduce the film and discuss their role in its production. Guests will also have the chance to walk the red carpet and photography staging area. Guests who mention "A Beautiful Planet" at the concessions stand can receive a mini popcorn and soda for just $5.00.

"A Beautiful Planet" features two scenes—the movie's opening and closing sequences—that were produced by the AVL team. AVL Director Donna Cox served as visualization producer and designer on the NCSA scenes of the film. AVL previously worked with Myers and the IMAX team to create scientific visualizations for the award-winning IMAX® documentary, "Hubble 3D," from Warner Bros. Pictures and IMAX Entertainment (2010). Additionally, the film features stunning footage of our magnificent blue planet—and the effects humanity has had on it over time—captured by the astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

In addition to the red carpet event, the film will show daily at at 11:30 a.m. from Friday, April 29 to Thursday, May 5. Tickets are on sale at now athttp://www.goodrichqualitytheaters.com/illinois/savoy16imax/.

For more information on NCSA's involvement with "A Beautiful Planet," please visit the NCSA website.

AVL has a long history of producing cinematic scientific visualizations for full-dome planetarium shows, television documentaries, feature film and IMAX documentary films. The AVL team that worked on the film includes: Robert Patterson (visualization designer/camera), Stuart Levy (visualization/astronomy), AJ Christensen (visualization design/effects), and Kalina Borkiewicz (visualization development).

"A Beautiful Planet" is a 46-minute film documentary that gives moviegoers a never-before-seen glimpse of Earth from space and provides an increased understanding of our planet and galaxy. In cooperation with NASA, the movie captures footage filmed by the astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

AVL team produced 6 minutes and 20 seconds of visualization, including two dramatic astrophysical voyages: the opening journey into the Milky Way galaxy to the location of our Sun and the closing scene, a flight from the International Space Station to the Earth-like exoplanet K-186f, nearly 500 light years away from Earth.

"A Beautiful Planet" has been rated G.

You can learn more about "A Beautiful Planet" by visiting its official site at www.imax.com/ABP.

The Goodrich Savoy 16 is located at 232 W. Burwash in Savoy, Illinois (61874). For information on tickets and showtimes, please call 217-355-9718 or 217-355-3456 or visit the website athttp://www.goodrichqualitytheaters.com/illinois/savoy16imax/.

IMAX®, IMAX® 3D, IMAX DMR®, Experience It In IMAX®, An IMAX 3D Experience® and The IMAX Experience® are trademarks of IMAX Corporation. More information about the company can be found at www.imax.com. You may also connect with IMAX on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.

Kristin Williamson
Assistant Director, Public Affairs


Portillo’s actually considering opening in Champaign

I know we made a joke about this a while back, but then when the new CEO of Portillo's, Keith Kinsey (a U of I alum), was announced — it seemed more real than ever.

The absolutely loved restaurant announced they were opening up in Normal in 2017:

The company was founded in 1963 and currently has more than 40 restaurants, most of them in Illinois. Portillos also is reportedly looking at locating in Champaign.

Holy mother, this could be happening... soon. "Soon" like those memes you see on the interweb soon.


C-U Herb Society Annual Herb Plant Sale is May 7th

This event has become a much anticipated community tradition. The annual Champaign-Urbana Herb Society Plant Sale is scheduled for Saturday, May 7th, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. (or until sellout). It will be held inside Lincoln Square in Urbana.

Our annual plant sale is our only fundraising event, and proceeds from the sale will go towards book donations to area libraries, mini-grants to schools, and to our educational public herb garden at Meadowbrook Park. Members of the Herb Society enjoy this opportunity to share their knowledge of herbs with customers.

We will be joining Grand Prairie Friends, African Violet Society, the Central Illinois Orchid Society, the Bonsai Society of Central Illinois, Coyle Woodland Plants, and Marlin Woodland Wildflowers, allowing customers to purchase a variety of plants and learn about the environment in our area. Many of the plants are pollinator friendly and ideal for rain gardens. It will be great for Mother's Day gifts!

For more information on the plant sale, visit here, or send an email to cuherbsociety@gmail.com. Please also visit the Facebook event page. A detailed list of plants for sale is available on the C-U Herb Society’s web site.


