In March 2006, Joshua Roman stepped out of his chair as the youngest principal cellist in the history of Seattle Symphony with a solo recital at Town Hall that introduced him as a powerful new creative force in our city, and helped ignite his career as a featured soloist and curator. Thirteen years later, Joshua has gone on to perform with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, New World Symphony, Mariinsky Orchestra, as well as with Christian Zacharias, Yo-Yo Ma and many others—not to mention serving as Town Music’s Artistic Director.
It’s fitting that Roman’s virtuosic talent will mark the first performance back in the newly renovated Great Hall. To welcome us back to Town Hall and fully explore the Great Hall’s newly expanded acoustic capabilities, we’ve given the stage over to Joshua Roman for an evening of music under his full creative control. Tickets are on sale now.
Roman’s concert also marks the first show under the Great Hall’s custom-designed acoustic reflector. As part of our renovation we’ve hung a one-of-a-kind acoustic reflector above the Great Hall stage, tuned specifically to the contours of the room to evenly deliver sound from the stage to every seat in the house—with or without a microphone. After nearly two years outside of the building, we’re so excited to see (and hear) what this new reflector can do!
This evening promises to be unforgettable—a reconnection thirteen years in the making. To commemorate our return to the Great Hall, Roman has put together an incredible repertoire. Get your tickets now before they sell out.
Check out the videos below for a preview of some of the night’s lineup!
Acclaimed journalist Rachel Louise Snyder takes the Town Hall stage on May 21 to deliver a reckoning with the urgent and widespread problem of domestic violence with insight from her powerful new book No Visible Bruises (glowingly reviewed recently in the New York Times). She’s joined onstage by KUOW’s Sydney Brownstone, and together these two journalists reveal the scale of domestic violence in our country.
Katie Kurtz is a Seattle based freelance writer, currently working on a true crime memoir about three of her classmates whose murder remains unsolved 30 years later. She previews Snyder’s event here:
Why didn’t she leave?This question pointed toward victims illustrates why the culture surrounding domestic violence thrives: The onus is on the woman to escape, not on the abuser who makes her feel like she needs to run for her life.
With the National Domestic Violence Hotline reporting that nearly 1 in 3 women (35%) in the US have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime, everyone is touched by domestic violence. The numbers may never be fully known, though. Whether the victim is still in the relationship or has managed to leave, the fear instilled by the abuser effectively silences her forever.
In No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us, Rachel Louise Snyder unpacks the systemic reinforcement of domestic violence and the various inflection points where intervention is possible. The book opens with a case study of Michelle Monson of Montana and traces hers and her children’s eventual deaths at the hands of Michelle’s husband Rocky. Snyder’s investigation includes interviews with all surviving relatives, including Rocky’s who completed suicide immediately after killing his wife and their children. One among 1,200 possible cases (that’s how many women in the US are killed annually by a partner), Michelle Monson’s story shows how it isn’t one single factor that could have pointed toward a violent end to her life but a gradual accumulation of events.
Awareness is growing that abusiveness does not start out as physical and, as Snyder notes, 20% of these relationships don’t entail physical violence at all. Abusers use various tactics to maintain power over the victim through emotional, psychological, financial, and sexual control. These forms of coercive control can look a lot like the Hollywood version of a budding romance. Stopping by unannounced with a bouquet of flowers may look dreamy in the movies but it can also be an excuse for the suitor to confirm she is where she says she is. France and the UK have laws against coercive control; the United States does not.
Snyder’s book covers the persistent question about whether angry and controlling men can be rehabilitated. Men recognizing their own violent behavior is fundamental to dismantling the structures that support it. But the difficulty in how we get there can be illustrated by this conundrum: Joe Biden was the senator who introduced the Violence Against Women Act in Congress in 1990, shortly before his campaign to discredit Anita Hill. Now we know that gaslighting—named for the 1944 movie Gaslight starring Ingrid Bergman who was slowly being driven insane by her husband—is a form of psychological abuse.
