Keuka College’s 2015-16 Spotlight Series continues Thursday, Oct. 8 with a poetry reading by Joan Murray.
The reading, free and open to the public, begins at 7 p.m. in Hegeman Hall room 109.
A repeat guest on NPR’s Morning Edition, Murray is a poet, writer, and playwright, whose books include Swimming for the Ark: New & Selected Poems 1990-2015, Looking for the Parade, Dancing on the Edge, Queen of the Mist, and The Same Water.
She has contributed poetry, fiction, and essays to such journals as The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, The Nation, The New York Times, the Paris Review, Poetry, the Sun, the Village Voice, and anthologies including The Best American Poetry and The Pushcart Prize.
Murray is a National Poetry Series Winner, a two-time National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship Winner, a Wesleyan New Poets Series Winner, and Winner of Poetry Society of America’s Gordon Barber Award.
The editor of The Pushcart Book of Poetry and the Poems to Live By anthologies, Murray was commissioned by Broadway’s Jujamcyn Theatres, and invited by L.A.’s Mark Taper Forum, to develop Queen of the Mist for the stage. Murray has served as poet-in-residence at the New York State Writers Institute, and has given readings and workshops at myriad universities and cultural centers, including the Chautauqua Institution, the International Poetry Forum, and the Lark Theatre in Manhattan.
Keuka College’s 2015-16 Spotlight Series will begin Saturday, Sept. 26 with a concert by Nicholas Walker and Elizabeth Simkin.
The performance, free and open to the public, begins at 7 p.m. in Norton Chapel.
The concert will feature original music by Walker, which the duo has work-shopped into an hour-long, programmatic set. Their collaborative music partnership spans a decade, and includes duo recitals, chamber music, early music, contemporary music, and orchestral music.
Walker, double bassist and composer, and Simkin, who plays cello, both serve as associate professors of performance studies at Ithaca College.
Simkin earned a doctorate at Indiana University Bloomington, and prior to her position at Ithaca College, served on the faculty at such institutions as Earlham College and the Eastman School of Music. She has also served as a teaching assistant to Janos Starker, with whom she studies.
She has played with the Richmond Symphony Orchestra, Cayuga Chamber Orchestra, and the Buffalo Chamber Orchestra, among others. A fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center, Simkin serves as a U.S. artistic ambassador at international recitals.
Walker earned a doctoral degree at Stony Brook University, has toured with swing era saxophone legend Illinois Jacquet, played with jazz master Wynton Marsalis, and has worked closely with François Rabbath.
He has given solo bass recitals on four continents, and has performed at music festivals worldwide. An active chamber musician, he is a member of the multi-media ensemble Ardesco, and, along with Simkin, Ensemble X. Walker has performed with the Handel and Haydn Society Orchestra, the Oslo Philharmonic, and the National Arts Center Orchestra of Canada.
In 2013, the International Society of Bassists (ISB) commissioned his composition, Chorale, for its international solo competition. Walker has performed with the Cornell Chamber Orchestra, the Berlin Double Bass Festival, the Kaleidoskop Double Bass Festival in Germany, and the International Double Bass Festival in Beijing, China.
Prior to teaching at Ithaca College, Walker served on the faculty of the Stony Brook Pre-College Program, the Music Conservatory of Westchester, and Mansfield University.
Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art at Keuka College, has added to her growing portfolio of public and commissioned works, and can now boast the 2015 Fact Book cover for Yates County, distributed by the Chronicle-Express/Ad-Viser newspaper.
According to Gwen Chamberlain, editor of the Chronicle-Express, each year the newspaper tries to utilize the cover of the Fact Book to highlight an element of life in Yates County and this year the editorial team wanted to shine a light on the arts and Yates County artists. However, the publication was nearing deadline without a work to grace the cover.
Enter Karen Morris, the paper’s publisher, who knew Newcomb through previous work together on the Keuka Arts Festival steering committee. Morris mentioned a mixed media of Newcomb’s the committee had seen during the process of selecting art for the Festival’s annual poster. It just so happened Morris still had a copy of Newcomb’s work when she and Chamberlain met for another discussion on the Fact Book cover.
“It was really kind of magical how it all came together within a matter of minutes,” Chamberlain described.
It’s not the first major piece which Newcomb has had showcased to the public.
In 2011, the Marathon Engineering company in Rochester commissioned her for a 6-foot by 8-foot pen-and-ink mural of the Frederick Douglass – Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridge along the Genesee River on Route 490 in Rochester. The enormous work was completed in 2012 and is on display at the company’s offices.
In 2014, Newcomb was asked to illustrate several pages of a historic novel written by Timothy Munn of Shortsville, Newcomb’s hometown. Published by Lightning Press of New Jersey, the book came out in print in April 2014 and features both a cover designed by Newcomb as well as numerous line drawings throughout the chapters. The author commissioned Newcomb to illustrate historical retellings of the days when baseball and the railroad intersected at the historic Roundhouse (a railroad mechanism which moves engines via a circular turntable) in Shortsville. According to Newcomb, Round House 9 is the third book on shelves containing her drawings or photographs.
