Calvin Arsenia | Arts Upload

Calvin Arsenia | Arts Upload


Hey, just because we”re one host
down this week on “Arts Upload,” doesn”t mean that I can”t
get a little help, right? Call it coincidence, but here”s
producer Ashley Holcroft. Hey, Ashley.
– Hey there, Randy. Question for you.
What does Prohibition Hall, The Brick, and Leawood Baptist
Church all have in common? – [chuckles]
It”s cold, I don”t know. – [chuckles] They”re all places
that Calvin Arsenia has played
just this last month. – Ah, Calvin. I actually saw him
for the first time at the Kauffman Center”s
fifth anniversary with his harp. He was awesome.
– Amazing. And thanks to our partnership
with “KC Studio” magazine, I got a chance
to hang out with him and learn that he not only
plays the harp, but the piano, the uke,
the banjo, and so much more. Take a look.[instrumental music]♪ ♪The summer of 2016 saw a unique
birthday celebration
for a unique landmark.And in fitting fashion, the
party was just as unorthodox.
Arts of all kinds
were put on display
for the huge crowds that
filtered in throughout the day.
From dance to opera to culinary
to an array of music.
Ranging from familiar
KC faces
to someone who has been
quietly shaking up the scene
with a very new take.[soft music] ♪ ♪ ♪ There”s nothing
that your heart would do ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Your daddy and your mommy
stand ♪– At 26, multi-instrumentalist
Calvin Arsenia
isn”t merely looking
to sound good;
that would be too simple.No, he”s looking to change
the atmosphere
by creating moments
of transcendence.
– I have a very high
expectation for music
and live music,
in particular.
To influence and transform
a space and an audience
and the way that they feel
that room in that time,
to create these moments
where people leave inspired and refreshed
and, you know, there”s a little bit
of pressure. I love playing with tension
in music. But that pressure turns into
release, you know. It”s like a massage
where there”s, you know, you”re kneading the knots
through distant chordsand then all of a sudden,
you go into this very serene
and, you know, major chords.And because of that,
it”s really hard for me
to go into a room and have
already determined
what songs I want to play
or how I”m going to play them because I really want to meet
an audience where they are and invite them into my space,and then we go
somewhere together.
N– Calvin began his relationship
with the harp in 2010.
After a captivating
introduction
via Florence + the Machine…– ♪ Happiness hit her ♪– Bjoöörk…[Bjoöörk singing]– And Joanna Newsom…
– ♪ The days grew shorter ♪ ♪ I was sure
if she came ”round ♪ ♪ I”d hold my ground,
I”d endure ♪– And I”ve always been a little
bit more ambitious
than I ought to be,
and so I went on a hunt
around Kansas City
to look for a harpist
that would play with me.What I found was a whole bunch
of people who were very
classically trained and were beautiful people,
but to play, you know, original compositions,
to do the rehearsal time, to move the harp, like,
it was gonna be quite a task
to ask of anybody. So I found a harp studio
that let me rent a harp, and I couldn”t afford to rent
the harp and to take lessons, so I just took the harp,
and I learned from YouTube for about a year,
and it was horrible.– Fortunately…– It”s really hard to make
actually, like, bad sounds on the harp. And so I would take it,
you know, everywhere.– But everywhere doesn”t
include international travel.
Calvin joined
a mission trip
to Edinburgh, Scotland
in 2014,
and man and harp
would have to part.
But that didn”t last
for long.
– I made it about one or two
weeks before I was, like, craving a harp,
and I was like, “I have to play.
I have to–have to play.” And so I rented another one
and I took it to every,kind of, jam session
or open mic that I could.
And I remember,
sometimes I would be playing
if there was open mics,and my hands would just tremble
and tremor. And my voice–
I was just so nervous, and… [chuckles] because with
the guitar and the piano, like, I”ve been confident
on those for a long timebefore I was actually playing
and the expectation,
you know, for me to be able
to deliver what I wanted
to do on an instrument,
like,
I had that expectation
of myself,
and I had made that expectation
for my audience.
And so, yeah,
I would just shake.
