Chat with Art Executive Joe Newman ’97 at Career Night for the Arts 2014

By Cuilin Chen

Joe Newman '97, Executive Director of the Lyme Art Association,

Joe Newman ’97, Executive Director of the Lyme Art Association,

Career Night for the Arts is around the corner! If you are interested in art and want to explore your options further, head to the McMullen on Thursday, November 13, 7-9PM to chat with twenty five alumni working in arts-related professions.

Joe Newman ’97, executive director of the Lyme Art Association, is one of the alums that will join us at Career Night, and here he offers insight into his rich experience in the art world. Not only interested in how Joe Newman explored his career path, we are also curious about his perspective on interns and artists as an executive director.

Shall you be an artist or art-lover, find your inspiration from the interview below!

You have worked extensively in the art world, and your career has progressed along. How would you describe this progress?

My career has been somewhat unorthodox. Shortly after leaving BC, I had the opportunity to work with a private firm that bought and sold American rare books and manuscripts. Everything about the paintings fascinated me. After leaving the firm to focus on my graduate studies, when I was ready to return to work, I wrote a letter to a respected art gallery near my hometown that specialized in 19th and early 20th paintings, inquiring whether they might have a position open. They did, and I spent four wonderful years learning everything I could about American paintings. From there, I spent some time at a large gallery in New York and an auction house, before taking time off again to explore other interests. During this last year, I had the opportunity to serve the non-profit Lyme Art Association, the nation’s oldest, as its executive director. In all, I’ve been grateful to have the opportunity to see how the art world functions from the gallery perspective, from inside an auction house, and from an institutional perspective.

We know that you are excited about new ideas and new artists, but what are some of the qualities, specifically, you seek in new artists?

When I encounter work by a new artist, I can tell within a very short period of time whether that artist interests me. Personally, a strong work of art always hints at some kind of narrative. The viewer should be aware that there might be a story behind the creation. This quality allows the viewer to lend a little of their own imagination to the experience of viewing the work, which makes the art feel more powerful and intimate.

We have many students at Boston College who are eager to test the water in the art world. Would you tell us something you seek in interns and volunteers?

The quality I most seek in interns and volunteers is the ability to communicate well. Nothing bothers me more than receiving an email from someone that is poorly written, or worse, poorly thought out and then poorly written. Whenever you write to someone—whether email, text, instant message, or whatever form you use—you’re asking that person to surrender a little bit of their time and read what you’ve sent them. Correspondence is welcome when it’s informative, thorough, and worth reading.


And last, a simple question, but a lot of us may have this question in mind: how do you stay creative?

Even though I’ve spent the bulk of my career handling fine American paintings, I am utterly incapable of drawing so much as a rainbow. To stay creative, I enjoy writing fiction and personal essays. The thought process of composing a short story or something longer is similar to composing a painting. Many times, you experience something in life or the natural world that makes you feel something. You’re not sure what, at first, but you keep thinking about it. Eventually, this feeling morphs into an idea about how to convey that feeling to an audience. You experiment with different approaches and, in doing so, realize that may you have even more to say or demonstrate than you thought. So the work becomes a little more complex, with disparate parts that relate to each other. When you’re finally finished, you’ve taken a vague, uncertain experience and translated it for your readers or viewers in a way that communicates how the experience changed or affected you. When you get that right, it’s one of the best feelings in the world.


Music Therapist Alison Davitt: “Everyone Has The Potential to Create Music Within Themselves”

Career Night for the Arts is this Thursday, Nov. 7th, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. in McMullen Museum. Join the Arts Council and the Career Center in welcoming BC alumni with successful careers in the arts for an evening of networking and conversation. Talk to professionals working in fashion, photography, music, theatre, writing, visual art, and arts administration; ask the questions you really want the answers to about forging a career in the arts after graduation. All majors welcome!

