Scholarship Interview: Marcus Ratzenboeck, Concertmaster of The Venice Symphony

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Past scholarship recipient Marcus Ratzenboeck is an accomplished and versatile musician with a successful career as a performing and recording artist.He has a recording studio, H&M Productions, and is currently in his 3rd season as concertmaster of The Venice Symphony.

Marcus was first introduced to playing music as a 9-year-old attending elementary school in Chicago where it was mandatory that all students play an instrument.Although he wanted to play saxophone, his hands were too small so he switched to guitar and eventually the violin.When Marcus' family moved to Sarasota a few years later he began private lessons with Miltiades Siadimas, a renowned violin soloist.Marcus credits his lessons with Mr. Siadimas as crucial to his development as a musician and notes, "Compared to other young musicians, I was relatively late in taking up the violin at age 11.My intensive studies with Mr. Siadimas during 2-hour lessons three times a week really helped me to catch up.Miltiades Siadimas was more than a teacher; he was my mentor."

After attending high school at Riverview and Booker VPA, our Fine Arts Society Scholarship helped support Marcus as he continued his studies at Florida State University, earning his Bachelor's of Music degree in 1996.From there he attended Indiana University and was awarded his Master's of Music degree in 1999.He was concertmaster of the IU Symphony and the Columbus, IN Philharmonic and appointed Principal Second Violin of The Louisville (KY) Orchestra.He was also an Adjunct Professor of Violin at the University of Louisville, a member of the acclaimed Louisville String Quartet and Concertmaster of The Louisville Bach Society.

As I have learned from interviewing other past scholars in the classical music field, there are many talented musicians all vying for very few positions.Marcus' advice to musicians coming out of school is to "be diverse and try new things beyond playing classical music.Exploring new software, technology and digital music are important and the professional musicians of tomorrow will benefit by having experience composing, forming ensembles and branching out into other genres." ​

Marcus has participated in numerous music festivals including Tanglewood, American Institute of Musical Studies (Graz, Austria), Sarasota Music Festival, Hirosaki Chamber Music Festival (Japan), and he served as concertmaster of Spoleto (USA) for several seasons.His professional experience also includes an impressive recording and touring career in a rock band along with work for several major and independent record labels and publishers.Marcus states, "Playing electric violin in a successful touring rock band is a completely different life than performing with an orchestra.After several years, I was ready to get back to my classical music roots, so I returned to Sarasota in 2012.I had to get back to serious practicing, full 5-hour days.I was subbing for orchestras here and played with The Florida Orchestra, Sarasota Orchestra, and St. Petersburg Opera. It took several years to get back to concertmaster, but I look forward to continuing an era of fine musicianship with The Venice Symphony."

The role of concertmaster is critically important to an orchestra.This musician is first chair violin and must know all of the music and all of the parts very well and work with the music director (conductor) to create a cohesive performance.A wonderful opportunity to see and hear Marcus perform with The Venice Symphony takes place on Saturday, May 23rd at 7:30pm.It's an outdoor Patriotic Pops concert at CoolToday Park, the Atlanta Braves spring training baseball facility in North Port.Gather your friends for a lovely spring night at the ball park listening to popular American classics.Click here for more information:

https://www.thevenicesymphony.org/patriotic-pops-2020/

Photo Credits: Elliott Corn

Author's Note:If the last name Ratzenboeck sounds familiar, it is because Marcus' brother, Derek, and sister, Karissa, are also past Fine Arts Society scholarship recipients and professional violinists.Derek plays in the New York City Ballet Orchestra and Karissa performs with Marcus in The Venice Symphony. 

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Scholarship Interview: Adelaide Boedecker, Soprano

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Adelaide Boedecker made her professional debut as Barbarina in Sarasota Opera's production of The Marriage of Figaro at the age of 17 while still a high school student at Pine View School for the Gifted. She was the first youth to ever be cast as a principal in the Sarasota Opera and became a two-time FASS scholar in 2008 and 2010. Adelaide is a shining example of the successes our talented Sarasota County student artists and performers can achieve with our support. She is the winner of the Santa Fe Opera Anna Case MacKay Award; winner of the National Opera Association competition, scholarship division; and second place winner of the American Prize competition for professional singers. Her talent has been recognized by opera critics throughout the country:

"Soprano Adelaide Boedecker set the tone for the excellence of Pittsburgh Opera's cast. Throughout the opera, Boedecker negotiated her part's high tessitura with flair and ample power, and offered more dulcet tones for her character's mainly gentle interpersonal manner."
-Pittsburgh Tribune-Review February, 2016

"Only soprano Adelaide Boedecker's Despina, whose urgent vocal performance was matched with a delightfully tough, sharp-edged portrayal, proved consistently interesting to watch."
-Opera News August, 2016

"Adelaide Boedecker is a reason to see the production…her singing is clear, direct and invigorating - - beautiful, without asking for attention."
-The San Jose Mercury News July, 2014

Adelaide is a former resident artist with the Pittsburgh Opera and was also an apprentice artist with the Santa Fe Opera performing as Ida in Die Fledermaus and Chorus Soloist in Santa Fe's world premiere of (R)evolution of Steve Jobs. Adelaide was also apprentice artist with the Merola Opera Program in San Francisco where she performed the roles of Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire and Despina in Così fan tutte. She has also performed with Opera Birmingham, Syracuse Opera, Hilton Head Choral Society, Opera Las Vegas, the Music Academy of the West in Montecito and our own Sarasota Opera.

Asked to share her earliest memories of singing, Adelaide recalls "Singing in the choir at Church of the Redeemer when I was a child. My two older sisters were in the choir and I wanted to be just like them. Then I saw a production of Arabica by the Sarasota Youth Opera. I loved the huge coffee bean costume and knew that I wanted to sing on stage. So, the summer after second grade I started doing youth opera and continued through high school. When Sarasota Opera's Artistic Director Victor DeRenzi had me perform with professional singers in The Little Sweep by Benjamin Britton, it occurred to me that I could possibly sing professionally. Up to that point, I thought I would become a lawyer."

