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Kids Around the Bay

November 17, 2011


Leaping Into Nutcracker Season

Mark Foehringer's Nutcracker Sweets Credit: Austin Forbord, RAPT Productions The holidays are approaching, and you know what that means for family entertainment: It’s time to get tickets to one or more of the many productions of Tchaikovsky’s ballet, The Nutcracker. And even as most little princesses search the closet for that special sparkly dress and little gentlemen for that red bowtie, other kids are lacing up their toe shoes and getting fitted for costumes. Lo, The Nutcracker is not just a beloved holiday tradition for audiences, but for dance students and their proud parents alike. This December, hundreds if not thousands of young dancers will participate from the stage, in this seasonal spectacle.

Productions of The Nutcracker range from those danced by professional companies like the Granddaddy of them all, the San Francisco Ballet, to those staged by ballet schools such as the San Francisco’s City Ballet School where 150 students cover all of the roles. Professional and community Nutcrackers alike use student dancers in the show, offering valuable dance training for kids age 8-18, and a chance to be part of something big. At Marin Ballet, some 200 students began long hours of rehearsal in October for their December shows, which usually sell out all 2,000 seats at the Marin Veterans' Memorial Auditorium.

San Francisco Ballet School students get the experience of joining the world-class professional company on stage for The Nutcracker and other productions throughout the year. Their participation is by audition only, and around 150 are cast, including those with a bigger dancing role like Clara, awarded to a talented 13-15 year-old from the school’s Intermediate level. Ballet San Jose and Oakland Ballet also offer the combination of professional and student dancers.

With Tchaikovsky’s memorable score, and the variety of choreography you’re sure to encounter, why not check out multiple performances? For more quirky versions investigate the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band’s Dance Along Nutcracker, Clara’s Magical Mystery Tour; an abbreviated 50-minute chamber piece developed for preschool age kids by Mark Foehringer, Nutcracker Sweets; or the Dance Mission youth programs utilizing Taiko, Tap, Modern, Trapeze, Belly Dance, Salsa, Ballet, Bungee, Salsa, and Hip Hop in The Revolutionary Nutcracker Sweetie. Not all productions use live music, so if that is important to you, check the details carefully.

San Francisco Opera's Carmen for Families

Carmen for FamiliesIf your kids are old enough to handle the tales of seduction, betrayal, and jealousy in the TV show Glee, then they are ready for San Francisco Opera’s family production of Bizet’s Carmen. In the case of Carmen, The San Francisco Opera deems that special age to be 10-years-old, in case you’re wondering. Yes, the subject matter is mature given the sultry powers of mezzo-soprano Maya Lahyani as the gypsy girl Carmen and her bullfighting beau, tenor Brian Jagde as Don José, but for older kids, there are so many reasons this is a must-see. First of all, the score (conducted by Giuseppe Finzi) is chock-full of the most accessible, and heart-wrenching melodies — most kids already recognize the tunes.

The production’s running time is cut to 2 hours, and sung in English, to boot. Cast members are made up of the phenomenally talented young San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows, with the San Francisco Boys Chorus and the San Francisco Girls Chorus joining in the lively crowd scenes. The entire spectacle of music, costumes, lights, and sets will have your kids enthralled at every moment, and be careful, you may just create a life-long opera fan. There is still space in the Nov. 27 pre-performance Family Workshop, an additional workshop has been added Dec. 4 at 9:00 am.

Remembering Robert William Lutt (1929-2011)

Robert LuttRobert Lutt, Founder of Cazadero Performing Arts Camp and internationally renowned music educator, died at the age of 82 at his home on Oct. 26, 2011. Lutt grew up in Nebraska where he studied music and earned a teaching certificate before moving to Berkeley, CA in 1954. His charge was to expand the Berkeley High School music program, a position he maintained for 20 years, leading prize-winning bands to prominence. Lutt said in a recent interview: "I was very lucky to have a mother who was a magnificent singer. In the little town I grew up in there was a very good school band and she put a lot of effort into getting me involved with it. My first instrument was the trombone — I started when I was twelve.”

During the time of big growth for his program at Berkeley High, Lutt discovered a beautiful site in the Redwoods by the Russian River, and knew immediately that he wanted to make a music camp there. After a lot of work to cut through the red tape and get it ready, Lutt took his first band there in the summer of 1957 and Cazadero was born. Since then, the summer camp has touched the lives of thousands of musicians.

Lutt served as Director of Bands at San Francisco State University from 1969-1984, following which he launched World Projects Corporation, an international music education events company, participating in such global events as the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney, Australia. He was inducted into the California Music Educators Hall of Fame (2009), the American Music Educators Hall of Fame (2010), and won a Jefferson Award for his contribution to the community of Berkeley (2010).

A celebration of Lutt’s life will be held on Nov. 26 at the Berkeley City Club at 1 p.m. The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Robert W. & Beth H. Lutt Cazadero Music Camp Endowment Fund. More details at

Lisa Petrie is a writer and specialist in marketing and public relations for arts and education organizations. She earned a DMA in flute performance from SUNY, Stony Brook, and is the mother of two musical kids. Lisa was the Content Manager for the Kids and Families section of San Francisco Classical Voice during 2011.