Meet Greg Dayton before “A Special Night of Blues”

323496_2845067166203_1905040512_o Meet Greg Dayton. An official “A Special Night of Blues” talented musician. This man has been bringing music along to the mountain top for years, and we are very lucky to have him! Learn a little bit more about who he is, and what he does before the show this Saturday! Purchase your tickets today at http://www.catskillmtn.org, we’ll see you there! ~Vicki 

What sparked your interest in getting involved with the production, growth and expansion of music into the area, specifically into the Orpheum? I’ve been coming up to the area since I was born because my grandparents had a house in Haines Falls and Twilight Park. I live in NYC now and grew up in the Boston area. I’ve been coming up here ever since then during the summers and sometime a little bit in the winter. I love the area and when I heard they were putting a new theater up, I was hopeful they’d be looking to doing some programming. I was approached by a few of the people involved, Friends of the Orpheum (FOTO) as well as Peter and Sarah, and they asked me to do some programming. I just started to reconnect with some people that I’ve worked with and I was really excited about the space. Immediately, right from the start, connected with Professor Louie and asked him if he would want to do something. I think the first thing we did was one of the Catskill Mountain Foundation’s benefits. We just did a few tunes and then went over to play at Last Chance afterwards. We started organizing some bigger concerts, New Riders of the Purple Sage with Professor Louie and The Crowmatix opening up, and then we did another Hurricane Irene benefit, which involved some folk artists including the Ronstadt Generations. We did the new Blues Hall of Fame ceremony a couple of years ago, which Louie suggested because he’s been working with those folks quite a bit and his band was the first band to actually be inducted in the NY chapter of the Blues Hall of Fame. So we started doing these gigs and they became successful, selling out every time, we try to keep doing them little by little. Do you still have your house in Haines Falls, Twilight Park? My parents do so I freeload on them, they’re troopers. Do you ever play Ninja Gigs or spontaneous, impromptu show around here? I, myself, have done a lot of stuff at Last Chance Cheese Shop and I’ve worked with David and Loren as they were getting music started there. So, I went over there and played a bunch of times on my own, I brought friends in and played. Also. sometimes I organized after-parties from the shows we do at the Orpheum. Then I do private parties and things like that. I also run shows down here in Manhattan at a place called the Triad, where I work with my own band and we work with inviting guests in the blues and funky realm, sometimes acoustic and some time electric there. You’re band is The Core, correct? Yes. It’s a little shameful, it’s been a few years that we’ve been playing together and we’ve done very little on the terms of promo because we’ve sort of risen up organically. Right now, we’re in the process of making an album, putting a website together and getting to together all of the things we are supposed to do. We’ve just been doing it for the love of it, getting the right people involved and using it as kind of an experimental ground.

So, you do all the promo for all the other events and then you have your band where you can go with the flow, that’s an interesting balance. Yes, it’s nice, it takes the pressure off, because I have worked for many years with my now ex-wife on the projects in the Latin soul realm of things. She promoted that stuff living in Spain, where she’s from. After I was involved in getting in on that project, I was really bent on getting back to the roots of what I really love which is the blues, funk and rock and roll. So I have been working with some of the same musicians putting together some projects where we are just really pulling out tunes that everyone wanted to play each time and each time, it would be different. So now we have a huge repertoire of things from writing more stuff for the band now that I want to come and put an album out. Some of it will be acoustic and some of it will be electric. It’s a lot of fun; we’re taking our time with it. What recent events have influenced your song composition? I tend to write mostly about relationships. I think the inspiration for my song writing process comes up as through just a line, a phrase or a chord progression usually on the guitar, and I’ll start to hum along to it and then come up with some ideas. I usually work a lot longer on the lyric writing verses the musical end of it. The musical end tends to come more quickly and then I’ll write something that I think people can relate to in terms of feelings, love and loss of love and life etc. What is a particular musical passage of your own that never fails to move you emotionally? One of the tunes that I’m going to be playing at the show is this tune called “Lonesome Road” which I wrote when I met my present girlfriend. I feel like it’s something that people can relate to, it’s something I’m pretty proud of. Hopefully Louie will accompany me on that, which will be fun too. How often will you all be getting together to rehearse before the show on the 28th? Good question, we’ve done these a bunch of times and we’ve talked about some of the orchestration with this one. Louie and Guy are people who are on the road and playing over 100 shows a year so rehearsal times, you have to be really efficient about it. Louie’s worked with the Greene Room Show Choir before, so they have a repertoire of things they have worked out with him and played at shows at the Orpheum before. Usually we get together and we can work things out really quickly because we understand the same musical ideas and we know how to keep it simple for the band so we know things that we’ll be able to fit in quickly. If it’s the blues you know everyone can always just play it. Is there an unspoken rule about encores that a general audience is not aware of? Do you ever feel incomplete without one? That’s an interesting thought, a lot of times the lack of an encore has to do with some kind of a time constraint on the venue, which wouldn’t be the case at this event. At the last show we did in the summer we had a show coming on right after us so we had to be off the stage quickly. So that’s an influence because usually musicians like to do an encore. We like to feel good, we love to play and if the audience is feeling good so when you get the play for an appreciate audience we always want to do more. Will there be an after show? That is not happening this year, The Tavern at Last Chance has another event going on that night and by the time we had organized this show, they already had something going on. They do have good music going on afterwards, but it’s not our after party. What’s your favorite restaurant in Tannersville? I have to say I’m a big fan of Last Chance and Maggies Krooked Cafe. I probably frequent them the most! Anything else you’d like to add about the show coming up? I think it’s going to be a real special night! It’s a real treat to have Guy Davis in the area and able to do the show with us. He’s worked a lot with Louie before. I think it’s going to be a really neat combination of artists. It’s going to be blues but there’s going to be other types of tunes too. Get your tickets fast!

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A Moment With Professor Louie

In preparation for the upcoming show “A Special Night of Blues & More,” I had a phone conversation with the accomplished Professor Louie from the Crowmatix. Along with the band, The Crowmatix, he will be on stage with Guy Davis, Greg Dayton and the Green Room Show Choir on Feb 28th at the Orpheum Film and Performing Arts Center. Get your tickets here. Professor Louie is a down to earth musician that gives everyone a feeling of having a genuine connection after being around him. It’s like Guy Davis says, “They don’t come better than him,” and I can truly say I agree with that statement! Enjoy. ~Vicki


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Lets talk about the Accordion for a minute, Can you explain your relationship with the accordion and how it originated?

 

Well, I’ve always had one around for years and years but I didn’t start playing it seriously until I met Garth Hudson, around 1985, the accordionist in The Band. I saw how he utilized it in rock and roll so I started to research it. I realized that a lot of early rock and roll bands, blues bands and bluegrass bands, for that matter, used the accordion because it is such a great portable instrument. Also, with the invention of synthesizers and different kinds of instruments you could play portably it was more of a real kind of instrument acoustically, there’s a lot to play. Then I met a lot of different great accordionists like Buckwheat Zydeco and C.J. Chenier. I started to utilize it for blues and rock and roll although a lot of people don’t know that Bill Haley, who had one of the first rock and roll big hits,  had an accordionist in his group. So, it’s been around for a long time. It’s one of the only instruments that is used in folk music throughout every country in the world. It’s a great instrument to play and you can play a lot of different styles on it, it’s a challenge and it looks really nice. It was used in America originally, in theaters in Vaudeville early in the 1900’s a lot because of the way it looked and its’ powerful sounds. To this day when they build them, and they still do build accordions, they look really nice and sound great, of course.

