Orchestrating Jazz, Classical and Career Success: Josh Rzepka

Josh Rzepka, Jazz and Classical Trumpeter

Recording:  “Liam’s Leaving” Into the Night

Josh Rzepka, is a twenty-eight year old trumpeter and composer who’s exemplary of what it takes to be a working performer these days and, not only is he managing his own career, but he’s recently begun consulting with other musicians on how to make their arts business work.

“I have a lot of things going on right now,” Rzepka explains. “I book jazz and classical gigs, do my own composing and producing of my music, play in musicals, shows, and big bands. I also teach 30-35 students three days a week.

“I began to realize how much of a need there was to help other musicians with their careers, so last year I started a consulting business for jazz and classical musicians to help with everything extramusical. I have people who I work with for specialized services like graphic design and photography, and I also do consulting. I recently even helped one client get a Kickstarter campaign off the ground.”

Rzepka’s idea for doing the marketing came from seeing a lot of great musicians who he believed could be doing more with their careers, but then got discouraged because of all that’s expected of them in running their own businesses.

“These days it’s more and more common for musicians to go solo because there are fewer labels out there, and those that are there expect you to absorb the bulk of the cost. So a lot of musicians are working on their own which, because of the web is more viable, but it also requires a lot of extra work.

“As a musician, you need to get bookings, work with venues, and do outreach to the press on a regular basis. You need to be at the top of your game in all these areas because, for example with the guys in the press, they get 1000 releases a day. They’re all being inundated by inquiries from musicians, so you need to stand out and you need to know how to provide them with turn-key material – great copy, appealing photos, images and blurbs, and you need to know what their interests are, so they’ll pay attention to you.

“I’m definitely a great believer in people hiring professionals when they can to help promote and support their work, so that the experts can do what they do best, and you can focus on doing your music. For example, I hired a radio marketing group to help me with contacts and prepitching my recent releases – and it was very helpful. But it’s also true that you need to know what to do yourself for the times when you don’t have help and do have to be your own promoter.”

Josh Rzepka, whose most recent jazz CD, Into the Night, made it to the Top 10 on the Jazz chart, has been described as “a musician who doesn’t believe in limits” by the Tribune Chronicle, and as being “gifted” by the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  He has been heralded not only for his jazz playing and composing, but also for his classical trumpet playing.

With his second jazz album Into the Night, he follows up his debut classical CD, Josh Rzepka: Baroque Music for Trumpet (2010) and his critically acclaimed debut jazz CD Midwest Coast (2009).

Quickly establishing himself as one of the most versatile upcoming performers in classical and jazz music, Josh has performed across the country at famed venues including Severance Hall, Boston’s Symphony Hall, Cleveland’s NightTown, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,  and the Knitting Factory in NYC.  As a soloist Josh has presented recitals and concerts ranging from the baroque, to modern, to original jazz. In 2011 Josh was recognized by the Akron Area Arts Alliance with their 2011 Arts Alive! Rising Young Star award.

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Japanese influenced painting: Bertille Baudiniere

Bertille de Baudinière, Painter

Bertille de Baudinière has distinguished herself and her work during her creative career with an aesthetic practice on three continents – specifically in Japan, USA and Europe – through its diverse nature and the integration of social issues in her art.

She discovered Japanese art, especially sumi-e and abstraction during her studies in the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris 1979-1982 . She was looking for a way to get out of Western culture. “I wanted to go as far away as possible. The Far East fascinated me in its approach to the abstract, it’s totally different spirit, its analysis of space and its taste for simplicity. I enrolled in Japanese language and literature courses and in 1986 obtained a research grant from the Japanese government studying the influence of occidental techniques used by Japanese artists.” She discovered space and simplicity (“two specific Japanese ideas”) and it became her golden rule until now.

The series that followed, Green Earth, 1989-1990, owes its title to a Nihonga pigment of the same name. Symbolic of the link that unites man and nature, Green Earth celebrates the cosmic dimension of Japanese Buddhism; the essential idea that man and the smallest blade of grass are both part of a whole.

The artist did not return to Europe right away. “The weight of the past is too heavy there; to create you must turn your back on the past.” She decided to expand her research to the United States. The earth of the Plains and of the native Americans inspired the second series of twenty paintings entitled Red Earth, 1991, with vast, deep, monochromed spaces irradiated with light.

