May 20

Gabriel Ayala Quintet

performs at the academy

Arizona Senior Academy audiences have eagerly followed the career of virtuoso guitarist Gabriel Ayala for several years. The latest addition to his musical palette will be showcased at the academy when the Gabriel Ayala Quintet performs at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The program will feature Ayala’s original “JazzMenco” compositions and arrangements. Ayala describes the evolution of the JazzMenco genre as an ongoing process of translating the sounds in his head into musical notes and instrumental textures, fusing the classical structure of Flamenco with the improvisations of jazz.

He feels he has found his ideal musical colors in the makeup of his quintet. The four remaining members are Troy Gray on bass, Danny Brito and Eric Hines on percussion and Richard Katz on keyboard.

Since last appearing at the academy, Ayala has been busy touring in places as varied as New Mexico, Las Vegas, Minnesota and Canada, where he performed with Dr. John and Willie Nelson at the Ottowa Jazz Festival. He also linked up with Tommy Chong (of Cheech and Chong fame), touring as a guitar duo.

As a member of the Yaqui people of Southern Arizona, Ayala is an advocate for all things positive for Native American youth. He is working to expand the mission of his Gabriel Ayala Foundation, which awarded over 25 scholarships for higher education last year.

In April, the Gabriel Ayala Trio performed a benefit concert at the San Xavier Mission. A July release is expected for a DVD and CD of the concert, “Gabriel Ayala, Live at the Mission,” the proceeds of which will go toward restoration of the mission.

Leslie Nitzberg

May 21

Lecture on VERITAS canceled

A lecture that had been planned for today has been canceled. Trevor Weekes had been scheduled to talk about about VERITAS at the Arizona Senior Academy

May 22

Teaching cosmology

to Buddhist monks

“Surprise, delight and unbridled mirth are not commonly encountered in the science classroom,” says astrophysicist Chris Impey. “But in the foothills of the Himalaya, at a program to teach cosmology to Buddhist monks, they were daily occurrences.”

Impey, a University Distinguished Professor and deputy head of the UA Astronomy Department, has spent parts of the last five years teaching cosmology to a group of three dozen Tibetan monks.

Called “Science for Monks,” the program was initiated by the Dalai Lama so that his monks could, in Impey’s words, “be suitably trained for the modern world that’s so dependent on math and science.”

Impey, who runs the nation’s largest undergraduate majors program in astronomy and the second largest Ph.D. program, will describe his experiences in the Science for Monks program at the Arizona Senior Academy on May 22.

His hourlong talk, “Humble Before the Void,” begins at 3:30 p.m.

He will relate some of the techniques he used to help the monks understand cosmology — defined on as “the branch of astronomy involving the origin and evolution of the universe.”

To get them to think about large numbers, he asked them to calculate the number of grains of sand in one cubic centimeter — about the size of a sugar cube.

“My students back home would struggle with this activity, not because it’s technically difficult, but because it’s painstaking and tedious,” Impey said. “The monks perform the task without a hint of self-consciousness, and with care and delicacy, like it’s a devotion.”

At the same time, Impey will relate how much he and other Western teachers gained from the experience. He said working with this unique audience “spurred new ways of thinking about the universe and the art of teaching.”

He added: “Buddhist monks are inspiring students because they’re open to new ideas and they’re absolutely committed to learning. The classroom is a two-way street; excitement and glimmers of enlightenment flow in both directions. For any educator this is the mother lode.”

Impey has recorded his experiences with the monks in a book, “Humble Before the Void,” which will be published later this year. The book was written with a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, a philanthropic organization that seeks to support scientific research and efforts to further the dialogue between science and religion.

Mike Maharry