Glen Campbell – The Goodbye Tour

November 4, 2012 @ 7pm.

After announcing that he is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, the Grammy Award-winning singer, Glen Campbell, said he’d be going on the road for a farewell tour.  A tour that will include the VanWezel Performing Arts Hall on Sunday, November 4.

Simply put, this extraordinary tour is a reflection of Glen Campbell’s life.  It relfects the beauty, power, heartfelt emotion, and deep spirituality that traces the arc of Campbell’s 75 years:  from dirt-poor, tiny-town Arkansas origins, to Hollywood triumphs on the pop charts, TV and movies. Continue reading Glen Campbell — The Goodbye Tour

Van Wezel Pre-Season Sets New Sales Records

Subscriber Party – Long time subscribers Amy and Fran, with GM/Fin. Mngr. Tony Becich and Mayor Susan Atwell.

Van Wezel’s Box Office Manager David Walker, isn’t your everyday Box Office Manager!While selling tickets for shows might be the primary function of the Box Office, David Walker, the Box Office Manager isn’t your everyday ho hum guy.  With an extensive theatre background, beginning as a professional actor/singer/dancer in Columbus, Ohio, he is also a costume designer and has a true passion for the theatre.

When asked what he does in the Box Office, he replied:

“I’m responsible for supervising sales, setting up the show details to enter into the hall’s computer/sales system, as well as train and supervise the 16 box office personnel.” Continue reading Van Wezel Pre-Season Sets New Sales Records

America’s Favorite Holiday Celebration

The signature sound of Mannheim Steamroller makes the spirit of the Season come alive when its Christmas tour debuts at the VanWezel on Friday, November 16.  The Van Wezel’s will be the first of 90 performances which will include stops from Sarasota to LasVegas (where they will showcase nightly performances for 6 weeks). Last year the Mannheim Steamroller tour was among the top 20 tours in the nation! 

 In 1984, the group established its dominance of the season when it released “Mannheim Steamroller Christmas,” an album that changed the sounds of Christmas.  Already a multi-platinum recording group through its “Fresh Aire” series, Mannheim Steamroller decided to record an album of Christmas music combining the group’s signature mix of Renaissance instruments with rock and roll beats.  The resulting album became a runaway hit and Mannheim Steamroller went on to become the biggest selling Christmas music artist in history.  The group’s Christmas tour has become an annual holiday tradition right along with decorating the tree, exchanging presents, and creating unforgettable moments with friends and family.

The origins and name of Mannheim Steamroller are as unusual and innovative as its sound.  Its name began as an alias for record producer and composer, Chip Davis.   The name Mannheim Steamroller comes from an 18th century German musical technique, Mannheim roller, which is a crescendo passage having a rising melodic line over an ostinato bass line(a musical figure repeated at the same tone/frequency throughout a composition), popularized by the Mannheim school of composition.  Using this technique, Davis produced an unusual album of classical music performed entirely by Davis and musical collaborator and keyboardist Jackson Berkey, using electric bass (played by Eric Hansen) and synthesizers.  Since it was considered to be “too innovative,” no major label would handle its distribution, so Davis founded his own music label, American Gramaphone (a play on the classical record label, Deutsche Grammophon) to release the album.  The result, “Fresh Aire” was released in 1975 under the pseudonym, Mannheim Steamroller, in the hope that the album  would be a best seller.  The resulting astounding success of the “innovative” sound of the Fresh Aire disc led to “Fresh Aire” II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII — all 8 recordings achieving “Gold” status. 

Beginning in 1984, Steamroller found its niche.  Davis released his first holiday album “Mannheim Steamroller Christmas,” featuring modern contemporary interpretations of Yuletide favorites.  This was followed by “A Fresh Aire Christmas” and “Christmas In The Aire,” which showcased creative approaches to old carols, as well as some new carol-like compositions. All three of these albums achieved 6X Platinum RIAA  (Recording Industry Association of America) Certification.  Steamroller had now become the most requested Christmas music artists of all time! Beginning in 1984, until 2011, Steamroller released 12 Christmas albums, of which 7 received Platinum certification.  The group’s 2009  “25th Anniversary Collection” Christmas box immediately rose to Gold status.  The group’s newest release, “Christmas Symphony” is already #19 on Billboard’s list of top 200 albumsMannheim Steamroller  has added to its reputation as America’s Christmas icon by producing “An American Christmas,” a 12-hour nationally broadcast special holiday radio program featuring  music and narrated  stories, heard on over 250 stations across the United States.

