I Want To Live In A Way That My Love Speaks Louder Than My Hurts - 10 Questions with Polymath Al Letson
In the spring of 2007, on the soundstage at Austin City Limits, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) launched an initiative titled Public Radio Talent Quest. The objective of the initiative was to identify a new generation of public radio "on-air" talent. The talent quest was designed as a competition between Public Radio Exchange (PRX) and Launch, with each entity responsible for recruiting three original and compelling voices and then working to develop pilot programs for presentation to CPB. Jacksonville Native Al Letson was one of approximately 1,400 hopeful contestants to enter the competition.
In July 2008, Letson and Glynn Washington were named as the winners of the competition. Letson, who had cut his teeth as a poetry-slam veteran, writer, and educator in Northeast Florida, received $200,000 to refine and further develop his pilot program, State of the Re: Union (SotRU), an hour-long program whose stated mission was to "show listeners how we are more alike than we are different and the many ways our differences are celebrated."
In 2014, State of the Re:Union and WJCT were honored with a Peabody Award, an annual award that was first given out in 1941 as a way of honoring the most powerful, enlightening, and invigorating stories in television, radio, and online media. SotRU was recognized for its grassroots reporting while also holding itself to high standards of quality and value.
Early Education is a Responsibility Shared Equally Between Teachers and Parents - 10 Questions with Lucy Chen, Pianist and Chair of the Music Department at Edward Waters College
Dr. Lucy Chen migrated from China to North America with her parents when she was seven years old and her family settled in Canada. Chen had a natural love for music as a child and she was drawn to classical, pop, and jazz. It was out of this love of music that a young Chen began taking piano lessons at the encouragement of her mother.
Chen's parents took her schooling very seriously. They viewed music as an important academic subject and because of that, her musical pursuits were not that of a hobbyist. During her adolescent years, Chen spent four-hours each day practicing. She dreaded the long hours of practice but remained dedicated to her development as a musician. It wasn't long before Chen's music teacher asked her to take part in piano competitions. Having access to the arts at an early age set the trajectory for Chen's adult life.
10 Questions with Celia Frank, Managing Artistic Director of Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre (ABET).
In 1993, Carson Merry Baillie approached Atlantic Beach officials with a proposition. It was her desire to stage live theatre productions inside the seaside community's former City Hall building, which in 1991 had been converted into the Adele Grade Community Center. City officials granted Merry Baillie her request and, with the help of three of her drama workshop graduates, Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre (ABET) was founded.
Merry Baillie wrangled a group of volunteers who quickly started investing sweat equity into the company. Together, the group transformed the space into a working community theatre equipped with a stage and risers. Merry Baillie opened the doors of ABET with the purpose of testing the perceptions and assumptions of audiences in Northeast Florida by introducing them to new, exciting, and original plays and musicals. Merry Baillie led from the helm of the company for 13 years and during that time ABET gained a reputation for producing local productions showcasing the work of emerging playwrights, while also creating a space for Broadway productions, revivals, and classics.
Celia Frank joined ABET as the Managing Artistic Director in 2007. Frank has built a career of working in community theatres and with both regional and touring professional companies. Prior to moving to Atlantic Beach, Frank lived in Atlanta, where she worked for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the major daily newspaper for the Atlanta metropolitan area, in the features department. Upon moving to Atlantic Beach, Frank immersed herself in Greater Jacksonville's arts and cultural sector as a Director, which she continued to do for several years before joining ABET as the sole member of their staff.
There is an age-old adage used to warn the young about the dangers of being overly inquisitive or experimental. The earliest known printed reference to the saying appeared in 1873, in James Allan Mair's A Handbook of Proverbs: English, Scottish, Irish, American, Shakespearean, and Scriptural; and Family Mottoes. It was listed as an Irish proverb and believed to have developed from words written by British playwright Ben Jonson in 1598. That saying is, "curiosity killed the cat."
Keith Marks doesn't believe that curiosity is a dirty word. In fact, he believes that it is a character trait that should be both celebrated and nurtured. This is what led him to co-found Avant Arts, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that explores the arts outside of genre and expectation in an attempt to create a more adventurous community of art appreciators. Fostering curiosity and rewarding it when found is woven into the culture of Avant Arts and serves as a guiding principle for Marks and his co-founding partners.
Marks and audio engineer Moe Ricks recently launched Avant Radio, with the tagline "Curious Music for Curious Minds." The weekly radio program is featured on the airwaves of WJCT 89.9 FM and airs on Thursday nights at 11:00 PM. Shows are themed, curated, sequenced, and then contextualized with the aim of educating and exposing people to new music, cultures, and ways of thinking as it relates to musical tastes. Recaps of the program and selected playlists can be found on Avant's blog.
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