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Paddle to the Sea

We're all connected by water. That's part of the message of Paddle to the Sea, a multimedia performance by Grammy Award-winning Third Coast Percussion at the University of Dayton at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 7.

The program in the Kennedy Union Boll Theatre is part of the University’s ArtsLIVE series. It will include both video and live music inspired by the classic children’s book and film, Paddle to the Sea. The tale follows the journey of a carved wooden figure in a canoe, called Paddle-to-the-Sea, which is set into Lake Superior. After many months, Paddle-to-the-Sea arrives at the Atlantic Ocean, having seen how water sustains and connects communities across thousands of miles.

The Paddle to the Sea performance comes at a time when Dayton is emphasizing the role of the Great Miami River in the region. With the recent initiatives of the Great Miami Riverway and RiverScape River Run, Miami Valley residents are increasingly engaging with this critical natural resource. If they were to follow the example of Paddle-to-the-Sea, paddlers on the Great Miami River would also find themselves at the ocean — although not quite in the same place.

Water resources are also a focus of the University’s Hanley Sustainability Institute and the Fitz Center’s Rivers Institute, both of which are campus sponsors for the performance. With a cohort of 45 undergraduate students drawn from varied majors, the Rivers Institute runs a program that puts its members in kayaks to get a first-hand experience of our region’s rivers.

“Like Paddle-to-the-Sea’s adventure, it’s an experience they won’t forget,” says Rivers Institute Director Leslie King.

Founded in 2004, Chicago-based Third Coast Percussion is a quartet of classically trained but musically adventurous musicians. In addition to performing at venues across the country to critical praise, they are also serving as Ensemble-in-Residence at the University of Notre Dame's DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, a position they assumed in 2013.

Paddle to the Sea will include original music by Third Coast Percussion, as well as other water-themed works by Philip Glass, Jacob Druckman and even music from Zimbabwe’s Shona people. These selections and more are featured on Third Coast Percussion’s new CD, Paddle to the Sea, to be released the same week as the group’s performance at the University of Dayton.

Published in 1941, the book Paddle-to-the-Sea was written and illustrated by Holling Clancy Holling. It was voted as a Caldecott Honor Book in 1942 and is still in print today. In 1966, a live-action short film based on the book was produced for the National Film Board of Canada. Directed, shot and edited by Bill Mason, the film received an Oscar nomination and is available for viewing on YouTube.

The ArtsLIVE performance is supported by the City of Dayton Water Department and the University’s College of Arts and Sciences, which ensures that admission for University students is free.

- Eileen Carr, ArtsLIVE coordinator

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