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‘Gypsy Jazz’ John Jorgenson at Concert Under the Stars Apr. 25

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Concert Under the Stars 2014_crowd

The annual springtime Concert Under The Stars takes place at the Gardens Saturday, April 25 at 7 p.m., featuring an unforgettable evening of Gypsy Jazz with The John Jorgenson Quintet. Violinist Ashley Liberty and pianist Daniel Strange will open the show.

“This year’s Concert Under The Stars takes guests back to the Parisian jazz haunts of the 1930s and 1940s,” says Brian Ososky, Director of Marketing and Public Relations. “The music has a swinging, upbeat sound that will really connect with concert-goers. John Jorgenson is one of the best in the business, and people are going to be blown away when they hear him on the guitar; it’s unbelievable.”

The group’s style has been called Gypsy Jazz after the dynamic string-driven swing created by Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli in 1930′s Paris, but Jorgenson’s compositions draw in elements from Latin, Romanian, Classical, Rock and Greek styles, so “21st-Century World Music” is perhaps a more apt description.

Known for his blistering guitar licks and mastery of a broad musical palette, Jorgenson has earned a reputation as a world-class musician and guitarist who has collaborated with the likes of Elton John, Luciano Pavarotti, Bonnie Raitt and Bob Dylan. In addition to acoustic and electric guitars, he is also regularly featured on the saxophone, clarinet, bouzouki, pedal steel, mandolin and vocals, and has garnered recognition for contributing to numerous platinum-selling and Grammy-winning albums.

According to The New York Times, “Jorgenson is perhaps the best jazz guitarist alive.”

“The music is going to be fantastic, but it’s also about the whole experience in the unique, outdoor setting of our Great Lawn,” Ososky said. “There’s nothing quite like relaxing with friends and family on picnic blankets and camp chairs on a sprawling green hillside and enjoying three hours of live music with the 205-foot Bok Tower as your backdrop.”

Gardens’ carillonneur Geert D’hollander will give a special pre-concert performance on the Singing Tower carillon. There will also be a picnic contest with prizes awarded for Best Americana picnic, Best Jazz picnic, and Best Overall.

Ticket prices for the 2015 edition of “Concert Under The Stars” are $20 in advance ($18 members), and $8 children ages 5 to 12.  Day-of-show tickets are slightly higher at $25 adults and $10 children. PURCHASE TICKETS HERE.


Registration Open for ‘Discovery Days’ Summer Camps

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Looking for a series of engaging, outdoor programs for your child to attend this summer?

Children ages 6-12 years will discover nature through various hands-on activities as they venture out into the Gardens. Each Discovery Days session celebrates a different aspect of nature through themed activities, projects, and garden explorations that keep young minds actively learning while investigating the mysteries and magic of nature! Each session includes lunch and a take-home project.

GiveWell-logoThirty-three (33) Discovery Days scholarships are available to children of qualified Polk County residents on a first-come, first-served basis. This program is funded through a grant from The GiveWell Community Foundation. Applications are being accepted now through June 1, 2015. Apply here.


Omar Sosa Concert & Reception April 9 – SOLD OUT!

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The Second Annual Jewel of the Ridge Jazz Festival has expanded in 2015 to include an exclusive concert and reception in the intimate setting of Pinewood Estate at Bok Tower Gardens.

Omar Sosa featured1On Thursday, April 9 at 7:30 p.m. Omar Sosa’s Quarteto AfroCubano bring their Afro-Cuban based mix of jazz and world music to the 1932 Mediterranean-style mansion, followed by an exclusive cocktail reception with the artists. This concert event is being presented in partnership with the Polk State College Lake Wales Arts Center.

From each culture he touches, Omar Sosa draws the energy and storytelling of hip-hop, the free-spirited experimentation of jazz, the heartfelt emotion of an Afro-Ecuadorian choir, and the sensuality of popular Cuban music. The result is a modern, urban music with a Latin jazz heart.

“It’s going to feel like you’re visiting a jazz club on the west coast or in New York,” says Osubi Craig, M.A., Polk State Lake Wales Arts Center director, who created and organized the event to coincide with Jazz Appreciation Month in April.

