The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
The Singletary Center for the Arts concert hall will be getting new seats over the holiday break, thanks to a $200,000 allocation from the University of Kentucky Provost’s Office.
According to Center director Michael Grice, it will be the first seating upgrade at the concert hall since it opened in 1979.
“Our patrons have certainly been patient with us the past few years as more and more seats deteriorated,” Grice said in an email. “We have the UK Provost’s Office to thank for allocating these funds and for recognizing how important it is for the Singletary Center to be maintained for the sake of the campus and community. In fact, a lot of people on campus are to be thanked and appreciated for their support in getting this job done.”
Grice said the new seats will be port, a light burgundy color. The number of seats in the hall will remain the same, 1,574. The Singletary Center is the primary home for the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra, many UK School of Music events and a regular schedule of national touring artists.
Anthony Clark Evans’ story of going from car salesman to opera sensation in less than a year has been one of the funnest arts stories of the year.
Fun: It ‘s not a word you often hear associated with opera, even in its best of times. Yes, the artists and participants may have a lot of fun at their craft, but the public demeanor of the discipline is often dramatic, tragic, academic and steeped in deep, deep tradition.
Evans took another step into this world on Saturday night with his premiere professional recital at the Singletary Center for the Arts.
The message seemed to be, I’m going to dazzle you and have a good time doing it as he launched the performance with the count’s mischievous aria from Le nozze di Figaro and concluding with Billy’s Soliloquy from Carousel – plus a two song encore, including a duet of Some Enchanted Evening with soprano Julie LaDouceur, who shared a couple duets with Evans and sang two arias of her own in the recital, all accompanied by Cliff Jackson.
For those who have not kept up with the fun stories of opera this year, it was less than a year ago that Evans was a car salesman at Swope Toyota in Elizabethtown. A few years earlier, the baritone had been studying voice at Murray State with revered professor Randall Black. But he got married and needed to support his household. So in 2008, he left school, moved to E-town and started selling Toyotas.
But he didn’t forget opera. He decided to take a swing at the district round of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in Memphis, and he won.
And he won …
And won …
And won at the national finals of the competition, on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
It’s a Cinderella story that restarted Evans’ dreams of a singing career, which he has been pursuing singing in other competitions around the country and with Saturday’s recital. It took place in the Singletary Center’s recital hall in front of a who’s who of music professionals, academics and students.
If the bachelor degree-less star of the evening was at all intimidated by performing in front of the expert crowd, he didn’t portray it, save maybe for a relieved smile after the opener, Hai già vinta la causa! from Figaro. Donizetti’s Bella siccome un angelo from L’ elisir d’ amore was his first big shot at vocal theatrics, which continued through his first duet with LaDouceur, Malatesta and Norina’s plotting number from Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, which turned into a comic showcase for Evans and LaDouceur, who shares the baritone’s theatrical flare.
It wasn’t all comic, including a trio of numbers from Leoncavallo’s sad clown tragedy Pagliacci to start the second half.
In any form, the Singletary Center audience saw, as much as any audience so far, Evans a singer with a personality as big as his voice.
Since the Met wins, Evans has left the Toyota dealership, but when he is on stage, the good times roll.
Rootsy, retro, progressive … OK, hard to describe violinist Andrew Bird is coming to Singletary at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 29 – that would be a Saturday. Those who don’t know Bird’s work should, and his latest effort, Break it Yourself, is a great place to start. The album is a stylistic journey with meditations on topics past and present against an echoing backdrop and punctuated with Bird’s trademark whistling.
Reviewing the album, Bird’s seventh, Paste magazine’s Lindsay Eanet wrote, ”Break It Yourself will likely leave its listeners divided: some will call it boring; others will call it beautiful. There is a bit of longing for the dynamic sounds of which he is capable, but what the album does remind us is that above all, Andrew Bird is a highly skilled musician capable of crafting an album full of delightful little moments that make the album worth a fair listen, and more.”
Tickets to the Sept. 29 show are $25-$35 and go on presale at 10 a.m. Tuesday, June 26, at the Singletary Center ticket site. Use the password SCFA, which is case-sensitive and all upper case. Tickets go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. Friday, June 29.
Alltech gave more than half-a-million dollars in scholarships to potential students in the University of Kentucky’s voice program on Sunday in the seventh annual Alltech Vocal Scholarship Competition.