For the last couple of weeks, we have been firing questions at our alumni guests for a sneak preview of their insight and advice. Today, we got the lowdown from Alison Davitt, ’07, who, of all our alumni guests this year, has the most unusual occupation: Music Therapy. We’re delighted to have Alison join us for the event, as she represents the sheer breadth of arts careers available, and is living proof that the arts and the sciences aren’t from different galaxies after all. Alison talked to us about her experiences with therapy, the importance of music in our lives, and how to find a fulfilling career.

Alison felt she needed to find a career that incorporated her science background with her love of music.

Alison felt she needed to find a career that incorporated her science background with her love of music.

Your job sounds like such a fascinating blend of science and the arts. Can you tell us a bit more about it, for those of us who aren’t sure what music therapy is? How does something creative like music benefit the clinician (or patient) in therapy?
Officially, Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program (American Music Therapy Association, 2013).
The music therapy interventions mentioned above include everything from instrumental and vocal improvisation, writing and recording original music, singing, listening to well known music, and even music for relaxation or movement.  Music Therapy is based on the idea that everyone has the potential to create music within themselves.  This natural ability is therapeutic and can help accomplish their goals in a variety of ways, from providing an alternate means of expression, to teaching a stroke victim how to walk and talk again.
Is there something fundamentally therapeutic about the arts? What role do you think music plays in our lives?
Many people have forgotten that artistic expression is not only for those of us designated as “talented.” In my work as a music therapist, I have worked with trauma victims whose rediscovery of their voice through vocal and instrumental improvisation has made a major impact on their overall self-esteem. I have also seen elders with dementia sing the words to an entire song despite their inability to speak coherently. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said that, “Music is the universal language of mankind.” I have seen music succeed with clients when words did not.
It is an understatement that music plays a huge role in the majority of human lives. Music has the ability to remind us of past events, both good or bad, whether it was the song at our wedding, or a song our mother sang to us, or even the song that was playing on the radio during our first break-ups. It also has the ability of soothing our moods, or alternately, getting us excited. It is always there when needed, and best of all, it does not judge us or make us feel guilty.
How did you figure out that this is what you wanted to do? What would you say to a student who loves nurturing their creative side, but worries about finding a career in the arts after school?

 After I graduated from BC, I used my biology major to obtain a job in a transplant laboratory at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. During this time, I was in a rock band with two other BC graduates. We met frequently and wrote original music that we eventually recorded and played in several Boston venues. Initially, my involvement with the band was enough to satisfy my musical cravings and make me feel fulfilled. However, I realized quickly that the position at BWH did not utilize my full potential. I needed to find a way to combine my scientific background, my desire to help people, and my love of music. After researching the Masters in Expressive Therapy program at Lesley University, I knew that it was exactly what I had been looking for.

Finding a career in the arts is always a scary thought for students, and it was for me as well. I took comfort in the degree at Lesley since it provided not only Music Therapy licensure, but also Mental Health Counseling licensure. For me, the dual licensure provided some practical insurance that I would have options following graduation.  In reflecting on my job searching after graduation, I would advise students that there are opportunities for careers in the arts for those who actively seek them out. There are also ways of incorporating the arts into other job roles. Often this requires perseverance, networking skills, and personal assertiveness. If there is something that you would like to do in the arts, you will most likely need to market yourself for it!

What’s your best memory of BC? 

My best memory of BC is watching the Red Sox win their first World Series in many years. As a freshman, one of my first activities was a game at Fenway park.  Sitting in Vanderslice Watching everyone stream out of their dorms onto lower campus was really exciting.

For students interested in finding out more about music therapy, there are expressive therapies information sessions at Lesley University: Friday, October 25th 10:00 am and Friday, November 15th 10:00 am. The next Open House is January 15th, 2014.

Zach Bubolo: Actor, Producer, and Attending Career Night!

From Shakespeare to All My Children, via Grand Theft Auto V, Zach Bubolo definitely earned his acting stripes since graduating from BC. Now, he runs his own media production company — New York Picture Company — with two fellow BC alumni, producing commercials for big-name brands. Today, we’re chatting to him about breaking into TV, going commercial, and playing a baddie on GTA.