Musically, as the 1990s progressed, Davis and Steamroller moved into the mainstream of “New Age” music, with a heavier reliance on synthesized instruments.  Their music became closer to the “light jazz” style that gained prominence  in the 1990s.  They also branched out into motion picture production and scoring, and backing spoken-word recordings.  However, remaining true to their origin, they have never deviated from their contemporary style of musical innovation which has become synonymous with the name Mannheim Steamroller!  




Mary Bensel views the 2014/2015 season

Well Mary the new season has just been announced. I personally believe that the 2014/2015 season has promise to be our most  intriguing yet  since it offers a wide range of performances with shows which have appeal to all audiences. Can you give us some insight into how you put together this highly anticipated new line up of performances,

MARY:  Well, as you know, planning a new season is a year-round effort. Our day is filled with the normal responsibilities of running a performing arts hall.  During the evening, we attend our shows.  The non-managerial time is spent attending booking conferences, seeing shows, attending industry conferences, negotiating with managers, agents and producers, reviewing contracts…all of the necessary elements involved in planning the new season.

You said you attend most shows.  How is that possible? MARY:  I feel that it is a necessary part of my job.  I need to see that no last-minute problems have surfaced. Then I stay to monitor the show.  If we are having multiple performances of the same show, I won’t always stay multiple times.  It usually means 12-hour days on performance nights.  And though I am fortunate to have an outstanding and dedicated staff that is well qualified to handle everything, I feel that my presence is necessary; since ultimately I am the one responsible for the overall success of the show. You mentioned conferences and shows.  What does that entail? MARY:  While we travel to see specific shows, performers and agents, our main activities are geared toward the larger booking conferences such as the Performing Arts Exchange, which meets in September in different locations each year.  The Exchange involves many booking agents and presenters whose main area of operation is the Eastern U.S.  These meetings are mainly to make contact with the agents to see what is available and begin the preliminary negotiations involved in booking shows.  The other major booking conference (Association of Performing Arts Professionals) has its yearly conference in New York in January.  APAP is much larger as it is nationwide in scope. What other organizations are involved in your Hall’s operation? MARY:  The Broadway League, which is based in New York, is involved in all phases of shows and tours. This includes national negotiations between producers and craft unions such as Actors Equity, who are co-producers of The Tony Awards. The Broadway League also handles the internal Broadway data bases, conducting historical research, producing statistical information, touring Broadway awards, etc.  A major conference is held in the spring with smaller ones throughout the year.  Two other organizations essential to our operation on the State level are:  The Florida Facilities Managers, (The FFMA) and the Florida Presenters.  The FFMA is involved with facility management and lobbying efforts and has a conference in June.  As a Past President, I sit on the Board and we have monthly conference calls.  The Florida Presenters area of focus is directed to those of us who present and book shows.   The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall is actively involved in all of these professional organizations . How many shows do you book each year?  And are there any facility limitations? MARY:  This year the Van Wezel will book over 100 individual shows in addition to bookings from other organizations such as the Sarasota Orchestra, The Ringling Town Hall Series, The Sarasota Concert Association and the Sarasota Ballet.  We also book many individual productions and private events such as weddings, proms and Bar Mitzvahs.  We have the capability to book many shows.  The Hall is busy most days during the “season?”  The type of show booked is factored by artist’s fees and tech requirements. You mentioned the “Season. How do you feel about booking performances during the summer? MARY:  We certainly are interested, but within certain limitations.  It has to be a “big” show with wide appeal for me to book at that time of year . This summer we produced two shows that were highly successful big shows!  We presented “Move …Live on Tour” ,starring Julianne and Derek Hough,  The show played to two sold out houses.  In addition we produced “American Idol Live” which also sold out within just a few days.These successes certainly make the idea of summer shows appealing.   