Great Prices, Great Music

As a fan of classical music and concert halls in general, there is no better place than Philadelphia for me to get some great deals on orchestra concerts. After all, we’re home to the Kimmel Center, one of the nicest music halls in the states, and main stage of the Philadelphia Orchestra… but you probably already knew that.

What you might not have known is that as a college student, you can get some awesome discount tickets on the Philadelphia Orchestra’s internationally renowned performances. You already pay enough in tuition, so take full advantage of your student ID while you still can!

Never been to a classical concert before? There’s no time like the present: for the four years (or five… or seven…) that you have your official university student ID, you qualify for the Philadelphia Orch’s EZSeatU program, which seeks to crush the stereotype that classical music is only for grandpa. It offers student discount membership for some of the best pieces the orchestra plays during the season (past performances have included Gustav Holst’s The Planets and, Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird).

Here’s how it works: sign up online for a membership (it’s only $25!) and get tickets to every Philly Orch concert all season for free. You also get some cool benefits like a membership card with discounts at area restaurants. Just log onto your account, print your ticket, and present it to an usher at the door. On selected dates after the show, stick around for College Nights>, events just for college students that include food, dancing, and yes, music.

If you have a fear of commitment, there are some other options to get tickets at a great price. The Tuesday before the desired concert (check online for a full schedule), reserve your ticket online for $10 and pick it up at the will-call office the day of the performance – remember to bring your student ID.

You can also get student rush tickets90 minutes before the concert’s starting time for $8 at the Kimmel Box Office. Get there as early as possible, though – some performances don’t have a huge number of leftover student/community rush tickets, and popular pieces sell out fast.

Once you’ve got your ticket, whether it be through membership, rush, or online ticketing, remember this tip: nothing angers educated classical enthusiasts like the audience applauding even before the piece has finished (you’d be surprised how often this happens). It’s not always easy to tell when a song ends, since most suites average over 10 minutes and more with short changes, so here’s a tell-tale tip: when the conductor lowers his hand and turns to the audience, the piece is officially over.

Don’t be one of those people who start clapping in the second movement: it delays the performance and makes you look kind of stupid. And please, for the love of all that is holy, turn your cell phone off! With the flawless acoustics of the Kimmel’s main auditorium, you can bet even the balcony dwellers will hear your embarrassing ringtone, and it willbe the embarrassing joke one you thought was funny but ended up not being that funny once a sold-out crowd hears it.

eZseatU memberships for the 2011-12 season go on sale in August 2011, and you can get them here. You can contact Magali Roman at

Let Them Eat TastyKakes!

When it comes to revolutions, Philadelphia is best known for its role in the American one, which you may have celebrated during the July 4th holiday. This makes sense, because Philadelphia is in America. However, if you want to combine the commemoration of rapid social change with a certain Gallic je ne sais quoi, the Bastille Day Celebration at Eastern State Penitentiary is the place for you.

If your knowledge of French history amounts to a few hazy memories of that one time you saw your high school drama club’s production of Les Miserables, you may be wondering what exactly Bastille Day is. To briefly summarize a complex political situation involving the intricacies of the French class system and its implication on tax structure, poor people got super mad at the aristocrats for making them poor.

In protest, they decided to storm the Bastille prison, which was basically the Azkaban of 18th century Paris. This event is commonly considered one of the major kick-offs to the French revolution, and is celebrated in France and by lovers of liberty everywhere on its July 14th anniversary.

Taking advantage of being in possession of a giant, scary old prison with an oppressive feeling of dread that it conveys to all passersby, Fairmount will play host to a series of Bastille Day events from July 14th to the 17th, culminating in a mock storming of Eastern State. The main festivities will take place on Saturday, July 16th. In the afternoon, you can stop by the street fair, which features activities such performances by the Peek A Boo Revue Can Can Dancers and lessons about French cheese from DiBruno Brothers, and pretend you’re in one of the crowd scenes from The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Finally, at 5:30, the Bastille Day re-enactment begins. Participants are encouraged to wear period-appropriate costumes and pose as peasants or aristocrats, so break out your corsets and sans culottes. “Marie Antoinette—a.k.a Terry McNally of Fairmount’s London Grill—will be stationed at the top of Eastern State, mockingly throwing Butterscotch Krimpets down to the poor wretches below (let them eat TastyKakes!). Eventually, armed troops will capture the Queen and take her to the guillotine, where the crowd will decided whether she lives or dies. There’s nothing like regicide on a warm summer’s evening, is there?

After the prison has been stormed and Marie Antoinette may or may not have been decapitated, take a nighttime tour of Eastern State, or enjoy dinner at one of the many area restaurants offering French culinary specials for the occasion. Being a revolutionary is hard work, and you deserve the opportunity to relax and have some fun.

