Local Artist Commission Series: Kev Choice Ensemble

We couldn’t me more happy to introduce the fourth and final artist featured in the 80th Season’s Local Artist Commission Series: Oakland-based pianist, rapper, emcee, and music historian Kev Choice. Together with a handful of talented musicians, the Kev Choice Ensemble will perform a never-before-heard song at their Stern Grove Festival performance this Sunday, August 27, when they open for the legendary Mavis Staples.

Pulling inspiration from the strength it takes to push forward during tough times, Kev Choice’s brand new song, “Strong As Us”, reminds us that there is more to come from love than from hate, and that those who band together during tough times are sure to prevail. Read on to learn more about Kev Choice as a musician, the Kev Choice Ensemble sound, and what to look forward to when you come to the closing concert of Stern Grove Festival’s 80th Season this Sunday.

SGF: Tell us a bit about yourself as a musician/performer. Where/when did you first begin practicing music, and where did your passion take you from there?

Kev Choice: I was exposed to great music just from listening to my mom’s records at an early age. I first started taking formal piano lessons at age 11 in 7th grade at Westlake Junior High School in Oakland. I was deeply dedicated to getting better and it led me to the Young Musicians Program at U.C. Berkeley. I was also writing poems and formulating my first raps at that time. My keyboard skills helped me be able to produce and write my first songs. From there I continued to perform in Jazz Band and Orchestra at Skyline High in Oakland while also doing hip-hop shows around town. After high school, my piano training helped me gain a scholarship to Xavier University in New Orleans, Louisiana. I obtained my Bachelor’s Degree from there and then went on to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale to obtain my Master’s degree in Piano Performance. After college, I came home and established myself on the local scene and then began to tour with artists such as Michael Franti and Spearhead, Goapele, The Coup, Lyrics Born, Zion I, Too Short, Lauryn Hill, and more.

SGF: What is the Kev Choice Ensemble? How did you form the group?

Kev Choice Ensemble is the band I formed back in 2007 as a vehicle to perform my original music that I produce, write, and arrange. I had just finished touring with Lauryn Hill, and had the confidence and inspiration to really go full steam pushing my own music and own style combining elements of hip-hop, jazz, soul, R&B, classical, funk, and other contemporary styles of music. I wanted to showcase some of the dope young musicians on the East Bay scene as well. I was playing a lot at that time, but other people’s music or in cover bands, and I didn’t want to do that the rest of my life. I wanted to get my music heard and spread my message because I felt it was as dope and valid as anyone else’s.

SGF: Who is in the Ensemble?

Currently my Ensemble consists of:
Kev Choice – Keys, synths, lead vocals
John “Omayga” Adams – Drums
Kenshay Gooden – Bass
Andrew Levin – Guitar
Daniel Riera – EWI, Flute, Sax
Viveca Hawkins – Vocals

SGF: What sort of music should the audience expect this Sunday?

We play a mixture of conscious Hip-Hop, Soul, Jazz, R&B, Funk, and other contemporary styles of music like Electronic and Trap.

SGF: Have you ever attended Stern Grove Festival to see a concert? If yes, what stood out to you about the experience?

I have and what stood out to me is just the amount of people in attendance and how people really have a great energy and come to enjoy the environment and the music. It’s a great atmosphere to perform in because people really appreciate the music and being surrounded by nature adds a beautiful dynamic.

SGF: What do you—as a performer—look forward to during your Festival performance?

I look forward to really giving a ton of energy to the crowd and really connecting with them, especially those who haven’t seen me perform. I want it to be fun, to showcase my band’s amazing musicianship and inspire and express with the message I try to convey in the music. I also look forward to exposing the new fans to my repertoire from my five albums that I’ve released and the new piece I’ve been working on. I also look forward to looking out and seeing all those beautiful people in the audience.

SGF:  In what ways has living in the Bay Area shaped or influenced your music or musicianship?

