Poetry as a Means to Understand and Cope with the Social Difficulties of Having Autism

by Jacob Richard Cumiskey

My name is Jacob, and I am a twenty-one year old undergraduate at Warren Wilson College studying poetry. I have a disability known as Asperger syndrome: an Autism Spectrum Disorder that manifests itself through extreme discomfort in most social situations and difficulties in non-verbal communication. The phrase “non-verbal” can be a bit misleading here, because while I personally have a very difficult time reading body language from my friends or hand signals from my parents, I have a very comfortable time communicating to the world through my writing. I have been writing poetry for around nine years, and I believe there may be reasons linked to my disability as to why poetry comes more naturally to me than socializing, and the truth behind these reasons might not just be important for the autistic community to understand, but for the state of Florida to know as well.

Autism has become a hot word in our state recently, but there seems to be some pretty dangerous patterns regarding people’s initial take on what having an Autism Spectrum Disorder (an ASD) means. There is this tendency to either reduce individuals with an ASD to people with basic social anxiety or demonize them to the point of labeling their behavior as intentional social deviance. Doctors and scholars naturally have a much more empirical view on ASD—having linked differences in social behavior with differences in brain structure— but in my opinion, the ways in which the general public is learning about autism these days is extremely silly. The behaviors of a shark need to be researched from afar because we cannot ask the shark why it does the things it does, but some people with autism can be asked what their life is like and explain directly (or indirectly) what autism means to them.

The arts are an easy example of how this can be accomplished.

First and most important, eye-to-eye discussion is not always necessary with art, and so just about any artistic medium can act as an outlet for people with an ASD to discuss things they wouldn’t normally be comfortable talking about. Writing, for example, creates a safe environment where it is just the person and some paper. A blank page (or canvas, or journal) is the perfect listener and has zero social expectations for the artist, and this makes all the difference in terms of comfort. As someone with autism myself, one of the main reasons why I chose to write poetry over other forms of artistic expression is because it gives me the chance to speak without having to be spoken to or observed. I feel safe when writing because essentially nothing is expected of my behavior when I am alone with the page, unlike just about every other moment of my life. Poetry provides an opportunity for me to feel easy about my own thoughts, and so instead of forcing kids and adults with an ASD to participate in uncomfortable social experiences in order to help them “grow,” doesn’t it make more sense to allow the autistic community a means to indirectly communicate with neurotypicals through the arts? Wouldn’t art be an effective way to help people with autism grow comfortable with their own voice?

The arts can be no replacement for day-to-day communication, I know this, but art also creates the chance for normally unacceptable forms of communication to be celebrated and allows for an individual’s confidence to build. Through poetry, I may not have immediately begun socializing with other people, but I slowly learned to feel confident and safe with my own thoughts, and this confidence is the key to prosperous social interaction. In time, I hope our state will begin notice this valuable correlation between autism and the arts even more. So many people with an ASD are relentlessly treated like social pariahs by their peers; at the very least, it is essential for people on the autism spectrum to have a place where thoughts can be explored safely. Poetry is this for me, and I hope it might already be this for a few other people with an ASD as well.

As a personal example of the concepts I have been talking about, recently a good friend of mine asked me how I feel being in a long-distance relationship. Because of my autism, this was naturally a hard question for me to answer in the moment, and so I began working on a response to this through poetry. Writing this was not only more comfortable for me personally, but I feel as if it became a more effective form of communication than me just speaking on the subject immediately. What do you guys think?

I had to write some stuff to myself before I could answer her question.

I had to write some stuff to myself before I could answer her question.

My response.

My response.

Jacob Cumiskey recently spoke at the Florida Alliance for Arts Education 2014 summit in a session entitled “Access through the Arts: One Student’s Journey to the Neurotypical World in the Public School Setting.”

An Inside Look at the 2014 Poetry Out Loud National Finals

by Alison Schaeffler-Murphy

Each year State Champions from throughout the United States, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico are awarded the opportunity to compete in the Poetry Out Loud National Semi-Finals and Finals in Washington, DC.  This exciting opportunity includes an all-expense paid trip to Washington for each state finalists and a chaperone. I attended the Finals at the end of April as Florida’s State Coordinator to watch our champion, Emily Rodriguez, compete and to learn more about the Poetry Out Loud program.  While there I enjoyed touching base with other program directors from each state, and it was a pleasure to meet the many devoted folks from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Poetry Foundation who make Poetry Out Loud a huge success.

