In The Spotlight: Horowitz Center, May 2013

In The Spotlight: Horowitz Center, May 2013


Welcome to “In the Spotlight,” Howard Community
College’s show about the Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center. In this episode we’ll
talk with Kyle Coughlin about this year’s HCC Jazz Festival, presented by the college’s
jazz faculty. Grace Anastasiadis catches up with Director Brandon McCoy to talk about
HCC’s student production of Anton in Show Business. We’ll introduce Fahimeh Vahdat,
who recently took on a new role as Director of HCC’s Visual Arts program. Angela Phillips
sits down with Director Darius McKeiver to find out more about the Arts Collective’s
production of Prelude to a Kiss. And Arts and Humanities Division Chair Valerie Lash
highlights an Evening of Student Arts, an event that showcases student work at the college.
HCC’s Jazz Festival, created and organized by Kyle Coughlin, Coordinator of HCC’s Jazz
Program, was a great success. “The HCC Jazz Festival started this school
year in February and uh and I started it, it was uh an idea that I had to involve students
in the county, uh in the public schools… to get them to HCC, to see how nice our facilities
are and to get them to have an opportunity to perform in those facilities too.”
The festival combined a series of Master Classes with a faculty concert.
“The Jazz Festival had a series of afternoon master classes uh which were free uh it began
with the Wild Lake High School uh jazz ensemble performing, and in that situation I made comments
and suggestions on how they can improve as an ensemble, uh and after that uh the uh I
gave a uh master class on jazz improvisation and, and then after that the Folley Quarter
Middle school uh rhythm sections uh actually performed a few pieces and our faculty, Jeff
Reed, uh worked with those students in the rhythm section. Uh and in the evening we had
a faculty performance with the faculty jazz quintet.”
Master Class topics were chosen based on the needs of the students participating.
“The master classes mainly focused on things that were essential for, or things that are
essential for- for young students… middle school, high school students to be aware of
and to focus on. Uh the the big band master classes are traditional sort of setting where
the band plays and then an adjudicator or a teacher will make comments and suggestions
on how they can improve.” “The other clinic that I did was a I call
a basic introduction to jazz improvisation. These are the fundamental skills that students
need to actually improvise. And if you’re going to play jazz then improvisation is a
big part of that, so uh so that’s always is a-a good place to start. Uh, Jeff Reed’s master
class was specifically on, uh working with rythym sections and uh Jeff is our Jazz Bass
faculty at HCC and an outstanding musician and teacher.” “He is uh probably the most in demand bass
player in Baltimore… he focused on what the rhythm section needs to do and uh especially
for middle school students; often they haven’t listened to jazz much at all. So this was
a good introduction to some of the things that they really should focus on.”
HCC Jazz Concerts have been well received and attendance continues to grow. The HCC
Faculty Jazz Quintent performed as part of the festival providing visiting students a
chance to hear great music while offering insight into Jazz performance.
“I try to practice what I preach uhh its always good to-to stand by and so when I tell the
students to really think rhythmically in their improvisation I try to take that as a same
approach in my own improvisation. Um… for the students to hear what professional musicians
are doing and musicians who have been playing Jazz for a long time. Uh, its good for them
to get that input and to-to get to listen to… the same music uh, but played at a different
level.” Coughlin feels HCC’s Music Outreach Program
is vital to the growth and development of student musicians in the Howard County Schools.
“It gives them an opportunity to work with our faculty to, and to work with musicians
who, who specialize in certain fields where as the-the band directors or teachers they
may be working with don’t necessarily have the same specific knowledge or experience
that we do.” “So what we can offer is, you know, our base
teacher, or our drum instructor, or one of our faculty members who specifically works
with-with one area that they can come in and give the students more insight to what they’re
doing and offer some suggestions which might help them develop to be better Jazz musicians.”
