Postcard From: The Florida Poetry Out Loud 2014 State Finals

by Tim Storhoff

Forty-two students from across Florida competed in Tallahassee on Saturday, March 1 for the Florida Poetry Out Loud State Finals. This year, the Poetry Out Loud program in 28 of Florida’s counties assisted more than 15,000 secondary-level students in learning about poetry in their classrooms. The Florida Division of Cultural Affairs oversaw outreach to schools and communities around the state spanned many of Florida’s school districts and regions.

The Poetry Out Loud competition begins at the classroom level. Winners advance to a school-wide competition, then to the state competition in Tallahassee. Each state winner ultimately competes in the National Finals in Washington, D.C. Teachers at more than fifty Florida high schools completed this program through to the end, and forty-two schools were represented in the State Finals competition.

The photos below depict the exciting and poetry-filled day these students had.

Forty-two students from across the state who won the individual competitions at their own schools came to Tallahassee and competed on March 1.

Forty-two students from across the state who won the individual competitions at their own schools came to Tallahassee and competed on March 1.

The competition was held at the R.A. Gray Building in downtown Tallahassee.

The competition was held at the R.A. Gray Building in downtown Tallahassee.

As this schedule of events shows, students had a full day.

As this schedule of events shows, students had a full day.

All students recited a poem in the first and second round. Cassidy Camp of Coral Shores High School in Monroe County presented "Baudelaire" By Delmore Schwartz in the first round.

All students recited a poem in the first and second round. Cassidy Camp of Coral Shores High School in Monroe County presented “Baudelaire” By Delmore Schwartz in the first round.

Judges included faculty from Florida State University, Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College. Judges evaluated the students in six different areas: Physical Presence, Voice and Articulation, Dramatic Appropriateness, Level of Difficulty, Evidence of Understanding, and Overall Performance.

Judges included faculty from Florida State University, Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College. They evaluated the students in six different areas: Physical Presence, Voice and Articulation, Dramatic Appropriateness, Level of Difficulty, Evidence of Understanding, and Overall Performance.

The event was hosted by Sandy Shaughnessy, Director of the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs.

The event was hosted by Sandy Shaughnessy, Director of the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs.

Students read poems on multiple themes and from various countries and parts of history. In the first round Kamarr Le’Vere of Wekiva High School recited "April Love" by Ernest Dowson, who lived from 1867 to 1900.

Students read poems on multiple themes and from various countries and parts of history. In the first round, Kamarr Le’Vere of Wekiva High School recited “April Love” by Ernest Dowson, who lived from 1867 to 1900.

While students weren't on stage reciting their poems, they spent much of their time in the green room hanging out and rehearsing for the next round.

While students weren’t on stage reciting their poems, they spent much of their time in the green room hanging out and rehearsing for the next round.

After the first two rounds, ten students were selected to read a third poem in the final round.

After the first two rounds, judges selected ten students to read a third poem in the final round.

In the third round, Savannah McCord from the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind presented William Blake's "A Poison Tree" in ASL.

In the third round, Savannah McCord from the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind presented William Blake’s “A Poison Tree” in American Sign Language.

This year a new award was added to the state finals, and the Muse Award was given to David Luciemable of North Fort Myers High School. This award was given to the student whose passion and engagement with poetry stood out during their recitation. The decision was made by Division of Cultural Affairs Director Sandy Shaughnessy in consultation with her staff.

This year a new award was added to the state finals, and the Muse Award was given to David Luciemable of North Fort Myers High School. This award was given to the student whose passion and engagement with poetry stood out during his or her recitation.

Honorable mentions were awarded to Desirae Lee (left), a senior at Stanton Prepatory School in Duval County and Baxter Murrell (right), a sophomore at Winter Park High School in Orange County.

Honorable mentions were awarded to Desirae Lee (left), a senior at Stanton Prepatory School in Duval County and Baxter Murrell (right), a sophomore at Winter Park High School in Orange County.

Third place was awarded to Jillian Miley, a sophomore at Spruce Creek High School in Volusia County. Honorable mentions were awarded to Desirae Lee, a senior at Stanton Prepatory School in Duval County and Baxter Murrell, a sophomore at Winter Park High School in Orange County.

Third place was awarded to Jillian Miley, a sophomore at Spruce Creek High School in Volusia County.

