Building Community

Life imitates art (museum): Elementary students recreate JCSM

By | Building Community, K-12 Education, News | No Comments

It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; in that case, the staff of Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn University (JCSM) couldn’t be more delighted.

Before wrapping up school for the summer, first grade students at Auburn Early Education Center (AEEC) created a replica of the museum in their classrooms—complete with grand entrance, artwork, and even a museum shop. Museum staff toured this “mini-JCSM” along with students, teachers, parents, and guardians.


Jamie Mitchell, a first grade teacher in the “Blue Pod” at AEEC, said her students chose Auburn as a theme for this year. “Their first project was a working post office, and then they wanted to learn about Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art,” she said. Mitchell said through inquiry-based learning, problem solving, and research, students chose the projects on which they wanted to work. “They wanted to make the entrance with bricks, sign, reflecting pool and the sculptures, Spinoff and Amber Luster Chandelier. The students hung labels of what they’ve learned throughout the exhibition, and today they are acting as guides for the exhibition.”

MuseumViewer Rising second-grader Katarina Vazsonyi worked on the brick replicas of travertine stone. “I wanted to show my mom,” she said. “I will come back to the museum.” Katarina’s mom, Andrea, said she thought the children’s work was amazing, citing the reproduction of “Amber Luster Chandelier” by Dale Chihuly. The students wrote about the artist and his assistants, how many pieces made up the sculpture, and how many days it took to install the sculpture. “Kids can learn so much through practical work and creativity,” said Andrea Vazsonyi. “I think it is very important.”

Museum director Marilyn Laufer was equally impressed. “I think that more than anything else for me, I realized that what we do does in fact have an enormous effect on the creative capacity of the children in this community,” she said. “The children remembered their experiences here and the names of our education curators. As far as effective outreach, I think we hit a home run.”


Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art is a charitable, nonprofit committed to lifelong learning and community enrichment. To learn more about supporting JCSM’s outreach and instruction efforts through the Auburn University Foundation, visit our support page.

JCSM joins AAMD in celebrating Art Museum Day May 23

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For the sixth year, AAMD is uniting its membership to celebrate Art Museum Day. Held in concert with ICOM’s International Museum Day, this year AAMD’s Art Museum Day will take place on and around Monday, May 18.

In 2014, approximately 180 member museums offered free admission, special programs and events in an international celebration of the importance of museums in our world.

As an AAMD member institution, Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art will observe Art Museum Day on Saturday, May 23 with the opening of two new summer exhibitions. Plan and document your visit on social media with the tag #ArtMuseumDay. No flash photography, please.

You might say, “every day is Museum Day at JCSM,” because the museum offers free admission and programming through business and member support all year long. JCSM is a charitable, non-profit organization committed to lifelong learning and community enrichment. Consider observing this important day by upgrading your membership or getting involved as a new member. Art Changes Lives, and Happy Art Museum Day 2015!


JCSM reaches out to local schools

By | Building Community, K-12 Education, Supporting Auburn | No Comments

Yesterday was a bittersweet day.

Outreach is a critical part of the mission at JCSM. This year, I’ve been able to spend two Thursdays a month teaching at South Smiths Station Elementary school. SSES does not currently have an art teacher, but teachers and administrators there sought out our support. Last year during a tour at JCSM, fourth grade teacher Evelyn Baldwin asked me if I could provide art lessons for the students. I was thrilled to have the chance to be in a classroom, and explore art making with excited young students.

And what a great year it was! We made travel posters for the regions of Alabama (making connections to geography), musical instruments and rockets (using science and math skills), paper mache animals, prints, still-life drawing, and even had art history discussions. The hard work of the students was matched by their enthusiasm. While most of my mornings are fueled by coffee, the bright faces of eager learners helped wake me up, and kept me going throughout the day.