Two scholarships from the Fine Arts Society of Sarasota provided financial assistance to Adelaide when she attended the University of Florida in Gainesville. There she earned her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance. She then attended graduate school in Rochester at the Eastman School of Music and earned her Masters of Music in Vocal Performance and Literature. In addition to her core vocal curriculum, Adelaide took extra classes in acting and dance and performed in musical theater. "That training helped me to learn about blending acting and singing so I could convey my character's emotion physically while still maintaining control my voice. In a large theater, the audience may not always be able to see my face, but the way I move can help them understand what is happening internally for the character," notes Adelaide. She adds, "Eastman's Arts Leadership Program and Opera America's Career Blueprints have given me significant insight into 501(c)3 organizations and the business aspect of the arts and music. Grant writing class, website development, resume writing, auditions, branding, media, publicity and more have all been incredibly helpful in my career to date."

"It wasn't until I moved away from Sarasota that I realized how fortunate I was to grow up in a community that focused on the arts and gave opportunities for children to learn and participate. Those programs are the foundation that my career is built upon and to be able to complete my education without the tremendous debt of student loans is a wonderful gift that you have given me", notes Adelaide.

 Adelaide and her husband, Calvin Griffin, reside in Atlanta. Calvin also sings opera and the two have recently completed Audition Season in NYC. Audition Season is to performing arts what Pilot Season is to television programming. Theatre Companies from around the country descend on New York City and, from mid-November through mid-December, they audition talent to cast in performances the following year. Each day, vocalists can sing for several companies from throughout the United States.

"The opera community is a small, tight-knit group. It's a somewhat nomadic existence, but we're all in it together. My husband and I both approach our careers as a full-time professional job. My main goal is to continue to have a career singing professionally and that goal requires so much more than just showing up and performing. Every day we actively work on music, dialogue, translating the opera, etc. Our livelihood is contract-to-contract and proper preparation on each job can help secure the next job. Cultivating contacts and maintaining a reputation as a professional are critical" says Adelaide.

"I love the classic operas and Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro is my favorite, but I also enjoy new works where the audience doesn't already know where the story is going and really immerse themselves in the performance. Each person's voice is unique, like a thumbprint, and the greatest compliment is when someone writes a new work hearing your voice in their mind."

In April, Adelaide and her husband Calvin will be in Columbus, Ohio performing in Opera Swings Jazz. This innovative program will combine arias with musicals and jazz and appeal to several cross-over audiences. It's being written now and there will be 4 vocalists accompanied by an orchestra and jazz ensemble.

Adelaide is thrilled to be returning to the Sarasota Opera as an adult this spring when she will be performing the role of Pamina in The Magic Flute on March 1, 2019. For performance and ticket information, click here: https://tickets.sarasotaopera.org/single/EventDetail.aspx?p=3161

To view and listen to Adelaide performing on YouTube, click here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCegiuALajnYmrz_fx_XX7ow

To visit Adelaide's website, click here: https://www.adelaideboedecker.com/

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Scholarship Interview: Karissa Ratzenboeck, Violinist

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KARISSA RATZENBOECK - Violinist with The Venice Symphony

December 2018

This month I am delighted to profile Karissa Ratzenboeck, a two-time FASS Scholarship recipient. First in 2008 when she attended Pine View School and then again in 2009 as a student at Florida State University. Karissa earned a Bachelor's degree in Violin Performance from FSU's College of Music and is now a violinist with The Venice Symphony. She also teaches violin by private instruction and at summer music camps to students throughout Sarasota County. 


Karissa has shared the stage with many great musicians and vocalists including Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban, Johnny Mathis, Kristin Chenowith, The Ten Tenors and Trans Siberian Orchestra, among others. She has also performed at Carnegie Hall – an exceptional accomplishment that many musicians never achieve in a lifetime of performing. How do you get to Carnegie Hall from Sarasota? Let's start at the beginning.

At the tender age of 4 years old, Karissa Ratzenboeck held a Suzuki violin in her tiny hands for the first time. It was placed there by her violin teacher Dr. Linda Vasilaki – and from that moment on, Karissa's life was changed forever. At the ripe age of 6, she was performing on stage with the Florida West Coast Youth Symphony. Then, after years of hard work and continuous practice, Karissa's dedication was rewarded when she won the Young Artists' Concerto Competition in 2006 and made her solo debut at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in 2007. Next stop, performing at Carnegie Hall as Concertmaster of the Florida West Coast Youth Philharmonic at the age of 17. When asked to describe her memories and feelings of that momentous accomplishment, Karissa recounted seeing the orchestra in place and making her entrance onto the stage alone. "I remember gorgeous gold ornamentation throughout the concert hall, the floor to ceiling curtains on the stage, the red velvet seats and the rich smell of wood from the instruments and the building itself. It was exhilarating. When you're prepared, you are not afraid or nervous. You put your heart into it and just make music."

At the tender age of 4 years old, Karissa Ratzenboeck held a Suzuki violin in her tiny hands for the first time. It was placed there by her violin teacher Dr. Linda Vasilaki – and from that moment on, Karissa's life was changed forever. At the ripe age of 6, she was performing on stage with the Florida West Coast Youth Symphony. Then, after years of hard work and continuous practice, Karissa's dedication was rewarded when she won the Young Artists' Concerto Competition in 2006 and made her solo debut at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in 2007. Next stop, performing at Carnegie Hall as Concertmaster of the Florida West Coast Youth Philharmonic at the age of 17. When asked to describe her memories and feelings of that momentous accomplishment, Karissa recounted seeing the orchestra in place and making her entrance onto the stage alone. "I remember gorgeous gold ornamentation throughout the concert hall, the floor to ceiling curtains on the stage, the red velvet seats and the rich smell of wood from the instruments and the building itself. It was exhilarating. When you're prepared, you are not afraid or nervous. You put your heart into it and just make music."