The competition is sort of like if prospective UK basketball players came to campus and engaged in a public competition for spots on the team. Prospective UK opera students sang for a panel of judges and an opera-loving audience in the Singletary Center for the Arts concert hall, the top winners in the graduate and undergraduate divisions collecting full-ride scholarships and cash stipends, contingent on their attending the University of Kentucky.
In something of a transitional year for UK Opera, the competition is bringing some new faces to campus such as graduate winner Thomas Gunther who hails from the highly regarded University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. He earned a full ride, $12,000 and a graduate assistantship. The second place winner was Kathrin M. Thawley from Salisbury University in Maryland who won a full scholarship, $8,000 and a graduate assistantship. Rounding out the graduate division was Andrea Pearson of Oberlin Conservatory, who won $5,000.
In the undergraduate division, the winner was Catherine Wright of Lexington Catholic High School who won $6,000 and a tuition waiver. Second place Alyssa- Marie Detterich of Orange County High School of the Arts, Santa Ana, Calif., won $3,000 and a tuition waiver, and third place winner Austin Vitaliano of Stevenson High School, Lincolnshire, Ill., won $2,000.
Rounding out the winners list was a variety of awards:
Outstanding Transfer Award, $3,000 plus tuition waiver: Brittany Jones of Louisville’s Bellarmine University
Mr. William L. Rouse III “The Barbara Rouse Kentucky Prize,” for a student born or educated in Kentucky, $5,000 – Hyeonjeong Kim
The Gail Robinson Musicianship Award, $2,000 – Whitney Myers
Undergraduate Enthusiasm Award, $1,000 – Tanner Hoertz
Undergraduate Musicianship Award, $1,000 – Tomer Eres
Graduate Musicianship Award, $1,000- Wanessa Rodrigues
Undergraduate Encouragement Award, $1,000 – Laura Powell
Graduate Encouragement Award, $1,000 – Aline Araújo
Transfer Student Encouragement Award, $1,000 – Marvin Myer McCoy of Bowie State University, Bowie, Md.
If history holds true to form, these are likely to be names we will see in upcoming University of Kentucky Opera Theatre productions. Previous Alltech scholarship winners include Julie LaDouceur, who emceed the competition, Reginald Smith Jr. and Amanda Balltrip.
Seth Meyers reads the faux news every week on the biggest stage for American comedy, NBC’s Saturday Night Live, and he’s performed for President Barack Obama and other prestigious audiences. But really, as we learned at the Singletary Center for the Arts on Monday night, he’s just a slob like all of us, prone to making an idiot of himself when he meets the president.
“I said to myself, ‘Be cool,’ and you know you’re about to not be cool when you’re telling yourself to be cool,” Meyers told the audience that packed the 1,500-seat concert hall at the University of Kentucky. “George Clooney doesn’t go around telling himself to be cool all the time.”
Meyers went on to describe the ways he embarrassed himself when he met Obama. The first time, when the then-presidential candidate appeared in an SNL skit, Meyers, who is the show’s head writer, instructed the president on how to take off a Halloween mask, “something most children do every year,” Meyers noted. The second time, he managed to slap his girlfriend’s hand away when the president was about to greet her before Meyers’ appearance at the 2011 White House Correspondent’s Dinner.
Meyers’ appearance at UK, one of several stand-up shows he’s doing on his week off from SNL, was a mix of topical humor, similar to his Weekend Update segments, and self-deprecating slices of his life, like the time he got into a bar fight after unleashing his sarcasm on the wrong fellow drunk (it did not end well for Meyers).
The 75-minute set didn’t break any new ground in comedy, but it did keep the audience in stitches for much of the show and proved Meyers to be adept at a number of comic forms: jokes, stories, spontaneous humor. The strength of his act is riffing on shared experiences with the audience, such as a hilarious bit about the minuscule amount of French he retained from middle school and college.
Meyers had some jokes specific to the UK student crowd, like informing the freshman in the audience that not everyone gets to leave after a year for a job making millions of dollars.
“The NBA is the only place where they like it if you went to Kentucky for just one year,” Meyers said, noting a student could not go to a bank after a year of college and have them say, “Welcome to the management team.”
Though the 38-year-old is well-removed from his college years, Meyers was still in touch with his youth with stories like his and his friends efforts to catch a glimpse of nudity on late-night Cinemax movies when they were 13. “We celebrated like technicians at Mission Control, if Mission Control was worried about waking up their parents,” he said, and then mimed high fives and touchdown signals.
