AHA! A House for Arts

S6 E20 | FULL EPISODE

AHA! | 620

Check out the work of children's book illustrator and author, Elizabeth Zunon. Learn about the Luzerne Music Center summer music camp for young musicians from CEO and Artistic Director, Elizabeth Pitcairn. Take in a performance by In The Valley.

AIRED: November 18, 2020 | 0:27:59
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

- [Lara] Chat with children's book

illustrator, Elizabeth Zunon.

Learn about the Luzerne Music Center

with Elizabeth Pitcairn,

and catch a performance by In The Valley.

It's all ahead On this episode of AHA,

a house for arts.

- [Man] Funding for AHA has been provided

by your contribution

and by contributions to the WMHT venture fund.

Contributors include Chet and Karen Opalka,

Robert and Doris Fischer Malesardi,

the Alexander and Marjorie Hover Foundation,

and the Robison Family Foundation.

- At M and T bank,

we understand that the vitality of our communities

is crucial to our continued success.

That's why we take an active role in our community.

M and T bank is pleased to support WMHT programming

that highlights the arts,

and we invite you to do the same.

(upbeat music)

- Hi, I'm Laura Ayad,

and this is AHA, a house for arts,

a place for all things creative.

Let's find out where Matt Rogowicz is taking us today.

- Today we're in Albany, New York,

where we're going to be looking at the incredible

illustrations of Elizabeth Zunon. Let's go.

(instrumental music)

- I think of myself as like a global artist.

I was born here in Albany,

I lived in West Africa, and then came back

to the Northeast and I feel like,

I always think about myself in context to the wider world,

not just in Albany or New York state or the Northeast,

but like, where do I belong

within the context of the entire globe?

I always had a lot of,

a lot of children's books growing up in French

and in English when we lived in the Ivory Coast.

(Foreign language) West Africa,

that's where my dad is from,

and that's where I lived until I was just about 13.

Every summer, we came back to Albany

to spend six weeks with my American grandparents,

and we would always watch Reading Rainbow on TV.

And then we would go to the Pine Hills Library with Grandma

on the number 10 bus, and I would find the books

on the shelf that had that Reading Rainbow sticker

that I had seen on the show.

So, always this idea of books and reading

and presenting stories and sharing stories

was in my mind. So I thought, I think I can

contribute something kind of to that field.

So I applied to a bunch of schools,

including the Rhode Island School of Design,

which was my top choice. I got in, I went,

I studied illustration.

Got my first book contract a couple of years

after graduating from college,

and I've been working ever since.

So far I've illustrated about 14 books

that other authors have written.

I have about nine months to a year to illustrate a book.

So it takes, it's a really long process,

and I don't have any contact with the author

as I'm illustrating the words that they have written.

The author works on their own,

and then the thought is that the illustrator

should also work on their own.

The books that I have illustrated are a lot of biographies

of real people. So I do a lot of research.

I love portraits. So I've got to make sure that I,

I draw and paint their face realistically,

the way they looked in life.

So I do a lot of research on the subject's life,

where they lived, the time period.

And, since my art style is pretty realistic,

I want my figures to look not too cartoonish

or not too flat.

So, I take a lot of pictures of myself, kind of acting

out what happens on every page of the book

so that I can use the photographs of myself

as reference when I draw and paint

the characters and the stories,

and just making sure that the arms are the correct length

in, the correct position and the torso and neck

and shoulders and hands and feet.

I do pencil sketches on paper,

which is what I submit to the art director

at the book publisher,

and then we'll go through my sketches and say,

okay, maybe on this page,

you have too many trees in the background,

get rid of some trees or on this page,

the child looks too old or too young,

or his ears are too big.

And then I'll go back, erase some things,

redraw some things, resubmit my sketches.

And then once they gave me the go-ahead to start painting,

I transfer my pencil drawings onto my watercolor paper.

I paint my watercolor paper with a coat of Jesso

and then a coat of acrylic paint.

And then I draw my figures in pencil

and then paint them with oil paint.

And as the oil paint is drying,

I dive into my paper collection.

Usually I add a collage element to the illustrations

that I did, so in addition to the realistic faces

and bodies and sky and ground,

things like clothing or trees or mountains

are things that I will cut out of paper, decorative paper,

and then glue onto my painting.

So it's a lot of, kind of, pulling from different

sources to make one hopefully cohesive piece,

or in case of illustrating a book,

18 cohesive pieces are illustrations.

