Arts Previews: Saxophonist Ron Blake plays HCC; Mead Art Museum hires new curator; ‘Coming to America’ reading program at Forbes Library

  • Lisa Crossman joins the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College as the museum’s first curator of American art and arts of the Americas. Submitted photo

  • Saxophonist Ron Blake, know in part for his role in the “Saturday Night Live” band, is the guest musician at this year’s jazz festival at Holyoke Community College March 13-14. Submitted photo

Published: 3/12/2020 8:36:14 AM
Modified: 3/12/2020 8:36:02 AM
HCC connects with SNL

Saxophonist Ron Blake, a 15-year veteran of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live Band,” will be the guest artist at the 23rd annual Holyoke Community College Jazz Festival, which takes place Friday and Saturday, March 13-14, at the college’s Leslie Phillips Theater.

The festival opens with an 8 p.m. concert on Friday that will feature Blake playing with the Amherst Jazz Orchestra under the direction of David Sporny. The music continues Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with big band and jazz combo performances by high school and HCC jazz students. Ron Blake will also perform with a select group of students.

In addition, Jazz clinics, workshops and jam sessions will take place Saturday in the HCC Recital Hall (FPA building, Room 137). Blake will lead two of the clinics, at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Blake, a native of the Virgin Islands, teaches at the Juilliard School of Music in New York. Aside from his work with “Saturday Night Live,” he has performed and recorded with numerous artists and bands, including the Grammy-nominated, Latin pop group Yerba Buena. He also leads his own band and has released three albums.

Tickets for Friday’s concert are $15 (general public), $10 (senior and non-HCC students) and $7 for members of the HCC community with a valid ID. Saturday’s music is free and open to the public. Workshop participants will be charged a nominal registration fee. Contact Robert Ferrier at (413) 552-2480 or for additional information.

“Coming to America”reading program in Northampton

Beginning Thursday, March 12, Forbes Library in Northampton will host a special reading and discussion program, sponsored by the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, that’s designed to get teens and adults to consider the experience of immigrants encountering America.

“Coming to America” will be hosted by 18 libraries, including Forbes, around the country and will be built around (translated) Yiddish literature from the early 20th century as well as works by contemporary immigrant writers. The goal is to explore questions of identity, assimilation, language, and generational change, among other topics.

Readers at Forbes will discuss three Yiddish works: “Motl the Cantor’s Son” by Sholem Aleichem; “Enemies, A Love Story” by Isaac Bashevis Singer;and A Jewish Refugee in New York” by Kadya Molodovsky. Also discussed will be “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” by Ocean Vuong, an immigrant from Vietnam who now lives in Northampton and teaches writing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Copies of all four books are available at the library’s reference area. Discussion will take place twice monthly through June. The first two sessions, which will be on “Motl the Cantor’s Son,” take place March 12 at 1:30 p.m. and March 18 at 6:30 p.m. in the community room. More information can be found at

Mead Museum of Art
appoints new curator

Lisa Crossman has been named the inaugural curator of American art and arts of the Americas at the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, a position that is also designed to generate new opportunities to connect the museum to the college’s curriculum.

Crossman, the curator of the Fitchburg Art Museum (FAM), received her M.A. and Ph.D. in art history and Latin American studies at Tulane University, where she researched contemporary Argentine artists’ responses to environmental crises, according to press notes.

Mead officials say the new position will help the museum create exhibits that rely on the Mead’s “traditional strengths in American art” and which will also “interrogate and reshape the art historical canon to include the arts, past and present, of Latin America.”

In a statement, Mead Director and Chief Curator David Little said “Lisa is a scholar and curator with unique leadership skills and an impressive track record of working across disciplines and in collaboration with artists, scholars, and colleagues on exhibitions and publications…. We are so excited that Lisa is joining our team.”

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