Erick Biez: Stand-Up Comedian

Erick Biez, Valley stand-up comedian and comedy show host, photographed at The Turf in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Erick Biez, Valley stand-up comedian and comedy show host, photographed at The Turf in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Erick Biez
www.facebook.com/erickbiez

Erick Biez is responsible for bringing established and new comedians from the Valley and across the country to local stages, as the 31-year-old Phoenix resident and stand-up comedian hosts comedy nights at various bars and comedy clubs throughout town. Catch him hosting Monday Night Comedy at The Turf  in Phoenix every Monday from 10-11:30 p.m., a show that features both local and national comedians. He also runs Copper Comedy at Copper Blues in Tempe and the New Faces of Comedy shows at Stand Up Live and Tempe Improv. Beginning Thursday, September 3, he starts up a new comedy show at Valley Bar in Phoenix, with co-producer Anwar Newton.

When he’s not facilitating laughs on stage, Biez serves hungry diners at Mother Bunch Brewing in Phoenix. He shares his tips for beginning and veteran comedians below, and you can hear him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born outside of Cleveland, Ohio, and moved to Flagstaff in 2002 to study writing for TV and film at Northern Arizona University. After college, I moved to Chicago for a year, then moved back to Flagstaff, and then moved to Phoenix in 2010. Continue reading

Courtney Cotter King: Singer-Songwriter

Courtney Cotter King
www.courtneycotterking.com

Courtney Cotter King is one of the Valley’s most talented singer-songwriters, with a beautiful soulful voice and adept songwriting ability spanning genres ranging from pop to progressive rock. The 23-year-old Gilbert resident has written more than 100 songs and released three albums since she was in junior high school, and she performs at venues throughout the state when she’s not making polished music videos for her singles.

King is signed to local record label Fervor Records and is available for hire for special events such as weddings. She also teaches piano lessons and plays house parties for donations, which you can read more about below. Keep reading to see her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video, too.

What brought you to Arizona?

My ancestors came to Arizona, and my family has lived here for years. I was born here and went to Mesa High School. After high school, I attended a summer music performance program at Berklee College of Music before I studied audio production at Mesa Community College. Continue reading

Marshall Shore: Arizona’s Official Hipstorian

Marshall Shore, Arizona's Official Hipstorian, photographed at The Clarendon in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Marshall Shore, Arizona’s Official Hipstorian, photographed at The Clarendon in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Marshall Shore
www.marshallshore.com

Have a question about Arizona history? Ask Marshall Shore. The 48-year-old Phoenix resident has immersed himself in Grand Canyon State days of yore since he arrived in the Valley more than 15 years ago, and he is a public speaker educating various groups around the state on what makes Arizona so special. Shore is known throughout the Valley as “Arizona’s Official Hipstorian,” as he blogs for the Arizona Oddities website, leads tours in various cities as a representative of organizations such as Arizona Humanities Council, sits on the board for historical cemetery Pioneer Cemetery, and hosts events such as the Underground History night every second Sunday at 7 p.m. at Valley Bar in Phoenix.

When he’s not schooling the state on Arizona history, you can meet Shore behind the bar at Café Tranquilo at The Clarendon. Catch him hosting a trivia night this Thursday, July 16 at 7:30 p.m. at Changing Hands Bookstore, and head to Grand Avenue in Phoenix Friday, September 4 to visit art shows he helped curate: Hot Summer Nights at Chartreuse (1301 N.W. Grand Avenue) and the 10th Annual Grid Show: Art About Art at The Trunk Space.

Keep reading to gain Shore’s insight into Arizona history and to watch him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in Arizona in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I moved from New York City to Phoenix about 16 years ago. My partner and I had sort of a slumlord for a landlord, there was a rat in the apartment, and then there was a fire. It was time to move, and we chose an adventure.

For our current home, we wound up buying a 1950s Phoenix ranch. That was one of the goals and perks of moving to Arizona: we could get a mid-’50s ranch. The criteria is that it had to be as original as possible, close to the light rail. We wound up in the area just south of Camelback on 19th Avenue.

I was born in Indiana, in a small farm town of about 25 people, called Odell, with two roads and one stop sign. I realized at an early age it wasn’t where I wanted to grow up. As soon as I could, I got myself through college and then moved to New York City, as a librarian with the New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library for about a decade, before coming to Arizona. I did my undergraduate at Purdue in communications and my masters in library science at Indiana University. Continue reading

Mia McPoland: Blood and Bone Marrow Donation Awareness Activist

Mia McPoland, 12-year-old blood and organ donation activist, photographed at Kiwanis Park in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Mia McPoland, 12-year-old blood and bone marrow donation activist, photographed at Kiwanis Park in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Mia McPoland
www.bethematchfoundation.org/goto/MiaMcPoland

Mia McPoland, a 12-year-old from Chandler, is turning her struggle with an extremely rare disorder into a mission to increase blood and bone marrow donation throughout the state. As an infant, McPoland was diagnosed with Diamond Blackfan anemia, a rare inherited bone marrow failure syndrome that causes her to not produce red blood cells. As a result, she has received monthly blood transfusions since her diagnosis, while she also deals with Turner syndrome.

