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December 11, 2013

Host: Ted Simons

ASU Edible Campus

  |   Video
  • You can get more than one kind of “date” attending Arizona State University. A group of volunteers grow and harvest many kinds of edibles on campus, including dates from palm trees. We’ll show you how many can benefit from a source a fresh food right on campus.
Category: Environment   |   Keywords: ASU, food, campus,

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Ted Simons: Arizona state university is home to a unique group of volunteers, and as producer Shauna Fischer and photographer Steve Snow show us, some of the volunteers on the Tempe campus are putting their green thumbs to good use.

Shauna Fischer: Miles Campos is spending the morning picking grapefruit not in an orchard, but in the middle of ASU Tempe's campus. Miles is part of an all-volunteer program run by Deborah Thirkill.

Deborah Thirkill: Campus harvest is a program here at ASU that we harvest everything on campus, our dates, sour oranges -- no one goes hungry on our campus.

Shauna Fischer: The entire 750-acre campus is an urban garden with an edible landscape, all available to the students. It was the vision of the former ASU president Lattie Coor. For Miles, the concept behind an edible campus was a welcome one.

Miles Campos: Coming from out of state, when I first got to Phoenix, especially ASU, all I saw was desert and it seemed sterile to me. Nothing grew and it was just empty.

Shauna Fischer: Miles soon learned there was more growing here than he realized, including date palm trees.

Deborah Thirkill: ASU is unique, we can grow those -- and that is so unique to this area.

Shauna Fischer: ASU's groundskeeping crew harvest the dates that grow on 80 trees. Volunteers package them and they're sold at campus bookstores and farmers market and used in ASU's dining hall. Nearly 5,000 pounds of dates are harvested in a single season. Campus harvest extends beyond the trees.

Miles Campos: In my plot right now, I have brussel sprouts, beets, carrots.

Shauna Fischer: Miles and a dozen other students have their own gardens growing on the south side of the social sciences building.

Miles Campos: It feels good to be a farmer. It is almost like a spiritual experience for me. You get that dirt under your finger nails and you make something and it is a wonderful experience.

Shauna Fischer: The students are given an 8 by 10 foot plot and can plant whatever they want, peppers, squash, even herbs. The only requirement, they have to maintain their own gardens. They're also free to do what they want with the fruits of their labor. They can sell the veggies at farmers markets or to ASU's campus dining. They can give them to friends or keep them for themselves. Bianca Zietal, a biology major, sees this as a chance to experience first-hand what she studies in the classroom.

Bianca Zietal: When I walk around campus and I see the variety of plans growing edible, non-edible, it makes me happy to see there is a sort of integration of flora and people being able to see where your fruit is coming from, especially the dates sold on campus. It creates this sense of unity, in that you know the origins of your food and you can appreciate where it comes from.

Shauna Fischer: Miles, who spends most of the day on the campus the size of a small city, relishes the opportunity to do something with and for his community.

Miles Campos: We're growing it, we're maintaining it, we're eating it. It's staying here. It's staying in our community. It's local. We know the quality of the food, and it's just a wonderful experience to know that you're supporting your classmates and your friends and feeding each other.

Ted Simons: And that is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you for joining us. You have a great evening.

Conductor Michael Christie

  |   Video
  • This Friday, the Minnesota Opera premiere production of the Pulitzer-Prize winning opera “Silent Night” will be broadcast nationwide on PBS's Great Performances. The opera is conducted by Michael Christie, and will air Friday at 8 p.m. here on KAET. Christie will appear on Arizona Horizon to talk about Silent Night as well as Handel’s Messiah, being performed here in Phoenix, which he will conduct.
  • Michael Christie - Opera Conductor, "Silent Night"
Category: The Arts   |   Keywords: Silent Night, conductor, phoenix, opera,

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Ted Simons: The premier production of the Pulitzer-prize winning opera "Silent Night" will be broadcast nationwide this week on PBS's "Great Performances." the opera airs Friday night at p.m. here on Eight/Arizona PBS. Conducting the Minnesota opera's premier performance is the Phoenix Symphony's own Michael Christie, who joins us now. Good to see you again.

Michael Christie: Good to see you too.

Ted Simons: Minnesota opera's premier of “Silent night”. Are you going back to do it? Was it already done? Give me a time line here?

Michael Christie: The performance happened in November of 2011, the Pulitzer was this past year, 2012.

Ted Simons: And this will be broadcast on great performance -- did you know this was going to be a broadcast performance?

Michael Christie: No, but we did understand it was going to be an important opera when we were doing it. We fundraised it a bit more to capture it on HD. The image is amazing and sound capture is out of this world. And then it was a question of whether things would be picked up. But I think the fact that it is this Christmas opera did give it a great opportunity. And so PBS picked it up.