(instrumental music)

The one that's the closest to my heart

is the first book that I am both the author

and the illustrator for it's called

'Grandpa Cacao',

a tale of chocolate from farm to family.

And it's kind of a fictionalized account of the life

of my grandfather and the Ivory Coast.

The Ivory Coast is the world's leading exporter of coffee

and cacao. Cacao is used to make chocolate.

Everybody loves chocolate.

So I thought, I want to write a book

that's connected to food, that can,

that's connected to family tradition and family history,

and using influences from my father and my grandfather.

So it's a story about a little girl and her dad

who are baking a chocolate cake,

and as they add the different ingredients together

into the bowl,

the dad talks about what grandpa did back on the farm

in the Ivory Coast to get the cacao beans and fruits

ready to make chocolate, so that we can have the chocolate

bar to make this chocolate cake.

So it's kind of a family, a family history,

a family tradition, food tradition story.

I would love to inspire children that have that artistic

mindset and show them that you don't have to grow up

to be a starving artist.

You can actually make a living

if you're passionate about something,

and if you work really hard to get your skills

up to a certain point.

You can use your skills to be really powerful,

to try to tell the stories and share the,

share the things that you want to share with the world.

And you can really make an impact.

- Elizabeth Pitcairn is the CEO and Artistic Director

of the historic Luzerne Music Center,

which is currently undergoing a major renovation.

Let's chat with Elizabeth to learn more about

the center's plans for the future.

Elizabeth, welcome to a house for arts.

It's a pleasure to have you.

- Thank you very much.

- So tell me a little bit about the Luzerne Music Center,

what is its mission and what is the history

of this place in upstate New York?

- Our mission is to serve children who are very gifted

at music ages nine to 18.

And it was started as a music camp in the 1980,

actually by a cellist from the Philadelphia Orchestra,

because the orchestra would come up

to Saratoga Performing Arts Center,

he and his wife, a concert pianist,

would rent a home in the summer

as many of the musicians did on Lake Luzerne.

And they realized that the camp was for sale.

It had been Camp Tekawitha,

and for many years, it goes back a hundred years

as a children's camp. So they purchased it and

they made the emphasis chamber music,

orchestra, solo playing.

We have always had children from around the world,

children locally,

and 16 different countries were represented last summer.

Some of the children come for two weeks,

four weeks or even six or eight weeks.

And they're all, they audition online

to come to the program.

They've, many of them have studied chamber music

and orchestra with the Empire State Youth and Symphony,

for example.

So they take private lessons and they just play

a few minutes and we can place them in the program.

- Yeah. So how did you become the CEO

and Artistic Director of the LMC?

And I also understand you are a violinist yourself.

You play on the famous red violin,

that's inspired the movie of the same name, right?

- That's what it's said to have happened.

I, as I said, I went to the Luzerne Music Center.

I started playing the violin when I was three years old

and I'm from the Philadelphia area.

So I knew the founders of camp from the age of 10.

I studied with a teacher out of Wilmington, Delaware

when I was 14, and she was on faculty

at Luzerne Music Center.

So, she invited me to come and I was enraptured by the camp.

I learned so much music in a short amount of time.

It's not a cutthroat pressure place.

It's a place that nurtures children,

gives every child the opportunity to perform.

And you just don't have time to think or be nervous or worry

because you're running from one, or her sole activity

to a lunch to your afternoon activities,

swimming in the lake, playing tennis,

playing basketball with your friends to dinner,

to an evening concert where you might hear musicians

from the Philadelphia Orchestra,

either playing at our camp,

or we get bused to SPAC to hear them live.

There's just no time to be even lonely or miss home.

And so, then you asked,

how did I become involved with the camp?

Well, the directors, I think they saw very early on,

I didn't know it,

that they wanted me to become the successor of the camp.

So there was a bit of grooming involved and they believe

strongly in my abilities, in my career.

So they presented me and other rising stars, for example,

at Lincoln Center in the year 2000

and rented Alice Tully Hall, memorable events like that.

They brought me to the camp every year as a guest artist.

And then in 2008, when Burt Phillips knew he was dying,

it was the last time I saw him.

He asked me if I would become the future artistic director

of the camp. And that was 2008.

Then I joined the board in oh nine and became the full CEO

in 2012, and right away was tasked

with the renovations of the camp.

