Archive for August, 2010|Monthly archive page

Student Chamberfest a Surprise & Delight

August 22, 2010

This quintet, which included a 14-year-old prodigy, played Shuber's "The Trout"

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The Student Chamberfest Recital on Wednesday evening, August 18, showcased five soloists and five chamber acts in a relaxed, indoor/outdoor setting at Stephens Recital Hall. Most of the audience members were faculty, staff and friends who had just celebrated the final potluck of the summer. The mood was happy, relaxed, and the students didn’t disappoint them. There were some surprises that included a 14-year-old prodigy and several broken drum heads.

First up was a trombone quartet that played “Achieved in the Glorious Work,” by F.J. Haydn. The group, which included Karl, Allison Jason and Micah, started immediately, and played without pretense.

“That was well done,” exclaimed Andrew Leeson, a writing teacher at Idyllwild Arts Academy, who attended many of the concerts this summer. “A trombone is not an exact instrument and they hit every note.”

When Kevin finished, the audience got to their feetThe next student playing a solo was Kevin, on French horn. He was accompanied by Edith Orloff, a faculty piano teacher. Kevin stood the entire time and played “Concerto in E-flat Major, K 495,” by Mozart. If you were to close your eyes, his horn sounded like a trombone at times. Afterwards, many people in the audience got to their feet, which surprised the young man.

The next soloist was actually a duo playing “Toccata,” by Koppel. It included Lindsey on vibraphone and Lauren on marimba.
“That girl’s really good,” exclaimed Andrew, of Lindsey afterwards. “She could go pro now.”

The two played a duet with double mallets that were moving so fast that they always turned up blurry on camera. The incredible thing is that each of them were hitting four different keys with those mallets at the same time.

(at L) Lindsey and Lauren (R) played Koppel's "Toccata" at a fast pace on vibraphone and marimba

“They’re not necessarily different notes,” said Andrew. “It’s just like fingers on a piano keyboard.”

Yet, the precision, speed and acccuracy of the piece was remarkable. The piece was lively, strong and uptempo, and then it suddenly went soft and smooth.

Next up was Alek on bassoon with Edith Orloff accompanying him. Alek played, “Scherzo in G Minor,” by Miroshnikow.

Rarely do you get a chance to see a bassoonist play up close. Usually they’re cloistered in the back of an orchestra, and one just marvels at the slender size of the instrument. Yet, the mouthpiece is rather ornate with a swan’s neck, and the player has to blow and suck on the reed to make the perfect sound. The effect is not glamourous, with a lot of puffing of the cheeks, but fascinating nonetheless.

“That reed of his is shot now,” Andrew said. “Most bassoonists make their own reeds, and throw them out after each performance.”

The final soloist, Anna Sigmund, a German student on violin, was impressive because of the high notes that she hit in her selection, “Conncerto in E Minor, Op. 64,” by Mendelssohn. Anna stood tall and proud in a black dress and ankle bracelet. But all eyes were on her violin when she commanded the high notes in this moody, intense, and rather long piece.

Anna, a German violinist, commanded the high notes in the Mendelssohn piece

“It’s all in the bow,” Andrew said afterwards. “She didn’t back off from the high notes, like many others would have. In time, she’ll own that piece.”

The first chamber group of the evening included two violins, a viola and a cello. They played, “String Quartet in C Major, K 465,” by Mozart.

The lead violin, Michal, a high school student from Poland, had gone on a Sunday trip to Venice Beach a couple of weeks earlier. He took a lot of pictures of the California scenery, and marveled at the six-lanes on Hwy. 10.

“We don’t have this many lanes on highways in Poland,” he said, taking pictures of the cars and trucks. “But everyone is going very slow. Can’t you go any faster?”

Said like a true impatient teenager.

Along with Zoe, Michael and Tiffany, he played the lively, upbeat Mozart piece with enthusiasm.

The next group played the Shubert favorite, “The Trout,” or “Quintet in A Major, Op. 114.” It included a piano, bass, cello, viola and a 14-year-old violin player from Germany. He sat in the first chair during the first concert of the season.

“He started young, but that doesn’t mean anything,” said Christophe Wyneken, a violin and viola teacher from Germany, who brought him to the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program. “He’s got ability.”

(from L) Michal, a violinist from Poland, played the Mozart piece with authority

Michal agreed. “Leo’s good.”

In this quartet, Leo played like a master. The other players, including Alex, Anna, Dana and Noah, kept looking at him to lead the piece. However, Noah, on piano, held his own, and didn’t get drowned out.

