Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Senior Shows at Alfred University

 ALFRED:  Clay, paint, cardboard, glass, brass, bronze and sometimes broken bikes are all interesting because they can, and in Alfred often do, become ideas to spark conversation and encourage thought.
                Some people gravitate toward one particular material and push it, pull it, twist it, fold it and decorate it to tell the rest of us their ideas and questions. Sarah Paschkes has been putting her ideas into paintings and ceramics this year for both her Honor Thesis and Senior Show. The show opens on Saturday, May 6 from 4-7 pm and, for Sarah, will be on the first floor of Binns-Merrill Hall.
                Sarah has concentrations in painting and ceramics so uses two studio spaces to produce her work. Her show will bring paintings and ceramics together to explore this idea: Overturning the Trope of the Cute Animal as a Sidekick.
                Sarah spoke of her thoughts on Pokémon and other worlds where main characters have a “cute animal sidekick.” Pokémon creatures, for example, are captured and to a small degree cared for but also blithely given away or put into a gym to fight. She feels that the ownership and the fight assignments correspond to dog fights in the real world. The Pokémon, or the dogs, are living tools.
                Sarah has created a cast of 9 characters with personalities and stories in which they are not tools or sidekicks or conveniences but characters who stand in the spot light. These characters interact with each other in Sarah’s paintings but will develop further as she chronicles their adventures in written stories.
                She studied the structure of various animals to develop blended body shapes. One is cat like and others combine animal shapes such as the snake/ferret. In addition to their unique shapes, the creatures have distinct personalities: shy, friendly, grumpy, eccentric or easy going.
                There will be 9 different show cards to recognize the entire cast. When we met she had several paintings finished and others in progress. She was also making porcelain mugs, plates and bowls.
                The ceramic work is carefully, neatly, beautifully done. When finished, the characters will be on all the ceramic work. The mugs are cute. The body of the mug has the face of a creature while the handles are carved tails. Some bowls have a character inside peering up and some have faces and tails on the outside.
                Sarah first threw in 8th grade and has never stopped. She worked as a volunteer in the Middle School’s Clay Club for a few years. She graduated from Foxline High School in Bedford NY after working with clay every year. When it was time for college she applied to and visited 5 art schools but when she walked into what was the newly renovated kiln room in Alfred, the choice as made.
                After graduation Sarah will room with her mom near New York City, search for a job, and keep in touch with the fantastic friends she made in her years at AU. She plans to set up a painting studio right away though may have to wait to get her own clay studio.

                Another senior in the School of Art and Design is Morgan Croft. Morgan came to Alfred from Cazenovia, NY. She also applied to 5 art schools but fell in love with Alfred when she came to visit. There is some chance that she was influenced by her high school art teacher who graduated from Alfred.
                Surprisingly, she also was drawn to Alfred because of the impressive kiln room. As kiln rooms go, it is spectacular but what is surprising is that Morgan is a print maker/photographer and only took one ceramic class.
                After graduation Morgan will work her old bartending job and search for a position in a design studio where she may design fabric or signs or something still unimagined. In time, she plans to go to grad school and design video games.
                Morgan’s senior show focuses on a character she developed. His name is Jesse and he stars in her graphic novel. At her show she will display several large images from the book and will offer the entire book, printed and bound, for sale.
                Jesse’s story was written jointly by Morgan and one of her friends. This duo has been creating stories since they were 15 years old. Jesse’s story is one in which gangsters meet hackers in a sci-fi world. Jesse is morally ambiguous, probably not evil, but wickedly smart.
                Morgan thinks the best part about Alfred has been the connections she has made with other students and with faculty members. She said that everyone pushed her to be more creative. See Morgan’s show on the second floor of Binns-Merrill, actually right above Sarah’s show, and go home with your own copy of the novel in full color or black and white.

Hints for attending Senior Shows at Alfred University. Parking is hard to find so fill up your car and read the signs to park safely. Be prepared to walk across campus. The opening is set for 4-7 pm. Students work frantically to be ready and to put out celebratory snacks. Don’t go early. Maps will be in galleries as well as in Harder Hall, Binns-Merrill. Much of the work will be for sale though methods of purchase vary so talk with students and understand that you can’t generally take things home that night. Be prepared for variety.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Alfred University Symphonic Band - April 28