Zach will be joining us for Career Night for the Arts next Thursday, Nov. 7, 7:00 – 9:00 pm, along with several other BC alumni with successful careers in the arts. Check out our website at the link above, or browse through our latest posts to find out who will be imparting their sage advice to BC students. Want to meet an Author? Stage Manager? Interior Designer? Singer? Make sure you head down to the McMullen Museum for this evening of networking and conversation.

Zach Bubolo graduated in 2006, and co-founded  his company with fellow BC alum Matt Cullinan and Jim Fagan in 2012.

Zach Bubolo graduated in 2006, and co-founded his company with fellow BC alum Matt Cullinan and Jim Fagan in 2012.

We’re really intrigued about you appearing in GTA V. What was that like?

As a lifelong gamer, it was a dream come true for me. I was thrilled to be able to play several different characters, but I had the most fun playing a hostage-taking mercenary. I was probably most excited to wear the ping-pong ball wet suit and helmet camera they use for motion, face, and voice capture. GTA V was shot in a huge warehouse; there were no sets or costumes, so I had to rely on my imagination and training. If you ever get a chance to play the game, you have to kill one of my characters to complete a mission.

Is acting for TV as fun as it looks? How did you break in to that industry?

After making a shot in the dark — a blind submission to Jill, the Casting Director at “Guiding Light” — I was called  in for a meeting, and promptly told they wanted to use me for a small recurring role for a new mini-mart set on the show. I found out after working on the show for a few weeks that soap operas work at a break neck speed, which was so different from what I was used to after working exclusively in theater. While I didn’t have a meaty or particularly exciting role, I had a great time getting to know the main cast and crew, which were really like a little family, and I learned a lot about how your TV sausage is made.

Tell us a little more about NYPC — what inspired you to set up the company? What’s your vision for this project?

My involvement in New York Picture Company started when fellow BC alumni, Matt Cullinan ‘07 and Jim Fagan ‘07, asked me to be the third member of their new company. The three of us had just created and filmed a pilot called “Logan Davenport: Soap Opera Star,” and we wanted to continue working together and see if we could monetize doing something which we already enjoyed, which is why we began creating commercials for spec. We’ve had some success selling them and have worked with brands such as Frito Lays, Hormel Bacon, and Prevacid. Working on commercials has been a great way to find our voice, build experience, and develop a sustainable business model. Now we have our eye on creating comedic branded content on a larger scale (short films and web series), in addition to continuing our commercial and non branded work.

Keeping in touch with BC alumni was instrumental for you in setting up NYPC. Have the connections you made at college been important to you since graduating? How else did BC prepare you for a career in the arts?

The vast majority of the people we call when we have a project are people with whom we work, or went to college and graduate school. I suppose this is reductive, but I can’t stress enough how important personal connections have proven to be in finding work in the arts, and mine were made at BC. We have used BC grads as actors, costume designers, tech consultants, and various crew members. We also consult with another group of BC grads who are filmmakers out in Los Angeles. I hope we can continue to bring on more BC alums as writers, producers, directors of photography, and in a variety of other ways.

Connections I made at BC have been and continue to be incredibly important in my professional and personal life. Jim Fagan (co-founder of NYPC) and I have actually been close friends since Chaminade High School (Go Flyers). After BC we were roommates while I was going to graduate school at A.R.T./ Harvard and he was working as a director in Boston. Matt (the other co-founder) and I were co-best men at Jim’s wedding, and they will be groomsmen at my wedding (my fiancée, Sarah, and I went to grad school together, and I still feel lucky every time she agrees to be a lead on a shoot for us).