Second place was awarded to Christell Roach, a senior at Miami Arts Charter School in Miami-Dade County. Roach will receive a $100 cash prize and Miami Arts Charter School receives $200 for their poetry collection.

Second place was awarded to Christell Roach, a senior at Miami Arts Charter School in Miami-Dade County. Roach will receive a $100 cash prize and Miami Arts Charter School receives $200 for their poetry collection.

First place was awarded to Emily Rodriguez, a senior at Academy of the Holy Names in Hillsborough County. Rodriguez will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. to compete for a total of $50,000 in awards, scholarships and school stipends. The National Finals will be held April 28 – 30. In addition, Rodriguez will receive a $200 cash prize, and Academy of the Holy Names will receive $500 for the purchase of poetry books.

First place was awarded to Emily Rodriguez, a senior at Academy of the Holy Names in Hillsborough County. Rodriguez will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. to compete for a total of $50,000 in awards, scholarships and school stipends. The National Finals will be held April 28 – 30. In addition, Rodriguez will receive a $200 cash prize, and Academy of the Holy Names will receive $500 for the purchase of poetry books.

Following the competition, students and their families returned to the green room for a reception with the staff.

Following the competition, students and their families returned to the green room for a reception with staff and attendees.

You can learn more about Poetry Out Loud by visiting the national recitation contest’s website at poetryoutloud.org. Teachers interested in participating in Poetry Out Loud next year should contact the Florida Poetry Out Loud coordinator, Alison Schaeffler-Murphy for more information. Thank you to all of the partners and sponsors who made this event possible, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry FoundationCitizens for Florida Arts, Habana BoardwalkQuality Inn & Suites, the Egg Express, the Apalachee Review, and Anhinga Press. We want to wish Emily the best of luck as she goes on to compete against all the other state champions in Washington, D.C. at the end of April!

Art and Environmental Conservation: Sarah Crooks Flaire and Green Revolution

Green Revolution is an innovative museum exhibit designed by the Smithsonian Institution. The Museum of Science and History of Jacksonville, FL received all of the necessary design files and instructions digitally, and constructed the exhibit from recycled and repurposed materials found within the community. Composting, green energy, gardening and climate change are some themes of the exhibition.

Environmental artist Sarah Crooks Flaire is partnering with MOSH for the display of several of her creations in the lobby and within the exhibit. Crooks Flaire uses repurposed materials to create unique works like three-dimensional butterfly collages created from tin cans and large murals made from recycled decorative fabric. Beasts of Burden, a 16-foot hand-sewn fabric tapestry, for example, reflects on the importance of water and ways our culture has tried to twist the natural flow. Visitors are invited to participate in an evolving sculpture of hand silkscreened paper butterflies, symbolizing transformation and the interconnectedness of all life. This artwork, Transmigration II will change throughout the 4 month exhibit.

After attending the recent Convening Culture conference, Sarah Crooks Flaire spoke with the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs and shared some of her work from this exhibition that bridges art and environmental conservation:

I recently attended the first Convening Culture Conference in Vero Beach FL, where it was exciting to see other artists and organizations bringing the arts and environmental conservation together. The current exhibition Green Revolution: Renewed at the Museum of Science and History in Jacksonville FL exemplifies what the conference was all about: making change possible through creative collaboration.

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“Prayers for Transformation” butterflies

"Prayers for a Transformation" visitors pinning butterflies at the MOSH.

“Prayers for a Transformation” visitors pinning butterflies at the MOSH.

This collection of work incorporates recycled materials chosen for their symbolic associations and material potential. I chose to focus on a few products made from trees (paper, shipping pallets, cardboard), aluminum and petrochemical greens. Trees continue their lifecycle by becoming butterflies in Prayers for a Transformation, a site specific interactive collaboration of silkscreened butterflies . Visitors are encouraged to print their own butterflies onto recycled paper, decorate and state a wish for change while pinning them into the larger flock. By actively engaging visitors in a creative recycling process their attention is focused on changing their habitual patterns of consumption. A pdf version can be downloaded from the Museum of Science and History website. Changing over the course of four months, this shifting flock of monarchs migrate through various life forms.

