Fri11282014

Schools

Pinewood School hosts Duncan Sheik in concert


Emily Copriviza/Special to the Town Crier
Pinewood students, from left, Annie Whitacre, Carolyn Ehrlich (on guitar), Justin Stangenes and Talmage Wise perform in “Whisper House” in the school’s November production. Duncan Sheik, who cowrote the musical, will visit the school next month to perform.

Thanks to a connection with the Pinewood School Performing Arts Department, the school’s Upper Campus is scheduled to host a concert featuring Duncan Sheik, the Grammy and Tony Award-winning singer-songwriter and composer.

In November Pinewood produced the high school and regional premiere of the musical “Whisper House,” which Sheik co-wrote with Kyle Jarrow.

After finishing his ninth studio album, Sheik will kick off the Northwest leg of his national tour at Pinewood. His Broadway blockbuster “Spring Awakening” springboarded the career of actress Lea Michele and many others. His No. 1 hit from the 1990s, “Barely Breathing,” was recently featured on the TV shows “Glee” and “Girls.”

Pinewood connection

Spencer Williams, chairman of Pinewood’s Visual and Performing Arts Department, said he wanted his students to stage “Whisper House” after he saw the premiere at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego.

To secure the rights to the musical, which were not subject to the typical licensing process of plays and musicals, Williams, “on a whim,” contacted Jarrow about the possibility of performing “Whisper House.” Jarrow replied, “Absolutely.”

“As a musical-theater educator, it was one of the most exciting and educational things we could do,” Williams said. “The students were able to create the characters without seeing so many other versions of the production on YouTube. It’s pretty rare to get to do that. Most don’t even get to do that in college.”

Williams invited Sheik and Jarrow to the Pinewood performance, but scheduling conflicts prevented them from attending. After reading that Sheik was embarking on a tour that would bring him to the Bay Area, Williams, “on another whim,” called Sheik’s manager and asked if the singer would stop by Pinewood to chat with students about musical theater.

Williams once again received an enthusiastic reply, with Sheik’s manager proposing a concert at the school, preceded by a VIP event for students.

“I’m very excited to hang out with the students and talk to them about music and theater,” said Sheik in a phone interview with the Town Crier. “I think that kids being encouraged to make music or theater or any kind of art in high school is incredibly important.”

Sheik said he thinks that too often nowadays students are consumers of media more than creators of art.

“I really appreciate kids making art,” he said. “When high school kids do things like this – especially a show like ‘Whisper House’ – it’s incredible they pulled it off.”

Broadway success

Sheik, 44, has spent the better part of the fall in London working on the theatrical debut of “American Psycho,” which recently premiered at the Almeida Theatre.

He launched his musical career in 1996 with his eponymous debut album, which earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Male Vocal, featured the pop hit “Barely Breathing” and sold 750,000 copies.

Sheik plunged into the musical-theater world in the early 2000s with “Spring Awakening,” for which he wrote the music and Steven Sater the book and lyrics. “Spring Awakening” won the Olivier Award for Best New Musical and eight Tony Awards, with Sheik earning Tonys for Best Orchestration and Best Original Score, and a Grammy for Best Musical Show Album.

“When I wrote ‘Spring Awakening,’ my real intense feeling was that there was a lot of musical theater being well made and beautifully done, but stylistically the music had no connection to the rest of the music people listen to – the popular music of the day,” he said. “I feel like the theater can and should reflect the stylistic taste of the public that is going to see it.”

“Spring Awakening” boasted an indie-rock sound that garnered accolades from the theater world. Sheik’s most recent work, “American Psycho,” has a 1980s-influenced electronic dance sound.

Pinewood performance

Sheik’s concert at Pinewood will feature selections he wrote for his musicals, songs from his catalogue as a recording artist and new music from his upcoming album, “Electric Domain,” scheduled for release later this year.

His new sound was “very much influenced by the aesthetic of electronic dance music,” he said.

The concert benefits the Pinewood Performing Arts Scholarship Fund. More than 10 students received scholarships of varying amounts last year, allowing them to travel and perform with fellow students at the Vatican. Pinewood students are scheduled to perform in Notre Dame in Paris this year.

Sheik’s concert is scheduled 8 p.m. Feb. 7 at the Pinewood Upper Campus Theatre, 26800 Fremont Road, Los Altos Hills.

Tickets are $50, $100 and $150 (for the VIP package).

To purchase tickets, visit tinyurl.com/SheikTickets.

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