 

It’s looks heavy to me…it’s not?

 

There are different types. The one I have is not the heaviest out there. They do make ladies models. There are keys on the right side on the piano accordion and buttons on the left side. Some have more than others, the one I used the other night had 98 buttons. The one I have is medium weight, like if you wanted to play, we’d have to outfit you with a nice light ladies accordion. There’s heavier ones if you have to get powerful with a polka band or if you have to play with an orchestra, you’ll need something more powerful. You do get a workout when you play it and it does have some weight to it. The thing that’s nice about that is you can really feel the instrument when you’re playing it, so that really helps.

 

What keeps you in the area of Hurley near Woodstock, NY?

 

Hurley, NY, is right next to Kingston, maybe 5 miles south of Woodstock, N.Y.. We all (The Crowmatix) live close near by to Woodstock. I’ve been here for many years and it’s a really beautiful area, like Tannersville, there are beautiful mountains, lakes and streams. Also, in the Woodstock area there’s a very large recording community. I originally came up here to work on recordings and got a job producing bands and playing on records. It’s probably one of the largest recording communities in the country. So that’s one reason I’m here. The other reason is that it’s very close to the main thruway because we’re on the road a lot of time. It’s a good location for us, we can be in NYC in an hour and half or we can be anywhere we want without too much struggle. It’s an exceptionally creative area. There are a lot of artists, painters and writers, just having the Catskill Mountain Foundation and all the people up your way, 23arts, all the people up your way supporting visions in artists.

It’s really great and I think it’s going to keep growing as America keeps changing the landscape of business and different things. Certain areas like the mountains and little towns, I think the artists are going to move in, find a little peace and have a chance to create more. I think where you’re located is really great and every time I go up there now, there seems like something new is happening.

 

In what ways has playing with The Crowmatix worked for you more so than working on the road and being a part of other groups?

 

Well, first of all, The Crowmatix are on the road all the time, so we’re always traveling together and playing on the road. The thing about being on the road and playing with other groups is it’s always nice to have a tight knit group that knows all your music and has been together a long time. There’s no way to replace that by other musicians. You grow together and you perform every night  for different audiences and various experiences occur and the group intuitively knows what’s going to go on before it happens.

I’ve played many years with different people on the road, one of the problems with being a side musician, although it has its advantages, is that you’re not as personally involved with the music itself and you’re attitude can go astray. You’re just not as involved when you jump around from group to group. This way when people come to see us, the Crowmatix, Miss Marie, Frank Campbell, Gary Burke, John Platania or Josh Colow on guitar, I know they’re getting something special that no other group has because you can’t get it other than playing over and over together. Fortunately, there are a lot of groups like us that keep the same musicians and try to stay dedicated to each player and make sure each player is doing its best and try to read their mind before things happen. With Guy Davis, for the show coming up, I have played with Guy now for many years before and we are very much connected; he knows what I am going to do and I know what he is going to do. And drummer, Gary Burke, played on all of Guys records. John Platania, on the guitar, produced Guys records and Miss Marie has sung with Guy throughout the years. It’s a nice family and it’s nice to be traveling and playing shows together.

 

How did you get introduced to Greg Dayton?

 

I have to say, I’ve known Greg for many years. Greg is a great supporter of the music up in Tannersville. We started off playing a few shows that were put together by a fellow who used to, and still does, put shows together and called them BLUES BUFFET, a chef by the name of Johnny CIAO. He would have these shows where he would combine maybe 4 or 5 acts together so that people would have a whole afternoon of music and that’s how I met Greg. Greg called me up maybe 5 or 6 years ago, he lives in NY, and had this theater that he was putting shows on about once a month and he had asked me and Marie to come down and be guests. We became pretty close friends. He said to me that the Orpheum Theater started having entertainment and he asked me if I would be interested putting a show on. I think we might have been one of the first groups to play music there. Since then, we’ve been part of Greg’s shows up in Tannersville area and we always like playing with him and he comes up to play with us also. That’s how our relationship has been growing, so this show coming up might be the 5th or 6th show we have been involved with him. The show coming up is really nice because everyone knows each other and we’ve performed together a few times, so we have a very strong relationship. Besides being a good acoustic guitar player and singer of course, he’s also very smart knows the business and helps out a lot of the business around.

 

How did you link up with the Green Room Show Choir?

 

One thing I really like doing is wherever we go play, whether it be Chicago, Arizona, Tucson, it’s nice to always try and get involved with the community there. At one point, I asked Greg if there were any musicians, choirs or orchestras in the area that would be interested in being a part of a show with us and get the community involved. Greg was the one who introduced me to Linda Nichols and we’ve gotten along great over the past few years. They’re very good, they do their homework and they know our material. So whenever we come into Tannersville it’s always nice to have them involved in our shows. It’s like when we go to Buffalo, maybe we’ll use a horn section from there or if we go to Phoenix I could use some musicians who live out there. It’s always gives a nice community spirit  doing this, to come in once and play. We come back to areas usually once a year to play or  every couple years, so we get to be friends with everybody.  One of the most valued parts of being a traveling musician, is learning and meeting all the new people, becoming friends with them and gathering nice relationships.

 

I’m sure you’ve played at the Ramble before, right?

 

I produced and played with the different individual players in The Band from 1985 to the year 2000.  That room, off of Levon Helms house, was our recording studio, one of the main studios we used.  I probably produced maybe 100 songs by The Band and played on, or sang on, or engineered them. That room was The Bands’ main place to hang out and play, so we used to go there every single day maybe from about noon until about 2 or 3 in the morning, 12-14 hours a day and just work out songs constantly. That’s what we used that room for more than anything, that’s when I was involved.  Levon Helm and I traveled the world together. We traveled across the US maybe 3 or 4 times and often we would split rooms together, there’s always safety in numbers.  Levon, myself and Miss Marie  went to Nashville together  a few times to do some shows. He was also in The Crowmatix.  We made a record together with The Crowmatix, so we were good friends. He had a really nice room there,  great sounding.  Besides The Band records, I made other recordings there and tried to use the room as much as possible.

 

And how did you take care of yourself on the road when you were traveling with The Band?

 

Well that’s a good question Vicki, maybe you should start coming with us to find out!  I’ll tell you one thing you really should do when you’re on the road.  You should treat yourself even better than when you’re at home.  Go to better restaurants, stay in better hotels, even if it costs a few more dollars, and always try to take care of yourself as much as possible. Whenever you have the opportunity to eat well, always do it because there will come a point where that won’t exist.  You may have to skip a few meals or the hours of sleeping can get strange, especially if you’re jumping time zones a lot.  Sleep as much as you can. Try not to party too hard, that can be a temptation out there.  Every once and a while it’s good to join in with the local parties, but remember to still get the best meal you can and stop at the better restaurant … that’s the real trick. If you’re in Europe for instance, the times zones can change a lot.  It becomes very strange and you can become sleep deprived.  Or, say if we’re flying to CA and we have to play a show that night, all of a sudden there’s 3 hour difference. You have to try and catch as much sleep when you can and don’t get too stressed out. You have to be flexible because people have different ways of doing things, certain promoters might change how you think things should go.  Just relax.  If I know anything, I know that.