Many of us were glued to Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony about the Supreme Court nominee who—despite our collective fervent invocations that maybe just this once the sexual predator doesn’t win—was approved. Her quote, “Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter,” speaks to the long-term effects trauma has on survivors. Indelible.
There will likely be a number of survivors in the audience for this event. We need our community there with us, too. If you or someone you know is experiencing intimate partner violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit The Hotline website.
Can arts change our communities like they change our lives? ArtsFund will share pivotal research from their first-ever Social Impact of the Arts Study in King County on May 17 at Town Hall’s newly renovated Forum. Town Hall asked Sarah Sidman, ArtsFund VP of Strategic Initiatives and Communications to interview KUOW’s Marcie Sillman about the study and the impact of the arts.
Sidman’s recent interview with Sillman is below:
It’s a pivotal moment for King County. We’re experiencing rapid economic and demographic growth while simultaneously grappling with pressing challenges around education, homelessness, healthcare and mental health, workforce development, and income inequality. On May 17th, Town Hall and ArtsFund are presenting “Arts & Action to Better Our Community”, a panel discussion and civic dialogue focused how arts advance positive and equitable outcomes in our community. I’ll be sharing findings from our new Social Impact of the Arts Study, followed by a panel and discussion examining how we can harness the impact of the arts to address these challenges and advance community priorities. The panel will feature Randy Engstrom, James Miles, Vivian Phillips, and Jay Vogelsang, and will be moderated by Marcie Sillman, Arts & Culture reporter at KUOW who has been covering the sector in King County for more than 30 years.
I recently sat down with Marcie to talk about the program, arts’ social impact and the potential for making positive change in our community, and the urgency around having conversations like this one.
SS: What’s your passion around the topic of arts’ social impact? Why are you involved in this program?
MS: I’m involved because I respect ArtsFund. My passion goes beyond the social impact of arts. I have a passion for the arts and cultural realm of society in general. If you want to narrow it down to talk about social impact, I truly believe that ‘art outlives politics’. I think this is a realm where what can happen is changing lives. I think the way that you really make change is to touch somebody in the most ineffable of ways. An artistic experience can do that. And, more than that, there’s a whole lot of scientific study that talks about neural pathway development and creative problem-solving. So, scientists are on the side of what I always knew.
SS: You’ve said before, and just alluded to it now, that the ArtsFund study reinforces what you’ve seen to be true…can you elaborate?
MS: Over many years, I’ve done a lot of stories that talk about community engagement, or as I was just saying, creative problem-solving. Most of them have an educational focus, but also community-building. Participation in something as simple as singing together can create new kinds of communities, where maybe they didn’t exist before. The results of your impact study confirm all these stories. I’m like, ‘well, of course!’.
SS: You’ve been covering arts and culture in our region for over 30 years. Over the course of that time, what do you think is unique about the Central Puget Sound arts and cultural landscape and how it has evolved?
MS: I think we don’t really understand the breadth and the quantity of what we have. We have everything! I think the cultural community is so varied. We’re rich in areas like contemporary dance, we’re a center for literature, we’re clearly a center for theatre, visual arts as well. This is a center where people come. I think what’s unique about our community in all areas, is a willingness to collaborate and work together. So, what I’ve seen is both a growth in what’s offered, but also a community that has a lot of mutually supportive elements. A third strand of change that touches on social impact, is that when I first started reporting on the cultural community here, it was on individual productions or individual artists. I still do that, but what I see now is less of a divide between professional performances or professional artists and community-based arts and arts that come from growing immigrant communities for example.
SS: The scope of partnership was one element that we uncovered in the study—4 out 5 arts nonprofits are working together with partners outside the sector, with schools, city departments, refugee and immigrant organizations, hospitals and clinics, senior centers, and so much more. How do these trends that you just mentioned plug in to this conversation?