Living in the Bay Area, especially Oakland, has influenced me in many ways as an artist and musician. With so many legendary artists from here and so many great artists here now, it really makes me push hard to create music at a high level to live up to that legacy and continue to push the boundaries of our scene. There is also a certain feel, that is associated with the Bay that is recognized around the world, influenced by funk, soul, hip-hop, gospel, rock and more. There is also the legacy of artists using their music to express their opinions or take on issues of social justice that we see in our environment. I definitely want my music to be the voice of the people in my community that I represent and love so dearly.

SGF: Tell us about your new piece, part of the Festival’s local artist commission series. What is the song title, and is there any story behind the piece, or anything special you’d like to share?

The new song is titled, “Strong As Us”. It’s just about me pushing forward through adversity and staying positive about everything I go through and equating it to what I see happening in our country right now. It’s pretty disheartening with the recent events in Charlottesville. I felt like there is a lot of negative energy surrounding this coming from the media and the government and hate groups. As an artist, I always want to use my music as a voice of a positive perspective and inspiration. Sometimes I feel like going out and being confrontational but I realize that that can lead to a dangerous and non-productive situation. I wanted to remind people that we are stronger united and together and spreading love is much more powerful than hate.

SGF: Tell us a bit about your creative processes. Where do you tend to pull inspiration from when starting a new piece? Do you have a general process you follow, or does the piece come together more randomly?

Musically, I love to listen to vinyl and old records. I’ve collected all genres of records since junior high school. I especially love music from the 70’s so I turn on records a lot to get inspiration. I also use many current forms of looking up music like Soundcloud, YouTube, and streaming sites. Lyrically, just what I go through in life and what I see happening in my community inspires me.

Sometimes I start by playing around on the piano or keyboard, trying to find a motif or progression. I use programs on my computer so I often search through sounds and drums and see if anything touches me. I could also be inspired by a sample that I find on a record.

SGF: Do you have any advice for younger musicians in the Bay Area who are looking to move forward with their careers?

My advice would be always work on your craft, always be a student and continue to learn. Stay up on all forms of current promotion, marketing, production, and watch the greats as well. Also, never get deterred, every artist has a different path to success and the best thing to do is stay persistent and patient.

SGF:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with your current or soon-to-be fans?

I’m heavily involved in arts education, teaching at Oakland School For The Arts in Oakland and I’m working on a piece for the Oakland Symphony to premiere in March 2018.

Sponsor Spotlight: Wells Fargo

This Monday, we were proud to stand alongside Wells Fargo, our longtime sponsor, as they celebrated the opening of their latest branch at 1183 Ocean Avenue in San Francisco, the fourth branch to open in San Francisco this year. At the opening ceremony, Wells Fargo presented a $50,000 grant to Stern Grove Festival as part of their long-running commitment to sustain the performing arts in the Bay Area. The grant funds the Festival’s 80th Season education and outreach programs.

Ocean Avenue Wells Fargo Ribbon Cutting on Monday, August 7, 2017

“Stern Grove Festival and Wells Fargo have enjoyed an incredible relationship which has spanned decades,” said Bob Fiedler, executive director of the Stern Grove Festival Association. “During this time, Wells Fargo has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the Festival’s free concerts and arts education programs. These programs would not be possible without Wells Fargo’s ongoing investment in the community.”

As part of their Community Mural program, Wells Fargo also unveiled a new mural located inside the branch, depicting the history of the Ingleside neighborhood.

Wells Fargo presents a grant to Stern Grove Festival’s Executive Director Bob Fiedler (middle) and Director of Development Jessica Zeidman (middle-right) on Monday, August 7, 2017.

According a press release from Wells Fargo, “Through our Community Mural program, some branches feature murals that respect the history of local communities. Since the company is committed to strengthening local communities, we are glad to present a donation to a local community organization.”

And we are glad to partner with a company that cares about local arts institutions and their patrons. Thank you to Wells Fargo for its support of Stern Grove Festival’s mission as we celebrate our eighth decade!

 

Healthy Summer Habits: Food Demo this Sunday with Kaiser Permanente

This Sunday we’re partnering with Kaiser Permanente to promote a healthy body and a healthy mind. When you come to the Festival on Sunday, you’ll be treating your mind to the worldly, upbeat music of Amadou & Mariam and enjoying the natural beauty at Stern Grove.