While Karissa's parents Harald and Monika are not musical, music was an important part of their respective family histories and they made sure it was also a part of their children's lives. Karissa's brothers Marcus and Derek are also both accomplished musicians. Derek is a violinist with New York City Ballet and Marcus is Concertmaster of The Venice Symphony. Music has been a strong lifelong connecting force for these three siblings. 

So, what is a typical day in the life of a concert violinist? "Ideally, I spend 2-3 hours practicing on my own and 3 hours of rehearsal for performances. When I play in the orchestra for the St. Petersburg Opera, that alone can be up to 6 hours of rehearsal. Professional musicians must prepare like professional athletes do…get adequate rest, take care of our bodies and keep optimally healthy to deliver the best performance."

Asking a musician to name their favorite composer is equivalent to asking a mother to tell you which of her children is her favorite (but I did it anyway!). While Karissa stopped short of narrowing the list down to just one, I did learn that for her, Bach sonatas and partitas are the gold standard and Mozart is a perennial favorite.

And now for the Full Circle Moment: Twenty years after holding her first Suzuki violin, Karissa at the age of 24 and her childhood music teacher, Dr. Linda Vasilaki, performed together professionally during Symphony on the Sand with the Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus and Orchestra. Since that time, Dr. Vasilaki has helped Karissa to build her own private instruction program. By teaching young musicians, Karissa can now pay it forward and honor those who helped her grow in her own lifelong musical journey – Dr. Vasilaki, Daniel Jordan, Jan and Ron Balazs, Damien Pegis, Kenneth Bowermeister, Jim Cliff, Beth Newdome, Eliot Chapo and Dr. Alex Jimenez among others. Karissa enjoys working with the next generation of musicians and helping them to find their inspiration. Her message to her students is "Don't let anything stop your dreams – even financial challenges. It's not easy to make it in the arts, but if you carry the love and persistence and determination, you will get there. Even if you fail in auditions or competitions, failure is not the end – it's part of the process on the way to success."

Brava, Karissa!

Elizabeth Rose and Elaine MacMahon
Scholarship Co-Chairs
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Scholarship Interview: Shaina Helm, Studio Art

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 SHAINA HELM – FASS Scholarship recipient in 2011

Awarded Bachelor of Arts Degree in Studio Art and Psychology, Florida State University - 2015 Awarded Master's Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis, University of South Florida - 2018

Like we hear so often from our Fine Arts Society Scholars, Shaina Helm's childhood was filled with access to explore and train in many aspects of the arts. She studied classical and lyrical ballet for nine years at Dance Theatre of Bradenton, stopping only when she discovered her passion for visual arts. She notes, "In elementary school I would pass the time in after-school care drawing. The positive reinforcement I received gave me encouragement to continue to develop that talent and pursue art."

Although Shaina discontinued taking ballet class, ballet images and ballerinas appear often in her work. Her painting of the three ballerinas in red raised over $1,000 when it sold at the Education
Foundation's Evening of Excellence live auction. The money raised provided funds to support the Sarasota County public school system. And in 2010, Shaina created original art in exchange for donations to raise money for Haiti Relief following the devastating earthquake. Isn't it wonderful when the arts can fund other worthy causes?

Shaina attended Booker High School and the Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) program helped prepare her for studying fine art at the college level. "The curriculum at Booker allows for ½ of the school day to be for art. By the time I arrived at FSU, I already had a comprehensive introduction to the foundations of art plus the technical skills and experience that put me ahead of other students," says Shaina. She adds, "My BA degree in Studio Art is based on broad ranges of art, not just one specific focus." You can see the results of this broad scope of techniques shown on Shaina's website including oil, acrylic and watercolor paintings; ink illustrations; mixed media; pencil drawings; digital art and sculpture. The three works shown with this interview are all there, including the patterned digital self-portrait of Shaina with a snake in her hair. That work was created from a photograph and, if you're wondering, yes, Shaina did have a live snake on her head.

More recently, Shaina earned her Master's degree in Applied Behavior Analysis and graduated from University of South Florida in 2018. She lives in Bradenton and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst working with children ages 2-15 diagnosed with disorders on the autism spectrum. "I don't use art per se in my daily therapy work," she says, "but it is one of the tools in my toolbox for connecting with clients. It's important that clients like spending time with me, so when I draw a figure they like, it lays a cornerstone for the foundation of the therapy process."

"While I'm still very much a painter, my therapy work is very rewarding and commands 40-60 hours per week of my time. I created 6 or 7 new works last year and will do commissions as time allows," says Shaina. 

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Scholarship Interview: Amanda Kai Newman, Artist & Costume Designer

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This month's article features costume designer and artist Amanda Kai Newman, a multi-year FASS scholarship recipient having earned awards in 2008, 2009 and 2010.   Amanda attended Booker High School and was also an intern in the costume department at the Asolo Repertory Theater.  She then earned her BA degree in Art and Theater from Cornell College in Iowa and her MFA in Costume Design from the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati.

In 2010 Amanda interned for six-time Tony Award winning costume designer William Ivey Long, 'one of the most influential Broadway Costume Designers of today'.   Amanda presently lives and works in New York City and has contributed as Costume Production Assistant, Milliner, Stitcher, Silk Painter and more.   Productions of note include the 2017 film The Greatest Showman starring Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum;  2016 television series Crisis in Six Scenes written/directed by and starring Woody Allen;  Wynn Las Vegas show La Reve (The Dream) voted Best Production Show for 8 consecutive years; as well as various Shakespeare Festivals.  Her most recent work has been as costume coordinator on the Fox television series 'Gotham' and shopper and receipt organizer for the upcoming Broadway Musical 'Tootsie'.  Upcoming work includes being shopper and swatcher on 'NOS4A2', a new television series on AMC network and milliner work (based in NYC) making hats for the Asolo Repertory Theater's coming production of 'The Music Man'.