MS: Based on close observation over a long time, what I’ve seen is more intentional partnerships from big organizations, like the Seattle Symphony working with Mary’s Place on the Lullaby Project. The Seattle Art Museum is a great example as well, of really being much more strategic in the kind of partnerships that it’s building with intention to make social change. I think there’s a growing awareness across the city in all sectors that they don’t just exist on an island; that they’re part of an ecosystem—and for an ecosystem to remain healthy all parts of it have to be healthy. Arts organizations are doing what they can to really be intentional about building that health.
SS: What are some ways you’ve seen the arts and cultural sector take on community challenges?
MS: That has started in the Office of Arts and Culture. I think under Randy Engstrom’s leadership the Office of Arts and Cultures’ main mission is to use culture in all of its forms to foster social and racial justice and equity in this city. To have that city department setting the tone sends a message all the way down the line. They’re modeling what they think organizations can do and I see that reflected in the kinds of offerings at major professional organizations.
SS: Where do you see ArtsFund plugging in?
MS: Clearly ArtsFund has played a major role in the health of the city. Before we can even have the social impact conversation, there have to be organizations to have that conversation. So, I think what you do has been pivotal in really shining a spotlight on why arts and culture really matter to our region. If you were not developing board members, if you were not providing funding, if you were not holding organizations up to a certain level of health, the conversations that ensued could not exist.
I think that this study is the next step. I think one of your roles is to try reach beyond the community itself, and try to fold in community members who, as you found in your survey, have attended arts events but who may not think that arts are critical in any aspect of their life. I think your role, if you have the means to do the kinds of studies you have done, is to have hard numbers. Data seems to speak to a large portion of our citizenry in ways that maybe stories of the heart don’t. I may be able to touch 10 people who don’t need the statistics, but the statistics in our data driven society really seem to make an impact.
SS: Why do you think it’s important we be having these conversations now?
MS: Ever since 2008 with the great recession, arts organizations have been really struggling to rebuild their funding. I think that they’re also trying to figure out how to expand their audience base and provide programming that speaks to an increasingly diverse population. In doing so, to make these cultural entities and cultural activities something that is indispensable in our society. I think we need to talk about the social impacts. I think we need to talk about economic impacts. I think we need to talk about community ties. I think we need to talk about what the arts say about who we are. We have increasingly diverse populations that are coming from places and bringing their own cultural traditions with them and they’re important, they’re touchstones. I think every conversation about why arts and culture are intrinsic to who we are as human beings is important. We can’t have enough of those conversations!
SS: You’re the professional interviewer—what should we have asked you? Anything else you wanted to say?
MS: I’m glad that this event is happening, I expect it will be a really fruitful conversation because there are some great minds who are going to be on the panel. Arts and cultural activities not only make us richer and well-rounded human beings, but as you’ve shown, they really do change lives.
Seattle is a city that demands we think outside the box, and few series exemplify this idea quite like Red May. For the month of May, speakers gather to interrogate contemporary issues through the lens of Marxism, political economy, feminism, race, and philosophy—and three of the festival’s marquee events are coming to paint Town Hall red.
On May 10, Bhaskar Sunkara and Nancy Fraser step up to bolster our faith in neoliberalism. They explore the building blocks of this ideal: the two central tenets of recognition (who deserves rights) and distribution (who deserves income). Sunkara and Fraser highlight the fraying of these ideals and break down the iconic words of political theorist Antonio Gramsci “the old is dying and the new cannot be born.” Together Sunkara and Fraser outline ways we can combat the rising outsider populist politics on the right and left which represent a larger crisis of hegemony for neoliberalism.
Just one week later, the Red May City Council convenes for a panel discussion of our city’s rapid expansion. They address concerns from those who see Seattle as their home—concerns that a new high-paid, high-tech workforce is annexing the city’s spaces with rents and restaurants that only they can afford. They stoke this critical conversation and address the political, philosophical, and existential questions that define our city’s new urban struggle.