This year’s 53 Poetry Out Loud State Champions in Washington, DC. Photo by James Kegley, used with permission of the National Endowment for the Arts.

This year’s 53 Poetry Out Loud State Champions in Washington, DC. Photo by James Kegley, used with permission of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Emily Rodriguez, a 12th grade student at Academy of the Holy Names in Hillsborough County, traveled to Washington with her mom to compete in the National competition. During the first two rounds of Region 2’s semi-finals, Emily recited “The Empty Dance Shoes”by Cornelius Eady and “Memory as a Hearing Aid” by Tony Hoagland.  Not surprisingly, Emily’s excellent recitation skills led to the judges’ selecting her as one of the top 10 students to move onto the third round. During this final round, Emily recited “Holy Sonnets: Batter my heart, three-person’d God” by John Donne. All of us at the Division of Cultural Affairs are very proud of Emily’s performance and recognize how prestigious it is for her to have been selected to compete in the final round of the Semi-Finals.

Emily Rodriguez reciting Cornelius Eady’s “The Empty Dance Shoes.” Photo by James Kegley, used with permission of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Emily Rodriguez reciting Cornelius Eady’s “The Empty Dance Shoes.” Photo by James Kegley, used with permission of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Given the vast amount of talent that showed up in Washington for the 2014 National Finals, the judges understandably had a very difficult time making their final decisions.  In the end, three students from each of the three regional Semi-Finals were selected to compete in the Finals. The following evening these nine student each recited poems during the first two rounds. Ultimately, the top three students were selected to perform a third poem to determine their standings as the 2014 Poetry Out Loud National Finalists. This year, these finalists included Natasha Simone Vargas (New Jersey), Lake Wilburn (Ohio), and Anita Norman (Tennessee) who were surely thrilled!

Once Natasha, Lake, and Anita recited their third poem, the judges determined that Anita Norman would be this year’s National Champion.  In addition to all of the national recognition that accompanies this honor, Anita Norman was presented with a prize of $20,000!  Lake Wilburn came in 2nd place with a $10,000 prize and Natasha Vargas received $5,000. It was wonderful to see such talent acknowledged. The amount of positive energy flowing among all of the students, regardless of their final standings, was evidence of this. The experience was truly gratifying for all involved.

National Champion Anita Norman interviewed by Neda Ulaby from National Public Radio. Photo by James Kegley, used with permission of the National Endowment for the Arts.

National Champion Anita Norman interviewed by Neda Ulaby from National Public Radio. Photo by James Kegley, used with permission of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Clearly, the fifty-three Poetry Out Loud National Finalists had the time of their life! Besides making connections with like-minded teens from across the United States, their Washington experience included opportunities to meet significant published authors and public figures from stage, screen, radio, and government. Plus, the folks at the Poetry Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts made certain that the students’ time in Washington was filled with exciting events like meet and greet receptions, an opening banquet with last year’s National Champion Langston Ward, a Congressional breakfast, time on Capitol Hill, and a great National Finals after party.  Having seen how fulfilling the experience was and how wholly the students embraced their love of poetry, I have higher praise for Poetry Out Loud than ever before.

Participation in a Poetry Out Loud program begins at the classroom level. It’s easy to incorporate the program into the curriculum because Poetry Out Loud correlates with English Language Arts Standards set by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). Not only does the program seek to encourage our nation’s youth to learn about great poetry through performance and recitation, it is an inclusive program.  It creates an entry point for students to appreciate poetry, it reaches out to students who might not have otherwise taken to poetry or the stage, and it impacts the lives of students both academically and socially. I strongly encourage high school teachers to incorporate the program into their language arts curriculum. Schools interested in finding out more can visit the official Poetry Out Loud website, visit the Florida Division of Cultural Affair’s POL webpage, or contact me for more information. It might just be a student from your community who goes to Washington next year!

Poetry, like camaraderie, is stirring and fun.Photo by James Kegley, used with permission of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Poetry, like camaraderie, is stirring and fun. Photo by James Kegley, used with permission of the National Endowment for the Arts.

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!”