“You’re going to enjoy the flute player in this next piece,” said Andrew, who had heard him perform before.

Dressed in jeans, white shirts and tennis shoes, this group, made up of Kevin on flute, Ross on oboe, Louis on clarinet, Carl on Bassoon and Nick on French horn, looked relaxed for this short piece, “Quintet” by Blumer.

Kevin, who played the flute effortlessly, and sounded like a bird in flight, also was animated, moving about to the music in his seat.

The next group included two violin players,  a viola, cello and double bass, that played, “Quintet in G Major, Op. 77” by Dvorak.

(from L) Mimi, a tiny German violinist with a big sound

Tiny and prim, Mimi, the lead violin player, who is also German, had an incredibly loud sound. She didn’t drown out the other players, but I kept looking for a hidden microphone. How did so much sound come out of a tiny girl with a standard violin?

Grecia, who played the double bass, brought in her huge, unwieldly instrument like a pro. Although it was double wide, it sounded like a standard bass. But it was fun to watch because many of us had never seen one before.

Before the final chamber piece, Jonathan, who was teching the show, invited everyone in the audience to come closer to the stage that was set with drum heads, sticks and pillows. Many students sat and laid on the floor in anticipation.

Leo, a 14-year-old violinist from Germany, played with authority

“You’re really going to love this piece,” exclaimed Andrew, who had seen it performed by the Chamberfest Percussion Ensemble the night before.

The modern piece by M. Ford was called, “Head Talk.” As the name suggests, the four drummers only played drum heads, with drumsticks as they sat cross-legged on the ground.

The piece included some antics, including hitting, rolling, tossing and slapping of the drum heads. They were clear and of varying sizes. When Una, a former Idyllwild Arts student, rolled her drum head to Lindsey, who resumed play, it looked spontaneous.

“That was all written into the piece,” said Una and Lauren later.

But their facial expressions and feined impatience with Severin, the only male drummer, was spontaneous, they said.

Severin sat in front with a dramtic blue scarf tied around his neck. During the piece, he’d bang louder than the others, or bounce the drum head off his head, to the mock disgust of the rest of the girls.

In "Head Talk," the drummers rolled, tossed, hit and slapped only drum heads

Yet, it was a perfectly choreographed piece, that ended with each of the players, Una, Lauren, Mika and Severin, all breaking their own heads through their drum heads at the final bow.

“They cost about $20 bucks each, but we replace them all the time,” explained Una, later of the broken drum heads.

For the finale of "Head Talk," the drummers broke them on their own heads

Many of these students will be playing in the High School Chamberfest Concert today at 1 p.m. It will be held in the IAF Theatre in the Bowman Building. This final concert of the summer is free and open to the public.

German Students See Sand & Surf

August 16, 2010

German students at IA meet the Pacific Ocean for the first time

By Marcia E. Gawecki

For the past six years, Christoph Wynecken has been teaching violin and viola to students in the Chamber Orchestra at the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program. Each time he comes, he brings along several students from his orchestra in Germany that has toured Europe, South America and Asia. This time, he brought along seven students aged 14 to 18 years old. As promised, part of their “American experience” was seeing Venice Beach and other Los Angeles tourist attractions.

“You can’t bring these kids halfway around the world, and not show them California,” Christoph said on Sunday, as he was headed for his second trip to Venice Beach. The week before, his group had also visited Disney Hall and the Armand Hammer Museum at UCLA.

A few years ago, Christoph had a rented home right on Venice Beach, as he taught at USC and Idyllwild Arts. He went swimming every day, impervious to the cold water.

(from L) Christoph Wyneken gives last-minute instructions to his German students

“It’s been a great experience living so close to the ocean,” he said.

Many of us in Southern California take beaches for granted. They’re a couple of hours away, and perfect for people watching, especially the crazies at Venice Beach. Yet, Germans don’t have ready access to the ocean, only the North Sea without sand and surf, explained Wayne Parker, one of the Idyllwild Arts van drivers, who has visited there.

Most of the the 10 music students who went to Venice Beach on Sunday were seeing the Pacific Ocean for the first time. When they turned the corner from the alley, they stood in awe for a moment, just smiling at each other.

“Is it true that women have to wear tops on the beaches here?” asked Daniel, a clarinet player, looking at his guide book written in German.

“There are beaches in Germany where women don’t have to wear tops,” Christophe explained.

