Here’s to the Whitaker Foundation and its ‘music and lights’ (June 26)

June 24, 2008

Today we saw off my mom and grandmother at the airport after a one-month visit. Sounds like 30 days of stress? Yes, but it was touching to see 2-year-old S. bond with his 91-year-old great-grandmother during that time. She put up with him really well, considering his screams (both of joy and of anger) made her hearing aids go wild, and his most recent trick of turning off the lights while we’re eating meant that she couldn’t see her food even at noon. I only saw her cover her ears once, and she never complained. I hope I’m that kind of 91-year-old!

I also hope I’m the kind of great-grandma who wants to see what her descendants do all day, whether it’s playing in the blow-up pool or letting us maneuver her in a rented wheelchair down gravel park trails or sitting front-and-center at Circus Flora. We did it all and more, and she was a great sport throughout. She placed few conditions on what kind of entertainment she wanted, but she did make one specific request: She wanted to see M.’s “music and lights” because she’s heard so much about the free outdoor concerts he’s so enamored of. Our grand finale night, last night at the Ivory Perry Park concert, was just about perfect — it was shortened a few minutes by rain, but otherwise it exemplified everything “music and lights” should be.

That series is sponsored by the Whitaker Foundation, and in the night’s program there was a short bio of the founder that told of her philanthropic commitment to activities in neighborhood parks. Amen to that from our family! The very name Whitaker seems to attract a deep pool of musical talent, and the Whitaker Urban Evening Series, presented by Grace Hill, is no exception. Local blues singer Kim Massie and Jazz St. Louis head Gene Dobbs Bradford opened it last week; this week’s show is by the quintessential outdoor concert band, Ralph Butler and the Jazz St. Louis All-Stars. It’s on Thursday (June 26) from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at St. Louis Place Park, St. Louis and Rauschenbach avenues in North St. Louis. (There’s a map on the online .pdf flier.)

Filling out the remaining six concerts are some of my favorite local musicians, including Erin Bode, Willie Akins, Javier Mendoza and Jeanne Trevor. This is a great, great opportunity to see them without paying a cover charge — and to expose your kids to some sensational local musicians. Picnics are welcome, or you can buy food on site. For details, call 314.539.9500.

The Whitaker Foundation also sponsors free music at the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Saturday morning Tower Grove Farmers’ Market (be sure to check out the kid-centric music the first Saturday of each month!). The schedules for all of its events can be found on its homepage.

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