 

I asked Maggie Landis from Maggies Krooked Café if she’d like to ask you anything and her question for you is: How do friends like Owen, Lucy and Eldad play a part in your life on the mountain top?

 

Oh wow, that’s really something. Owen and Lucy are old friends. They live and work at the base of the mountain in Palenville. They are talented and artistic people. Years ago, they used to help with posters or whatever kind of graphics we needed when there weren’t a lot of people doing graphic artwork and before computers took over. They were always very fair in trying to make things happen.  Owen had a recording studio attached to their graphic studio and we used to do a little bit of recording up there too.  I still see Owen once in a while on Sunday mornings where he works at Radio Woodstock, WDST, Doug Grunther’s show.  Owen is his engineer. I see him once or twice a year when we do a show on WDST.  Lucy still helps us out. We are getting ready to put out a new CD out and she helps get together some information for us.  And Eldad, he always repaired equipment for us.  So when we first moved up here back in ’85, these were some of the first people we’d go to for help.  Tell Maggie thanks for the question!

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Would you like to add anything about the show?


The nice thing about the show coming up is that everybody knows each other, has worked and traveled extensively together,  with Guy Davis, I’ve performed many places around the world with him. There’s a great feeling of community spirit with Greg Dayton and the Green Room Show Choir playing with the Crowmatix.  This will be one of the best musical shows around.

A Conversation with Guy Davis, Bluesman

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Having the chance to interview Guy Davis opened my eyes to a talented, soulful man with tales of experience and wisdom. He is a bluesman, musician, composer, actor, director and writer that will be performing on the Orpheum Stage, Tannersville, NY,  this February, the 28th with Professor Louie and the Cromatix, Greg Dayton and the Greene Room Show Choir. Guys’ stories interweave the arts, music, and life experiences. Get to know him before the show to add additional magic to” A Special Night of Blues.” -Vicki 

Get your tickets here: A Special Night Of Blues 

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Growing up in the influential environment you did as a son of Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, I can imagine that they must have instilled many morals at a young age. What was an early childhood lesson you learned from them?

Well I’ll tell ya, I’m sure as early childhood I used to fake taking baths, splash my feet in water or something like that. I used to try and not take the garbage out if I could help it. But I think one important childhood lesson I learned was from my father. It’s kind of a two-part lesson. There was a store near our house called Rayfields, and my dad would take me by it and he would buy the newspaper. As I got a tiny bit older, he would send me to the store to grab him the newspaper or some knickknack. One time, I came back with a nickel too much change for some small purchase. A nickel too much. To me a nickel, that was a candy bar, or something fun. But when my dad found out I had that nickel he insisted that I go back to the store and give it to a man who was named Marshall at the counter. A man could lose his job by short changing the cash register, even by that much. Money was an esoteric concept for me, I just knew I could trade it for candy. But I did go take that money back. There was one time, that I did something I wish I hadn’t done. In the process of my dad having me with him when he would go buy the paper, he’d put the money in my hand and Marshall would hand me the newspaper. And then, one day he was going to leave a quarter on the kitchen counter. He told me that when I came home from school I was supposed to take that quarter and go get him a paper. So I accomplished what he asked. I don’t know if was the next day or the day after, I just saw a quarter sitting on the kitchen counter, but he hadn’t told me anything about getting the newspaper. I took that quarter and bought candy. I was not listening to the voice inside me that was clearly telling me I was supposed to get the paper.   When dad found out, he gave me this really disappointed look. And so that was a lesson in growing up, that you have to be straightforward about things, you have to have an understanding and be honorable. When you make a commitment you have to follow through with it. There was two lessons, one was getting too much change back, and I came through that ok, and the other I knew what I was supposed to do and got a serious look of disapproval and they reprimanded me.

How about a recent lesson you’ve learned as a big kid (adult) ?

I don’t know if it’s a lesson or if it’s just seeing myself through a different eye. I remember that, in our family we didn’t talk a lot about the entertainment industry, though it was there. And as an adult, I used to not know if my dad was going to be on some show on television or some theater piece, unless I asked him because all of what we talked about was usually family stuff. Same with my my mom. My dad used to find out what I did only after asking me, because I didn’t share  lot of what I did. And recently, my son, who has a band here in NYC and is in school studying film told me that he was getting harmonica lessons. This was about 4 or so months ago and I was shocked because I, amongst other things, am a harmonica player. I had been offering lessons to him forever. I wanted to show him this, show him that, anything. He had been a little blasé about being interested. So I was shocked to hear he was getting harp lessons. So then, just a few nights ago, I went down to see him and his band down in Greenwich Village. He’s playing the harp and lets just say he’s being very creative in finding what notes to play in certain pieces, but he could still use technique.  I re-offered him some lessons and the other day he took a lesson from me, and it was a real short lesson, but his eyes really opened up as if he was just hearing this stuff for the first time. And it was stuff I’ve showed him before, but it was like it was for the first time because he was really motivated this time. Now that he’s performing, he’s looking to do better, he’s looking to get feedback from his audience and band mates. So that he’s really looking for something, he seems motivated in learning from me. I think I was like that with my dad, so I guess the lesson I’m learning is patterns repeats themselves.

Lets talk about the show, you’re collaborating with a lot of talented musicians including Professor Louie and the Cromatix, Greg Dayton  and even local talent from the Green Room Show Choir. Can you shed some light on how this type of performance comes together?

People like Professor Louie, they don’t come better than him. He’s a musician from Woodstock and he actually produced some of the last albums by The Band. He plays keyboard with me in my group and occasionally I open for him in his group. We have all kinds of guys that meet each other on the road, and when we get together, If I’m playing a part of his band, or he with mine, it’s just about good music. The blues is what I do, that’s my specialty, but we definitely stray across the borders. We will have a little bit of old school rock and roll, we have some folk music, ragtime. I just anticipate having fun on stage and sharing it with people.

Will there be some African American Folklore weaved into this?

In the sense that, no matter where I perform, I’m always telling stories so that qualifies as African American Folklore. I don’t know that it’s necessarily going to be very formal, but I’ve got stories, my god have I got stories. Some of the stories I tell involve more than just one person. There was this great harmonica player, Sonny Terry. He was a blues musician, a harmonica player from back in the 30’s and primarily people heard of him playing in North Carolina. He became known by the larger world, by that I mean, the white world, Broadway specifically, back in 1947. There was a musical called Finian’s Rainbow and it was the late, great Pete Seeger, the folk musician, who called up the producers at Finian’s Rainbow and said that they needed to listen to Sonny Terry to see if they could write him into the show. And they did because he was that good. It’s stories like that. I got that story with more details to it and I play in Sonny Terry’s style. When I introduce the song “Did You See My Baby,” I’ll often tell the story and there’s some hilarious stuff involved.

The Catskills have recently received a lot of exposure and publicity on becoming an incubator for the arts and music. Do you have any advice for the youth of the area growing up during this transitional time?

I have advice on two different levels. One, if you’re a musician, steal everything you hear. Steal it. And then, once you master it, then it becomes your own, that’s if you’re playing. But if you are in the audience, there’s something that happens on stage when you see a musical artist in particular, or a storyteller perhaps. There’s a kind of magic that happens because I recall being that kid when I was 8 years old just sitting in the front of an auditorium looking on stage at somebody with a guitar, just some wood with some metal strings on it. And, the experience I had was magic. It was magic. Have you heard of Gestalt? The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts. That’s what can happen to a person, or a young person, when they see music, art, see show business, hear stories for the first time something transformative can happen. So I say to young people, be prepared for the unexpected.