The Germans blended right in with the rest of the tourists on the Venice Beach boardwalk. That day, some LA police officers were trying to evict an illegal peddler who was angrily resisting. There was the regular reggae guy on rollarskates playing his electric guitar. An Elvis impersonator, dressed in white spandex, posed with tourists for tips. One bum had a handwritten cardboard sign that read: “Why lie? All I want is money for a beer,” and people gave him some. But the one thing the German students marveled at was the “medical marijuana” shops.

German students horseplay

On the way back, they felt the overbearing 100 degree heat in Palm Springs as they dined at an inexpensive steak house. It was too late for them to shop at the Cabazon Outlet Mall.

“Can we stop on the way back and feel the desert sand?” asked Fabian, a violin player.

This seemed like a strange request since they had been walking and playing in the sand at Venice Beach all day.

“We don’t have any deserts in Germany,” explained Christoph. “All of Europe has pretty moderate climate, although we do get snow.”

All of the students, including one American, ran around in the desert sand in the dark along Hwy. 111. They laughed, took pictures of each other, and didn’t want to return, even when Christoph insisted.

They scrambled to return to the dorms at 10 p.m., giddy from seeing the ocean and the desert for the first time.

“These students work really hard all week, and it’s nice to get away for a day,” Christoph explained. “So much of music is in your head, so you have to have a balance of work and play.”

Leo, the youngest violinist at age 14, has been to Venice Beach twice, and has taken hundreds of pictures of Venice Beach, Disney Hall, and even the Armand Hammer Museum, where he didn’t want to go at first.

“Why do we have to go?” he asked, sunburned and tired from the beach.

“Because there’s more to California than just beaches. There’s a lot of culture here,” was the answer.

Leo ended up marveling at the Rembrandts, van Goghs and Singer Sargeants that make up the permanent collection at the Hammer Museum. They allowed him to take photos of them without flash.

Leo and Christoph will leave Idyllwild Arts on Sunday morning, headed for LAX, while some of the German students are staying on in LA for another week. They’ll have their photos, T-shirts, and other mementos, while those of us who heard them play in the Chamber Orchestra have songs in our hearts.

Christoph said that he’ll likely come back to Idyllwild Arts next summer and bring along more German music students.

“The music program is definitely good, but there’s something special about Idyllwild,” he said. “I’ve always had a good feeling about this place.”

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Gadzooks! It’s Comics Class!

August 13, 2010

The Comics class depicts a story about a battle between the goblins and the humans

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“Gadzooks, Batman, the Joker just fell into a vat of hot lava!”

Ever since DC Comics came out with “Superman” in 1932, America has had an ongoing love affair with comics. When Marvel Comics expanded the lot with Spider Man, the Hulk, Wolverine, and Iron Man, and jumped to the big screen, even wider audiences are loving comics.

“It used to be that comics were not considered ‘high art,'” said Jessica Shiffman, a local book illustrator, who has taught a comics class at Idyllwild Arts Summer Program for the past seven years.

Yet, on a back table in the outdoor studio in the Children’s Center on campus, there are piles of coffee table art books solely devoted to comics and graphic novels. Jessica keeps them back there to refer to when she’s talking to her class. She also encourages her students to read them to learn more about the craft.

Comics are high art and the subject of many illustrated books

The Comics class is small, only five students, but optimal for one-on-one teacher interactions. The students, mostly from southern California, are aged 11 to 13 years old. But don’t let their young age stop you.

“Each of them has created their own comics at some point,” Jessica said. “They’re all incredibly smart and gifted artists.”

When Jessica asked them to write a story that they all could illustrate, they couldn’t agree on the ending.

“So now we have two endings,” Jessica said.

Their story goes like this: Goblins and humans are fighting, and there’s only one person who can talk to both sides, Megan, a little girl. She convinces the goblins that they need to make peace with the humans. So they devise a plan to set the forest on fire, and then put it out, and save the day. That way, the humans will be grateful, and everyone will be happy.

11-to-13-year olds use clay, construction paper, cardboard and feathers to illustrate

“They had to solve a problem,” explained Jessica. “And forest fires are topical, and reflective on what’s going on in the real world.”

Yet, for three of the students, there is a different ending. Saskatchuwan, one of the evil goblins doesn’t want to make peace with the humans, and says, “Let the forest burn!” Other goblins don’t agree, but they’re too weak to stand up to him.

Sophie, whose mother is a movie producer defended her decision for that alternative ending.

“Happy endings are so predictable and dumb!” she said.

Her friend, Tritzah, age 11, agreed. But when asked how they could tell a story in which the humans die, the two girls, frowning said, “Who said that we were human?”

