Meet the New St. Louis Symphony President and CEO: Marie-Hélène Bernard

Marie-Hélène Bernard officially joins the St. Louis Symphony as President and CEOon July 1.

Marie-Hélène Bernard officially joins the St. Louis Symphony as President and CEO on July 1, 2015.

On July 1, Marie-Hélène Bernard officially joins the St. Louis Symphony as President and CEO, after serving over eight years as Executive Director and CEO of the Handel and Haydn Society in Boston.

A native of Quebec, Bernard received a law degree from the University of Montréal and a master’s degree in arts management from Concordia University in Montreal. She is credited with energizing Handel and Hayden on numerous fronts, including: substantially growing its audience, with 30 percent of patrons now under the age of 44; nearly doubling its original endowment; and creating community partnership programs that foster diversity and inclusion.

Bernard has worked in management capacities with the Philadelphia and Cleveland Orchestras, and served as President and CEO of the Canton (Ohio) Symphony Orchestra.

Happenings sat down with Bernard to find out more about her and her goals for the St. Louis Symphony:

David Robertson conducts the St. Louis Symphony. Photo credit: Dilip Vishwanat

David Robertson conducts the St. Louis
Symphony. Photo credit: Dilip Vishwanat

Your predecessor Fred Bronstein is credited with increasing attendance, ticket revenues, and philanthropic support as well as improving labor relations and stabilizing finances to a point where symphony musicians could tour again. That seems like a tough act to follow, how will you proceed?

I plan to continue the great work that he started but also take it to the next level. We have wonderful educational community programs that need to be better known so that more patrons, families and children can enjoy them. In looking at the next five to ten years we want to create a very exciting artistic plan that will position the St. Louis Symphony as the finest in America.

Many established cultural institutions in St. Louis such as the Symphony have audiences that are mostly “older.” You had success at the Handel and Hayden Society in building younger audiences. How will you go about doing that in St. Louis?

Getting to know those who come, see what makes them come and seek out their support to help us bring more people. Working in partnership with other organizations so that together we can develop younger audiences. There are opportunities for synergy. I have built younger audiences by virtue of capturing their attention in different venues, at modern contemporary museums, at the theater, at a dance show, where you can provide a musical environment that is very compelling to them.

St. Louis Symphony. Photo credit: Scott Ferguson

St. Louis Symphony. Photo credit: Scott Ferguson

Do you see growing the Symphony’s outreach in terms of music education in the schools and if so, what will that look like?

I would imagine that outside the greater St. Louis area there are some opportunities where the Symphony can bring music to underserved regions. But the point is not just to grow for the sake of growing but rather to make sure what you have is quality and can create an impact.

What made you feel that St. Louis was the right fit for you?

This is a wonderful community and the St. Louis Symphony has a great reputation. I’m confident of the Symphony’s versatility and broad range of repertoire they are able to tackle, and their character.

You went from practicing law to arts management? What was the impetus behind that change?

I grew up in a musical family and I was a musician for a long time before I practiced law and I just missed it. (Bernard plays the viola da gamba) I felt with my business and legal skills I could help the field and moved to the U.S. in ’96 to pursue a career in orchestra management. Music was my calling – it was my destiny.

What has impressed you most about St. Louis?

That it’s really proud of its orchestra and supportive of it. People here want to see more of it and see it at the level it deserves because it truly is a worldclass orchestra. I feel very much at ease here. You breathe well in St. Louis.

What do you like to do besides music to relax?

I love to read, I like to cook. I’m a dog lover so I really enjoy taking long walks with the dogs (a pug and a shiatsu) and meeting people.

The St. Louis Symphony is an Arts and Education Council Sustaining Grant recipient. For more information visit keeparthappening.org.

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KIDS IN THE ARTS: The 2015 Summer Activity Guide

 

Summer Camp at Craft Alliance Center of Art + Design.

Summer Camp at Craft Alliance Center of Art + Design.

Summer is almost here! There’s no better way to welcome the warm weather than by enjoying the St. Louis arts scene. Catch a show, enroll your child in camp or participate in a workshop. Here are some of the family-friendly summer arts activities in the St. Louis area.