In addition  we again produced our summer season of free outdoor concerts.  This summer we featured “Yessterdaze”, “Come Back Alice”, “SoulRcoaster” and our fourth and final show “Adrain Ray”.  These BayFront shows continue to be very well attended!  We are already working on several possibilities for next summer. Anything that is available will be considered. What criteria do you use to decide which shows to book? MARY:  First consideration is availability.  Am I booking the performer independently?  Or is the show part of a tour?  This factor involves the second criteria — cost.  A touring show with “block bookings” allows for the sharing of travel and production expenses — factors which contribute significantly to the overall cost of a production.  Also of importance is the balancing of the season.  It is important for us to offer our audiences a great diversity of performers and shows.  We strive to gear our season to shows that will appeal to all segments of our audience base.  Here, the keyword is CHOICE.   Our audiences are the ultimate decision makes as to the show, we present. The next two considerations are ones which are dependent on networking and the knowledge which one gains by dealing with agents and producers over many years.  First is trust. I must ask myself, “Is the agent with whom we are negotiating, reputable?” “Does he deliver that which he promises?”  Second, comes networking with my peers.  Over the years, I have learned the importance of the communication process with other hall managers with whom I have built trust.  Was the show successful financially?  Was it fair and accurately represented?  What was the audience reaction?  Would you rebook the performer or show?  This input is of great value and becomes available only after years of building relationships. You mentioned relationship and trust.  Isn’t’ that a two-edged sword? MARY:  Without a doubt, it works both ways.  The Van Wezel benefits greatly from its national reputation.  Just recently ”Venues Today” (the bible of our profession) named the Van Wezel as the Number 1 Performing Arts Hall in North America, among all halls with a capacity of up to 2,000 seats.  And it was additionally ranked No. 4 in Florida, among halls with 5,000 or less seats (both based on box-office records).  In the 5,000-seat capacity, we are ranked with theatres and markets such as Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa, Clearwater and Orlando who all have more seats than us and in larger markets.  The Van Wezel was also recently awarded the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, given to establishments that consistently achieve exceptional travel ratings on TripAdvisor and maintain an overall rating of four or higher.  The Van Wezel received a 4.5 rating.  Those recognitions combined with the reputation of trust that I have established over decades of work within the profession, put us in a strong position.  Reputation is of critical importance when we are competing with other halls for performers and shows; it helps greatly in our ability to negotiate dates and costs.  Our staff approach their work with pride, professionalism, and passion.  It’s a winning combination!

Dave Koz…”The King ofSmooth Jazz”

America’s smooth Jazz Saxophonist Dave Koz  backed by contemporary jazz pianist, David Benoit; The Voice’s, Javier Colon; “The best female drummer alive,” Shelia E; and the “sultry, dynamic,” Margo Rey…..a combination of technique and talent guaranteed to  transport music fans to new levels of contemporary smooth  jazz.

Each of these performers alone  would be worthy of a starring gig at any venue.  Together they combine to take the contemporary jazz scene  to heights never before experienced on any stage.

 Dave Koz is best known as “the voice and sound of smooth jazz.”  His syndicated radio program The Dave Koz Radio Show features the latest music and interviews with a who’s who in the genre. Dave co-hosted the Dave Koz Morning Show  on 94.7 The Wave, a smooth jazz station in Los Angeles, for six years before turning the mic over to Brian McKnight He was selected to host a syndicated afternoon show for Broadcast Architecture’s new Smooth Jazz Network. The show, based in Los Angeles, is broadcast on  Smooth Jazz stations across the country.  Koz and Ramsey Lewis are the only two Smooth Jazz personalities to host two different syndicated shows at the same time!  Koz is also host of a weekly television series, Frequency, in which he interviews musicians and at the end of each interview plays along with the musician, adding some of his saxophone riffs to one of his/her hit songs.  He has inherited the mantel of the great jazz  saxophonists, such as Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan and Paul Desmond, allowing him to become the premier exponent of the Smooth Jazz sound.

