Thursday, November 1, 2012

MUSIC-Giancarlo Guerrero (October Issue)

Here in Williamson County, we have an unbelievable amount of talent in our midst.  I could write a story everyday for this column and still not cover everyone worth mentioning.  So I will continue to share with you the ones that I have the privilege of getting to know who shine the most.  Giancarlo Guerrero, the conductor of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, is definitely fits in that category. 

I recently spent an afternoon with Gioncarlo, and it was incredible.  We talked a lot about his love for Nashville and all the things that make it so unique.  He certainly does not take any of it for granted.  He says that of all the places he has conducted, Nashville is his favorite.  There is nowhere else where you can hear a world-class symphony and go a couple of blocks and then hear the best country and blue grass music around. 

Unlike many other conductors, Gioncarlo lives where he conducts.
He believes that the music director should be a part of the community.  He wants to learn the people and know what works here.  He desires everything to have relevance to Nashville in the present time.  His being here and having access to Nashville gives him the ability to serve the community through performances and outreach, and he feels he has a huge responsibility to keep audiences for years.  Giancarlo wants to get rid of the myth that classical music is for a certain class of people.  He wants everyone to know that the orchestra has something for all audiences.  He says even what to wear can be scary, but when he goes to a symphony that he is not conducting, he prefers to wear his blue jeans. 

When Giancarlo is conducting, he welcomes spontaneity.  He trusts his musicians so much that he gives them the freedom to make changes in the moment, if they feel moved to do so.  Not the actual music per say, but more of the energy and response to the audience’s reaction.  He also loves when things happen in the audience that some conductors would find disturbing.  For example, one time someone dropped a glass of wine from a side balcony, and it shattered on the stage.  He thought it was funny.  He adores children in the audience and hearing their laughter.  There has, however, been an incident that he could have done without.  He accidentally stabbed himself with his baton.  When he removed it, he was bleeding so much that he had to put it back in.  I guess the show must go on whatever the cost!  No matter the situation, he handles it with grace and style.

After visiting with Giancarlo, I was fortunate enough to attend a rehearsal, and it was more laid back than I imagined it would be.  Every time he addressed the orchestra he would start by saying “My friends”.  He is definitely not a stereotypical conductor.  Someone in the brass section dropped his smart phone (probably in the middle of a game of “Words with Friends”), and Giancarlo did not say anything about it.  I love that about him.  He knows that the caliber of musicians he is working with do not need to be on a tight leash.  If I were in the orchestra, he is definitely the conductor I would want leading me. I would be the one dropping the phone, hopefully in the middle of a triple letter, triple word score.

Artist- Jerry Quinlisk (October Issue)

I feel very blessed to say that over the past few months I have been getting to know Franklin artist and horticulturalist, Jerry Quinlisk.  We’ve been acquaintances for years, but we’ve never really connected.  Now that I know his story, I’ve been thinking, “Wow, how did I miss this?”  He definitely has an amazing story to tell and so much of it is expressed through his art.

Jerry invited me to his historic Franklin home to talk art and show displays of his work.  The home has become a gallery, including a dining room turned studio.  His work is so colorful that the walls really come to life and made me want to know what inspired all of them.  I had no idea the depth of his story and how invested I would become in it.

After suffering a back injury 19 years ago, Jerry could no longer partake in his favorite pastime of playing golf.  Ten years prior, someone told him that he was not a landscaper, he was an artist.  Inspired by the memory of this statement and needing a new hobby, he decided to take some art classes at the Watkins Institute in Nashville to learn how to draw.  He then took lessons from the legendary Bunn Gray who taught him to apply paint.  Jerry says he doesn’t draw classically.  He calls it “expressive art”.  It is very personal and comes from within.  There is always a part of each piece that is a self-portrait.  He approaches art as if it is a puzzle on the surface, and the work itself is trying to solve the puzzle.  In the end, it looks different than what was in his mind at the start.  The most enjoyable part of creating is the place that he goes in his mind, his “happy spot”.  It gives him peace and tranquility.  Which he definitely deserves…
Jerry was very open with me about his past and gave me permission to share it.  He has struggled with alcohol and substance abuse and said he had no idea at the time how bad he felt.  A diagnosis of liver cancer changed his life.  As I sat in his home, we talked of how serious his condition was and how much he needed a new liver.  With tears in my eyes I tried to stay on task and asked him how all this affected his art.  He said that his battle with cancer and being clean have changed the art.  It’s more introspective.  Before, it had been more lighthearted.  In the last year, he starting working in pastels, which suits his temperament better since he doesn’t have to mix the paint.  It’s a more rapid process, and he did one a day for a while. 