“You didn’t grow up watching ‘Dr. Who,’ did you?” Sophie asked. “When you see them, come back and talk to me!

Jessica Shiffman holds up a portrait of herself that one of her student's drew

On Wednesday, August 12, the class was finishing up their shadow boxes that would tell the goblin-human-fire story with two endings. Sophie was rolling out small pieces of clay to make bricks for a house in her shadow box.

She planned to use them again later to make a clay animation video, she said.

The brightly colored clay is called, “model magic,” and it’s made by Crayola. It soft, and pliable like clay, but less brittle and easier to work with. Next to the clay images of goblins and humans are dialog boxes of what’s being said or what’s going on in the scene.

Construction paper, glue, feathers, and clay. Simple materials to tell a story.

One student builds a house made out of construction paper and tape

The next day, Jessica and the students were going to share their progress with the rest of the school at “Share Pad.”

“We only have a few minutes to show what we’re doing,” Jessica said. “They won’t be able to see everything, but just get a jist of it.”

She said that the parents would be able to see the shadow boxes up close later.

No rest for the wicked, or the imaginable. On Friday, the Comics class was going to hollow out gourds that they’ll later use to make puppets. Jessica and her artist husband, Bill, went to Fallbrook last weekend and picked out 12 gourds.

“We have to soak them and scrape off the skin,” Jessica said.

Next week, the class will learn how to make gourd puppets.

“We didn’t start out making gourd puppets in Comic class,” Jessica explained. “I was actually thinking of turning it into another summer class. But the kids liked it so much that we kept it as part of the curriculum.”

The Comics class runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for two weeks. The students get a lunch break, and snack breaks, but they often work right through them, Jessica said.

Max, one of the students, wrote his name in comic-style letters

To warm up each day, the students do traditional drawing exercises. Yesterday, they did gesture drawings, or 60-second pose drawings of each other. Gesture drawings get students to look at bodily poses.

The previous day, the exercise was portraits. They each drew each other, and Matthew drew a portrait of Jessica.

“See? This is what I look like,” Jessica said, as she held up a portrait of herself.

Max, age 13, from Palm Springs, had completed his shadow box was doodling on paper in a far corner. He had written his name in block letters using black and silver markers. On the wall next to him is faded graffiti. Max doesn’t consider that art.

“All they’re doing is writing their names,” Max said. “It’s not art, but vandalism.”

Yet, his name in block letters resembles the tagger’s style. Where it all came from, you’ll have to look up in the history of comic books.

Connor illustrates one of his comics for class

Connor, who was rolling out some clay, had to rewrite the word, “dos,” meaning, “two” in Spanish for the second ending to their story. It looked too much like the word, “dog,” Jessica warned.

Jessica couldn’t stop talking about how imaginative all of her  students were, even the quiet ones like Matthew.

“In one of his stories, the earth ends, to stop global warming,” Jessica explained. “It eats up all the people, but spits out the wildlife.”

In another one, in honor of Friday, August 13th, Matthew created a comic about a flying burrito that caused a large hole in a woman’s stomach. When one surgeon refused to treat her, she climbed to the top of a flagpole and got stuck (because of the hole in her stomach).

All of this from 11 to 13-year-olds.

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

All student’s artwork and stories are copyrighted to the students who created them. All rights reserved.

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Are Bark Beetles Back?

August 10, 2010

A dying fir tree along Hwy. 243. Bark beetles may be the culprit.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Driving up Hwy. 243 from Banning, you can see brown trees in the distance, where before there were only green ones. We had plenty of moisture in the spring, but now there are entire trees turning brown along the road side. Brown is a color that is too bold to ignore. Are the bark beetles back? Is Idyllwild going to lose thousands of trees like it did in 2003?

“It’s a natural process,” said Laura Verdugo, a visitors services information assistant, at the Idyllwild Ranger Station. “Trees die in the forest all the time from overcrowding or drought, but I don’t think what you’re seeing here is anything like what happened here in 2003.”

It's likely a Western Pine Beetle if the tree is dying halfway up (shown)

However, once she saw pictures of one tree that was brown in the middle, but green on top, she said that it could be a bark beetle causing its death. She motioned to a “Meet the Beetles” book on a nearby display.

“It’s for kids, but explains bark beetles pretty well,” Verdugo said.

The brightly-illustrated book only had five pages, but it was a wealth of information, even for adults.  For example, there are four different types of bark beetles in these parts, each with a different MO and preference for pines.