“And-and part of it is just letting them know what we have to offer because they don’t really
know until we go and-and find them or present it to them and uh the result is that they
see, wow that they have some really good faculty here and this is, uh, this is, this is exciting;
maybe HCC is worth looking into.” Jazz enthusiasts can look forward to several
events planned for the future. “We’re having the U.S. Navy Commodores uh
perform at HCC in Smith Theatre and this will be the third year, uh third consecutive year
that they have performed here. And this is a- a great opportunity for our students and
then students in the community uh in the public schools to come and hear, really one of the
best big bands anywhere…then we also have several Jazz Faculty concerts…And… several
of the Jazz faculty… they’ll do their own Jazz recitals… and then also there are student
concerts as well… its a great opportunity for the students to perform, and get experience;
and uh for that we use Monte-Montebaro Recital Hall which acoustically is, is really really
great for those performances.” To find out more about HCC’s Jazz Program
and upcoming events, contact Kyle Coughlin at [email protected] A group of HCC theatre students had a chance
to show off their acting chops in a production this past winter. Grace Anastasiadis has the
story. A witty production of Anton in Show Business
filled the seats of the Studio Theatre in the Horowitz Center. Lisa Wilde, Director
of Theatre, chose Brandon McCoy to direct the play for HCC’s Theatre Program.
“So Anton in Show Business is a comedy by Jane Martin, uh, it premiered in the Humana
Festival at actors theater in which is a breeding ground for cutting edge, new contemporary
plays, so it’s about a lot of things. To sort of sum it up what the play is about is difficult.
But at its core, it follows the story of three actresses auditioning for a production of
Chekov’s Three Sisters, to be performed in a small regional theater company in San Antonio,
Texas, and the story sort of of follows their exploits in um, in all the way from getting
cast to rehearsing to almost getting to being able to perform it.”
“Last year we did Springs Awakening by uh, Frank Vadicant and it was a great show big
cast, full production values, uh a lot of male roles and we realized when we were doing
auditions that we had so many great women in the program and that we didn’t really have
the number of roles in that show to-to work with all of them. So this year I really wanted
to work on a smaller show with more female roles and to really emphasize the-the script
and the acting.” As an adjunct faulty member in HCC’s theatre
department McCoy has already worked with many of the students.
“He does a lot of teaching of acting especially the-the Majors; Acting I and Acting II. And
so he really knows the pool and he knows what they need to work on and he can easily translate
what he’s doing in classroom on to what’s happening on stage. Which is what our hope
is with these shows, these productions, is to give them the chance to put into practice
during the performance the work that they’ve been doing in the classroom.”
McCoy says his directing style has been influenced by the great directors he’s worked with in
the past. “I tried to take as much of a hands-off approach
as possible. I mean, the directors that I’ve worked with as an actor are the ones who seem
like they’re fans. You know, they’re fans of the process and they wanted the actors
to explore, and to find the moments on their own, and so it’s a, it’s a molding process.
You find your way into making the moments work as a unified vision. And so I- I like
the room to be an enjoyable one, and especially in a play like this, it’s particularly helpful.
I mean the more fun they’re having in creating it, the more fun it’s going to be for the
audience watching.” And fun is exaclty what McCoy is striving
for in this production. “Oh I hope the audience has fun, I think that,
I think something we lose sight of sometimes, um, and rightly so. The process becomes about
the art so much that sometimes we forget about the audience. So in its simplest form I hope
the audience comes and has a really good time. It’s not to say there’s not something they
can get out of this. There’s all kinds of lessons to be honed and relation- human behavior
and relationships, i mean, everything that a good story should have. But at its core
it’s a celebration of theater, celebration of actors, and more specifically a celebration
of female actors. In a way we’re mirroring the three sisters in Anton in Show Business
and then we by doing this show, are celebrating the female population of our acting students.” Giving the students real world experience
is important. “What we tried to do was to emulate a professional
theater process uh, as much as possible. Partly because the play talks about it so much. But
also, it’s not something that we regularly get the time to teach in our classes. We are
training actors in the hopes that they will go out and make a living out of this, uh,
so what we’ve tried to do which is really difficult to do in an academic setting, is
to show them what a professional process is like, show them what is expected of professional
actors, um, and the relationships between them, the protocols, we run an equity schedule
so they understand what it’s like to be in a union show, and the process has been very,
it’s not to say that it’s been stuffy but it has been very professional.”
