Archive for the ‘Interdisciplinary Arts’ Category

Singer-Songwriter Will Teach & Perform at Idyllwild Arts

February 11, 2011

Singer-Songwriter Courtney Kaiser will teach a class and perform at Idyllwild Arts at 7:30 p.m. tonight. Courtesy photo.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Each day, the music students at Idyllwild Arts Academy work together to hone their crafts. They learn from their teachers, by their own discovery and from each other. However, most say the best teacher is a professional musician currently working in the field.

This afternoon, Feb. 11, Courtney Kaiser, a popular singer and songwriter, will teach a Master Class to Interdisciplinary Arts (IM) and other music students at Rush Hall on campus. And, at 7:30 p.m., she will perform with Ashi, a jazz student and percussionist at the same location.

Courtney has toured with John Mellencamp, Sean Lennon, Yuka Honda, and Tracy Bonham. Her group, Kaiser Cartel, is a low-fi, song-driven, harmony-heavy Brooklyn-based duo. Their music appears on popular TV shows as “Private Practice,” “Bored to Death,” “Exiled’ and “Alter Ego.” You can also hear her music on Starbucks’ “Have You Heard?” music compilation.

In her Master Class from 4 to 6 p.m. this afternoon, Courtney will focus on what makes a song successful and how lyrics can induce the musicality of a song.  Although the class is geared toward Interdisciplinary Arts majors, all students are welcome to participate. Courtney suggested that they bring a set of lyrics they love to the class. During that time, they will learn the intricacies of how songs become memorable.

Courtney has been playing and writing her own music since her early days in an arts high school. So she is especially fond of working with fellow arts students at Idyllwild Arts. And, to further the connection, two songwriting students will be chosen for a mentorship with Kaiser Cartel. They will receive feedback from Courtney and, at the end, participate in a music recording session and have their own CD.

“Our students are looking forward to interacting with a nationwide touring musician,” said Katherine Factor, head of the IM Department and poet-in-residence. “Her show promises to be both endearing and electrifying.”

The show, with Courtney and Ashi, will be at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Rush Hall on campus. It’s free and open to the public. For more information, contact Idyllwild Arts at (951) 659-2171 or visit

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Rock Fairytale Show Saturday

May 1, 2010

Fion Chen as Miss Soursheen in the IM production Friday & Saturday

“What Ever Happened to Limpy Glen?” a rock fairytale presented by the Interdisciplinary Arts (IM) students at Idyllwild Arts, opened on Friday, April 30, to a sold-out crowd at the Bowman Theater. With this ambitious production, the IM students have shown that they not only can create their own sets and costumes, but also sing, act, dance and play their own music. The two-run show continues tonight, Saturday, May 1 at 7:30 p.m.

Frykdahl and Rocuant share secrets in the IM production

The show is based on “The Pied Piper of Hamelin,” a legend about the disappearance of a great many children from the German town of Hamelin. A piper, or rat catcher, was hired by the mayor to lure the rats away with his magic flute. However, when the mayor refuses to pay, the piper retaliates by luring away the children.

“Whatever Happened to Limpy Glen?” is set in Hamelin many years later. The small amount of children who are left are not allowed to play or sing music. As orphans, they’ve been turned into working droids.

Like his name implies, Limpy Glen (played by Rami Rocuant), the third-generation mayor of Hamelin, is a “wimp.” He oversees the town in his top hat and tails, receiving official notices, but isn’t really a leader or formidable force. The children do not obey because of him.

Town kids tow the line with Miss Soursheen

The real muscle is Miss Soursheen, played by Fion Chen. She is the “Cruella DaVille” that oversees the children’s chores, and reprimands them by clunking them on the head with a large chicken bone. (Actually, it looks more like a beef or ham bone because it doesn’t break).

Miss Soursheen, dressed in her Dominatrix attire, not only rules the children with a chicken bone, but the mayor too, with other knives as well. In the beginning, when she’s giving a progress report to the mayor, she’s also cooking soup for them. To emphasize her point, she points a large meat cleaver at him. Naturally, he backs away, and we know who rules. Later on in the show, Soursheen wields other weapons at the children from broomsticks to swords, and finally large spears.

