Beth Peerless, Where it’s at: Les Femmes at The SandBox

Peninsula Premier Admin

I continue to enjoy an inspiring relationship with the Sand City salon-style venue The SandBox. The music programs cover a wide range of styles from fusions of popular and classical, Latin and World music, American roots music, and flat out classical chamber music. There is also the occasional art and poetry aspect of art performance. But what I’ve come to appreciate are the people who devote their time and talents to the programming as well as many of the regular patrons of its shows. And a binding element of all this is the inter-connected nonprofit Musikiwest’s focus on doing good in the community and fostering students through music instruction to become better citizens and human beings.

Thursday evening’s Musikiwest Presents program “Les Femmes,” is billed as “a superstar all-female cast performing the works of award-winning living female composers: Caroline Shaw, Lisa Bielawa, Jennifer Higdon and Gabriela Lena Frank.”  It features four outstanding female musicians performing the works “Entr’acte” (Shaw); “Trojan Women – Hecuba and Cassandra” (Bielawa); “Quiet Art from Impressions for string quartet” (Higdon); and “Legends, An Andean Walkabout” (Frank).

The musicians are Tien-Hsin Cindy Wu on violin, Michelle Djokic on cello, Gabriela Diaz on violin, and Ayane Kozasa on viola. The string quartet produces an aural fireworks display of beauty and dynamic verve, a sound most music fans can appreciate and I highly recommend anyone who fancies themselves as having superior tastes in music with open ears to come and experience this show.

“I firmly believe that only in the United States could a Peruvian-Chinese-Jewish-Lithuanian girl born with significant hearing loss in a hippie town successfully create a life writing string quartets and symphonies,” said Gabriela Lena Frank, one of the program’s composers.

Frank explores her multicultural heritage through her compositions. Inspired by the works of Bela Bartók and Alberto Ginastera, she has traveled extensively throughout South America in creative exploration.  Her music often reflects not only her own experience as a multi-racial Latina, but also reflect her studies of Latin American cultures, incorporating poetry, mythology, and native musical styles into a western classical framework that is uniquely her own.

Moreover, she writes, “There’s usually a storyline behind my music; a scenario or character.” While the enjoyment of her works can be obtained solely from her music, the composer’s program notes enhance the listener’s experience, for they describe how a piano part mimics a marimba or pan-pipes, or how a movement is based on a particular type of folk song, where the singer is mockingly crying. She has so many interesting aspects to her career and life, you’ll benefit from digging deeper by visiting her website and checking out her bio at

A little about the musicians will also raise your awareness of the quality of this program. Violinist Wu has been praised by the Seattle Times for being “simply marvelous” and Taiwan’s Liberty Times for “astonishingly capturing the spirit of the music. Wu enjoys a versatile career as a soloist, chamber musician, and educator throughout North America, Europe and Asia.”

Cellist Djokic is the proprietor and art director for The SandBox Sand City. The Grammy-nominated and prize-winning cellist enjoys a versatile career as a chamber musician, soloist, and orchestral player. In 1997, she founded Concordia Chamber Players based in New Hope, Pennsylvania and remains the artistic director. In 2017 Michelle founded and is artistic director of Musikiwest which brings music to the schools of Monterey County to build empathic awareness.  This past summer, she launched SandBox, “to amplify the vibrant arts community of Sand City.”

Violinist Diaz is a fierce champion of contemporary music and has been fortunate to work closely with many significant composers on their compositions.  In 2012, Diaz joined the violin faculty of Wellesley College. She is co-artistic director of the much-beloved Boston-based chamber music and outreach organization Winsor Music. Critics have acclaimed Diaz as “a young violin master” and “one of Boston’s most valuable players.”

And on viola, Kozasa is hailed for her “magnetic, wide-ranging tone” and her “rock solid technique” (Philadelphia Inquirer). She enjoys a career that spans a broad spectrum of musical personas. Her solo career took off when she won the 2011 Primrose International Viola Competition, where she also captured awards for best chamber music and commissioned work performances.

SandBox Sand City is located at 440 Ortiz Ave. #A, Thursday’s 7 p.m. concert requires full COVID vaccination status and the wearing of a mask throughout the performance. Tickets are $35.88 including service fee, available at

A double dose of comedy is being offered this week. Friday at Sunset Center, Carmel is Brian Regan; and Sunday at the Golden State Theatre is Steve-O. It appears that comedy is a hot ticket, not that it’s any surprise. In normal times, people love comedy. Y’know, people like to laugh, right? But these days while we struggle to get along in this crazy world it’s great to get out and laugh with a bunch of strangers! As it is, tickets are getting scarce at both shows, so if you wanna laugh you have to move fast.

Regan’s show is an all-ages, general audience kind of comedy in which he uses observational, sarcastic and self-deprecating humor on everyday life. Considered clean, refraining from profanity and taboo subject matter, you can go ahead, bring the kids. He’s been plying his trade for over 30 years and he has amassed a large fan base. You can still find seats at, three levels, $79, $69, $59.

On the other hand, Steve-O’s The Bucket List Triple X show is not recommended for kids or the faint of heart. Stamped with For Adult Audiences Only, (18 and over), the show is described as having graphic footage of sexually explicit content, nudity, self-inflicted violence, and drug use. Every idea on Steve-O’s bucket list was so ill-advised, he never expected to go through with any of them. Until it was time to prepare for this tour. Not only are the stunts more ridiculous than what you already know Steve-O for, he did them all, and made a multimedia comedy show out of them. Yikes! Showtime is 7 p.m., doors 6 p.m. Tickets come in three price levels, $60, $50 & $40. Again, not that many seats left, although seats can be had at

On the local band, small club beat this week you’ll find the Rough Jazz Combo (Jesse DeCarlo, guitar; Zach Westfall, bass; Jenn Schaaf, drums; and Ben Herod, sax) at Folktale Winery & Vineyards Wine Garden, Saturday from 2-4 p.m., reservations required, no cover, but food and wine service suggested, In their top menu choose Visit, then Food & Wine. Click the Book button. Instrumental jazz and funk are on the menu.

Songs Hotbox Harry Taught Us is back playing live on the other side of the hill. They’ll be at Cuz’s Sportsman Bar, 594 Broadway in Seaside, Saturday, 8:30-11:30 p.m, no cover. A rotating cast of characters from Big Sur and the East Coast cover tunes by Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard, Gram Parsons, Loretta Lynn, Elvis, Buck Owens, Bob Dylan and the likes. It’s said that Hotbox Harry passed these gems along to the boys. More info on shows at

Playing their brand of Grateful Dead-inspired jam band music and rock & roll, Johnny Tsunami & the Shoulder Hoppers will be playing Saturday from 7-10 p.m. at the recently opened Urban Lounge, located downstairs from the restaurant at The Red Lion Inn, 1425 Munras Ave., Monterey. Check out the newly cast club scene produced by Brad Mallory and Jacqueline Kabat of Tribe in the Sky, and brothers Rene and Rob Diaz. Live music Thursday with The Transducers, and Friday with JJ Hawg.

Contributed by local news sources

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