Around Town: A.C. Reynolds Symphonic Band will play at Carnegie Hall

MUSIC MAKERS: Members of the A.C. Reynolds High School Symphonic Band will travel to New York in April to perform at the Carnegie Hall. Photo courtesy of A.C. Reynolds

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

“Practice, practice, practice,” as the punchline to the old chestnut goes.

But the question is no laughing matter for A.C. Reynolds High School Symphonic Band members, who have been chosen to perform at the iconic New York venue at 8 p.m. Monday, April 3. The band is set to open a concert that also will include a joint performance by the Masterwork Festival Chorus and the New York City Chamber Orchestra.

“Performing at Carnegie is a significant life experience for these students, who will forever be able to say that they did something incredible when in high school,” says Clif Dodson, the school’s director of bands. “Personally, I have been teaching many of these students since sixth grade, and sharing this experience with them will be one of the most memorable experiences of my career.”

Most high school bands that are accepted to play at Carnegie Hall perform during daytime concerts, he explains. To get an opportunity to perform at 8 p.m., the Reynolds ensemble had to submit a recording and be selected by a panel of musicians. The panel unanimously chose Reynolds for the honor.

Dodson says 51 of the symphonic band’s 58 students will perform on April 3. An additional 29 members of the concert and marching bands will make the trip to New York, which will include visits to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty as well as going to see the Broadway musical Wicked.

Dodson is especially excited for the symphonic band’s seniors, who will be making the first trip of their high school careers. In the spring of 2020, when these students were freshmen, the group canceled a planned trip to California due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“These students work exceptionally hard to be excellent at their instruments and perform challenging music that is the same quality as many college ensembles perform,” Dodson says. “When COVID hit, all of that talent and hard work were sent home to sit in a bedroom. There were no concerts. There was no outlet. Having the opportunity to showcase this talent in a venue like Carnegie is going to be like releasing all of this pent-up emotion and energy trapped inside them.”

For more information, visit

Playing with dolls

The Orchard Inn is a nearly century-old bed-and-breakfast tucked away in the small town of Saluda. The Attic Salt Theatre Co., on the other hand, is a black-box performing space in the heart of Asheville’s River Arts District.

Quite a difference, but that’s exactly what Shakespeare & Friends theater company was looking for when it decided to venture away from its usual performance space in Tryon’s Rogers Park. Under the direction of co-founder Catherine Gillet, the troupe will present productions of Henrik Ibsen‘s A Doll’s House this month at the two venues.

“We decided to experiment with two immersive events that are stylistically polar opposites,” Gillet explains.

The Orchard Inn performances of the classic three-act play will run 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, March 21-23. “It feels as though you are a guest in Nora and Torvald Helmer’s living room,” Gillet says, referring to the play’s two main characters.

The Attic Salt shows will run 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, March 25-26, and will have no props or staging.

“The production relies solely on a monochromatic scheme for costumes and lighting to achieve a rather stark film-noir look,” she says. “The difference in the two events is color versus black-and-white and how those two very different backgrounds affect performance and perception.”

A Doll’s House is more than 140 years old, but Gillet believes it still resonates today.

“Its themes of autonomy and ways in which the external gaze and judgment of society, family and romantic engagement can stunt and atrophy authentic growth are perennial human issues we all face,” Gillet says. “We’ve modernized the setting a bit to the 1960s, but this play could easily take place in 2023.”

Tickets are $30 for shows at the Orchard Inn, 100 Orchard Inn Lane #9706, Saluda. Tickets are $20 for performances at the Attic Salt Theatre Co., 2002 Riverside Drive, Studio 42-o. For more information or to buy tickets, go to

Mad woman

When Bonnie Henderson Schell says she grew up “mad,” she means it in two ways.

“One, I had an innate sense of justice and fairness, but I never heard my pastors or teachers address its absence,” says the Atlanta native who now lives in Asheville. “And at 17, I was diagnosed with incipient schizophrenia and was put on medication for life. As a child, I was always stumbling, getting lost, hearing sounds that others did not notice.”

Schell’s new book, Growing Up Mad in the South: Stories, Poems, and Other Aberrations, recounts the author’s early struggles in the 1950s and ’60s with her righteous anger at an unjust society and her schizophrenia. “The questions put to me were ‘Why can’t you be like everybody else? Why don’t you sit quietly with your hands folded in your lap? Why do you have to cause trouble by asking so many questions?’”

Schell has published a play, along with poetry, short stories, monologues, essays, columns and more. But none of that caused her as much anxiety as the recent publication of the deeply personal Growing Up Mad in the South.

“Every day now, there is a book review or comment on Facebook, LinkedIn or Amazon that I approach with one eye closed to see if it is friendly,” she says. “When will someone say I shouldn’t have written about something or someone? When will someone who is laughing accuse me of making light of adult behavior and institutions?”

For more information, go to

Erin go Bragh

Story Parlor, a cooperative arts space in West Asheville, will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Gathering of the Bards 7-10 p.m. Friday, March 17.

The event will feature storytelling by local actor and singer Paula O’Brien, poetry and art by British-American painter and novelist Julyan Davis, a spoken-word performance by multidisciplinary artist Brianna Gardner, song and story by Asheville poet/songwriter Mica Sun and Celtic music from Robin Bullock and Sue Richards.

Story Parlor is at 227 Haywood Road. Tickets are available on a pay-what-you-can sliding scale. For more information, go to

Let freedom ring

The Register of Deeds for Buncombe County is hosting a temporary installation honoring the Freedom Riders, civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated South in the early 1960s.

Inspired by Black History Month and recent staff tours with Hood Huggers International, Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger and his staff researched the history of the Freedom Riders and learned about the impact of many Asheville natives in the civil rights movement.

The photo retrospective is in the hallway of 205 College St. in the Register of Deeds building. It can be viewed during business hours, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Friday.

What’s so funny?

The legendary Second City improv comedy troupe will present Swipes Right: An Incomplete Guide to the Ultimate Date Night at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 23, at Western Carolina University’s Bardo Arts Center.

The adults-only show will feature a cast of Second City comedians taking on love, dating, relationships and more.

Founded in Chicago in 1959, the Second City has launched the careers of stars like Bill Murray, Catherine O’Hara, Steve Carrell, Tina Fey and Jordan Peele.

The Bardo Arts Center is at 1 University Drive, Cullowhee. For more information, go to


Asheville native Alan Gordon recently opened an art space in the Marquee in the River Arts District.

Gordon ran a chain of retail stores and an advertising agency in Asheville for decades before moving to Blowing Rock in 1992 to become a real estate agent. About 16 years ago, he started creating watercolor, pen and ink, acrylic and gesso paintings. Now in his 70s, he is devoting himself full time to artistic pursuits.

“Since Asheville has such an incredible art scene, I have tried for years to exhibit my art here but never hit on the right venue before,” he says.

Marquee, 36 Foundy St., No. 21a, is open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Sundays. For more information, visit


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About Justin McGuire
Justin McGuire is a UNC Chapel Hill graduate with more than 30 years of experience as a writer and editor. His work has appeared in The Sporting News, the (Rock Hill, SC) Herald and various other publications. Follow me @jmcguireMLB

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