PERFORMANCES AND EVENTS

Laumeier Sculpture Park offers a great space for outdoor summer play including numerous events, many of which are free! Laumeier is offering Teen Pizza and Art night, July 17 from 7-9:30 p.m. For $20, teens ages 13-17 can experiment with a variety of materials while enjoying pizza and the park.

A student at COCA's summer camp.

A student at COCA’s summer camp.

Mark your calendars for Free Family Days on June 21, July 19, August 16 and September 20 from 2-4 pm. Participants are provided with activities designed to create art using a variety of materials. Recommended for ages 4 and up. For more information, visit laumeiersculpturepark.org.

Summer at COCA includes the production of Bring It On the Musical, June 26-27 at the Edison Theatre. Bring It On the Musical takes audiences on a journey through complex friendships, jealousy and forgiveness. The show is recommended for ages 12 and up. Tickets are $16. For more information, visit cocastl.org.

STAGES St. Louis presents a childhood favorite, Disney’s The Aristocrats, June 3-28 at The Playhouse at Westport Plaza. Audiences will clap their paws and wag their tails to jazzy beats. There are games and special activities one hour before each performance. For more information, visit stagesstlouis.org.

Summer Camp at Laumeier Sculpture Park

Summer Camp at Laumeier Sculpture Park

Circus Flora returns with a new production titled One Summer on 2nd Street, May 28-June 28. Audiences will be taken back to the Jazz Age when cities grew rapidly, becoming home to families from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. For more information visit circusflora.org.

Craft Alliance Center of Art + Design “Crafternoons” on Sundays in Grand Center are a perfect activity for families and students of all ages and experiences. For a small tuition and materials fee, participants explore and work with different media, including clay, paper piercing, silk scarf making and fold forming. For more information, visit craftalliance.org.

Summer Camp at Craft Alliance Center of Art + Design.

Students at Craft Alliance Center of Art + Design’s summer camp.

The Muny also offers a variety of events for families this summer. Hairspray, the winner of eight Tony® Awards including Best Musical returns to the Muny stage (June 23-30). The catch the Disney classic, Beauty and the Beast (July 29- August 3). Tickets range from $14 to $87. For more information, visit muny.org.

ART CAMPS

Laumeier Sculpture Park offers art camp for children ages 4-15 (June 15-July 31). Camps include: Go Green: Edible Art-able outdoors, which explores nature through art and food; Art on the Fringe, exploring underground work of guerilla art; Super You: Adventures in Animation; Tried & True or Totally New; and The Good, the Bad & the Fluffy. Camps are $180, and include lunch and snacks daily. Scholarships are available. For more information, visit laumeiersculpturepark.org.

A student at Laumeier Sculpture Park summer camp.

A student at Laumeier Sculpture Park’s summer camp.

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis offers three sessions of Camp Shakespeare, full-day workshops led by experienced Shakespeare Festival Teaching Artists. Campers will train in voice, movement, stage combat and physical comedy. Sessions runs from June 8-26, July 6-24, and July 27-August 7. Another camp offered by SFSTL is “Beyond the Bard,” for ages 14-18, which uses classical text and Shakespeare as inspiration for students to experiment with monologues and scenes. Finally, SFSTL partners with COCA to offer four age-specific sections to campers: Shakespeare Stories: Kings and Fairies for ages 6-7; Shakespeare Explorers: Jesters & Fools for ages 8-10; Playing Shakespeare for ages 11-13; and Shakespeare’s Combat for ages 14-18. Camp costs range from $350 to $495. For more information visit sfstl.com.

CA_Summer Camp #2

Summer Camp at Craft Alliance Center of Art + Design. Students at Craft Alliance Center of Art + Design’s summer camp.

Craft Alliance Center of Art + Design is offering 11 one week, half-day camps this summer from June 1-August 14. Put two camps together to spend the entire day being creative, with supervision provided during lunch and before and after care available. Craft Alliance also offers teen camps that meet for one week sessions focusing on creative techniques in glass, metal and clay. One week half-day camps cost $180. For more information, visit craftalliance.org.