And then, you know,
three years later, here I am.And it”s what I do
for a living,
and it”s kinda cool.♪ If I said the devil
made me do it ♪ ♪ That”d be
the easy way out ♪ ♪ But it was God himself
that dug me out ♪ ♪ Dug the ditch of doubt ♪ ♪ The choices I made
got me here ♪A lot of times, I”m able to be
the first harpist
that people have seen,
and I feel really–
it”s really cool to me.It”s also kinda scary because
I don”t play conventionally,
so it”s cool because I get–
I love to take the harp
in places that
it”s never been before.
But sometimes I do get booked
and asked to play,
like, banjo or guitars
something,
and sometimes I get confused. And I show up at a venue, like,
with a harp and nothing else, and they”re like, “Wait, we thought
you were gonna play guitar.” I”m like,
“But I brought a harp.” [laughing]– Besides having several albums
under his belt
and a packed
performance schedule,
Calvin also makes timefor a handful
of exceptional students.
– Yeah, I”m getting ready
to go in
to teach one of my students.
His name is Reno.
And he plays piano.And Reno plays by ear
really, really well.
Loves to improvise,
but I just try to give him
some more vocabulary
in what he”s doing.
And some different kinds of ways
to approach melody and chords and as well as technique.I think my job
is to help people fall in love
with the process of learningand learning how to be
self-sufficient.
And kind of unveiling
these different kinds
of concepts and nuancesrather than trying to teach
them how to memorize a piece.
It”s more important to me
that they”re able to express
their own ideas and to be able
to hear and communicate
and understand the ideas
that other people make so that they can communicate
their own stories. And I”m really excited
to see where my students go
in the years to come.– It”s a journey that holds
much promise
for both student
and teacher.
As Calvin continues to push
the bounds,
taking the harp
where it”s never gone before.
– ♪ I had some good
over you ♪– And taking us along
for the ride.
– ♪ Before I knew it
I was needed ♪I love getting to do
what I love for a living.
And then expose people
to the idea
that anything”s possibleif you”re willing
to get messy with it
and you might embarrass
yourself,
but you just gotta
pick yourself up and keep going for it. You write–you are the only one
who gets to write the story that you want
to tell. [playing harp] ♪ ♪ – It”s no secret that
February 5th will be a big day
for football fans. But for the last 17 years, Super Bowl Sundays have also
been a great opportunity to hear the giant pipe organs found at the Community of Christ
Church complex in Independence. Jan Kraybill didn”t exactly
realize she was starting a counter-programming
tradition, but over the years,
she”s embraced and embellished this chance to showcase
a true local treasure. [organ playing] ♪ ♪– Pipe organs, each pipe speaks
one note at one volume.
That”s all it knows
how to do.
So that”s why you need
so many pipes
to make so many
different kinds of sounds.
So for instance,
from here to here is 61 notes. I have to have 61 pipes.
That”s just for the trumpet.Now I want to be a flute,
I have to have 61 flutes.
So, when you do the math,
in this organ,
it ends up being 6,334 pipes.Some of the pipes
are behind me,
but some of them are
a football field-length away,
back in the back
of the room.
And it happens in this organ that the loudest pipes
in the organ are actually back there. There”s this big set
of trumpets. [organ playing]They make a significant noise
and I love it.
♪ ♪For 18 years,I have been doing these
Super Bowl Sunday concerts.
They didn”t start
because I”m a sports fan.
They started because
I”m very naive. And I was 18 years ago. Didn”t realize that a concert
date that I had chosen was actually the Super Bowl. – Having it land on
Super Bowl Sunday was wonderful. It gives folks who may not
be sports-minded something else to do
that day.But also those who are
sports-minded,
it shows a real wonderful
blend of what we can be
and how we can be together.– It was
a very creative idea,
and certainly the audiences
that come for it, so it”s been a success
and more power to her. [organ playing] ♪ ♪ N– 2016 was an interesting year
for all of us in the world,
but specifically in this
country with the election.
So I started thinking
about a concert designed around the concept
of conversing, of interacting
with each other. [playing “Close Encounters
of the Third Kind” theme] ♪ ♪That scene from
“Close Encounters,”
it”s coincidentally called
“The Conversation.”
And it”s conversing
with the other, the enemy.
You know, they weren”t sure
in that film
what they were
about to encounter.