The four beetles covered in the book include: the pine engraver beetle, the red turpentine beetle, the western pine beetle and the jeffrey pine beetle. They show a close-up of the beetle, next to a tree that also shows the beetle’s markings.

The book is written for young adults with zippy language. Here’s an example of the red turpentine beetle:

Favorite food: Ponderosa Pine

Measurements: 3/8 inch at adulthood

Reddish pitch tubes left over on bark by a Red Turpentine Beetle

Colors: reddish brown

“I was here” tag: Reddish pitch tubes (small wads of resin on the tree trunk)

Special skill: Capable of flying more than 10 miles

After reading one particular page, Verdugo said that it looked like it was the Western Pine Beetle that was likely killing the Coulter Pines along Hwy. 243. This beetle’s “attack position” is usually midway up the tree trunk.

It’s “worst nightmares” (or predators) are  woodpeckers and checkered beetles, the book said.

The book shows a close-up of the bark beetle and the markings it leaves on the trees

“I didn’t know that certain beetles ate each other,” Verdugo said.

She added that many locals and visitors bring in bark beetles to the Ranger Station, to help identify them.

“But most of the beetles they bring in aren’t bark beetles,” she said. “They’re way too big. You can see them from across the room.”

More and more brown trees are appearing along Hwy. 243

She explained that bark beetles are incredibly small, measuring 1/8 to 3/8 of an inch.

“The beetle pictures are nice, but they should have put a beetle in its actual size,” she added.

Verdugo said that one of the employees at the Ranger Station put the book together, but she wasn’t sure if it was available online.


On Tuesday morning, August 10, there was road construction along Hwy. 243 from Idyllwild towards Banning near the Silent Valley Club. The highway is restricted to one lane, with an “escort” truck. There is a modest wait (about 15 minutes).

Several bulldozers and trucks are creating a new pullout space, and smoothing the road’s edge. If you plan on going down to Banning or Palm Springs today, you might consider adding some extra driving time.

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Donating Bone Marrow Was Easy

August 9, 2010

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Donating bone marrow to a little girl was probably the proudest thing that I’ve ever done in my lifetime. Actually, I could be in good company. NBA star Shaquille O’Neal and rapper 50 Cent just registered to give during “National Bone Marrow Donor Month.”

It all started when a girl with leukemia needed a bone marrow transplant, and she put out a plea to a small community in Nebraska, where my dad lived. As a physician, he knew that donating bone marrow was an easy way to save lives. There just needed to be more donors. As a father, he told me to sign up.

I obediently signed up with the National Marrow Donor Program (now called the Be the Match Registry), thinking my chances of matching were about a billion to one. See, I wanted to help, but didn’t know much about it. I also did’t like needles or hospital stays.

I ended up not matching with the little girl in Nebraska. Sadly, she died before she found a match. But, six months later, the Be the Match Registry contacted me by phone. They said they had a possible match, and needed samples of my blood.

I donated a few vials at the doctor’s office, trying not to look. It only took a few minutes. I was curious now, and liked the way that the nurses were all treating me so nicely.

“It’s a good thing you’re doing,” they all said, smiling. “We might have a match.”

After a series of more blood tests over the next few weeks, I started telling my friends, and writing down my experience in a diary. No matter what the outcome would be, I knew this had to be an important one.

Mutual of Omaha Insurance Companies, my employer at the time, even wrote a story about me in the company newsletter. “A local hero,” they called me. Well, anyone would do the same thing. Save a life for an overnight hospital stay.

“I don’t think I would do it,” my sister said, honestly. “It’s kind of a lot of trouble for a stranger. And you have to undergo major surgery.”

I ended up matching with a 9-year-old girl who wanted to be a marine biologist when she grew up. She told me this in a handwritten letter that I received the night before my surgery.

My contact at the Registry also gave me a short letter from her mother who thanked me and told me that her daughter only had a seven percent chance of survival without the bone marrow operation.

I cried thinking how this young girl was fighting for her life, while I was puffing myself up, being “the local hero.”

I stayed overnight at a nice hospital in Omaha. The next morning, the doctors took out 1500 ml of my bone marrow from my hips and replaced two pints of blood. They took out the bone marrow with large needles–the size of knitting needles. Luckily, I didn’t see them. Afterwards, there were two small “freckles” above either hip that served as a physical reminder of the experience.

“You’ll be able to replace the 1500 ml in about two weeks,” my mother, who is a nurse, said.

The operation took place on a Friday, and I was back to work on Monday, with a little achiness in my hips and a pillow behind me.