Anything you’d like to share that you’re working on or about the upcoming show?

I will say that I have been writing new songs, so new my own band members such as Professor Louie haven’t even heard them yet. I’ve been sending them some new things but I have actually been writing so much they haven’t gotten them all yet. A lot of what people hear at the show will be stuff I’ve been doing but a lot some of what they hear will be brand new. Prepare to enjoy.

Meet Justin Valentine; Local Ballet Dancer Pursuing His Dream

 

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Meet talented, determined ballet dancer, Justin!

Justin Valentine grew up on the mountain top, attending WAJ from grades K-4.  From 4th grade on he has been home-schooled by his mom, Susan.  Justin’s first exposure to performing came from Sabine Starr with the Schoharie Creek Players.  The young boy discovered not only did he feel at home onstage but through acting and movement he found an outlet for self-expression that he had nowhere else.  Justin’s passion was ignited soon after when he began studying seriously with Sabine.  Very soon it became clear to both Justin and his mother that dance was this young man’s passion and calling.  They would have to seek out a more serious schedule of trai811ning.  Justin’s next move was to the Saugerties Ballet Center where he studied with Scarlett Fierro and Judith Ore.  It was there, in a class in Saugerties where Justin met Victoria Rinaldi who happened to be taking a class.  Justin’s mother could tell Victoria had something her son needed.  Victoria was quite reluctant to teach but Justin and his mother were persistent.  Victoria warned them, working with her would not be a fun after school activity, it would be hard work.  She gave him a class and saw there was potential.  After Justin’s serious coaching started.  The more a dancer studies and progresses the greater the need for more intensive training at major schools andprograms.  Justin auditioned and won admission to two of the most competitive and prestigious programs in the United States and spent last summer studying at the Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis school, the official school for American Ballet Theater and Kaatsban Extreme Ballet in Tivoli, NY.  This year Justin is splitting his time, half the week with renowned ballerina Valentina Kozlova at the Valentina Kozlova Dance Conservatory New York (VKDCNY) and the other half of the week with Victoria right in Hunter at the Red Barn.  At VKDCNY Justin has the opportunity to not only study with fantastic teachers but he is working with student who are as talented and serious as him.  Justin will be competing internationally with the hope of gaining the recognition that will land him with a major ballet company in the near future.

475Take a Second to Meet Spitfire Victoria Rinadi.

Victoria will be the first to tell you, she doesn’t like anyone telling her she can’t do something.  Also, she will not put her energy into anything she doesn’t 120% believe in.

Victoria didn’t come from a dancing background, but at 3 she had already decided she would be a ballerina.  Most little girls outgrow their 3 year old proclamations, not Victoria.  By eight she was enrolled in one of the best ballet schools in the Washington Metropolitan area.  One could say Victoria was very lucky in her dance career but she also had the skill and determination to get from the start to the finish.  The launch to her career was with the Washington Ballet where she had the good fortune to have renowned choreographer Cho San Ghoo set several ballets on her.  Victoria knew her next move had to be to New York City.  She auditioned with American Ballet Theater only to hear they wanted to see her the next season.  She needed a job now so she auditioned for New York City Opera at Lincoln Center and got the job.  Victoria only expected to stay at City Opera until she could get into a big ballet company but she fell in love with the magnitude and the freedom that the preforming in grand opera offered her.  During her decade with City Opera Ms. Rinaldi preformed as a guest artist with ballet companies all over the world and was featured in the show “On Your Toes.”  It was during a strike in 1989 Victoria ventured across the plaza to the Metropolitan Opera with no expectations but the Met had the best singer, dancers, orchestra, costumes and they offered her a full time contract.  It became her preforming home for the next 13 years.   It was while under contract at the Met that Victoria was invited by ballerina, Valentina Kozlova and choreographer Margo Sappington to join their company, “The Daring Project,” an elite group of soloists from major companies.  This was a daunting challenge but with a combination of negotiation, creative excuse making and a few white lies Victoria managed to do both.  There were nights Victoria would step off stage at Lincoln Center, jump on the subway get to the Joyce Theater 40 blocks downtown in time dance a program there.  Victoria considers herself extremely lucky to not only have the career she wanted, dance with all the famous dancer of her time, but most importantly to be part of the creative process on ballets that will live on long after she retired from dance in 2002.


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The Future

Justin will be dancing at Symphony Space this May. Originally started as The Boston International Ballet Competition (BIBC) by Valentina Kozlova in 2011, The Valentina Kozlova International Ballet Competition (VIKBC) serves as a host for young, international talent. VKIBC has had three editions of its competition as well as one edition of its Contemporary Dance and Choreography Competition. Each competition has had a panel of international and acclaimed judges, fostering young talent while awarding high-caliber prizes in the hope to enrich the lives of dancers and their audiences. In 2015 Ms. Kozlova has combined the 4th Edition of the VKIBC’s Classical competition and its 2nd Edition of its Contemporary competition for a full week of amazing dancing and artistry.

Justin also has the rare opportunity of traveling to St. Petersberg, Russia to perform during the Open Ballet Festival.  Only 6 students from VKDCNY are invited on this trip, so that alone is a huge accomplishment. The trip to Russia will be 7 days long and features dance pieces that hold sentiment for Victoria. The students will be dancing in pieces from the show “For Ella,” originally choreographed by Margo Sappington originally for Elle Fitzgerald after her death. Justin will be the boy in the piece “Hernando’s Hideaway” and a song that Victoria had originally danced in during her heyday, “A Tisket, A Tasket” will be performed in Russia. This trip holds significance for both the dancer in training, Justin and the retired dancer, Victoria. Justin is going after his dream in what he doesn’t feel he has a choice in the matter, this dream is his calling and that is all he needs to feel to pursue it.

Victoria feels strongly that Justin will be successful; it’s up to him to decide how far he will take his success. He is determined, driven and extremely conscientious when it comes to dancing, always sure to work on perfect techniques in areas that are in need. His story is one to watch evolve in an organic but warranted way.

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Written by Vicki Thompson

 

A Photo Diary of the Thanksgiving Weekend

The Windham Festival Chamber Orchestra with 24 musicians, featuring the wind players (flute, 2 oboes and 2 horns) returned for their annual Thanksgiving weekend concert this year performing works by Vivaldi, Shulman, Mozart, Mahler and Haydn. The program included Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Horns and Strings; Shulman’s A Nocturne for Strings; Mozart’s Concerto #2 for Flute and Orchestra; an excerpt from Mahler’s Symphony #3; and, Haydn’s Symphony #24. Here are some photos from the orchestra practicing with their conductor, Robert Manno, and a few from the successful event at the Doctorow Center for the Arts!

This concert is made possible, in part, through a grant from the Jarvis and Constance Doctorow Family Foundation

Dr. Joanne Polk Places Limelight On Female Artists

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Dr. Joanne Polk is the artistic director of Manhattan in the Mountains, a summer residency program of the Catskill Mountain Foundation offering highly personalized, rigorous musical training in solo and chamber music working under the guidance of an internationally renowned faculty (such as herself!).  She has made bountiful accomplishments in her teaching career and career as a pianist. She finds putting the limelight on underexposed female artists to be on the forefront of her many interests. Here is a little bit more on the topic! ~Vicki 

What lead you to being an advocate for women composers besides being one yourself?