As an activist, the spunky student works with several local nonprofits, as well as serves as an honorary assistant coach for the Phoenix Mercury women’s basketball team, to raise awareness for the causes so close to her and her family. She has been hosting blood drives since she was in kindergarten and is an activist for organizations Be the Match, HopeKids, Camp Soaring Eagle, and PeppedUp!

Besides donating blood every 50 days to help patients like McPoland, you can show support by participating in the September Champ 5K on Saturday, September 19, to benefit children’s cancer causes. The event will also feature a blood drive — visit www.septemberchamp.org for more information.

Read on to learn more about McPoland, and you can check out a video where she names her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born here. I’m going into seventh grade at Santan Junior High school. Continue reading

Katie Flanigan: Co-Owner of Juice Core

Katie Flanigan, co-owner of Juice Core, photographed at Juice Core in Old Town Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Katie Flanigan, co-owner of Juice Core, photographed at Juice Core in Old Town Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Katie Flanigan
www.juicecore.com

Katie Flanigan is helping Valley residents achieve their daily servings of fresh fruits and vegetables with Juice Core, a cold-pressed juice business she co-owns with her mom, Patty Flanigan, that serves up delicious liquid concoctions, cleanses and raw vegan foods packed with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. The 25-year-old Phoenix resident’s fondness for fresh juice coincides with her love of yoga and a healthy lifestyle, and Juice Core offers juice both at its Old Town Scottsdale location, where it’s been open for the past two years, and via deliveries. Juice Core juices can also be found at the Scottsdale Old Town Scottsdale Farmers’ Market and Gilbert Farmers Market every Saturday.

Besides her work at Juice Core, Flanigan also models and teaches yoga at Humble Monkey and at companies throughout the Valley. She talked about passion for juicing and how she started her business, and you can hear her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born here. I went to Horizon High School and ASU for two years. Continue reading

Laura Strickland: Executive Director and Principal Flutist of Arizona Pro Arte

Laura Strickland, executive director and principle flutist of Arizona Pro Arte, photographed at Fountain Hills Community Theater, by Nicki Escudero

Laura Strickland, executive director and principle flutist of Arizona Pro Arte, photographed at Fountain Hills Community Theater, by Nicki Escudero

Laura Strickland
www.azproarte.com

Laura Strickland is one of the most talented flute players in the Valley, with multiple master’s degrees related to music and performance chops with several ensembles. You can catch the Fountain Hills resident with orchestra Arizona Pro Arte, where she serves as principal flutist and executive director, and as part of flute/guitar duo SoSco.

Strickland also teaches flute lessons at Scottsdale Neighborhood Arts Place (SNAP), when she’s not working as a business strategist for the FrameShift Group, a health care quality improvement and change management consultancy. Strickland talked about her passion for music and flute performance, and you can hear her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video below.

What brought you to Arizona?

I’m from Seattle and came to Arizona to start my undergrad at ASU. I absolutely loved it here, but as a junior, I transferred colleges and moved to Chicago to study with a flute teacher I wanted to study with. I moved around a lot as I went to different colleges but always wanted to come back, so once I got married and had an opportunity to move wherever I wanted, we decided to come here. Continue reading

Dennis Wise: Founder of Dennis Wise Golf Course Design

Dennis Wise, founder of Dennis Wise Golf Course Design, photographed at T. Cook's at the Royal Palms Resort & Spa, by Nicki Escudero

Dennis Wise, founder of Dennis Wise Golf Course Design, photographed at T. Cook’s at the Royal Palms Resort & Spa, by Nicki Escudero

Dennis Wise
www.wisegolfdesign.com

Dennis Wise has added his touch to some of the world’s most beautiful golf courses, as a golf course designer with more than 35 years’ experience, personally responsible for more than 100 courses in three countries and more than 30 states, including several in Arizona. Seven of those courses are currently ranked in Golf Digest‘s America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses. The 57-year-old Scottsdale resident worked for golf architect greats such as Larry Packard and Tom Fazio, and he has also consulted on or renovated more than 40 golf courses.