For the young girl, however, all of her bone marrow was taken away and replaced with mine. They explain all of these things in detail. They also show you videos of other donors and their experiences. Nothing is a surprise. It’s all too important.

“If you’re allergic to strawberries, she will be too,” explained one nurse after the operation. “Because she now has your DNA.”

I heard that the operation went well for the girl. I started praying for her recovery and a promising future.

Weeks passed, and then I got a note from my contact stating that the little girl had died. She lived for one month, but then suddenly caught a cold and died.

I was angry. Why didn’t they call me for a second donation?  They told me that it was possible. I had signed all of the papers. I would have gladly done it again.

Then I got mad at God for taking away such a brave little girl at the prime of her life. Eventually, I became mad at myself for not being a better donor. At times, I’d sneak cigarettes, which they told me not to do. Perhaps my smoking caused her cold and death?

“I don’t think so,” a nurse told me later. “There’s a lot more involved than that.”

Still grieving months later, I created a painting of a little girl with a white flower. I called it “Hope.” I never knew her name, and I didn’t contact her mother afterwards. I was ashamed that my DNA wasn’t good enough to save her little girl. What could I possibly say?

I ended up giving the “Hope” painting to a young, poor black boy in Chicago. It’s a long story, but I was showing my paintings at an inner-city church, and he admired them.

“Tell me about this painting,” he said.

“I call it ‘Hope,'” I answered, not wanting to revisit the story. “It’s about a little girl that I once knew.”

“Can I have it?” he asked. “It’s about hope, right?”

I gave it to him without a second thought. Everyone needs hope in this world.

I hadn’t thought about Hope until last week when the Be the Match Registry sent me a letter, asking for an address and phone update.

See, the incredible thing is, once you’re a donor, your DNA is in the registry, and you could possibly match with someone again. There are stories of donors who have matched two and three times. Science is really incredible.

Then I read an article about the rapper, 50 Cent, who just signed up for the Be the Match Registry.  He was moved to do so because 11-year-old actress Shannon Tavarez from the Broadway production of “The Lion King,” was diagnosed with leukemia and needed a bone marrow transplant.

According to the news story, Tavarez’s plight made 50 Cent think about his own child. “My son is just a couple years older than Shannon and I can’t imagine if his life was needlessly cut short when there is someone out there that could save him,” the rap star said.

“Shannon’s chances of finding a matching donor are slim because she’s African American and Dominican and minorities are underrepresented in the national registry,” he added. “Everyone, regardless of their race or ethnicity deserves a fair chance at life. Registering to become a bone marrow donor starts with a cheek swab but it’s more than that. It’s a commitment to save a life.”

A few weeks earlier, NBA star Shaquille O’Neal registered with the Be the Match Registry too. It’s wonderful that these high profile role models are signing up and inspiring others to help save lives. It was an experience I’ll never forget, and hope that my chances to save a life are not over yet.

Be the Match Registry is the largest bone-marrow donor center in the world, with more than 2 million registered donors. To sign up, visit Registrants have to be 18 to 55 years old and in good health.

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Celebrating an Idyllwild Artist & Pioneer

August 7, 2010

Lora Woodhead Steere was ISOMATA's first ceramic's teacher

It all started when her family called the curator of the Krone Museum at Idyllwild Arts.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

They were having a reunion in August and wanted to arrange an exhibit of some of her sculptures, illustrations and early photos. Since then, it has grown from a private family reunion to a public event. The Idyllwild Area Historical Society has gotten involved, and others have contributed more photos and sculptures. Speakers, live music, and videos will help celebrate the life and art of Idyllwild Arts’ (ISOMATA’s) first teacher, Lora Woodhead Steere.

Idyllwild Arts donated 13 of Lora's pieces to the exhibit

The daylong celebration will be held today, Saturday, August 7, starting at 11 a.m. with the video, “When Art Met Idyllwild: A Tribute to Lora W. Steere,” by an Idyllwild Arts student, held at the Rustic Theater. It will be followed by an art exhibit and reception at 1 p.m. at the Krone Museum on the Idyllwild Arts campus. Both events are free and open to the public.

In the small space of the Krone Museum, Sydney Cosselman, acting director, and Carol Mills, owner of the Courtyard Gallery, have created a welcoming tribute to Lora Woodhead Steere (1888-1984).