IM shows Chen out of control

If they were going for dark humor, they achieved it. However, all the brutality and knife wielding was a distraction. It’s a Grimm’s Fairy Tale come to life. Let the punishment fit the crime, I say. They also didn’t explain or hint at why Miss Soursheen was so cruel. Perhaps she was tortured by a wicked witch as a lassie?

Not only does she beat her own kids, but the wild kids as well. Three wild kids, played by Caleigh Birrell, Jose Angel Diaz and Shelagh Bennett, have been wandering around the mountains for years, camping and singing songs. When they wander back into Hamelin, they don’t recognize the place at first. All the music is gone, including the record stores. There is no more fun. All the life is gone.

Bennett, Diaz and Birrell as the wild kids

Naturally, the town kids are attracted to the wild kid’s freedom, dancing and music. The town kids are played by Kumi Sweely, Luna Enriquez, Zenya Kwan, Liana Spano, Evynne Murray, Alyx Gunderson, Jahaira Anaya and Damian Hur.

As expected, three of the town kids run away to join the wild ones, including Zenya Kwan as Zelda, Luna Enriquez as Vega and Kumi Sweely as Rosa. Since they have to walk through the mountains and may encounter anything, they wield swords. To portray the denseness and confusion of the mountains, a large screen TV showed slides of large trees and video of blinding lights. Any more these days, stage plays are using video screens to help with background or scene changes.

Back in town, Mayor Wimpy Glen cannot sleep. He has several “encounters” with a vagrant, played by Nils Frykdahl, who offers him an ear, but always asks for money in the end. He’s the perfect “Beetlejuice” character with his blackened teeth, wild eyes and raspy voice. They discuss the mayor’s past, his animated turtle and finally make sense of the piper tale. (Frykdahl also doubles as bandleader, playing the electric guitar and flutes. If he is not on the IM staff yet, someone should hire him right away.)

Rocuant as mayor contemplates lifting music ban

Not only does the production’s band play all the songs, but the sound effects as well. It’s a motley crew of instruments, but fitting to the fairy tale. Led by Frykdahl, the band includes Denise Boughey, IM chair, on bass; Dawn McCarthy on electric guitar and percussion; Nate Levenson on drums; Rachel Hill on French horn; XO Liu on cello; Luna Enriquez, Caleigh BIrrell and Shelagh Bennett on guitar; Fion Chen and Liana Spano on keyboards and Rami Rocuant on banjo and guitar.

Needless to say, the production’s band is mostly made up of IM and music students. Each of the students in “Wimpy Glen” wears many hats, from playing a dramatic role, playing or singing music, building sets or illustrating the playbill.

For example, Fion Chen plays the lead as Miss Soursheen, something that would take a great deal of time. But she also helped with adapting the story, and playing keyboards in the band. Liana Spano, who plays one of the town kids, also plays keyboards, and helped to run the video throughout the show. Caleigh Birrell, who is studying painting in New York in the fall, acted, sang, danced and played guitar in the show. Luna Enriquez, who also does art, illustrated the portraits on the playbill and poster. But she also played one of the leads, sang, danced and played guitar.

Luna Enriquez played a town kid and illustrated the playbill & poster

“That is the beauty of being in the IM department,” said one of them. “We get to try many different things.”

Behind-the-scenes IM students helped out with set building, costumes, lights and sound. They included Trevor Holmes, Kaylee Greene-Spates, and Arik Dutcher. Alejandro Barron, from the jazz department, was the stage hand.

“Whatever Happened to Wimpy Glen?” continues tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Bowman Theater on campus. The show is free and open to the public. For more information, visit the Idyllwild Arts web site at

Painting with Sounds

February 19, 2010

Walter Thompson demonstrating soundpainting

Soundpainting is a live composing sign language created by New York composer Walter Thompson for artists working with improvisation. Currently, the language comprises more than 800 gestures.

On Feb. 15, Walter Thompson was invited by the Idyllwild Arts Academy to introduce soundpainting language to its students and faculty. Students were given the day off from their regular classes so that they could attend and participate in the daylong workshop.

In the 1970s, soundpainting was developed by Walter as a way of communicating with musicians during a performance without having to shout above the music. During his first attempt, Walter was not understood by the musicians in his orchestra, but they liked the concept and encouraged him to develop even more gestures. Over the next 33 years, Walter has developed soundpainting to include gestures not only for musicians, but also actors, dancers, writers, poets and visual artists.

