MAKERS OF ST. LOUIS: Syrhea Conaway, Musician

Conoway performs at the True/False Film Fest in Columbia, MO.

Conaway performs at the True/False Film Fest in Columbia, MO.

To say that Syrhea Conaway is a versatile musician would be an understatement. Featured in the Arts and Education Council’s campaign video, “The Makers,” playing violin, Syrhea (pronounced Sir-ee-uh) also plays piano, guitar and bass guitar, and is currently learning to play the drums. Her voice is arguably her most powerful instrument; in high school she performed with the National Youth Choir, Missouri District and All State Choirs and the National Youth Chorus at Carnegie Hall.

Today she performs solo, as Syna So Pro (short for ‘solo project’), and with two bands, Whoa Thunder and The Pat Sajak Assassins. She’s currently in the studio recording her fourth solo album and both bands are planning new records in 2016. When she’s not plugged into an amp, you’ll find her at the Regional Arts Commission (RAC), keeping the
facility running smoothly as sales and operations manager.

Syrhea Conoway.

Syrhea Conaway.

Between work, two bands and her solo project, “I don’t really have any free time at this point, I’m very behind on the laundry,” Conaway quips. “If I’m not playing a show, I’m at band practice. If I don’t have band practice, I’m at the studio. And if I don’t have any of that there’s probably some sort of RAC function. I was just thinking the other day that I just need to sit and find a balance.”

With whatever type of balance she finds, though, music will be essential. “I can’t imagine my life without music,” she explains. “I’ve been doing it my entire life, whether it was singing in the back seat of my parents’ car on long trips or starting to play the violin and doing things more professionally. [Music] keeps me sane. There was a short time when I was in pharmacy school that I wasn’t playing music…those were probably the most depressed years of my life. And I didn’t really realize it, that I was depressed or why I was depressed. If I’m not playing music in some fashion I’m just not happy, whether I’m admitting it or not.”

Conaway in "The Makers," A&E's Campaign Video.

Conaway in “The Makers,” A&E’s Campaign Video.

She sometimes finds herself overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of shows and concerts in St. Louis on any given night. Conaway believes the music scene is currently experiencing a wave of very good local bands, reinforced by enthusiastic patrons. “Everyone, for the most part, is very supportive,” she says. “Everyone tries to support everyone else, even though we’re all extremely busy and don’t have the time – support doesn’t mean going to shows, it could mean listening to the music, sending the band an email if you like what they play, buying their music, networking and helping each other.”

Conaway believes music is all about building and developing relationships. She thinks of being in a band as a type of romance. “You get together, you fall in love, you create things together, and you’re so happy,” she explains. When bands break up, it’s no different. “You hurt and you hear these songs that you wrote together and you get angry because you can’t play them anymore or they don’t mean the same thing.

TED EX“That’s one of the reasons why my solo project became my primary thing, because all the bands I was in at the time dissolved for various reasons, and I decided to have some ‘me time,’” Conaway continues. Ultimately, though, she missed the group dynamics. “Now I’ve joined bands because I found myself doing the same things and I wanted something fresh. After a while, when you play by yourself it gets boring because you aren’t feeling the energy of everyone else playing.” So, while her life-work-music balance might not be figured out just yet, she has found equilibrium between her solo work and group projects.

To follow Syrhea and her music, visit synasopro.bandcamp.com for her solo work and follow her bands at whoathunder.bandcamp.com and patsajakassassins.bandcamp.com.

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A&E STAFF SPOTLIGHT: Meet A&E’s Pat Tichacek

Pat Tichacek (left) at her 40th A&E Anniversary Party in 2012.

Pat Tichacek (left) at her 40th A&E Anniversary Party in 2012.

Patricia “Pat” Tichacek, Arts and Education Director of Development Administration, has certainly seen A&E grow and change over her 43 years with the organization. She began in November 1972 as an assistant bookkeeper and has since worked on A&E TV auctions, special events, volunteer coordination, organizing what is now the Know & Go calendar and managing a variety of campaigns before arriving in her current role, overseeing the administration side of A&E’s development and fundraising activities.

Pat Tichacek (second from right) with Rams Cheerleaders during a Workplace Giving Kickoff Event in 2004.

Pat Tichacek (second from right) with Rams
Cheerleaders during a Workplace Giving
Kickoff Event in 2004.

Before she was an A&E employee, Tichacek volunteered for the Arts and Education Council’s CAMELOT Auction (Cultural Auction of Many Extraordinary Lots of Treasure) on KETC, which changed the face of charity benefits in St. Louis. Her favorite event is still the CAMELOT Gala, where she had the chance to meet celebrities ranging from local to Hollywood actors.

