Archive for March, 2011|Monthly archive page

American Idol’s Motown Misfire

March 25, 2011

On Wednesday, March 23rd, “American Idol” gave a tribute to Motown’s soul-infused pop songs, and its many stars. Most of the 11 remaining contestants presented their own spin on these classics, however, one contestant missed the mark. James Durbin, who sang, “Living for the City,” gave a rousing, over-the-top performance of Stevie Wonder’s 1973 sad song about racial inequality.

For their part, the American Idol judges had high compliments for James Durbin. Granted, he’s a talented singer, and has quickly become a national role model for those with Tourettes and Asperger’s Syndrome. However, the show’s advisors should have told him to demonstrate some respect for the original song about a young black man growing up in “hard time Mississippi.”

Some of the lyrics include:

“His father works some days for 14 hours/ and you can bet he barely makes a dollar.”

“His brother’s smart/ he’s got more sense than many/ His patience’s long/ but soon he won’t have any/To find a job is like a haystack needle/Cause where he lives/ they don’t use colored people.”

Why would James sing a song about black unequality in such a rousing way?  That night, it was all about the great beat, and his personal showmanship, and nothing about the lyrics.  If James was empathetic about their plight, it didn’t show. He did a peppy dance move while singing, “His father works sometimes for 14 hours/and you can bet/he hardly makes a dollar. And he mugged for the cameras while singing, “His mother scrubs the floors for many/and you can bet/she hardly gets a penny.

For a white guy, singing a song happily about black inequality was a risk that he should not have taken.

Jennifer Lopez, an outspoken judge, continually tells the other contestants to “tell a story with their songs.”

The story told in “Living for the City” would clearly resonate with everyone in today’s recession. But James Durbin didn’t sing it with empathy, compassion or even a hint of sadness. He just sang it with his signature bravado.

For their part, the audience gave James a standing ovation. They liked the way he sang the song.  Shortly afterwards, still reveling in the afterglow, James had to be brought back to reality by JayLo.

Yet, I didn’t hear any criticism from Randy Jackson, the black judge, about James’ bravado take on the song. Did he not feel the slap in the face? Or is he just working from Idol’s “happy script?” James Durbin is popular with Idol fans, so don’t criticize him.

In my opinion, “American Idol” should be less about a popularity contest and more about retaining some musical integrity. If not, just take the “American” part off the title because I don’t want any part of it.

For the true spirit of Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City,” visit You Tube. Stevie’s version. Its 70s-era video showcases inner city poverty, police brutality, and violence.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Arts Students Build Homes During Break

March 23, 2011

Jazz student Alejandro (far right) is one of the 10 who is helping to build a home for the poor this week

This week during Spring Break, 10 honors students from Idyllwild Arts Academy are helping to build a home in California, as part of Habitat for Humanity. The students have been planning this trip for months, including hosting several fundraisers that helped them raise $2,387.42.

It was enough to cover their building expenses, but not living costs, said Chris Wegener, one of the three chaparones.

Their last fundraiser at the academy showcased five different types of poor homes from around the world, including a cardboard home. Before the fundraiser, it was shown just outside the lunchroom, and when it became rain soaked, it looked even more unlivable.

“It really got my attention,” said one student of the makeshift hut. “It would be miserable to live in a cardboard house like that. We ended up going to the fundraiser and buying stuff to help out.”

Chaperone Chris Wegener (right) hopes to instill lasting volunteerism among Idyllwild Arts students

At the fundraiser, there was a wide range of facts posted next to each exhibit. There also were performances of all types, including music, dance, monologues and readings, all centered on the theme of social justice and homelessness.

“Some of the performances were particularly moving and truly inspired empathy in the students,” Chris said. “Aside from opening their eyes to the broader world, it also gave them ideas of how they could use their artistic interests for the common good.”

The 10 students that will be donating their labor and time come from a variety of artistic interests, including classical music, jazz music, musical theater and creative writing. They include: Rebecca, Amber, Lukas, Samantha, Madison, Alejandro, Allison, Austin, Scarlett and Alisha.

“My hope is that all of our students will stay a little more aware of world issues and even more open to volunteerism in the future,” Chris added.

For those 10 who will be hauling, hammering, sawing, painting, and sleeping on the floor, will have quite a story to tell.  Photos and write-ups of their experience will be posted on the school’s blog site, Art in 3D, at

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Mar 23, 2011 @ 15:44

Visiting Poet to Recite Friday Night

March 11, 2011

Visiting poet will read to Creative Writing students at Idyllwild Arts

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Zach Savich, considered one of the “New American Poets,” by the Poetry Society of America, will be conducting a Master Class for the creative writing students at Idyllwild Arts Academy at 3 p.m. today.

Then at 6 p.m., the students will take over and recite some of their work at the Parks Exhibition Center. Then at 7:30 p.m., Zach will read excerpts from one of his poetry books.

It’s been a whirlwind trip for the poet who had to get up at 3 a.m. this morning to catch a shuttle to get on a 6 a.m. flight from Denver. Last night, he recited at an art gallery near Fort Collins.

“It was really nice to look around and see beautiful artwork on the walls, instead of just rows of chairs,” Zach said.

He’s a friend of Kat Factor, head of the Interdisciplinary Arts (IM) Department at Idyllwild Arts. They went to graduate school together at the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

Now, just a few short days before Spring Break, the creative writing students were looking forward to Zach’s arrival. To introduce them, Kat sent Zach some of their poetry.

“It was really great work,” Zach said, who just accepted a job teaching poetry to college students. “I know they want me to give them some advice, but all I can say is: ‘Keep doing what you’re doing.'”

He said the group of 14 creative writing students likely read his book of poetry before his arrival today.

Some of the questions that he receives from students, in general, is how to get a poetry book published.  He said for him, it was relatively easy working with small publishers who make beautiful books, and take care of the promotion.

He hopes to impart some of his experiences as a poet and teacher to the group today.

“I read the proofs of my book at Dunkin Donuts. I was surprised by how happy the poems seemed,” Zach had written in a preview to his work on the Poetry Society web site.  “I had thought they held only panic, desperation, folly. I had no idea I had written a happy book.”

Zach’s Master Class and Reading is the last in a series of guest artists sponsored by the IM Department. It begins at 6 p.m. tonight, March 11, at the Parks Exhibition Center. The students will read their work followed by Zach’s reading at 7:30 p.m. Like all event held at Idyllwild Arts, it’s free and open to the public.

For more information, visit or call (951) 659-2171.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Mar 11, 2011 @ 17:20