"Whirlpool Feet" etching with collograph by Sarah Crooks Flaire, 22”x22”

“Whirlpool Feet” etching with collagraph by Sarah Crooks Flaire, 22”x22”

With this work I’ve asked, “How do I touch the earth? What am I wearing? Heavy shoes? Barefoot? How do I quiet my own voice and open to other lives? How do we create a new narrative? By understanding my vulnerability versus packaged perfection, by shedding my skin in order to grow, I redefine what I hold onto and ultimately what I give away.” This to me is the essence of our Green Revolution, where by changing my own lifestyle and by changing our habitual patterns of consumption and waste we become part of the whole through an even exchange.

"Quetzal sittin’..." by Sarah Crooks Flaire, recycled aluminum , vhs tape, and plastic greenery 22”x13”x4”

“Quetzal sittin’…” by Sarah Crooks Flaire, recycled aluminum , vhs tape, and plastic greenery 22”x13”x4”

Recycled soda cans become caterpillars and the ultimate rainbow in Quetzal Sittin’ on da Chain of Being. Images of imperialism are transformed into the background of a new narrative in giant 16’ tapestry drawings like Red Pearl River and the Beasts of Burden, sparking a discussion about how we connect with nature.

"Red Pearl River" by Sarah Crooks Flaire, charcoal and gesso on cotton with waterbased dye and handsewing cotton thread.

“Red Pearl River” by Sarah Crooks Flaire, charcoal and gesso on cotton with waterbased dye and handsewing cotton thread.

"Trailwalker State Bird Series" by Sarah Crooks Flaire, 22”x22” etching with unique inking on paper, chine colle' with recycled pallet frame hand made by Olivier Flaire

“Trailwalker State Bird Series” by Sarah Crooks Flaire, 22”x22” etching with unique inking on paper, chine colle’ with recycled pallet frame hand-made by Olivier Flaire

In 2009, I read an article about the “State of the Birds” report published by the Audobon Society. In it they warned that in less than fifteen years, 50% of our state birds will not be able to live in their own state due to habitat loss. This series of etchings is my response to the question of how they will adapt to a more urban lifestyle. By contrasting organic and artificial my art creates a surrealist sense of what the world would be like if we keep synthesizing nature rather than protecting it. My work invites a dialogue about what our relationship with nature would be like if it were one of communion, rather than domination.

The Green Revolution Exhibition runs through May 4, 2014.

Crooks Flaire has created mixed media work for the Jacksonville Public Library, healing centers, corporate environments and private homes. She recently won best in show at the Florida Museum for Women in the Arts for a 22′ installation of life-size intaglio self portraits. To learn more about the artist visit crooksflaire.com or themosh.org

CultureBuildsFlorida.org will be spotlighting the connections between art and environmental conservation throughout 2014. 

Spotlight On: Professional Development for Artists at Convening Culture 2014

by Tim Storhoff

Convening Culture 2014 will take place January 28-29 at the Vero Beach Museum of Art.

Convening Culture 2014 will take place January 28-29 at the Vero Beach Museum of Art.

On January 29 during the statewide cultural conference, “Convening Culture 2014: Connecting the Arts with Environmental Conservation,” there will be multiple opportunities for Florida artists to present their work, meet other artists and patrons, and gain important career skills. One conference highlight for artists will be the two professional development sessions presented by the Creative Capital Foundation.

Creative Capital is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to providing integrated financial and advisory support to artists pursuing adventurous projects in multiple disciplines. Through their Professional Development Program, which has been developed by artists for artists, Creative Capital has provided career, community and confidence building tools to help all artists become successful in their fields. In its first ten years, this program has reached more than 5,500 artists in 150 communities. The Florida Division of Cultural Affairs has been partnering with Creative Capital to present professional development workshops in Florida since 2007.

Creative Cap pd-program-logo

The Creative Capital sessions at Convening Culture 2014 will be:

  • Social Media: How to be Everywhere, All the Time
    Includes strategies and practical tips on how to most effectively use social media to communicate about your work and ideas; expand your audience, peer and professional network; and create a deeper connection with the general public.
  • Advocacy & Support Systems
    Provides perspectives on the important role artists can play in advocating for themselves, each other, and the field while explaining ways to develop support systems with other artists and strengthen connections between artists and non-arts partners.