“And I think what has happened for our students is that it’s put a lot of the ownness on them
and they really feel what it would be like if they were doing this, if they were being
paid to do this, and there’s that responsibility towards a professional theater company doing
this show and doing it well. And it’s not to say we don’t get that in our academic endeavors-
we do, but I think the process has been slightly different in that um, it’s a sort of a glimpse
into what they have to look forward to. I think it’s really fun.”
For more information on the Theatre Program contact Lisa Wilde at [email protected]
I’m Grace Anastasiadis for In the Spotlight. Fahimeh Vahdat is HCC’s new Director of Visual
Arts. We sat down for an intimate look at her life as an artist, teacher and administrator.
She remembers her first artistic moment as a young girl in Iran.
“When I was just third grader my mother gave me my uh first sketch book. And uh what happened,
I was so fascinated with this bare open book, that uh I only had a pencil and this sketchbook
and I started drawing and I drew portraits of whatever that I was thinking. I was just
making portraits of my mom, of my dad, my sisters, my brothers, and so forth.” At the age of 15, Vahdat spent a year in India.
It was during her time there that she began to draw inspiration from social issues and
injustice, cementing her future as an artist. “I was uh so moved by the whole notion of
how poverty uh was all around me and how much I was affected by seeing people suffering
and-and-and little girls and women uh working so hard and just uh noticing that they live
on the streets for example. And- and uh they work so hard, but thats-that- thats their
life; thats what they have. And I was just suffering myself, I- I was feeling their pain
and that was a very crucial moment for me to um to try to find a way to- to speak up
about these sufferings.” Following the Iranian revolution of 1979,
Vahdat obtained a religious asylum visa and came to the U.S. to pursue a college education
in the arts. During her undergraduate and graduate years, she continued to create multi-media
pieces focused on social issues. Her most prized works are rooted in her personal history.
“One of the highlight of my career is that when I receive an NEA Grant, to do the body
of work that I was researching for several uh years, more than probably 5 or 6 years,
I was focused on this uh work that I wanted to create in memorial uh and give a memorial
service to the Behi’s who were-who were uh martyred and who were uh killed in Iran after
1979, and which I had two of my uh relatives; my great uncle who was 80 years old, uh um
a retired army general, and my cousin who was 32 years old nurse, who served in southern
part of Sherais, which they were both executed. And I wanted to bring dignity and-and uh a-
a memorial service to these people, who for most part did not have any- any service or
their bodies were-were found, or ditched in large grave.”
Vahdat currently shows her works nationally and internationally. Her most recent collection
focused on women’s issues through protest art. A spirit of hope, beauty and freedom
permeates the work. “My recent work was shown at Red Line, Milwaukee,
a solo uh installation, a mixed-media installation that dealt with um protest. It was called
uh Protest from Freedom Series, which I have been working on this body of work for years
and um I have- any Iranian artist who lives outside U.S. their work, whether they want
it or not, becomes political. My work is still socially based, but it has political component
to it and-and audience can read into that if they want to.”
Educational settings seem natural to Vahdat. They provide an environment for open dialogue
about the subject matter while passing on her skills and philosophy. Her career as an
educator began at her Alma Mater of Southern Methodist University.
“We went to Taos, New Mexico for a semester uh of um of studying and thats when my students,
I was a TA, I was graduate student, and um the students that I was working with, they
told me I’m a great teacher, I should continue teaching. That-that was the moment that I
realized that I belong to this place, to education, but also as an artist, but also as an American,
to be able to call myself an Iranian-American, uh living here in this in country.”