In Paris 1993-2006 her return to France also marked her return to casein. Enriched by her experiences, she pursued her work on various series of paintings, convinced of the need to explore, test and clarify: Ecrans-Lumière, 1995-1998, Painting by numbers in 1999 (In response to the digital invasion, she covered her paintings with the numerals 0 and 1, retaining from the binary language the idea of combinations that tend towards the infinite), Planètes, 1999-2000, Voilages, 2001, Light-screen, 2001, Chênes-lièges, 2002-2003, Painting by letters, 2004, Blue Earth, 2005-2007.

In 2008, she decided to come back to the United States and live in New York with her family. Bertille de Baudinière found a studio in an artist community in Long Island City.  Since 2008 she has painted the series New York light and a huge American flag, Skype, a series of portraits about the internet, Colorimetry using wood sticks and color filters,  Harlem and some views of the city from above and, finally, Green Earth 2012.  She experiments with new techniques and uses different mediums in order to explore recurring themes in the work. This keeps it new and exciting, which is evident in her current Green Earth paintings.

The work is colorful, vibrant and powerful. Baudinière uses acrylic and casein, color filters, natural pigments, wood, piano strings, and a variety of found objects in her paintings, mixed-media works and assemblages.

My eye is always attracted by new and different materials, both natural and recycled. Sometimes I use these materials in my paintings, such as the natural sponges in my recent Green Earth series. At other times the material becomes a medium itself, such as the discarded wood lattice with which I made the Colorimetry series. With the help of these various materials I try to create constructions in which matter is transformed into light.

Bertille de Baudinière was born in Saint Malo, France. She received her diploma from Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts de Paris in 1982. In 1986, she was granted a research scholarship by the Japanese government and was enrolled as a Master scholar at the National University of Music and Arts in Tokyo. She received her MFA in 1990.

Baudinière has exhibited nationally and internationally including Islip Art Museum, US, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, US, Hainan National Museum, China, Tomura Gallery, Japan, Fondation des Etats-Unis, France, Zurdorfer Wehrturm Museum, Germany, Galerie Arte Noah, Germany and Dalian, China.

She has been granted residencies, given lectures, curated special exhibits and designed sets throughout the world and has created several videos.

Baudinière’s work is in the collection of Museum of Landau, Germany, Fondation Danielle Mitterand, Le GNG, l’Energie pour demain,  Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Queensborough Community College, and Fondation des Etats-Unis. Her work has been shown in Le Monde Diplomatique, Beaux arts magazine, Art Press, Editions Unesco, Nice-Matin, Omaha World Herald, and Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger.

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Documenting Protest: Granny Peace Brigade Art

Regina Silvers, Visual Artist and Art Organizer

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I draw, paint, and have been exhibiting my work since the ‘70s. Right now I’m engrossed in the most exciting art project of my career: The Granny Peace Brigade series.

In 2005 a friend of mine was arrested, along with a small group of older women– all members of various Peace groups like Code Pink and the Gray Panthers— for demonstrating at the Army Recruitment station in Times Square. They were cuffed, jailed, and eventually tried and acquitted.  Out of this experience they formed The Granny Peace Brigade. I’ve been a supporter and ardent admirer since then.

I drew them during their trial and later began to photograph them while I marched and demonstrated with them. After a while, I began using these photos as source material for new work.

Much of my previous work of the past 20-odd years had focused on nature-based motifs. Working from sketches made while hiking upstate NY, I created large close-ups of the rocks, weeds, waterfalls, and woodlands, drawing attention to their “ordinary” beauty and vitality.  At the same time – initially because I am devoted to drawing the figure – I created the ”Placard” series: paintings and drawings derived from images of protesters I found in newspapers. This however was a different matter.

As an older woman, and an activist since the days I marched with the Women Strike for Peace against the Vietnam War, this project is more personal and vital.  It gives me an opportunity to merge my aesthetic, political and social concerns, through personally meaningful, timely, subject matter. It’s been challenging and exhilarating.

It’s been said that “…the eye witnesses, the hand records.” As an artist I am following a long roster of artists who “bear witness” (think Goya, Kathe Kollwitz, Picasso, Ben Shahn, Leon Golub). While I’m not intent on painting a political polemic, I do want to pay homage to these feisty peace activists, and transmit their message that “Democracy is not a Spectator Sport”.