David Benoit is one of the names most synonymous with the Smooth Jazz Movement.  Since launching his recording career in 1977, David Benoit’s expansive career as a contemporary jazz pianist and composer has included over 25 solo recordings.  His 80’s releases, This Side Up, Freedom at Midnight, and the Grammy nominated Every Step Of The Way are considered influential genre classics.  David has been nominated for Grammys in the following categories:  Best Jazz Recording, Best Large Jazz Ensemble Performance and Best Instrumental Composition.  In addition to his solo jazz career, Benoit has expanded his slate of orchestral music endeavors to include his ongoing role as conductor of the Asia America Symphony Orchestra and leading such eminent orchestras as the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Symphonies of London, Nuremberg, San Francisco, Atlanta, San Antonio and San Jose.

Javier Colon was the first champion named on NBC’s hit show, The Voice.  As he told People Magazine,” in this business, I have a tendency to keep my performance level high and my expectation level low.  That is my natural protection.  I have been at this a long time and it wears on you.  This was amazing!”  After shedding tears of joy as he was announced as the winner, he hugged host, Carson Daly, coach Adam Levine, his fellow finalists and then finally his wife and two daughters to whom he yelled, “yeah baby, daddy won!”   His night was capped off,  when in the middle of his press interview, he was informed that his original single, Stitch by Stitch”  had just reached No. 1 on iTunes“It was really a night I will always remember and cherish”!

Sheila E,  daughter of musician Pete Escovedo, became one of the top female musicians during the 1980’s due to her fierce drumming style and her Latin rhythms. A former protege of Prince, she became a drummer in his band and later toured with the Ringo Star’s All Stars before branching off into solo musical projects where she quickly estabished  herself with the #1 hit single The Glamorous Life.”  In addition to being considered the best female drummer alive, Shelia E has also expanded into acting roles, most notably in the urban cult classic film, Krush. Her Latin music roots go deep. In addition to being born into the musical Escovedo family,  she was the Goddaughter of Latin musical legend, Tito Puente.  Shelia E is the co-founder of the Elevate Hope Foundation, an organization that provides abused, abandoned and severely emotionally disturbed children compassionate care by implementing an alternative method of recreational and education therapy through music and the arts.

Margo Rey has created alternative music that she calls “Organica.”  She describes it as “a ferociously nuanced hybrid of Alternative Pop that is deeply rooted in lush vocals, ambient guitars, with thick dynamic grooves, all created by humans not machines.  I wanted something “lo-fi” as opposed to the cloned sounds of today’s pop culture environment.  I needed my music to sound like me rather than the equipment it was recorded on. Plus, I feel a high affinity–love affair even–for the singer/songwriter era of the seventies and eighties.”  Margo Rey sums up her musical philosophy as follows: “Music has always been my clearest form of expression. I believe it is one of the most beautiful ways humanity can truly communicate…its vibration is universal and transcends boundaries and cultures.  It is my great good fortune to be able to share the experience of my music and passion with you.  Thanks to all who share in my groove.”

3 Grammy “Best New Artist” award winners scheduled

(EXCERPT:)    The 2012/2013 VanWezel season will feature three performers all sharing the same prestigious award.  These three artists, John Legend, Sheryl Crow, and Natalie Cole have all won the Grammy Best New Artist Award.  The first to appear on our stage will be the R & B “legend” John Legend.

Whether you call it “fate” or “destiny”  or “a calling,” the fact is that some people are born to sing and create music.  If you were to ask any of these three “legends” in the music business, chances are you would would get three variations on the idea that music is and always has been the artists’ most natural form of expression, and that at some early age  they all expected to be “discovered.”  That they all have fulfilled and even exceeded their childhood dreams and expectations, is a well accepted fact.  It began over three decades ago when Natalie Cole was the first of the three to receive the Grammy Award for Best New Artist followed years later by Sheryl Crow and most recently John Legend.