Wise founded Dennis Wise Golf Course Design in 2012 out of an enduring love of golf, nature and architecture, and a deep personal desire to create memorable golf environments that would enrich lives and connect people to the outdoors. His first solo endeavor was the two-year redesign of the Makena Golf & Beach Club in Maui for the Discovery Land Company, which will launch as a private golf course community this fall.

Wise talked about why he’s passionate about working on golf course design, and you can watch him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I managed golf design studios for Tom Fazio in South Florida in the 1980s and then in Kansas City, Kansas, in the 1990s. I relocated 20-plus individuals from our Kansas City design team to Scottsdale in July 2000.

We felt that growth existed in the West for our brand. I had finished a private club in Scottsdale called Estancia, and was about to commence on a new project called Mirabel. Furthermore, I wanted to be nearer a larger metropolitan city with an airport hub that would allow all of us the ability to go nonstop to numerous cities, which did not exist living in Kansas City. I looked for a year and half throughout the West, and felt Phoenix had the airport, the weather and the Midwest people connectivity and was a very affordable place to live.

I was born in Waterloo, Iowa, and lived several places before settling here in Arizona. Continue reading

Miguel Ivery: DJ Seduce and Founder of Afro:Baile Records

Miguel Ivery, aka DJ Seduce and founder of Afro:Baile Records and Brazilian Day Arizona, photographed at his home in Gilbert, by Nicki Escudero

Miguel Ivery, aka DJ Seduce and founder of Afro:Baile Records and Brazilian Day Arizona Festival, photographed at his home in Gilbert, by Nicki Escudero

Miguel Ivery
www.afrobaile.com

Miguel Ivery is at the forefront of bringing Brazilian music to the masses, as founder of Brazilian music-focused Afro:Baile Records and the annual Brazilian Day Arizona Festival, whose sixth event will happen at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts September 19. He also spins records as DJ Seduce, specializing in world music that gets crowds dancing.

Ivery, a 37-year-old Gilbert resident, talked about what inspired him to start his own label and what he strives for as a DJ. Keep reading to see him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

Actually, I’m a native, one of barely any left or living here in the Valley. I attended high school at Saguaro High School and continued to community college before leaving to pursue music. Continue reading

Audrey Thacker: Founder and President of Artisan Markets

Audrey Thacker, founder and president of Artisan Markets, photographed at the Scottsdale Waterfront, by Nicki Escudero

Audrey Thacker, founder and president of Artisan Markets, photographed at the Scottsdale Waterfront, by Nicki Escudero

Audrey Thacker
www.artisanmarketsaz.com

Audrey Thacker was a jewelry maker who saw a need for an artist market community in the Valley. She founded Artisan Markets in 2009, which has grown to a twice-weekly Scottsdale market featuring items ranging from metal sculptures to glass art for purchase. The markets are every Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m. and every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Scottsdale Waterfront, complete with live music to listen to as you peruse the artist offerings.

The 37-year-old Phoenix resident talked more about what goes into organizing the Artisan Markets, and you can hear Thacker name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was attracted to the prospect of good weather, opportunity and affordability. I am originally from Connecticut, but moved to Arizona after living in Hawaii, because I wanted a place where I could embark on my career as an artist. Arizona had everything I was looking for. Continue reading

Elena Thornton: Founder of Arizona Consortium for the Arts

Elena Thornton, founder of Arizona Consortium for the Arts, photographed at Dog-Eared Pages Used Books in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Elena Thornton, founder of Arizona Consortium for the Arts, photographed at Dog-Eared Pages Used Books in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Elena Thornton
www.artizona.org

Elena Thornton believes the arts are instrumental in the advancement of humanity. In an effort to help support and foster arts and culture here in the Valley, she founded the Arizona Consortium for the Arts in 2007, which puts on free art events and festivals throughout the Phoenix area and sponsors literary and poetry magazines. The nonprofit’s monthly open mics, spanning all disciplines and genres, take place at the Dog-Eared Pages Used Books in Phoenix every last Thursday of the month from 5 to 7 p.m., including this Thursday, May 28.

Thornton’s ultimate goal for the Arizona Consortium for the Arts is to use it as a vehicle to open a multicultural center that will be free for local arts groups to use, as rehearsal, performing and recording space and more. The 53-year-old Phoenix resident talked more about her goals for the Arizona Consortium for the Arts and for Valley arts, and you can hear her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was a Russian teacher in upstate New York, and the weather was depressing, with rain and snow all the time. We — my husband Jim and our son Jeremy — came here on vacation during spring break in April of 1994, and we moved in July.

I was born in Moldova, and my family moved to Albany, New York, in 1976. After graduating from Albany High School, I went to the University at Albany (SUNY) and earned my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education. Continue reading