‘Dust and Ions’

Upcoming show connects composer to his roots

Written by Amy Palser

It took the scattering effect of the pandemic to create a project that composer and pianist Alex Wakim says is all about connection. The Wichita native is returning to his hometown in September with his live performance “Dust and Ions,” combining music, dance and poetry. The 90-minute show fuses Wakim’s original score with musicians from the Wichita Symphony Orchestra, singers from the Wichita Grand Opera, local dancers, an award-winning poet and more.

“This is a moment that’s all about people coming together,” said Wakim, who grew up in Wichita and graduated from Northwest High School in 2014. He is the son of Dr. Tony and Mimi Wakim of Wichita. “I’m excited about all of the elements. I’m not really a purist; I love mixing, so this is so on brand for me.”

Wichitans may remember Wakim from his original musical, “An American in Beirut,” the sold-out 2019 workshop production at the Crown Uptown in Wichita. His newest cinematic album “Dust and Ions” was born in 2020 when the New York City resident found himself grounded in Wichita during the shutdown. Kansas’ wide open skies beckoned him, reconnecting him with his childhood love of space, stars and the cosmos.

When the comet NEOWISE passed through Kansas in July 2020, Wakim said he rushed to Cheney Lake to catch a glimpse of it away from city lights. Looking through binoculars, heart pounding, Wakim said he was struck by the stillness of the comet, juxtaposing his frantic pace. The second track on the album, “Sophia 537,” is based on that moment.

Wakim had planned to record the album in a New York studio, but it became clear that the pandemic would prevent that from happening. The stars seemed to align in Wichita, however, and one by one, the composer found talented local musicians to form a team that would later record the project at Zeptepland studio in Wichita. “Recording was a really great time,” he said. “Of course I would have loved to have a live release party for the album, but it wasn’t an option at that time, sadly.”

Wakim kept the idea of performing a live version of the album tucked in the back of his mind — and this year, it became a reality. Joining forces with amazing musicians, dancers and other artists has energized him, Wakim said. “A good nature walk gives me inspiration,” he joked, “but the energy of my collaborators is really what inspires me.”

Collaborators for the “Dust and Ions” event include dancers from the Regina Klenjoski Dance Company, composer and musician Juan Dussán, and award-winning poet and writer Yara Zgheib. While the album is the backbone of the performance, Wakim has also written 40 minutes of original music. He said guests may enjoy listening to the album in advance of the show (you can listen for free at alexwakim.com/dust-and-ions) and watching for its themes during the live performance.

Two causes close to Wakim’s heart will benefit from ticket sales: the WPS Fine Arts Gift Fund, which helps provide instruments to Wichita Public Schools band students, and the Kids First Association, which helps purchase medicine for pediatric oncology patients in Lebanon who have no access to treatment medication because of the country’s economic crisis.

Wakim is thankful for the musical opportunities he received as a Wichita Public Schools student from K–12, and he wanted to give back. Meanwhile, with family members living in Lebanon, Wakim says watching that nation’s financial meltdown has prompted him to get involved and help in whatever way possible.

“You feel powerless and want to help,” Wakim said. “It’s a way to feel connected.”

Dust and Ions
Sept. 17–18, 7:30 p.m.
VIP event at 6 p.m.
Wichita Center for Performing Arts
9112 E. Central Ave
Wichita, KS 67206
Tickets are available online at wichitagrandopera.org or by calling 316.262.8054.

 
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