To learn more about Amanda and view examples of her work, visit her website by clicking www.amandakainewman.com and read a recent profile about her by Cornell College https://news.cornellcollege.edu/2018/03/costuming-the-stars-report/.

Amanda recently expressed her appreciation to FASS stating, "Being recognized by the culturally rich and artistic community in Sarasota helped me pursue my passion in costume design."

Amanda continues to study and evolve as an artist.  She enjoys ceramics and studied in Europe with an assistantship at La Meridiana ceramics school in Certaldo, Italy.

Elizabeth Rose email: elizabeth.rose@premiersir.com

Elaine MacMahon email: elainemacmahon@gmail.com

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Scholarship Interview: Max Landow, Fine Arts

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​MAX LANDO THEN: Fine Arts Scholar 2005 and 2006 majoring in Theatre Studies at the University of Central Florida

MAX LANDO NOW: Institutional Giving Manager at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago

Max Lando is a 2005 graduate of Booker High School and a two-time Fine Arts Scholar when he attended the University of Central Florida.  Our FASS Scholarship program booklet noted that Max 'is an excellent student in both his academic and theatre classes and does many hours of backstage work in preparation for productions at UCF.  Max has proven himself worth fighting for and is creative, talented and works extremely hard while understanding priorities.  Max dreams of having his own theatre one day – in Sarasota!

When asked recently what the Fine Arts Society Scholarship meant to him,  Max simply answered, "It meant everything."  He added, "Even though I went to college in-state and had additional scholarships,  the reality is that I am still paying off student loans at 31 years of age.  It would have been so much harder to get through school and beyond without the support of the Fine Arts Society and other scholarship organizations."  Max graduated with honors from UCF in 2009 having earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Theatre Studies with a Minor in Creative Writing.

In 2010 Max began his career back in Sarasota where he was Manager and Development Assistant for WRITE A PLAY at Florida Studio Theatre.  His responsibilities included managing the $80,000 operating budget, direct and subscription ticket sales and assisting the Development Director in securing individual, corporate and foundation giving in excess of $1,000,000.  While working in the FST box office that summer, he met (his now wife) Stephanie who was in Sarasota from Connecticut performing in WRITE A PLAY productions.

Having been a participant in the WRITE A PLAY program as a youngster, it was a full-circle moment for Max when, in 2011, he and Stephanie co-founded MaineStage Shakespeare in Kennebunk, Maine.  Max capitalized on his operational experience at FST to bring live theatre to children in an area that didn't have much arts-based education.  "Witnessing first-hand what theater can do for kids was very rewarding.   Often the 5 to 8-year-old participants were shy and didn't talk much.  Teaching them to write and perform really helped them find their voice and see themselves in a new way,"  says Max.

Next stop, New York City and co-writing/co-starring with his sister, Rebecca, in the YouTube online culinary video series Working Class Foodies – and 2 years working in Barnes & Noble bookstore honing his salesmanship skills and helping to pay the bills.  After a few years living in New York City Max and Stephanie relocated to Chicago in 2013.

Fast forward to 2018 and Max is the Institutional Giving Manager at the renowned Steppenwolf Theatre Company,  nown across the globe for innovative and artist-driven productions.  As noted on their website, Steppenwolf operates as a not-for-profit organization relying on community support to produce or present nearly 700 performances, readings and other events annually.  The theatre's artistic and educational programs attract multi-generational audiences of nearly 200,000 theatergoers.  They are committed to year-round programming that engages their audiences with thought-provoking productions that help develop new plays, new audiences and new artists for the future of American theater.  As we know, all of this takes money…lots of money. And that's where Max and the Steppenwolf Development Department staff come in - they are in the business of raising money for the arts.

When asked about the challenges of creating a continuous pipeline of funding for the theatre, Max commented that, while Steppenwolf is fortunate to receive year-over-year funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the overall reduction in government financial support and fewer grant opportunities have had a tremendous negative effect on the financial health of arts organizations all over this country.   As a result, the reliance on corporate giving and individual donors has increased.

Steppenwolf's Outreach and Education programs remind Max of what the arts can do for kids and as someone who grew up in Sarasota's arts-centric community, Max knows firsthand that the arts can change lives.  And speaking of kids and changing lives, Max and his wife Stephanie have just welcomed their newborn baby boy, Ezra, into the world - "Our finest production to date,"  said the proud father.   And with Max's parents still living in Sarasota, when asked if the dream of having his own theatre in Sarasota was still on his 'To Do' list, he enthusiastically replied "Yes! I still follow the theatre scene in Sarasota and the productions put on by Urbanite Theatre are along the lines of what I envision for myself.  They consistently tap into the new style of theatre productions that are taking place nationally and internationally. Edgy, bold and modern."

The Fine Arts Society has much to be proud of in Max's success and his contributions to the world of performing arts.   Congratulations, Max, and we look forward to you and Stephanie introducing Baby Ezra to our city someday soon!

To learn more about the Steppenwolf Theatre, please click this link: https://www.steppenwolf.org/About-Us

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Scholarship Interview: Nora Rule Barber, Artist

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Artist, instructor and 1990 Arts Advocates scholarship recipient Nora Rule Barber lives and works in Spring, TX, just north of Houston.   She graduated with honors from Ringling College in 1992 after earning a Bachelor's Degree in Fine and Studio Arts with a major in Ceramics and a minor in Sculpture. 

When asked about the impact our scholarship had all those years ago,  Nora comments,  "My family did not have a lot of money to send me to college,  so receiving that scholarship made all the difference in the world.   Even with your financial assistance, I still worked several jobs on and off campus to pay for art supplies and room & board.   I had to stretch every dollar and I thank you for your support." 

A fond memory Nora shared of her time at Ringling was when she,  along with 17 other fine arts students, created ceramic figurines of themselves and placed them in a time capsule which was then buried beneath the photography studio that was being built.   With so many changes to the campus over the past 30 years,  I wonder if construction crews have unearthed those figurines?