Monday night, Meyers proved that as entertaining as he can be live from New York, he was even funnier live in Lexington.
Ronald Saykaly didn’t know exactly what he was paying for.
The Lexington physician and his wife, former concert pianist Teresa Garbulinska, attended the inaugural Chamber Music Festival of Lexington in 2007 at the invitation of some friends.
At the first event, they met festival president Charles H. Stone. Saykaly says, “I was so impressed with what they did, the tremendous volunteerism and high quality of the performance, I told Charlie, ‘Look, if you ever need help, I’d be happy to help you with something.’”
Less than a year later, Stone came calling. He had met a young composer, Daniel Thomas Davis, and wanted to commission him to write a new work to be premiered at the second edition of the festival. Saykaly thought it sounded like a great idea. He had no idea what Davis would write and whether it would have a life beyond the festival, but he bought in.
“It turned out to be rather successful,” Saykaly says.
He has supported a commission at the festival each year since then.
Davis’ Book of Songs and Visions ended up being played around the United States and Europe, and it won the 2009 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award. It came back around to the Bluegrass when Lexington Philharmonic music director Scott Terrell programmed a symphonic version of it for the orchestra’s 2010-11 season.
“I said, ‘Scott, you know, that’s my piece, and if you’re going to bring him here, I’d like to commission it,’” said Saykaly, who had joined the Philharmonic board about that time.
That planted the seeds for the Saykaly Garbulinska composer-in-residence program between the Philharmonic and the Chamber Music Festival, which will bring one composer to both orchestras every other year.
Davis’ Philharmonic commission last February was an informal start to the program. The commissioning of Daniel Kellogg, who wrote a piece called Look Up at the Sky for last summer’s Chamber Music Festival and will have a new work on Friday night’s Philharmonic concert, is the first formal manifestation of the effort.
“We sat down with Ron and said, we have these two entities,” says Terrell, who chooses the composer with Chamber Music Festival director Nathan Cole, a Lexington native and associate concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. “We have the orchestral entity where I, as a conductor, know there are composers really hungry to have new works commissioned. Then you have an organization that already has several new compositions under its belt. We said, there has to be a way this can work to our mutual strengths.”
It also can put Lexington on the classical-music map.
We barely have 2012 out of the gate and Singletary Center for the Arts director Michael Grice has already announced what very well may be the classical music event of 2013: Pianist Lang Lang will perform with the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra on Feb. 9, 2013.
This is the latest in a line of classical music superstars the Singletary Center has booked and paired with UK’s student orchestra, including last March’s performance by violin legend Itzhak Perlman.
“This is a major effort of ours to bring to audiences of Central Kentucky the best talent we can possibly bring them,” Grice said Monday afternoon. “Putting this talent with the UK Symphony Orchestra is an added bonus.”
Called “the hottest artist on the classical music planet” by The New York Times and known for his flamboyant style, Lang Lang, 29, started studying piano at age 3 and had his first public recital at 5. The Shenyang, China, native went on to elite piano study and won numerous competitions including the International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians at age 13.
In his 20s, he has become one of classical music’s biggest names, particularly after his performance in the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Other high-profile appearances include the 2008 Grammy Awards, at which he played George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with Herbie Hancock, and a 2011 White House state dinner in honor of Chinese President Hu Jintao.
His latest album, Liszt: My Piano Hero, was released by Sony Masterworks in October.
The February 2013 concert will be Lang Lang’s first performance in Central Kentucky, but he will play with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra on Jan. 27 and 28.
Grice said he is seeking concert sponsors in an effort to keep tickets prices as low as possible. Prices have not been announced.
The first tickets for the Lexington concert will be available to patrons at the Feb. 11 performance by pianist Natasha Paremski and the UK Symphony. Ticket holders to that show will be able to buy Lang Lang tickets that night, but only at the Singletary Center’s ticket office. There will also be a drawing at that concert for four prime tickets to see Lang Lang.
After the Feb. 11 event, the Lang Lang tickets will go off sale until the entire 2012-13 Singletary Center season is announced late this spring or in early summer.
