BYCA Wow’s at SoundScapes

Young men's ensemble and concert chorus. BYCA

Members of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy kicked off the summer this past Saturday May 19th with a performance at the Roulette Theater in Downtown Brooklyn.  Soundscapes featured performers of the concert chorus and young men’s ensemble as they performed a variety of new works from today’s top composers.

Students performed choral music written and organized for the Brooklyn Youth Chorus by composers Bryce Dessner, Missy Mazzoli, Shara Worden, Jonathan David Sarah Kirkland Snider and John King.  Students also performed works of Zoltán Kodály and Richard Smallwood to finish off the evening.

The performance received top reviews in Time Out New York and The Brooklyn Paper.  Both publications celebrated the talent of the young performers suggesting that they had the vocal range of some of the best adult performers.

“Don’t be surprised if their technical acuity and powerful voices make you lose sight of the fact that you’re listening to children,” wrote The Brooklyn Paper.

Age restrictions for the concert chorus allow students to participate up to the age of 18.  The young men’s ensemble allows members to perform until the age of 22.  Once students hit the maximum age, most continue on to pursue music in a professional capacity.

“They enjoy increased opportunities for professional performance engagements, concert tours and recording sessions,” said Chorus Manager Katie VanDerMeer about students in the program.

Members of both the concert chorus and young men’s ensemble prepare to gear up for the end of the season.  Students will participate in three more performances with the final show for the season at the River to River Festival on June 25, 2012.

Christine Olsen: Social Media Director of the CFDA

If you follow the Council of Fashion Designers of America on any of the social media platforms, you should have noticed by now that they are pretty busy tweeting and updating Facebook statuses. The person behind the Council’s social media presence is the lovely Canadian-born Christine Olsen. It probably comes as no surprise then that the first thing Olsen does when she gets to work in the morning is “check Twitter to see what’s up.”

Before scoring the position of social media manager at the Council, Olsen was a dancer in musicals in Japan and Europe. After finishing her dancing career, she attended the fashion Institute of Technology and interning part-time at the CFDA before being offered her current job.

“As anyone does when they start a new position, they look for ways that they can contribute and social media was intriguing to me,” said Olsen. “Of course we all know that social media has become an integral part to any company’s communications and it has become a larger part of my work day which I really enjoy.”

Olsen said that Twitter is still the leading social media platform designers use to connect to their customers. Olsen updates several times a day the CFDA’s Twitter account (@CFDA) as well as actively shares photos from events through the photo-sharing application Instagram.

“Of course I’m totally biased but in my opinion if your company is not using social media than you are not taking advantage of the opportunity to have a voice in this new digital world and you are gathering valuable information about what other people are saying,” said Olsen.


Rushdie: One Must Know Freedom to See It

There are two kinds of brave writers.

The first go into war zones and risk their lives to tell us what is happening. The second push boundaries and often bear the burden of public scorn. Both provide their readers with important strands of truth.

At the conclusion of the 2012 PEN World Voices Festival, novelist Salman Rushdie shared his thoughts on censorship in our age.

Listening to a writer bellyache is the cultural equivalent of spending a Sunday afternoon with your grandpappy. Over the creaking of his wicker rocking chair, he carves scrimshaw and bemoans the state of financial capitalism. You listen.

You do it out of obligation and the presumption that there is wisdom to be acquired from it. Usually, if the writer is good, there is.

After Rushdie’s speech, the hilarious Gary Shteyngart provided some thoughtful questions. Rushdie shared the following pearls of wisdom:

  • On fiction’s power to prophesy: With the exception of Woody Allen’s ‘Sleepers’, everyone’s view of the future has been wrong.
  • Admission: Rushdie still hasn’t read Middlemarch. “It’s boring,” he said.
  • On why boring literature exists at all: At the end of the Modernist Movement, literature as art and literature as entertainment bifurcated.
  • On Castro’s Cuba: The trouble with the products of freedom is, if you never have them, you don’t know what they are.
  • On propaganda: Since the fall of communism, people only want entertainment. Perhaps that’s why Fox News is so popular.

Keady Brings Experience to the Johnnies

Keady's hardworking attitude has taken him from the small town of Larned Kansas to the heights of college basketball

If you live in New York City and don’t follow the St. John’s University men’s basketball, you might not be familiar with Gene Keady.  In a town that lionizes its superstars, the assistant coach rarely gets much of the limelight.