As for other ways BC prepared me, the acting classes and shows at BC were led by some pretty incredible faculty members and I still incorporate their training whenever I am working on a new project. I only regret that I didn’t spend enough time out of my comfort zone. I wish I had studied aboard and taken some marketing or finance classes. Luckily, I continue to learn from other alumni and find inspiration in them, not only because of their talent, but also because of their drive and discipline.

Jane Conway Caspe: Model, Author, and Attending Career Night!

Career Night for the Arts is just over a week away, and the Arts Council has been getting the skinny on life in the arts from our alumni guests. On Thursday Nov. 7th, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.  in the McMullen Museum, Devlin Hall, students will have the chance to meet  professionals working in publishing, film, theatre, visual arts, music, and arts administration. Join us for an evening of conversation, and learn more about what to expect after graduation.
Our feature alumna today is Jane Conway Caspe, a regular Career Night patron who has a passion for sharing her knowledge of the fashion industry with students. Starting as a model before she graduated from BC, Jane has worked in the fashion industry for the last 30 years and found time, along the way, to co-author a book, The Nantucket Diet, published by Random House in 2005. Now, Jane is on the Board of Trustees at the School of Fashion Design, and recently produced/modeled for several shows at this year’s Boston Fashion Week. We talked to Jane about juggling several careers, and how her BC education helped her transcend the “just a model” label.

Jane is proud to belong to the BC family

Jane is proud to belong to the BC family

You’ve had  several successful arts careers! Do you think creative people are inclined to  try their hand at many things? Which of your creative exploits — modeling,  event planning, writing,  — did you find most rewarding?

Yes, I believe individuals who enter into careers in the arts have an entrepreneurial spirit and are always willing to try new ventures. In the fashion industry there are many different career paths one can take. Several of them are related and  can easily be combined. Many positions allow you to make your own schedule so you can take on several different tasks each day. You may work incredibly hard but if you love what you do it doesn’t seem like work at all. The most rewarding part of my career is mentoring young designers and models. It is a pleasure to be able to help them establish their careers and gain success in the industry.

Your modeling career started while you were still at BC. How did your time at college help you establish a career after graduation?

My time at college gave me the foundation and confidence to take on any career. I was able to start my businesses knowing I had a strong education that would help me succeed. There have been several occasions when I was chosen above others because of my degree from BC, to serve on Boards, to co-author a book, etc. It became known that I wasn’t “just a model.”

What is your number one tip  for a student who wants to break in to the fashion industry?

Never give up on your aspirations, and start establishing connections in the industry now. By attending events and volunteering, you can meet influential people who can help you further your goals. Local fashion professionals are always interested in young talent and are willing to help them enter into the industry. If you are passionate about having a career in the arts and work hard, you will be successful.

What makes you proud to be  an Eagle?

I am proud to be an Eagle because I know I am part of an incredible  group of like minded individuals who truly care about how they make their mark in the world.We are all a part of the BC family and that connection continues throughout our lifetime.

From New York Magazine to Furniture Designers: Alumna Micaela Lade’s Eclectic Arts Administration Career

Two weeks to go until Career Night for the Arts 2013! Every year, the Arts Council teams up with the Career Center to bring alumni with successful arts careers back to campus to give students the low down on establishing a career in the arts. Stop by and chat with them on Thursday Nov. 7th, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m in the McMullen Museum, Devlin Hall.
If you’re considering a career in the arts, you can’t miss this opportunity to talk to professionals working in publishing, film, theatre, visual arts, music, and arts administration.
We’ve been pitching questions at our alumni guests to get a quick preview of their expert insight. Today’s featured alum is Micaela Lade, who worked at New York magazine for a year before landing a job at the New York office of Phaidon Press, the art publisher based in London. Michaela worked at Phaidon for five years, before leaving in early 2012 for a job on the merchandising team at Design Within Reach, the modern furniture retailer, where she work with designers to help them bring their designs to market.
Micaela got her first job with New York magazine through mediabistro

