By: Allison Kurtz – Music Columnist
If you’re like me, you are always listening to and looking for new music. Here is a little known fact: There’s an opportunity on campus to hear new music in a live setting, all while expanding your worldview and maybe even learning something about yourself.
ArtsLIVE is a program that hosts various performances at the University of Dayton in an intimate and affordable way. ArtsLIVE, previously referred to as Art Series, has been around since 1961. ArtsLIVE arranges performances by mainly professional musicians from all over the world. Previously, they’ve had artists visit from India, Pakistan, China and Puerto Rico, just to name a few. According to Eileen Carr, director of ArtsLIVE, their goal is give students, as well as others in the Dayton community, an opportunity to experience something outside of their typical taste or comfort zone. Carr states that ArtsLIVE is “designed to enlarge world experience of musical styles and cultures.”
In order to accomplish this, Arts LIVE’s performers work in a small venue that creates a community designed for learning. On Thursday, Arts LIVE featured Francesca Blanchard, a young French-American singer/songwriter.
Blanchard was born in France but has lived in many places around theworld. She recently graduated from Boston University and released her first full-length album, “deux visions” in 2015. The album features six songs in French and six in English. She often refers to “la vie douce” or “the sweet life” which is how she describes both her childhood and the messages and moods of the songs she performs.
Carr first heard about Blanchard through an agency in Vermont that ArtsLIVE has worked with in the past. Although it is not unusual for ArtsLIVE to select an artist whose music has global connections, choosing Blanchard was particularly unique. An emerging singer/songwriter, Blanchard, according to Carr will most likely be their youngest performer. Blanchard’s songs provide a fresh take on accessible themes that everyone, especially college students, can relate to. While some songs are in French and others English, the underlying feeling and tone can be easily understood.
As she is bilingual, Blanchard explains that each of her songs on “deux visions” carry the unique views of the world held by each language. “All these ‘selves’ I carry, that make me the whole being that I am, the artist I’ve become . . . they are what I wanted to devote this album to. It is an ode to where I’ve been and where I’ll go; who I was and who I’ve become. The album is both a bittersweet eulogy and a heartfelt welcome,” Blanchard said.
Carr, who has organized many ArtsLIVE performances in different languages, says the message is understood throughout the audience because they can “sense from the tone and delivery” what the song is about. With an intimate setting like Sears Recital Hall in Jesse Phillips Humanities Center, the performer has the opportunity to connect with the audience on a more personal level through stories as well as song.
Live shows “provide students an opportunity to hear something they might not normally put on their playlists,” Carr said. In promotion for this show, ArtsLIVE is hosting a house show on ArtStreet. 107 Lawnview was chosen to host Francesca Blanchard and 20 of the house’s friends for an even more intimate experience. This helps get the word out there as well as give students a unique opportunity most universities don’t provide.
“It is so rewarding to be on the road for the purpose of sharing my songs. I’m discovering new landscapes, meeting new people, all for music,” Blanchard said. “I’m so lucky to have fallen on Dayton and met all the wonderful folks involved in Arts Live; this visit has only deepened my appreciation for traveling in music and all the encounters it entails!”
UD students can expect an up-close and personal performance in a very welcoming environment when they attend an ArtsLIVE concert. For Blanchard’s performance, there was a pre-concert chocolate reception. Yes you read that right, a chocolate reception. It is a chance to hear an artist at the very beginning of their career while taking a break from class. Who knows, maybe you’ll develop a new love for the French language, or if nothing else, will be able to say you look at the world differently after the performance.
The next ArtsLIVE performance will feature the Grammy-nominated Matt Wilson Quartet. The jazz experience will take place at 8 p.m. Feb. 17, in the Jesse Phillips Humanities Center.