Yesterday was my last day traveling to SSES, which made me sad. But the many kind words of thanks, and a substantial number of candy bars certainly made the end of the year easier to handle. I want to express my deepest thanks to Mrs. Duke, Mrs. Ward, Mrs. Evans, and Mrs. Baldwin for allowing me to work with their students, and for their constant encouragement. Of course this would not have been possible without the support from Principal Smith and Assistant Superintendent Hunter at Lee County Schools. Their dedication and commitment to the arts in elementary education is deep, and deeply appreciated.

I also want to thank all of the students that were such a joy to work with. It was your hard work that made your art look so wonderful. I know that you’ll keep practicing your art, and making wonderful, creative, inventive new things!

JCSM continues to work to support local schools that need help with art education. And there are things that you can do to help.

First, be sure you voice your support of art education to your representatives at every level of government. Support your local school board as they work to find the budget to hire art and music teachers. Through Parent-Teacher organizations, fundraisers for art supplies, and other events at local schools, you can help ensure that every school has a full-time art educator.

Second, if you want to directly support JCSM’s outreach to schools, contact our development office online, or by calling 334-844-1675.

Museum outreach efforts demonstrate the value of art education in a very real way, helping teachers and parents make the case to school administrators and state legislators that art teachers are needed in every building. Please consider helping us continue this important work.

“Penelope Awaiting Her Chamberlain” rolls in to Auburn

By | Art Experiences, Building Community, Collection Loan, Sculpture | No Comments

Drivers of large trucks may know all too well that finding the right parking spot can sometimes be an adventure. Imagine positioning an antique truck measuring more than 11 feet high by 25 feet long, weighing in at an estimated 12, 000 pounds.

That is the task for the staff of Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn University, as they begin preparations this month for the upcoming exhibition, “John Himmelfarb: TRUCKS.”

Penelope Awaiting Her Chamberlain is an outdoor sculpture created from a 1946 Chevrolet farm truck and found objects. “This artwork is part of John Himmelfarb’s exhibition and reflects our ongoing interest in outdoor sculpture on the museum’s grounds,” said Marilyn Laufer, director.

This first piece of artwork arrived by tractor trailer at the museum. The driver unloaded his carry and drove the truck to the installation spot on the museum grounds.

In addition to sculpture, the Chicago-based artist depicts the truck in paintings, drawings, and prints. His artwork is found in the permanent collections of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art in Washington, DC, and Auburn’s Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art.

When asked about his subject matter choice, Himmelfarb noted, “Does anyone ask the artist of still lifes, ‘Why apples?’ Now, I turn the ‘why trucks?’ question around and ask: What do you think about when you see these works?” The artist went on to say his aim in doing so was to encourage the personal discovery that comes from experiencing fine art.

The early installation of Penelope Awaiting Her Chamberlain on the museum grounds is a sneak preview of what you will see when the exhibition opens inside the museum on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015.  The exhibition will continue through Sunday, May 10, 2015.

Climbing the sculpture is strictly prohibited. Visitors to the museum are encouraged to take photographs with the piece and post on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook using the tag, #JCSMTruckStop.  

The museum is open to the public for regular hours through Sunday, Dec. 21. The holiday schedule during the university break is: Friday, Dec. 26 to Saturday, Dec. 27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 28 from 1 to 4 p.m., and Friday, Jan. 2 to Saturday Jan. 3 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 4, from 1 to 4 p.m.

A Little Art Talk: Jerome Myers

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Jerome Myers: Raising Hope in the New World closes Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 4:00 pm at Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn University. For the spring semester, art history students from Auburn presented A Little Art Talk and prepared blog posts based on their presentations. Below is a guest blog on a painting from the Myers’ exhibition.   

A Little Art Talk continues through the summer 2014 on Wednesdays at Noon with museum staff and docents. 

Admission to the exhibition is free courtesy of JCSM Business Partners. A catalogue is available for purchase in the Museum Shop. 