Metro Theater Company offers two different summer camps for four total sessions. The first camp, Monster Camp, is offered June 15-19 and June 22-26 for students in grades 1-5. Campers will explore drama and visual art with Metro’s theater professionals. Creative Arts Camp, the second camp offered, runs July 27-31 and August 3-7. Campers will play, explore, build and create through activities that include yoga, sculpting, drama, storytelling, water fun and more. This camp is open to ages 4-11. For more information visit metrotheatercompany.org.

The Arts and Education Council supports nearly 70 arts and arts education organizations that enrich the cultural landscape of St. Louis each year including Laumeier Sculpture Park, Craft Alliance Center of Art + Design, STAGES St. Louis, Circus Flora, Metro Theater Company, COCA. To learn more about the Arts and Education Council, visit KeepArtHappening.org

 

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DONOR SPOTLIGHT: Courtney Strong

Courtney Strong

Courtney Strong

When it comes to getting colleagues excited about donating to the Arts & Education Council, Courtney Strong believes in thinking big. Very, very, very big.

The first year she was involved in an A&E Workplace Giving Campaign at Edward Jones, Strong helped put together a flash mob to kick off the Campaign at the Fortune 500 investment firm. The second year, she helped coordinate the company’s first-ever campaign music video with cameos by some Edward Jones partners. The video got associates talking – and giving. The third year, looking to top the first music video, she added a dance finale with more than 150 Edward Jones associates and branch teams dancing to Fitz & the Tantrum’s song “The Walk.”

When this year’s Workplace Giving Campaign commences at Edward Jones on May 8, Strong promises that the kick-off video will be creative and impactful. “We have some great ideas she says. “We’re planning to utilize A&E’s new imagery and tagline, ‘One Gift. A Million Returns!’”

Strong notes that individuals and companies can feel good that the dollars they donate to A&E go to fund so many worthy arts organizations, both big and small.

“Rather than having to choose to give to one or two, A&E makes sure so many arts organizations here can thrive,” said Strong. “That’s one thing I tell (colleagues) when encouraging them to give to A&E. At Edward Jones, we talk a lot about the return on the investment. Not only do the arts enhance the overall community, making it a more vibrant, culturally rich place to live, but when chil-dren get involved at a young age, arts education also helps improve their school performance and test scores.”

Edward Jones conducts A&E’s largest Workplace Giving Campaign, with an associate participation rate of nearly 70 percent. Edward Jones has donated more than $7 million to A&E since 1978 with more than $4 million coming from its workplace giving efforts. In 2014, Edward Jones partners and associates were honored as “Corporate Champions of the Arts” at the St. Louis Arts Awards and received the national Americans for the Arts “BCA 10” award as one of the ten “Best Businesses Partnering with the Arts in America.”

Strong, who lives in Webster Groves, explains that she grew up loving the arts. “I played the recorder in elementary school,” she said. “Then I decided on the viola. I got my first one at age 11 and played in the orchestra until college.”

She currently does photography and enjoys going to art galleries and music concerts. “I really couldn’t imagine my life without the arts,” she said. “It just gives me such pleasure.”

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RETURN ON GRANT INVESTMENTS: Maritz Arts and Education Fund for Teachers and the Power of Arts Education

Students at Central Visual Performing Arts High School perform in a drumline.

Students at Central Visual Performing Arts High School perform in a drumline.

For St. Louis area school dis­tricts, $5,000 can mean the ability to stage a major student play or to perform in a large-scale local parade. Maritz Corporation understands this. For the past five years, the Arts and Education Council and Maritz have partnered to create a unique arts education funding oppor­tunity that directly impacts schools and school-aged children. The award-winning “Maritz Arts and Education Fund for Teachers” provides $25,000 in grants annually to projects through­out the bi-state area. The funding goal is to support classroom-based projects and artistic opportunities that engage students in the creative process.

In the 2014-2015 school year, Maritz Fund for Teachers supported eight school-based projects that otherwise would never come to fruition. Among them is the creation of a drum line and spirit squad at Central Visual Performing Arts High School in the St. Louis Public School District. Another has allowed McCluer High School students and McCluer South Berkley students to come together to perform the play Legally Blonde.

