A lucky handful our School of Music trumpet students had the opportunity to meet iconic American jazz master Wynton Marsalis when he appeared at the Farquhar Auditorium for a concert with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra on October 15.
Marie Klazek (left) with Wynton Marsalis & Music students
After an open soundcheck where the band rehearsed a new chart freshly composed by one of the orchestra members, Victor Goines—professor of Jazz Studies at Northwestern University and JLCO member since 1993—then fielded questions from the 75+ students that were in attendance. With the help of School of Music trumpet professor Merrie Klazek—who has met Marsalis on previous occasions, and was aware of his generosity for sharing stories and music—several trumpet students later went backstage to chat with the jazz legend.
“Wynton is a very down to earth, genuine person,” says Klazek. “He always has time to chat and sees all people as equal regardless of age or ability. This is what makes him a great teacher.”
She described Marsalis as “gracious and charming” as he ironed his suit and shared detailed stories of how he got into classical music and learned new skills on the trumpet.
The October 15 UVic concert started off with Marsalis playing directly to the students that were sitting in the choir loft. “It was a gesture of absolute grace and generosity,” says Klazek.
Marsalis on horn, MacNayr on drums (photo: Heather Atkinson)
After the concert, Marsalis and fellow JLCO members Walter Blanding, Helen Sung, Carlos Henriquez and Ali Jackson appeared at Hermann’s, Victoria’s jazz club, for a jam session with local musicians—which seems to be standard practice for Marsalis and the JLCO, as they are well-known for their efforts supporting the local jazz scene wherever they play.
Locally, School of Music professor Patrick Boyle was one of the players fortunate enough to jam with Marsalis that night. “We played a little together, just enough so I didn’t get embarrassed,” says Boyle, calling it “a special night to be sure.”
Boyle had also met Marsalis a few times before (“which he insisted he remembered, which if true is kind of amazing”), but this was the first time he had played with him. Repping the Victoria jazz scene that night were the likes of Brad Turner, Sean Drabitt, Roy Styffe, Miguel Valdes, Cynthia Rodriguez Miguelito and Music alumnus Kelby MacNayr. MacNayr will be joining Boyle, Tony Genge and Phil Dwyer for “Deep Into the Groove,” what promises to be an outstanding night of organ jazz at UVic’s Phillip T. Young Recital Hall on January 21.
Boyle and Klazek were both impressed with the student turnout not only at the JLCO soundcheck, pre-concert Q&A with the band and concert, but also at Hermann’s afterwards. “It was an inspiring night all around,” says Boyle.
—with files from Kristy Farkas
Winners of the School of Music’s annual Concerto Competition are usually solo performers, but in the upcoming UVic Orchestra concert on November 26, four horn players will take centre stage in a performance of Schumann’s “Konzertstück for Four Horns and Orchestra.”
Undergraduate students Sam McNally, Collin Lloyd, Sarah Mullane and Justin Malchow are horn students with Music professor Kurt Kellan. “We have a really close-knit studio,” says Lloyd. “We all get to know each other really well and it’s a real pleasure to play with each other.” One of the benefits of being part of a smaller studio is the opportunity to play together regularly in master classes and recitals. The strong bond these students have developed is reflected in their cohesive tone and aided the quartet in winning a top spot in the Concerto Competition last April.
With the concert date finally nearing, the quartet is really getting excited for their upcoming performance of Schumann’s “Konzertstück” with the UVic Orchestra. “One of those dreams that you have when you start in music is the opportunity to play as a soloist in front of an orchestra,” says Malchow. “It will be an honour to play with our peers and colleagues.”
With the introduction of valves on the horn in the early 19th century, Schumann exploited the new technical potential of the instrument such as chromatic lines and figurations, key modulations, and complete scales previously impossible in the low register of the natural (valveless) horn. The horn’s dynamic range and colour are also showcased in this virtuosic work.