Looking back on her time with A&E, Tichacek has seen the organization grow to be more visible and active in the community. She reflects, “It’s great to see that so many of the arts organizations that A&E has funded over the years are still going strong. That’s a testament to their quality, impact and need here. People see them as a necessity, not a luxury.”

Pat Tichacek at her desk with her IBM typewriter in the 80s.

Pat Tichacek at her desk with her IBM typewriter
in the 80s.

She has truly watched the St. Louis arts community flourish from within the A&E offices. Tichacek has seen A&E provide funding for the start of such well-known arts organizations as Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Metro Theater Company and Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, which have grown to be cornerstones of the St. Louis cultural landscape. Beyond this, the Arts and Education Council has been a supporter of over 350 arts organizations
during Tichacek’s tenure.

Out of the office Tichacek enjoys gardening, music, movies, theatre and travel. She is also famous in the office for her baked goods and homegrown vegetables that she generously brings for her coworkers.

Pat Tichacek (right) at a volunteer appreciation event in the 80s.

Pat Tichacek (right) at a volunteer appreciation
event in the 80s.

The Arts and Education Council thanks Pat for her dedication and commitment to A&E and the larger arts community in St. Louis. Her vast knowledge of organizational history and close relationships with many of A&E’s donors go beyond her daily responsibilities at A&E that strengthen the capabilities of the institution.

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A&E STAFF SPOTLIGHT: Meet A&E’s Dorothy Powell

Dorothy Powell with Brian Owens at the 2014 St. Louis Public Housing Campaign Kickoff.

Dorothy Powell with Brian Owens at the 2014 St. Louis Public Housing Campaign Kickoff.

Dorothy Powell, Development Manager at the Arts and Education Council, has been with A&E for 40 years. She started as a computer operator but soon became one of the first black fundraisers in St. Louis.

“When I started fundraising, people said this city wasn’t ready for a black fundraiser,” Powell says, “but I have truly had good experiences. I recently looked through my memory book, and I’ve kept some of the cards from campaigns. These people took the time to say thank you, and I was asking them for money. I wasn’t asking for friendship but they took me in as a friend, and each year I go back they say ‘Hey Dorothy! How are you?’ I undertook a position that some people felt I couldn’t do, and I was determined to be the best at it.”

Patricia Tichacek and Dorothy Powell (left) at the Centene Center for Arts and Education building dedication ceremony in 2006.

Patricia Tichacek and Dorothy Powell (left) at the Centene Center for Arts and Education building dedication ceremony in 2006.

Powell is now well-known as a fundraiser and speaker who gets people excited about the arts and A&E. Her energy and enthusiasm are infectious, and she keeps audiences laughing. “I don’t strive to be a great speaker,” she explains, “I strive to be a people’s person. I first try to appeal to their feelings and then to their minds. When you’re too serious you lose both. All of us have stories, but what stands out is when I go back to places, year after year, or even when I see people at the shopping mall, and they recognize and remember me. That’s more of a 40-year treasure than all the stories together.”

Dorothy does have stories she treasures. In her years with the Arts and Education Council she has been on countless visits to grantees, performances for fundraising campaigns and other arts events. One of her most moving experiences happened during a visit to a school. She was watching a performance at a school for children with severe disabilities and saw  the power that music holds.

Dorothy Powell (left) with Gloria Luitjens on typewriters in the 80s.

Dorothy Powell (left) with Gloria Luitjens on typewriters in the 80s.

“The children were all sitting down, anxiously awaiting the music to start. The music began – it was very moving, they played upbeat numbers. When it was over, a little girl to my left started saying ‘Bravo’ and kept repeating it. I was smiling at her, but the teachers were crying. I asked why, and they said she had never spoken a day in her life. We never know the power and the strength and the might of music,” she reflects, “it was something in the sound or the vibrations of the floor that made that child say ‘Bravo.’ And how many eight-year-olds do you know that even say ‘Bravo’? She knew to say it. And the best part about it was that later, I received a telephone call and they told me that when the mother and father came to pick up their daughter she said ‘Hi mother, hi daddy,’ and that was the best day of their lives. That was from music.”

Dorothy Powell (back left) with performers in 1997 at a campaign kickoff.

Dorothy Powell (back left) with performers in 1997 at a campaign kickoff.

Dorothy Powell has been a public face of the Arts and Education Council for 40 years, working with local government, schools and businesses to raise money for the arts in our community. A&E and the St. Louis arts community are fortunate that Powell has dedicated her life and her talents to raising awareness and support for the arts and arts education.

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DONOR SPOTLIGHT: Dr. Aurelia Hartenberger

Dr. Aurelia Hartenberger with her collection of instruments on display at The Sheldon.

Dr. Aurelia Hartenberger with her collection of instruments on display at The Sheldon.