Travel to West Layfayette, Indiana—the home of Purdue University–and chances are you won’t be able to walk ten feet without finding someone to sing Keady’s praises. The basketball court at Mackey Arena bears his name. As well it should. Keady is the school’s career leader in wins with 512.

Better yet, head to Larned Kansas–Keady’s hometown where a street will be named after him in 2013.

“When Gene Keady’s name is mentioned, everybody knows who he is around here,” Robert Pivonka, mayor of Larned said. “Everybody knows who he is and what he’s accomplished.”

Keady made a name for himself as an assistant with Hall of Fame coach Eddie Sutton at Arkansas before getting his first head coaching gig at Western Kentucky in 1978, but Keady is best known for his time at Purdue. Keady was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year seven times from 1980- 2005 and lead the Boilermakers to the regional finals in the NCAA tournament twice.

Whether it was coaching Glenn Robinson, whom he calls the “greatest player he ever coached,” or coaching against the University of Michigan’s cultural phenomenon, the “Fab Five,”—Keady felt they “talked too much on the court”—Keady has seen it all on the college court.

It was when he walked away from Purdue in 2005 that Keady’s difficulties began. In 2006, his wife, Pat—his self-described “soul mate” suffered a heart attack and later died in 2009.

When newly hired head coach Steve Lavin came calling in 2010, Keady returned to the second seat down on the bench as an assistant.

“I always liked coming to New York when I was in Indiana,” Keady said. “It reminds me everyday how far away I am from Kansas.”

Keady’s primary function for the Red Storm is to review game film—both on the Johnnies and upcoming opponents.

Who better than a guy that has seen it all?


J.H.S. 189 and FTH Collaborate to Create Art as Language Gallery

It’s not everyday that a 6th, 7th or 8th grader’s work gets to be hosted at a professional gallery, but because of a collaboration between Flushing Town Hall and the Morgan Library & Museum, the kids at J.H.S. 189 got a special treat.

Students from grades 6-8 got the chance to participate in the Morgan Library & Museum Book Project, which yielded the work for the gallery.

The student-artists created work that “explores the relationship between the written word and the drawn line,” said Meri Ezratty, J.H.S. 189 visual art teacher. Each painting and drawing in the Art as Language exhibition featured storybook characters from books students had read as well as excerpts from favorite selections.

Students created renditions of their favorite storybooks, complete with their own illustrations.

7th grader Vivian Jiang, 13, proudly shows off her portrait of her favorite singer from the band SNSD. "The hardest part was the mouth," said Jiang.

“One of the things I love about being an art teacher and working at 189 is that the administration is very supportive of the arts, the kids love art so they’re happy to come and make it and learn new things,” said Ezratty.

Art Teacher Meri Ezratty stands proudly next to her student's rendition of a Treasure Island book cover.

The collaboration, which occurs once a year in May with materials provided though the Morgan Book Project, involves students taking a trip to the Morgan Library, located in Midtown Manhattan and then creating artwork based off their experiences. This year, the entire gallery space was reserved for the project, as compared to only half the gallery for the last two events, which was appreciated by students like Melissa Ruada, 14, an 8th grader.

The Morgan Library & Museum provided students with materials such as malachite and ochre powder.

Classmates (from left to right) Jessica Chen, Joyce Chan, Eunica Han, Joyce Lyeu and Melissa Rueda worked on the portrait behind them over the course of four years, according to Han.

“It makes me feel accomplished,” said Ruada, who attended the opening reception with her fellow classmates. “I feel like our work is actually noticed. Because sometimes you do work and you pass by it in the hall and no one really looks at it. For the people who come here, the purpose is to look at it and acknowledge it, so it feels good.”

Harlemite taking over the Apollo

Jaylene Clark, 24, performed her poem "SpaHa" during Amateur Night. The poem is about gentrification in Harlem.

Jaylene Clark, 24, has been sweeping through the Amateur Night competitions reciting a spoken word poem, SpaHa, from her play “Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale.” Jaylene, from Harlem, and three friends wrote the spoken word poetry play about gentrification in Harlem back in the fall of 2011.

She placed in the Amateur Night Top Dog contest on May 16, propelling her to the final round. This means Jaylene has the chance to win $10,000 if she places first in the final Amateur Night Super Top Dog contest on Oct. 31.

