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Tuning Up: History and art at Florence park + Wando band update

Good morning!  "Tuning Up" is a morning post series where The Hub delivers curated, quick-hit arts stories of interest to readers. Sometimes there will be one story, sometimes there will be several. Get in tune now, and have a masterpiece of a day. And now, in no particular order...


We hope you paused to reflect during the weekend and/or yesterday's holiday. While Veterans Day comes but once a year, a park in Florence combines history with art to honor them year-round. Yesterday it added a monument to the Korean War to its six-and-a-half-acre expanse. The park features sculptures and, for history buffs, artifacts such as a 280-pound chunk of limestone taken from the rubble of the Pentagon's eastern facade and the bell from the USS South Carolina, which served during WWI. Last week we brought you the story of the Wando High school marching band's quest for glory at a national competition in Indianapolis. Writer Karen McDonough followed up with The Hub and reported that the band advanced to the 2018 Grand National finals on Saturday and finished sixth in the nation, a first for a South Carolina band. Congratulations!

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Wando band marches in national competition today

Sculpture and music combine for an award-winning marching band show

By Karen McDonough While most high school students probably have never heard of Alexander Calder, a group of South Carolina teen musicians have become quite familiar with the 20th century American sculptor’s work. Calder’s art work is the central theme of this year’s show by the nationally-ranked Wando High School marching band in Mt. Pleasant. The band performance – which features Calder-inspired sculptures as set props and other nods to his creative force – is a moving collaboration and celebration of sound, movement, and art. And it has catapulted the school to winning back-to-back, first-place wins this fall in regional Bands of America (BOA) competitions for the first time ever. The band performs in the BOA Grand National competition Nov. 8-10 in Indianapolis.

UPDATE, 13 Nov. 2018, 12:25: Go here for an update on how they did!

In the Calder-inspired show, some 260 students –playing everything from the piccolo to the sousaphone with a highly impressive drumline – move, dance and march across a football field, along with 38 color guard wearing bold-hued costumes during the 12-minute theatrical presentation. [caption id="attachment_37721" align="alignright" width="301"] The Wando High School color guard performs on the swing prop. (Stacey Mercorelli)[/caption] “Our show is an attempt to use the abstract use of form, color, balance and motion seen in Calder’s sculptures, to create an environment on the football field that is not unlike a modern sculpture garden,” Wando Band’s program coordinator Michael Gray told MoultrieNews.com. “Each of the Calder inspired props in our show contain elements that move throughout the show, all dependent upon the environment in which they are placed.” The students play musical selections from the classic film "To Kill A Mockingbird” by Elmer Bernstein, an original score by South Carolina composer Jay Bocook and “The Big Apple” by Johan de Meij – against a backdrop of colorful, movable props – all handmade by band parents – reminiscent of the shapes in Calder’s work. The show features recorded narration which tells Calder’s story from the words of art historians, collectors and others who best knew his work. One of the props is inspired by Calder’s famous red outdoor “Flamingo” steel and glass sculpture in downtown Chicago, which the band affectionately refers to as just “Chicago.” Other bright colored props carry the childlike and innocent feel of Calder’s work. [caption id="attachment_37720" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Band parents adjust the "Chicago" prop. (Mike Terry)[/caption] The show was titled “By a Thread” because Calder’s art seemingly hangs by a thread, Gray said, as viewers must look up to see his mobiles and large-scale sculptures. [caption id="attachment_37722" align="alignright" width="250"] Michael Gray (Margie Jackson)[/caption] Gray is a Charleston-based impressionist painter whose artwork is in several galleries around the country. He’s been a part of the Wando band creative team for 18 years and came up with the idea for a Calder-inspired show eight years ago. While it took that many years for the school to get permission to use the likeness of Calder images as set props and on the color guard flags, something else had to be present. The students had to be advanced musically enough as well to tackle a show like this, Gray said. And this season everything came together. Gray designed the color guard costumes, which were inspired by circus costumes Calder had designed for the dance company of Josephine Baker, who dominated the Parisian entertainment scene of that era. Gray also designed the band’s new uniforms this year, an upgrade from the same uniform they wore for 13 previous years. Gray’s artistic vision for the program, along with the hard work and long hours of a sizable team of pros lead by Wando Band Director Bobby Lambert and Assistant Directors Lanie Radecke and Jeff Handel, has helped raise the school’s national profile. “I love focusing our attention on a specific person because it allows us to bring that person and his art to life in a way that can only be done through music,” Lambert said. “In no other activity is a young person asked to be brilliant, athletic, sensitive, and artistic all at the same time. Bringing all of those mediums together alone is a triumph but to do it at a level commensurate with some of the best in the country is extraordinary.” Wando won two first-place titles in regional BOA competitions in October, earning Outstanding Music Performance, Outstanding Visual Performance and Outstanding General Effect in each. The marching band has been a Grand National Finalist four times and the South Carolina 5-A state champions 11 times since 2005. It’s Gray’s hope to educate and entertain audiences watching this year’s show. “If one person [seeing the performance] gets on their phone and Googles ‘Alexander Calder,’ I’m at peace,” he said.
Karen McDonough is a freelance writer based in Mt. Pleasant.