Dr. Aurelia Hartenberger has dedicated her career to sharing her love of music and art with young people. She started as a high school band director but spent most of her career in administration as Curriculum Director of the Mehlville School District and then as Music
Coordinator for the Lindbergh School District. Now in her “retirement,” she currently teaches world music as an Associate Professor of Music at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and Maryville University.

Along the way she has collected over 3,000 historical instruments from around the world to comprise the The Hartenberger World Music Collection of Historical Instruments. The collection started when Dr. Hartenberger found a turn of the century flugelhorn at garage sale for $50 (now worth $1,000) around 40 years ago. Instruments from her collection are now on display in three different exhibits at The Sheldon Concert Hall and Art Galleries, an A&E Sustaining Grant recipient. A World of Music: Africa, Asia and Latin America is on display until January 2, 2016 at the Sheldon Art Galleries, and The Sheldon’s Wonderful Winds is on display through December 13 at the Lambert Airport Galleries.

A marimba and other instruments from Dr. Hartenberger’s collection on display at The Sheldon through Jan 2.

A marimba and other instruments from Dr. Hartenberger’s collection on display at The Sheldon through Jan 2.

A volunteer curator for The Sheldon, Dr. Hartenberger has traveled the world collecting instruments and studying music in different cultures – she has been to Europe, Africa, Canada, Hawaii and Latin America and is currently planning trips to Guam and Hong Kong. “The music tells you about the people’s way of life and has unique characteristics that are indicative of that society and what they value,” says Dr. Hartenberger about her travels and studies of world music.

Having spent her life as an arts educator, Dr. Hartenberger volunteered as a Workplace Giving Coordinator during her time with both Mehlville and Lindbergh School Districts. She believes we need to preserve the arts for future generations.

“If we don’t teach our younger generations the beauty of the arts and humanity, it will be lost to them. Through the arts, students are using everything that they are being taught – communication arts, science, math, social studies, geography – and you show them how it is all connected. We’re the only creature on earth that takes everything we learn, puts it together and with our emotions gives back in the form of art,” states Dr. Hartenberger. “Because it is through the arts that you learn about the beauty of your humanity and the
dignity of mankind.

My husband, Jeffrey Hartenberger, and I give because we believe it is our responsibility as a society to preserve and teach the beauty of our humanity to future generations so that they may experience not only the past and learn of the beauty of other cultures in our global society, but will learn from it as a catalysts for awakening their own greater  self-discovery.”

The Sheldon Concert Hall and Art Galleries is an A&E Sustaining Grant recipient. For more information about the exhibition please visit thesheldon.org.

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PNC PROJECT GRANT SPOTLIGHT: Greater East St. Louis Community Fund

Jesse Dixon, Director of the SIUE East St. Louis Center; Edna Patterson-Petty, artist; Janina Turley, Project Success Program Director; and Pam Coaxum, Executive Director of the Greater East St. Louis Community Fund reveal the quilt to the students in the Project Success Program.

Jesse Dixon, Director of the SIUE East St. Louis Center; Edna Patterson-Petty, artist; Janina
Turley, Project Success Program Director; and Pam Coaxum, Executive Director of the Greater
East St. Louis Community Fund reveal the quilt to the students in the Project Success Program.

Edna Patterson-Petty is an award-winning artist and a life-long resident of East St. Louis. She is best known for her art quilts, which have been exhibited across the country and throughout the world, including Pakistan and West Africa. Despite her international recognition, this summer Petty’s attention was focused on the children in the SIUE East St. Louis Project Success Program.

Petty worked with over 50 children to create a quilt through an A&E PNC Project Grant secured by the Greater East St. Louis Community Fund. The quilt, titled Celebrating the U.S.A., was made by the children cutting the outlines of their hands. Petty and volunteers worked with the children to help pick the fabric, cut the designs and assemble the quilt.

Petty, who has a Masters of Fine Arts degree in art therapy, is passionate about helping children recognize their own creativity. Regarding her own childhood, she explains, “I was very quiet, I was a wallflower. I found solace in seeing designs in the trees, in a crack in the sidewalk or in a broken piece of glass; I would see it as something else other than what it really was. But I went all the way from first grade through 12th grade without anyone knowing I had a creative side, which was really sad. That’s why I like working with kids, to recognize what they can do and help bring it out.”

At the quilt’s unveiling, the children’s excitement in seeing the finished piece was obvious. They found their hand outlines and shouted suggestions for the next quilt.

The SIUE East St. Louis Project Success Program is an after-school enrichment program designed to serve children in protective custody who have been referred by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. The Greater East St. Louis Community Fund works to advance projects that enhance community improvement, education and vocational training, infrastructure, health care and housing in East St. Louis and neighboring Brooklyn, Illinois.

The Greater East St. Louis Community fund is an Arts and Education Council 2015 PNC Project Grant recipient. For more information visit estlfund.org. To learn more about SIUE Project Success Program visit siue.edu/eslc.

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