“It’s just such an honor,” she said.

Jaylene said if she wins, she would put some money toward funding the play, which has been booking college tours. She also said she would donate to an organization supporting the arts in Harlem.

During the Top Dog contest, a meter on a projector screen was used to measure the applause from the audience to determine the winners.

“It’s a very agonizing process,” she said. She was the second out of eight contestants that night which made her nervous. Jaylene said she’d rather perform later so she would be fresher in the judges’ and audiences’ minds.

“I literally got third place by one point,” she said. “I’m just happy that I’m in. I’m in.”

Jaylene said that she had 50 to 60 supporters that night. During her last two competitions at the Apollo, she had to pause a few times during her poem because everyone was cheering. On May 16 she was able to get through her almost 3 minute poem without as much interruption.

She thought maybe people weren’t getting it, but as soon as she finished the audience cheered and gave her a standing ovation.

“They were actually just really listening,” she said.

International Print Center New York Hosts Cuban Movie Posters

International Print Center of New York’s most recent show was “ Coming Attraction: Cuban Movie Posters – from the Collection of Merrill C. Berman.”  This exhibition continues IPCNY’s tradition of international shows focused on hyper-specific themes untouched by any other institution in the city.


Stephen Heller characterized these prints as “famous around the world for their brash originality and bright, clear graphic sensibility,” in the show’s press. He is the co-chair of the Designer as Author MFA Program at the School of Visual Arts and his assessment rings true, as leas for some.


As a whole, the prints display the best characteristics of graphic design. Each artist has personal style yet the subjects depicted are instantly recognizable.  A hammer is a hammer, a rose is a rose, and yet each carries the traces of the artist’s hand and perception of their subject.


Two artists stand out, Eduardo Muñoz Bachs and René Cárdenas Azcuy.  Both artists traffic primarily in deep blacks and reds, while Bach introduces a thick forest green to his prints as well.  Their colors are simple, engaging, yet also political.  Many of the films are political, coming from mid to late 20th century Cuba, and the red and black reflect the this content through the predominant state colors of the time.   Yet there, the similarity ends.


Cárdenas Azcuy’s images are dark, singular, and erupt from their black backdrop like a cat dashing beneath a streetlight at midnight.  His prints focus on detail and capture the same paranoia as Alfred Hitchcock films of the late 50s and 60s.


Bach’s images are more akin to a New Yorker or Playboy cartoon.  His images are softer in terms of line and content and he uses text to graphic ends, repeating words and phrases to create imagery.  The pairing of line and text creates a comedic element in Bach’s work.

Although some prints quickly fade from memory, these two  artists will not.

BYCA Join’s Brooke Shields to Perform “The Sound of Music” at Carnegie Hall

Laura Osnes, Charlotte Knutsen, Natalie Hawkins, Grace Luckett, Jacob Sutton, Olivia Knutsen, Jake Montagnino, and Mary Michael Patterson perform "Do-Re-Mi". © David Gordon

Members of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy graced the stage at Carnegie Hall this past Tuesday April 24, to lend their voices and acting talents to Rogers and Hammerstein’s Broadway hit The Sound of Music.   The one-night only show was held as a benefit for Carnegie Hall.

The Sound of Music follows an Austrian woman Maria Rainer played by Laura Osnes, during the 1930’s as she works as the governess to a sea captains family as well as her budding relationship with the Captain Georg von Trapp played by Tony Goldwyn.

BYCA members Jake Montagnino, Olivia Knutsen, Jacob Sutton, Grace Luckett, Natalie Hawkins and Charlotte Knutsen joined the cast playing the children of the von Trapp family.  Brooke Shields joined the cast as Elsa Schraeder – Captain von Trapp’s other love interest.

Fans of the BYCA took to the schools Facebook page to comment on the event, saying that it was “amazing,” and “I loved it.” The students performed “Do-Re-Mi” to great acclaim by The Classical Music Network.

Tickets for the performance started at $55, but options for VIP seating including a dinner at Remi Restaurant on 54th Street started at $1,500.  The production of the show raised $1.5 million for Carnegie Hall.

And this isn’t the first time the BYCA has performed at Carnegie Hall.  Last season the BYCA joined soloist Alexei Markov and soprano Anastasia Kalagina along with a host of other musicians to perform Mahler Symphony No. 8.  The Classical Music Network also gave this performance great reviews.