Composed in 1849 during Schumann’s most prolific years (1848–49), Schumann’s “Konzertstück” quickly became the pinnacle of horn concerti for contemporary hornists. The piece “really showcases not only the horn as a solo instrument, but also the horn section,” says McNally.
In addition to Schumann’s “Konzertstück,” the UVic Orchestra will also be playing Mendelssohn’s “Symphony No. 4 in A Major ‘Italian'” in their Fall Harmonies concert at 8pm Saturday, Nov 26, in University Centre Farquhar Auditorium. Tickets ($10-$20) are complimentary for UVic students with valid ONECard.
You can hear an excerpt from Schumann’s “Konzertstück” in this short video preview:
When it comes to learning how to be a travel writer, you can’t get much more hands-on than doing it on the road. And if that road happens to be in Nicaragua, says graduating master’s student Heather Clark, better still.
Heather Clark at Nicaragua’s Cerro Negro volcano
Clark, a veteran tour guide and former publications coordinator for the European Association for International Education, has spent upwards of six months a year for the past 16 years traveling the world. That’s in addition to completing two degrees here at UVic: a BA in Hispanic studies (with a professional writing minor) and an MFA in writing. Now she’s putting all that experience to work with her new company, Cross-Border Education, and a proposed travel-writing field school for UVic’s writing department.
“My five-year plan was to merge my two biggest passions—travel and education—by starting a business enabling universities to offer their students adventure-study abroad without the stress of the logistics,” Clark explains. “Part of that plan was to do my master’s degree so I can teach the courses and not only be the tour leader; I’ve now completed my master’s, and this is year five, so I’m launching the business. I’m very well versed on the internationalization plans of higher education, and this company I’ve created ticks every box.”
Born in Canada but raised in Holland, the Spanish-speaking Clark started backpacking at 18—with a trip to Kenya, among other places—before deciding to study in Canada at 21. After touring BC looking for a place to live, she came to Victoria and decided to stay. “I immediately felt at home here,” she says, “which is also why I came back for my master’s degree. UVic is more than a university—its vibe and welcoming atmosphere make it the perfect place to nurture my business and let it sprout.”
Proposed for summer 2018 (“and hopefully every year after that,” says writing chair David Leach), the 26-day field school would offer between 10 and 15 undergrads a 3-unit summer elective, with destinations including a coffee plantation, a cloud forest eco-lodge and a pair of isolated islands known for their pristine beaches and Creole people. “Nicaragua is one of those rare countries that isn’t over-developed yet, so they’d be getting a very authentic experience.”
Clark promoting the field school at one of the writing department’s event
Cost per student? “$7,000, all in,” says Clark. “That’s flights, food, tuition, accommodations, tips and optional excursions. It’s on par with other field schools on campus, and cheaper than what Continuing Studies offers for a shorter time. The structure’s already there—it’s literally an email away from happening.”
Up first, however, is an on-campus travel-writing elective in 2017—which Clark hopes to be teaching, given that her MFA manuscript is based on her experiences as a professional tour leader. “So much happens on these trips that people often say, ‘You should write a book about this.’ And what better way to do that than with expert guidance as a master’s student?”
A blend of memoir, personal essay and what she calls “straight-up travel writing,” Unpacked features adventures and anecdotes from 40 trips to nine countries over a five-year slice of Clark’s life. “The chapters range from safety and ethical travel to the sense of longing—and belonging—that long-term travelers often have.”
Learning to see the world through different eyes and then translate it to the page is one of Clark’s key goals for the field school. “But it’s not just about the writing, it’s the soft skills as well; I am who I am because I’ve been travelling for 16 years. What employer doesn’t look at your international experience, your ability to function as a team, your stress resistance? I have a two-page list of skills students can gain with the right guidance.”
Never one to sit still for long, Clark is off to Holland for two months immediately following convocation, then will be heading down to Central America to lead three more trips. “I like encouraging other people to really achieve their dreams,” she says. “It takes patience, but all your talents end up fitting in somewhere.”