ALFRED: You are invited on Friday, April 28 at 7:30 to hear the Alfred University Symphonic Band performance. The band is full of interesting people with several of them soon to graduate so this is your last chance to hear them together.
                One Senior is Cheyenne Seymore. Cheyenne went to school in Elmira where everyone has to join chorus or band in junior high. Most other students I’ve interviewed chose an instrument in 4th or 5th grade and then stuck with it but in Elmira everyone volunteers. In high school, students choose to continue with music or have a study hall. Cheyenne said that about half the students choose to continue, as she did.
                Cheyenne chose to play percussion for, one might say, interesting reasons. Her dad, noted as a hippy-dad, took her to drum circles so drums were familiar. She also felt that drum music is easier to read without the music staff making demands on her.
                At AU, Cheyenne is a math and accounting major with plans to work as an accountant after she graduates. The CPA exams (a series of 4 exams, 3 hours each) are in her future. By taking full time studies on the AU campus and adding other courses from Alfred State she has managed to get all the coursework needed for the CPA while earning her degree.  She had an interview for a potential job the day we talked.
                Cheyenne has a strong work ethic that she credits to her first pony. She started riding lessons when she was five and when she turned 8, her grandparents gave her a pony. Her parents agreed to pay the cost of boarding the pony but if she wanted to continue riding lessons she had to earn them. She agreed to work so, every day, after school, she rode the bus to the barn to muck out stalls and feed horses. Also, as a rugged 8 year old, she “helped the little kids” saddle their horses.
                Alfred University’s Equestrian program brought Cheyenne here to study. As a member of the Equestrian Team, Cheyenne took 8th place in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Hunt Seat Regionals.
                Cheyenne is sorry that she didn’t join the Symphonic Band sooner. She took percussion lessons from Dr. Foster in the Fall Semester and joined the band this, her final, semester. The 3 years away from drums made her rusty so she is thankful that the percussion section members are so welcoming and helpful.
                Another senior is trombonist and ceramic engineering student, Kade McGarrity. Kade is from Angola, NY where in 5th grade he started lessons on saxophone. The best laid plans of a fifth grader can be wonderfully flexible because when Kade couldn’t get musical sounds from the sax, he traded it for his second choice, a trombone. While those might seem miles apart, both are suitable for jazz.
                He joined concert band in sixth grade and in high school played in a Ska band, Scallywags, performing at parties and in the fire hall. They wrote and recorded a few songs in the drummer’s basement since he was the guy with the sound board.  Now, that drummer is now studying music production program at Fredonia while Kade and his trombone are in Alfred- always in Jazz Band, occasionally in Symphonic Orchestra, and regularly in Symphonic Band.
                Kade spoke of the value of music in general.  He is concerned about the decreasing funding for school music programs at all levels. Kade is certain that he wouldn’t be the person he is now without the many academic and social experiences that music provided. Music is an essential in one’s education.
                He also named his high school band teacher as his favorite teacher ever. This man cared about all students and not just their music but their well being. He even gave Kade his jazz trombone.
                The instrument teetered on the edge of beatten up and having character with a distinct liability in that it didn’t work. After it was used as a prop in a school play, Kade took it home and fixed it but when he returned it, his teacher said he earned it. This is the trombone he uses in jazz band because it has a smokier sound than his concert horn and it hits high notes more easily.
                Kade and his trombone may be at AU for a while. He plans to apply for advanced study here and hopes for a PhD. He may like to work on materials in electronics or maybe develop body armor or structural ceramics or explore heat resistant materials.        
                Kade and Cheyenne both name Second Suite for Military Band by Holst as their favorite piece in the concert.  Kade particularly likes the fourth movement because it brings together many melodies and intertwines them. Cheyenne likes it because it reminds her of her high school music fun.
                Kalene Strange, a senior in Interdisciplinary Art from Wellsboro PA, plays alto sax. Her senior show reception will be in the basement of The Brick on May 5 from 5-7 pm but first come to hear her play in the concert on April 28. Her art involves using sound waves within childhood photographs.
                Kaylene is from Wellsboro PA where she had her first music lesson on piano at age 3 with her grandfather. He got frustrated and walked away but she kept at it till she figured it out. Her grandfather played by ear but which made sense to her because she has near perfect pitch and can “hear” the music but she taught herself to read music and began piano lessons with another teacher when she was 5.
Cheyenne, Rosalyn, Kaylene, Kade
                Kaylene started singing when she started talking, or maybe before. Her family gatherings always include a guitar and songs. She got a guitar in middle school and taught herself. Not surprisingly, she borrowed instruments and books from school and, as she says, figured out flute, piccolo, clarinet and trumpet as well as French horn with a brief stint on oboe. Her mother said she sounded like a dying duck and the oboe had to go, please. At AU she studied violin for 2 years with Dr. Lantz and would have had more music classes and experiences but her schedule was packed.  
                Kalene’s favorite piece is Endless Rainbows by Brian Balmages because of the lovely, lyrical melodies.
                A fourth senior is Rosalyn Nardella, who began with baritone sax in middle school in Loganton, PA and added viola in high school. As a freshman at Alfred, she began taking flute and piano lessons and this year has played in student recitals as a flute soloist and with Andres Garcia in a saxophone duet as well as with the Pep Band, Symphonic Band and Orchestra.
                During her senior year she joined the newly formed Alfred University Flute Choir. This busy student exercises her horse regularly and works to earn board for it. Some days she travels to the Dansville Dental Practice where she takes xrays and assists in patient room preparation.
                Rosalyn says that she has time for lots of things if she avoids studying but, knowing she is a biology major, that seems a joke. At the time of our talk her future involves dentistry at Temple University in Philadelphia. Four years at Temple will bring true her childhood dream of being a dentist.   For many, a dentistry degree comes with student debt anchoring them to earth but Rosalyn has a different anchor in mind. By enlisting in the Navy, she will avoid $300,000 to $500,000 in loans. The Navy will pay for dental school in exchange for her pledge of 4 years as a naval dentist. She will have the option to stay in the Navy for her entire career if she chooses. If she is assigned to a ship she will not be able to take her horse but she might take a ukulele since she plays that too.  
                Rosalyn’s favorite piece in the concert was Lightning Field by John Mackey. She was playing the flute part and having fun with it but recently was assigned the piano part instead so Shortcut Home by Dana Wilson is now her favorite. “It’s really fast and technically difficult,” she said.

Christiana and Molly ignore Dr. Foster and his Alfred Sun
                Other pieces in the concert are Gavorkna Fanfare by Jack Stamp, Snowflakes Dancing by Andrew Boysen, and The Promise of Living by Aaron Copland. The concert is free and open to the public in the Miller Performing Arts Center. Enter the campus at the traffic light, turn left at the boulder near the top of the hill. MPAC is the building at the end of that road with a glass front.