Students from McCluer and McCluer South Berkeley High Schools perform in Legally Blonde.

Students from McCluer and McCluer South Berkeley High Schools perform in Legally Blonde.

“The creation of a drum line and spirit squad has been such a game changer for us,” explains Matthew Turek, the instrumental music teacher at Central Visual Performing Arts High School. “It’s opened up avenues for the students that weren’t there before. It’s been so impactful for their devel­opment….and inspires them and allows them to express their talents that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.”

Turek says the grant money was used to buy instruments and other equipment to make the 14-student drum line possible this year and in future years. Another 30 students par­ticipate as dancers in the spirit squad, which performs with the drum line. The groups marched in a unity parade to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and look forward to par­ticipating in more events.

“The feedback has been fantastic,” says Turek. “Engagement in their over­all education has skyrocketed. They know they have to be in high academic standing to participate in the drum line so it’s a great motivator. They have to maintain a 2.75 grade point average and have 93 percent attendance, which so, far, all involved have done.”

First round of drumline equipment at Central Visual Performing Arts High School in the St. Louis Public School District.

First round of drumline equipment at Central Visual Performing Arts High School in the St. Louis Public School District.

Turek adds: “The other intangible is that it gives them a creative voice that they didn’t have access to before. They are writing their own music and creating their own arrangements as a team. All those wonderful non-musical lessons you learn in a musical class­room are exemplified. Disagreements sometimes come up but in the end, but they have to navigate those as an artist and communicate with each other. They know they have to work together collaboratively.”

Doug Erwin, director of theater at McCluer High School and K-12 Fine Arts Content Leader for the Ferguson-Florissant School District, expresses similar sentiments. McCluer has been receiving a $5,000 Maritz Arts Grant for the past four years, which has helped with every aspect of staging a major musical production.

This year, says Erwin, the grant has provided transportation for student actors at McCluer to get to McCluer South Berkeley, where the joint stu­dent production of Legally Blonde was staged in March.

Legally Blonde the Musical was performed by students from McCluer and McCluer South Berkeley High Schools with the help of a grant from Maritz Arts and Education Fund for Teachers.

Legally Blonde the Musical was performed by students from McCluer and McCluer South Berkeley High Schools with the help of a grant from Maritz Arts and Education Fund for Teachers.

“The grant helped with every aspect of the production except for staff salaries,” says Erwin. “In addition to transportation, it provided meals for students, costumes, wigs, scenic pieces, props. It really has made an enormous difference.”

Erwin explains that previously, stu­dents would sell frozen pizzas to help raise money for the school musical. But with the death of Michael Brown this summer in Ferguson, and the riot­ing and protesting that has followed, “parents don’t feel safe with their kids going door-to-door to fundraise,” says Erwin, who has been at McCluer for 13 years of his 24 year as a teacher.

Like Turek, Erwin underlines the importance of the arts to his students, not only in helping them to achieve academically but also to build critical thinking skills.

“It is the only activity that students ever participate in where they have to function as a team in a non-competitive environment,” he says. “It teaches them innovation, team work, creativity and organization. Theater integrates every other discipline, English, math, science, social studies and all their electives, and gives them a practical application for them. We know that’s how people retain information – through authentic exposure.”

Erwin has been tracking overall academic performance for students participating in the theater program and the results have been astounding. In his research, Erwin found that the average school attendance rate increased by more than 10% and the average ACT score and grade point average increased by nearly 40%. Moreover, in the past five years McCluer High School students partici­pating in the Maritz funded program received more than $300,000 in col­lege scholarships.

“At Maritz, we are dedicated to empowering people to reach their full potential, and our philanthropic efforts reflect that same commitment. Five years ago, we partnered with the Arts and Education Council to create the Maritz Arts and Education Fund for Teachers and the results have been outstanding. Studies consistently show the importance of an arts edu­cation and the positive effects it has on students and we have seen that again and again in the programs we fund,” said Debbie Schirmer, Maritz community affairs director. “By offer­ing students greater access to the arts, the Maritz Fund has provided unique learning experiences that stim­ulate creativity and further educa­tional advancement.”