Krannert closes Youth Series; announces next

This Saturday morning, Krannert Center will offer an intriguing alternative to cartoons: Egg, a 45 minute long, wordless but musical theatre piece about birds, friendship, courage, and flying solo. The theatre troup, Cahoots:NI (it stands for "Northern Ireland", not "the knights who say") will present the family-friendly work recommended for children as young as Pre-K, but I definitely heard some pre-teens endorsing it on their promo reels. The performance will feature elaborate costumes, puppets and illusions, and promises to bring the feels. 

The tickets are $5 a pop, so it will be reasonable to bring the entire family to the theatre. If you're curious about the music, it can be downloaded from iTunes or heard on Spotify (login required). While beautiful, I think it gains a lot from the actors. Take a gander at the preview video below. 

Then keep scrolling, because Krannert has announced its 2016-17 Youth Series, programs with daytime showings and possible collaborations with area schools. Speaking of schools, "youth advocates" and educators are invited to a preview next Wednesday, May 4th, from 4-6 p.m. Refreshments, a raffle, and discounts at the Promenade gift shop will all be included with your information session. 

KRANNERT 2016-17 SEASON YOUTH SERIES (with some comments from your ed.)

The Laurie Berkner Band

Recommended for grades PreK-2

Fr Sep 16, 2016 at 10am | Tryon Festival Theatre • $5

“The undisputed queen of kindie rock” didn't set out to be a children’s musician, but a knack for inventive, playful, well-crafted songs, and a passion for youth education landed her in the hearts of kids and parents alike (USA Today). Features on Nick Jr. and Sprout quickly had the preschool set singing out hits like Victor VitoBumblebee (Buzz Buzz)Under a Shady Tree, and Rocketship Run, as honors from Parents’ Choice and National Parenting Publications Awards rolled in and the Billboard Charts stayed lit up. Through an animated series, a popular SiriusXM segment, book publications, two Off-Broadway children’s shows, and an innovative teacher-training program, Laurie continues her work at the forefront of creating “songs that matter for children.”

(This lady had her breakthrough during my years as a dedicated children's bookseller, and I actually looked forward to hearing her on the overhead. Also, we couldn't keep her in stock, so parents actually offered to buy the overhead play copy. Repeatedly. -- ed.)

Black Violin

Recommended for grades 3-12

Th-Fr Sep 29-30, 2016 at 10am | Tryon Festival Theatre | $5

Classically-trained violinist Kevin “Kev Marcus” Sylvester and violist Wil “Wil B.” Baptiste first met up at their Fort Lauderdale high school before reuniting post-college to form Black Violin, a name taken from the great swing-era African-American violinist Stuff Smith’s influential album. Melding classical repertoire with a hip hop sensibility and backed live by their band featuring turntable ace DJ SPS, and drummer, Nathaniel “Nat” Stokes, this duo achieved 2005 Showtime at the Apollo legend status and have collaborated with Alicia Keys, and Wu-Tang Clan as they’ve given rise to a distinct musical voice that is at once “delicate, different and, dare it be said, funky.” (OZY Media)

(I don't have kids, but a world where I could bring my kid to a show by a Wu-Tang collaborator seems like the best of all possible multiverses. -- ed.)

Shanghai Acrobats of the People’s Republic of China: Shanghai Nights

Recommended for grades K-8

We Oct 26, 2016 at 10am | Foellinger Great Hall | $5

Dazzling pageantry, gasp-inducing feats of athleticism, and spine-tingling contortions combine in a tumbling tour de force as this magnificent troupe takes to stages throughout the globe. First formed in 1959, but with a legacy dipping back thousands of years, the Shanghai Acrobats deftly impress with twirling carpets, hoop-diving, plate spinning, lasso tricks, and more in the debut tour of the thrilling new program Shanghai Nights!

(For those of you who saw Peking Dreams last year, you know you want to see it again. For those of you who didn't see it, don't miss out twice.It's not an exact encore, but it will be in the same vein. -- ed.)