- Right? Cause I understand you're now

putting in new cabins, new residences

for the students or for people coming to,

to use all the benefits of the LMC.

- That is what we are doing. So, as I said, it's,

it was a children's camp going back a hundred years,

originally with tents and then little wooden cabins.

And they were at the end of their life, their useful life.

And we have children coming from around the world

with clarinets and flutes and trumpets and violins,

cellos, violas, they're valuable,

and they need to be in secure,

safe surroundings as do the children and the teachers.

So we discovered these wonderful log cabins

made in Lancaster, Pennsylvania,

and they, they are kit cabins.

And they're so well constructed and they're going to be

climate controlled and they should last for the next

hundred years. So we're really excited about it.

We had all of our plans stamped and permitted.

We've been working on this project, toward this project,

which happened to be called the 2020 Capital Campaign

since the last 10 years.

And so we thought we would phase it out over several years,

but when COVID happened in March

and we saw the writing on the wall,

and saw that we wouldn't be able to safely open this summer,

which we hope to open next summer,

we are working on that very hard to safely open.

We decided that rather than phase it out over several years,

we would go for the entire project,

meaning that we can now open in summer of 21 with the cabins

for the kids and not have to wait several more years.

And so this is our silver lining.

Our COVID blessing.

They're making a lemonade out of lemons, right?

- It sounds like you really kind of harnessed

some of the challenges that are emerging right now

in order to actually open up a better future

or a brighter future for the LMC.

I'm kind of wondering what kinds of programs,

when you think about also the history of the LMC

since you've been CEO,

what are some programs that really come to mind

when you think of something that's really fantastic

or popular and will you plan to continue those programs

moving into the future after these new cabins are opened up?

- Well, we,

we do plan to move into,

maybe expanding our numbers even

because we have now 12 cabins coming in.

Each cabin sleeps, eats children.

So we could, we normally have 140 children

a summer, and we could potentially have,

so it might be 70, 75 per month,

but we could move into the eighties, 85.

Just offer more opportunity, maybe have a younger program,

maybe have an amateur adult program too,

and maybe open our facilities to other arts groups to use.

We also have two stages that we use. One is open air,

seats an entire orchestra.

And the other one is an indoor lodge,

which has just been named

the Jack Lawrence Performance Lodge because Jack Lawrence,

who was a famous songwriter and wrote all or nothing

but at all for Frank Sinatra

- Frank Sinatra, right.

- Has just given us a half a million dollar gift,

and that is how we were able to start the construction

in July, because I really didn't know how we were going

to accomplish this, but we met the trustee of his charitable

estate and I told her our needs and what we wanted to do.

And I, she was really liked the idea of carrying

on his legacy in a manner where he would continue

to be known and maybe better known.

So we'll have a small archival museum as well,

which will house his original manuscripts

that the children will both play,

and then the public who come to our concerts

that we present in the summer,

because we put on several concerts every summer

with famous guest artists and with the students performing,

we've had Chris Brubeck and Triple Play, for example,

from the region.

And we have hundreds of people who come in the summer,

they will be able to actually go in, open to the public,

the museum on those concert nights and see,

and also it will be a dedicated composition studio

for our composer in residence,

because many of our students also study composition.

- Right. I'm wondering what is the,

what is the special gift that music gives to children

and to young adults? Because you know,

your goal is to sort of bring these students

and these children together.

What does music give to young people,

and to people in general,

that maybe other things don't provide?

- Well these children are very special,

as you might imagine, because

in that day that I described of one activity

to another, their attention spans are really phenomenal.

When you see nine, 10, 11, 12 year olds

sitting for two hours in an orchestra rehearsal, learning,

- I can't even get my students to sit for 20 minutes

in class on Zoom.

- So there you go, there you go.

And they just love it so much.

And they're playing music that ranges from a special

Star Wars arrangement, So I mean, they're, they love that.

And they get, you know, they get Mozart,

they get a whole variety of styles of music.

They're just really special kids, these kids,

and they get to be with their peers.

Some of them have never had a campfire experience.

What if they grew up in an apartment and city life,

or they didn't have much.

We have a number of generous donors who support

student scholarships, which is how we're able to offer.

So, if a child is worthy musically of coming to the program,

we do everything we can to find them a sponsor.

- [Lara] Right.

- And then when they come,

they have the outdoor camping experience.

So they experience nature as well as their music.

- Right.That sounds like such a fantastic program.