So when you’re there treating your mind right, stop by the Esplanade to treat your body right with the help of Kaiser Permanente and Nutrition Health Coach Heather D’Eliso Gordon, RD, CSSD. Heather will lead a food preparation demonstration from noon to 1 p.m. in the Esplanade, featuring two summer dishes that are easy, fast, delicious, and sure to impress. Check out the recipes below and stop by on Sunday!


Summer Black Bean Salad
Time: 15 minutes
Makes ~8, ½ cup servings

Ingredients:
Dressing
1 clove of garlic, minced, then mashed with some course sea salt
Juice of 2 limes
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ avocado, mashed

Salad:
2 ears fresh corn kernels ( cut them off in a bowl so they don’t scatter all over your kitchen)
1 orange bell pepper, diced (could be red or purple)
½ small red onion, chopped finely
1, 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed or 1½ cups beans cooked, from dry
½ pint cherry tomatoes, halved
¾ ripe avocado, diced (the remaining avocado used for dressing)
¼ cup cilantro, chopped finely
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Lettuce leaves to cover six salad plates

Technique:
In a jar with a tight fitting lid, add the lime juice and avocado to the mashed garlic. Add chili powder and cumin. Mix all the other ingredients, with the exception of the lettuce and toss with the avocado vinaigrette. Season to taste. Scoop onto a bed of lettuce leaves for each plate.

Nutrition Notes:
This salad is rich in antioxidants, fiber, protein, essential fatty acids and calcium.

Recipe adapted from Food for Health Blog, Dr. Preston Maring July 24 2013. Image courtesy of Leigh Angel (httpsgfe.st2vmKqX2). https://foodforhealth.kaiserpermanente.org/recipes/black-bean-salad/


Peach Salsa
Time: 15 minutes
Makes ~8, ¼ cup servings

Ingredients:
3 large peaches, pit removed, diced
1 red onion, finely diced
1 lime, juiced
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
Sea salt, to taste

Technique:
In a medium bowl, add all ingredients except cilantro and salt; mix to combine.
Add sea salt to taste, mix gently, then add cilantro and mix again. Enjoy as a snack with baked corn tortilla chips or as part of a main meal in a grain bowl or on top baked tofu, chicken, fish or shrimp.

Nutrition Notes:
This refreshing salsa is rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, fiber and even calcium.

Recipe from: Dr. Rajiv Misquitta and Dr. Cathi Misquitta.Healthy Heart, Healthy Planet: Delicious Plant-Based Recipes and Tips to Reduce Heart Disease, Lose Weight, and Preserve the Environment Paperback – November 11, 2014. Image courtesy of Becky Striepe (http://sgfe.st/2waY6C2).


About the Author:
Heather D’Eliso Gordon, RD, CSSD

Heather has been a resident of San Francisco since 1994 where she completed her studies to become a Registered Dietitian in 2003. For the past 10 years, she practices as the Nutrition Health Coach for Kaiser Permanente’s Health Education Department in San Francisco. Heather coaches clients and patients on eating for health, weight management, chronic disease reversal and sports performance using a Food as Medicine approach. She also develops and facilitates engaging nutrition programs and cooking demonstrations for corporate wellness client. Her passion for healthy, whole, plant-based foods gives her an edge when coaching clients on eating optimally for overall health and easing chronic disease.

Prepared by Heather D’Eliso Gordon, RD, CSSD
Nutrition Health Coach, Sports Dietitian
Health Education Department, Kaiser Permanente San Francisco
415 833-7800

Sponsor Highlight: Bouchaine Vineyards’ Chefs Series

Just to the south of the famed Napa and Sonoma wine regions lies the Carneros American Viticultural Area, whose proximity to the San Francisco Bay breeze produces stunning cooler-climate varietals like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The region is home to dozens of highly praised wineries, but our favorite is none other than the Festival’s wine sponsor, Bouchaine Vineyards.

Bouchaine is a privately-owned boutique winery, which means they have the ability to experiment both in the vineyard and the winery. This also means that they truly care about their customers, and want to provide them with an exciting experience every time they come to visit.