Red Sky: Mistatim

Recommended for grades 3-6

Th Feb 9, 2017 at 10am & 12:30pm; Fr Feb 10, 2017 at 10am | Colwell Playhouse | $5

Canada’s award winning company dedicated to the performance of Indigenous arts, led by Artistic Director Sandra Laronde, presents the uplifting tale of an intercultural reconciliation. Under a prairie sky, a simple wooden fence is all that separates Calvin on his ranch and Speck on her reservation, but in many ways they are worlds apart. When they must work together to rein in the wild horse called Mistatim, Calvin and Speck must cross the divide of their own cultures to learn to communicate with each other, Mistatim, and their own families. Through dance, theatre, mask, storytelling, and music, Red Sky weaves an unforgettable story of forging the truest of friendships. 

(I don't think I can say more than this photo, but I extraordinarily excited to write this article next year. -- ed.)

Theatergroep Kwatta: Love That Dog

Recommended for grades 2-5

Tu-We Apr 4-5, 2017 at 10am & 12:30pm | Colwell Playhouse | $5

Jack hates poetry, thinking only girls write it. Every time he tries to, his brain feels empty. But his teacher, Ms. Stretchberry, won’t stop giving her class poetry assignments—and Jack can’t avoid them. But then something amazing happens. The more he writes, the more he learns he does have something to say. Based on the beloved story by Newbery Medal-winning author Sharon Creech, Love that Dog brings Jack's free-verse poems to the stage in an inventive production by Theatergroep Kwatta that features live action and music, realtime projections, and puppetry. Love That Dog shows how one boy finds his own voice with the help of a teacher, a writer, a pencil, some paper, and of course, a dog.

(Reading this book gave me so many feels that I will need to be extra-prepared to see people act it out. It has a beautiful resolution, don't worry. -- ed.)

Step Afrika!: selections from The Great Migration and other works

Recommended for grades 3-12

Th-Fr Apr 20-21, 2017 at 10am | Colwell Playhouse | $5

Step Afrika! returns to the Krannert Center Youth Series with an exhilarat­ing program featuring excerpts from their newest work, The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence, along with a sampling of stepping tradi­tions and percussive dance styles that have elevated the company to “one of the top 10 African American Dance Companies in the US” over its 20-year history. Celebrated African-American painter Jacob Lawrence was barely in his twenties when he created his powerful 60-cardboard-panel master­piece chronicling the Great Migration of millions of African-Americans from the South to the North after World War I. Step Afrika!, the first profes­sional organization dedicated to the uniquely African-American tradition of stepping, has partnered with The Phil­lips Collection of Washington, D.C. to transform Lawrence’s groundbreaking work into a textured, interdisciplinary piece where lighting-fast claps, im­pressive footwork, percussive chants, and perfect synchronicity echo themes of locomotion, flight, struggle, and, ultimately, hope. A collaborative project of Step Afrika! and The Phillips Collection.

(I have missed their previous local performances, a mistake I will not be repeating this year. -- ed.)

Compagnia TPO: Farfalle (Butterflies)

Recommended for grades PreK-2

Mo-We May 1-3, 2017 10am & 12:30pm | Colwell Playhouse | $5

The life of butterflies is a magical journey from tiny egg to wriggling larva to silvery chrysalis to fluttering, flitting maturity. The theatrical sorcerers of this whimsical Italian troupe invite exploration into a virtual, multi-sensory world where the whirring sound of wings beating is mixed with glints of sunshine and pops of digital imagery. Visitors will discover a vibrant atmosphere of ever-changing landscapes populated by farfalle friends, two dancers, and the audience itself in an enchanting trip through this astonishing realm.

Note: the maximum audience size is 100. The audience will be seated on stage, and small groups of students will be invited to enter the performance space for short periods of time. Because of the special staging of this performance, patrons will be required to remove their shoes.

(Awe. Some. I want to take off my shoes and be a kid for this. -- ed.)
The Credits:
Campaign for Young Audiences Sponsors:

Phyllis and Kyle Robeson, Lead Sponsors


Susan and Michael Haney

Gertrude Brokaw McCloy Endowment

Dr. Donna Murray Tiedge and Robert Tiedge





Youth Series Programming Sponsors:

Dorothy Buzzard

Karen Grano

Brenda and Stephen Pacey

Jill and James Quisenberry

Anne and David Sharpe

Prudence and Bernard Spodek

The Susan Sargeant McDonald Endowed Fund for Youth Programming (Suzi was the founder/ developer of the Krannert Center Youth Series)

Nancy and Edward Tepper

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