An orchestral rehearsal with Larry Livingston is a remarkable experience for young musicians at the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program. Students quickly see and experience his passion, fire and deep love of music through his committed and engaging approach. For nearly 25 summers, Larry has brought together musicians, created an orchestra and accomplished it in two weeks.
This year’s Symphony Orchestra is set to perform Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, the Russian Easter Overture by Rimsky-Korsakov and Wagner’s Rienzi Overture. The performance is tomorrow- Saturday, August 4th at 4:00 pm in the Idyllwild Arts Foundation Theatre in Bowman Hall.
Q. What brought you to Idyllwild Arts in the first place?
A. My car did… actually in 1989, I was Dean of USC and met with Steve Fraider and Bill Lowman. They talked about the high school for the arts they had founded and wanted to reacquire the glory days of the past for the Summer Program. Bill & Steve wanted to upgrade and have a youth orchestra as a central element of the program. They had seen me doing the California Honor Orchestra and knew that I had done youth orchestras as part of my career. They asked if I would be willing to do this. I stressed that it be a high quality program based upon students working at a high level. From that discussion we agreed to give it a shot.
As a result, I’ve been here for nearly a quarter of a century. The program changed from high school to collegiate and back to high school. The collegiate level orchestra was really terrific but the leadership felt that it was important to focus on high school students and that’s what the program has been for the last three years.
Q. What’s your personal philosophy about music?
A. Music is a sacred gift to humankind. Just rehearsing is a blessing of immense value to all. Without music an individual cannot be human.
I’m convinced that people are hardwired for music at birth. Not everyone loves the same kind but they all do love music.
Additionally, the world is deluged by speed. Doing great music takes time, long arcs of time, which completes the human experience. We have a lot of technical devices now. Orchestral music allows students to be engaged in a musical adventure. They’re all drawn in to the experience that is unavailable elsewhere. In an orchestra it’s all acoustical instruments but it competes for that moment with the most modern, electronic driven technology.
Q. What’s your philosophy towards creating a memorable experience for the students?
A. I think the challenge is you have a bunch of strangers. You have to make a family. I believe that you have to know the music but it’s about how the music as a vehicle helps them to connect to the music. I want to learn their names and model for them adults who are able to not hide but be vulnerable, free, and engaging. Hopefully they will see that and find something speaks to them the way music speaks to me.
Many of our students will go on to other careers but I’m hoping that the IAA experience will inspire them to carry on a life in music as well. Whether they become architects, go into medicine or become bricklayers, I want them to feel passion for music. It has to be something that they can’t wait to do. Work is play and play is work. I want them to have a lifetime of adventures. Have them see a nearly 70 year-old person who is still alive and passionate for music. I want them to be the best person they can be.
I want them as individuals to relish and seek out differences. Find new ways to grow by seeking out difference. Those are the moments that catapult an individual further.
Q. How do you pull together an orchestral work in two weeks?
A. We have wonderful coaches. They do the grassroots work. It’s very purposeful. Drilling down in a short period time. Summer is a learning curve. I try to create an orchestra from the podium with students who have their eyes and ears open and want to engage.
Q. What makes you come back every year to conduct at Idyllwild Arts?
A. It’s renewing being around young people plus I love music and teaching. I continue to get responses from students that I’m making a difference. If you can be a contributor to that it’s very rewarding. Also I’m invited back each year. I really admire what Idyllwild Arts stands for. I love the people at Idyllwild Arts. Over my time here my boss, Steve Fraider, has been incredibly devoted to our mission. He wants me to do what I do and he works tirelessly to make that happen.
Plus Idyllwild is beautiful and is a very special place.
Take a seat, grab a cup of tea, and spend a few golden moments with Jazz icon Marshall Hawkins. Marshall has taught Jazz at Idyllwild Arts, in the Academy and Summer Jazz Programs, for 26 years. He also helped start the Idyllwild Jazz in the Pines event 18 years ago. Carrying on the tradition of excellence just as Idyllwild Arts Jazz alumni have done for many years, his current students are seeing great success. They recently placed first in the AAAA High School Combo competition at the Reno Jazz Festival.
The interview begins:
Many times, your students refer to you as their mentor; an amazing teacher. What have you learned from the students of Idyllwild Arts? First, no one shoe fits all. I try to be cognizant of knowing the student in the deepest way possible. The key is, if you listen, the student will tell you what is needed.
