Presentation Comments

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Comments on the lecture / presentation How Art & Music Can Change The World (which includes the graphic novel THE LISTENER) by David Lester and Jean Smith. If you’d like to have us present our work in your classroom or venue, please email us.

“I would like to recommend David and his performance partner Jean Smith who gave an incredibly dynamic, introspective and involving presentation that involves a slide show, music, monologues and a sense of humour. His presentation would be absolutely perfect for teens especially.” — Cameron Ray, Youth Services Specialist, North York Central Branch (Toronto Public Library, 2011)

“Their presentation highlighted their multidisciplinary approach and included a PowerPoint presentation of David’s graphic novel set to music by David and Jean, a presentation of David’s graphic design work, and set of Mecca Normal songs. Their discussion of this range of work jibed well with the multi-genre format of the class, and the students were engaged by David and Jean’s intelligence and humour, the insights they offered into their practices, their dedication to their creative endeavours, and their uncompromising, fiercely independent outlook. It was one of the highlights of the term to have them in my class, and I cannot speak more glowingly of their professional attitude and ability as guest speakers.” — Kevin Chong, Adjunct Professor, Creative Writing Program (University of British Columbia, 2011, 2012, 2013)

“I heard nothing but raves about your presentation.” — Gary Cristall, organizer, World Peace Forum Teach-In (Vancouver, BC, 2011)

“I especially like the way, toward the beginning, that you straddled theatre and presentation. As a teacher, it is always a privilege to observe and be taught for a change. I hope you’ll be doing more work with teachers.” — Patrik Parkes, editor, Global Educator (Surrey, BC, 2011)

“North York Central Library’s customers were wowed by a brilliant performance by David Lester and musician/singer Jean Smith. Powerful, inventive and insightful are just a few of the terms this duo deserve for how they gave their presentation. David takes book talking to another level by having the audience participate at different times in the presentation, setting it all to music and offering a slideshow of different illustrations from the novel.” — Toronto Public Library Newsletter (2011)

“Jean Smith is a great story teller and performer; tough, charismatic and hilarious. During the musical portion of the event, Smith shared stories of online dating, lovers tried and lost and grocery shopping. She and Lester have a great interplay on stage. Lester’s motions as guitarist are broad and with sweeping movement that match the energy of Smith’s physical delivery and sound-wise, contributes to an overarching warmth. Wonderful. The event altogether left this respondent breathless.” — Deanna Radford, Suoni Per Il Popolo blog (Montreal, PQ, 2011)

“Jean and David were able to cultivate a very interesting relationship with their audience through the mere act of recognizing their own recreational interests in political activism in conjunction with their art. It was this kind of presentation that made them extremely relatable and allowed their art and performance to bear more meaning with their young audience.” –– Alisa Dwyer, Journalism Communication Studies student, Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles, CA, 2012)

“While the show was overall a really interesting and new experience for me, I saw the effect cross-media had on the productivity of the show. Never have I seen words, images, and music used to express such colorful and vibrant ideals. It was so awesome to think that the two of them have been mixing these medias for over 25 years, long before me or the concept of new media had even been born.” — Bree, English major, Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles, CA, 2012)

“Up until this point they were pretty formal and now she’s singing about condom animal balloons and he’s gone all Hendrix with the guitar. It’s like wait…what?! And so my first instinct was to giggle. I mean it was totally surprising, but then I kinda started to enjoy it. They’re good. I liked it and I realized I wanted to laugh not just because I was stunned, but because they made me happy. I had this urge to high-five them for defying cultural stereotypes, for having an opinion (even if I didn’t agree with all of it), and using art to express it.” — Maggie Jones, senior at Loyola Marymount University, Journalism and New Media (Los Angeles, CA, 2012)

