William and Mary piano class offers fellowship for vets



Rebecca Davy paced through her class Saturday, giving instructions to each student sitting at their keyboards.

This was no computer exercise though. “Keep your fingers super glued to those notes. Where’s E? Where’s G? Where’s C?,” she said. “You need to know where your fingers are mentally on the keyboard.”

In Ewell Hall on the College of William and Mary’s campus, Davy has been giving piano lessons to military veterans through a collaboration with the Armed Services Arts Partnership.

The program partners colleges and veterans to help them build communities and fellowships centered around the arts. The program, which is free for veterans whose applications are accepted, provides instruction in courses like writing, stand-up comedy, guitar and piano.

Armed Services Arts Partnership was founded by Sam Pressler, who attended W&M.

Pressler founded the group seeking to use comedy as a way to allow veterans to express themselves after he lost a relative to suicide and learned later about the high rate of suicide among military veterans.

“A single class soon blossomed into communities around writing, music, and comedy, and with such proof of concept and demand, he formed a nonprofit to scale the model to other communities located in areas with high military populations,” said Megan Brew, director of operations for Armed Services Arts Partnership, which is based in Arlington.

“I’ve done so many things. I work with veterans as a transition counselor, and a lot of our soldiers are leaving the service with mental health issues,” said Willie Burston, who attends the piano group. Burston himself is a retired Army veteran.

“Something like this will keep them focused on positive things,” he said. Burston said he also joined the group for a simpler reason. He enjoys singing in church and has aspirations to one day play some of the instrumental music. His favorite songs are hymns such as “Amazing Grace.”

“I came from a family of ministers and pastors and musicians, but I can’t play.”

On Saturday, he sat patiently as Davy taught him the beginning of “The Can-Can” by Jacques Offenbach.

“I heard about this from the VA hospital. My doctor said this would be good for you,” said Anita Jones Chow Yuk, a retired Navy Commander. She had aspirations to learn a musical instrument earlier in life but never received the encouragement she needed.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to help them find a teacher,” Davy said. “I wasn’t about to let the class not happen,” she said.

From http://www.vagazette.com/news/va-vg-jcc-vet-piano-lesson-20151013,0,1449853.story

October 14 ~ Today in Music



OCMS 1871 ~ Alexander Zemlinsky, Austrian composer and conductor
More information on Zemlinsky

• 1907 ~ Allan Jones, Singer, father of singer, Jack Jones

• 1926 ~ Bill (William E.) Justis (Jr.), Saxophone

• 1928 ~ Gary Graffman, American pianist

• 1930 ~ I Got Rhythm, by George Gershwin, sung by Ethel Merman, was a show-stopper in the production of “Girl Crazy” on Broadway. It was Merman’s debut on the Great White Way as she captivated audiences and launched her stellar career. “Girl Crazy” went on for 272 performances.

• 1931 ~ Rafael Puyana, Colombian harpsichordist

• 1938 ~ Melba Montgomery, Singer

• 1938 ~ One of the great songs of the big band era was recorded by Bob Crosby (Bing’s brother) and The Bob Cats. Big Noise from Winnetka on Decca Records featured Bob Haggart and Ray Bauduc. Haggart whistled and played bass, while Bauduc played the skins.

• 1939 ~ Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) was organized on this day to compete with ASCAP (American Society of Composers and Publishers). The two music licensing organizations’ goal is to ensure that composers, artists and publishers are properly paid for the use of their works.

• 1940 ~ Cliff Richard (Harry Webb), Singer

• 1946 ~ Justin Hayward, Guitarist, singer with The Moody Blues

• 1961 ~ The Broadway production “How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying” opened.

• 1971 ~ It was John and Yoko Day on The Dick Cavett Show on ABC. The couple promoted Lennon’s new LP (Imagine) and film (Imagine) and Yoko’s book, two films and a fine arts show.

• 1977 ~ Bing (Harry Lillis) Crosby passed away

• 1996 ~ Eighteen years after its creation, The Rolling Stones’ Rock & Roll Circus was finally released. The 1968 event put together by The Stones comprised two concerts on a circus stage and included performances by The Who, Taj Mahal, Marianne Faithfull and Jethro Tull. John Lennon and Yoko Ono performed as part of a supergroup called The Dirty Mac, along with Eric Clapton, Mitch Mitchell and Keith Richards. It was originally planned to be aired on BBC TV.

• 2001 ~ Willam Farr Christensen, a Utah dancer who started on the vaudeville stage and went on to become one of the most important figures in American ballet, died at the age of 99. Founder of the San Francisco Ballet and Utah’s Ballet West, Christensen was the first person in the United States to choreograph full-length versions of several ballet classics, including “The Nutcracker”, “Coppelia” and “Swan Lake”. With his brothers Lew and Harold, he toured the famous Orpheum vaudeville circuit in the 1920s, performing a ballet act at a time when few Americans were familiar with the art. By 1934, Christensen had quit the circuit to found the first ballet company in Portland, Ore., then left three years later to join the San Francisco Opera Ballet as a principal soloist. Within a year he was named ballet master of the company. In 1941 he founded the San Francisco Ballet, the first major ballet company in the West. Christensen choreographed the country’s first full-length production of “The Nutcracker” in 1944, and today it is a Christmas tradition for nearly every ballet company in the nation.