The first of these stars to appear will be John Legend, on stage October 19.  Natalie and Sheryl will be featured  in a subsequent issue of this newsletter.  But being first,  John Legend gets today’s first billing.

John was a child prodigy, learning piano and vocalization  at age 6.  He was taught by his grandmother,  a well respected gospel singer.  He grew up singing in his church choir (which he subsequently directed for many years) and at the University of Pennsylvania, where he served as Choral Music Director. He graduated with a degree in English at age 20.  Music was always the central theme of his life. “I thoroughly enjoyed the time when performing with the church and college choirs. I always enjoyed the feeling when people responded to my singing and playing.  I was ambitious and just loved being on stage connecting with the audience.”

John went on to form an “a Capella” group called “Counterparts.” During this phase of his career, John played as a “session”musician and was a featured performer  in New York nightclubs.  It was as a performer that he caught the attention of producer Kanye West in 2003. He signed with Kanye and for the next year they worked to develop John’s debut album Get Lifted.  It was released late in 2004 and immediately went platinum!  Subsequently, his first album went on to win three Grammy Awards —  Best Rhythm and Blues Song, Best R & B Album, and Best Traditional R & B Vocal.  The year ended with John Legend being named  the Grammy’s Best New Performer.

With Get Lifted, John demonstrated a rare ability to fuse the”feel”and “vibe” of classic old school soul music with the edgy flavor of 21st century hip-hop.  While the romantic themes of traditional R & B permeate Legend’s work, there is also a street-worthy hipness and confidence:  the sensuality of Marvin Gaye and the sincerity of Stevie Wonder merging with the directness of Snoop Dog and the wit of Kanye West.  Yet John is very much his own artist, gifted with singular talents and a unique sensibility.

During this time John began using “Legend” after his name. “I was born into a musical family as John Stephens but was given the name because I sounded so much  like an old school artist.  At first I thought it was funny to be called ‘Legend’ but as every one began calling me that, I considered using it as my stage name.  I knew that it sounded presumptuous, but I figured it would make me stand out from the pack.  I figured it would make people pay attention to me….and once I had their attention I would hope to have them fall in love with my music.  By being “John Legend” I put some pressure on myself, but I’m gonna try to live up to it and I hope my music will also live up to it”.

One listening to the soulful- yet-edgy Legend music establishes there’s no question that he indeed delivers the real deal, living up to his name and continuing on to the next chapter in a career filled with promise and possibility.

Editor’s note:  While we emphasized John Legend as a performer we must add that he is most proud of his ability as a composer.  He has written hundreds of songs performed by everyone from Michael Jackson, LL Cool J, Black Eyed Peas, Alicia Keys, Janet Jackson, Brittany Spears, and Kanye West (to mention just a few).   In his estimation, his crowning achievement was starting his writing career in 2002, when he was awarded one of five Songwriters Hall of Fame scholarships ….to be  followed years later by his induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame as an honored member!



IT’S MORE THAN A CONCERT…it’s the show of YOUR life!

IT’S MORE THAN A CONCERT…it’s the show of YOUR life!

IN THE MOOD, which opens at the Van Wezel on Sunday April 22, is much more than a concert as it reflects a time when America was in tune with sentimental ballads and up-tempo swing jazz rhythms, where the waltz and fox-trot competed with the wild, acrobatic jitterbug and boogie woogie crazed Hepcats who crowded the ballroom dance floors.  This revue features the IN THE MOOD singers and swing dancers  from the New York production with the blistering thirteen-piece String of Pearls Big Band Orchestra, belting out an authentic score of hits.

IN THE MOOD recreates this defining era in our history with a hypnotic big band, sizzling choreography, sassy costumes and fifty unforgettable songs, performed live on stage.  “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “In the Mood,” “Tuxedo Junction,” “Sing Sing Sing” and more.  This body of song did much to sustain national moral during World War II, the pivotal event of the 40’s.  The National Archives in Washington DC brought IN THE MOOD to their audiences as part of the commemoration of the 50Th Anniversary of WWII and the response was extraordinary with crowds lining up for hours before show time.  The engagement was twice extended and in 1993 the Archives presented a repeat performance, out-of-doors on Constitution Avenue.  The audience was composed of people of all ages and thousands stayed to dance the night away.  In affiliation with the USO, IN THE MOOD began a series of tours which played to audiences across the USA.