The afternoon spent with Jerry was at the beginning of August, by the end of August, I am so happy to say that Jerry received a new liver.  He is cancer free.  He is doing well and continuing to express himself through his art.  Before our meeting, Jerry drew a portrait of me.  Since he says there is always a part of himself in each piece, I hope he sees some of himself in me.  It would be quite an honor.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Anything Goes! (October Issue)

When I was about 15, I began my involvement in community theater.  For my small Mississippi town, it really did not seem all that amateur.   I think there was some real potential for acting careers there, but they all kept their day jobs.  Even our mayor was quite impressive on stage. 

With braces and a “not yet developed” body, I was always cast as member of the chorus, but it was a lot of fun, nonetheless.  The musical Anything Goes was the first of several plays I was involved in.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to dig up any pictures.  Just imagine big hair, too much blush that was definitely not in my season and a sailor dress.  I still remember every song and occasionally break out into a little “Take Me Back to Manhattan”, when I’m missing that city that I love so much.

All that to say, I am very excited that Anything Goes is coming to the TPAC!  The new Broadway revival of Cole Porter’s timeless classic musical theatre masterpiece, will dock in the Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s Andrew Jackson Hall October 23rd-28th.  In case you know nothing about it, the play is a1934 musical comedy about two unlikely pairs setting out to see on the S.S. American on the course to true love… proving that sometimes destiny needs a little help from a crew of singing sailors, an exotic disguise and some good old-fashioned blackmail.

Rachel York (pictured above) will star as Reno Sweeney and Fred Applegate will star as Moonface Martin in what The New York Times calls “a zesty new revival with knockout numbers and white-hot dancing”.  If you are reading this in time, get your tickets now.  You do not want to miss this “De-Lovely” show!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pearl Clarkin (September Issue)

When I told a friend of mine that I would be writing the Arts and Culture column, she recommended that I meet a young singer by the name of Pearl Clarkin.  She spoke very highly of Pearl and said she had something special.  So, of course, I had to see it for myself.  Before meeting Pearl, I searched the Internet to see what she was all about. I would describe what I saw as a beautiful girl with lots of confidence and a zest for life.  Upon meeting her, I would definitely add to that list kind, humble and determined. 

Pearl says she wrote her first song “Even Though I Want To” at the age of 12 with Macy Gray at an American Idol camp.  She was chosen to be in the finale of the camp, and the camp director told Pearl’s mom that she had it all.  At age 14, Pearl recorded the song and made a video.  Pearl’s parents moved her from Pensacola, Florida to Nashville for professional training.  On her second day in town, CMT called wanting her to be in a songwriter contest.  Things started happening really fast for Pearl and she says, “It just got crazy”.  She moved back to Pensacola to live a normal life for a while.

Now 17 and living in Brentwood, Pearl is back on track and headed in the right direction.  She has been working with Cowboy Troy at AStar Promotions and has opened for Charlie Daniels and Zac Brown Band.   She will also be opening for Montgomery Gentry in the fall.  She’s been seen around Nashville on stage at the Hard Rock CafĂ©’, Just Kickin’, and she performed at the CMA Fest.

With all that she’s done in such a few short years, Pearl knows she is still learning and has a lot more to experience.  As I was interviewing her, she had a lot of questions for me about my experience in the Nashville music scene.  My advice to Pearl and anyone in this crazy business is to take good care of yourself, find musicians you can rely on and get along with and don’t let anyone take advantage of you.   I hope Pearl listens to my advice.  I will be following her and wishing her the best in her career!