The Creative Capital sessions will be presented by Eve Mosher, an artist and interventionist living and working in New York City. Her works raise issues of involvement in the environment, public/private space use, history of place, cultural and social issues and our own understanding of the urban ecosystem. In addition to being a consultant/leader for Creative Capital’s Professional Development Program, Eve is an Assistant Professor at Parsons the New School for Design. Her public and community-based artworks have received grants from New York State Council on the Arts and New York Department of Cultural Affairs, both through the Brooklyn Arts Council and The City Parks Foundation.

For a taste of the information presented by the Professional Development Program, visit Creative Capital’s The Lab blog. Spaces at Convening Culture are limited, so view the full schedule and register now at florida-arts.org/conveningculture.

The original version of this article appeared in the November 2012 Cultural Connection, the newsletter of the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs. We encourage you to sign up for our mailing list to receive future updates.

Art Talk: The Tallahassee Composer’s Orchestra

by Tim Storhoff

All artists have a different creative process as their work moves from conception to fruition. Composers, particularly those writing for orchestra, face a unique set of challenges in bringing their creations to life. Even established composers have trouble hearing their pieces performed, bringing Pulitzer Prize winning composer Kevin Puts to write, “Every composition student is told never to write a long piece for orchestra because it will never be played. This is good advice.” While orchestras experiment with ways to reach new audiences, they still primarily perform selections from the classical music canon that has developed over the last 100+ years and mostly features dead, white, male European composers.

Throughout Florida, our universities are training the next generation of composers who all hope to hear their works move from the written page or computer screen to the concert hall. In Tallahassee, some of these composers have rallied musicians with a passion for contemporary music to guarantee that new pieces will be heard. In anticipation of the Tallahassee Composer’s Orchestra’s debut concert on Monday, November 25, I chatted with composer/conductor and orchestra co-founder Jamie Whitmarsh about the group and their upcoming performance.

Tallahassee Composer's OrchestraDCA: Jamie, this seems like a great project that will benefit not just the Tallahassee music community but promising young composers more broadly. Where did the idea for the Tallahassee Composer’s Orchestra come from?
JW: The TCO began last spring when Joshua Burel and I were hanging out and talking about composition related topics. Somehow it evolved to where we were both quite optimistic about assembling a group from the ground up to perform new music. Additionally, from the beginning we were both in agreement about programming Daniel Nelson’s Clarinet Concerto. So we knew fairly early on that this wouldn’t necessarily just be a concert of music by Tallahassee composers, since Nelson currently lives in Europe.

DCA: The Division of Cultural Affairs really believes in the importance of supporting individual artists, since they create the works that fill our galleries and performance halls. Previous recipients of our Individual Artist Fellowship for music composition have used their awards to support the performance of their work, but putting an ensemble together is not easy. What challenges have you faced while forming the TCO?
JW: There is always a chance that something like this could have problems getting off the ground. Assembling a 50+ piece orchestra from scratch is no small task! I think there were a couple of advantages we had going into this. One advantage that helped us recruit was that Josh and I had performed with or worked in some capacity with many of the performers in the group. Additionally, we are very much in the trenches with these performers. For instance, Josh is the concertmaster and I am performing the solo part on Joseph Craven’s Concerto for Tenor Pan in C. So there is definitely an attitude between Josh and myself that we don’t want to ask our performers to do anything we wouldn’t do.

DCA: Florida has produced a number of successful composers, and this concert will be featuring pieces by yourself and Joshua Burel who are currently local. Are there any Florida composers you’ve come to admire or who have influenced your work? 
JW: Since I’m from Oklahoma, I’m not as familiar with the composition culture in the lower half of Florida as I might be in a few years. I have certainly enjoyed working with Ladislav Kubik and the rest of the composition faculty at FSU. Clifton Callender’s Metamorphoses is a great piece. Working with Dr. Zwiilch is great as well; being able to form that relationship over time has been beneficial.

The Tallahassee Composers Orchestra rehearsing the Concerto for Tenor Pan in C. Photo by Bryan McNamara.

Jamie Whitmarsh leads the Tallahassee Composer’s Orchestra in rehearsing the Concerto for Tenor Pan in C. Photo by Bryan McNamara.