While the martlet is the mythical bird most associated with UVic, there is another legendary winged creature deeply tied to the university’s history: the phoenix. And this month sees Phoenix Theatre marking 50 years of great theatre, and great theatre education.
Students in Phoenix’s summer theatre program, circa 1978
“Our success begins with a deep passion for theatre shared by faculty, staff, students, alumni and our amazing audiences—present and past,” says theatre chair Allana Lindgren. “The people who started our department were fearless in their vision and commitment. They transformed one of the old military huts on campus into a stage and that ‘can do’ attitude has never left.”
From that volunteer-built 80-seat theatre in 1963, the fledgling program bloomed into what is arguably Canada’s leading comprehensive theatre program. Housed since 1982 in a sophisticated purpose-built theatrical complex that remains the envy of most post-secondary institutions, the Phoenix — a fitting moniker for a building that rose from the remnants of an old military hospital, morgue and chapel — has long been recognized for not only its rigorous academic environment but also for its combination of training and entrepreneurship.
“Our students roll up their sleeves and work together to create amazing productions throughout the year,” notes Lindgren. “That ingenuity and work ethic gives them an advantage when they start their careers.”
Alumna & audiences services manager Sandra Guerreiro points to herself in one of the archival photos on display at the Phoenix
Not everyone has to leave campus to find success, however: consider instructor and Audiences Services Manager Sandra Guerreiro, whose life has been intimately shaped by the Phoenix. Not only has she worked there for 30 years, but her husband, Charles Procure, is also head of scenic construction and one of her sons, Nicholas Guerreiro, is a current student—and she’s an alumna. “The first show I did at Phoenix was actually the last show in the old huts—The Madwoman of Chaillot, back in 1981,” she says.
While that particular production was a high school summer intensive, Guerreiro then enrolled in the theatre department in 1982, graduated in 1985, and was hired on a box-office contract in 1986, which soon led to a full-time position. This affords her a rather unique perspective, given her connection with every graduating class over the past 30 years. When asked what the theatre department’s biggest impact is, she doesn’t hesitate. “It’s the community, the people,” she says. “After 50 years, there’s a huge network of Phoenix people across the country and it still feels really strong.”
All of which makes Guerreiro the ideal point-person for the Phoenix’s upcoming 50th anniversary celebrations. Now that October’s Alumni Festival performance series has wrapped up, Guerreiro is gearing up for the upcoming Alumni Reunion weekend. Running November 11 -13, more than 160 alumni will be returning to the Phoenix to help mark the occasion.
Wow, those spear-carriers are really carry spears! 1964 production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
“Our Alumni Facebook page started with four people and, as of today, it’s up to 513,” she says. “People are really excited, there’s a lot of talk on there. We’ve got folks coming from England, California, Oregon, Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, lots from Vancouver . . . and from all the different eras.”
As well as catching performances of their latest mainstage production, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, the Alumni Reunion weekend will also feature a Mix ‘n’ Mingle in the McIntyre Studio, a Decade-by-Decade lunch, Saturday night dinner and dance, a family fun run, farewell brunch, and archival displays both in the theatre lobby and at McPherson Library. (Visit their 50th anniversary site for full details and a nifty interactive 50-year timeline highlighting key points in the department’s history and many of their notable alumni.)
Despite the months of planning and inevitable scheduling hiccups, Guerreiro is still looking forward to reconnecting with her “Phoenix phamily” at the reunion. “It’s been really fun,” she says. “So many people have been messaging me, posting pictures . . . it really is exciting.”
For most people, Las Vegas is a place of escape and relaxation. But for celebrated Department of Theatre alumna Shannan Calcutt, what happens in Vegas keeps her in Vegas.
Calcutt (BFA ’97) has spent the past decade starring in Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity at the New York New York Hotel & Casino. Part burlesque and part cabaret, Zumanity is billed as an “erotic thrill ride” and has become one of the must-see sensations in a city built on sensory overload. Yet Calcutt plays down the show’s sensational side and instead sees it as that rarest of theatrical gems: a steady job.