Q. What makes your teaching style so successful?
A. Students come with the passion but they are not always aware of the avenues to figure out things for themselves. I am a disciplinarian when it comes to social issues but with music, I give every freedom. What I really love about a new student at Idyllwild Arts is that I have the necessary time to give one on one instruction. Eventually, they get to the level where they can integrate with the experienced students who then become their teachers. At first, they are afraid of hitting the wrong note. This inspires them to study; figure things out. Art is trial and error. I delegate, choose leaders and assignments but the students choose the songs. They spend their own time putting together the songs and then I shape it. Eventually, every student takes the audience on a journey with their music. There is transference of energy from the artist to the audience and vice versa. This is the same with love.
Q. What do you remember about being at American Idol when Casey Abrams was on stage?
A. First thing is that Casey is a natural talent. He has walked into my classroom with practically every instrument you can think of, including a sousaphone. His attitude is “off the charts” great. At Idol, I remember the only thing that mattered was the moment. All energy was focused on uplifting Casey. I remained quiet but was conscious of being spiritually connected with everyone in the room. It was Casey, it was the world, it was Jazz. I know that many people in the room felt it. Steven Tyler gave me a silent salute; across the room, I nodded back.
Q. What distinguishes Idyllwild Arts musicians from others?
A. Our musicians tend to be selfless like Casey ‘09, for example, or Daniel Sazer-Krebbers ’02. They set their sights on the grand prize called MUSIC. Others are Evan Christopher ’87, one of the four top clarinet players in the world; Sam Karam ‘91, first 5-year student at Idyllwild arts Academy and later attended Juilliard; Jason Jackson ’89 a two-time Grammy Award winner and fantastic trombone player; and Vesselin Gellev ‘95 an accomplished violinist and pianist. Then there are Graham Dechter ‘04, Nora Germain ‘09, Michael Barnett ‘05, Jacob Scesney ’11, and Caleb Hensinger ‘11. They are all good examples of musicians living a selfless life in the spirit of love.
Q. What is your current favorite song?
A.I love many genres but for most of my life I have been working on the song, “All the Things You Are”. This song made Jazz popular. It’s an old standard adapted and changed into Jazz. Standards are unique as they relate to several generations at one time. The song is complex but beautiful. I have been working on it, off and on, for about 48 years; as long as I have been playing bass.
Q. Who is your favorite Jazz musician?
A. I have a few favorite musicians; first is Ahmad Jamal, one of the great Zen masters of jazz piano and the second is Miles Davis. It was Miles’ rendition of Porgy and Bess that first inspired me. Later John Coltrane and, last but not least, Shirley Horn. Shirley groomed me to be the musician I am today. She is well respected from across the planet; a musician’s musician. She taught me how to persevere, to understand the lifestyle, to be truthful to my emotions and use absolute sensitivity.
Q. Who is Marshall Hawkins?
A. He’s adventuresome. Marshall has toured throughout the US and world. He loves to fish in the wilds of Alaska, Gulf of Mexico, and Chesapeake Bay.
He’s humorous. “Without music, the world would Bb” is one of his favorite quotes.
He’s a professional. Marshall has been a bassist and professional Jazz performer since 1964. He has performed with pros like Miles Davis, Shirley Horn, Roberta Flack, Richie Cole and Eddie Jefferson to name a few.
He’s an ambassador. His efforts help raise thousands for Idyllwild Arts Foundation students, and other educational programs about Jazz music for elementary and secondary school students. Marshall was selected by the Goethe Institute of Los Angeles as the only American musician in attendance at the conference to represent the United States, Idyllwild Jazz in the Pines, and the Idyllwild Arts Foundation.
He’s a teacher. John Newman, Dean of Students and fellow tennis player, says, “Marshall understands how to teach young people about music and how to teach them about life. He knows a lot about the importance of art in education and the vital interconnectedness of art to our lives. Most of all, he is a lovely and caring human being, someone who gives selflessly of himself to help make others’ lives more special.”
After a year of exciting shows, Parks Exhibition Center closed with “The End of the Year Show”. The exhibition showcased some of the great projects, works and installations by students of the Visual Art Department.
Parks Exhibition manager Mallory Cremin said “a couple projects really stand out. Jessica Cheng wanted to try an installation which expanded the illusion of broken space she was trying to evoke in her painting. She transformed the gallery corner with black tape, and occasional boards, to make the space look alternately empty and coming out.
