BOLDFACE: A hyperlocal look at Philly’s social scene

Melissa Brun

Short weeks with no Mondays mess me up. I can’t work out my week’s schedule of happy hours vs. not-so-happy hours, any thought of Meatless Mondays are down the tubes, and the critical ratio of castigating players and coaches after whatever big Sunday game occurs is askew if I’m missing my regular sense of Monday menace. Ack.

Speaking of the big game, Philly’s Michele Zauner of Japanese Breakfast tossed the opening pitch in the New York Mets’ game against the Philadelphia Phillies. Michele tweeted out that she showed Philly love by wearing Phillies socks with her custom made jersey with “JBREKKIE” on the back. And she’s got a good arm.

Longtime Philadelphia clothing designer Kim Montenegro is an icon, locally and internationally, for the wares she’s created for strippers, guitarists, singers, chemists and painters courtesy her Very Bad Horse apparel. Once a staple of North 3rd Street, Montengro has been going through life-and-work altering health problems in the last few years. To counterbalance missed work and income, old friend Jesse Malin and other musicians will host a benefit, “For the Love of Kim,” at Johnny Brenda’s June 4.

For its June 7-11 run at the new Miller Theater on the Kimmel Cultural Campus, the improv-heavy, rapping and beat-boxing ‘Freestyle Love Supreme‘ will get appearances from Hamilton Broadway alumni James Monroe Iglehart, Christopher Jackson and Lin-Manuel Miranda, one of Freestyle’s co-creators. A big deal for sure. Look for Lin-Manuel to appear (and tickets to disappear) on June 7.

Also just announced, Philadelphia keyboardist and all-around Disco Biscuit Aron Magner will use the good will and weird pop music of his other band, SPAGA, as the soundtrack to a dinner he’s throwing on a farm, June 29, with Dizengoff chef Mikey McCann, plus Randy Rucker from River Twice and Yehuda Sichel from Huda. SIW Vegetables is on Hill Girt Farm at 4317 Creek Road in Chadds Ford. The event is BYOB, if Magner’s hosting skills are as prime as his playing, this should be tasty all-the-way around.

I get that people are very angry about what the City of Philadelphia may-or-may-not have planned for safety measures along Washington Avenue. Talk to millennial walkers and cyclers and they want more strolling and biking lanes. Talk to the old timers of the Ninth Street business district and they know what the Italian Market can and must bear to maintain profit. Talk to the man in the middle, Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson, and he’s looking for compromise. Should we inundate Johnson with calls to get this fixed now, or should we send him compliments for a compromised plan in his district? Make your voice heard either way.

Pride Month is here and Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin and his Philadelphia Orchestra are presenting its first-ever free Pride Concert June 2, in Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center with Canadian violinist Blake Pouliot, the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus, YES YES YES Martha Graham Cracker.

Unmasked Philly: Melissa Brun

As a co-creator of Big Idea Committee with Christine Petrini, Philly cellist and performer Melissa Brun always succeeds at making large dreams come true. And after having blended musical theater vocal vibes and live cello for interactive, immersive stage experiences for kids ages 3-8, the Committee releases its first ever full-length self-titled album on June 17, followed-up by two in-person gigs: West Chester on June 21 and Mt. Laurel Township, New Jersey, on July 10.

“Musically, I most love collaboration, especially accompanying singers,” says Brun from her Pheonixville home where she has a private teaching studio and sees 30+ students a week, virtually, and in-person. “In addition to my work in Big Idea Committee, I am also a member of the SEEN Collective, where, with original music by Kristen Brewer tells the stories of the women in the Bible. I’m also a founding member of the chamber-folk sextet, The Sound Accord, with whom I’ve presented at various educational conferences across the country.”

Beyond collaborating with people, her first musical teammate is her cello, an instrument she commenced playing at age nine, and was a member of the Kennett Symphony Children’s Chorus for nearly 10 years.

“I studied cello performance in college and earned a Bachelors and a Performer’s Certificate from SUNY Purchase College Conservatory, and all the while, Karl the Cello has been with me. Karl was made in Cremona, Italy, in 2001, and I couldn’t imagine a better musical partner with whom to work.”

As a singer and lover of all things Broadway, Brun digs playing in pit orchestras for various touring Broadway companies, including Cinderella, Matilda, and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, and loves to sub at the Walnut Street Theater whenever she can.

“One of my favorite musical moments was soloing with Kristin Chenoweth and Lancaster native, Jonathan Groff when they toured through southeastern PA,” she says. Brun is also a folk musician and loves to play fiddle tunes – on the cello with everyone from the Kenossee Lake Kitchen Party to Maggie’s Boots where she’s paired with a button accordion player, Rob Curto, to play traditional Irish music.

For all of her music-music-music, Brun loves to bake, especially cookies and cupcakes with “my favorite combination of flavors being dark chocolate cake with espresso buttercream.” She digs a great book, especially some ‘Harry Potter’ fiction (“my husband, Chris, is a children’s librarian in Great Valley School District and we got engaged in Olivander’s Wand Shop”). And Brun’s greatest teammate is her “silly, spunky, sassy girl, Hazel. Now 13-months old, her favorite things are bananas and cats, and she loves to play outside.  She is also a huge fan of music and is an expert level dancer.”

More music in the house. That ain’t bad.

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