Following this discussion of a workforce takeover of Seattle, Red May brings us Down With Work! on May 23, an inquiry into the heart of the capitalist infatuation with work. This panel takes us on a deep dive into the activity we least like doing, questioning the idea that it’s normal and necessary to commit massive amounts of personal time and emotional energy to our jobs. They conceptualize the idea of modern society without work, envisioning alternatives to a civilization—and a population—free of the constraints of a workforce.
Many of us wonder about alternatives to capitalism, or the high-speed growth of Seattle’s buzzword culture. Red May offers us a refreshing idea: maybe we can’t move beyond capitalism right away, but at least we can take a month-long vacation from it.
What do you do when you realize you have everything you think you’ve ever wanted but still feel completely empty? In the summer of 1999, Moby released the album Play, arguably the album that defined the millennium and propelled him to stardom. But then it all fell apart. He’ll discuss the second volume of his memoir, Then It Fell Apart, on May 10 at Seattle First Baptist Church. You can get your tickets now. Before he hits the stage, he sat down to chat with Town Hall’s marketing manager, Jonathan Shipley.
JS: I was curious as to how you navigated and navigate friendships, pre-fame and post. Post-fame you must be leery of anyone befriending you, asking yourself, ‘What do they want from me?’ Friendships you made before you were famous must have been hard to navigate as you became a star.
M: It’s not so much that I question people’s’ motives, it’s more that pre-fame friendships tend to be based around shared circumstances and frames of reference which makes friendships more effortless. It can be hard to navigate resentments and bitterness on the part of old friends.
JS: What celebrities that you’ve hung out with have been positive influences on your life? Which ones, not so much?
M: David Bowie, Lou Reed, and David Lynch have all been wonderful, positive friendships. I’ll avoid that second question—I don’t need more enemies.
JS: Now that you’re on the other side of fame, what skills do you wish you had developed before becoming famous?
M: I honestly have no regrets, nor do I wish I’d done anything differently. I’m grateful for the weird life and perspective I have. Life and perspective are, by definition, the product of the circumstances that led to them.
JS: What did you wish you did differently after Play blew up?
M: Nothing. I love the mistakes I’ve made, as they’ve taught me more than any of the things I ended up doing reasonably well.
JS: Having ‘fallen apart,’ what are you most proud of about yourself after the fact?
M: That I can still, at times, string sentences together.
JS: Are there ways that being a music celebrity better than being, say, an actor?
M: In a way it’s better that I have a lot of creative autonomy. A musician’s work can generally be more bespoke, personal, and sui generis.
JS: You mention being sad and lonely before Play. Post Play, did that amplify it or diminish it? In what ways?
M: Curing loneliness post-Play became compulsive, at least until I got sober.
JS: What sort of emotional connections to audiences are you hoping to make with your music?
M: Ideally, a connection based in honesty, shared experience of the human condition, and service. That might sound cliché, but it’s true.
In episode #31 of In The Moment, Chief Correspondent Steve Scher talks with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hedrick Smith (3:45) about the incredible groundswell of community movements that took place around the time of the 2018 election. Smith comments on the remarkable strides made in just one year, with states adopting gerrymandering reform to combat election rigging, restoring voting rights for felons, and securing public funding for campaigns. Smith shares the hope he felt from these election results and real moments of democratic change—and the broader movements they inspired.
Then, correspondent Reagan Jackson talks with renowned Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (17:36) about his proudest memory. Thiong’o responds with a story of his mother, who put him through school and instilled in him the value of always doing his best, even though she couldn’t read or write. Thiong’o also discusses the time he spent in exile and the reason he was incarcerated by the Kenyan regime for over a year after the release of his landmark play Ngaahika Ndeenda. Thiong’o and Jackson talk about the current political climate, Thiong’o’s hopes for the future of his own legacy, and the importance of authors writing in their native tongue to preserve the philosophy and culture each language contributes to the world.
And host Jini Palmer shares recordings from the Town Hall community, who provided questions for therapy columnist Lori Gottlieb (25:22) in preparation for her arrival on Town Hall’s stage on April 10, 2019. Jini presents Gottlieb’s insightful responses to each of these intriguing and personal questions.