You can contact Jordyn Kimelheim at

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A Conversation with Sapphire

Last Thursday, the Free Library of Philadelphia’sCentral Branch welcomed award-winning poet and writer Sapphire to talk about her newest effort, The Kid. The event was titled A Conversation With Sapphire, and it could not have been more aptly named: by the end of the hour-long presentation and Q&A, there was an understanding from both the podium and the auditorium: Sapphire was not there to lecture, but to converse.

Sapphire began with a short opening statement, not that her story needs any introduction. As the writer of Push, the novel that inspired the Academy Award-winning film Precious, Sapphire has touched the minds of thousands of readers from all backgrounds with her gritty and honest prose.

She revealed that Precious, the now infamous heroine of Push, has died of AIDS, leaving behind an orphaned son named Abdul, and that this is his story. She stressed that although The Kid continues where the story of Precious left off, it’s not a sequel in the traditional sense: rather than following Precious, it follows the continuing impact of the loss of our precious ones. In this story, the precious ones are lost specifically to AIDS and HIV, which, she pointed out, have hit the black community almost as hard as slavery.

After explaining the nature of this unorthodox sequel, Sapphire moved on to a reading of select passages of The Kid, which she explained is split into four parts, or books. Each book is narrated by Abdul in the first person, and follows him through different stages of his life, describing the death of Precious in the hospital through his nine-year-old eyes, his tortured foster-care rounds through a Catholic boy’s school, and finally, his salvation through an African dance class which he accidentally crashes.

Her voice should narrate audiobooks: it’s clear, strident, and slips into accents and voices depending on the character. This is narrative poetry worthy of its high spot in African-American Literature.

Dance connects us, takes Abdul out of a dreadful past, and connects him to the moment, she explained, and so Abdul finds refuge in dance: Sapphire reveals that his emotional pain, resulting from his mother’s death, has split him from his body, and that the story is about recovering it through dance.

The event, which attracted a large number of the female black community of Philadelphia, was packed and noisy during Sapphire’s presentation – many of her statements were peppered with applause, laughter, and grunts of agreement from the audience, who made a point of repeatedly thanking her for what [she] does.

After the reading, the library held a Q&A session that was supposed to be short but turned into the main event of the night: hands just kept shooting up, wanting to know what had happened to their favorite characters from Push and about Sapphire’s method of writing in an adolescent point of view. She revealed that she often asked herself What would I do were I in his situation?, and a moment later deadpanned Abdul would do the opposite.

She also brought up the issue of the controversy concerning her strong narrative being taught in schools, explaining While I write about young people, I don’t write foryoung people… I write for mature adults so you have some insight into what’s happening to our youth. And if you’re gonna get mad about the fact that kids are reading this, get mad instead about the thousands of victims of HIV and AIDS and those who have been orphaned by it.

Sapphire’s second novel The Kid is on sale now in bookstores everywhere. You can contact Magali Roman at


Fusing Cultures in Philly

Global Fusion is the combining of different cultures, and nowhere else in Philadelphia do various cultures fuse together better than during Global Fusion Week!

Global Fusionfirst began as an offshoot of the Multicultural Affairs Congress’s (MAC) 20th Anniversary celebration, but it was such a hit, it is now its own independent celebration.

So what is being celebrated? In short, diversity. Global Fusion honors different culture’s and nationalities’ differences, but also strives to highlight people’s similarities and commonalities. It is an educational experience, but also a fun and entertaining one, as one can experience food, music, and sights one has never had before.

The week of celebrations will also show Philadelphians alternative activities to their daily routines, and hopefully get some new people to visit the city. So this July, come out and celebrate various cultures, but also celebrate Philadelphia.

In honor of the festivities, some local businesses will be featuring a week-long promotion of fusion-inspired” meals, all at a discounted price! But do not fret, there will also be plenty of vendors, selling Caribbean, and African, Italian food and much, much more, at Penn’s Landing as well.

The highlight of the week will be CARNIVAL, where performers will take the stage to highlight dances, songs, and theater from their own culture. This was such a hit last year; it has now expanded to two stages! In addition to up and coming artists from all over the world, many performers you’ve heard on the radio will be there too. For example, Estelle, Grammy winner, and collaborator with Kanye West in American Boy, will be performing.

The festivities begin on July 11th, and run until Sunday, July 17th. They last all day, and it is free to participate! (Obviously if you want food, you’ll have to bring money).

Everything happens at Penn’s Landing Great Plaza. It is very easy to get to, by either car, SEPTA, or walking. For SEPTA buses, routes 21 and 42 both stop at the Great Plaza. If you’re taking the subway, go to city hall on the orange line, then make the free interchange connection and take the Market-Frankford Elevated Line (the Blue line) to the Second Street Stop. From there, walk east over the Market Street Bridge. The Great Plaza will be straight ahead.

For driving directions, go to the Global Fusion website.


Farmers’ Markets: Healthy, Fresh, Affordable

Farmers’ markets have been growing in popularity across the country. Part of their appeal stems from their fresh food and often competitive prices. In an urban setting, they are a luxurious taste of open air. But farmers’ markets are also unique in their ability to offer sustainable, organic food.