This year, Bouchaine has been stepping up their offerings on-site with wine and food pairings in partnership with a variety of Bravo’s Top Chef stars at their monthly Chefs Series. Most recently, they brought in Angelina Bastidas (season 13) of Bin 36 in Chicago to bring together Bouchaine’s wines and her incredible culinary pairings to highlight the love affair between food and wine.

If you’re interested in learning more about this series, visit the Bouchaine website or call the winery directly at 707-252-9065 for more details.

Local Food Trucks at Stern Grove Festival’s 80th Season

A big part of Stern Grove Festival’s mission is to provide a space for local artists to showcase their talents. In a city with cuisine this diverse and impressive, San Francisco knows that art isn’t limited to the stage—it can often be found on our plates.

Back by popular demand, the Festival is partnering up with local food trucks throughout the season to bring you great local cuisine. Each concert Sunday from July 2 to August 27, visit the West Meadow to peruse the offerings from some of the Bay Area’s favorite trucks. We’ll also have classic Festival favorites from our longtime local partner, Tante’s, in the Esplanade (knishes and garlic fries, anyone?). Read on below to learn a bit about the food trucks, and check out some of our favorite items!


El Sur

July 2, July 30, and Aug 27
Handmade, locally sourced empanadas by Marianne Despres, a classically trained chef with roots in Argentina and France. When you're there (obviously ordering the empanadas, see below) be sure to admire the craftsmanship of their truck, a fully restored vintage 1970 Citroen H-Van that is the first of its kind in the SF Bay Area.

Our pick? As nothing pairs quite as well as music festivals and handheld food, we're obviously fans of the empanadas. Particularly, the Traditional: hand-cut Five Dot Ranch Beef, Onion, Oregano, Pimentón, Olive, Egg.



Empanadas in Menlo Park tonight! Find us @thewillowsmarket from 5-8 pm! #elsursf #empanadasargentinas


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The van looking good at Fort Mason A post shared by El Sur (@elsursf) on



Frozen Kuhsterd
July 2, Aug 6, Aug 20
West Coast Style frozen custard is Frozen Kuhsterd's "scoop-able experiment in indulgence." They partner with the best artisan purveyors to create magical desserts by taking frozen custard and adding fun, joy, and mischief.

With flavors like white coffee, spiced caramel apple, maple butter, and dozens more, it's honestly hard to go wrong. Frozen Kuhsterd also switches up their specialty offerings pretty often. Specifically, this Cornbread Sundae with a cornbread muffin and topped with whipped maple Butter and burnt caramel caught out eye:


Sajj Mediterranean
July 23, Aug 13
Mobile Mediterranean food brought to you! Nothing will warm you up on a cool Stern Grove morning quite like a shawarma wrap or falafel bowl (see below).

National Falalel Day is Monday, June 12th! Come celebrate with us and receive a free Falalel order with any meal purchase.

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Curry Up Now
July 9, Aug 20
Curry Up Now is taking traditional Indian cuisine and flipping the script by presenting the flavors in more approachable ways. Think deconstructed samosas, Indian-inspired poutine, and this tikka masala burrito:

#myhappyplace 🙏🏼

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The longest day of the year means you get to eat four meals, right? #firstdayofsummer #summersolstice #sexyfries

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Slider Shack
July 16, Aug 13
Slider Shack specializes in delicious sliders and other healthy Californian classics, with a Hawaiian twist. Outside of the intensely delicious flavors and high-quality ingredients, the best part about Slider Shack is the fact that you can hold two of these delicious babies in your hands at all times.

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Humphrey Slocombe
July 16
Whether it's 70 degrees without a breeze or Karl the Fog decides to hang, it's always #icecreamweather in San Francisco, and the amazing creators behind Humphry Slocombe know this. From their insane icy offerings to their more tame treats like this mango and strawberry margarita duo, there is surely a flavor out there for everyone.

Let's still hope for that sun... though.


Rocko's Ice Cream Tacos
July 23
OMG. Ice cream tacos? Made with local and organic ingredients? DIPPED IN CHOCOLATE? We're in. To top it off, Rocko's Ice Cream Tacos' business practices are a product of their core beliefs: that they should produce sustainable products while building strong relationships within the community. We're definitely in.