”The performance that Jean Smith and David Lester gave was unlike anything that I had ever seen and was very different from the ‘rock band’ expectation that I had in my head. They started out by acting out part of Lester’s book The Listener, which I thought was very interesting and entertaining. I did enjoy the content of their performance. They way that they mixed all types of media to create a message was very engaging. They used music, humor, acting, and a slideshow of their artwork to captivate their audience.” — Malia Haunfelner, senior at Loyola Marymount University, Communication Studies major and an English minor (Los Angeles, CA, 2012)

“They are incredibly talented artists, and they REALLY ARE artists. They are passionate about what they do and that shines through when they are performing. Mecca Normal bridges the gaps between music, visual art, and politics and they do it flawlessly.” — Gabbie Garcia, senior Communication Studies major, Studio Arts minor, Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles, CA, 2012)

“Mecca Normal’s performance depicted the many ways that art and music can, and does change the world. Jean encouraged the audience to always be evolving and to find new ways to be creative and contribute our own form of art, whatever that may be, to the world. Mecca Normal’s art, music, and writing provide exactly the inspiration each of us needs to embrace our unique talents and be activists for the things we most believe in.” — Jenna, a senior at Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles, CA, 2012)

“I like how the vocalist, Jean, used new media to portray her art to tell the story she was singing. I noticed that Jean used new media tools to assist her performance such as the projector to show her art pieces and a camcorder to record her performance to perhaps post videos online. She integrated politics, art and music with her performance, which was unique. Mecca Normal’s musical performance was definitely a new experience in comparison to all the other musical activities I have attended in the past.” — Saul G., Sociology major at Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles, CA, 2012)

”This small exert from Mecca Normal’s song is just one instance in which I noticed how the band uses their lyrics to tell everyday life stories that convey common stereotypes and injustices. In this way, Mecca Normal makes you think twice about everyday situations, which suddenly seem to leave a bad taste in your mouth as you begin to realize the stereotypes and injustices that occur in your own life.” — Emily, Journalism and New Media, Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles, CA, 2012)

“I have never been exposed to a performance like that and felt that I walked away with a new perspective. I also especially enjoyed the story telling aspect of Jean and David’s work and feel that it serves as a raw view into their personal lives and experiences.” — Jabdou1, Loyola Marymount University student (Los Angeles, CA, 2012)

“I had never been to this type of performance. I found they’re approach super interesting! I liked the combination of vocals, both singing and speaking, and guitar. I definitely appreciate my opportunity to see Mecca Normal and truly believe that the only way to formulate educated opinions is by taking in a variety of views of a certain topic.” –– Megan Gallagher, college student-athlete, major in English with an emphasis in writing, Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles, CA, 2012)

“Revolutions don’t happen in a day. Sometimes they take weeks, or months, or years. In the early ’90s, a group of grassroots activists, artists, and musicians declared Revolution Girl Style. The Vancouver duo Mecca Normal were at the vanguard of that movement, which grabbed the media’s attention for a moment, then dissipated. But Mecca Normal never stopped making music, art, books, and trouble. Last night at their LMU presentation “How Art & Music Can Change the World,” Jean Smith showed slides of some of her latest paintings: vibrant tableaus showing women performing with their heads covered in splotches of bright colors. Pussy Riot has put Riot Grrrl and RGS back on the world stage, as Mecca Normal’s singer pointed out, bigger and badder than ever. I presented last night’s performance; it was a chance for me to honor and catch up with a band I’ve followed and written about for decades.” – Professor Evelyn McDonnell, Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles, CA, 2012)

“Jean and David found a way to incorporate their love of literature, music, politics, and activism into one little vagabond duo that I found to be very inspirational and captivating. I left their performance feeling a little bit lighter than when I came in and a little bit curious– which I liked!” — Mountain Spirit, Journalism student, Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles, CA, 2012)

“Towards the end of one of her songs, she describes an individual that longs to be “normal” to fit in with their peers. I found this concept to be relevant to my own life because of the way that the notion of normality has fluctuated tremendously as I’ve grown older. It was an interesting way of observing the way that I have developed over time. So I guess in a way, the performance did demonstrate how music can illuminate the way that I personally have changed in the world.” — Journalismblog55, Loyola Marymount University student (Los Angeles, CA, 2012)