Upon graduation from college,  Nora began working in production art.    One of the companies that she worked for sold to major furniture stores throughout the world, but that work left her unfulfilled.   She states, "I felt like I was only making my employer money; I wasn't doing any good for others.  I knew I wanted to serve a purpose with my art and it was then that I decided to teach high school art in Broward County, FL.   My art teachers in high school made a tremendous impact on my life and I wanted to pay it forward to the next generation of artists."    She adds,  "Inspiration is everything and can make the mundane extraordinary.   I was so happy to share my love of art with those students so they could learn to view things through an artist's eye." 

Between her 9 years as a high school art teacher and many more years teaching private and community classes in two states prior to Texas,  Nora has educated more than 2,000 students.  She has indeed paid it forward as some of those students have become art teachers themselves and others have become professional graphic designers and working artists. 

In her 30+ years of creating art,  Nora's body of work includes oil and acrylic painting (landscapes/nature/wildlife, portraits, pets, etc.); murals; graphic design; textile design; caricatures; cartooning and jewelry design.   She sells her work in shows,  on her website and by commission. 

In her paintings,  Nora's work is inspired by the subtle glow of light through a leaf, the colors in shadows and the beauty of nature.  She describes her creative process as,  "the challenge of making an impact out of what sparks a little life in me.   We have all experienced being struck by a thought, feeling or observation.   I use that spark as a starting point in my art and hopefully affect others in an intentional way." 

Lately, Nora is scaling back on commissions and making time to create the art that has been in her head for so long.   "In my painting, I am branching out and moving towards a looser, expressionistic style of realism and abstraction blended together – like I used to do with my sculpture,"  says Nora, adding,   "As a lifelong art student myself,  I'm again studying figure drawing - both pencil and charcoal - and looking forward to getting back to ceramics, sculpting and stone carving." 

Back in Texas, Nora is a member of The Lone Star Art Guild, The Woodlands Art League and Conroe Art League and has garnered numerous ribbons in shows for her work. To learn more about Nora and her art, please click here to visit her website: https://norasfinearts.com/

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Scholarship Interview: Joshua Galindo, Motion Designer

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 'Where Are They Now?' Past Scholar Interview

Joshua Galindo – Motion Designer, Los Angeles, CA

When Dr. Larry Thompson, President of Ringling College of Art + Design spoke at our Arts Advocates meeting this past November, I asked him to share his thoughts on why so many young art students today are concentrating in motion design versus traditional fine arts disciplines.  Dr. Thompson's answer was simply, "They can get a job right out of college."

That response made me think of RCA+D graduate and four-time Arts Advocates scholarship recipient Joshua Galindo.  An accomplished student, Joshua received numerous college awards and honors including Best of Ringling Motion Design in three categories.  He earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in May, 2019 and on the day of his college graduation, Joshua took time to express his deep appreciation for our financial support in an interview on WEDU's Arts Plus television program.  Joshua shared with the viewers that "After the Fine Arts Society of Sarasota invested in me, I felt it was only right that I put everything I had into my education."

During his college years, Joshua was a student ambassador, private tutor and Motion Design teaching assistant at Ringling College's PreCollege program – an immersive 4-week program in which high school students from around the world live on campus and experience college-level curriculum in a variety of fields. He also produced work for the Sarasota Architecture Foundation, the 2017 PINC Creativity Conference and earned a regional ADDY Award. 

A visit to Joshua's website reveals much about the exceptional young man we have supported over the past four years.  His work is thoughtfully executed and compelling to view and I encourage you to click on the links to visit his website https://www.jgalindo.me/new-page and demo reel https://www.jgalindo.me/demoreel In addition to computer-generated work you will also view photography, painting, graphic design and other examples of Joshua's artistic talent.  He likes to focus on simplicity and craft in his work, emphasizing expressive animation and mindful composition.  I think you'll agree that the quality, quantity and variety shown in of Joshua's body of award-winning work is impressive for someone of any age, let alone an artist in his 20's.

A digital advertising and design agency recruited Joshua during his senior year of college and he now resides in southern California.  Joshua notes, "Watson Design Group has been very exciting and enriching for my first job in Los Angeles.  I love being a part of the production of some of the best movies coming out of Hollywood.  My favorite part is getting to see the films before they come out.  It feels great to be able to support myself.  I have an apartment to myself that I love, a little extra income to enjoy lots of food and events, and gas for my car, even though those prices are a little ridiculous right now."  He adds, "Although the weather here is more consistently beautiful, I miss the coziness of Sarasota.  I catch myself daydreaming about the quiet of Siesta Key at night, clear starry skies, and the faithful Florida rain.  And of course, I'll always look back fondly on Ringling College and all of my good school friends."

On behalf of the members of Arts Advocates, I extend our congratulations to Joshua and wish him continued success in his career.

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Scholarship Interview: Brandy Zarle, Actress

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Arts Advocates members may sometimes wonder how impactful a $1,000 scholarship can really be for a student.  I agree that while $1,000 is just a drop in the financial bucket that it takes to earn a college degree, when combined with other funds, that bucket can overflow and result in enabling a student to achieve a stellar career in the arts.

To illustrate my point, this month's 'Where Are They Now?' past-scholar interview is going back twenty-eight years to 1991!  That year, the Fine Arts Society of Sarasota awarded a $1,000 scholarship to Sarasota native Brandy Zarle, a theatre major attending her second year at Southern Methodist University. Brandy ultimately earned her Bachelors of Fine Arts degree from SMU in 1994 and went on to earn her Master's degree in acting from the highly respected Yale School of Drama in 1997.