Micaela got her first job with New York magazine through mediabistro

How did you get your first “break” with New York magazine?
I actually got my first break with New York through I completed an internship in the marketing department of Fitness magazine during the summer before my senior year of college, but there were no positions open there when I graduated. I spent countless hours on Mediabistro during the second semester of my senior year, writing cover letters and keeping track of all the positions I applied for on an overly detailed spreadsheet. In retrospect, I wish I’d relaxed a bit more — as I now know from experience, employers in publishing typically won’t interview candidates until they are living in the same city! I ramped up my pursuit of different jobs on Mediabistro once I graduated and was back in New York, and was fortunate to find the job at New York and start there three weeks after graduation.
It sounds like you’ve had two careers in the arts! Was it difficult to make the transition from Phaidon to DWR? Do you feel like the creative industries share common ground?
It does feel like I’ve had two careers in the arts! It definitely felt like a big transition moving from Phaidon to DWR, but it wasn’t too difficult. I felt lucky in that I had developed a lot of transferrable skills at Phaidon which helped me adapt to my job at DWR. Although there are big differences between the two companies, there was enough common ground that I didn’t feel too uncomfortable in or unprepared for my new role. The most helpful element was that my five years at Phaidon allowed me to be in an environment where I could learn about the designers and manufacturers I would later work with at DWR. For example, Phaidon published a book on office chairs that I regularly use as a reference tool in my job at DWR. Little connections like that one helped make the transition much easier than it could have been otherwise.
What do you know now that you wish you knew in college?
There are a few things that come to mind, but the major one is the importance of networking! I knew it was important to make and nurture connections, but when I was younger I always felt uncomfortable about actually getting jobs through networking. I didn’t like the idea of being “handed” something simply by virtue of knowing the right person. But it’s honestly one of the best ways to get jobs you really want, rather than settling for something that might not be your first choice. Although I was lucky to find two jobs through postings on Mediabistro, I never would have landed my current job without knowing the right people. It’s really so important, and it’s a great way to find opportunities you might never have conceived of beforehand.
What’s your fondest memory of BC?
Oh, there are so many! I could never pick one, but my top memories include the dinners with my roommates in Voute our senior year, all of the art history classes I took (especially those with Professors Nahum and Bookbinder), and my senior Capstone class with Sister Mary Daniel O’Keeffe. I also have to include my year abroad in Paris! I’m not sure that really counts as a memory of BC per se, but it was a major part of my BC experience — the study abroad program, incidentally, happens to be one of the main reasons I chose to come to BC in the first place, and it was one of the best and most formative years of my life.

Tim Lemire: Author, Journalist, and Attending Career Night!

With just over two weeks to go until Career Night for the Arts, the Arts Council has been picking the creative brains of successful BC alumni for a quick preview of their expert insight into the arts industries. On Thursday Nov. 7th, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m., these arts aficionados will be sharing their wisdom with current students in the McMullen Museum, Devlin Hall. If you’re considering a career in the arts, you can’t miss this opportunity to meet professionals working in publishing, film, theatre, visual arts, music, and arts administration.

Today, we’re talking to writer Tim Lemire, ’89. Tim has occupied numerous writing related roles, from English teacher to newspaper editor, and after penning no less that seven books, he’s certainly learned a thing or two about the publishing world.


You’ve worked in many different fields over the years! Do you have a favorite job? Would you recommend experimenting with different careers, or do you wish you’d stuck with one?

My favorite job was journalism. I could write every day, interview people, learn new things, and I felt like I was working for a public good.

The collapse of newspapers is a good example of what I’m seeing more and more: the marketplace making career decisions for you. When I graduated college, making a career was like forging a path; today, it’s like navigating a torrential river. It can be done, it’s just more precarious.

The road to publishing a book seems especially rocky and uncertain. What’s the most challenging thing about the process? 

Answering the first question that the publisher wants to know: Who’s going to buy this? “Everybody” isn’t an acceptable answer. You need to be precise, otherwise the publisher doesn’t know who to target the book to, to make a profit. And today, the question is: Why should this be a book and not a blog?

