Congratulations to Kaleidoscope, the conductorless chamber orchestra whose mission is to make classical music more accessible to diverse audiences. They’ve performed in homeless shelters, children’s hospitals and other underserved venues, and this year, they’re instituting a pay-what-you-can model for ticket sales.

Their Kickstarter campaign to raise $72,000 was a nail biter for a while, but with a big spurt of energy at the end and a generous matching fund, they managed to make a few dollars more than their goal by their end date of Jan. 31.

Their concert season continues in February, March and April at First Presbyterian Church in Santa Monica with programs that include composers Maurice Ravel, Ralph Vaughan-Williams, Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc, Steven Stucky, Sergei Prokofiev and more. Get additional information on Kaleidoscope  at



Two local orchestras are performing special concerts this season. The Dream Orchestra, founded in 2011 by Artistic Director Daniel Suk, the international award-winning Korean violinist In Mo Yang as guest artist on February 25 at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica. The concert includes the Brahms Violin Concerto and his Symphony No. 4, part of the Orchestra’s “Romantic Dreams” concert.

With his Antonio Stradivari violin, 21-year-old Yang won the highly acclaimed First Prize at the 2015 International Violin Premio Paganini Competition in Genoa, Italy, marking the first time since 2006 the jury awarded the First Prize. It’s one of a number of international competitions that this young man has won in such short order.

For tickets, visit or

And The Los Angeles Doctors Symphony announced its 21st annual collaboration with the Westside Music Foundation, to showcase the winners of the Robert Turner Piano Competition. The six winners will play one movement each of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor. And the orchestra will also perform Symphony No. 29 in A major by Mozart.

Robert Turner was a professional pianist and a Southern Californian who led many of his students to win state, national and international piano competitions. At age 14 he made a name for himself as a soloist with the NBC Orchestra, and after pursuing his degree, later joined the faculties of UCLA, UCSD and USC. A number of his students have gone on to become performers and university professors.
The Westside Music Foundation supports and champions musical education, especially for youth who do not have access to high quality opportunities; they manage the Turner competition. The Los Angeles Doctors Symphony Orchestra, now in its 64th season, is one of the oldest community orchestras in the U.S.

The concert takes place Sunday, March 5 at 4 p.m. at Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Santa Monica. Suggested donation is $10, parking is free. More info at



Maren Ade, a German born filmmaker and director, spent three months at Villa Aurora in Pacific Palisades on an artist-in-residence fellowship. She used the time well, writing the script for a critically acclaimed film released last year called “Toni Erdmann.” She produced and directed the film, competing for the Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and winning five awards at the 29th European Film Awards.

Germany submitted “Toni Erdmann” as its entry for Best Foreign Language film at the 89th Academy Awards ceremony, and it has been nominated in this category.

By the way, there’s a welcoming reception for the newest Villa Aurora artist fellows on Feb. 1 at this beautiful, historic cultural institution. It’s free but you must RSVP. Details here:



Oscar Levant once said, “There’s a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.”

Who was Oscar Levant? A multi-talented, classically trained, brilliant piano virtuoso renowned for his performing his friend George Gershwin’s compositions. But Levant was also a comedic actor, who co-starred in “An American in Paris,” as well as a writer of both music for movies and books, including his “Memoirs of an Amnesiac.” And one more claim to fame: he was a member of the legendary Algonquin Round Table, an exclusive circle of wits and writers that included Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley, among others.

He died too young in 1972 and has been mostly forgotten. Until now.

Onstage at the Falcon Theatre in Burbank, voiceover rock star Dan Castellaneta—who  brings Homer Simpson to life—is resurrecting Levant in a play he wrote and stars in, “For Piano and Harpo.” Yes, that Harpo – the silent mime, big wig-wearing Marx brother. He and Levant were friends, and a more opposite pair of personalities is hard to imagine. Harpo was a successful, stable family man; Levant had bouts of drug addiction and depression that may have been attributable to bipolar disorder, which didn’t have a treatment back in his day.

The story, from Harpo’s book, “Harpo Speaks,” goes that one night while Harpo was hosting a dinner party, Levant crashed it – and stayed for more than a year. In this play, Castellaneta has Levant waking up in the psychiatric ward of Mt. Sinai Hospital. As he grapples with his demons to save his marriage and his sanity, he conjures people from his past and present, including the first host of the Tonight Show, Jack Paar; his friend George Gershwin of whom he was professionally envious; his wife, June and of course, Harpo.

This world premiere of “For Piano and Harpo” runs through March 5 at The Falcon Theatre, which by the way was founded by the late comedic genius, Garry Marshall. It’s in Burbank. For tickets, call the box office at (818) 955-8101; find more details at


Sarah A. Spitz is an award-winning public radio producer, now retired from KCRW, where she also produced arts stories for NPR. She writes features and reviews for various print and online publications. Contact her at