DCA: What can you tell me about the pieces that will be performed on Monday night?
JW: The concert opens with Crooked Sketch by Joshua Burel. It runs around 3 and a half minutes, and is designed to be a flashy concert opener. Following that will be my piece For Many Chairs (my crow some funny). If you were to pronounce the title several different ways, the nature of the piece might reveal itself a bit. The piece that will close the first half is Joseph Craven’s Concerto for Tenor Pan in C. For this performance, Joseph will be flying in to conduct the orchestra, as I am performing the solo part. The second half will begin with Joshua Burel’s work Incomplete (six), a fifteen minute work exploring the nature of Man’s incompleteness without God. Closing the concert will be Daniel Nelson’s Clarinet Concerto, with the solo part being performed by Lisa Kachouee. This piece is fantastic and will surely be a crowd pleaser!

DCA: After the group’s debut on Monday night, where do you see the Tallahassee Composer’s Orchestra going in the future?
JW: It is hard to say right now where the TCO may go in the future. Certainly the vibe in rehearsals is that this is something that should continue, and the performers all seem quite enthused. What form any potential future projects take is still anyone’s guess. Since we draw heavily from the student population at FSU, there is certainly a concern about overtaxing the performers or distracting them from their studies. At the same time, if this were established to be something that occurs annually, then performers could know that ahead of time and set aside room in their schedules. In the future, we’d like to see TCO concerts split the program between two works from Tallahassee based composers and two works from composers outside the area. We certainly believe a group like this is valuable and hope it will continue to premiere new works and expose listeners to more of the great composers working today.

The Tallahassee Composer’s Orchestra debut concert will be in the Opperman Music Hall on Florida State University’s campus at 8:00 PM on Monday, November 25. The concert is free and open to the public.

Spotlight On: The Dunedin Celtic Festival and the Scottish Town of Dunedin, FL

by Katherine Laursen

There is nothing like a well-played set of bagpipes.  I know this might come as a shock to some people, but given the right environment (preferably outside) and generous amount of skill and musicianship, bagpipes can be quite beautiful. While Florida has many towns each with their own history and cultural heritage, Dunedin’s Scottish traditions are unparalleled in the Sunshine State with multiple events, clubs, and school ensembles dedicated to the culture of the Scottish Isles. Scottish families originally settled the City of Dunedin in 1899, and it was named by two Scotsmen, J.O. Douglas and James Sumerville, for their hometown in Scotland. So if you enjoy the sweet sounds of bagpipes, Dunedin is a great place to visit.

If you’re still not convinced, the 15th Annual Dunedin Celtic Festival this Saturday, November 23rd will be a great way to ease yourself into Scottish culture with Celtic rock bands, craft beer, amazing food and the gathering of the clans.  Located at Dunedin Highlander Park, this outdoor venue is also home to the Dunedin Community Center complex.

The 2013 Dunedin Celtic Festival will be held Saturday, November 23.

The 2013 Dunedin Celtic Festival will be held Saturday, November 23.

The gates open at 11am and the first band takes the stage at 12:30pm.  This year’s main stage will be in the area behind the Dunedin Community Center complex and will feature regional, national, and international Celtic music artists including Seven Nations, The Kildares, Celtica, Juniper and the Fighting Jamesons, along with the City of Dunedin Pipe Band. The lake stage will feature acoustic acts along with the Dunedin High School and Dunedin Highland Middle School bands and Highland dancers.  Check out the schedule, but make sure to arrive early for the best seats!

This year, the Dunedin Celtic Festival is host to six specialty breweries: Dunedin Brewery, 7venth Sun Brewery, Barley Mow Brewing Company, Cigar City Brewing, Sea Dog Brewing Company and Narragansett Brewing Company.  You will find them around the outer edges of the main stage along with all of the wonderful food vendors, Holy Cow, Camerons British Foods, Flanagan’s Irish Pub, Jack’s Wood Fired Pizza, Grandma Toni’s Ice Cream, Mookie’s Kettle Corn, Serendipity, Dunedin High School and Dunedin Highland Middle School.

This event goes on rain or shine and all of the proceeds from the festival go directly to the three Scottish programs of Dunedin: Dunedin Highland Middle School Band under the direction of David Mason, Dunedin High School Band under the direction of Ian Black and the City of Dunedin Pipe Band under the direction of Iain Donaldson.