Using the soundpainting language, an entire concert, dance or theater work, film score, or educational presentation can be created spontaneously.

During that Monday, Walter divided the Idyllwild Arts students into two large groups of about 100 students. One group worked with Walter onstage at the Bowman Theater, while the others watched the “performance” as it evolved.

To start, Walter introduced a few gestures, including those that would start the composition, increase its volume, increase its intensity, change tempo and, of course, stop.

For their part, each student performed a task based on their major of study. For example, actors would shout words, musicians would play a certain note on their instruments, while dancers would move their bodies, but not speak.

For those in the audience, it looked like organized chaos. Standing at the front, Walter would make soundpainting gestures, and move his arms across the group like a wand. At the moment his “wand” would pass in front of a certain section of students, all of them would perform their sound or gesture and stop. The sounding and stopping would happen in a matter of a few seconds.

“Some people have compared a soundpainting composition to a hard-edged flipping of TV channels,” Walter explained. To others, it looked like the “wave” cheer seen at many college football games, in which all the fans in the same section would stand together and “wave” or cheer to show their support.

To keep things interesting throughout the day Monday, Walter would change the words or gestures. Sometimes, he would only ask for air sounds.

“Now heckle me,” Walter instructed.  “Say anything you want, as long as you don’t swear or use profanity.”

“You can say, ‘Go home, Walter, you don’t know what you’re doing!’” he offered as an example.

Then, he gestured the “start” sign, and the students all heckled him at once. Then, he stopped and encouraged them to heckle him in a much louder voice–a theater voice–that could be heard at the back of the room at Bowman.

Most of the heckling was a jumble of noises, but one student’s “I hate you!” filtered through the din. Later, Walter said that he couldn’t hear any specific words or phrases during that heckling exercise. He was trying to encourage the more shy students to open up and experience the full composition.

At times, he invited various students and teachers to take over his conductor role, including Denise Boughey, Interdisciplinary Arts Chair, Bonnie Carpenter, Theater Department, and students Saehoon “Kevin” Jang, Visual Arts and Luna Enriquez, Interdisciplinary Arts.

“Luna did a great job, even though she was shy and didn’t want to get up in front of everyone,” Walter said. “But you could tell that she was paying attention and understood what we were trying to accomplish.”

Walter admitted that he asked Bonnie to compose a soundpainting piece was inherently difficult, but she did a great job considering the parameters.

The soundpainting workshop lasted until 5 p.m., and by the end of the day, Walter’s voice was rather hoarse from talking, and the students were eager to get out and enjoy the nice weather. Most of them said that they liked the soundpainting workshop, but thought it lasted too long.

“It could have been covered in a couple of hours,” many students said later.

For his part, Walter said the large number of students that he had to work with at the same time was a challenge.  During his other workshops, Walter said that he generally worked with 20-30 people. They’d work together for a week, and then have a performance at the end.

Walter was also surprised that more of the Idyllwild Arts music students didn’t bring their instruments to the workshop. During the afternoon session, there were only a few basses, a trombone and trumpet onstage.

“The students would have gotten a lot more out of the live composition if there had been more instruments,” Walter said. He hoped that the Idyllwild Arts students would be able to use what they learned from soundpainting in future multidisciplinary projects.

He said that the soundpainting term came from his brother, a musician. He thought of copyrighting it, but then decided against it.

“I don’t want people calling me up to ask me if I they can use soundpainting,” he said. “It’s a language, and people should feel free to speak it and use it whenever they want.”

However, Walter hopes that those who wish to teach soundpainting become certified with materials that he’s developed, and are available on his web site,

Oftentimes, Walter hears about instructors who are teaching his method incorrectly.

“It’s a language, and they’re specific gestures that mean certain things. It’s like a Swedish teacher giving you the wrong word for ‘boat,’ for example. he said. “You don’t want to go around using the wrong word for boat, do you?”

To remedy this, Walter will e-mail the instructor and offer his assistance, including the materials available on his web site.

“I don’t want to police people, it’s not what I’m about,” he added. “Most of those instructors who were teaching soundpainting incorrectly were receptive and happy that I told them about the materials.”