Jerome Myers: Urban Exploration through Artistry

Guest blogger: Cassidy A. Kulhanek

Jerome Myers was born in Petersburg, Virginia in 1867, but spent nearly his entire life in large cities in the northeast such as Philadelphia and Baltimore, before finally settling on New York City. Myers drew his inspiration for his paintings, drawings, writings, and other works from the urban landscape with which he was so familiar and  about which he was deeply affectionate—leading him to become one of the driving forces of the Ashcan School. The Ashcan School revolved around urban life and scenes; specifically those scenes which were set in areas of New York City. Street Carousel exemplifies these traits.

The early twentieth century movement of the Ashcan School can be read as a reflection of the mid-nineteenth century Hudson River School movement in which vast expanses of raw, untouched land were painted in idealized and romanticized ways; the Ashcan School painters interpreted American beauty in their own ways. Whereas the standard for a beautiful representation of American land had so recently been the mystique of the untamed areas, Ashcan painters helped redefine and represent what was at the heart of American culture fifty years later: an urban identity driven by industrialization. Many Ashcan paintings illustrate different aspects of urban American life in this time; we see dirty workers, we see excited children, we see loose animals, and we see the ever crowded and constantly moving streets of the city.

Street Carousel, painted in 1906, illustrates an extremely energetic street scene that is, in some respects, timeless. Myers’s scene feels like something that one could experience today, one hundred and eight years later, when walking around neighborhoods in New York City. Even if the viewer is not intimately familiar with the neighborhoods present in these paintings, Myers’s environments create a sense of familiarity as if one had lived in New York his or her entire life. Nevertheless, the presence of this painting is subtle at first, but almost seems to become overwhelming once you spend time viewing it.

Myers creates a sense of energy with his style of painting. His use of loose brushstrokes lends to the action that each character is performing; the children on the carousel nearly blend into one another as they rapidly spin, the people hanging outside of their windows seem to be simultaneously emerging from and retracting into their rooms, and the two older women in the bottom left laugh and shrug as they gossip and chatter. Even the buildings themselves seem to be moving within the scene in a way; they are not by any means tall buildings, but Myers stretches them up into the sky in a strange and almost paradoxical way which allows them to stand high above the action while still seeming compressed upon themselves.

Dissecting the color palette of the painting, however, seems to tell a different story. Although there are some noticeable and seemingly vibrant hues in the piece, the colors Myers employs are overall muted and almost neutral in nature throughout the painting, and in fact the colors which seem the brightest, when placed alone out of context, are mostly dull. With this in mind, it seems even more impressive that Myers is able to fill the canvas with such life and energy using such a limited gamut of colors. It is remarkable even more still when you realize that even though you are unable to make out defining features of the different people present in Street Carousel, it is inarguable that every figure within the piece—human or not—has a robust personality all its own. Even the sky—which is simply composed of a drab grayish expanse behind the rooftops—seems to be actively participating in the scene rather than just falling behind the buildings, by carefully creeping along the jutting edges of the tops of the buildings and peering in over all of the street-goers, full of curiosity. The buildings themselves seem to have competing personalities as well. Of the two front most buildings, the left building seems to be shying away from the action by falling into a slightly darker shade and having each of its windows mostly obscured by curtains while its bottom half hides behind the fabric tents of street vendors. In contrast, the building on the right seems to be desperate to join us in the street, jutting just slightly more forward than its counterpart, having each of its windows surrounded by shutters flung open, only allowing itself to be obscured by the actual carousel, and having an additional set of windows at its top which seem to act as eyes, peering down longingly into the excited street below.

Myers has done such an excellent job composing a convincing scene for us that it’s easy to get lost in the scene ourselves. The painting is in no way a photorealistic representation of this street, but simply viewing this connected space of livelihood is enough for viewers to be present in the street. It seems easy to look at this and hear the murmur of jumbled conversation, the children on the carousel screaming and laughing as they whirl around, or the street vendors discussing transactions with the passersby who approach them. One could hear the tenants upstairs shouting down into the streets at people they know, or at their children to come inside or behave; even the dog begins to bark and contribute to the conversation. Street Carousel seems to welcome the viewers to working their ways through this street, and to weave in and out of a dancing crowd of people—a crowd which Myers intends to stand as an open invitation. Though the figures in the painting are anonymous and it is difficult to place any distinguishing features about any of them, Myers has created a world with this painting in the viewer exists with the subjects as a friend, or possibly even as a neighbor. Due to the incredibly convivial atmosphere, Jerome Myers’ Street Carousel is overwhelmingly powerful. It is clear through his work in this piece just how deeply passionate Myers was about the city. As he said in 1940, “My love was my witness in recording these earnest, simple lives, these visions of the slums clothed in dignity, never to me mere slums but the habitations of a people who were rich in spirit and effort.”