-Hedrick Smith appears in numerous video discussions of democracy, including this video exploration of the material in his book Who Stole The American Dream?
The capital campaign to renovate our historic building has been a monumental effort for our community, board, and staff over the last two years. We’ve hit several major milestones over the last few months, and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel (and renovation project!). Most recently we had great success with our Take the Stage crowdfunding campaign where nearly 450 of you gave almost $245,000 and helped unlock a $200,000 challenge match from an anonymous donor.
This groundswell of community investment has inspired another donor to help propel us towards the finish line of this campaign. Longtime donor and friend of Town Hall Chuck Nordhoff has stepped forward with additional matching dollars for donors who want to add their names to the Great Hall stage. He will match $50,000 for named plaque gifts made from now until April 15!
Because of this incredible generosity, we’re extending the opportunity to have your name inscribed on the Great Hall stage. So if you missed your chance to Take the Stage, you can still support the renovation, inscribe a plaque, and become a permanent part of a Seattle landmark! Visit lovethistown.org to learn more.
Town Hall Seattle has a collective voice; this community of speakers and artists and audiences belongs to all of us. It has always been true, and never more so than right now, as so many of you have stepped up to secure the future of the building and the organization. Thank you for being a part of Town Hall–and thank you for your support as we finish our long journey home!
Wier Harman Executive Director
PS – With your help, we’ve already come so far and have just $2.5 million left to raise to complete our historic renovation. Visit lovethistown.org to inscribe your plaque today!
In this music-oriented bonus episode of In The Moment, host Jini Palmer sits down with with Joshua Roman, curator of our Town Music series, for a conversation on all things chamber music. They explore the theatrical aspects of live performance, and Joshua gives us a window into the mind of a curator, offering us snapshots of his process for choosing musicians and arranging lineups each season.
After that, Jini and Joshua discuss stand-out elements of each of the concerts in our 2018-19 Town Music season. For the first performance, Sideshow by Talea Ensemble (15:50), Roman highlights the theatrical spin that the piece brings to chamber music—utilizing props, facial expressions and tightly controlled body movements to evoke the dark surreal nature of 20th-century Coney Island freak shows. Then he takes a look at Third Coast Percussion (18:20), the Grammy-winning Chicago quartet who will be presenting an avant garde percussion quartet commissioned by Philip Glass—his first-ever for percussion! Jini and Joshua also touch on Piano Ki Avaaz (22:00), the piano trio commissioned by rising star composer Reena Esmail. The piece is her first-ever piano trio composition, and it utilizes her signature techniques of incorporating Indian classical music into western classical style. And finally, Jini and Joshua explore Bach to Bates (25:12)—a concert juxtaposing classical works by Bach alongside cutting-edge commissions from Grammy-nominated composer Mason Bates, who employs a unique integration of electronic sounds and styles into his symphonic compositions.
Get inside the mind of a curator in this special episode, and learn about all the ways you can experience the cutting edge of chamber music and enjoy classical repertoire in new ways.
“There is no question in the mind of any intelligent person,” noted the August 12, 1916 edition of the Town Crier, “that intemperance is probably the worst curse that humanity labors under.”
Temperance. The social movement stands against the consumption of alcoholic beverages, emphasizing the negative effects of booze on health, personality, and family life. The movement led to Prohibition in the United States from 1920 to 1933. Washington State actually started their own Prohibition on January 1, 1916—making the production, distribution, and possession of liquor illegal. Prohibition was repealed in 1933, but during that entire time Seattle didn’t really stop producing, distributing, or possessing liquor. No, not at all. At one point, Seattle had about 4,000 illegal speakeasies in its city limits.
“Certainly the present boot-legging atmosphere is unendurable and destructive to the moral fibre of our manhood – an intolerable condition in which to bring up our youth,” the Crier stressed. But, then again, it noted, “In every other respect there is practically nothing the matter with Seattle and it is the finest and best city in the world.”