Lora’s parents (a Los Angeles socialite and a grocer/rancher/developer) first brought her to Idyllwild as a toddler on horseback. Loving the outdoors, she studied and received advanced degrees in zoology and paleontology, although she is best known as a sculptor including a commission by Helms Bakery for the 1932 Olympics. She was later recruited by Max Krone, founder of the Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts (ISOMATA), to become the school’s first teacher when it opened in 1950.

“We wanted to create an exhibit that looks like Lora has just left her studio,” said Sydney Cosselman.”That’s why we left her hat hanging on her easel, clay moulds and her tools coated with clay.”

Among the many bronze busts of people, two stand out: the full-sized disc thrower for the 1932 Olympics and a portrait bust of Maria Martinez, a Native American ceramics artist.

Standing about four feet tall, the bronze disc thrower is impressive with its attention to detail and atomic proportions.

“Be sure and get a good look at it today because we have to return it to LA on Monday,” Sydney said. “They need it for another exhibit.”

Lora's bronze dic thrower was a commission for the 1932 Olympics

The other piece, a terra cotta bust of Maria Martinez, sits on a desk on the back wall. It’s without ornamentation and fancy glazes, but you get a good feeling from it.

“She got a good likeness of Maria, who is a prominent North American sculptor,” said David Delgado, a ceramics instructor at Idyllwild Arts Summer Program, who, along with Greg Kennedy, brought in a youth ceramics class for a sneak preview on Friday.

He said it was important for the young students to see Lora’s work because she is an important figurehead at the school and the summer program.

“We work every day in her studio, and we wanted to come and see her work and pay tribute to what she’s done for us,” Delgado said.

The 15 summer students were impressed that Lora had climbed Tahquitz Peak nearly every day of her life. And, when she was 95, her friends carried her up to the top in a chair so she could see it again. The Idyllwild Town Crier and the Idyllwild Area Historical Society furnished photos of these trips.

Idyllwild Arts ceramics students got a sneak preview of the exhibit

“She climbed to the top 83 times,” said Charles Russell, her grandson, who spoke privately about Lora Steere at a cookout on Friday at the home  of Don Parker and Marti  Manser. “She taught us how to appreciate nature.”

He said he had been coming to Idyllwild every summer since he was three years old, and has kept her cabin here.

“She taught me how to see,” said Charles, who is now an architect.

He remembers the time she helped him create a sculpture of a Viking.

“I was in the Cub Scouts, and needed it for a merit badge,” he said. “She was patient with me, and it turned out pretty good.”

He no longer has the Viking sculpture, but contributed several of Lora’s works to the exhibit.

“She was multi-dimensional,” Charles added. “Not just art, she liked science and nature. She saw beauty in the smallest things.”

Maria Polmar, a French teacher at the Idyllwild Arts Academy, helped with the exhibit at the Krone Museum. She sewed the white curtains behind the bronze busts of the “Women of the World” series in the display cases.

“The cases had a dark background and we added white curtains to lighten them up,” she said.

Since then, Maria said the exhibit has had a positive effect on her.

Curator Sydney Cosselman expects 200 people to see the exhibit today

“I carried a lot of Lora’s sculptures around, and could see the detail and feel their weight,” she said. “Now, I want to create my own sculpture of my son.”

Sydney said that she expects 200 people to visit the Lora W. Steere exhibit today. It runs from August 7th to September 3rd at the Krone Museum, located within the Krone Library on the Idyllwild Arts campus.

At today’s opening event, there will be a film, speakers, drama and musicians, including:

Dr. Evan Mills: As a child, Mills was mentored by Lora, and grew up to be one of a group of scientists whose research and writing helped earn the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, along with Vice President Al Gore.

Calvin Levels: a Tony-Award nominee, performing a dramatic reading of passages from Lora’s letters from Idyllwild.

Paris Deesing: an award-winning film student at Idyllwild Arts Academy, whose mini-biopic of Lora Steere features rare archival stills (1890’s -1980’s) along with Woodhead and Steere family footage (1920’s-1960’s) taken in Idyllwild.

Lora's daughter, Florence (center), age 95, will be attending today's celebration with other family members

Dr. Diana Steere-Wiley: Lora’s granddaughter will speak for the family patriarch, and legendary award-winning horseman and veterinarian Dr Jim Steere, Lora’s youngest son, who died suddenly on Wednesday as he was preparing his speech on his mother. Lora’s 95-year-old daughter, Florence, will also be attending.

Carol Merrill: a recording artist, former musical partner, and protégé of international balladeers and ISOMATA regulars Marais and Miranda.

The Golden Grotto Group, with recording artist Jeremy Toback, Bruce Ryan, Kent Weishaus, Amy Fogerson and other surprise guests.