Myers, Jerome. Artist in Manhattan. New York City, NY: American artists group, inc., 1940. Print.

The museum offers special thanks to the late Helen Farr Sloan, widow of artist John Sloan; attorney Jerome K. Grossman; Katherine Degn and Carole Pesner of the Kraushaar Galleries; and, Myers’ grandson, Barry Downes. Lenders to the exhibition include the Columbus Museum, Columbus, Georgia; Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington; the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia, Athens; Arkansas Art Center, in Little Rock; and collector Samuel Rosenfeld.

Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art is a charitable nonprofit organization that enhances life-long learning and community enrichment. 

The Tipton Trio Will Bring Jazz to A Little Lunch Music

By | Building Community, Music, Performances | No Comments

On Thursday, April 10, from noon to 1:00 PM, The Tipton Trio will perform in the museum’s auditorium. This jazz group from Columbus is made up of Donald Tipton on piano, Eric Buchanan on drums and Tim Ferguson on saxophone. The performance is being co-sponsored in part by Connie and Robert DuPriest and Yvonne Kozlowski.

Donald_Tipton_EDITFor twenty years, Donald Tipton made his living as an underwater photographer, and has even published a coffee-table book calledUpon the Face of the Waters. Though still earning a living as a photographer and videographer, recently he has started to pursue playing jazz piano professionally.

“Jazz had always been my kind of back-pocket passion,” said Tipton, who graduated from Columbus College–before it became Columbus State University–with a music degree. In 2007, he renewed his passion to play, studying with then head of CSU’s jazz program Shirantha Beddage (pronounced something like “BED-uh-gay”) and his eventual successor, Alexander Pershounin.

Tipton said that as his playing developed, the jazz community in Columbus, Georgia, embraced him. He got involved in its Columbus Jazz Society, and in 2011 began collaborating with Buddy Nelms, owner of local restaurant and music venue The Loft, to bring weekly jazz into the community.

“Jazz musicians really didn’t have a lot of good places to play,” said Tipton. Now, two-and-a-half years after the first two-month trial, the location continues to host a successful Friday-night jazz event.

Playing with Tipton on Thursday will be saxophonist and composer Tim Ferguson. Ferguson is originally from Atlanta and will begin studying at CSU in the fall. “He is a very, very gifted musician,” said Tipton.

Eric Buchanan will play drums. Buchanan grew up in New York City where he became familiar with the jazz masters who played in the clubs every night. He has performed around the world as a professional drummer, and recently has returned to Columbus to be with his family. “He is really one of the most creative percussionists I’ve ever worked with,” said Tipton.

A musician himself, Patrick McCurry coordinates A Little Lunch Music and occasionally performs for it and the museum’s Thursday evening jazz group Cullars Improvisational Rotation. He blogs about the arts in our community.

A Little Lunch Music to Feature the AU Chamber Choir and Solo Piano Music by Ravel

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AUchoir2012fall-2On Thursday, April 3, from noon to 1:00 PM, the Auburn University Chamber Choir will return to share a program with pianist Hunter Hayes. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Auburn University is sponsoring the free concert. This is a member-led, member-driven organization for senior adults, 50 years and older. It offers courses that allow its members to learn, have fun, and socialize. For more about OLLI at Auburn visit or call 844-3105.