Shannan Calcutt is at home in Vegas (photo: Ginger Ana Griep-Ruiz)
“It’s a great, great gig,” she says. “We do two shows a day, five days a week, 477 shows a year. That’s a lot of audience members.”
And while it’s Shannan Calcutt who got the job, it’s her famed alter-ego clown Izzy who has entertained over half-a-million Cirque spectators in Zumanity. “My partner and I are the comedians in the show, and we change what we do every night based on what the audience says and does. That keeps it fresh.”
Calcutt’s Burnt Tongue will be playing at the Phoenix 8pm daily from October 25-29, with an additional 2pm matinee on Saturday, Oct 29. There will also be a pre-show lecture at 7pm Friday, Oct 28. Get tickets here, or call 250-721-8000.
While Calcutt had mask and movement training at UVic, she didn’t formally study clowning until after graduation, when she attended California’s acclaimed Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre on the advice of then-Theatre professor John Krich. It was there Calcutt met master teacher Sue Morrison, which resulted in her studying with noted Calgary physical theatre company The Green Fools; and it was there, during a Morrison-led workshop in Clown & Bouffon, that Izzy first emerged with what became her signature line. “We were doing duos at a cabaret in front of an audience and I asked my clown partner, ‘Do you think I’m pretty?’ That’s really where Izzy was born.”
It didn’t take long for Calcutt to make a name for herself with the Izzy trilogy—Burnt Tongue, It’s Me, Only Better! and Out of My Skin—winning multiple awards and playing to sold-out audiences across North America and as far afield as the Sidney Opera House. She was scouted by Cirque du Soleil as early as 2000 (“I was put forward for Varekai and Corteo”), but it wasn’t until 2005 she joined Zumanity. Not that she’s been resting on Izzy’s laurels since then. “I just finished a Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Dramatic Media with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas,” she says. “I spent a lot of time in the dressing room writing papers.”
In addition to the Krich, Calcutt also notes Theatre professors Linda Hardy and now-retired Julianna Saxton as key influences, but names the late legendary professor Kaz Piesowocki as being singularly important. “As the movement coach, Kaz was a huge influence on me . . . he made such an impact on us all—the way he taught impulse, physicality, the breath—it was all so simple, but resonates in everything I’ve done since.”
It’s been 13 years since Izzy last performed in Victoria
This kind of dynamic learning is what makes UVic’s Theatre department different from other Canadian universities, notes department chair Dr. Allana Lindgren. “In addition to our ‘hands on’ approach to education, we offer a comprehensive program that equally values practical and more traditionally academic courses,” she says. “These factors mean that our students leave our undergraduate and graduate programs with numerous options . . . it also doesn’t hurt that we also have one of the best educational theatre facilities in the country.”
While it’s been nearly 20 years since she graduated, the 40-year-old Calcutt is philosophical about aging alongside her character. “As you get older, so does your clown, so Izzy has really grown up here in Vegas,” she explains. “In Burnt Tongue, Izzy is very innocent—it’s her first show, she’s all about finding a guy—but now she’s one of the sex experts in Zumanity. Izzy has a husband in the show—played by my clown partner, Nicky Dewhurst—but my ‘real life’ husband Darren Pitura is our back-up, so I do work with him on occasion too. Darren and I have had two kids, so my body isn’t 25 anymore . . . that’s the beauty of being a clown—instead of having the shame of not looking like you used to, you shamelessly celebrate it instead.”
Best advice she was ever given? “Make your own show; don’t wait to be cast. Look at the alumni coming back [for this festival] — Charles Ross or TJ Dawe or myself—we’ve all created our own vehicles to perform. Don’t wait for someone to decide that you’re good enough, or smart enough, or talented enough. Talent is great, but you’ll never have more than you do today; you can work on skills and training, but it’s motivation and drive that will get you where you want to go.”
Find out more about the upcoming Phoenix 50th Anniversary reunion weekend, running November 11-13 on campus.
This story was originally published in the spring issue of UVic’s Torch magazine