Ted Simons: You said you knew at the time this was an important piece of work and this was a special opera. Why?

Michael Christie: Well, there are those moments when creating something brand new when you just know that a composer, and in this case composer and his team -- they have created this fantastic story. The propulsion, the drama, beauty of the music, and just the topic somehow really worked.

Ted Simons: Talk about the topic. When I read about it, it is like this is -- we have heard this story before. World War I, soldiers laying down their arms during Christmas. But the idea of a song from this bunker, a song from that -- my goodness, that's made for opera.

Michael Christie: That's exactly it. That's the point. When Minnesota Opera commissioned this particular piece, that was the idea that when you have something as upending as war and suddenly music changes it. What is so interesting, reports are that these armistices happened throughout the battle lines. There wasn't just this one. This actually did happen in Belgium and the three armies, the Scotch, French, and Germans who apparently were quite close together, so close were the bunkers that they were shouting at each other often, and apparently in real life, there was a German singer and he started singing and the other people started to sing and they popped their heads over the bunker. Okay. What are we going to do? They got together. There was a soccer game. They did have a service happen. The one thing that we did add in the production, we did have a love interest added. This is opera.

Ted Simons: I never heard that part before, but we will have to wait and watch that Friday night. Scenes sung in the particular languages.

Michael Christie: Yes, this opera has five languages. It starts off in Italian. The love interest is between a soprano and tenor, so they’re singing in Italian because they’re a soprano and a tenor. And then we go into the bunkers and we hear English for the Scotts, French, German, and then the Soprano, she is part of the Catholic service that happens, Scottish priest in the Scottish bunkers -- she sings in Latin, that is our fifth language.

Ted Simons: The music itself, it is atonal, is it modern, old fashioned -- what is it?

Michael Christie: It is a real mix just like the mix of languages. First a harkening back to Mozart with the Italian opera feel. Battle scene, atonal because it is battle. The majority of the music is very beautiful, tonal, rhythmical drive to it. Kevin is a tremendously gifted composer who had been writing for instrumental forces and this is his first opera and it won the Pulitzer. He has navigated all of the hurdles writing for the voice, voice and orchestra.

Ted Simons: What are the hurdles?

Michael Christie: It is interesting. Obviously when we speak to each other, there is inflection in how we stress certain words in a sentence. Composers have made their mark on how they use musical gesture to make that inflection happen and make the stress happen in the way the lines are communicated. I think that is where modern vocal music can get touchy, in the middle part of the 20th century, it was quite disjointed and I don't think it resonated with people and Kevin really has gotten back to that natural stress of the story telling, the communication of that particular line in a very, very clear way right from the beginning.

Ted Simons: Fast-moving opera -- I would imagine maybe a little slower considering the reflective nature of everything, but maybe not.

Michael Christie: It is pretty fast-moving. It is a pretty short evening. I think it comes in an hour and fifty for the whole thing. There are moments of repose for sure. The first act, there’s a beautiful sleep chorus. There are only two women in the show. The rest are men because obviously we are in the bunkers of armies in World War I, no women serving yet. We have the love interest and we do have the wife of the French lieutenant, but we have a beautiful acapella men's chorus. We see the three bunkers, all thinking about sleeping and reflecting on being home with their families and that is wonderful.

Ted Simons: That brings me to my next question. Considering the subject matter, considering how opera -- Hankies can come flying at any moment -- does it get close to schmaltzy at all?

Michael Christie: I don't think so. I think that was one of the key tasks was to be honest to the story and not letting it get to that point. Obviously when those moments happen and a couple of the soldiers die and it's very intense, you have to respond to it. But we didn't dwell on it. It is truly remarkable. And what we're so proud of is the fact that many opera companies have picked it up since. It is only two years old. This year it is showing in Cincinnati, Fort Worth, Calgary -- just this year alone. I'm doing the European premier next year in Ireland. Four other companies are about to announce productions for next year.

Ted Simons: I didn't -- sometimes you hear some of these stories and you know that if you do this the right way, it can really touch a cord. If you do it just a little off it can --

Michael Christie: Right.

Ted Simons: Hallmark card here. Hallmark card --

Michael Christie: That's right. Exactly.

Ted Simons: Last question about this. Challenges for you conducting this kind of music, this kind of production.

Michael Christie: The biggest challenge the fact that we were creating it in scratch. In history, no record. We were creating it together. Original creative team. The director and myself were working closely with the composer and to try to tease out what they were looking for. A lot of feedback. Minnesota opera, which I'm now music director of, this is a long-range project. We commission a new opera every year.

Ted Simons: You’re the music director for the Minnesota Opera and still with the Phoenix Opera, how does that --

Michael Christie: I’m the music director Laureate.

Ted Simons: Okay. Minnesota probably in the summertime, Phoenix in the wintertime.