Look at all that delish! Available tonight at Off the Grid Haight market til 9p!

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Hey SF peeps! Did you miss us at Outside Lands? No worries. Make good tonight at Spark food truck park! #tacotuesday #🍦🌮

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Mattersons Jamaican Cuisine AKA Scotch Bonnet Food Truck
Aug 6
There's a special place in our belly for comfort food like jerk pork and fried plantain (see below). The Scotch Bonnet Food Truck serves up daily specials to ensure its followers get a wide range of popular, traditional, and exclusive Jamaican cuisine.

The term 'scotch bonnet' refers to the bonney pepper, a super-hot chili pepper that is found mainly in the Caribbean islands and is commonly used in jerk dishes. With a heat rating of 100,000–350,000 Scoville units, we can only imagine their offerings will warm you up on a chilly day.

Jerk Pork! SF LUNCH @ 25 Montgomery St. 12:30p-2:30p. AND @offthegridsf El Cerrito 5p-8p #jerkpork

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Chairman
Aug 6, Aug 27
An SF favorite, The Chairman food truck is the mobile alternative to Chef Hiroo Nagahara's popular brick and mortar spot by the same name. Nagahara was formerly restaurateur Charlie Trotter's executive chef at Bar Charlie in Las Vegas and partnered with food truck rental agency Mobi Munch to bring his food to the masses.

The food truck specifically offers Chinese bao, a steamed bun that can be filled with seemingly anything. Check below for their latest addition to the bao menu.


Johnny Doughnuts
Aug 27
Johnny Doughnuts' artisan doughnuts are handcrafted with the finest organic cool milled wheat flour and ingredients from locally sourced vendors. They produce a wide range of delicious things, from fritters, to raised doughnuts (light and fluffy), to crodoughs (croissant + doughnut), and more.

They love making doughnuts as much as we love eating them. A match made in heaven.

Get your jam on this Tuesday 💃🏽🎶🍩🍓

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Welcome New Executive Director Bob Fiedler

Much of Stern Grove Festival’s longevity can be attributed to one thing: heart. The heart of its founder, who shared her vision for access to the arts for all. The heart of its audiences and patrons, who have fueled the Festival with applause and donations for eight decades. The heart of its volunteers, who make a gift of their time and hard work. The heart of its dedicated staff and Board of Directors, who are committed to the organization’s success. And last, but not least, the heart of a leader.

Stern Grove Festival is excited to welcome (just in time for its 80th Season!) the organization’s new leader, Executive Director Bob Fiedler.

Read on to learn more about Bob and join us this summer to welcome him to the Grove!


SGFA: What makes a great leader?

BF: I think a leader is someone who can inspire groups of people around a mission – and that’s easier to do when you’re working with a tremendous mission like that of Stern Grove Festival. I think that if you burn with passion on the inside, hopefully you can get others to also come along for the ride and become advocates for the organization. Other important traits are being a great listener, being empathetic, and having strong emotional intelligence in order to care deeply about people and the organization that he or she is serving.

How do you think you will have the greatest impact on the organization?

I think first and foremost my passion for music will have a great impact on my time here. Music is an extremely important part of my life—it’s borderline sacred. It’s been hugely important to me in many, many moments of my life and has brought me some of my happiest times, as well as helped me through many difficult periods.

In addition, I think my overall non-profit experience will be a benefit. I’ve been around the block a little bit now, having run two different arts-based non-profit organizations and having over 20 years of experience in the non-profit sector. I think that all of those experiences have shaped me and given me exposure to lots of different situations that hopefully will serve me here.

What are you most looking forward to in your new position?

I feel extremely honored to have found myself in this position. In the last few days I’ve visited Stern Grove and have found myself pinching my arm, wondering how I got so lucky to be entrusted to work in such a magical place that is an important San Francisco cultural institution. Everything about the Festival—the music, the space, the tradition—it’s all of those things that I’ve been entrusted to take care of and shepherd into its next phase of existence…and I couldn’t be more excited and honored to do so.