I attended a concert in 1986 in Merkin Concert Hall in New York City, and heard a piece titled, “Parable” for four singers and orchestra, by Judith Lang Zaimont.  I was so moved by the piece, I remember it as one of the few times in my life I burst into tears in a concert hall.  I reached out to Judy, who has been a friend to this day, and she opened my eyes to the struggles of being a woman composing music, in 1986 and historically.  I decided at that point to devote my recording career to recording music written by women, to give living and historical woman an advocate for their music.

Can you explain to me what salon style music means?

Salon music was popular during the 19th century.  It was usually written for solo piano, romantic in style, often performed by the composers at events known as “salons,” which were small concerts in people’s homes.  The pieces were usually fairly short and focused either on virtuosity, or lyrical, emotional expression.

 Why has so much exceptional music by women composers been overlooked?

Music, like many arts, sciences, occupations, careers, has been male-dominated, and sometimes dismissive of the work of women.  For many decades, while men were studying composition, women were not even permitted to learn at the conservatories and universities, and had to study their craft either on their own or with private tutors.  Many families were unsupportive of woman studying music.  Fanny Mendelssohn, Felix Mendelssohn’s sister, was told by her grandfather, “A woman who has read her eyes red, should be ashamed.”  So woman were behind the men in learning their compositional craft, and their music was often dismissed as feminine, and inferior.  But once the music is recorded well, the music speaks for itself, and I believe we are beginning to become gender-blind in our choice of composers.

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 Have you seen a difference in the youth of today with MinM in regards to female vs male participation?

Yes, we have many more women than men at MinM, and this is true at many conservatories as well.  

 What female artists do think should be mentioned that haven’t had the deserved exposure?

Every time I hear music by a woman I believe should be recorded, I research her music and try to make a CD.  I have recorded Clara Schumann, Amy Beach, Fanny Mendelssohn, Judith Lang Zaimont and now Cecile Chaminade.  Right now I don’t have my next project solidified — my Chaminade CD was just released — but I’ll keep you posted.

 Where do you foresee your mission of unveiling these female artists taking you? Taking the listeners?

​I just want listeners to enjoy music, without any gender bias.  And I truly believe that female composers today are having a far better experience than women of the past.  Their music is being judged on its merits, they are able to attend conservatories and universities, they are winning awards.

 If you lived during the 17th century when a female playing the piano was an extreme advantage to her courting a partner, would you have guessed that the oppression of women’s composers exposure would have taken the turn it did?

​Ah, but there was a big difference between learning the piano and courting a partner, and becoming a concert pianist who performed.  There was a lot of disdain for the idea of women performing, touring, making a living as a pianist in those days.  There were also very few opportunities for female composers to have their pieces performed.  So I believe the history of ignoring and almost stultifying female talent occurred in the 17th century, as it did through history.

 There is a wonderful story about Queen Victoria being asked which Felix Mendelssohn song was her favorite, and she unknowingly chose a song written by Felix’s sister Fanny, but published under Felix’s name.

 Need I say more?

 There is no better indication we are becoming a gender-blind listening society than my latest CD, The Flatterer with piano music by Cecile Chaminade, debuting at #1 on Classical Billboard.  I don’t think anyone who bought the CD cared about the gender of the composer.  They responded to the music.

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Meet Sato Moughalian, Flutist in the Windham Festival Chamber Orchestra

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Sato Moughalian: Flutist, Artistic Director and Music Coordinator. She really does it all and she still had time to talk with me for an interview. Sato is easy to talk to and I believe she her ability to explain the art behind an orchestra playing together will make everyone appreciate music. She will be performing at the Doctorow Center for the Arts with Robert Manno’s Windham Festival Chamber Orchestra: Works by Vivaldi, Mozart, Handel and Haydn on Saturday, November 29, 2014. Get to know a little about her before you come and enjoy the music. ~Vicki Thompson

When did you start playing the flute?

I actually started on the recorder when I was 6 years old and then I started on the flute in 4th grade at my public school in Highland Park, NJ.

Did you come from a family of musicians? 

Not at all, in fact I come from an immigrant family and my parents greatest hopes and dreams were that I would become a doctor or a lawyer. The ironic thing is that my  Grandfather was an artist, I’m actually writing his biography right now, but I think I inherited his gene.

What kind of artist was he? 

He was an Armenian ceramic artist from a part of the the former Ottoman Empire called called Anatolia, a city called Kutahya. They had a ceramics tradition that went back to the 15th century and he was one of the very last masters of it in the early 20th century. He transported his art into Jerusalem where he reestablished it 1919 and today it’s called the Armenian Ceramics of Jerusalem and many people who have traveled through Jerusalem as tourists come back with a small piece of his pottery. I’ve researched him for 4 or 5 years. It helped to be out touring as a musician because sometimes I could stop a few days  longer and look at an archive or look in a museum and learn more.

What about your draw towards exploring world music, how did that originate?

I’ve always been interested in lots of different types of music; contemporary music and music from different parts of world. And of course, living in NYC gives a person great opportunity to meet people and hear lots of different kinds of things. I’m very interested the way that newly written music intersects with music from different parts of the world. I think that this is a big trend in music right now and a very exciting one.

As a founder of of MAYA and Perspectives Ensemble, have you found an increased curiosity or demand towards world music over the years?

Yes, just straight out world music, absolutely. If you look at all recorded music, classical music is actually a very small minority of it and world music is a larger portion of it. But of course, there are so many different parts of the world that have their very own, very specific kinds of music. The technical process of recording has gotten easier and easier, so it’s natural that we’re able to access these different world cultures.

You will be playing classical music with the Windham Festival Chamber Orchestra?

Yes, I am going to be playing the most classical of Classical music; Mozart and Haydn, my favorite! I love both off the composers and am really grateful to Bob Manno for giving me the chance to play these two incredible pieces.

Have you worked with Bob Manno before? 

I had the great pleasure of working with him this past summer in a wonderful program up in Windham with his summer festival. He and Magdalena run that. He’s an incredible musician. We always knew him as an incredible singer during the years he was in the Metropolitan Opera Chorus and now its a great revelation to be able to work with his as a conductor because all of that amazing musicianship is totally there in his conducting as well.

Can you hear yourself on stage when you’re playing with 24 other musicians?

Yes, you can! It’s really all about listening. The whole thing is about listening. Its kind of strange, if you thought about what it would be like to be in a group of 24 people talking, it would be much harder to understand what everyone’s saying if they were all talking at once. But music is this incredible thing where you make sound at the same time as other people; sometimes one or two, or sometimes 20 other people, and the way your brain works during that process, your ears reach out to everyone and combine what you’re doing with what they’re doing. It’s the most unbelievable high. They say you should only become a musician if you have to become a musician, that you’re so driven you have to become a musician. But I think that one of the immense rewards of it is to be in a group of other musicians and having this kind of simultaneous conversation dialogue where you’re saying something and producing something and so are other people. Yet, you come together in sound and make beauty. It’s such an incredible experience. With a composer like Mozart, who writes with such clarity and yet the lines in the music are very expressive and emotional, it’s just balanced at the same time order and emotion. It’s a very moving experience.

What is the energy shift like after the shows? Do you leave it with the music, or is there any tradition after the show like going to dinner?

