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Faith Kaplan

Karla Berbrayer

The Real Story behind the Rady’s Music ‘N’ Mavens Series: An Exclusive Report by the WJR

by Faith Kaplan, reporting from her kitchen, Jan 17, 2011


What is the mysterious and persistent appeal for regular Berney Theatre-goers who enjoy it season in and season out? Why are the doors open at 1:15 for a 2:00 performance? Who exactly is whiling winter afternoons away at the Asper Campus. Enquiring minds want to know, so I pencilled in Tuesday and Thursday last week at 2 pm, Berny Theatre, in my calendar. I had every intention of attending one, or both, of the Music ‘N’ Mavens performances, but something work-related came up, and I was unable to get away from my desk. My first foray into hard-hitting investigative reporting uncovered the following in response to a list of probing questions to series producer Karla Berbrayer.

“Karla, how long has the series been running, and how did it begin?”

The series began fourteen years ago. It was the year after the Asper Campus had opened, and a number of people were commenting that they felt no need to frequent the Campus as they were not interested in becoming members of the gym. I asked the executive director of the Rady JCC at that time, whose name was Hal Bordy, if I could put together a daytime program of concerts and lectures, to draw people to the Centre for reasons other than exercise. Initially I formed a liaison with the University of Winnipeg to coproduce the series. At that time, I worked with Harry Strub, and the speakers were chosen from University of Winnipeg professors. As the series grew, I no longer restricted myself to University of Winnipeg professors.

“How do you select artists and speakers?”

Now I begin planning the season a year in advance, by clipping little anecdotes from the newspaper of topics that I think would be appropriate, or individuals who I find interesting. Often I will approach an individual with a topic and that individual might suggest another professor or person within the community who may be more skilled at presenting the topic. Regarding the musicians, I attend a lot of concerts throughout the course of the year, and keep notes on what I find interesting. Often musicians will send me their CDs, and request to be on the series. It is not hard to find musicians for this series. We have many talented musicians in Winnipeg. I try to select a wide variety of music, so that there will be something for everyone. I also try to give exposure to artists that may not be widely known.

“Are there particular musical or intellectual genres that are more popular?”

Regarding the different musical genres, I find that all types of music are popular, although not perhaps for all audiences. That is why the variety is there – to allow my audience to pick and choose.

“Why is this series successful?”

In regards to the success of the series, I think people are anxious to find stimulating activities during daytime hours. I specifically designed the series to be a daytime series, to allow the audience the freedom to return home before sunset, without the concern of driving after dark, or feeling tired. Those of us who are moms, appreciate the luxury of having a daytime activity that is completed prior to the kids returning home from school. There are many options for evening entertainment in Winnipeg; the selection of daytime concerts is limited. My mandate is to produce a series of a very high caliber that is accessible to all. Ticket prices are kept low and there is the luxury of free parking at the Rady JCC parking lot. Many of the musicians are grateful for the opportunity to perform in this wonderful space at the Rady JCC.

“How would you define your audience?”

My audience ranges from active seniors, to young mothers with small children, to university students who would like to hear the work of their professor. Basically, anyone who has the leisure time to come in the afternoon. There are many people who work shift work, who have recently retired, or just have an opening in their day, who come to take advantage of the events. Many of the attendees are non-members of the Rady JCC, so it is an opportunity for them to visit the Centre for the first time.

“Are there any particularly amusing anecdotes that come to mind?”

Anecdotes? I love running into patrons at Safeway, in the gym, or at other cultural events in the city, who share with me their favorite event of the season, or ask when I am starting up again.

“Do you produce this series on your own, or by committee?”

I select all the musicians and speakers.

“Is the timing of the series, during the bleakest winter months, deliberate?”

The timing of the series, during the winter months, is deliberate. For those of us who remain in Winnipeg throughout the winter, it is even more important to have cultural stimulation than in the warmer months when one can take advantage of the weather outside. A number of years ago, when the series was first launched, many people wondered at the wisdom of programming a daytime series in the middle of the winter and scoffed at the idea of drawing an audience at 2:00 in the afternoon on a minus 25c day. Happily, these fears were unfounded! We have had audiences on the coldest afternoons of the year – sometimes these are our best audiences. I often feel that perhaps people have more of a need to get out when the weather is so cold. There is also a coffee and cookies reception following each event which gives the opportunity to socialize, meet the artists – and to plan with friends the attendance at the next Music ‘N’ Mavens event!

“Is there anything else you’d like to mention?”

I love planning this series for the Rady JCC – and I am very fond of my audience.

 There you have it, readers. The inside story on Music ‘N’ Mavens. Check out this series for yourselves – Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2:00 pm, through March 8th. This is Faith Kaplan, reporting from her kitchen.

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