[transmitting music notes] [glass shattering] [repeating music notes] [repeating music notes]7,000 people came to the
inaugural concert on this organ
to hear and see
this organ be played
for its very first time.[organ playing]– The times have changed,
of course.
but the organ has
a unique contribution to make
to the music world
in our city, and I”m so grateful that
we have these opportunities to expose people
and to bring them along and excite them
about this amazing instrument. [organ playing]– So I”m hoping that this
concert helps people
to explore different viewsand listen to some music that
might be unfamiliar to them.
And maybe walk away saying
this is worth pursuing, talking with people that I might
consider to be “other.” [organ playing] ♪ ♪ – Here on “Arts Upload,” we like
to believe that Kansas City is America”s
creative crossroads, so it really was no surprise
so when just as soon as the streetcar
was up and running, art started popping up
all around it. Last summer,
there were temporary Art on the Route installations
at various stops, even performances
by great musicians like Beau Bledsoe. Another of the things
we like to do on “Arts Upload” is share stories
from other PBS stations around the country
like this next one, which reminded us of artists
we often met doing “Rare Visions
and Roadside Revelations.” Meet Dan Bentley,
a flea market devotee in Rochester, New York.
[bell clanging][jazzy music]– You four.♪ ♪– That”s cool, but it”s probably
a reproduction. – Yeah.
– Made in China. – Thank you very much.
Have a great day. – What are you thinking
on these? – I would like you to tell me.
– I”d give you a dollar for it. – You know what?
I”ll take a dollar for it.– My name”s Dan Bentley.
I”m from Rochester, New York.
And I”m an artist
that recycles vintage products into sculptures so that
we can continue to enjoy them. Old aluminum kitchenware stuff
is cool. “Schrader”s Truly Delicious
Hots and Steamers. “Containing round steak. Made in Minnesota.” Yeah, that”s cool. I”m gonna use her arms.
They”re bent the other– bent up,
they”re good feets. And it”s a dollar. Robot legs. Pretty cool.I spent 35 years
in product design
and really gained
an appreciation
of iconic design work.And I see a lot of it
going by the wayside
because it”s been replaced
by more modern products.
And I just think that design
is great enough
that we need to continue
to enjoy it.
♪ ♪I just kinda realized
what I was doing
after a year or so
of building sculptures, and everything is turning out
to be robots because I”m kind of
a robot nut.Blending this obsession
with robots
with product design,
what I found myself doing
was showcasing
these products.
I really enjoy
collecting the products,
finding the products
at flea market, finding things that represent
certain style periods.I wind up with this collection
of pieces,
and sometimes it”s–sometimes
it”s two or three sets
of things I might use
for feet,
but I just start
puzzling pieces together.
Lots of masking tape,
balancing things up
and seeing how they fit.
Are the proportions right?
And once I do decide that,that these are the pieces,then I start figuring out how
am I gonna put them together.
[grinder grinding]So I do a mockup,and when I”m happy
with that,
then I disassemble
everything,
and the I start restoring
all the pieces.
You know, get everything
looking absolutely brand-new.
[upbeat music]I decided that I was not
gonna build a sculpture
that didn”t centerpieceat least iconic
design element.
♪ ♪You know, once people
look past the robot,
which is what they–
their first reaction,
then they start to realize,
“Oh, that”s a percolator.
My mom had one of those,”
and, “Isn”t that cool?”
♪ ♪You know, or it just brings back
a lot of memories for people, and then they realize that
because it”s great design, you know, it was such
well-designed products that this, you know,
time stamp of certain periodsthat it really resonates
with people.
♪ ♪I”ll see a productand know that
that”s gonna be a torso or that”s a head
or those are legs. And, you know, and I know that
that has to bepretty much unchanged
in the sculpture.
♪ ♪I can”t let it off
the bench.
It”s not done for me
until it makes me smile,
that I see that it has
a personality.It has a character.Sometimes it”s whimsical,
sometimes it”s more serious.
Yeah, it has to have
a personality.
– Well, you know, we”ve actually
managed to cover a pretty good chunk
of the 2.3 mile route with everything from robots
to runways and some pretty good music
sprinkled in as well. So I officially pronounce
this episode of “Arts Upload” complete. Next week, would you believe
chicken footstools from The Citygirl Farm? Till then, I”m Randy Mason.
Thanks for watching. [playing harp] ♪ ♪ – ♪ You can”t have ♪ ♪ Who you fall in love with ♪ ♪ You can”t have ♪announcer: Production funding
for “Arts Upload”
has been provided
in part by:

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