I think a lot of times the good feeling  carries over, you want to go out, you want to be with the audience or have a drink with people because the feeling is so strong and so good. That’s one of the reasons why its so nice to have the opportunity to say hello to people in the audience after the show because you’re also sharing the experience with them. The experience of live music is shared with everyone in the room. Although it’s wonderful to watch a concert on TV, there’s no comparison to actually being in the room with the vibrations of the sound around you. Especially at the Doctorow Center, which is a beautifully intimate space in where people can really see, hear and feel the music in a very immediate way.

Do you think the flute is adequately represented in the music world?

There are a lot us in the music world. There are a lot of flutists in the music world doing  many different kinds of music; classical, jazz, new-world etc.. Flutists have a reputation for being leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators. Some flutist are composers, other flutists start groups, others commission composers to write new pieces for them. There’s a huge and rich repertoire for us.

What advice would you give to a young student choosing which instrument to play in their school band?

I’ll tell you how I chose my instrument, or rather, how I didn’t choose my instrument. My parents moved to a town that they thought had a good public school system and bought a little house on the farthest edge of the town, so it was a long walk to school. We had music aptitude tests, the band teacher called my parents and said that we think your daughter should play an instrument. I asked, “What’s the lightest instrument to carry to school?” and they said it’s the flute. So it’s all these years later and that’s what happens! I would just say to see what’s available in your school, try it, give it a few weeks. See if you like the way  it feels when you play it, if you like the way it sounds when you either pluck a string, draw a bow across a string, blow air into a wind instrument or play  into a brass instrument. Try a few different instruments and see which ones you feel at home with. Every instrument has great things that can be  done, so I would say just give it a try and see what happens. There’s  nothing that can compare with the feeling of playing music  with other people, so really any instrument is a good instrument, it just depends on what a young person feels the happiest playing.

Any future projects you can give us a sneak peak into?

Yes, There are some important composer centenaries coming up in the next two years. Prospective Ensemble will be exploring the music of Spain and some other European countries as well. That’s all I’ll say for now, but well have some announcements. Our most recent CD came out in December on the Naxos Label, we explored music on the composer called Xavier Montsalvatge. I’m really proud of the work we did on that composers behalf. He was an incredible musician and also a music critic. He left a huge catalog of works, but because he came to his prime under the regime of Franco in Spain his music was suppressed along with the work of many other composers who were of the same generation. I feel really proud of the work that Perspectives Ensemble has done to bring some new light to his compositions. We’ve received a lot of amazing reviews as a result. I just love his music.

 

Are there any readings that you could recommend that you have found to be influential to your career path?

When I was about 11 or 12 years old I read a book by Hermann Hesse who’s an author who many many people read when they are 11 or 12 years old. I read a book called Das Glasperlenspiel or The Glass Bead Game in English, that book was about a utopian society in which the highest level of achievement was to play a game that was a symbolic representation of all the arts and in areas of knowledge. I really like the idea of looking for comparisons and relationships between things. I think that we often perceive the world world in a very fractured way, and see the elements of the world in isolation rather than being able to see connections and I think that it can be a really beautiful thing to see how one art form in one part of the world in one time can relate very clearly to another art form in another part of the world. That made a very big impact on me at a young age and it kind of set the course that I’ve followed ever sense.

Anything you’d like to add about the upcoming performance at the Doctorow?

The whole program, the music is just spectacularly beautiful. The Haydn Symphony has been programmed to end the concert contains a gorgeous slow movement that is thought to be a movement of a lost flute concerto by Haydn. He preserved it and put it into this Symphony Number 24. That’s kind of exciting, like a little mystery. He wrote this piece that must have must been gorgeous but only one movement of it remains and he interpolated it into a new work. I think that Bob has a particularly good ability to program music that is substantial but also accessible, it draws the listener in. He loves pulling the listener in and giving them an experience they can enjoy.

Check out Sato in the playing with the MAYA Trio below

Click here to purchase tickets to the upcoming show: http://www.catskillmtn.org/events/performances/2014-11-29-windham-festival-chamber-orchestra-works-by-vivaldi-782.html

Getting to Know The Artists: Susan Beecher

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Susan Beecher is a renowned potter, her bio can be found at http://susanbeecherpottery.com. She is full of life and love. Her work reflects those direct connections to the human race and mother nature. Talking with her was inspirational, you’ll want to go and create some pots with her when you’re finished reading! ~Vicki Thompson 

You have lots of workshops planned for this summer at Sugar Maples that not only involve the ceramics department, but all types of art genres such as Mosaics, Chinese Brush Painting, Print Making and Plein Air Painting workshops. Are you the instructor for them as well?

No, I don’t teach any of the other art classes. I don’t have a degree in art, although I studied ceramics and drawing extensively I’m not proficient in other media. I love other media, of course. So I go about finding someone who has either been referred to me or that I’ve see their work and I’ve met them. It’s important to me that they are good teachers besides good artists. I do my best to figure that out and then I hire people. The woman who is now teaching mosaics, I met when I was teaching ceramics at another craft center. I could see what a great teacher she was and what wonderful work she did, so I hired her for Sugar Maples, so that’s sort of how it works.

I’m really impressed that you don’t have a degree in art and you are self made

I loved art and clay from the time I was a very young girl. In those days, I never even knew another woman who was an artist. It was something foreign, so when I went to school it wasn’t even a question about studying art. My degree was in communications and my minor was in business. When I got out of school, I had children young. I made pots and I apprenticed myself to a really wonderful maker in NY and in exchange for my working for her, she taught me. She was an MBA from Alfred so I learned lot from her. Then, I started making pots and eventually teaching. When I got a divorce, the whole question of what to do to support my family arose. Making pots in NY is not a very viable way to support your family, so I was lucky that I had a degree in communications, so I went to work in publishing. I had quite a career in publishing for 20 years.

Were you able to practice your ceramics in the meantime?

For a while I did, but as I got promoted and I had jobs of more responsibility, I couldn’t make pots, raise my kids and do my day job, it was too much. I didn’t make pots for almost 15-18 years. At my last job, I was the Director of Marketing at Scholastic in NYC. I worked my way up. Eventually, it got to a point where I really wanted to make pots. I really wanted to get my hands in clay. Luckily, I worked it out so that I could do freelance and I started making pots again. I immediately started studying with people I admired, I was able to study with some very great makers. It just gradually happened. I made more and more pots and sold them. Because I didn’t have a degree, the only way to get your name known and get your pots into galleries, you need to enter national shows. It’s very competitive though. Gradually during a five-year period I started to get accepted into national shows and then I started to get invitations to teach. So that helped. You make some money, usually

01_Byour students buy your work, and so it’s sort of a win-win. By that point, we had brought a little house in East Jewett with an old horse barn. I built my studio, I think it was in 2000, I built my wood kiln. I had experienced firing my pots in wood, and it was thrilling to me, it was magical. Woodfiring makes a whole different surface on your pots and the clay and the glaze I think become alive in a different way. So I built my wood kiln and that was really a great experience.

 

 

And you wrote a book about Woodfired Pottery.

At that point, the Catskill Mountain Foundation had a small publishing arm and they were publishing books about contemporary artists in the area. They approached me and asked me if I’d do a book and I said sure, it was very exciting!

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So you had your wood kiln and that’s when you got involved with Sugar Maples, thereafter?