As I participate in documenting this piece of our history, I  show, close-up, what it’s like to be in the midst of the energetic Grannies, visually expressing the view that older women are concerned, and can have an active voice in our society.

To make a piece of art that conveys the energy, immediacy, and spirit of the narrative, I work quickly, making many large pieces for each motif, varying the composition, the approach, and the materials. The works range from 20 x 30” to 36 x 72”, in pastel, charcoal, acrylic, and/or oil paint. Some become finished “products”, others remain studies. I feel privileged to be able to hone my approach to making art while visually expressing something of such importance to me, and hopefully supporting the efforts of these heroic women.

I will be exhibiting this work in a one-person exhibition at Saint Peter’s Church (Citicorp) NYC in May, 2013.


Regina Silvers has been involved with fine art for her whole adult life- as a visual artist and an art organizer. Originally trained as a NYC art teacher, her varied career includes jewelry designer, gallery director, curator, art consultant, museum publicity/advertising manager, and always, practicing artist.

She was a founder and President of TOAST, the TriBeCa Open Artist Studio Tour (2000 to 2010), and co-founder and Director of the Gallery at Hastings on Hudson (1976-84).

Silvers has maintained a studio in TriBeCa for more than 20 years and, until recently, a studio in Woodstock, NY. Her work appears in corporate and private collections throughout the United States, and she has participated in more than 40 exhibitions nationally.

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Artists in Support of the Armed Forces

Karen Loew, Chair of Coast Guard Art Program, Visual Artist specializing in soft realism

Karen Loew and the artists who participate in the Coast Guard Art Program (COGAP) and the art programs of other branches of the country’s armed forces immortalize in paintings the bravery of men and women serving in the U.S. military.

The artists are, according to Loew, “visual historians, morale boosters and fan club”. Artists work as volunteers, and they donate time and talent to create works of art depicting the varied missions of the military. “The paintings depict experiences of danger, the suspense of the unknown, the anxious moments of search and rescue, the relief of a successful mission, and the emotions of a return home,” says Loew. Each work of art is a gift from the artist to the Collection.

“Emails I have received thank us for capturing their memories and experiences, and for portraying the Coast Guard in a very positive and remarkable way. I chair the COGAP Committee at the Salmagundi Club, which is an artistic and cultural center that’s been here for over 140 years and is also the proud sponsor of COGAP. When I joined COGAP in 1999, I did not have expectations of what would become of the art I would donate to the Collection. Rather, I was just thrilled to be accepted and have my art included. Since then, I have observed that the art of the Collection does have an amazing public life, educating the public about the missions and history of our Coast Guard through displays at museums, libraries and patriotic events. Art is also displayed in government offices and at Coast Guard locations around the country.

All the branches of the United States armed services have art programs:

The United States Coast Guard Art Program was co-founded in 1981 by combat artist George Gray and John Ward of Coast Guard Community Relations. COGAP welcomes requests for public displays of artwork and inquiries from artists to join the program.

Management of the United States Air Force Art Program and Collection is the responsibility of the Secretary of the Air Force, Office of the Administrative Assistant. The Air Force Art Program Office handles day-to-day administration of the program. The office is charged with responsibility for the Art Program.

The United States Marine Corps Art Collection, held in trust at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, document over 230 years of Marine Corps history. The mission of the Museum is to collect and preserve in perpetuity, artifacts that reflect and chronicle the history of the Corps. The more than 60,000 uniforms, weapons, vehicles, medals, flags, aircraft, works of art and other artifacts in the Museum’s collections trace the history of the Marine Corps from 1775 to the present.

The United States Navy Art Collection has over 15,000 paintings, prints, drawings, and sculpture. It contains depictions of naval ships, personnel, and action from all eras of U.S. naval history, but due to the operation of the Combat Art Program, the eras of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and Desert Shield/Storm are particularly well represented. The Branch manages the art collection, produces exhibits, loans artwork to museums and institutions, and provides research assistance on the art collection.

The United States Army Art Program or United States Army Combat Art Program is a program created by the United States Army to create artwork for museums and other programs sponsored by the US Army. The collection associated with the program is held by the United States Army Center of Military History, as part of their Museums collection.