Nashville Gets Nutty! (September Issue)

Working for this publication for the past several months has allowed me to be a part of so many exciting things going on in our area.  Someone recently read my last column and said, “Wow, you are really living life!”  Well, I couldn’t agree more, and the subject of this particular story is a great example. 

First let me say that I am a Broadway junkie.  I could go to New York City and see shows all day everyday for a week, especially the musicals, and never get tired of it.  The back of my “I heart New York” t-shirt should say “Thanks to Broadway!” Therefore, on July 11th, I had one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had.  I was invited to the Media Day for The Nutty Professor at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC).   If you don’t know what’s going on, let me get you up to speed.  “The King of Comedy” Jerry Lewis is directing the new musical “The Nutty Professor” based on his 1963 hit movie.  Before a show hits Broadway, it has to be previewed somewhere else to determine if it’s worthy and to test it out in front of an audience.   The TPAC is one of the few facilities in the country that can provide all that is needed to create a Broadway musical from the ground up.   Collaborating with the now late Marvin Hamlisch (A Chorus Line), winner of Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy Awards, and the Pulitzer Prize, for the music and three-time Tony Award winner Rupert Holmes (The Mystery of Edwin Drood) for the book and lyrics, Lewis is very hopeful that the musical will open on Broadway next year.
When I arrived at the TPAC for media day, I was still in disbelief that I got to be a part of something so spectacular.  It was very surreal, and I kept telling myself to soak all of it in and not take one moment for granted.  It all started with a press conference with Jerry Lewis (Director), Rupert Holmes (Book and Lyrics), Michael Andrew (Professor Julius Kelp/Buddy Love), Marissa McGowan (Stella Purdy), JoAnn Hunter (Choreographer) and Ray Roderick (Assistant Director).   I really didn’t know what to expect from Mr. Lewis.  When I found out he was directing at 86 years old, I was a bit shocked.  However, he was still as funny as ever and definitely on his game.   When asked, “Why Nashville?” Lewis responded by saying, “Nobody else would take us!”  After we all had a good laugh he went on to explain that Nashville is a hot bed for theater.  People here are “theatergoers”, and this is the type of audience needed.  He said, “Nashville itself sounds theatrical.”  He was so passionate about the musical and said that the cast has more talent than anyone he has ever seen.  For someone that has been performing for over 79 years, that was quite a bold statement, but he stands by his word, especially concerning Michael Andrew.

Andrew says that playing the part of Julius and Buddy has been a dream of his since he saw the movie for the first time at nine years old.  He was really into magic and thought that Lewis’ ability to change from Julius to Buddy was the best magic trick he had ever witnessed.  From that day on, he wanted to be an actor and, more specifically, play that role.  Lewis says that the name Michael Andrew will spread like wildfire after the first show. 
After getting to see the set, another part of the Media Day was attending a rehearsal.  This was definitely the best part.  The rehearsal room was a lot smaller than I thought it would be, which made it even better.  The actors were literally a few feet in front of me, and Mr. Lewis was just a few feet to my right.   The rehearsal was amazing.  The performances were definitely all that had been described and watching Jerry Lewis direct was unbelievable. I was astonished at Michael Andrew’s ability to portray two completely different people with seconds between one character to the other, and Marissa McGowan’s voice was flawless.  The only bad part about it was not getting to see the whole thing! 

Opening night finally came, and I have never been so excited to see a performance.  I was already so invested in the actors and all that had happened to make the show possible so seeing it come to life was incredible.  Jerry Lewis was spot on about Michael Andrew, and Marissa McGowan’s voice was again, flawless.  I even got to tell her that in person at the cast party! 

It was all such a great experience, and I am very hopeful that the show will make it to Broadway.  I will definitely be on a plane to NYC to see it again, except this time my t-shirt will say, “I’m from Nashville, where it all began!”.