The show’s association with the National Archives and the USO was altogether appropriate, for much of the underpinning research was drawn from resources of these national organizations.  Since then IN THE MOOD has played to audiences in Europe and Canada and in 1977, the band and singers were selected to be part of the entertainment for the 53rd Presidential Inauguration Ball for President and Mrs. Clinton. 

 The show is beginning its 18th year of national and international performances.  The music and arrangements are as authentic as it gets as it reflects the only time in our history that all America was listening and dancing to their same kind of music. Its ability to portray the spirit of the music that moved a nation combined with the resurgence of interest in ballroom dancing and big band music (as evidenced with the tremendous popularity of Dancing with the Stars)   new generations are discovering the show’s captivating appeal.  

If you’re IN THE MOOD for a sensational all singing, all dancing nostalgic journey through the music which guided a nation’ spirit towards hope, promise and prosperity be at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall on Sunday, April 22 @ 7PM for the “Show of Your Life.”


…For our hearing disabled patrons who have not experienced the sheer joy of the Van Wezel’s new hearing loop system we would like to pass on the following note from a lovely lady who attended our performance of “Steps in Time” with Tommy Tune on the evening of March 14.

“Bob and I attended last night’s delightful performance of Steps in Time at the Van Wezel.  It was the first time that I have experienced the hearing loop in any setting other than the HLAS (hearing loss association) meetings.  I was amazed and absolutely delighted!  I have worn a hearing aid for 30 years and this was the first time I have EVER been able to understand the words spoken from a stage!  I had tears of joy in my eves as we left the theater!”  Kathleen                                                                            (reprinted with permission)

The hearing loop system was installed at the beginning of the 2011/2012 season at the same time that our new seats were installed.  The Van Wezel’s is the first system to be installed in a Performing Arts Hall on the Gulf Coast and was sponsored by the The Greater Sarasota Sertoma Club.

  Quite simply the performance sounds are transmitted from our sound system through the hearing loops directly to the telecoil in your hearing aid.  You hear the sound exactly as it is produced by the performers without any ambient sound to interfere and you control the volume!  All new hearing aids and a large percentage of the older models have telecoils installed.  Contact your audiologist to see if your hearing aid has the telecoil installed…. and if you are buying a new hearing aid make sure that it is equipped with one and experience the wonders of perfect hearing.

“Top U.S. rock band of all time….” – Billboard Magazine*


CHICAGO is an American rock band formed in 1967 in Chicago, Illinois.  The self described “rock and roll band with horns” began as a politically charged, sometimes experimental, rock band and later moved to a  predominately softer sound after becoming famous for producing a number of hit ballads.  They had a steady stream of hits throughout the 1970’s and 80’s.  They were second only to the Beach Boys in terms of Billboard singles and albums chart successes among American bands.


Chicago is one of the longest running and most successful pop/rock and roll groups of all time.  According to Billboard, Chicago was the leading US singles charting group in their early years and has maintained that momentum during a career that has seen them sell 100,000,000+ records. Including 21 top 10 singles, 5 consecutive no 1 albums, 11 number 1 singles and 5 gold singles.  Amazingly now in their 5th decade of performing, an incredible 25 of their albums have been certified platinum, a feat unmatched by any other American Rock band.  Chicago is the 1st American band to chart 40 albums in 5 decades of performing…a landmark accomplishment.  Chicago’s live 2005 DVD of their epic performance with Earth Wind and Fire was certified platinum in less than two months.