Another exceptional student project was the 13 foot long drawing of an imaginary space by Sofia Villena-Araya. The graphite drawing took dozens if not hundreds of hours to create.”
The past year at Parks included two visiting artist shows – Kim Abeles & an Alumni Visual Art Show. In the fall, highlights from the career of Kim Abeles were featured in the gallery space. Included in the exhibit were the Smog Collector Series, the Thunder of Waters video wall, Paper Person and Frankenstein’s Heart. The last project was expanded in a workshop with the students, where they examined their own identity, creating individual “records” and combining parts of these into a group “heart”. The workshop was funded by an AEL Grant, giving the students an opportunity for closer dialogue with an established successful Los Angeles artist.
At the beginning of the Spring Semester Parks’ manager Mallory Cremin curated and hosted an exhibition of Visual Art by Idyllwild Arts Alumni. Participating artists ranged from Shepard Fairey ‘88, who exhibited an example of the Obama HOPE poster and other assorted works, a painting by Monica Lundy ‘91, iron sculpture by Hawkeye Glenn ‘87 and works by many other alumni. The exhibition received regional and local media coverage and the school was honored to have Shepard speak. Shepard gave a powerpoint presentation to the community about his experience as a student at Idyllwild Arts and how a field trip he took as a student inspired the entire “OBEY” campaign.
In addition to these shows the Exhibition Center held a faculty show, student theme show, a junior show, and a series of senior shows in the spring. Congratulations to all of the Visual Art students and their fabulous faculty.
In an innovative approach, ESL faculty member, Nick P. Cooper ,engaged his Advanced ESL Grammar/Composition class. Nick received the course outline and realized that he wanted to take the course in a new direction. The students had some proficiency in speaking and writing English and some had even been in Nick’s classes the year before. Nick said, “I don’t believe that you learn a new language from a book. It doesn’t work that way. It needs to be relevant to a teenager. I wanted them to have to speak. When I was in high school, I loved speech and debate. I discovered that there was an ESL International Toastmasters series of speeches and I thought the students would benefit from completing the program.” That was the inspiration for Nick to inspire his students.
As part of the Toastmasters series, each week, Nick showed jis students the next step in becoming proficient orators, giving them a new speech topic and a new set of guidelines from which to build on. The students learned to research a topic, prepare an outline, and went through a three-step revision process, including peer-revision before they had a final academic essay. Then began the process of delivering the information to an audience of their peers in an engaging way.
Nick worked with the students to develop critical thinking and they learned to defend their statements. He worked hard in developing their writing talents. Each class started with writing for 600 seconds. Nick said, “600 seconds is much more fun than saying you have to write for the first ten minutes of class and, under this guise, students wrote without being overwhelmed.” He created a “Journal Jar” where the first student in the classroom each day could draw one of 500 writing prompts and write it on the board. The class then followed the “five critical thinking prompts” Nick taught them to write their essays each day. “It became a game for the students to see who could arrive earliest to put the prompt on the board and this tool truly engaged the students”, said Nick. With this writing in hand, students learned to speak with greater ease and approach the argument in a more dynamic way. Students actively responded to each discussion and began to argue and debate naturally.
Below is clip of their recent debate final:
Nick recognized their natural interests and asked the class whether they wanted to learn to debate formally. He showed them the formal process of how a debate works and they started from there. Eventually, the class had their own debate tournament with students using note cards full of their own research to support their arguments. “It was exhilarating to see these international students research, write, and then use logic to argue in a language that was not their own.”
Leo Rodriguez, a freshman theatre major from Mexico, said “I learned so much from this class and it really has helped me out as an actor. Nick’s class gave us confidence. As an International student I was nervous and worried about not being accepted or succeeding – in both my art and academics. It was really cool because it wasn’t a normal class. All of the projects were different. It was more fun and we were interested in learning for ourselves. It wasn’t the teacher standing in front of the board. We had responsibility to engage with the class.”