Another win at Poetry Out Loud; repeat champ makes Charleston proud

It's a South Carolina first. [caption id="attachment_34461" align="alignright" width="242"] State Poetry Out Loud winner Janae Claxton (center) receives her trophy from South Carolina Arts Commission representatives Zuri Wilson-Seymore, program coordinator (left), and Ashley Kerns Brown, arts education director (right).[/caption] This past weekend, Janae Claxton of Charleston became the first back-to-back champion of the statewide Poetry Out Loud competition, which is organized by the South Carolina Arts Commission. A senior at First Baptist Church School in Charleston, Claxton was judged the winner after three rounds against five other South Carolina finalists Saturday afternoon at Richland Library Main Branch in Columbia. She won an all-expenses-paid trip for herself and a chaperone as she represents the state in the Poetry Out Loud national finals April 23-25, 2018 in Washington. She also won $200. The national winner receives a $20,000 cash prize.

  • Taylor Elisse Wade of Andrew Jackson High School in Lancaster was first runner up, winning a $100 prize for herself and a $200 stipend for her school to spend on poetry books.
  • Alyssa Stone of Wando High School in Mt. Pleasant was second runner up.
Four first-time judges were part of the Poetry Out Loud state finals: Al Black, Dr. Ray McManus, Dr. Charlene Spearen, and Dr. Ernest Williamson III. SCETV's Beryl Dakers served as event host. Claxton recited three poems from memory on her way to the victory: “The Gaffe” by C.K. Williams in the first round and “A Satirical Elegy on the Death of a Late, Famous General” by Jonathan Swift in the second. Her judges’ score advanced her to the third and final round, where she recited Sharon Olds' “I Go Back to May 1937

Wando High School instructor named SC Dance Educator of the Year

From LowcountryBiz.com:

Jessica-CrumCHARLESTON, SC – The South Carolina Dance Association announced that for the second year in a row, a Charleston County School District (CCSD) teacher has been named the 2015 SC Dance Educator of the Year. This year’s winner is Jessica Crum, dance instructor at Wando High School. “It is an honor to be given this recognition considering how many great dance educators there are throughout the state,” said Jessica. “Dance education is important in the public school system because it teaches critical and creative thinking skills, which are crucial for a student’s success after they leave high school. The true thanks go to my talented students who make my job a pleasure each day.” Jessica has been teaching at Wando for seven years. Unlike most dancers, she did not start training until joining her high school’s dance team at the age of 14. At 16, she walked into her first ballet class not knowing what a dégagé was. Her dance teacher, Ivy Hale, took an interest in her natural talent and taught her classical styles along with dance choreography and composition. Her training continued at the College of Charleston studying Theatre Performance and Dance under the direction of Robert Ivey, intensively training and choreographed works for the Robert Ivey Ballet Company. Her performances have been reviewed by the Post and Courier and described as “insightful” and “inventively choreographed.” Jessica’s work at Wando speaks for itself. After one semester, the dance department grew from 18 students to over 120 students. She always tells her students to dream big and that it is never too late to have a career in dance. Her life is living proof of that. “There is nothing more rewarding than being able to share your life’s passion with those that are eager to learn,” said Gerrita Postlewait, CCSD Superintendent. Jessica is also the founder of the Wando Dance Company, which provides students with a pre-professional dance experience focusing on technical training and choreography. She currently serves as co-director of All County Dance in Charleston County. In 2013, she traveled to Shekou International School located in Shenzhen, China to gain a deeper understanding of fine arts instruction and teaching practices. Jessica will be recognized at the South Carolina Dance Association’s award ceremony on Friday, November 13, at the Kingston Plantation in Myrtle Beach, SC.

S.C. Governor’s School for the Arts student awarded national writing prize

Lowcountry student artists, writers claim 24 Scholastic awards From the Charleston Post and Courier Article by Adam Parker
The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards is a 92-year-old institution that recognizes talented young artists and writers. One of the top winners this year was Charleston native Grant McClure. In 2014, the competition received around 300,000 entries from students, including hundreds from South Carolina teens. About 1,900 across the U.S. were selected as national-level winners, according to Scholastic’s Brittany Sullivan. And 16 high school seniors were awarded the Portfolio Gold Medal (eight for writing, eight for visual art), which is accompanied by a $10,000 cash scholarship. Grant McClureMcClure, a senior at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts in Greenville, was one of the 16. He won in the writing category. He hopes to spend his $10,000 at Wofford College, a private school in Spartanburg with a reputable creative writing program. Or maybe he’ll attend Clemson, he said. He will likely major in environmental studies and minor in writing. McClure attended Charleston Charter School for Math and Science for his first two years of high school and played varsity basketball there. His father, Arnie McClure, is a local architect; his mother, Mitzi, is a registered nurse. Growing up near Colonial Lake, McClure took note of Charleston’s beauty, culture and contradictions, he said. His interest in peeling back the veil to explore the nuances and conflict beneath the surface informs his writing. He has written short fiction, poetry, personal essays, mysteries and more, he said. Currently he’s working on a novella, focusing on character development. Of 44 national winners from South Carolina, 24 are from the Charleston metropolitan area, and 19 of those are Gold and Silver medal winners at Charleston County School of the Arts. Local Gold Medal winners include: Zoe Abedon (SOA, 12th grade); Arden Dodge (SOA, 8th grade); Kathryn Dorn (SOA, 7th grade); Maclean Hueske (SOA, 8th grade); Jessica Leiker (SOA, 9th grade); Julia Lynn (SOA, 11th grade); Carson Peaden (SOA, 9th grade, Best in Grade award for poetry); and Courtney Wickstrom (SOA, 9th grade, Best in Grade award for poetry). Wando High School senior Henry Ballou won a Silver Medal with Distinction for his art portfolio. Silver medals were awarded to 13 others at Goose Creek High School, Ashley Hall and SOA.