Fast forward to today and Brandy is a professional actress based in New York City where she lives with her husband Tim Rush "A brilliant actor and wonderful husband who makes every day better." notes Brandy.  Over the past 20+ years Brandy has garnered extensive acting credits in television, theatre and musical theatre and happily shares that now, as an actress in her 40's, her career is the best it's ever been. "I am so grateful for the members of Arts Advocates who had confidence in me all those years ago and gave me the financial assistance I needed to learn my craft." says Brandy.  Let's explore Brandy's journey:

Brandy grew up in Sarasota and studied ballet starting at the age of four at the Ellen Swope Dance Studio.  Her "Aha!" moment came when, as a 10-year-old student attending Sarasota Middle School, her mother spotted an audition announcement in the newspaper for the Booker High School production of the musical Annie.  The audition for that very first role – the lead, no less – is crystallized in Brandy's mind.  "My mother and I recently spoke about my first time singing the popular song 'Tomorrow' on stage during my audition.  I wrapped a newspaper around my shoulders and fully embodied the character.  That audition was truly life-changing for me," notes Brandy, adding "I knew then that I wanted to act."  In her teenage years Brandy spent two summers as an acting apprentice at the Berkshire Theatre Festival and performed with Yale School of Drama students.  "I eventually auditioned in Chicago and was one of the youngest students to ever be accepted into the coveted Yale drama program," says Brandy.

When asked what advice the actress Brandy of today would give to her newly-graduated Yale student in 1997, Brandy simply states "Always remember that what you have to offer is unique and special; no one else has it."  She adds, "I believe if an audition isn't successful it's because I am meant to be doing another role that is yet to come.  That happened a few years ago when I was under consideration for the lead in the world premiere of a new play and I didn't get the part. I was disappointed, but shortly after I earned a guest television role on the popular series Law and Order: SVU.  It was a fabulous role and I loved every minute of playing my character and the experience working on that show."

One of Brandy's earliest television credits was when, at the age of 24, she landed a role as a cocktail waitress on the long-running soap opera Guiding Light. Who among us didn't watch Guiding Light at some point between its run from 1952-2009?  Yes, Brandy was in just one scene of one episode, but it was a speaking part.  A speaking part!  Can you imagine Brandy's excitement that day?  I can't help but wonder which Guiding Light cast members she served drinks to that day (yes, I was a loyal GL viewer).

Throughout her stage career, Brandy has played some of the most iconic female roles in the history of American theatre.  When asked to describe her most immediate thoughts when I name one of her characters or plays, here are Brandy's responses:

Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? - "Poor, misunderstood Martha.  Playing that role at the Triad Stage in North Carolina was the thrill of a lifetime."

Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – "Maggie's story is tragic.  She's rejected all night long, but she's a fighter and stronger than anyone else in the room."

Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire – "Blanche recreates her reality in order to survive."

Tanya in Mamma Mia! – "The first word that comes to my mind is simply 'Fun'.  Singing, dancing and acting in a play about lifelong friends with some of my own very close friends was fantastic."

"My philosophy is to never judge the characters I am playing," says Brandy.  "I have to tell their story and bring their humanity to the audience.  Yes, the audience will judge the character, but the actor shouldn't."

In addition to performing in theatres in NYC, Brandy has performed in regional theatres throughout the United States including Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Florida, Texas, Utah and more.  She also traveled to Asia for 10 months when she was cast in the role of Joy in Cinderella. She recalls, "We toured Singapore, China, Hong Kong and Thailand and also recorded the original cast album.  I have wonderful memories of that experience and to be able to share it with my husband Tim was icing on the cake."

Brandy's parents still live in Bradenton and it would give me great pleasure to introduce Brandy and Tim to our Arts Advocates next time they visit our area.

Author's Note:  After reading this interview with one of our most accomplished past scholars, I hope you agree that $1,000 can absolutely make a lasting contribution in the life of a student seeking a career in the arts.  I extend my heartfelt appreciation to all of our members – past, present and future – whose donations to our Scholarship funds help further the arts while providing much needed support to the artists.

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Scholarship Interview: Matt Dendy, Violinist

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Sarasota violinist Matt Dendy was a five-time Fine Arts Society of Sarasota scholarship recipient from 2005-2009.  Matt graduated from Booker High School in 2005 and attended The University of South Florida where he was Assistant Concertmaster and, in 2010, earned his Bachelor's degree in Music Performance.

It's well known that music can have a profound influence on our lives and that is certainly true for Matt.  After attending a concert featuring violinist Joshua Bell performing with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Matt told his parents he wanted a violin for Christmas…not the typical request from a toddler!  At just 3 years old, Matt knew that he wanted to play the violin.  Thankfully Matt's parents (or maybe Santa Claus) granted his wish and that year Matt found a violin under the tree and started taking Suzuki lessons.  At the age of six, he began playing with the Florida West Coast Symphony Youth Orchestra and has been performing ever since.

When asked about the contribution his multiple Fine Arts Society scholarships made on his education, Matt notes "Your scholarships played a huge role in my ability to attend college.  Without that support I would not have been able to pursue my music education.  And even with the substantial financial assistance from the scholarships, I still have student loan debt 10 years after college.  Thank you for helping to reduce that burden."

Upon graduation from USF, Matt began his professional music career playing for the Asolo Repertory Theatre and played as a first violinist for The Venice Symphony.   He also performed regularly with The Pops Orchestra of Bradenton and Sarasota, Southwest Florida Symphony and the Florida Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra.  Matt also played for national and international music festivals and toured Florida with prominent artists like Johnny Mathis, Mannheim Steamroller, Celtic Woman and The Irish Tenors.  Despite these many opportunities, Matt found himself needing to supplement his musician's income by working as a waiter between performance jobs.  He explains, "Even if a musician secures a principal position with an orchestra, it's difficult to earn enough income.  Not only because those opportunities don't open up often, but when they do, the positions may not be full time.  Under those circumstances, it's difficult to have that be your sole source of income."

