ANPF board member knows his Pulitzers

As of July 1, James “Jim” Risser and his fellow Ashland New Plays Festival board members are accepting new plays for ANPF’s 2019 Fall Festival. Risser, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner in National Reporting, served as director of the John S. Knight Fellowships for Professional Journalists and Director of the Graduate Program in Journalism at Stanford University, and on the Pulitzer Prize Board for 10 years in the 1990s. He also played a key role in the selection of Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer-winning play “Angels in America.”

EH: What newspaper articles brought you the Pulitzer Prize?

JR: You could call it investigative reporting: stories that exposed corruption in the U.S. grain exporting industry, where people were paying bribes to federal inspectors. As a result, Congress changed the grain inspection laws. Some people went to prison. Some companies paid fines.

The second prize was for a series of articles explaining the kinds of environmental damage that agriculture does: Things like soil erosion, overuse of chemicals, and depletion of water supplies. A lot of land that shouldn’t be plowed or farmed was being used because of the pressure to produce products. Modern agriculture is a great industry but it can sometimes have a huge impact on the environment.

EH: What happened as a result of those articles?

JR: There were Congressional hearings. They passed some new regulations about what lands could be farmed or not farmed. Continue reading ANPF board member knows his Pulitzers

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Britt educator brings joy to students lives

DSCN5364In the past four years,the past four years, Kay Hilton, Education & Engagement Director of the Britt Music & Arts Festival, has developed FREE year-round music education programs serving Jackson and Josephine counties. Hilton, an accomplished musician and educator, brings with her expertise, much of it gleaned during 18 years as a performer and music coordinator at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Britt Education and Engagement programs include residencies which bring musicians into schools during the school year; an annual guitar weekend: a three-day exploration of guitar styles; fellowship programs in which students perform with members of the Britt Orchestra, then form chamber ensembles to provide outreach performances in the community; BrittKids Koncerts (mid-morning performances for children in the Britt Performance Garden); and internships and partnerships with educational and like-minded organizations.

I met Hilton one morning at Limestone Coffee Company in Medford.

EH: How does music education affect children?

KH: There is a lot of research about the positive things that music education does for brain development. It helps in a variety of ways. It helps you learn how to read music, which affects different parts of your brain. There’s a new study recently that talks about how the study of music helps you learn languages better, because you’re hearing different tonal qualities and getting used to memorizing what those are. And that can help you recognize different languages and learn languages more quickly. There’s been a lot of research on how it helps with math ability. Continue reading Britt educator brings joy to students lives

The Britt — A beautiful experience in a community atmosphere

Teddy Abrams, music director of the Britt Orchestra and a world renowned composer, pianist and clarinetist, will conduct The Britt Orchestra this season (July 25 to Aug. 11) in Jacksonville. This is the second of a two-part column. The first was published on May 26.

EH: How does music influence politics?

TA: It’s one of those questions of whether art imitates life or vice versa. You look at eras of American history and you see remarkable relationships between history and music, or politics and music — even beyond that, sociology and music. The defining characteristics of a lot of cultures are in fact their music making and their cultural output – those are binding elements.

Music is a way of conveying essential information, a way of defining identity. Especially in America, where our music comes from so many different places. We’ve often used it in ways to help us sort out our identities — and we see that over and over.

Jazz is one of the great examples of a music that is built on many different influences. But it’s this ultimately defining African-American music that could only exist (here), given the political circumstances of America. And that continues to this day.

Music is both political and apolitical. The protest songs of the Vietnam era probably had as much influence on people’s thinking about politics as anything. You had these bands and singer-songwriters with massive reach, and trust that they built, and people really listened to what they were saying, in a way that they may have ignored listening to other activists or speakers or politicians. Somebody could listen to a Bob Dylan song or Beatles song with a very specific message, but if they didn’t speak the language, they could still appreciate the music making. Continue reading The Britt — A beautiful experience in a community atmosphere