Buying your tickets in advance will only cost you $12 but go up to $15 at the gate.  All children under the age of 12 are admitted free when accompanied by an adult, and there are several parking options. It will be completely outside so plan accordingly with hats and sunscreen or find a shady spot under the many trees in the park. Feel free to bring a chair or blanket to sit on, but all tents, umbrellas, coolers, food and pets should be left at home.

If that isn’t enough Scottish culture for you, Dunedin has plenty more to offer. Make sure to mark your calendars for the 48th Annual Dunedin Highland Games on April 5th, 2014 and the Military Tattoo April 12th, 2014! Any trip to Dunedin can include a taste of Scottish culture and the sound of bagpipes. According to the Dunedin Highland Games, “Bagpipes are woven into the fabric of Dunedin, as intimately as the wool in the tartan worn by the pipers themselves. Citizens (whether children, teens, adults, or seniors) all love to listen to pipe music. A function in Dunedin is not complete without a Piper!”

Art Talk: Alison Schaeffler-Murphy and Poetry Out Loud

by Tim Storhoff

Alison Schaeffler-Murphy

Alison Schaeffler-Murphy

Alison Schaeffler-Murphy is the new Poetry Out Loud coordinator for state of Florida. Alison previously worked as an intern here at the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs before joining the staff full-time this September. In addition to coordinating Poetry Out Loud, Alison is a program manager for our Individual Artist Fellowships, works with Citizens for Florida Arts, and helps coordinate many of our art exhibitions. Alison recently completed two graduate degrees at Florida State University in art history and arts administration. Prior to this, Alison owned Tints and Reflections Studios where she designed and fabricated one-of-a-kind fused and leaded art glass creations, which have been exhibited at regional and national glass expos, indoor and outdoor art shows, and in a variety of galleries and museums. She has also spent time directing art festivals, judging art shows, and serving as a board member for various arts associations.

Right now Alison is busy reaching out to language arts teachers across the state and distributing Poetry Out Loud information packets to schools, but she was able to take some time to answer a few of my questions about her background in the arts and how programs like Poetry Out Loud contribute to our state.

DCA: What are some of the earliest arts experiences you can remember? 

Alison: Looking back I can see that creative expression has always been important to me.  During my elementary school years, I enjoyed being in school plays and lived for those extraordinary visits to art and music classes. I fondly remember tinkering at my grandparents’ piano, and I eventually became a flute player. Although I was sure in high school that I was destined to be a writer, my primary creative focus has since been with the visual arts. Correspondingly, while earning my MA in Art History I revisited my early interest in being a writer and now relish researching and writing about artists and their work.

DCA: What made you decide on a career in the arts?

Alison: I credit my sister with bringing me back around to studying the arts. For a very short time I seriously considered being a nutritional doctor, but one day my sister noted how perplexed she was that I wasn’t studying art. Kim noted that she only knew me to be completely at peace when I was involved in creative self-expression. Her statement gave me a sudden illumination of self-knowledge, and that’s when I decided to become an art teacher. While earning my bachelor’s degree in art education at Florida State, I took a class in stained glass and I’ve been creating glass art ever since.

EventImg-PoetryOutLoudDCA: You are the new Poetry Out Loud coordinator. Are you a fan of poetry? Do you have any favorite poems or poets?

Alison: In addition to writing poetry in high school, I read quite a bit and favored Robert Frost’s poems. Over the years I’ve continued to write poems. In fact, I’ve created a glass art series I call my “Haiku Series,” that incorporates self-authored haiku poems that evolve alongside the glass art piece itself.

Although I haven’t seriously studied poetry in a very long time, as the Poetry Out Loud State Program Coordinator, I’m falling in love with poetry all over again. I’m enjoying revisiting some past beloved poets like Basho, Frost, Hesse, Thoreau, and Whitman as well as discovering new contemporary favorites like Lisa Zaran.

DCA: The Division of Cultural Affairs believes in the motto “Culture Builds Florida.” What do you think when you hear that phrase? How do you think programs like Poetry Out Loud contribute to our state?

Alison: I love the DCA’s “Culture Builds Florida” slogan because it highlights how importantly the arts influence not only Florida’s economic growth but also their power to build a sense of community between people. In addition to the positive effects that the arts have on individuals’ intellectual, spiritual, and physical well-being, the arts foster cultural, environmental, and global awareness.