It was while waiting tables that Matt saw musicians happily playing live music every night in the restaurant.  That was when Matt took a left turn in his career.  "I never thought I would play a 5-string electric violin, but I decided to shift my focus and build a business for myself called SRQ Violinist.  In order to practice new music and expand my repertoire of songs I started playing on the sidewalks of St. Armand's Circle.People were encouraging and eventually I got my first recurring job playing during brunch downtown at State Street Eating House.  That was three years ago and other gigs have since been added including The Cottage on Siesta Key, Art Ovation hotel, Whole Foods Brasserie Honore, Sarasota Waterworks, art galleries and other venues.  I'm very happy, I have control of my career choices and can support my family."  He adds, "Combined with my private engagements playing at weddings and other events, I now earn a living playing live 25-30 times a month all year long.  I've enjoyed playing on yachts, private islands and other unique venues and the interaction with people is great.  I get to play all types of music, from classical to jazz to current popular songs."

When asked to look back and give advice to his 18-year-old self, Matt notes "I would have told myself to think outside of the box and explore all types of music and performance, not just classical orchestral music."

Matt will often use a loop pedal to record himself in a live setting on keyboard and percussion and then play his violin to accompany that music.  To see and hear Matt performing, click the following link:  https://youtu.be/HVU22Ww2oWI

To view Matt's calendar of upcoming performance venues or to contact him about a private engagement,  click the following link:  https://www.srqviolinist.com/

Matt and his wife Kim, a third-grade teacher at Fruitville Elementary,  live in Sarasota with their daughters Grace, age 5 and Olivia, age 4.  If you see Matt performing around town, please stop and enjoy his music and congratulate him on behalf of the members of the Fine Arts Society.

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Scholarship Interview: Nicole Riccardo Flutist, Music Teacher and Digital Media Expert

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This month's interview is with Fine Arts Society scholarship recipient and flutist Nicole Riccardo.  Nicole graduated Magna Cum Laude from Florida State University with degrees in Music Performance, earning her Bachelor's degree in 2012 and her Master's degree in 2014.  She resides in Austin, TX where she is a professional classical musician, music teacher (in public school and by private instruction in her own studio) and is Founder and President of her own digital media agency.

Born and raised in Sarasota, Nicole explored a variety of art forms before deciding music was her calling.  "Growing up, I was always the creative one in my family.  I took watercolor classes, studied dance and started piano lessons and singing in the choir in first grade.  I picked up the flute in fourth grade, but it wasn't until years later – as I sat listening to my best friend play The Beatles' Let It Be on her violin – that I decided this was what I wanted to do with my life," says Nicole.

As a youngster, Nicole was consistently honored in various Young Artist Competitions.  Among her fondest memories as a young musician include two performances at Carnegie Hall – one with the Sarasota Youth Orchestra and the other with Booker High School.  Nicole credits Booker's college counselor Mr. Lem Andrews with guiding her to apply for scholarships.  She notes, "I am so grateful to Mr. Andrews for encouraging me.  Without him, my flute instructor Betsy Traba (principal flutist with Sarasota Orchestra) and Professor Eva Amsler at FSU, I would not be the musician or person that I am today.  And without scholarships like the one I received from the Fine Arts Society of Sarasota, I would never have been able to afford to attend college."

While in college, Nicole was the Executive Director of Force Majeure Woodwind Quintet.  In addition to playing the flute, Nicole also handled grant writing, artist management, tour management, community outreach, design of print and electronic materials, newsletters, thank you packages, concert programs and notes.   While it may not have been apparent at that time, these actions and acquired entrepreneurial skills would be critical to her future success.

After graduating from FSU there were no sustainable music jobs in sight.  "Going to college to train as a classical musician we are conditioned to believe that the only two sustainable career paths are orchestral musician or college professor, but the reality is when you graduate only a very small percentage of these jobs are actually available and trying to win one takes most musicians YEARS.  So, I ended up in my own worst nightmare…a normal 9-5 job in the medical industry.  I came home almost every night so exhausted that I had no energy left to practice.  My life went from spending the previous fifteen years being consumed by music to having absolutely no time for music.  I spent more lunch breaks than I can count crying in a bathroom questioning if I made the right choices for my life." says Nicole, adding "The breaking point came when I was offered the opportunity to join Josh Groban's Florida tour and my employer wouldn't let me take the time off.  Everything I had worked so hard for was slipping away and I didn't want that to be my future.  I was determined to create the life that I dreamed of so I changed my mindset, set goals and began practicing again.  I implemented all of the branding and marketing know-how I had been building up in my normal job.  I re-did my website, started using social media more intentionally and starting pitching to create the opportunities I had been sitting around hoping would just come my way.  It was a lot of late nights and sticking with it, but I was able to use these skills to create a life where I do what I love every single day and get to help other musicians not have to go through what I did!" says Nicole.

A visit to Nicole's website reveals a tagline:  "Classical Musicians, Meet Modern Marketing."  Just being talented is not enough anymore.  Having a website and printing brochures is not enough, either.  I watched so many talented musicians forced to leave music and have to pursue different career paths in order to support themselves and pay their bills. It's so heartbreaking watching others have to give up on their dreams, and after realizing I had the knowledge to help them, I made it my mission to do just that.  I feel like my calling in life is to help give other musicians the business and marketing know-how they need in order to create their own sustainable and profitable careers." says Nicole.  She adds, "After building my career, I started receiving a lot of messages from other musicians asking how I did it.  This is actually what led me to start the media agency and creating my 8-week digital coaching program for music entrepreneurs where I teach them the step-by-step process I went through when I built my own career."

"Trying to win an audition or an orchestral position is like trying to win the lottery.  Musicians - especially classical musicians - and other creative artists need to take control of their professional futures by doing the things that get them job opportunities by monetizing their efforts." notes Nicole.