I think around that time Peter Finn had just started the CMF and they wanted to start a Ceramics Program so he approach me and asked me if I’d be interested in running the ceramics arm of Sugar Maples. That sounded really exciting to be because I feel that crafts are almost being forgotten today in this technological world that were living in and I think it’s very important for children and adults to continue to make things by hand. I think it’s sort of wired into our DNA that we should continue to make, on whatever level, not necessarily on a professional level. I see it with my students; they become so satisfied making pots or mosaics. I thought that would be a really good part of my journey and it has been just wonderful.

Do you think ceramics creates an art community that other genres don’t create?

Yes. First of all you need equipment, you need a kiln, you need a wheel, you need a place that it doesn’t matter if it gets dusty or messy, so it’s harder to do on your own, although many people do. Whereas painting for instance; you can go to the store and get your paints and paper and it becomes much more accessible. I do find that Ceramics’ people seem to love the workshop experience, it’s part of their thing. Whereas painters are more solitary, ceramic people seem to really love that group experience, feeding off each other and people. They are grateful for the experience, they really are.

There’s a lot of mental disorders associated with famous artists, I wonder if there’s less on the ceramics end. There’s no statistics I’ve seen, but I’m just wondering if there’s less of a correlation due to the community aspect.

That could be true, there is much more sharing community and support.

What type of pots are you currently focusing on?

Traditionally I have made functional ware, I sort of feel like functional pots, meaning pots you would in your kitchen or on your table, are sort of like the last affordable art form. It’s a very enriching experience to drink your coffee out of a handmade mug or eating off of a hand made plate. It’s very different than eating off of a plate from Macys. It just is. And if you think about and open yourself up to that experience it can be really enriching, so I love to make pots that people will use. That said, I make lots of pots for flowers, flower arranging, but I do do some more sculptural work at times also. That had the kind of determination on what kind of wood kiln that I built because I don’t want so much wood ash on my pieces that people cant drink out of them, so that largely determined by the kind of kiln you have. I don’t know if that answered your questions or not.

No, you answered the question just fine! Who are your favorite Ceramic artists?

Number one is Michael Simon, he is a wonderful ceramic artist out of Georgia. I’m very much in the Leach-Hamada tradition. Those were one of the most influential and finest sort of studio ceramic artists of the last century. They schooled two or three particular artists in this country. They are from Japan and England. That Leech-Hamada tradition really influenced a whole generation of potters including myself. Michael Simon was also in that tradition, as was Warren MacKenzie. Warren MacKenzie, he’s in his 90’s still making pots. He’s like the grandfather of American Pottery. Michael Simon, He’s not well so he’s not making now. I was very, very lucky to work with both if them, they were exceptional.

What do you do in your down time? Besides art…

(laughs) Do I have down time?

I don’t know….

I don’t have much down time. I love to cook for my friends and family and I have a grandson. That’s why I’m now spending half of my time in California because I have grandkids here. My daughter has an organic fruit nursery. I spend time out there helping them. My greatest joy right now it that my youngest, 8 year old grandson, loves clay, so he comes and stays with me for a couple of days. We make pots and things together in my little studio here. It is just wonderful; he glazes the pots and then we fire them. It’s really great to pass on, that tradition. I also love to read, I came up in publishing and never seem to have enough time to read what I want. I just finished the Pulitzer Prize winning Goldfinch, which was like 7 hundred and something pages. It’s something unbelievable, that book and she deserves the Pulitzer Prize.

I agree with you on that one, that was a great book. There’s never enough time to read, I always wish the books would read to me sometimes.

Do you like to listen to books on tape?

Yes.

People have been telling me to get books on tape but somehow I just never can.

Do you listen to music while you make pottery?

Yes.

Maybe if you listen to books on tape….

I don’t know, it’s not the same as loosing yourself in reading.

Right, And music does so much when your working with clay that you can loose yourself in that way. What’s your favorite musical genre?

I love classical music, but at the same time I love old blues, old blues jazz and old folk music, so I’m really diverse in my musical interests.

Can you share one of the many of your favorite memories from working at Sugar Maples?

Last summer I taught a workshop on Pouring Vessels, It was the smaller class, like 7 or something. Teapots are the hardest thing to make because you’re trying to bring together all these different elements to work as a whole, everyone managed to make a teapot and some of them were not experienced students, they were quite new to clay. So it was very challenging, but they all got it together. It was so exciting and at the end of class we put all the teapots on the end of the table and we talked about everyones work. People were just so happy and proud that they had accomplished that.

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That actually makes me want to cry, I don’t know why.

Yes, you can relate to it. The other thing is, I’ve had such great makers. Every other summer Jack Troy comes to us. He is one of the most respected makers to date in clay. This man, he’s a retired professor in his 70’s he’s also a poet. Sometimes in class everyone’s making while he’s demonstrating and he’s reciting one his poems. It’s the most precious moment and people are so enraptured with him.

That’s the full experience.

We’ve had Ron Meyers , a maker in his 70’s, so talents, he does a lot of very funny painting on his pots. He did a remarkable workshop, and he doesn’t give workshops anymore! I called him for 3 years, I worked on him for 3 years inviting him to come. Finally he came!

Good, I’m glad to hear that your magic works!

So those moments of very special people are really golden moments that I wont forget and that the students are not going to forget either.

Any advice for young aspiring ceramists?

Keep your overhead low and it’s just a lot of hard work. It’s inspirational. I think when finally starting getting national shows it was those little cruet sets, those a little oil and vinegar sets, they were unique. Those were the first pots that got my into national shows. My advice would be to keep searching for something you make that has a uniqueness about it because that’s a way for people to take notice.

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Anything else you’d like to add Susan?

People should try the experience of working and making things with their hand no matter what it is, painting, clay, mosaics, it will enrich their lives.

 

 

 

 

 

Capture, Ruckus and Manifesting Some Sort of Destiny. Meet the PPM’s 1833-1835 Nuns & Clark, Benjamin

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Most people and inanimate objects cannot remember much prior to about 3 years of age. But I can remember it all, way before the beginning. That’s impressive considering I am almost 200 years old. They call me Benjamin, and I must say that although I am referred to as an inanimate object, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. I’ll have you know that, we are all very animate and have spirits of our own.

I can remember back to when I had been part of a rosemary tree. Chopped up, I sat for 2 years seasoning in the weather. I learned from a young age how hard life is enduring the seasons changing without a blanket or shelter. After that I felt I earned a vacation for the next chapter of my life where I spent it in a dry house. I felt as though I was on the equator in the Bahamas roasting away. These were the earliest memories of my life. My most captivating memories lie within my journey to the West Coast.

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That’s, me! My selfie.

Let me step back for a few details; After I was considered to be bone-dry, I had my growth spurt. Humans have their growth spurts during puberty. Pianos have their growth spurt at an early age. It’s just easier to get it out of way in my opinion.  I had my growth spurt in my assemblage birthplace of NY, NY, in 1835 at the Nuns & Clarks factory. I am known for being a transition piano. I was one of the first to have metal included in my hitch pin and iron strut to support my wrest plank (Just a fun fact I like to share about my self and  my construction, like when humans feel the need to tell that they were the youngest or oldest of the grade school class….) Afterwards, I was immediately blindfolded. What felt like a straight jacket was wrapped around me. This is what I heard to be called “shrink wrapped.” All I heard with this shrink wrapping on me was voices surrounding me as I got hauled into an empty train’s carrier.

Next stop: Missouri. Missouri was warm. My folks were friendly and they played the most fun and entertaining music. I always brought people together. They would admire my new posh look, jumping from the old Victorian style pianos with so much “to-do” on them. I thought they looked like they were trying too hard, very gaudy looking. I’ve always been a fan of simplicity.

