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.