The Poetry Out Loud program is important to this end because poetry has the expressive ability to paint images with words that can bring awareness to individual and collective concerns. Students who participate learn important public speaking skills while increasing their self confidence, creativity, and empathy. It’s also valuable to see our Florida teachers and students working together toward the common goal of sending one of our many talented high school students to Washington, DC to compete in the National Finals.

Alison while in France studying Parisian arts and culture as an International Exchange Student. Photo submitted and used by permission of Alison Schaeffler-Murphy.

Alison while in France studying Parisian arts and culture as an International Exchange Student. Photo submitted by and used with permission of Alison Schaeffler-Murphy.

For more information on Poetry Out Loud, take a look at the blog entry from last year’s state finals and visit the Division of Cultural Affairs Poetry Out Loud page. If you are a teacher who would like to participate in Poetry Out Loud, contact Alison Schaeffler-Murphy for more information.

Spotlight On: Youth Orchestras and the Annual FSYO Concerto Competition

FSYO Concerto comp

by Tim Storhoff

On Sunday November 10, the Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra will hold a recital showcasing the 2013-2014 Annual Concerto Competition Finalists. A highlight of the FSYO Concert Season, the Concerto Competition encourages students to step out of their roles within the orchestra, and into a soloist’s seat. The FSYO, which aims to educate and inspire Florida’s top young musicians through programs committed to strengthening musical talents and developing appreciation of the arts through classical music, comprises three full orchestras and one string training orchestra made up of 237 students from around Central Florida. 

In mid-October over 30 FSYO members came from all over the region to audition. Out of these, nine very talented performers were chosen as finalists. These nine talented young musicians will compete to win the honor of performing their concerto in a regular season concert accompanied by the FSYO’s Symphonic Orchestra, under the direction of Maestro Andrew Lane.

Youth orchestras have played an important role in music education and fostering music appreciation in the United States throughout the twentieth century. The Portland Youth Philharmonic, which started in 1924, was the first independent youth orchestra established in the country. In the post-war years, young people’s concerts and youth orchestras gained prominence as a way of preserving and promoting the art of classical music when rock and roll emerged to dominate youth culture. The Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra was founded during this time when in 1957, Alphonse Carlo, concertmaster emeritus of the Florida Symphony Orchestra, recognized a need for a youth orchestra in Central Florida in which young musicians could develop their talents.

The League of American Orchestras currently counts nearly 500 youth orchestras in the country, which involve more than 50,000 young musicians in the joy of music making and all the benefits that come with it. New orchestras are created each year to help meet the growing demand for music education and positive activities for young people. These orchestras encourage young people to develop their talents and to experience teamwork, self-discipline, and individual expression while refining musical skills they can use throughout their lives.

Heidi Evans Waldron, the Executive Director of the Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra explains the benefit of participating in their concerto competition: “Each student is encouraged to demonstrate leadership by participating in the annual FSYO concerto competition. The ability to memorize music and play a leadership role within an orchestra prepares our students to easily transition into professional musicians. I enjoy watching these young musicians grow within the audition process and rise to the occasion on concert day.” Winners from previous seasons of the concerto competition have gone on to study at Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music, The Boston Conservatory, and many other prestigious institutions in Florida and around the country. Between scientific studies and success stories, there is plenty of evidence for the positive impact that studying music can have on young people and all of their future pursuits, whether or not they choose a career path in music.

In addition to the Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra, the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs is a proud sponsor of some of our state’s other great independent youth orchestras, including the Tallahassee Youth Orchestra, the Greater Miami Youth Symphony, American Children’s Orchestras for Peace, and the All Florida Youth Orchestra along with a number of youth choirs and bands. While most youth orchestras operate at the local level, the National Youth Orchestra of the United States had their inaugural season in 2013, and they are currently inviting young musicians (ages 16-19) to audition for the 2014 season.

Florida’s artistic and cultural heritage has greatly benefited from youth orchestras like the FSYO, which provide valuable life skills to the participating musicians and attract families to their surrounding communities. The FSYO Concerto Competition recital will feature works by Franz Joseph Haydn, Edward Elgar and Camille Saint-Saëns to name a few. The recital begins at 6:30 pm, Sunday, November 10, 2013, at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church, 4917 Eli St., Orlando, FL 32804. For more information, visit fsyo.org.