Indeed—Seattle is arguably the finest and best city in the world these days for beer. In fact, the whole state is great. Want to learn more? The Washington Beer Commission is a good place to start.
Better yet – want to drink and support Town Hall at the same time? You can! There are a series of “Drink Up for Town Hall” events in the coming weeks! Don’t miss this chance to stay warm, have a drink, and discuss your favorite Town Hall events with old friends and new. Join us at:
Optimism Brewing Company on January 31. Town Hall will get $1 for every draft you buy! Capitol Cider on February 6. Town Hall will get $1 for every draft you buy! Vito’s on February 13. Town Hall will get 10% of all drink sales that night! Lagunitas Brewing Company on February 19. Town Hall will get all beer sale proceeds! Cheers, friends!
Nearly $30 million dollars in renovations later, Town Hall’s building is in its homestretch of reopening, even with some unforeseen delays. It’ll be as bright, shiny, and beautiful as it was when it first opened, but now with all the 21st century amenities. (We’re in the final push of the campaign to fund our historic renovation. Help us raise $200,000 in new gifts before March 1 and an anonymous donor will match your gifts, dollar-for-dollar! Learn more, here.)
The building was originally built as Seattle’s Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist. Construction began in 1916. It was designed by Portland architect George Foote Dunham (1876-1949). Built in the Roman Revival style, he wanted it to resemble, in updated terms, Rome’s Pantheon. The church owned the building from 1916 until 1998, when the congregation sold it to Town Hall LLC.
The Christian Science Movement was founded in Boston in 1879 by Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) who taught spiritual and physical healing through devotion to Christian principles. The First Church of Christ, Scientist, was built in Boston, Massachusetts and opened in 1894. Christian Science became the fastest growing religion in the United States, reaching nearly 270,000 members at its peak in 1936. The Manual of the Mother Church prohibits the church from publishing membership figures. However, it does provide names of Christian Science practitioners (members trained to offer Christian Science prayer on behalf of others). In 1941 there were 11,200 practitioners in the United States. In 2015, there were 965.
Seattle’s fourth Christian Science group formed in Seattle in 1909 with 41 members, meeting in rented spaces at Seattle’s Arcade Hall and the Hippodrome Theatre before Dunham began design and construction. Their new building was erected in two phases, first from 1916 through 1917 and later between 1922 and 1923. The main auditorium, named “Great Hall,” had curved pews that could seat 825 people. We will still have those pews in our newly renovated building. During its service as a church, the Great Hall housed weekly readings of the Bible and Eddy’s Science and Health With Keys to the Scriptures, as well as musical performances. The church installed a theatre organ in 1923. Because acoustics were important to churchgoers, Dunham carefully calibrated the sound projection within the Great Hall. Its shallow dome and thick walls provided good sound. (Town Hall’s new acoustic reflector will offer great sound, by the way. Also, we’ve permanently installed a Hearing Loop system in all our performance spaces.) There are no religious symbols adorning the church, nor most any Christian Science church.
Dunham himself was born September 17, 1876 in Burlington, Iowa. He attended the Armour Institute of Technology in Chicago, graduating in 1900, and was soon employed as a draftsman with the late Solon Spencer Beman, who designed Milwaukee’s first skyscraper, the Pabst Building. Dunham worked at Beman’s architectural firm from 1900-1906 until moving to Portland, Oregon where he stayed for 23 years, starting his own firm in 1910. He joined the Portland Architectural Club in 1913 and was treasurer of the American Institute of Architects, Oregon Chapter in 1925.
Sidebar: here’s a fun story about Dunham’s wife driving across the country from Portland to Orlando in a car she called “Old Faithful.”
Do you want to help build upon this history? Give a new gift of $500 or more to have your name inscribed on a custom-crafted plaque on the Great Hall stage—a reminder every time we come together that Town Hall truly belongs to all of us. Learn more, here.