“Thank you so much for coming to Evergreen! You two put on an amazing event, one that most of the audience won’t soon forget. I enjoy working for those things I care deeply about — art and music are at the top of my list. I think your message is important and needed — maybe more so now than ever.” — Judith Baumann, Faculty, Printmaking and Visual Arts, Evergreen State College (Olympia, WA, 2009)

“Thank you Jean and David for your inspiring, engaging, serious and funny day at Windermere. Thanks for embodying passion for all that you do.” — Donna Lee, teacher-librarian, Windermere Secondary School (Vancouver, BC, 2009)

“i was at your performance at cal arts tonight. i just wanted to say that it was really inspiring to see you today. i really believe in art and its power. i believe in living truthfully and deeply and always standing firmly for what you believe in. living this way and being nineteen years old, i don’t ‘fit in’ with most people my age, or most people in general. its really really inspiring to see people like you, expressing yourselves, and what you believe in, and holding strong to that. it makes me feel not so alone in this. thank you very much for all of your beautiful work. it really means a lot to me.” — Bavani, student, California Institute of the Arts (Los Angeles, CA, 2009)

“Mecca Normal was at CalArts today doing a show called “How Music and Art Can Change the World” which was kind of like a combination performance /lecture / art show. It was amazing.” — My Myopic Eye, live journal blog (Los Angeles, CA, 2009)

“Thank you!!! You were brilliant and wonderful. Come back anytime.” — Brooke, Bluestocking Books (New York, NY, 2009)

“Jean Smith and David Lester performed their particularly well-honed brand of underground agit-rock and spoke with passion and conviction about how art and music can change the world. It still has to be good art, mind you, not just polemic, and Mecca Normal delivers on that front as well. They rock, they wail, Lester strums at his guitar with a paintbrush and Smith runs into the audience belting her peculiarly sharp alto voice. They remind us, in the lecture portion of their presentation, that “in other cultures and societies, culture is used as a way to propel social change, as opposed to a way to make fame and money and to be liked.” — Nikki Reimer, NXNE website blog (Vancouver, BC, 2009)

“How Art and Music Can Change The World, is a case in point. More than a mere retrospective of their work, the tour opener that I caught in Vancouver was a reaffirmation of their inspirational power and continuous resilience.” — Ron Sakolsky, Emeritus Professor of Public Administration at the University of Illinois at Springfield (2009)

“Smith and Lester are also in town as part of their How Art and Music Can Change the World program. “We not only want to play for you but to find out if you think music and art really can change the world,” says Smith, between songs. “Don’t worry, we’ll get it out of you,” she adds, as a few patrons shift uncomfortably in their chairs. The pair peppers their lively set with humorous anecdotes that include the tale of Smith’s recent excursion into the risky world of online dating.” — Jud Cost, Blurt online (San Francisco, CA, 2009)

“I invited Mecca Normal to our Main Stage the following year. We had Joel Bakan (The Corporation), David Suzuki and Rex Weyler (co-founder of Greenpeace) elsewhere on site, so they were a perfect fit with this progressive / political programming… I would not hesitate to recommend them in any environment where you are looking for provocative, educated, engaged speakers (who also happen to be accomplished, talented visual artists). That their chosen media include comix, spoken word and loud electric guitar riffs might also help make them relatable to students, who should come away from their event inspired and thinking.” — Liesl Jauk, Director, Word On The Street Festival (Vancouver, BC, 2005)

“Thank you again for your participation in the 2005 Arts for Life Conference. The students greatly enjoyed your presentation performance! I hope we can work together again in the future, as I think you both are fabulous performers and a great inspiration to youth! — Kathy Tycholis, School Studio Arts Programs Coordinator, Richmond Art Gallery (Richmond, BC, 2005)

Mecca Normal TOUR updates

To contact Mecca Normal: meccanormal@hotmail.com

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