Dec24Filed under: Actors Guild of Lexington, Agape Theatre Troupe, Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, Balagula Theatre, Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, Eastern Kentucky University, Lexington Children's Theatre, Lexington Opera House, Lexington Philharmonic, Music, Musicals, Rupp Arena, Singletary Center for the Arts, Studio Players, SummerFest, Theater, Transylvania University, UBS Chamber Music Festival of Lexington, UK;
We did not have a major international event in Lexington this year like 2010’s Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, but it felt like a big year in the arts.
WEG was a catalyst for a lot of big names and big plans for Lexington arts organizations and presenters, but the major events of 2011 came a bit more naturally. It was an important year for the arts in Central Kentucky as the organizational and physical landscapes shifted.
How many college orchestras could claim a year in which they played with superstar violinist Itzhak Perlman and orchestral superstars the Boston Pops, complete with Keith Lockhart on the podium? The University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra could, and it played a world premiere by Thomas Pasatieri. Major accomplishments are becoming routine under John Nardolillo’s direction.
Also coming from the UK School of Music was the Opera Theatre’s innovative production of Porgy and Bess, which recorded multiple sellouts at the 1,500-seat Singletary Center and employed a new video projection system created by UK’s Viz Center for the sets.
The Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra opened its 50th anniversary season with another violin superstar, Midori, and continued some changes that it experimented with last year, including having Picnic With the Pops at Keeneland and taking its annual Messiah performances to area churches.
As is becoming more the case, numerous new works were premiered in Central Kentucky this year, including the orchestral version of Daniel Thomas Davis’ Book of Songs and Visions, which he originally composed for the chamber ensemble at the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington. This year’s festival world premiere was Daniel Kellogg’s Look Up at the Sky.
ActOut Theatre brought Stephen Currens’ The Happy Hour to the stage, and Christmastime brought two world premieres: Margaret Price’s musical Looking for Mrs. Santa Claus at Studio Players, and Robyn Peterman-Zahn’s Smackdown for the Christmas Crown at The Rep, a new company making its debut.
An arts district?
The Arena, Arts and Entertainment Task Force has primarily been a sports story, to this point, focused on what kind of home court the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team will have. But the whole project has major implications for arts and entertainment in Central Kentucky beyond what effect renovations in Rupp will have on arena acts that play Lexington. Included in the discussion have been possibilities for new venues, including an amphitheater near the arena, a possible new home for area orchestral groups, and a downtown campus for the School for the Creative and Performing Arts. The effort to reimagine the arena area also has revived a decades-old debate about whether Lexington needs a 2,000- to 2,500-seat performing-arts theater, which does not appear to be in the cards with recently approved plans.
This story will evolve over the years because the project reportedly will take more than a decade to complete. But 2011 is the year things seriously started to happen, and the arts have had a seat at the planning table.
Speaking of major performing-arts theaters, a new one opened this fall: the Eastern Kentucky University Center for the Arts in Richmond. It is the first new major arts venue of more than 1,000 seats to open in Central Kentucky in several decades, although Lexington’s Singletary Center for the Arts and Opera House, and Danville’s Norton Center for the Arts have undergone major renovations in recent years.
EKU made a provocative move in hiring former Norton Center assistant director Debra Hoskins as its director, and she brought the Norton Center playbook, booking big names including B.B. King, Peter Frampton and Wynonna Judd for the opening season of the new theater.
In possibly a hint of how arts programming at Central Kentucky theaters might be realigning, new Norton Center director Steven A. Hoffman programmed more of a connoisseur/adventurer season at his venue, with shows like the Brooklyn Rundfunk Orkestrata performing a reimagined Sound of Music and avant-garde violinist Hahn-Bin this fall.
A realigned theater scene
No genre realigned in Central Kentucky this year as much as theater in Lexington. Actors Guild of Lexington staged what has been a successful comeback, with a dizzying number of shows for one calendar year, mostly at its new venue off Harrodsburg Road, near the Fayette County-Jessamine County line. Meanwhile, several new theaters emerged, including ProjectSEE Theatre, which has programmed a season at the Downtown Arts Center and Transylvania University; SummerFest, which staged its first fall and indoor show with August: Osage County and has plans for a spring production; and The Rep, which grabbed the musical theater baton from Paragon Music Theatre, which went on possible permanent hiatus with the departure of founding director Ryan Shirar.