Nicole definitely practices what she preaches.  In addition to her online program and media agency, Nicole has a robust social media presence, a blog, multiple podcast interviews, webinars and other media credits.  She is a sought-after public speaker and performer who has held Guest Artist Residencies and performances at the Austin Flute Society Festival, Florida State University, Florida Flute Association Convention, University of Georgia, Mars Hill University and the National Flute Association Convention, with upcoming appearances at the Texas Flute Society, the Boston Flute Festival, University of Texas Arlington, Texas A&M University-Commerce and Texas Christian University.  She has been published online in the Flute Examiner and Flute View and has recently achieved a personal goal of writing for an upcoming issue of Flute Talk magazine.

When asked what led her to Austin, Nicole responded "It's an amazing place for musicians.  Austin is actually the Live Music Capital of the World and prides itself on supporting its musicians in so many ways.  For example, the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians provides health insurance for musicians, which is huge since self-employment doesn't come with benefits.  Not to mention every single middle school and high school in Texas employs a private music teacher for every instrument.  This means musicians can still pursue performing opportunities on nights and weekends because they are teaching during the school day."

I think anyone reading about Nicole's achievements and her efforts to further the careers of other musicians will agree that the Fine Arts Society of Sarasota put our financial support behind the right student!  And while her career is based deep in the heart of Texas, Nicole still has family in the Sunshine State and sometimes subs with the Sarasota Orchestra.  The Fine Arts Society of Sarasota congratulates Nicole on persevering and all of her well-deserved successes and we look forward to seeing what the future holds for this amazing young woman.

Click here to learn more about Nicole Riccardo:  https://nicolericcardo.com

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Scholarship Interview: Adrianne Ansley

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ADRIANNE ANSLEY, DANCER/CHOREOGRAPHIC ARTIST AND COMMNUNITY ENGAGEMENT COORDINATOR IN NEW YORK CITY 

Adrianne Ansley was born and raised in Sarasota and is a graduate of the Booker High School VPA program.  Awarded a FASS college scholarship in 2011, Adrianne attended Santa Fe College in Gainesville and then earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Florida State University, one of our country's top-rated universities for dance.  Now, at the age of 26, Adrianne lives and dances in New York City.  Adrianne's future as a dancer began when, as a third-grade student at Tuttle Elementary School, an after-school activity sign-up sheet caught her attention.  The sign-up was for The Sarasota Ballet's program Dance – The Next Generation (DNG).  "I remember the first session held in our school cafeteria when Program Director Lisa Townsend told us to take off our shoes and socks and try movement called ballet.  We practiced the positions that day—how to coordinate placement of our arms and feet—and I loved it!"  says Adrianne.  She adds,  "I continued with the program and went on to train for eight years with The Sarasota Ballet School.  Without DNG and Lisa Townsend, I would not be where I am today."  Adrianne credits the fantastic Booker faculty, and especially dance teacher Melissa Lodhi, with helping her define the kind of dancer she wanted to be.  "Prior to attending Booker, I had focused only on ballet.  My high school dance classes opened me up to modern, jazz and release technique – postmodernist dance that is not so structured.  Movements are less rigid and not just repetition of an established standard. It's more about releasing the body to think and feel in the moment.  I built on my ballet foundation, but was reignited with ideas, almost like a child unselfconsciously creating movement" says Adrianne.

What does Adrianne recall about being awarded a FASS scholarship?  "My uncle, a college counselor here in Sarasota, encouraged me to apply.  When I found out that I was awarded the scholarship, I just remember bursting into tears.  It meant so much to me to have the recognition and financial support from the Fine Arts Society of Sarasota and I will always be grateful to your organization."

"When I was sixteen, I was invited to participate at a summer program with the renowned Alvin Ailey School of Dance in NYC.  The program was very challenging, but I learned so much in that short period of time and really grew as a dancer. A highlight was my solo in a beautiful Afro-Caribbean piece that opened me up to incorporating my ethnicity in my dance performances.  I was always confident in my auditions, but didn't often see African-American faces or dancers that looked like me in ballet." 

It's common in the dance world for young dancers to descend on New York City right after graduating college and try to make career for themselves.  That is a difficult task and often those dancers return home after a year of struggle due to lack of maturity, lack of preparation, lack of connections and lack of professional experience.  To avoid that outcome, Adrianne returned to Sarasota after earning her BFA in Dance from Florida State.  When Lisa Townsend offered her a teaching job with NG, Adrianne jumped (or, more likely, gracefully leapt) at the opportunity.

"I wanted to have more experience and also give back to the organization that had given me so much.  I wanted the boys and girls to see that DNG is not just an after-school activity, but can be the way to the future they want for themselves."

"I am responsible for community outreach for the Company.  I love performing and teaching and want to share.  My motto is Faith, Focus and Family and I am fortunate to have all three in my life."

Adrianne also taught modern ballet at The Sarasota Ballet summer program and in the Fall of 2016, she made the move to Brooklyn, NY.  Her job as a nanny (which she still holds today) included taking two little girls to dance class where a chance encounter with a dancer she knew years ago led to a successful audition for Adrianne with the dance company TheREDprojectNYC, a self-described community of artistic dare-devils.  Adrianne continues to study and teach dance and perform with TheREDprojectNYC which offers many classes, workshops and community events. She notes, "I am responsible for community outreach for the Company.  I love performing and teaching and want to share.  My motto is Faith, Focus and Family and I am fortunate to have all three in my life."  To learn more about Adrianne and TheREDprojectNYC dance company, click here: https://www.trpnyc.com/ 

About The Sarasota Ballet's Dance – The Next Generation: Adrianne Ansley is one of 143 students that have completed their 10-year participation in the DNG program.  Established in 1991, DNG provides an opportunity for those who are most at risk of dropping out of school to participate in a 10-year, full-scholarship program in dance.  The program's goal is to nurture the development of the entire individual through dance with emphasis on discipline, self-esteem and the desire for higher education.  Upon completion of the program and graduating from high school, students may apply for non-dance related scholarships from State College of Florida or USF Sarasota-Manatee.

To learn more, click here: https://www.sarasotaballet.org/DNG

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