Karen Loew is Chair of the Coast Guard Art Program Committee of New York’s Salmagundi Club, and she serves on the club’s board of directors. In 2002, the Coast Guard sent her to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (GTMO) to document activities of Coast Guard Port Security Unit 305. She is frequently a speaker at COGAP events, most notably for the opening reception of the COGAP exhibition in Vlissingen, Holland in 2009. In 2011, she was given the Coast Guard Distinguished Public Service Award, the highest recognition given to those who have made outstanding contributions in advancing the Coast Guard’s missions.

Loew’s art has been featured in the book American Women Artists in Wartime, 1776 – 2010 as well as The New York Times, and Professional Artist. Her paintings are held in private and public collections.

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Championing Chinese Shadow Puppetry – Annie Rollins

Annie Rollins, Puppeteer and recent Fulbright Fellow in Chinese Shadow Puppetry

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How did you get involved with Chinese Shadow Puppetry?

Chinese shadow puppetry is the sum of all my independent interests and, of course, so much more.  As a part-Asian puppet lover with a penchant for the historical, Chinese shadow puppetry has sustained my interest in all of those things and continues to inform my personal and professional life.

How does shadow puppetry differ from other performance arts in its approach?

It is similar to other folk art performance forms in that its main purpose is to transmit oral history to a largely illiterate class and to educate and community build through entertainment and a collective experience. It differs from other traditions insofar as its incredible artistry has really pushed boundaries both with the figures themselves and performance techniques.

What about this art form is important to the heritage of China and to yourself?

Chinese shadow puppetry is an amalgamation of Chinese culture in both content and aesthetics as seen from the masses. While most elite and upper class art forms are well documented and preserved, Chinese shadow puppetry is lesser known and understood but more informative as to the majority’s ideology and beliefs at any given time. In a broader context, this is Chinese shadow puppetry’s most important heritage.

I consider it a high art form in its own right, with regional differences in nearly every province that reflect a rich inheritance of idiosyncratic tradition and craft.  My particular focus is practice-led research in traditional shadow puppet making methods in the three main regional styles and that has remained largely uncovered in research both in China and internationally.  Because the methods and aesthetic significance was largely overlooked until recently, many of the remaining masters have passed already with no apprentices in place and many others threaten the same scenario.

How does this influence your artwork?

My research and creative work have a symbiotic relationship – both inform the other and not necessarily in any particular order. Through research I find questions that can only be explored through creation and vice versa. Currently, my work is almost wholly focused on both Chinese shadow puppetry and how that learning is processed through me as an artist with a very different background than the traditional learner. With permission from my masters, I’m creating my own pathway to modernizing the form that fits within my understanding of how best to honor the tradition.

How is shadow puppetry being preserved in China?

Other than commercial endeavors, little has been done to preserve the form in China. With the official induction into UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage project in 2011, there is much more attention and support currently being focused on traditional Chinese shadow puppetry, but the long-term results remain to be seen. Little, if any, funding is being given to two designated members of a nominated troupe (equal to a peasants’ monthly wages) and no funding or support for students or apprentices. And, while this greatly eases the stress for shadow puppet artists in the aging stages of their lives, it does little to answer the more imperative questions about lack of students to carry the tradition through to the next generation.

Some people have criticized China for their lack of effort to preserve this and many other dying traditions as their country races towards a progressive modern future, but I find that they are doing what all countries have done at one point or another – prioritizing.  Folk art forms are in this position worldwide.

Are there any schools or programs that specialize in Chinese Shadow Puppetry?

Sadly, there are no formal institutions that teach Chinese shadow puppetry, save a workshop here or there.  The masters who are still working are very open to students – even foreign ones – who show an interest. Because it is a folk art form it is unlikely that Chinese shadow play education would become formalized anytime soon.The hope is that the form will garner more support to continue teaching as they always have – through hands and hearts.

If anyone has interest and will be traveling to China shortly, feel free to contact me for connections. Additional puppetry information is at: http://annierollins.wordpress.com/links.

Annie Rollins is a puppeteer and recent Fulbright Fellow in Chinese Shadow Puppetry. She has a MFA in theater design from the University of Minnesota and has been studying traditional Chinese Shadow Puppetry in different regions of China for the past year. Annie considers herself an artist first, creating experimental puppet shows, design and teaching workshops when she isn’t studying puppetry in China. Recently, she was invited to speak at the Chinese Shadow Puppetry Symposium at the Ballard Institute & Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut.

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