Munn previously commissioned her in 2004 for illustrations and in 2008 for photography on projects related to local history, published by the Ontario County Historical Society in Canandaigua.
According to Dr. Jennie Joiner, division chair of the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts and associate professor of English, commissioned works for an artist are the equal of publications or conference presentations in other academic disciplines.
“The goal of faculty is to be active in innovation—new ideas or new ways of seeing, being, or interacting with the world. Within the cover, Professor Newcomb created an artistic frame and visual representation of the beauty of Yates County, and she literally frames the landscape with artistic tools and other artifacts (the flowers, bottle, coffee mug) from the area. Thus, her artwork gives us a new way of seeing Yates County.
“Additionally, Professor Newcomb is modeling the way in which artists continually have to seek out and create opportunities to both showcase their work and create an audience for their art,” Joiner added. “Her work and active practice of her art further demonstrates to students the tangibility of the artistic process as a profession. She doesn’t just teach, she creates!”
Another potential commission may be in the works as officials at UR Medicine’s Thompson Health recently met with Newcomb to explore a possible commission for artwork to decorate select locations within its Canandaigua hospital. However, such a project is still in exploratory stages and nothing official has yet been decided.
For her part, Newcomb said she is excited when interest is taken in her personal art creations, and she is thrilled for new opportunities to share her art with others in the community.
“Commissions involving murals, or even publications open so many doors to networking with new people whom I may have not met otherwise. This allows for relationships to be built in different areas! Each opportunity happened because these people believed in me and supported my development as a professional artist.”
“With these opportunities, I’ve also been able to grow as an educator, since the variety of artistic practices enables me to bring a knowledge of skill sets to prepare students for the business side in a world hungry for art and design.”
“My advice to art students and graduates in the field is to use your creative thinking skills, be uncomfortable, and face your fears,” she said. ”If you can do that, then you can achieve anything.”
Keuka College’s Spotlight Series will continue Tuesday, April 7 with a poetry reading by Michael Jennings.
The reading, free and open to the public, begins at 7 p.m. in the Gannett Room of Lightner Library.
Jennings is the author of eight books of poetry, most recently River Time and Bone-Songs and Sanctuaries: New and Selected Poems.
Born in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Jennings grew up in east Texas and the deserts of Iran. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and was a Fellow in Creative Writing at Syracuse University. He is also an internationally recognized breeder and judge of Siberian Huskies and the author of three books on the breed that are recognized as definitive.
Jennings began writing poems as a way to recapture the Iranian landscape of his childhood and early youth, resulting in a chronicle of a soul’s interaction with the spirits of place, what he calls inner and outer weather.
“My poems are ritual soundings, in the ancient oral tradition, for the bones and colors of experience, which is to say, they are written to be heard—sound paintings, sounded-out stories, and sometimes songs,” said Jennings.
At age 19, Jennings visited the Picasso Retrospective in Paris and was intrigued by his different periods displayed in different rooms. Jennings believes various sections of Bone-Songs and Sanctuaries, are roughly equivalent to different “rooms,” not necessarily chronological but psychically ordered into a kind of plot or journey.
Said Jennings: “I have recorded this rather long work in large part because I believe that the sound in the air is essential to the authentic form of a poem, the ‘body’ that is breath and timing and the movement of the tongue.”
Keuka College’s Spotlight Series will continue Thursday, Nov. 6 with a poetry reading by Melissa Balmain.
The reading, free and open to the public, begins at 7 p.m. in the Gannett Room of Lightner Library.
Balmain, an adjunct instructor of English at the University of Rochester, earned her bachelor’s degree from Princeton University. A humorist and journalist, Balmain recently became editor of Light, the country’s oldest journal of light verse, which she helped revive and bring online after 20 years in print. Her subjects have ranged from popular culture to parenthood to cattle ranchers to collies that surf.
Her first full-length poetry collection, Walking in on People, is the winner of the 2013 Able Muse Book Award. Her collection was selected by final judge X.J. Kennedy, who has also been part of the College’s Spotlight Series.
In Walking in on People, the serious is lightened with a generous serving of wit and humor, and the lighthearted is enriched with abundant wisdom. Subjects range from the current and hip (Facebook posts, online dating, layoffs, retail therapy, cell-phone apps, trans fat), to the traditional and time-tested (marriage, child-rearing, love, death), and includes such forms as the villanelle, ballad, triolet, nonce, and the sonnet.
Balmain’s poems have been published in such anthologies as The Iron Book of New Humorous Verse and Killer Verse, and in American Arts Quarterly, Lighten Up Online, Measure, Mezzo Cammin, Poetry Daily, the Spectator (UK), and the Washington Post. Her prose has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, McSweeney’s, and Details, among others. She is a columnist for Success magazine and the author of a memoir, Just Us: Adventures of a Mother and Daughter.
Balmain has won national journalism honors and been a finalist for the Donald Justice Poetry Prize, the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award, and the X.J. Kennedy Parody Award.