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Joyful Noise

Choral singing has always been a moving experience for me and it’s an honor to sing in Lehigh University’s outstanding choral program. But when Choral Arts Director Steven Sametz invited the aptly named Joyful Noise chorus to sing with us in our spring 2017 concerts, it brought an emotional response even Bach and Brahms couldn’t deliver.

The New Jersey-based Joyful Noise is 50 adults with physical and neurological challenges. It was formed in 2000 by conductor Allison Fromm and her sister Beth, who also sings in the choir, and has made news around the country with its moving performances . The choir is less about musical discipline and more about uninhibited enthusiasm. And the effect on an audience is electric.

After months of rehearsals and hard work, Lehigh’s singers got the Joyful Noise lesson loud and clear: It’s not about the notes but the shared experience of producing magic by doing something you love.

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Alice Parker, a conductor and composer who’s been called the dean of American choral music, accompanied Joyful Noise to a pre-concert rehearsal and explained the mystique of this choir: “Music does something different from every other method of communication. It’s literally a bridge to bring us together.

“Singing together is the most approachable of the arts,” she told us. “With so many new ways of communication, we don’t value singing enough. The function of song is to open us up to one another – it’s a big challenge in the world today.”

It was during this rehearsal that I got a preview of the emotional high ahead when we would all join together in an upbeat program of world music and spirituals. When the choirs combined for the second half of the program, Choral Arts singers donned t-shirts that matched those worn by Joyful Noise.

The mother of one of the singers said, “The choir helps us learn to relate to a disabled child as a real person.” The experience brought home to me how easy it is to erase the “otherness” we sometimes feel when we see someone who is differently abled than ourselves.

Conductor Fromm hailed the transformative affect singing can have not only on her choir members but on the audience. Quoted in Harvard Magazine, Fromm said: “We always hope that when people hear us sing, they take away an inspiration to bring music to people in their lives…people with disabilities, people in nursing homes, children who have disadvantages or challenges – to see how meaningful it is to come together and make music.”

by Kathy McAuley, Member and Volunteer of Lehigh Valley Arts Council

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Holiday Memories Start Here!

Joy-to-the-Arts.pngThe most wonderful time of the year…to enjoy the Arts and Culture of the Lehigh Valley! These festive months are full of chances to celebrate, creating memories to last a lifetime. Catch a holiday themed dance or theatre performance, listen to the songs of the season, shop handmade for cherished gifts, or create a holiday craft perfect for giving.

Here’s your guide to get into the spirit of the season with the Arts! Continue reading “Holiday Memories Start Here!”

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Artist & Staff Spotlight: Zach Kleemeyer

From freelancing as a graphic designer, dabbling in mixed media, and bringing paint to easel, Zach Kleemeyer is a tinkerer—a curious and multi-talented artist and ally to the arts—and that makes him an excellent fit for the Lehigh Valley Arts Council.

LVArts-RedWhiteBlue -0379Starting outside Philadelphia, Zach never stayed put in one neighborhood for more than five years throughout his early life, exposing him to a wide range of environments. One of the neighborhoods Zach made an extended stay in was Bloomsburg, attending Bloomsburg University, and graduating with a major in Communications and a minor in Studio Art. At first, Zach was reluctant to embrace the artist lifestyle, feeling like he needed to develop other skillsets. It wasn’t until he found his way to the Lehigh Valley that Zach finally felt comfortable building a career and life around all the forms art takes. Continue reading “Artist & Staff Spotlight: Zach Kleemeyer”

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A Mile in their Shoes

I recently had unexpected back surgery for two herniated discs and nerve damage. Although my nature is one of a cheerleader and full of energy (just like an energizer battery), prior to the procedure I had severe pain, weakness and numbness in my left leg. Recovering from surgery was painful at times with lots of leg and back weakness.   I found walking further than 30 feet resulted in an increase of these symptoms. As I contemplated returning to work earlier than advised, I knew I would not be able to walk through the museum as I did previously. Fortunately, I was given an electric scooter to enable me to move throughout the building to perform my job responsibilities.

As I went through weeks in this scooter, I developed a new perspective on the difficulties facing people who need to rely on electric scooters, walkers and wheelchairs. While the museum adheres to all regulations that make it handicapped accessible, I discovered some obstacles that affect those individuals who require the use of wheelchairs. Continue reading “A Mile in their Shoes”

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Making the Exhibit Accessible

Written by Ann Lalik, Gallery Director at Penn State Lehigh Valley, as a reflection on her experience in opening their exhibit, Sacred Sisters, A Collaborative: Holly Trostle Brigham and Marilyn Nelson, to people with visual impairment. Ann participated in Audio Description training to develop the skills needed, and touchable relics were created specifically for tactile reference.PSU Sacred Sisters AD photo 1

The experience of making this exhibition accessible for the visually impaired was priceless for our campus community on so many levels.

First of all, the funding we received through Lehigh Valley Arts Council’s Greater Inclusion Grant allowed us to hire Mimi Smith to come the campus and offer a day of audio description  training, not only for Penn State faculty, staff, and students, but also to other organization in the community who were interested in learning more about describing. The group ended up being approximately 20 people from Penn State, Lehigh Valley Arts Council, Allentown Art Museum, Banana Factory and Lehigh University. It was educational and a wonderful bonding experience. Continue reading “Making the Exhibit Accessible”

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New Experiences for the Young at Art

PATRON---header-for-Young-at-ArtGrowing up means new adventures! As a young child, everything is a fresh experience with new possibilities to experiment and ideas to ignite. It’s something parents often can’t relate to because we’ve lost our sense of wonder in some ways. But when we’re able to sit back and watch the sparks of understanding fly, basking in the brilliance of discovery – that’s something truly special. It’s how your kids become, well, themselves.

That’s the essence of art for children. It has nothing to do with skill, and oftentimes not even with expression. It’s the true nature of experimentation without boundaries – trying out something and not worrying about being right or wrong allows for kids’ minds to develop, grow and thrive. Continue reading “New Experiences for the Young at Art”

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Arts & Access Reaches Halfway Point

Experience---Patron-ImageIn spite of a record-breaking snowfall of 31 inches three days before, nearly 60 guests found their way to the Banana Factory in South Bethlehem on January 26 to experience Arts & Access.  Titled Let’s Meet in the Middle, the event marked the midpoint in the yearlong celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and was the second of three public gatherings planned for the year.

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Storyteller Anne B. Thomas delights audience members with uplifting tales of overcoming obstacles in her life.

Let’s Meet in the Middle offered a multi-faceted program that showcased the artistic creativity by, for or about people with disabilities, including powerful performances by Washington D.C. storyteller Anne B. Thomas and the Lehigh Valley’s chamber music ensemble, SATORI.  Audience members were invited to simulate vision and hearing loss in order to experience first-hand the benefits of audio description and open captioning. Staff from Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network demonstrated the newest technology used in wheelchair design that enhances independence for people with mobility challenges. Continue reading “Arts & Access Reaches Halfway Point”