Having found her calling as an artist and educator, Vahdat began to seek a permanent
position in a collegiate setting. She had already spent time in California, Texas and
Wisconsin, so she hoped to find an opportunity on the East Coast. HCC proved to be a perfect
fit. “When I came actually to uh Howard Community
College for interview, I was immediately taken by the set-up Horowitz Center, just so inviting,
I just loved this open space walking in.” As the new Director of Visual Arts, Vahdat
takes a practical approach to meeting students’ academic needs.
“Since this is a 2 year college um my focus is to make sure our students learn traditional
skills, but also are aware of contemporary molds and uh aesthetics that is happening
in the art world and in education. So that they are ready to take the next step, which
is for them to transfer, majority of our students these days are transferring to 4 year college.”
In class, she seeks to teach her students more than basic drawing and portraiture skills;
she encourages students to find their own inspiration, perspective and voice.
“Our rule is to make sure our students uh have those abilities and build those abilities
to be able to move on with their careers as global citizens, rather than just being so
um so isolated in small community. So for those reasons I like to lead um and-and serve
um my community of students, faculty, administration, but also community through uh strong uh academic
curricular.” For more information on HCC’s Visual Arts
Department, contact Fahimeh Vahdat at [email protected] To see more work of her work, visit fahimehvahdat.org. HCC’s Arts Collective spring production is
a heartfelt comedy directed by Darius McKeiver. Angela Phillips has more. “Prelude to a Kiss,” Craig Lucas’ brillantly
written funny, romantic and haunting fairy tale is McKeiver’s first solo directing role
with the Arts Collective “I started directing actually in high school
and uh we had a Shakespeare class and our teacher, I was horrible, horrible at memorizing
lines, and so he was like, “What do you think about directing? Assistant directing the scenes
with me?” And I was like oh okay, I guess I’ll try that and I did and ended up loving
it.” McKeiver came to HCC in 2006 and took part
in his first Arts Collective production, “Our Town.” With mentorship from AC Producing Artistic
Director, Sue Kramer, he has since taken on various projects with the Arts Collective
team as an actor, designer, and assistant director. He’s thrilled to be directing “Prelude”.
“It’s definitely a romantic comedy, uh it has a sort of fairy tale aspect to it as well
and; I don’t want to give too much away [laughs] but you know, it definitely focuses on relationships,
it mainly-mainly focuses on you know the relationship between two young people in New York and who
meet each other and instantly there’s that connection and they fall in love. You get
to go with them on that journey.” In casting the play, McKeiver followed the
Arts Collective’s practice of open auditions for students and community members. Among
the cast members are Bill Stanley, an HCC theatre veteran, playing the role of The Old
Man, and Keri Eastridge, a current HCC Theatre Major playing the role of Rita Boyle.
“I got started at Howard Community College pre-equity back when uh I guess The Skin of
our Teeth was the first show I did here at Howard Community College. Yes, definitely
pre-Rep Stage.” “I didn’t do any theatre in high school, I
was like all into soccer and everything and um it wasn’t until I came here actually that
I auditioned to for um On Broadway.” McKeiver sees great benefits in casting actors
with various levels of experience. “It’s definitely a challenge to sort of figure
out okay you know I have someone in the cast who’s been doing this forever, and I have
someone who is doing it for the first time, and someone who is really just starting to
get into it. Yeah [laughs] I had to ask myself that question, how am I going to do this?
But it starts with the- the foundation of that is making sure everyone just talks, and
gets to know each other, and shares those experiences.”
The actors aren’t the only ones learning during this process. McKeiver, still developing as
a young director, knew he had a big job ahead of him and took great care in preparing for
the task. “Well I think it’s really important to know
the material. So I spent a lot of time with the script just making notes about, you know,
what I’m seeing visually, you know what I’m, you know getting from the characters, and
what their stories might be and; but not too much because I definitely like to see what
the actors bring to- for that portion.” This approach works well for his actors.