“You don’t really listen to an Omar Sosa concert so much as experience it,” says Craig, about the Cuban-born pianist whose demeanor exudes a sense of calm, while a spiritual connection to music comes through in his piano playing. “This is an intimate setting where only 50 people will have the rare treat of getting a ‘backstage pass’ to meet and talk with an artist of his caliber.”

Omar Sosa piano-2The seven-time Grammy-nominated pianist, composer and bandleader emigrated from Cuba in 1993. In 2003, he received a lifetime achievement award from the Smithsonian Associates for his contribution to the development of Latin jazz in the United States.

Sosa’s fresh and original urban sound fuses a wide range of jazz, world music, hip-hop and electronic elements with his native Afro-Cuban roots. Sosa is joined by fellow Camagüeyanos, Ernesto Simpson on drums, Leandro Saint-Hill on saxophone, flute and clarinet, and Mozambican electric bassist Childo Tomas.

Bring on the Blooms!

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Grab your cameras! Peak bloom season has officially arrived at Bok Tower Gardens, and it's one of the best times of year to visit!

During Peak Bloom, an annual rite of spring, visitors can observe more than 150 varieties of camellias and hundreds of azaleas along with nun’s orchids, irises, coral bean, Mexican flame vine, and other flowering plants as they create an explosion of color throughout the Gardens. Guests are encouraged to return throughout the bloom season to experience Mother Nature’s ever-changing palette of colors— and to take plenty of pictures.

“Our azaleas always steal the show, “says Greg Kramer, Gardens’ director of horticulture. “And the best time to visit is right now into the first few weeks of March while the bloom cycles for camellias and azaleas are overlapping.”

Violas, snapdragons, dianthus, delphiniums, holly hocks and other annuals also escort the arrival of spring with glorious displays of color. Trees in bloom include native plums and deciduous magnolias.

In Florida, seasons are gauged as being either rainy or dry, and flowering plants bloom in response to this water cycle. Additionally, chilly days with temperatures in the low ‘30s (without freezing) yield the most colorful, vibrant blooms. Winters with a hard freeze will cause azaleas to bloom all at once, while warmer winters yield blooms over a longer period of time.

Camellia at Bok Tower Gardens

Visitors can learn about the flora, fauna and history of the Gardens during hour-long guided garden walking tours through April 15, included with general admission. Tour hours are Monday through Saturday at noon and 2 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tours meet at the Visitor Center.

What began as nearly 50 acres of woodland gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. has grown to more than 600 acres of woodland gardens, nature trails, conservation lands and groves. The visual centerpiece of the Gardens is the 205-foot art deco and neo-Gothic Singing Tower, a pink marble and coquina stone architectural treasure that houses one of the world’s finest carillons. The 60 carillon bells ring every half hour and during daily concerts at 1 and 3 p.m.

Collins Carillon Fellowship Helps Mentor the Next Generation of Carillonneurs

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Two world-class carillon students have the unique opportunity to study under Gardens’ Carillonneur Geert D’hollander thanks to a new fellowship program made possible by a gift from Paul and Carol Collins.

This also means visitors will enjoy live carillon music seven days a week through early May 2015.

Julie ZhuFor six weeks throughout the 2014 Christmas season, Julie Zhu studied under Geert and shared holiday performance responsibilities. Julie attended Yale University where she studied art and mathematics, and learned to play the carillon. She loved the instrument so much that she studied at the Royal Carillon School in Mechelen, Belgium for a year. Upon her return to the U.S., Julie played the carillon regularly at Rockefeller Chapel in Chicago where she was also an economic consultant. She now lives in New York City, studying for an M.F.A. in Painting at Hunter College.

“The six weeks I spent at the Gardens as a carillon fellow inspired me to write new compositions, elevated my playing, and encouraged me to pursue carillon as an integral part of my life. My painting practice also flourished, resulting in two large paintings about music and imagination.”

JoeyBrink_0727In early January, Joey Brink arrived at the Gardens to begin his fellowship. Like Julie, Joey also began his carillon studies at Yale University, under the guidance of Ellen Dickinson. In 2011, he graduated with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and a thesis on the design of realistic-touch practice carillon keyboards.

After graduation, Joey traveled to the Royal Carillon School on a Belgian-American Educational Foundation (BAEF) fellowship to pursue intensive study in carillon performance, composition, and instrument design. He graduated with “greatest distinction” in June 2012, and just two years later won first prize in the seventh International Queen Fabiola Carillon Competition. Joey currently lives in Salt Lake City with his wife and fellow carillonneur, Vera.