We love our performances in the Grand Gallery. The room’s design is regal, the view out over the pond is reflective, and the daylight pouring in through the windows makes us healthier. On Thursday, as sometimes happens, even the cathedralesque acoustics will elevate the experience, as the Auburn University Chamber Choir, directed by Dr. William Powell, will return.

HunterHayesSharing the program with the choir will be Auburn senior pianist Hunter Hayes. He has performed twice before for the series, and has written about the piece he will play. I’ve included that below.

Ravel’s Tombeau in Response to War

When Maurice Ravel began composing Le Tombeau de Couperin in 1914, World War I was just beginning. He could not have known he would end up dedicating each movement of his suite to friends who would perish while fighting in The Great War.

A tombeau was a popular musical form in the 17th century and it literally means “a piece written in memorial”. Although there were several famous musicians that bore the name Couperin in music history, Ravel dedicated this tombeau to Francois Couperin, a French Baroque composer affectionately known as “the Great”. Ravel would later say that this piece is not so much a tribute to Couperin as it is a tribute to the genre of the Baroque French keyboard suite.

When the piece was published in 1917, many criticized it as being irreverent, since the pieces are not as heavy as most works that commemorate the dead. Several of Ravel’s contemporaries, like Russia’s Sergei Prokofiev, were creating works that depicted the ugliness of war and were far from delicate. Nonetheless, when Ravel was asked why he chose to make Le Tombeau de Couperin lighthearted, he retorted “The dead are sad enough, in their eternal silence.”

It was an immediate connection for me with this work. I began studying it in Vienna, and the first movement always brings me back to the warm summer days I would leave my practice room to stroll down the same streets Mozart, Beethoven, and other music greats walked. The entire work is extremely colorful. I think that, to me, it is more a celebration of life than a reflection of death.

A musician himself, Patrick McCurry coordinates A Little Lunch Music and occasionally performs for the series and frequently with Cullars Improvisational Rotation Thursdays at the museum from 6 to 8 pm. He blogs about the arts in our community.

Korean Violinist and Cellist Reunited for A Little Lunch Music as Duo Amico

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On Thursday, March 27, from noon to 1:00 p.m. in the Martin-Perricone Auditorium, A Little Lunch Music will present Duo Amico, made up of violinist Kay Lee and cellist Sylvia Kang. Both are originally from Korea, are conservatory-trained, and have recently relocated to Auburn. The free concert will feature music by Zoltan Kodaly, Joseph Haydn, Jules Massenet, Enrique Granados and more. The performance is being sponsored by anonymous friends of the series.

Duo-Amico_WEBViolinist Kyungha Kay Lee and cellist Seung Hee Sylvia Kang live in Auburn, Alabama, and have formed a classical string duo together called Duo Amico. This is very possibly one of the most unlikely things ever to have happened to either one of them, and one of the most fortunate things to have happened to us locals.

Let’s go backwards along the timeline. Kay moved to Auburn from California in 2013 after her husband took a position with the Auburn University vet school. He’s a veterinary cardiologist. Before moving here, she had been performing as, among other things, concertmaster for the Auburn Symphony Orchestra in Auburn, California. I know, right?!

So Sylvia moved to our area from New York in 2012, when her husband took an accounting job in Alex City. She knew Kay, and noticed on Facebook that Kay was concertmaster with an orchestra in a town named Auburn. So Sylvia contacted her, only to find out that Kay had no connection with Auburn, Alabama, or at least not yet. Only months later, Kay’s husband was offered that job at the vet school.

Ok, I said that Sylvia knew Kay, but that’s not the whole story. They both have been competition prizewinners and international performers, but not together. They both have studied in prestigious music schools in the United States, but not at the same ones.

But in Korea, when they were children, both Kay and Sylvia were class of 1998 graduates from the Seoul Arts High School, and before that attended Yewon Middle School, one of the country’s top arts magnet schools.

Now, the currents of fate have brought them here, and Thursday at the museum will be the premiere performance of Duo Amico. Amico is Italian for “friend.”