Michael Christie: Something like that.

Ted Simons: We can't let you go without --

Michael Christie: We start tonight. I'm going to Mesa after finishing the interview.

Ted Simons: Talk about the challenges of conducting that. I'm assuming that you have done this numerous times.

Michael Christie: Many times.

Ted Simons: That is quite a production.

Michael Christie: Funny thing actually. “Silent Night” we had to create from scratch, create our own tradition. And then you have “Handles Messiah” which is bathed in tradition. Handle, who is also a great opera composer gets right to the heart of the matter all of the time. Very concise. Lots of drama, lots of impact, and so I think all one has do in any of these situations, tell the story. Tell the story honestly, as if you were speaking to somebody trying to convey that for the first time and it comes across like gold.

Ted Simons: We can't wait to watch this Friday night. DVR it if you can't watch it live and on the PBS web sites as well. Messiah is always great. I can't let you go though without asking -- I don't know much about it, and I enjoy learning about it. What's new, fresh, interesting? I don't want tone, I don't want atonal -- I want -- what's happening out there? What's exciting you about classical music?

Michael Christie: Very interesting. I think all of the stereo typical modern sound are a thing of the past. This is like 1960s to 1980s. That really is gone. It is more melodic language out there. Beautiful interfaces with electronic enhancements in certain ways. It is a very exciting world. One thing that I think is really special is a lot of orchestras are breaking down into smaller ensembles, sending their people out into bars, into other venues that are more intimate in addition to the large venues and that calls on different experiences. I think orchestras and opera companies are trying very hard to connect with people in new ways.

Ted Simons: A connection Friday night that is for sure.

Michael Christie: You got it.

Ted Simons: Great to see you, Merry Christmas.

Healthcare Marketplace

  |   Video
  • The Healthcare Marketplace will be available until Dec. 23 for those seeking insurance coverage by Jan. 1 under the Affordable Care Act. Pati Urias of AZ Enroll America will talk about the “Get Covered America” campaign, an effort to get people enrolled in health care coverage.
  • Pati Urias - Communications Lead, Arizona Enroll America
Category: Medical/Health   |   Keywords: healthcare, health insurance, Affordable Care Act,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," we'll learn about efforts to sign people up for medical insurance before an upcoming deadline in the Affordable Care Act. The Phoenix symphony's Michael Christie talks about conducting a prize-winning opera set for broadcast this week here on PBS. And we'll see how ASU's Tempe campus is a surprising source for fruits and vegetables. Those stories next on "Arizona Horizon."

Narrator: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Arizonans thinking of getting health insurance by way of the Health Care Marketplace are facing a December 23rd deadline to ensure coverage by January 1st. A campaign titled "Get Covered America," is underway to sign folks up before that deadline. For more, we welcome Pati Urias of Enroll America - Arizona. Thank you for being here.

Pati Urias: Thank you.

Ted Simons: What is Get Covered America?

Pati Urias: The campaign that is nationwide and focused primarily in different states, such as Arizona, Florida, Georgia. There are a number of states where we are going out to the public and reaching out to people who we believe may be uninsured and talking to them about what their options might be. We go to farmers' markets, grocery stores, college campuses. Places where people may gather where we believe that a large majority of them may need some information when it comes to signing up for health coverage.

Ted Simons: Basically set up a table or have people just standing around with pamphlets and information, those sorts of things?

Pati Urias: That sort of thing, yeah, absolutely. It is very basic, low-tech, but we have people that set up tables at public libraries, places like that, where we will ask them are you covered? And if you're not, would you like some information? Let's talk to you about what you may be able to benefit from under the health care marketplace and we give them information about how to get in touch with people who can help them enroll if they have questions about what they might need to do.

Ted Simons: I was going to ask. Are there people with Get Covered America standing by on telephones to answer calls or is it a proactive, get out in the community kind of thing?

Pati Urias: It is really more of a proactive educational effort. We reach out to people -- a lot of people say yeah, I know a little about the health care law and I know that even though I have diabetes I might be able to get some type of health coverage but I don't know the first idea about what to do. How do I get some help? What we do is hopefully get in touch with those people or talk to those people or see them in a public place where we can give them the information and say okay, here are some options. Here are the things that are different about the new types of insurance plans and we help them get in touch with application assisters or navigators who can help them take that next step, get information from them, and help them sign up and choose a type of plan that might fit their needs.

Ted Simons: Is there a typical person with typical questions? When you see someone walking toward the table, can you say we see a lot of that kind of person.