CHICAGO has among its decades of awards:                                                                             The American Music Award as America’s favorite rock group.                                      A Grammy for Best Pop Vocal by a Group.                                                                        Billboard Magazine’s Top 100 Artists of all time (they placed #12 and were the #1 American Band on the list*).                                                                                                    Peoples Choice Award as Americas Favorite Musical Group.                                          Awarded a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame


Not bad for a group of DePaul University students in Chicago in 1967.  The band was formed when two music students who had been playing local late-night clubs recruited a couple of other students from the University and decided to form a new group.  The musicians consisted of Marvin Cantera, Andre Jugo, Walter Parazaider, Terry Kath, Danny Seraphine, James Pankow, Lee Loughnane and the last to join the group, Robert Lamm a student from Chicago’s Roosevelt University.  The called themselves The Big Thing and continued playing top 40 hits, but realized that they were missing a tenor voice (Lamm and Kath both sang in the baritone range); the voice they were missing belonged to local bassist Peter Cetera.


While gaining some success as a cover band, the group began working on original songs.  In June of 1968 they moved to Los Angeles and signed with Columbia Records and changed their name to Chicago Transit Authority.


Their first record was released in April 1969 it was a double album–very rare for a first release.  The album featured jazzy instrumentals, extended jams featuring Latin percussion, and experimental, feedback-laden guitar abstraction.  It sold over one million copies by 1970, and was awarded a platinum disc. The band changed their name to CHICAGO and their careers went platinum also.


CHICAGO consists of Robert Lamm (vocals and keyboard), James Pankow (trombone and arraignments), Lee Loughnane (Trumpet and composer), and Walter Parasaider (Sax, flute and woodwinds) these four musicians are all founding members of the band.  They have since added Vocalist and bass guitarist Jason Scheff in 1985; Tris Imboden, drummer added in 1996. Keith Howland their lead guitarist joined the band in1995 and the new kid Lou Pardini keyboards and vocals added in 2009.  One of the great successes of the group is their longevity.  

The adjectives “greatest,” “musical icons,” “creative leaders,” “visionaries” are bandied about sometimes indiscriminately.  Van Wezel patrons are fortunate to be able to witness a band for whom those words were created.



CIRQUE DREAMS “POP GOES THE ROCK” is the 15th show produced in Dream Studios since its creation in 1993.  Since then the Cirque Dream Team has entertained more than 50 million people worldwide under the artistic direction of founder Neil Goldberg.  Cirque Dreams shows have appeared in theaters, casinos, theme  parks, at sea and on Broadway and have garnered international critical acclaim from USA Today, The New York Times, The Associated Press, CNN, The Today Show, Fox and Friends to name a few.  Fifteen shows, twenty scores, dozens of stage sets, thousands of variety acts and 10,000 award winning costumes have been produced at Dream Studios.

POP GOES THE ROCK is the newest musical stage spectacle from Cirque Dreams and is being presented at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall after 2 years of intensive development.  This one-of-a-kind variety show unites generations through a melding of gymnastics, dance, music, acting, fantasy, and lights.  The show’s stage wizardry blends an international cast of astonishing Cirque Dreamers who transform a carnival fun house into a rock n roll party that’s movin’ and groovin’ to an original live band.  Music and fantasy ignite the fun house when Jack pops out of his box and catapults the artists into feats of impossible grace, athleticism, mayhem and uncontrollable sensory spectacle that doesn’t stop until Jack’s back in the box.

The producers have looked at 10,000 songs from the Sony Library and chosen 24 from the 1940′s to the present time. “We re-orchestrated them in the carnival fun house with aerialists, live band and live singers,” stated founder and artistic director Neil Goldberg.  The songs for POP GOES THE ROCK are presented and performed live accompanying over 14 variety acts, more that 100 costumed characters, elaborate lighting, special effects and more.  Songs include Call Me Irresponsible,” “King of the Road,” “Womanizer,” “Beautiful,” “Zoot Suit Riot,” “She Bangs,” “The Heat is On,” “In the Summertime,” “Let it Ride,” “Apologize,” “No More Nice Guy,” “Never Gonna Let You Go,” “Like A Prayer,” “Right ‘Round,” “Jump,” “Rappers Delight,” “I Love the Nightlife” and many more.  This is music that ignites all generations in a laser show that ignites all senses.