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Worth Getting up for Sat. AM Drum Concert

August 6, 2010

(at R) Guest soloist Naoko Takada Sharp plays the marimba with enthusiasm

By Marcia E. Gawecki

If tonight’s concert was any indication, it would be worth getting up  early this Saturday morning, August 7, to hear the the Symphonic Percussion Ensemble at Idyllwild Arts. Although they are teenage musicians, their eight short songs sound, at times, like Buddy Rich on caffeine, the Blue Man Group, and various African drum circles. The fast-paced concert will wow your socks off and leave you panting for more. It’s worth staying for the last song that features guest soloist Naoko Takada Sharp, a world-class marimba player.

Throughout the concert Thursday night, these young players showcased the various instruments that make up the percussion part of an orchestra, including the marimba, xylophone, timpani, snare drums, bass drums,  chimes, cymbals, and even a gong. Some songs were kinetic, moody, upbeat and frenzied, while others were soothing and classical. But one thing’s for certain, drummers are the hardest working members of an orchestra or wind ensemble, and it was nice to see them singled out to “strut their stuff.”

The hour-long concert included six group songs and two short solo pieces. The songs included: “A la Strata” by M. Peter; “Debussy Day at the Fair,” by C. Debussy; “Triplets” by G.H. Green; “4 1/4 for Four” by A. Cirone; “Matrix” by S. Grimo and “Concerto for Marimba and Percussion Ensemble” by Ney Rosauro.

The second song, “Debussy Day at the Fair,” was classical and enjoyable, showcasing the talents of the senior percussionists on marimbas and xylophones. The next song, a modern one, “Triplets,” showcased six music students, two sets of playing on a xylophone and marimba at the same time, while a soloist lead them in the lively, upbeat song.

The group plays "4 1/4 for Four"

The next song, “4 1/4 for Four” is as complex as its title suggests. It featured four students playing the snare drums, the timpani (kettle drums), a bass drum set and the bongos with sticks. This song sounded  like the Blue Man Group, playing loudly, boldly and in unison. It brought out one of the Idyllwild Arts drum directors, Robin Sharp, who lead the group to a splashy, and perfectly-timed ending.

My favorite was “Matrix,” for its frenzied, frenetic complexity, and ability of the players to showcase about 15 different percussion instruments, sometimes all at once, that I couldn’t even begin to name. Chimes, cymbals, a gourd rattle, a triangle, snare drums, a marimba, a xylophone, a large gong and other instruments made horse clomping sounds, popcorn popping sounds, church bells chimes, and melded them all together into a truly enjoyable song. It also brought out the other modest, but talented drum director from Idyllwild Arts, Bill Schlitt.

Dylan playing marimba showed that he learned from the Master class

Dylan and Lauren, two students who participated in a Master Class with Naoko Takada Sharp, from last Thursday night, got to show off what they learned in two short solos, including “Etude in C Major” by C. Musser, and “Mexican Dance No. 2” by G. Stout.

Yet, it was the last song that made the show definitely worth seeing because the Master Class teacher was also the featured soloist. “Concerto for Marimba and Percussion Ensemble” by Ney Rosauro, a brilliant Brazilian composer, may have a boring title, but it leaves you on the edge of your seat. Mostly because it’s played with the unbridled energy of Ms. Takada Sharp, who, with double mallets in each hand, moved across the marimba keyboard with the intensity of a hummingbird in flight. Both arms were a blur throughout the entire song. It was even difficult to even get a photo of her because she didn’t stop moving for a second!

Una (at R) was in awe of Ms. Takada's playing on the marimba (L)

Her passion for the marimba showed in her facial and body expressions. She was the hardest working marimba player during that song.  Afterwards, the young students playing alongside her, congratulated her, took pictures, and stood smiling and in awe.

“She plays simply amazing,” said Una, a percussionist from Taiwan, who also attended Idyllwild Arts Academy for two years.

“I sounded good because you were my backup,” Ms. Takada Sharp answered.

“I hit one wrong note,” Una confessed, but the Master teacher said that it didn’t matter.

The 15 student percussionists take the stage for a final bow

The next Symphonic Percussion Ensemble Concert, with Ms. Takada as soloist, will be held at 9 a.m. this Saturday, August 7, at Ataloa (next to the Parks Exhibition Center) on the Idyllwild Arts campus. The concert is free and open to the public. For more information, call (951) 659-2171.

Copyright Idyllwild Me 2010. All rights reserved.

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