The most challenging thing about having a book published is that instead of just sitting back and enjoying sausage, you get to see how the sausage is made. You see how many decisions there are, and for better or for worse, you don’t make all of them.

What advice would you give to a first-time author about publishing a book?

Keep an open mind. That novel or short story you want to write may work better on television or as a self-published e-book. Or it may not work at all, and you should go to the next idea.

When I got out of college, I wanted to be like the authors I’d read: Hemingway, Cheever, Joyce. But that entire model of publishing—that entire literary culture—is long, long gone. It took me years to realize and accept that, and to move on—to be me instead of someone else.

How did your time at BC prepare you for a career in the arts?

Boston College, for all its merits, didn’t have an arts scene in the 1980s that you would call “burgeoning.” Opportunities were limited. When you’re young, it’s tempting to be cynical and just give up and think, “No one cares, what’s the point.”

But that situation can be liberating: if no one cares, you can do whatever you want! Experiment, be bold, try things out. I think young people today are more adaptable to a D.I.Y. environment — they have better technology to help them. My generation had MacWrite.

Boston College prepared me for a career in the arts by letting me try a lot of things so I could figure out what I wanted to do. Every time I come back to campus, I reconnect with that spirit of adventure and possibility.

Career Night for the Arts Alumni Profiles: Emily Rose Walsh talks about her performance at BC

Preparations are underway here at the Arts Council  for Career Night for the Arts 2013. Once a year, we join forces with the Career Center to bring BC Alumni back to campus for a night of networking and conversation. If you’re considering a career in the arts, you can’t miss this opportunity to talk to professionals working in publishing, film, theatre, visual arts, music, and arts administration. Make sure you join us on Thursday Nov. 7th, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. in the McMullen Museum, Devlin Hall.

This week, we’re talking to one of 2013’s alumni guests, soprano Emily Rose Walsh, as she prepares for her performance at BC this weekend. Emily will be showcasing her vocal talents this Sunday, Oct. 6th, 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. in Gasson Hall 100. Admission is free, and the recital will feature songs by Schubert, Poulenc, and Copland, set to poetry by Goethe, Louis Aragon, and Emily Dickinson. Whether you’re a literature lover, a music lover, or both, this event is sure to be the perfect Sunday afternoon treat. Exploring powerful themes like long-distance love, endless war, the force of nature, and the agony of mental illness, Emily will perform alongside pianist Caroline Harvey.

We caught up with Emily to discuss music, poetry, and her advice for BC students considering a career in performance.

Soprano Emily Rose Walsh '07 is  performing at BC this weekend.

Soprano Emily Rose Walsh ’07 is performing at BC this weekend.

Why are you excited about coming back to BC to perform?

When I was a student, the Music Department was quite small, and there weren’t many performance opportunities. Though I spent most of my days on the fourth floor of Lyons, few of the music faculty actually heard me sing until my senior recital. I thought of that performance as a singular opportunity, and I remember telling myself to relish the experience because I would probably never get to do it again. Shortly after, several professors approached me individually and told me to seriously consider a career in performance. This recital is, in many ways, an expression of gratitude for their continuing support. I also hope it encourages current students who are interested in pursuing careers in music to consider that there are many different pathways, and that coming from a small music department doesn’t limit them.

What makes you proud to be an Eagle? What’s your favorite memory of being a student at BC?

Like a lot of alumni, I have John Finney to thank for my best times at BC.  My favorite college memories all connect in some way to the University Chorale.  It was where I met my husband and most of my friends.  We got to sing some of the greatest music there is, in some of the most remarkable places on Earth. Singing a raucous “Tollite Hostias” in a pub in Galway was as unforgettable as performing “Ave Verum” in St. Peter’s Basilica. The Chorale is so fortunate to have John’s leadership. He knows how to bring the very best out of every singer, and I’m a stronger musician because of him.