And I would love to come and visit one day.

Thank you so much, Elizabeth.

- Thank you very much.

- Pleasure to have you

Please welcome In The Valley.

- Hey, there we are In The Valley.

I'm James and this is my wife, Katie.

We are a folk pop duo in the capital district,

and we got a couple songs we're gonna play for you.

This first one is called 'Promised Land.'

(instrumental music)

♪ We are children ♪

♪ Come from nowhere ♪

♪ Still got (murmurs) ♪

♪ We are voices ♪

♪ Calling father ♪

♪ No good way to understand ♪

♪ We are broken ♪

♪ We have fallen ♪

♪ Like a traveler ♪

♪ Where it's written in the sand ♪

♪ Lift me up towards something ♪

♪ Ends in the promised land ♪

♪ Lay down all of your sorrow ♪

♪ Leave me to the promised land ♪

♪ Lift me up towards heaven ♪

♪ Lead me to the promised land ♪

♪ Shake off all of your shackles ♪

♪ Lead me to the promised land ♪

♪ Lift me up towards heaven ♪

♪ Lead me to the promised land ♪

♪ Shake off all your shackles ♪

♪ Lead me to the promised land ♪

♪ Lift me up towards heaven ♪

♪ Lead me to the promised land ♪

♪ Cast off all your demons ♪

♪ Lead me to the promised land ♪

♪ Lift me up towards heaven ♪

♪ Lead me to the promised land ♪

♪ Cast off all your demons ♪

♪ Head into the promised land ♪

♪ Lift me up towards heaven ♪

♪ Lead me to the promised land ♪

♪ Cast of all your shackles ♪

♪ Lead me to the promised land ♪

♪ Lift me up towards heaven ♪

♪ Lead me to the promised land ♪

♪ Shake off all of your shackles ♪

♪ Lead me to the promised land ♪

♪ Lift me up towards heaven ♪

♪ Lead me to the promised land ♪

- So part of the reason that we decided on the name

In The Valley for our band is because we believe that

the hard things in life, the sad parts of life,

and the hardest things that you go through

often are the most important. They help you grow.

They help you become the person that you are.

And this next song that we're going to sing is called

'Closed Eyes.' It was written

to kind of deal with and talk about death

and dealing with trauma.

And yeah, our production on this is really fun.

If you want to go out and listen to it,

we're gonna do a little bit of a different version today

and kind of strip it back, but we hope you enjoy.

(soft music)

♪ What do you see with your eyes closed ♪

♪ Did no one tell you there's no ghost ♪

♪ But I ♪

♪ Count the seconds, close the door ♪

♪ No one understands you anymore ♪

♪ So the sirens in your mind ♪

♪ Push the light against your eye ♪

♪ Deep down blues tonight ♪

♪ Til the light's out ♪

♪ Tonight where do you go inside your head ♪

♪ Does it hurt you to remember ♪

♪ Sudden silence bitter end ♪

♪ Every memory floating by ♪

♪ Again ♪

♪ Play a game of compromise ♪

♪ Say the words and you'll be fine ♪

♪ Deep down blues tonight ♪

♪ Til the lights out ♪

♪ Days ago days ago ♪

♪ Days ago ♪

♪ Days ago ♪

♪ I see you again ♪

♪ Days done days done ♪

♪ Days done days done ♪

♪ I see you again ♪

♪ Days come and days gone ♪

♪ Days come and days come ♪

♪ I'll see you again ♪

♪ Days come and days come ♪

♪ Days come and days come ♪

♪ Days come and days come ♪

♪ It breaks my heart ♪

♪ Breaks my heart ♪

♪ I'll see you again ♪

♪ Even if it breaks my heart ♪

♪ Breaks my heart ♪

♪ I'll see you again ♪

- Thanks for joining us.

For more arts visit wmht.org/AHA,

and be sure to connect with WMHT on social.

I'm Lara Ayad.

Thanks for watching.

- [Narrator] Funding for AHA has been provided

by your contribution

and by contributions to the WMHT Venture Fund.

Contributors include Chad and Karen Opalka,

Robert and Doris Fischer Malesardi,

the Alexander and Marjorie Hover Foundation,

and The Robison Family Foundation.

- At M and T bank,

we understand that the vitality of our communities

is crucial to our continued success.

That's why we take an active role in our community.

M and T bank is pleased to support WMHT programming

that highlights the arts,

and we invite you to do the same.

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