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    Bit to Do

    Teddy Abrams and Jecorey Arthur at Tim Faulkner Gallery
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    Teddy Abrams and Jecorey Arthur may not be the most likely partners in a musical enterprise. But the idea that orchestra conductors and hip-hop artists don't have anything in common is one of the main reasons the two were motivated to create a night of music that they hope will chip away at the divisions that exist in Louisville's richly diverse music scene. The result of several months of planning and maneuvering is a free concert at the sprawling Tim Faulkner Gallery in the Portland neighborhood this Saturday night.

    The lineup Abrams and Arthur have assembled is an intriguing mix of local musicians that includes the University of Louisville's Chamber Orchestra, jazz trio Tiny Elephant, folk singer Kyle James Hauser, Arthur's own band 1200, rockers A Lion Named Roar, and the country/indie/punk stylings of the inimitable Bonnie Prince Billy (musician and actor Will Oldham). Abrams calls it a "mini-music festival," a chance for people to find out what Louisville music is all about. "It's not just about publicity -- we want people to feel excited about what's going on here."

    One Saturday two or three months ago, Abrams just happened to wander into the Portland neighborhood on his bike, discovering an art gallery that he'd never heard of. He met owner Tim Faulkner, who showed him around the place and sold him some art. "He was still pretty fresh to Louisville," Faulkner said, "so we talked and by the time he saw the event space, he was very intrigued." After telling Faulkner about the neighborhood concerts he was planning with the orchestra as its new music director, Abrams suggested making the gallery an event site. Faulkner was on board at once: "I said we'd love to have you guys." 

    "Teddy is very interested, like us, in making sure that the neighborhood is involved," Faulkner said, noting that he and partner Margaret Archambault have received great support and encouragement from Portland residents. "He wanted to create a program that wasn't in any way intimidating or exclusive to anyone. He said, why not make it a free show, and I said, yeah, let's do it that way and make it a community event. Margaret and I don't do committees -- all the red tape and getting bogged down." After checking his calendar, Abrams called back to book the Dec. 6 date, even though the program was still only in the idea stage.

    Abrams' hope to turn his own home into a "Music Haven" -- where all kinds of artists can meet, play music, and connect with the community -- paid off immediately. For ideas about putting together an eclectic line-up of local talent for his as-yet unprogrammed show, enter Jecorey Arthur...with a pizza. "Teddy invited some musicians to his house and I just happened to be one who got the word. Me and my friend Sean brought a pizza, and we just sat in the room eating pizza and talking." That was the beginning of their relationship, which continued when they ran into each other again at ReSurfaced, right after the Louisville Orchestra had packed the house for their immensely successful performance of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana

    The conversation turned to the event at the Tim Faulkner Gallery. "We just started bouncing ideas back and forth and the show came about. He kinda just let me take the wheel and drive away with it," says Arthur, a graduate of the University of Louisville's music school where he played percussion in the orchestra (he is currently working on a master's degree in teaching). A native of West Louisville, the soft-spoken Arthur gracefully embodies the spirit of bridging gaps -- between musical genres, between mean streets and the university, between people whose differences appear significant on the surface, but in reality, who share a lot of common ground. His enthusiasm for breaking down barriers is, no doubt, what makes the partnership with Abrams in this venture such a natural development.

    One thing the duo has in common is that both men discovered their passion for music early. Arthur joined his school's band in sixth grade and quickly became interested in music in all its facets. At age 12, he bought himself the Korg D-1200 digital recorder and mixer. He spent so much time with it, learning to mix, master, and produce his own music, that it sparked his nickname -- and now his band's name -- 1200. At roughly the same age, Abrams had already set his sights on conducting and had mastered the clarinet. Not only do they share the drive to succeed, but also to make a difference in people's lives through music.

    Arthur is program director of AMPED (Academy of Music Production Education and Development), which teaches kids vocal performance (whether it's singing or rapping), instrumental performance, composition, audio production, and engineering. Arthur brings in specialists in all those areas to help teach the kids. Some of the music mentors come from his ties to the University of Louisville and others are found through his music collective, the United Legion of Doom. "A lot of times in the inner city you don't have kids who are interested in the music program simply because the music isn't fitting around the culture they have," Arthur says. "The goal overall is to have an open gym for music so if a kid gets out of school one day, and wants to record a song or needs help with homework or just needs a safe place to go and hang out, AMPED is going to be that place."

    Arthur and Abrams agree that there is a gap in the Louisville music scene between fine arts performers and the musicians working in other genres. The concert they've designed, officially called Music Makes a City at Tim Faulkner Gallery, is a first step in changing that situation.  "You see me doing the whole hip-hop thing, but at the same time I am a classical musician -- that's where my training in college comes from," Arthur says, and adds, "Teddy will be featured on a song by every artist, just jamming out. There's a lot of people on the bill with six different genres all represented, and I'm just happy to be a part of it." 

    Wandering around the gallery with Abrams and Arthur, I was struck by how perfect a venue it is for the event -- in both spirit and substance. Walking through rooms filled with art and sculpture, you arrive at the spacious event room, its walls decorated with graffiti and dominated by a large stage. All around is a work in progress, much like the historic neighborhood outside, which is experiencing the early stages of a revival. It feels like the right place for collaboration and renewal -- old and new, river and rails, art and music. At a time of painful division, it's a good place to meet.

    Event details

    This free, all ages show  is happening Dec. 6 at the Tim Faulkner Gallery, located at 1512 Portland Avenue. Doors will open at 7 PM, bar at 7:30, and the music starts at 8 PM until roughly 11 PM. Visit the event page on Facebook for more details.  

    [Photo Credits: Lee Burchfield]

    Here are just a couple things to whet your appetite:

    From the Music Makes a City web series, featuring Teddy Abrams and the Louisville Orchestra, "Carmina Burana":

    Check out this Bonnie Prince Billy video for "I See a Darkness":

    Selena Frye's picture

    About Selena Frye

    I'm a writer and editor living in Louisville since 1996. I'm originally from the Blue Ridge of Virginia.

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