Nick said, “they’ve made huge and exciting improvements as English speakers. They built self-confidence and all completed the class and the International Toastmasters series quite successfully. I wanted to provide a platform for them to find their voice and share their thoughts, teaching them that everything they had to say had value. These students all wanted to learn and I’m happy to have created a class where that was possible.”
by Isaac Dwyer ’13
Over the past semester, I had the wonderful opportunity to be a journalism internship at the local newspaper here in Idyllwild, the Idyllwild Town Crier. When I first was offered the position, I was a bit hesitant, but took it anyway – and I am not even slightly regretful for doing that. Twice a week, I would go into the newspaper’s office and be handed a stack of things to do, whether it be interviewing town residents, digging through the Town Crier’s archives for old news articles, or designing info-graphic layouts. Throughout the semester, I worked on a narrative article about Idyllwild Arts’ recent efforts in sustainability and environmentalism, wherein I conducted a series of interviews with the schools historian and a myriad of teachers and administrators. The article was later published in the Town Crier.
The experience was fantastic, filled with enjoyable adventures (as well as misadventures), and supportive and good-natured mentors that were always there when I needed them.
by Lissa Claussen
A typical year in Maddie Marlow’s young life meant moving to another town. She found herself in the public schools of Ashland, Oregon her freshman year. It was her unhappiness there that compelled her to seek change. She was depressed, her personal life had its challenges and she hated school for its lack of art instruction. She found Idyllwild Arts on the Internet; it appeared to be the perfect fit. The first year she applied there was not enough financial aid. She persevered and the second year all was in place. Maddie came to Idyllwild Arts Academy and her life took a 180 degree turn.
Maddie started in the Creative Writing department and has a love for physics; however, her true passion is dancing. She knew that if she got the opportunity to be in the dance department she would have to work. Work hard she did. Maddie became so successful she landed the title role in the ballet Cinderella. She was president of the senior class, president of the National Honors Society, writing tutor, Admission’s tour guide, and prefect in Husch Dormitory. In addition to her dance performances on campus, she was one of three students who performed 13 shows of Nutcracker with the Claremont Pacific Inland Ballet. This year, Maddie graduates from Idyllwild Arts and will be honored with the MacNeal Award. This coveted award is presented to a graduating senior who exemplifies artistic excellence, academic prowess, personal maturity and responsibility. She proved to herself that with passion and the right work ethic she could reach her goals and excel beyond.
Maddie plans to spend a gap year in Los Angeles and will teach dance to young students. The following year she plans to attend college on the east coast. She will pursue business, economics and non-profit management. This summer she will be in Denver for ballet training.
Several of her friends and teachers have commented on the huge contribution she has made to Idyllwild Arts. IAA President, Brian Cohen, said this about Maddie: “As a student leader at Idyllwild Arts, Maddie is without peer. Her leadership, involvement, and dedication are evident in her contributions as President of the IAA chapter of National Honor Society, her leadership of a student trip to Oxnard (California) for Habitat for Humanity that she initiated and planned, her organizing a Roatan (Honduras) school fundraising project, her work as a writing tutor, and her role as a dormitory prefect. In every endeavor Maddie is unfailingly mature, dependable, organized, kindhearted, and enthusiastic”.
She doesn’t feel that way at all; instead, she feels she has not done enough. She is driven to find any way possible to give back. She leaves with the desire to go out into the world and share her passion with others.
Tiffany Christensen, a senior Music major cellist from Temecula, California, is Valedictorian for the Idyllwild Arts Academy Class of 2012. Tiffany remarked that she was “actually very surprised” that she was named Valedictorian. “I took Honors classes because I felt that they would be more interesting and challenging.”
Coming to Idyllwild Arts Academy was an opportunity for her to combine her music and schooling. As for most families they spend their life taking their student from school to lessons or arts classes. Idyllwild Arts families benefit from having one place where their student can do both, academics and arts. Tiffany said that she “was able to focus on these two aspects of my life in a way that I was unable to at public school. I was able to put a focus on what I felt was most important–that was definitely one of the things i loved best about being here.
Time management is always a concern for students and a skill that many Idyllwild Arts alumni state was one of their biggest lessons. Before coming to Idyllwild Tiffany asked a former student how they had managed to get everything done. They told her they “prioritized it, putting their music first, school second.” Tiffany didn’t want to have to make a ‘choice’ between them, and so she organized herself based on time – doing academic work in the dorm, but practicing the cello during the day, “whether it was in between classes, or before curfew”.
Ryan Zwahlen, Music Department Chair, commented that “Tiffany has been a strong and dedicated musician and leader at Idyllwild Arts. Not only has she performed on numerous chamber and orchestral concerts at IAA, but also concerts around town and at the Idyllwild School.”
Tiffany’s plans for college are still undetermined. She’s still waiting to hear on a “few details” but UC Berkeley or NYU are two possibilities.