Mr. and Mrs. Alton Long were my owners names. Mr. Alton owned the Davies County Savings Association. He decided that he wanted to share me with the public coming in and out of the office to help society to return to the normalcy it had craved after the war.  I was perfectly fine with that. He hired a local pianist to play me during the day, and a piano tuner to clean me during the night. I slept with my beautiful shawl from Barcelona on. It was a copacetic,almost too good to be true time. Sometimes Mr. and Mrs. Alton would host late night employee only parties. These nights were carefree. People would admire my presence and play me like they were running a marathon.

Unfortunately, this was the time of Jessie James robbing places and killing people. It was when America was trying to settle the dust and friction in the air between the North and South from the Civil War. Jessie James had been hyped up in the papers. People would read the articles out loud while gathered around me, discuss them and then play tunes on me to remind them of happiness.  Mr. Alton never believed what the papers had to say about Jessie James being an honest man working to help, not harm the people of the South. He always knew Jessie James had malicious intentions. He would laugh and ridicule these articles and then play light hearted music on me.

One night, Mr. and Mrs. Alton were hosting a Halloween party, extending the invitation to all of the employees of the Davis Savings Association.  This night was one of the best I can remember up until midnight stuck. Everyone was laughing and dancing as if there was not a care in the world. Moments like this in life are rare and too few and far in-between. The weight of the world can be immense and onerous at times, even for a piano. Playing songs only of cheer sprung life into the air. Oh music…

Masked in costumes like the rest of the party, entered Jessie James, his brother Frank and 50 other men. They were all dressed in Robin Hood costumes, can you believe that? So much for ambiguity. About 20 of the professed Robinhoods picked me up after unmentionable bloodshed occurred. I still cannot speak of it to this day. I get too sad when thinking of all the good and kind people left there that night, especially Mr. and Mrs. Alton. The Robinhoods were chattering about how heavy I was and how much money and publicity I would be getting Jessie. I didn’t care to hear any more. The occasional tree they ran me into and pinching of my keys when they were carrying me put me in a coma like state.

I woke up in a train carrier. There were lights, beer and, to my surprise, another piano. As the robinhoods unmasked themselves, they shot guns in the air though the train carriers doors as a signal to move forward. Apparently it was time for a piano duel between myself and this no-name piano for the train ride to California. Here is where I stop calling the Robinhoods such and begin calling them criminals. I rode in that train carrier with over 30 drunken criminals and two captive pianists. These 2 poor musical pianist souls were captured purely for the entertainment of the train ride to California. Undoubtedly they were to be killed upon arrival. My future wasn’t clear at this point either, as far as I knew I could be future firewood. I don’t imagine the Californians knowing what to do with a piano! I had to shift perspective…If I was going to live or die, I would win what could possibly be my last piano duel!

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 A photo of the Train Cart we were crammed into

Down the duel went! We traded off tunes like Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Sonata No. 2,” no easy triumph I must say! Next, the no-name piano would play “De Falla Ritual Dance” from ‘El Amor Brujo’.

 

 

I haven’t been played like that in my whole life. The aggression, the passion, the energy of the criminals combined with the pianists hope for life by winning the piano duel. Whoever was in the other corner certainly had a different sound than me. She sounded to be of an earlier decade with the cascading pitches. She kept a clear and concise tone the entire train ride, I’ll give her that. My strings were getting splattered with the beer from the criminals mugs in the cart. It was ok though, while we were both playing for our lives, I still had a stronger presence.

At the end of the journey of a few days and nights, I was announced the winner after playing “My Old Kentucky Home.”

It  was simple but brought up true emotion to the drunken southern criminals. I, the good old, sleek and slim Nuns & Clark had won the battle. I knew I had it in me.  The train ride ended and I approached my supposed final destination. A man named Henry picked me up, paid the criminals $200 cash and I was placed into a truck and brought to his farm.

The people of California reacted strangely towards me. I was a foreign object, they even changed my name to Sunny. How unoriginal? Just because it’s sunny in California, doesn’t mean that should be my name. I changed back to Benjamin as soon as I got back in NY. People were so curious around me in California and not many people could play a solid tune on me for about 10 years until some experienced pianists made their way to California with Manifest Destiny in mind. It was rough, but comfortable I suppose.

If you are concerned or feeling doleful about the other piano, I’ll share something that will lift your spirits if you think the no-namer became ashes. The other piano, she was loaded onto the truck behind me and we ended up at the same location. I learned her name, learned all about her, and she eventually became my piano wife. She was a beautiful 1824-1826 Wm. Gieb Square Piano who is named Ophelia.

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And now Ophelia (pictured above) and I reside here in the Piano Performance Museum in Hunter, NY.

It’s a long story of the journey from California to Hunter, NY, best to save for another day. But we love our home here. I feel my sound is kept safe. I am warm and get attention, but could always use more 😉

 

Meet Cara Dantzig, The CMF Would Be Lost Without Our Black Olive Eating Administrative Assistant

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Meet Cara, the administrative assistant at the Catskill Mountain Foundation. She is groovy, intelligent and one of the most giving people I ever have met. I am proud to share bits and pieces of her large personality with the public.  ~Vicki Thompson

A favorite quote of yours? 

I don’t really have a favorite quote that popped in my head, but I keep hearing in my head…. “We were born before the wind,” Van Morrison.

What do you enjoy most about the CMF?

The hustle and bustle. There’s always things going on, great things. It’s interesting getting to interact with all kinds of people throughout my day.

A favorite food?

Oh goodness, I really love black olives.

That’s so weird

Why?

I don’t know, that’s just a random one. 

I do, pitted or not pitted, right out of the can or right out of the deli department.

Hm, I’ll have to try it out. Least favorite thing about humanity?

I think people really not being aware there’s other people among them, being really selfish. We’re all sharing space and time here.

Most favorite thing about humanity?

Were so smart and creative and I think we pull from each other in that positive way.  I also think when it comes down to it, people will help each other out in time of need……

Imaginary getaway?

A big, beautiful tree house, It wouldn’t have to big, it would just have to magical. Beautiful fabrics, rugs, wind chimes and pretty circle windows. And the tree is covered in moss.

How do you think CMF has had a positive impact on the community?

They’ve created jobs for our local community. Also, they’ve provided arts for the community by allowing local artists to participate in the gallery and have a say on how to present their work. I think main street in Hunter would look really sad if the theater wasn’t beautiful, and if this building (Hunter Village Square) wasn’t beautiful.

What are you Lils and Chris dressing up as for Halloween?

Well today, Lilly is going to be Peter Pan, so we’ll see what happens that day but in her mindset she wants to be peter pan. So I have to make a costume and find some tights.

Are you going to dress up?

I don’t know, I don’t think so. Maybe something silly  Last year I was a disco detective here in the office. I have this polyester jumpsuit that I rocked that and I wore this private eye hat and glasses with the mustache and nose. I think I have to see how I feel that morning.

Were you the only one in the office who dressed up?

Yes.

Of course!

People were coming in the door, and here I am.

Haha, Having fun in your space! Now  for some free association….

Music? joy

Dancing? joy twice.

Art? great

Peace? Love

Duck Sauce? Bonkers

Big Ears? ooooooh.DSC_5339

This is Cara’s Favorite tree from her window in the CMF office.