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Music for the masses 

by Kris Dinnison

Summertime, and the living is easy... unless you have a passel of bored kids roaming your house complaining that there is never anything to do. You've done the park, the pool, the rides, the library and the play dates. But don't fear -- help is on the way. This summer's KPBX kids' concerts are sure to slake your child's thirst for something a little different.

These concerts, which are now a staple of the Spokane arts landscape, were originally a way to combat reduced arts funding in the schools.

"We originally thought that kids are just being exposed to music on commercial radio and commercial TV," explains Kathy Sackett, special events director for KPBX. "At the same time, they were cutting back on music programs." The folks at public radio decided they should do something to help change the tide. "We wanted to make sure kids have an opportunity to listen to a wide variety of music. It's an outreach event, and educational," she says. "And in a broader sort of context, we're trying to cultivate a future audience for the arts."

Sackett believes that since the concerts started eight years ago, that tide has definitely shifted. "There's really been an explosion of kids being involved in music," Sackett says. She cites the Spokane Youth Orchestra, Spokane Area Children's Chorus, the Silver Spurs, and organizations like Music for Youth as examples. "There have been a lot of individuals and groups in the area, as well as the kids' concerts, that have really brought it forward," says Sackett.

One of the main goals of the program is to provide musical experiences from all over the spectrum. The concerts have featured jazz, bluegrass, folk, contemporary, Irish, rock and roll, classical, and everything in between. This summer's offerings are a testament to that commitment to variety.

The first concert, held this Friday at Riverfront Park, features Hawaiian music by the group Lokomaika'i.

"We've never done a Hawaiian concert before," says Sackett. "It's kind of a kickoff for summer. The music of Hawaii to me is evocative of summer and sun."

The group does both traditional and contemporary Hawaiian music using guitar, ukelele, electric bass and a traditional gourd instrument called an ipu. There will also be a vocalist, and rumor has it, someone will be dancing the hula.

Kids won't even have to wait a whole month for the next concert. Carlos Alden will host a live version of his highly entertaining radio show, the Nacho Celtic Hour, on July 13. "It's a variety show," says Sackett. Alden will play and sing himself, and his guests will include Valentino Jimenez singing kids' songs and show tunes, and local singer and songwriter Tianna Gregg singing contemporary music. West African drumming will round out the program as Tam Tam Mandinque performs.

"This is Michael Moonbear's student group," explains Sackett. "So there will be some kids performing as well as adults."

The final concert of the summer, Aug. 17, will be hosted by Inland Folk's Dan Maher, and will feature a performance by young performers in the Rainbow Fiddle Kids. Led by musical director Jaydean Ludiker, the Fiddle Kids range in age from 5 to 14. "There are 20-30 kids accompanied by some adults," says Sackett. "They're going to be doing folksy roots music."

One of the best things about the summer concerts is their setting in Riverfront Park. The grassy hillside, the stage and great art activities by Spokane Art School make these concerts a real summer event.

"It's a great place for concerts. There's plenty of room, and kids can run around," Sackett says. "Kids get restless, and that's the nice thing about the park environment, there's always something to do. Kids can be kids."

Lokomaika'i performs at the first KPBX kids' concert of the summer, at the Clock Tower Meadow in Riverfront Park on

Friday, June 22, at noon. The second kids' concert is Carlos Alden's Nacho Celtic Hour, again at the Clock Tower Meadow in Riverfront Park, on Friday, July 13, at noon. The final concert of the season, featuring Dan Maher, is

Friday, Aug. 17, same time and place.

All concerts are free. Call: 328-5729.

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