Major arts festival at WCU March 23-24

The Fine and Performing Arts Center at Western Carolina University will be the site of an arts weekend March 23-24 featuring jazz, big band, rock ‘n’ roll and heavy metal.

This time, however, the “heavy metal” won’t be of the musical variety. It will be an “iron pour,” an artistic activity in which iron is heated, melted and poured into molds to create sculpture. And it’s part of a series of events hosted by the university’s departments of music and arts that includes the world-famous Count Basie Orchestra and the annual WCU Jazz Festival.

“What began initially as our Jazz Festival, a significant event in and of itself, has become a major celebration of the arts,” said Robert Kehrberg, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “With the addition of the legendary Count Basie Orchestra, the world premiere of an exhibition of famous rock ‘n’ roll photographs from the 1960s, and the creation of works of art from molten metal, the weekend has evolved into one of the busiest arts weekends on campus in quite some time.”

The weekend will get under way with the iron pour, hosted by Marya Roland, associate professor of art and sculpture. The event is set for the afternoon of Friday, March 23, from 1 p.m. until dark on the lawn adjacent to the sculpture facility of the Fine and Performing Arts Center. Brian Glaze, sculptor and art instructor at Blue Ridge Community College, will lead the pour, heating and melting the iron in a special high-temperature furnace. In the event of rain, the iron pour will take place from 1 p.m. until dark Saturday, March 24.

Following the iron pour on March 23 will be a 5 p.m. special viewing of the exhibit “Cleveland Rocks: The Birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll: Photographs of George Shuba,” a collection of 1960s Cleveland rock ‘n’ roll photographs, premiering in the Fine Art Museum before embarking on a national exhibition tour.

Performing later that evening will be the Count Basie Orchestra, founded and originally directed by Count Basie, a legendary pioneer in the swing era of jazz. The ensemble has won 17 Grammy Awards, including best large jazz ensemble album in 1997 and 1999, and has topped every respected jazz poll in the world at least once. The performance will be in the Fine and Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m.

Concluding the arts weekend will be the annual WCU Jazz Festival featuring a performance by the WCU Jazz Ensemble, with featured guest saxophonist Chris Cheek and guest trumpeter Rich Willey, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 24, in the Fine and Performing Arts Center. Cheek and Willey also will be leading several jazz clinics during the weekend.

All events are free and open to the public, except for the Count Basie Orchestra performance. Tickets for the Basie concert are on sale now at $30 for adults ages 18 and older, $25 for couples ages 18 and older, $20 for 2006-2007 season subscribers, $20 for groups of 20 or more, $15 for current or retired WCU faculty and staff, and $5 for students. Reservations are highly recommended.

For more information about the events or to purchase tickets, contact the Fine and Performing Arts Center box office at (828) 227-2479.