Other players moving around and positioning themselves in 2011 included On the Verge, which had a successful site-specific performance at a funeral home with Three Viewings and then presented its first theater production with God of Carnage at the Downtown Arts Center. And Balagula Theatre continued growing its own niche, performing Naomi Wallace’s contemporary classic One Flea Spare for the playwright and participating in a competition with the Kentucky Women Writers Conference that will result in a world premiere production early in 2012. Agape Theatre also has continued to innovate, with new productions illustrating the black experience in Kentucky and beyond, including a collaboration early in the year with eventual National Book Award winner Nikky Finney.
With all the shifting, the Lexington theater scene has become a true ensemble cast, with no leading theater — although Lexington Children’s Theatre is the leading professional house — but with lots of interesting character actors.
For decades George Zack has been a big part of the Singletary Center for the Arts. That become somewhat literal Friday night as the Lexington Philharmonic Guild unveiled a bronze plaque in honor of the orchestra’s music director from 1972 to 2009.
“One person can make a difference, and George Zack is a prime example of that,” said former Lexington vice-mayor and longtime arts supporter Isabel Yates at an unveiling ceremony prior to Friday’s Philharmonic concert. “He is a cultural icon in the city of Lexington.”
Concertmaster Dan Mason, who celebrates his 30th anniversary in his post next year, jokingly thanked George for, “putting your trust in a 10-year-old concertmaster,” congratulating his longtime collaborator.
“This is a momentous occasion, not just for George and his family but also for this region,” Mason said. “Under George’s direction, the Lexington Philharmonic became a pillar of the city.”
Accepting the honor, Zack said the one thing missing from the plaque was his wife, Kerry, who he said was a critical part of his 37-year tenure at the Philharmonic. Zack’s wedding band is visible in the bronze that shows Zack in the midst of conducting. It was made by Amanda Matthews and Brad Connell of Prometheus Foundry in Lexington.
The plate below the plaque reads, in part, “The People’s Maestro … Beloved maestro who shared his knowledge, enthusiasm and great love of music in the Singletary Center concert hall and throughout the Lexington Community.”
Zack noted that when he arrived in Lexington, the Philharmonic had yet to play some signature works in the symphonic repertoire including symphonies by Franz Joseph Haydn and Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. They and many more pieces had their Lexington premieres under Zack’s baton, and Zack said, “It has been a privilege to plow that ground with you and for you.”
In 2009, Scott Terrell succeeded Zack as music director, and he said at the ceremony that it was immediately clear to him the rich legacy that Zack created with the Philharmonic.
Zack closed saying to the audience, “Into Scott’s hands I commend the spirit of this orchestra. May it live forever, and it will, because of you.”
Framing this year’s 2011-12 arts guide, which is out on newsstands across Central Kentucky Sunday, we were inspired by the idea that this year, there will probably be people who will see events listed in our guide that will inspire them to pursue a life in art.
That led us to ask area arts leaders what their transformational moments were, what “experience – be it a performance, exhibit, recording, film, participation or something else – that made them decide, ‘This is what I want to do. I want to have a life in the arts.’”
We received a variety of responses, many of which were excerpted in my column in the preview. But here, where space isn’t at such a premium, I wanted to share the responses in their entirety. Some had that ba-da-bing moment at an event while others found inspiration in making art, or doing something from such a young age, it became a part of them.
Adalhi Aranda Corn, Director and Founder, Bluegrass Youth Ballet
Perhaps my love for the arts started when my parents took me to see the ballet Coppelia,
performed by the Compañía Nacional de México, back when I was about 7 or 8 in my native
León, México. My parents had played the music by Leo Delibes, so I was familiar with it. After that day, a dream of becoming a ballerina started, perhaps just as it does with thousands of little girls in the world. I had no idea what it would take, or how I would achieve such a dream. What moved me and enticed me was definitely the music, depicting a story and enriched by strong, colorful visual of movement and costumes. It is such a complete experience. The ability
to transport yourself to another world, in a matter of minutes, such fulfilling escapade. No words needed!
I don’t think the answer of “how to” become a dancer came clear to me for years. Even though I took lessons in ballet, it was unknown to me how to you go from here to there! I had two video tapes, one was Coppelia performed by the Royal Ballet (Saddler Wells at that time) and the other was American Ballet Theatre performing Giselle. I have watched these two so much that I knew the entire choreography. Yet, I had no idea how those marvelous dancers got to be the ones in there. Perhaps it was a normal, organic development such as moving up to the next grade in school.