Carillonneur Geert D’hollander talks about the tradition of music at Bok Tower Gardens:

“We have a long history when it comes to composition and carillon students. It started back in the early 1930s with Sam Barber, Gian-Carlo Menotti and Nino Rota. All three would eventually become world-class composers, and it’s incredible to think they wrote music for our instrument while studying at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Some of the most important American carillon composers of the 20th century were inspired by the beauty of this place and wrote music for it.”

The inaugural Collins Carillon Fellow supports the Gardens’ mission by promoting the art of carillon performance.

“Inviting top performers to Bok Tower Gardens for master classes and commissioning compositions will help keep us at the forefront of the carillon world. Julie and Joey both are fascinating artists with a lot of potential, and the future of this unique instrument relies on our support of their generation.”

Reflecting on her time at the Gardens, Julie Zhu was especially grateful for Geert’s mentorship, as well as her opportunity to interact with visitors:

“The carillon at Bok Tower is special in its tradition of the carillonneur greeting listeners after concerts, and I was honored to share the moving experience of playing the carillon each time. During Christmas especially, as audience numbers swelled, I felt my personal impact on visitors’ experiences. Geert D’hollander, as a dedicated and impassioned teacher, not only imparted wisdom bestowed only to those as experienced as he, but also taught by example, in playing technique, improvisation, and composition. I will certainly miss his precise instruction and walks between concerts amongst the camellias.”

Joey Brink is excited to once again be studying with his mentor and friend:

“A weekend of master classes with Geert last year helped me take first prize at the Queen Fabiola competition. With several months of lessons and studying ahead, I hope to reach even higher levels of performance. I do not yet know what the future holds for me, but I am certain my time here will be instrumental in shaping a lifelong career in the carillon. Nowhere else in the world would I be able to practice on such a remarkable instrument.”

New Partnership With University of Florida/IFAS Underway

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Center for Education and Conservation1

A new partnership is emerging between the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension and historic Bok Tower Gardens.

The partnership between the state’s preeminent land-grant university and this historic garden will provide onsite demonstration gardens, education programs and conservation research, as well as outreach programs to help people better see, appreciate, and connect with plants. A new school and community gardens program has already begun operations to teach food gardening to students and residents.

UF/IFAS Extension and Gardens officials celebrated this partnership and the beginning of construction on a new education building on January 9.

The new facility will enable UF/IFAS Extension to expand its presence at the Gardens and will house regional UF Extension agents, faculty and program staff, as well as Gardens education and conservation staff.

“This beautiful, serene place will become a hub for UF/IFAS Extension programming, allowing our agents and faculty, along with Bok staff, to teach new generations of people an understanding of where their food comes from and how it is grown, along with taking care of the plants and trees around them,” said Nick Place, UF dean and director for Extension. “Once the program is operational here, we plan to bring it to regional schools and communities and, eventually, the entire state.”

Through this long-term partnership, Bok and UF/IFAS Extension will promote school and community gardening, native-plant and wildlife gardening, and garden classes through existing IFAS programs such as Florida Friendly Landscaping.

“This partnership is an exciting chapter in our history to be able to affect positive change in the larger community,” said David Price, president of Bok Tower Gardens. “Edward Bok’s legacy has been to ‘make the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it.’ There is a need to connect people with plants on which our survival and quality of life depend. Food production and the environment are determined by the plants we grow.”

“We are in the midst of implementing a master plan that will create new garden experiences, and the opportunity to partner with UF/IFAS Extension enhances these spaces and the programming that we will be able to offer,” Price said.

UF/IFAS is a federal-state-county partnership dedicated to developing knowledge in agriculture, human and natural resources, and the life sciences, and enhancing and sustaining the quality of human life by making that information accessible. With agricultural Extension offices in all 67 Florida counties, UF/IFAS has developed an international reputation for its accomplishments in teaching, research and extension.

As part of the expansion, a new outdoor kitchen and edible garden will feature plants from harvest to table through culinary programs and chef demonstrations. Elsewhere in the Gardens, visitors will be able to explore a new wetland and the wildlife it will attract.

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