Arts Around Town

Arts Around Town: Chamber music has its place in Lehigh Valley with Nora Suggs, Satori

"Playing music is cool, but playing music with your friends is really cool." That's the advice chamber musician/teacher Nora Suggs gives to elementary-age children when she's doing a school program. Since 2003, it's been her mission to give the gift of music by putting an instrument in as many young hands as she can. In that first year alone, more than a hundred students benefited. To date, as of last week, Suggs said more than 400 instruments that have been donated and reconditioned have been placed with students at 44 schools and programs in the greater Lehigh Valley area and Berks County. It's just one of the many community outreach programs that stems from her work as founder and artistic director of Satori, now in its 17th season as a professional chamber music ensemble.

Satori's music has been an evolving journey since 1996, with its core musicians -- many heavily associated with Lehigh Valley symphonies -- performing together since and frequently being joined by additional performers and guest artists. Performances have included the eastern part of the country as well as the Lehigh Valley at Mayfair Festival of the Arts, Musikfest, area colleges and museums. Satori also performs community outreach concert series at Good Shepherd, Hospice House of VNA, and senior residences. The "Satori Live!" CD recently released is a culmination of music from its 2011-2012 season featuring Mozart, Durufle, Loeffler, Beethoven and Prokofieff.

Suggs and her fellow musicians not only perform publicly but also venture into local schools through Satori's "Bravo!" outreach program for music education. Bravo's threefold mission, according to Suggs, includes the Gift of Music instrument donation project. Used instruments collected from the community by service organizations and corporations are reconditioned and donated to area music programs who provide them for needy students.

Satori also performs in-school chamber music presentations and holds an annual student chamber music competition for grades 7 through 12, with a cash prize and performance opportunity. This year's competition will be held Feb. 16, at 1:30 p.m., at Community Music School in Allentown. For the first time, a competition for student compositions, also with a cash prize and public performance, will be featured. Suggs said student winners in the past have included a string quartet, a piano trio, and a wind ensemble, plus a duo of violin and guitar which featured a 12-year-old classical guitarist who went on to win several national and international competitions.

Satori's Annual Midwinter Concert will be held Saturday at 7:30 p.m., at Foy Hall, Moravian College, with an expanded ensemble of Satori players led by Maestro Donald Spieth. The "Satori Grande!" event will focus on music by Stravinsky, Telemann and Beethoven. A reception will follow, and tickets only will be available at the door.

The Second Sunday Concert Series, "East Meets West," has a new venue this year with Bethlehem's Unitarian Universalist Church of the Lehigh Valley on Feb. 10 at 3 p.m., with Western chamber music with shakuhachi , a Japanese bamboo flute played by Suggs.

Suggs, a native of New Orleans, has been exposed to music since a child, having a dad who played clarinet for Big Band and encouraging her and her sister to take up an instrument as early as second grade. Suggs chose the flute. She grew up in Houston, graduating from Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine, with extensive private education in music and degrees in biology, English literature, medicine and surgery. As a musician, she performed throughout the United States and Canada and abroad in England and Japan.

As a successful general and trauma surgeon and breast cancer surgeon at Lehigh Valley Hospital from 1980 to 2002, Suggs also maintained a high quality of professionalism in her music and in 1996, formed Satori. The name comes from a Zen term which refers to enlightenment, Suggs explained.

"It's when suddenly everything comes together, like a chamber piece. It all comes together," she said. She uses the Japanese script for Satori on its Web site.

In 2002, Suggs made the change from full-time physician to full-time chamber musician. She now teaches privately and at Bethlehem's Moravian College Music Institute and Community Music School. For more than a dozen years, she performed and recorded with Two Part Invention, a flute and classical guitar duo. Suggs also teaches and performs on shakuhachi, a traditional Japanese bamboo flute she refers to as "very beautiful and very expressive." She said she became interested in the instrument while visiting Japan many years ago and went on to study and receive performance and teaching accreditation under James Nyoraku Schlefer of New York City.

"We're always looking for new ways to present new music," Suggs said of Satori. "We're small enough and portable enough to bring our music into the community without sacrificing quality, yet keeping things affordable. Our listeners will find a comfortable and friendly environment when they come hear us. We're not formal and stuffy. We're listener-friendly. It's like they'll be sitting in their living room listening to a bunch of friends playing for them."

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Joint exhibitions of selected juried art student entries in the 2013 East Central Pennsylvania Scholastic Art Awards will begin Sunday through Feb. 17, at the Allentown Art Museum and the Baum School of Art. Secondary art students in grades 7 to 12 from Berks, Carbon, Lehigh and Northampton counties will be competing for national art recognition in the National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.

Entries were submitted by the students' art and technology teachers for 15 various art categories. Gold and Silver Keys and honorable mention awards will be presented at an awards ceremony at 1 p.m., and reception from 2 to 4 p.m., on Feb. 3, at Miller Symphony Hall in Allentown.

Five American Visions award nominations will be chosen as the best entries of the show. The regional Gold Key and American Visions winners will be the only entries admitted and juried at the national level.

Last year, 11 national awards were bestowed to area students selected from more than 12,000 Gold Key winning entries submitted from across the country. Students attended the national ceremony held in June at Carnegie Hall in New York City, and their work was exhibited at Parsons The New School for Design.

Regional director for the East Central Pennsylvania Scholastic Art Awards is Dennis Danko; assistant director is Janet Dean.

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The Berks Arts Council is currently seeking fine and craft artists for its 8th annual juried exhibition for the Frank Scott Memorial Art Show: The Art of Jazz,  themed "Celebrate Jazz." The show will run March 8-27 in the Rolf and Renate Schmidt Gallery at the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts in Reading. An awards ceremony and reception will be held March 8, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. The exhibition serves as a prelude to the 23rd annual Boscov's Berks Jazz Fest, April 5-14. Juror is Robert Stickloon, instructor of painting and drawing at PennState's Schuylkill campus.

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The art of modernist Jules Olitski (1922-2007) will be on exhibit as "Jules Olitski: On an Intimate Scale," beginning Saturday through May 26 in the Cohen Modern and Contemporary Gallery at the Reading Public Museum. More than 30 small canvases from each stage of Olitski's career beginning in the early 60's through 2007 will be featured. His Stain, Spray, Baroque, High Baroque and Late Orb paintings trace his exploration of abstraction through a variety of techniques, ranging from ethereal to painterly.

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Father-daughter duo, Dave and Lydia Liebman, celebrate the release of their new album, "Familia," on Friday at 7:30 p.m., at Jazz Upstairs at Miller Symphony Hall in Allentown. With Dave on soprano sax and piano and Lydia as lead vocalist, tunes will include the repertoire of Brazilian master, Antonio Carlos Jobim. Dave's wife, Caris Visentin Liebman, will join on oboe. Band members will include Tony Marino on bass and Willy Rodriguez on drums.

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