There wasn’t a lot of performing arts support or opportunities in the city I lived in Mexico, so it took me until I was in college to make the decision to leave León and move to Guadalajara. I mainly had to find out if perhaps I had a chance in the world of dance. I came to find out that it was a lot more difficult than I had ever imagined. The hard work, sweat, pain, tears and even blood didn’t stop me from being willing to see how far I could take it. Not knowing, and always wanting to find more answers, took me to the USA.
After making my way through the impossible, I eventually discovered to my dismay that I was indeed making a living as a dancer. I danced proud and this adventure enhanced my life in many levels.
Then one day, I decided that it was time for me to stop focusing on me, and to give “it” back to the next generation. I shifted my interest from performing to teaching. I have learned so much throughout the years, I wanted to share this experience with children who have the same dream as I once had.
The circle becomes closed, when I am able to see my students and audience being moved by music, enriched by movement, colors and a great story.
I believe my work in an art related field is a direct result of the many powerful experiences I have had through my lifelong study of the Arts. In my youth I found great comfort and a sense of belonging through my studies and for me this was the only place where things made sense and I could accomplish successfully the goals that I set for myself. Through this experience I found inspiration, and a place of belonging. My earliest memory of having an overwhelming need to be in Arts was when I was performing at The Renaissance Theatre in Mansfield Ohio. This is a very grand space and I can remember feeling so fortunate to have the opportunity to perform on stage in such a beautiful theatre- under that warmth of the lights with the electricity and excitement that a live performance provides. I also recall my first experience with a major work of art in a museum and how I was in absolute awe at its majestic quality, and I recall an overwhelming feeling of disbelief that we are fortunate enough to share the same space with work that was made by the hands of masters in another time, and how that almost seemed impossible.
Dance was my natural talent and I am blessed to continue my work as a choreographer, teacher and performer to this day. I am honored to serve as an Executive Director of an arts organization and I cannot think of a job that would be better suited to my skills and interests as well as my passions and life experience. These organizations are so important to the health and well being of our society, and it means a great deal to me to have the opportunity to nurture and care for such a valuable community resource. I am thankful to the Arts for giving me a life that is full of endless things to examine and experience and I am inspired daily by the things I have the opportunity to see and do.
Chase Martin, Director, Institute 193
When I was a junior in college, I studied abroad in Strasbourg, France. There are several interesting museums in the city, but my favorite was a small one devoted to the work of illustrator Tomi Ungerer, who was born in Strasbourg. Ungerer’s interests are wide ranging: he’s created children’s books, satirical political illustrations, clever graphic designs, and even some pretty outrageous erotic drawings over the course of his career. The museum is as quirky as the man—a large room is devoted to his toy collection—but it succeeds in displaying Ungerer’s work beautifully and succinctly explaining and contextualizing it. The fact that it exists at all is a testament to that community’s pride in the artistic achievement of its native son.
I think visiting the Tomi Ungerer Museum was what made me want to pursue a career in the arts. Looking at the life’s work of someone like Ungerer can make you realize the relevance and wide-
ranging power art can have, and the integral role it can play in building communities.
Scott Terrell, Music Director, Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra
I began viola in 5th grade, played for years, and many times thought about quitting. My parents dabbled in music, and really encouraged the kids to take part. We were fortunate to have a very strong public school music program, and very dedicated music teachers. When I was a sophomore in high school, my orchestra director gave me the opportunity to conduct the orchestra during class. It is an experience I have never forgotten, because I realized that I heard the music differently, had a different relationship with it than I did when playing my viola. I was hooked. I knew after that, I wanted to be in music, around music, and bring music to others.
While that singular experience forever cemented my life’s pursuit, I was unaware where it might lead. While working at the Minnesota Orchestra, I was the assistant conductor for many projects, including Britten’s War Requiem, lead by the late Robert Shaw. For an entire week, I watched this master conductor work with this incredible score. He was not feeling well all week yet he drew strength and resolve from this music – and spent countless hours with me, sharing his thoughts about this meaningful work. He was very philosophical in character, and was intent on sharing Britten’s caution to war with everyone. It was a transformational week, and an experience and man I cherish. He died just a few months later.
I think that experience with Mr. Shaw certainly comes to mind when I decided to program the Vaughan Williams Dona Nobis Pacem. Vaughan Williams drew inspiration from Britten’s War Requiem, he was very troubled by the impending World War. It was his goal with this work to encourage good will, rather than discord. The experience with Mr. Shaw spoke to me profoundly, presenting the mission of music makers to challenge through works that raise the intellectual and spiritual discussion of a culture.