I’ve been to a lot of concert venues around the country and I think the Grove is one of the most gorgeous settings in which you could listen to music. It’s that beauty—and the community—that make Stern Grove Festival such a special experience. I think there’s something wonderful about art and musical performance, in that it brings people together. It bridges cultural gaps, it bridges generational gaps, it’s the universal language, and it’s a very unifying thing. I am just so geeked that I get to be a part of this.

As a recent transplant, what do you like most about living in the Bay Area?

The Bay Area…what a special and unique place this is. Having traveled to over 30 countries, I’ve been to a lot of the major cities around the world. There’s no other place that quite combines such a desirable climate with this level of physical gorgeousness (the mountains, the redwood, palm and eucalyptus trees, the ocean, and the bridges) and with great people.

California is a pretty progressive place, but I think that San Francisco is the epicenter of that. There is a lot of amazing innovation and thinking that goes on here, and I couldn’t be happier to be here.

And last but not least, what concert are you most looking forward to this summer?

Well, I’m looking forward to all of the concerts for different reasons. But from a purely musical standpoint I think I’m most looking forward to our second concert of the season, July 2 with Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers and Fantastic Negrito. I love that they’re both local artists, and both have really great reputations within the music world. I’m also really excited for The Big Picnic on June 25th with Kool & the Gang, because it’s going to be a big shindig and a very well-attended show. That being said, I am truly looking forward to each and every show.


About Bob Fiedler

Bob brings over 20 years experience in the nonprofit sector, 13 at the executive level for two different arts performance/educational organizations. Most recently he served as the Executive Director of the Chicago Human Rhythm Project (CHRP), a nonprofit performing and educational arts organization that presents dance performances and dance festivals, runs the American Rhythm Center dance school, and provides weekly dance education to public school students.

Previously, Bob was the Executive Director of The People’s Music School (TPMS), a prestigious community music school that provides ongoing music lessons for thousands of young people completely free of charge. TPMS also provides free concerts to the public, featuring nationally recognized artists and was on the forefront of bringing the innovative “El Sistema” music education methodology to the United States. While at TPMS, Mr. Fiedler worked very closely with the Ravinia Festival to bring hundreds of children to their summer concerts and help TPMS build orchestral programs in public schools. Prior to his tenure at TPMS, Mr. Fiedler was Development Director for REST, a community-based homeless services agency in Chicago. He began his nonprofit career with the Chicago Muscular Dystrophy Association, serving first as a District Director and then moving up to Regional Coordinator.

Quinn DeVeaux with “Down in the Grove” Commission

If you ask any one of our Festival patrons at random, chances are that they’ve been attending admission-free concerts at Stern Grove Festival for years — maybe even decades. The same goes for many of our local performers like singer/songwriter Quinn DeVeaux, the opening act for this summer’s Big Picnic Concert, who returns to the Grove.

“Playing at Stern Grove is such a pleasure. I’m happy to be doing it again,” says Quinn. “I love performing with trees — it’s like you have an extra thousand audiences members.”

Since his 2011 performance at the Grove, DeVeaux has released not one, but two albums that perfectly express his old-timey soul and blue beat music – but with a modern kick. He’s bound to play a number of these tunes at his upcoming performance when he opens for Kool & the Gang at Stern Grove Festival’s Big Picnic Concert on June 25, as well as his brand new, never-before-heard song, “Down in the Grove”, produced as part of this season’s Local Artist Commission Series.

We met with Quinn to hear about his life as a musician in the Bay Area and his creative process behind the new piece, as well as learn what inspires him as a musician and what has helped craft his sound since his last Stern Grove Festival performance.

“I continue to be influenced by the amazing musicians around me,” says Quinn. “New stuff blows through me and I catch some it and meld it into my style. I’ve started to explore more funky rhythms and slower tunes. I’ve gotten very much into Bill Withers and his churning groove-based songs. Also Al Green, and that smooth haunting quality he has.  I turn it all into Blue Beat!”

Watch the below interview to learn all about Mr. Quinn DeVeaux, set on the foreground of “Shame”, a new song off his upcoming record. Stay tuned to the end to hear a clip of the unfinished “Down in the Grove”.

RSVP for this admission-free concert on Facebook and learn more at sterngrove.org.