March 3, 2024

Feed Your Brain

Time to fire up your other synapses
By Ross Boissoneau | Aug. 1, 2020

You know what they say about all work and no play, right? If you agree, consider pulling your nose off the career grindstone and give your brain a little license to relax, learn about something entirely new (or just a bit outside of your wheelhouse), and get creative in other ways.

For the overworked, stressed, or otherwise stuck among us, we offer you this roundup of performances, presentations, and classes — both in-person and online — designed to educate and inspire you in ways your work alone probably won’t.

Midweek Mornings bring together the Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts, the Vogue Theatre, and Old Kirke Museum for a series of presentations at 10am on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, respectively. “It’s a collaborative effort to increase programming,” said Xavier Verna, executive director of the Ramsdell.

“Talks, Tunes and Tours” at the Ramsdell features the likes of Shelly Doyen of the Ideal Kitchen store on entertaining and Amanda Sewell of Interlochen Public Radio on the life of synthesizer wizard Wendy Carlos. Verna said it is a way to showcase local artists and experts for both local audiences and visitors. The presentations are free and are followed by a brief tour of the facility.

The Vogue is showing classic films, such as The Blues Brothers and Raging Bull. Audience size is limited to 25 percent of capacity per state guidelines. Admission is $2.

The Olde Kirke Museum is the site of the oldest existing Danish Lutheran church in the country. Its “First Person Stories and Songs” series features a variety of presenters sharing their stories. Admission to the events, as at the Ramsdell, is free.

The Ramsdell has also booked an exclusive documentary series, “Great Art On Screen,” and the art gallery has opened in Hardy Hall with works by Onekama artists Phil and Susan Joseph, who will be part of the Aug. 4 Midweek Morning. (Can’t get there? You can view their work at Ramsdell’s online gallery.)

Verna said the series has been going since 2016, but interest and attendance is higher this year than in the past. The Midweek Mornings run through August. Find the complete schedule and details at

The schedule of performances at Great Lakes Center for the Arts venue is ramping up live performances but limiting the number of patrons to 132 (25 percent capacity). The artists below will perform one-hour shows at 5pm and 8:30pm on their event date: 

Aug. 8: Dan Tyminski (14 Grammy-award-winning bluegrass, country musician)
Aug. 15: Tony-award winning Brian Stokes Mitchell
Aug. 22: Chris Thile (mandolin virtuouso; of Punch Brothers, Nickel Creek)
Aug. 29: The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio
Sept. 6: Asleep at the Wheel (Texas Twin Fiddles, Boogie Piano)

Performances by Paul Taylor Dance Company, Chris Botti and tribute band Bruce in the USA have been rescheduled for 2021.

You want something different? What about flower arranging, unicycle lessons, or even diabolo lessons? And what the heck is a diabolo anyway? 

First things first. Derek the Bartender, a.k.a. Derek Woodruff, doesn’t mix drinks. Instead, he offers floral workshops. They are an outgrowth of his subscription flower delivery service, Floral Underground. “It’s an experiential workshop, like cookbook demonstrations,” he said.

His botanical bar setups include a variety of terrarium and planting containers, live miniature plants, soil and decorative media as well as tools of the trade. Projects include Plant Flights, Succulent Wreaths, Moss Frames and more. Woodruff said the most popular is the terrarium workshop, where participants create their own miniature plant world.

The pandemic has seen him shift to an online model. “I’ve been getting requests for virtual ones,” he said, though he did have his first live presentation in months just a couple weeks ago. It was held outside, and participants were spaced far apart for safety. He’s created his own Youtube channel and can conduct the workshops via Zoom as well. Go to

Now, about the unicycle and the diabolo. Both are courtesy of Josh Hartman, who is ostensibly a professional photographer, but also touts the benefits of sporting about on a unicycle. “I’ve been doing it about 10 years,” he said.

It wasn’t enough that he could ride one, he had to add tricks, like headstands. Then he got the bright idea of passing those skills along to others. “I was reaching out in a unicycle group and asked, does anyone want to learn virtually?” One man said it was his dream to have his son learn, and Hartman soon had an eager student learning to balance and idling by pedaling forward and backward.

Not content to stop there, he’s also working with a youngster learning the diabolo, aka the Chinese yo-yo. Two cups or discs are attached by an axle, with the object then spun or tossed into the air by a string attached to two sticks.

His diabolo student is in North Carolina, where he previously taught second grade.  He left teaching when he found he was making more money as a weekend photographer. “Plus there was too much paperwork. My favorite part of the job was recess. That’s what I get to do now,” Hartman said. The sometimes-Traverse Citian is living on the road; find him on Instagram and online at

While the campus is closed and the stage at Kresge is empty, Interlochen Center for the Arts is still offering classes.

More than 70 adults from around the world will participate in the adult band camp Aug. 11-14. Faculty will teach master classes on instrumental technique, host lectures, and prepare students for individual solo video recordings of Gustav Holst's “First Suite in E-flat for Military Band,” which will be transformed into a virtual performance and launched at a later date.  

The chamber camp Aug. 17-22 will see string, piano, and woodwind musicians leading pedagogy workshops, masterclasses, presentations, and more. A virtual chamber music concert series will feature daily live performances by faculty and guest chamber music ensembles from locations across the country. 

Crooked Tree Arts Centers in Traverse City and Petoskey, Glen Lake Artists Association, Oliver Art Center in Frankfort, Gaylord Center for the Arts and other organizations are also offering virtual (and sometimes in-person) instruction, concerts, shows and workshops. All live events are enforcing the appropriate safety protocols. For more information, visit the organizations’ individual websites.



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