I have experienced first-hand the potential of the arts curriculum in higher education to make a difference in people’s lives. I am, in a very real sense, an example of the potential of UK’s outreach. Although I am trained as an art historian, my first real exposure to the fine arts was facilitated by the UK School of Music, through their sponsorships of summer music camps and placement of student teachers in my rural school system. Twice selected to participate in the Kentucky All-State band (playing the tuba), I continued to perform and enroll in music theory and music history classes throughout my undergraduate education. The visual arts are another matter; growing up in a poor, rural area of Kentucky (Berry), I had only a few chances to visit museum before I went to college. I had the opportunity to go out-of-state for college, to a small college in Minnesota (Carleton College, Northfield). The first class that I enrolled in college was a general survey of western art. This one class literally opened doors to a world of cultural diversity unavailable and unimaginable to me in high school. This new world was incredibly attractive, yet also daunting and frightening, especially because other students in the class came from backgrounds that permitted them a broader experience of the visual arts than I did. At the end of the course, our instructors arranged for us to take a class trip to the Minneapolis Museum of Art. I remember feeling apprehensive as we walked through the galleries toward the portions of the museum that held material from the areas we studied. I remember, too, the feeling of pride and accomplishment when I realized that I could look at a sculpture and tell whether it was Greek or Egyptian, and date its creation within a few decades. It turns out that looking at art was not all that different from the ability to look at a stalk of tobacco and grade it into grades of bright or red leaf……
Summer Gossett, Marketing and Ticketing Director, Singletary Center for the Arts
“As an undergraduate at UK, I must have changed my major four or five times. Late in my third year of college I signed up for an Art History class with Professor Alice Christ because I needed to fulfill an elective and I was immediately hooked. I do not know if it was the images she projected on the screen that grabbed me or just the history behind them, but I decided to make my final major change to Art History. For the past 12 years I have always worked in thearts – whether it was visual or performing. I have had the great fortune to work for such organizations as the Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen, the Lexington Art League, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Union Theatre. I cannot imagine a day where I am not able to walk by a photograph, hear a vocal student warming up in the hallway, catch a glimpse of an orchestra tuning on stage, or see a concert hall filled with patrons giving a standing ovation. And I owe it all to a single slide projected on a wall when I was 19 years old.”
Luis Dominguez, Artistic Director, Lexington Ballet
Life changing experiences are not an uncommon thing, particularly in the arts.
My case was no exception.
I am not sure how or why I found myself at the Roosevelt library in Mexico city where they showed a PBS special about the Dance Theatre of Harlem, the company was performing Dougla a very acrobatic Ballet over the projection screen.
After I saw it, I knew that this is what I wanted to do.
It took a lot of determination to get to New York and even more to get accepted in the company.
My dream came through, I was doing what I wanted to do.
The price to pay, as it is with most worth things in life, was time, effort and passion.
If you want something bad enough you will find a way to create an opportunity for it to happen.
The Dance Theatre of Harlem gave me a life changing opportunity.
Jennifer Scianterelli, Communications Director, UK College of Fine Arts
There wasn’t one pivotal moment in my life that made me decide to pursue the arts. Rather, it has simply been a matter of fact since I stepped into my first pair of ballet slippers at age 3. I’m not sure I’ve ever really wanted anything else. Through myself and through those around me I continually see the power of the arts to educate, to inspire, to heal, to transform.
Tanya Harper, Production Director, Singletary Center for the Arts
“My life in the arts began like many others – in high school. Soon, it grew into a career choice for me when I saw the power that the arts have to move, to inspire, to educate, to heal, and to unite. I was recently reminded of a concert at Singletary Center not too long after 9/11 – Bela Fleck. He sat alone on stage and played our national anthem on the banjo. It was one of the most moving performances I have ever personally witnessed in all the years I have worked in the arts. You could hear a pin drop as he played, and see such a range of emotions on the faces in the crowd. There is nothing I love more than to stand in the back of a theatre and watch hundreds of people losing themselves in a performance. Two hours later, they transition out of this experience and back to the real world, but for those two hours, they have forgotten their troubles and immersed themselves in the art. And we, as artists, designers, technicians, production staff… we slip out the back stage door and eagerly wait for the opportunity to do it all over again.”
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich