Mars on Music: The Verbal Vanguard Awards

Susannah Mars

Working as the Music Events Specialist at Artists Rep is a blast.

Music has been a part of my life since I was in utero, and the idea of sharing a diverse offering of musical events with the Artists Rep family electrifies me, especially the idea of sharing musical space inter-generationally.

Student musicians, professionals, jazz, rock, rap; there is something about the vibration of an instrument that gets inside and loosens up the tight places.

Meeting Solomon Starr, the producer of the upcoming Verbal Vanguard Awards at Artists Rep, was a magic thing; Mic Crenshaw and I had met during the run of A Civil War Christmas; he performed during the run in a pre-show musical event with Portland’s First Lady of the blues LaRhonda Steele.  After that, Mic and I spoke about a concert event he might lead, and he introduced me to Solomon Starr. Solomon is a gem, generous and powerful. Their evening, The People’s Sanctuary, rocked the Alder and after that Solomon suggested the Verbal Vanguard Awards. 

Heartbreakingly, since we’ve begun our planning, there were two gut-wrenching murders on board the MAX train, the line that I take into town myself, where the lives of Ricky John Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche were taken. A third man, brave Micah Fletcher, survived the attack. A little over a month after this horrific experience, Micah will return to his musical roots and be a part of The Verbal Vanguard awards, which blows my mind. He is courage personified. Solomon is all about healing though this show of love, peace and liberation.  The two met working on The Division Street Stories, an open mic and video series focused on Portland rap.  Fletcher became a regular at The Love Movement, a weekly hip-hop gathering at Valentines.

The Verbal Vanguard Awards will showcase The Willamette Week’s Best Hip Hop nominees. There will be a hip-hop showcase and a live lyrical competition. My friend Vin Shambry schooled me a little bit about rap the last time we worked together; what artists like him can create with their voices and bodies, is awesome. I can’t wait to watch these artists stretch their limits at Artists Rep at The Verbal Vanguard. Join us on June 30th !

 By Susannah Mars, a Resident Artist and Artists Rep's Music & Events Specialist