For example, many Philly farmers’ markets offer fruits and vegetables that are IPM, or Integrated Pest Management–a sustainable way of managing pests that minimizes environmental and health risks.

Several markets also offer eggs, meat, and poultry from pastured animals, or those raised in a field and allowed to eat their natural diet. These animals are healthier and their products are healthier for you.

A growing number of students value these eco-friendly specialties, a demand that markets are rising to meet. Here are some of the Philly-area farmers’ markets with the best sustainable, organic, and animal-friendly practices:

Who: Rittenhouse Farmers’ Market
What: IPM fruits and vegetables, beef and eggs from pastured animals
Where: Walnut Street (south sidewalk), west of 18th Street
When: 10am – 1pm (also open Saturdays 9:30am – 3pm, with an even larger selection, including sustainably-caught fish)

Who: University Square Farmers’ Market
What: IPM fruits, berries, and vegetables
Where: 36th St at Walnut Street
When: 10am – 3pm

Who: Suburban Station Farmers’ Market
What: IPM fruits & vegetables, beef and eggs from pastured animals.
Where: 16th Street Concourse between Market and JFK near the 16th Street elevator
When: 12pm – 6pm, year round!

Who: Walnut Hill Farm Stand
What: vegetables grown without pesticides or herbicides
Where: 4610 Market Street, adjacent to the SEPTA 46th St. L Station
When: 3pm – 6pm

Who: Chestnut Hill Growers’ Market
What: chemical-free, organic, and IPM veggies and berries, IPM fruit, eggs and meat from pastured animals, sustainably-caught fish
Where: Winston Rd. between Germantown Ave and Mermaid Lane
When: 9:30am – 1:30pm

The Food Trustis a network of over 30 markets serving about 125,000 customers in the Philadelphia area. Their website can give you more details, and even lists products by market, so you’ll be able to find just what you’re looking for.

You can also use a map to help you find the farmer’s market nearest you. And for those who are interested in food grown most closely to home, they offer a mapthat will show you where each farm is located, and where and when each sells its wares.

Full schedules of 2011 markets can be found here and here.

No matter what your dietary preferences, Philadelphia farmer’s markets can help you stay eco-friendly, healthy, and full!


City Art: Philly Architecture

The first buildings in Philadelphia sprung up in the 17th century. As you’d expect from any city that’s over 300 years old, Philadelphia is home to a diverse array of architectural styles, each reflecting a different period in the city’s history. This ranges from the colonial-era buildings of Old City to the art deco design of 30th street station. While you may pass by (or through) some of the city’s most notable buildings without paying much attention to them, it’s worth it to take a more formal look at Philadelphia’s architecture.

You may think of it as that subway stop with the creepy long hallways that you always get lost in (or maybe that’s just me?), but City Hallis both aesthetically appealing and architecturally unique. Completed in 1901, the building is the largest masonry building and the largest municipal building in the United States. For a brief period of time in the early 1900s it was the tallest habitable building in the world, and remained the tallest building in Philadelphia until One Liberty Place was constructed in the 1980s. While City Hall already dominates the Philly skyline, to get a closer look at it, toursare available Monday-Friday of both the interior and the tower.

One way to learn more about Philadelphia’s architecture is to take one of the many walking tours sponsored by the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, a non-profit that strives to protect and promote the appreciation of Philadelphia’s buildings and communities. Guided by knowledgeable volunteers, these tours explore all manner of topics, ranging from Victorian homes to skyscrapers.

Learn more about familiar locales, such as Rittenhouse Square, or go off the beaten path to see the architecture of neighborhoods like Callowhill and Powelton Village. The organization also offers downloadable maps for self-guided tours of a few historic areas, in case you prefer to survey them on your own. Truly committed students of architecture can even jointhe Preservation Alliance, which gives you the opportunity to support the organization’s cause while receiving discounts on tours and other benefits.

The Philadelphia Center for Architecture is also a great resource for learning more about the city’s design. The Center hosts eventssuch as the Architecture in Film Series, and includes exhibitscontaining everything from a 3-D model of Center City to vintage neon signs. Of special interest to college students may be the upcoming display of the winners of the 2010 Ed Bacon Student Design Competition, which will run from July 30th to September 5th. In this competition, students were asked to design a model for a world’s fair to be held in Philadelphia in 2026 (the nation’s 250th anniversary), with particular emphasis on rehabilitating South Philly. While it’s easy to get caught up in Philly’s amazing architectural past, this exhibition will focus on the city’s future, as imagined by the young people who will shape it.

With all the hustle and bustle of urban life, Philadelphians may miss some of their city’s unique design. Take advantage of some of these institutions devoted to Philadelphia’s architecture, or at the very least, pay attention to the buildings you pass next time you’re out walking. There’s a lot of beauty and history in this city, for those who care to look for it.

You can contact Jordyn Kimelheim at