From Classmates and Friends to Collaborators and Leaders

Kay and Sylvia have arrived here from communities, American communities, where public-schools have well-established string programs. Here, where football is king and marching band the court minstrel, we have none in the public schools.

In addition to being friends, the duo may find themselves in a leadership role, bringing our children new, though ironically centuries-old, ways to express themselves artistically. They even mentioned ideas for a music festival. Yay!

Both Kay and Sylvia come from families of classical musicians. In 2007, Eleonore Schoenfeld, Sylvia’s cello teacher at the University of Southern California, passed away. Eleonore famously performed with her sister, violinist Alice Schoenfeld, and had sent her a CD of duos by the two.

Duo Amico will perform two pieces from that recording, Zoltan Kodaly’s Duo Op. 7 for Violin and Violoncello and Joseph Haydn’s Duet in D major for Violin and Cello. They will perform the pieces in memory of Eleonore.

In addition, Thursday’s program will feature music by Enrique Granados, Angel G. Villoldo, Johann Pachelbel, Franz Schubert, Jules Massenet (Meditiation from Thais), and the Johan Halvorsen/George Frideric Handel Passacaglia Duo for Violin and Cello.

A musician himself, Patrick McCurry coordinates A Little Lunch Music and occasionally performs for the series and with the museum’s Thursday evening jazz group, Cullars Improvisational Rotation. He blogs about the arts in our community.

Auburn Students Bring Saxophone Quartet Music to A Little Lunch Music

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On Thursday, March 20, from noon to 1:00 p.m. A Little Lunch Music will present the Nova Quartet, the Tiger Quartet and the Eagle Quartet. The groups are part of Auburn University’s saxophone studio led by Dr. Michael Pendowski. They will perform music by Scott Joplin, George Gershwin, David Maslanka, Eugène Bozza, and Bernard Heiden. One piece will feature timpanist Andrew Sykes. The concert, free to the public, is being sponsored by Richard & Mary Millman.

Thursday will be soprano saxophonist Sarah O’Keefe’s third performance for A Little Lunch Music. In 2011, she performed with the Auburn University Music Department’s sax quartet, put together by then saxophone instructor Russell Haight (rhymes with “Nate”). I’m pretty sure that he was Auburn’s first full-time saxophone teacher in over a decade.

Paige Lenssen and Orie Cecil played in that quartet, and they are returning to the series as well, in their own groups. In 2012, Dr. Michael Pendowski took over the sax studio. Now Auburn can field three saxophone quartets. As a saxophonist, I am thrilled.

The genre has grown in popularity over the years, and is now a staple in college music programs around the world. Professional groups are touring, winning competitions, and commissioning new works. It’s officially legit. I once even heard a national broadcast of a clarinet group doing a transcription of sax quartet music.

The saxophone being a relatively new instrument, transcriptions almost always go in the other direction.

sax4tet_EagleQuartet_2013spr_EDITFor instance, O’Keefe’s group, the Eagle Quartet, will play a transcription of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, originally written for jazz band with solo piano. The piece is now famously known for its orchestral version that begins with a lilting clarinet solo and a long ascending glissando.

“It has a lot of ebb and flow,” said O’Keefe, referring to the frequent tempo changes. She said the synchronizations require a very high level of focused listening and working together.

O’Keefe is a senior studying zoology, but she came to Auburn in part on a music scholarship. “This is such an alternate universe to COSAM,” she said, referring to the style of work in the College of Sciences and Mathematics. She enjoys the different kind of reward that music, especially small-group (or “chamber”) music, offers.

sax4tet_NovaQuartet_2014spr_EDITLennsen, a tenor saxophonist primarily studies finance and writing, but said she returns to the music, “just because I love to play.” Her group, the Nova Quartet, will perform Bernhard Heiden’s Four Movements. Heiden (not Haydn, but pronounced the same) was also a twentieth-century composer, but his music is very different from Gershwin’s.

“Last semester, we focused on romantic, sort of easy-on-the-ears pieces,” said Lenssen. But she said that the Heiden is more challenging, and more difficult rhythmically. It adds another level of intricacy by featuring a timpani part, played by percussionist Andrew Sykes.