To learn more about the Maritz Arts and Education Fund for Teachers, visit KeepArtHappening.org/money/maritz_2015.

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Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Celebrates Its 40th season

OT-STL-LogosOpera Theatre of Saint Louis (OTSL) celebrates its 40th season this summer with expansions in programming, a new look for the OTSL brand and website, a series of special events and an American premier opera in this year’s festival season.

Soprano Sheri Greenawald as Pamina  in the 1980 production of THE MAGIC FLUTE

Soprano Sheri Greenawald as Pamina in the 1980 production of THE MAGIC FLUTE

Patrons of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis may have already noticed the new OTSL logo and website. The new site, rolled out in April, offers in-depth information about OTSL’s history and role in shaping American opera. Also new this year as part of the 40th anni­versary celebration, is the creation and launch of an “Innovation Capital Fund.” The fund is part of a five-year strategic plan that aims to help the organization continue to develop initiatives designed to bring the com­munity together. OTSL also plans to expand its young artist programs with a new initiative called the “Gaddes Festival Artist” program, named in honor of the company’s first general director.

(L to R) Dancers with Sean Panikkar as Tamino and Alexandra Parsons as dream Pamina in Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’ 2014 production of THE MAGIC FLUTE.

(L to R) Dancers with Sean Panikkar as Tamino and Alexandra Parsons as dream Pamina in Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’ 2014 production of THE MAGIC FLUTE.

The first event honoring OTSL’s anniversary is the 40th Anniversary Avant-Garde Gala at Hunter Farms on May 2. All three OSTL General Directors (past and present) will be in attendance, as well as major opera stars discov­ered during each of their tenures. A portion of the proceeds will support the new “Innovation Capital Fund.”

The following week, OSTL will host its second annual Spring Sing! concert May 9. At the concert, season artists will sing side-by-side with members of the community and special guests will kick off the concert. OTSL aims to have 400 singers from all around St. Louis participate. The Normandy High School choir will be part of the event; continuing the work that OTSL began in September with the #WithNormandy concert.

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is also holding a brand new Center Stage concert celebrating its highly competi­tive Gerdine Young Artists (GYA) pro­gram. This one night only event on June 23, will be emceed by soprano Stephanie Blythe, who appeared in 27 last season, and baritone Aubrey Allicock who appeared in Champion in 2013. Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’ Music Director Stephen Lord will con­duct the St. Louis Symphony on stage at the Loretto-Hilton Center for the concert and open the night with the overture to Don Pasquale, the first opera OTSL staged in 1976.

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis was founded in the spring of 1976 with funding support from the Arts and Education Council. “The Arts and Education Council supported the effort to create Opera Theatre of Saint Louis,” commented Cynthia A. Prost, president of the Arts and Education Council. “We are thrilled to celebrate its 40th anniversary. Opera Theatre has become an essential part of the St. Louis arts community not only with their stellar annual festival but also with their year-long education pro­grams and training and development of young opera singers.”

In addition to events celebrating its 40th anniversary, OTSL is staging four operas for its summer festival season: Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, Puccini’s La Rondine, the American premiere of Handel’s Richard the Lionheart, and a new production of Tobias Picker’s saga, Emmeline. ARTS Cards members get 2-for-1 admission to select perfor­mances of this year’s OTSL season festival. Visit KeepArtHappening.org/schedule for more information.

“It seems right to open a 40th anniversary season with perhaps the most joyful — and funniest — of all comic operas, Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.  We have a knock-out cast for that production, and for the whole season, which is true to Opera Theatre’s tradition of mixing the beloved, the new, and the noteworthy. Next is Puccini’s achingly romantic La Rondine, with the divine Corinne Winters in the title role.  Then, believe it or not, an American premiere of an opera by Handel — Richard the Lionheart, a swashbuckling tale that is also funny, with plenty of vocal fireworks. Finally, we have a great American opera, Emmeline by Tobias Picker, which has been described by critics as the greatest opera of the last half-century,” says Timothy O’Leary, General Director of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. “We couldn’t do any of this without the tremendous generosity of the St. Louis community. We are deeply grateful!”

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is an Arts and Education Council Sustaining Grant recipient. For more information, visit opera-stl.org.

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