JOPLIN, Mo. —
Tim Owen was surprised to discover a bustling salsa scene in Minneapolis.
"Salsa hit New York back in the '60s," Owen said. "Now it is thriving like never before. In Minneapolis, we have 12 salsa bands that play regularly. And the pay is significantly better than in New York."
That salsa sound will kick off a season of entertainment at TJ Concert Hall, located at Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School.
The salsa band Salsabrosa will perform at 7 p.m. tonight. The band's repertoire includes salsa, bachata, merengue, cha cha and Latin hip hop, and its show will feature dance instructors for those who want to learn salsa.
The band features a talented group of players from Cuba and around the United States. It is led by Angel Perez Delgado, a graduate of Havana's National Art Conservatory, and Esti Price, a Mexican singer who also hosted "Reventon Musical" and produced music programs for Mexican media company Televisa. (Price will not be part of tonight's concert.)
Owen, founder and manager of the band, said he used to play timbales for the band, but the other musicians were too good.
"I love the group and love the music, but I just wasn't good enough," Owen said. "I found someone who could take my spot."
Owen said Salsabrosa plays a variation called timba salsa, which is a blend with influences of traditional salsa, jazz and R&B. Drummer Mariano Florese (Owen's self-picked replacement) plays timbales and parts of a drum set at the same time, giving the music an "infectious, exhilarating rhythm," Owen said.
Delgado, who plays piano and guitar, was the musical director of 5 Pa' Ti, a Cuban quintet, and toured Europe with Adalberto Alvarez, Manolin, Top Secret and Gumby Ortiz.
A big part of each concert is learning to dance, similar to shows such as "Dancing with the Stars," where salsa gets featured prominently. Friday's concert will feature dancing by Jae Haile Phillips and Hanna Esparza, a duo who will also teach attendees how to dance.
"You can expect some audience participation," said John Atteberry, the school's concert hall director. "There's been a rage with 'Dancing With the Stars,' and I think a lot of people are at home secretly hoping, 'I'd like to do that.' Well, here's your opportunity."
The 2013-14 concert series also includes a magician, musicals and more musicians:
- Jared Sherlock at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25. Sherlock, based in Minneapolis, is an award-winning illusionist and comic magician. Children are encouraged to wear their Halloween costumes and go trick-or-treating on the Thomas Jefferson campus immediately following the show.
- "Bye Bye Birdie," performed by Thomas Jefferson upper school students, at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 22 and 23.
- Trout Fishing in America at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 1, 2014. This Grammy-nominated musical group from Arkansas performs original pop and folk music with audience participation. Their performances, with songs such as "Eighteen Wheels on a Big Rig" and "When I was a Dinosaur," are geared toward families and children. The group will also host a songwriting workshop at 2 p.m. the same day for children in grades 2-6.
- Trio Voronezh at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 3, 2014. This musical ensemble performs the works of Vivaldi, Bach, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky and other composers, as well as Russian folk songs, Argentine tangos and gypsy dance music, using the Russian folk instruments domra, balalaika-doublebass and bayan.
- The to-be-announced middle school musical at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 25 and 26, 2014.
All events in the series -- the school's second -- will be presented at TJ Concert Hall, 3401 E. Newman Road.
"We're certainly looking for entertaining acts, but also events that will enrich the educational opportunities of our students and the community," Atteberry said.
Tickets and season passes are on sale now at the school's box office website, tjids.org/seats. For additional details about the performances and a schedule of other events, go to tjeffschool.org/concerts.