Pati Urias: You know, it really varies. A lot of people that we see are people who didn't know. They've heard some sort chatter about health care law and they don't really know a lot about what's out there. A lot of those people will be like “Yeah, I've heard about this. Give me more information.” So we get in touch with a lot of people like that. We hear from people who have the preexisting conditions that haven't been able to get coverage and some of them probably gave up years ago. We also hear from people who may have recently been laid off, but may have some resources to get them through for a little bit but may not be ready to look into a Medicaid program. They're looking at different ways that they might be able to cover their families either for a gap period or for some other purposes that they've decided to go into business for themselves, work on contract, that sort of thing. It does vary. For the most part, there are people who are just interested in finding out more.

Ted Simons: I was going to ask that. Are these folks, are their questions more of a -- I really don't know anything about this, but I've heard I better get involved? Or I heard a lot about this, I'm completely confused, help me.

Pati Urias: A little bit of both.

Ted Simons: Is there, yeah.

Pati Urias: We get a lot of people who are confused. We do our best to try to answer any kinds of questions they may have. For example, someone may say, well, I heard that I probably don't qualify. You don't know that until you have gone through the steps to learn about it. We have a web site,, and there is a calculator on the site to help people determine what they may qualify for, what their tax benefit would be for signing up under a certain type of plan. We also have tools on the web site that will help people get in touch with local people who can help them. Maybe there’s an assister lives or works at an office two blocks away from where you work or from home where you can stop by and get more information or have them sit down with you and go step by step through the process.

Ted Simons: Your health care site works?

Pati Urias: It is, and in Arizona, the federal marketplace is running the exchange for us. And we have seen an uptick in the number of people who have applied for health care. Initially in the month of October, we were looking at numbers just over 700, which was remarkable considering that the web site was down much of the time. What we've seen in the month of November and consider that the web site really wasn't functioning well until the very end of the month, 3,600 people. So we're seeing quite a few people now able to access information about the plans, choosing a plan, and selecting one that they can have so that they have coverage by January 1st.

Ted Simons: That uptick, or surge, if you will, in numbers seems to coincide with national numbers as well. Is it because the web site seems to have settled down? Is it because people realize there is a deadline for this first go-round?

Pati Urias: From what we understand, it is a little bit of both. People rarely sign up for something, okay, you have this much time to sign up for something. Okay, October 1st through December – mid-December is the time period that you have to sign up so that you can get coverage by the 1st of January. We rarely see people starting -- and I'm guilty of this, too, wait until December rolls around and then I will sign up. We have seen that type of trend in other types of programs where people were having to meet a specific deadline. People tend to go toward the latter part or closer to the deadline when it comes to signing up.

Ted Simons: And they get more frantic, I'm sure as the deadline approaches. If you have questions, if you are confused, you have less time to figure it out.

Pati Urias: That's right. That's right. So that's why we're really stepping up our efforts right now to get out the public. You have less than two weeks if you want to get January 1st coverage. The marketplace is open until the end of March. If you have a preexisting condition, perhaps waiting for years, some people may have been waiting years to get coverage because they have high blood pressure or have had a heart attack in the past and have been denied coverage under a private plan before, for a lot of those people, they can't wait and so they need to know that that deadline is the 23rd of December.

Ted Simons: For people confused right now, December 23rd deadline ensures coverage by January -- on January 1st.

Pati Urias: That's correct.

Ted Simons: What happens if you miss the deadline, is there another enrollment period? You mentioned the March thing, but, I mean, will people be penalized if they don't have insurance come January 1st? Is that the March deadline? What happens at the end of March if you don't have the insurance? A lot of dates coming up here.

Pati Urias: Right, right. I think it is easy to get confused by the number of dates out there. We try to focus on here is our next deadline which is the 23rd, if you need coverage by January 1st. If you don't meet the deadline to get January 1st coverage, you can continue to enroll, and then your plan will start the following month depending upon whether you meet a specific deadline each month. For example, if you enroll by January 15th, your coverage will start the 1st of February. So, you have to meet those 15th of the month deadlines. When we talk about penalties, a lot of people will say I will just pay the fee. I'll just pay it. The greater fee comes when say, for example, and I know of a number of cases -- I thought it was initially a coincidence. I had a young friend who was hit by a car, and he didn't have insurance. $15,000 in hospital bills. And I saw him in the hallway at a theater one time, and he -- he said to me, he said, I'm still getting hospital bills. And then another one, and then another one. I met a couple of different kids running into the same situation. The greater penalty is not the $95 fee or one percent, it is that penalty that you will have to pay if you get an emergency room bill and you don't have insurance.

Ted Simons: Again, the 23rd of December means that come January 1st, you're done. If you want to chance it for two weeks, January 15th -- chance it for four weeks, I guess, you can do that. It doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense when it is waiting there for you right now. What is the web site that people need to go to to get more information?

Pati Urias: To get more information, you can go to, and there are a number of tools and places to go to find a local assister in your area.

Ted Simons: Thank you for joining us.

Pati Urias: Good to see you. Thank you.