As you’re planning to join us at Career Night for the Arts in November, what advice would you give to aspiring BC musicians about forging a career after graduation?

Don’t feel pressured to pursue a Master’s Degree at a conservatory right away. If you need a break from school, consider working for an arts organization. I did, for several years before graduate school, and though it was often extremely challenging, I’m grateful for the experience. For one thing, music was still a daily part of my life, even when I wasn’t performing. The job also helped me understand the complex challenges facing arts organizations by the economy and a dwindling public interest in classical music, which is invaluable insight for a performer hoping to get hired by these institutions. You can also build valuable connections, especially in a city like Boston, where established musicians and major donors all seem to know each other. This kind of networking, and learning how to build a strong reputation as a collaborator, can be really crucial to success in a conservatory environment.


Emily as the Queen of the Night in Barbara Gawlick’s production of The Magic Flute at BC, 2012

The combination of music and poetry in your recital sounds fascinating. Can you tell us more about it? 

I like to create themes for my performances. The recital includes an examination of two influential female characters in early 19th century German Romanticism: Suleika and Mignon. My Mom taught me to appreciate Emily Dickinson at a young age, and I love how thoughtfully her poetry is set by Copland, and how he infuses his distinctively American sound with her work. I have also included a set of songs written during World War II by the French composer Poulenc. The tones of the four songs vary widely, from desperate, to nostalgic, to bitter, to hopeful. I find them deeply moving because we are simultaneously so removed from that era, and forever connected with it. Since recitals provide great opportunities to perform chamber music, I will also be singing an aria from a Bach cantata, and a Russian folk song.

What do you think the relationship is between the two art forms? How does one compliment the other?

I love recital repertoire specifically because it combines music and poetry. Interpreting a poem is an intellectual exercise on its own, but setting it to music gives it new complexity. I have to figure out the composer’s interpretation, in addition to my own, and the musical setting can significantly alter my analysis. It can also reveal new depths to the text, which you can’t always grasp through reading alone. My recital includes two settings of the same poem,“Mignon (Kennst du das Land),” by Beethoven and Schumann. Mignon is a character in Goethe’s novel Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, who was kidnapped at a young age by nomads and abused until she was rescued by Wilhelm. In the poem, she describes her homeland in vivid, often imaginative detail. The two composers’ interpretations differ wildly. Beethoven’s setting is sweet and wistful, while Schumann’s is dark and unstable. What Beethoven read as nostalgia, Schumann read as post-traumatic stress. Beethoven’s Mignon recalls the home she grew up in; Schumann’s Mignon describes the place where she was abducted. I think it’s important to recognize poetry’s ability to communicate a multiplicity of meaning.

So, it sounds like an event for music lovers and literature lovers?

Yes, absolutely! If you’re a music lover, I think you’ll enjoy how diverse the program is, and if you love poetry, I think you might enjoy comparing a composer’s (and my!) interpretation with yours.  I’m proud of this program and I’m really looking forward to sharing it with everyone who attends.

Who or what is your musical inspiration?

My Dad. My siblings and I grew up listening to Bruce Springsteen, Emmylou Harris, Chuck Berry, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones…all the essential rock, folk, country, and blues artists. He taught us what really good music sounds and feels like, regardless of genre.  Being raised an equal-opportunity music lover actually nurtured my appreciation for classical music, and made me a much better musician.

My other enduring inspiration is my late boss, Charles Ansbacher, who founded and conducted the Boston Landmarks Orchestra. The organization’s commitment to presenting free, outdoor concerts manages to cut through the socioeconomic barriers that otherwise enforce the classical music industry’s self-defeating elitism. Charles understood that the future of classical music depends not on its grip of tradition, but its ability to welcome and embrace new audiences. Tragically, he passed away in 2010, but his powerful vision lives on as my personal artistic mission.

Head down to Gasson this Sunday to catch Emily in concert, and join her and our other alumni guests on Nov. 7th to hear more about life in the arts after BC.