“He gives you like enough freedom to figure out what you think your character would do,
especially even now in the process, um, he let’s us kind of try new things because, you
know, your character changes over, over time, um, but yeah, if it’s, if it’s needed he’ll
obviously jump in and be like, OK, now I want you here or try this and see how that feels,
so, um, it’s definitely a perfect balance of freedom and structure.” “What I like is that he directs similarly
to the way I direct. I direct on-stage if I, if its appropriate you know, if things
aren’t going the way I showed.” Through a uniquely collaborative process,
McKiever, Stanley and Eastridge bring these characters to life on stage, marking yet another
successful Arts Collective production. For more information on the Arts Collective, visit
howardcc.edu/artscollective. For In the Spotlight, I’m Angela Phillips.
At the end of each semester the Arts and Humanities Division holds an event called An Evening
of Student Arts where student work is celebrated in the realms of radio, TV, and the Visual
and Digital Arts. Division Chair Valerie Lash describes how the event has grown over the
years. “We actually used to have what we call Fine
Arts Night and everything ah we have ah theatrical scenes and music and dance and, and the art
gallery opening but um now we have student arts all year- I mean things are happening
all the time but we retained this one evening ah that we do twice a year, one in December
and then one in May where um the student visual arts are, are exhibited.”
Two pieces are selected by the faculty of each art class and showcased in the student
art exhibit. “All of the arts classes are represented so
that would be everything from two dimensional design, painting, drawing, digital arts, photography…
um graphic design um we actually will have um architecture um shown as well as interior
design. So every art class um that we offer on campus has two pieces of work that come
out of it.” The reception held as part of the event is
a great opportunity for the audience to peruse the exhibit before awards are given to the
top favorites. “Yes for the evening of student arts we have
um generally three awards ah sometimes four and the three awards are the President’s favorite
piece of art, the vice president of academics um um affairs favorite piece of art and my
award which is the Arts and Humanities Division Chair favorite work of art and occasionally
the director of visual arts gives a special award as well.”
The Evening of Student Arts also includes a TV and Radio Lounge held in Monteabaro Recital
Hall. The lounge highlights student work chosen by the faculty of the TV and radio production
courses. In addition to this wonderful evening, there are many other events that take place
at the end of the semester to celebrate the arts.
“We have the Arts Collective program so those are plays, um IMPROV, oh a Cabarets, that
include students ah community members, faculty, staff, guest artists …we have student um
recitals, we have student jazz ensembles, ah cello ensembles just all kinds of student
work we also have dance performances so the arts are alive and well particularly at this
time of year at the end of the semester when um students get to strut their stuff.”
Lash believes this is a very important experience for students in the arts.
“When you’re creating something you’re creating it for yourself of course but you’re creating
it for an audience. Whether it be a dance or a piece of music that you’re playing or
writing or a piece of art that you’ve created its important that an audience see it, hear
it, feel it ah because that is part of the whole experience and a student having um a
true artist experience, which is what we want them to have, ah needs to have that audience
and it’s risky you know um because it could put something out there and nobody likes it
you know so taking that risk, creating a piece of art, having an audience receive it um and
ah you as an artist can get that feedback as you’re watching the audience whether it
be at your exhibit or at your dance concert you know you can feel that…that is all part
of the total artistic experience…creating art.”
An Evening of Student Arts is great fun for everyone.
“Often times of course the students come and their parents often or their children um I
remember years ago my mom was taking a ceramics class and her work was chosen ah well my daughter
and I came and brought her flowers and so there’s a lot of that that goes on too. It’s
very much ah honor even to be selected to be included in the exhibit um and we try to
make it a party.” To find out more information about classes
offered through the Arts and Humanities Division go to howardcc.edu, click on Academics and
then select Academic Divisions. Thanks for joining us. If you’d like to learn more about
the Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center you can go to howardcc.edu/horowitzcenter.
I’m Janelle Broderick for In the Spotlight, see you next time.

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