A senior, Lenssen joins freshmen and sophomores in her group. “We have some great younger talent,” she said.

sax4tet_TigerQuartet_2013spr_EDITOther pieces on the program will be four movements of still-living composer David Maslanka’s Mountain Roads, twentieth-century composer Eugène Bozza’s Nuages, three Gershwin preludes, and Ragtime Suite arranged by Arthur Frackenpohl that includes music composed by Scott Joplin and others.

Pictured top to bottom: the Eagle Quartet, the Nova Quartet, and the Tiger Quartet. 

A musician himself, Patrick McCurry coordinates A Little Lunch Music and occasionally performs for it. He blogs about the arts in our community.

A Little Lunch Music: Can Journalism for Truckers Inform Opera Singing?

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On March 6 from noon to 1:00 p.m., A Little Lunch Music welcomes Kathleen Buccleugh with pianist Laurelie Gheesling. Ms. Buccleugh is an Auburn High School alumna now building her career as a professional soprano. They will perform music by Eric Whitacre, Libby Larsen, Joaquin Rodrigo, Claude Debussy, Vincenzo Righini, and more. The free concert is being co-sponsored by Mary Jo Howard and  anonymous friends of the series. 

“I don’t generally talk about trucking when I’m presenting myself as a soprano,” said Kathleen Buccleugh, performing this Thursday for A Little Lunch Music. I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb to say that this would be a true statement for just about every classical musician in the world. However, with Buccleugh, and it’s pronounced like “Buckley,” the comment is relevant to her life.

While at Auburn High School, Buccleugh studied journalism with John Pennisi and loved it. She enrolled at the University of Alabama to study music and began writing for the school paper, The Crimson White. This was the beginning of a journalism career that led to a job writing for Truckers News, Commercial Carrier Journal andOverdrive, all trucking-industry magazines.

If you Google “Buccleugh,” you’ll find both trucking and singing hits. When we started talking about booking her for the series, I poked around online. True to form for the stereotypical close-minded art-music enthusiast, I was more inclined to believe that two people could have her particularly ancient Scottish name than that one person’s life could touch both worlds. Then I read her bio.

In some ways, it is as you might think. In the classical world, trucking is unfamiliar, and usually not immediately relevant. And she’s a journalist, so the fact that she’s a classical soprano, or anything personal for that matter, doesn’t come up when she’s interviewing truckers. Incidentally, she also writes for the magazine,Classical Singer.

But her journalism colleagues have supported her blossoming artistic career. They encourage her in her music, attend her performances, and give her the flexibility to be able to travel when there’s an opportunity to sing.

For instance, Buccleugh just returned from a trip to Texas where in two days she performed five concerts featuring the music of composer Eric Genuis. “He’s very passionate,” she said, adding about his music, “It’s very meaningful, all of it.”

Buccleugh said journalism skills have helped her music career. “I learn a lot about how to market myself as a soprano from journalism,” she said. Being able to write well gives an artist a tremendous advantage in an extremely competitive market.

Among others, Thursday’s concert will feature music by still-living American composers Libby Larsen and Eric Whitacre. Whitacre’s music has been sung for us before. The AU Chamber Choir has beautifully performed his song “Water Night,” and the piece A Boy and a Girl. Buccleugh will sing his Five Hebrew Love Songs. She said that Whitacre’s wife, Hila Plitmann, a Grammy-winning soprano herself, wrote the poetry for the piece to teach Whitacre some simple phrases in Hebrew. “The poetry is very pretty,” said Buccleugh.

Pianist Laurelie Gheesling will join Buccleugh for the performance. Gheesling is AU piano faculty and has performed for A Little Lunch Music audiences before. There is talk of Gheesling or a guest pianist doing some solo Haydn. You’ll have to come to the concert to find out.

A musician himself, Patrick McCurry coordinates A Little Lunch Music and occasionally performs for it. He blogs about the arts in our community.

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