Chautauqua 2016: Masters of Their Craft

Last Updated on Jun 6, 2016 at 3:47pm | Arts & Culture

"What's Happening" is a regular feature of The Lake-Front magazine and is being reprinted here in its entirety with permission. This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue.
 
 
Chautauqua 2016 marks the 22nd summer Maryland Humanities has brought this dynamic, free event to Garrett College. In previous years, the Chautauqua at Garrett College has engaged audiences with exciting presentations by such famous visitors from yesteryear as Babe Ruth, Frida Kahlo, Jefferson Davis, Woody Guthrie, Malcolm X, Sacagawea, Cesar Chavez, George Orwell, and Clara Barton.
 
This year’s trio of visitors includes Duke Ellington on July 5, Gwendolyn Brooks on July 6, and Ernest Hemingway on July 7. The program each evening is free and starts at 7:00 pm in the College auditorium with warm up acts by young performers of Garrett County, followed by the main speaker at 7:30 pm.
 
“Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it, and above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.” With these words, American publisher Joseph Pulitzer articulated a set of standards that have inspired journalists, writers, artists and musicians in their creative endeavors for over a century. This year, we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prize as three Pulitzer winners come to life on the Chautauqua stage. Duke Ellington, the incomparable showman, was one of the greatest composers of the twentieth century with a career that spanned over fifty years. Gwendolyn Brooks, the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize, captured the black experience in America through her poetry. Ernest Hemingway, one of the greatest American literary figures of the twentieth century, continues to influence modern literature with his trademark style of simple yet perceptive prose.
 
July 5th: Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington (1899-1974) is considered one of America’s greatest composers. Born on April 29, 1899 in Washington, DC, Ellington was the son of pianists and took to the instrument at the age of seven, creating his first composition at the age of fifteen. Influenced by ragtime pianists of the time, Ellington dropped out of high school to pursue a full-time career in music. Eventually his career brought him to New York City where, in 1927, Duke Ellington and his Orchestra became the house band at the Cotton Club in Harlem which helped to give them national exposure. In a career that spanned over 50 years, Ellington collaborated with numerous musicians including Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Count Basie and most importantly, Billy Strayhorn, who composed the band’s most famous theme, “Take the ‘A’ Train.” Ellington received numerous honors throughout his career, such as the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969. On May 24, 1974 at the age of seventy five, Duke Ellington died in New York City. Although he was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1965, Ellington did not receive a Pulitzer until 1999 when he was posthumously awarded a special prize “commemorating the centennial year of his birth, in recognition of his musical genius, which evoked aesthetically the principles of democracy through the medium of jazz and thus made an indelible contribution to art and culture.”
 
Tevin Brown is a vocalist, pianist and actor from Baltimore. He graduated from Berklee College of Music in 2013 with a degree in Professional Music and a minor in Music Education. Brown attended the Baltimore School for the Arts, where he learned to sing in various languages, and had the opportunity to perform with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He has performed with many talented artists, including John Williams, Paul Simon, Valerie Simpson and Bilal. As a recording artist, Brown is featured on Michael Bradley & Worship’s debut gospel album, “Great I Am,” as well as on other international projects. Beginning his acting career at The Arena Players, the oldest continually operating African- American community theatre in the nation, Brown appeared in various musicals and plays, including “Godspell” and “The Lion King II.” While at Berklee, Brown portrayed Marvin Gaye in their production, “A Troubled Man.” In addition, Brown has appeared on HBO’s hit TV series “The Wire.” He regularly performs with the Eubie Blake Cabaret Company and is currently a member of The Glory Gospel Singers.
 
July 6th: Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks (1917-2000) was an African-American poet whose works illuminated the black experience in America. Living in Chicago, Brooks was able to experience and observe authentic black life, which served as a continual inspiration for much of her impressive body of work. Publishing her first poem in a children’s magazine at the age of thirteen, Brooks accumulated a portfolio of 75 published poems by the time she was sixteen. Her poems range in style from traditional ballads and sonnets to poems using blues rhythms in free verse. Her characters are drawn from her inner-city life experiences: “If you wanted a poem, you only had to look out a window. There was material always, walking or running, fighting or screaming or singing”. After graduating college in 1936, Brooks regularly published her poetry in national magazines such as Harper’s and the Saturday Review of Literature. In 1945 she published her first book of poetry, A Street in Bronzeville, receiving rave reviews. In 1950 Brooks became the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize for Annie Allen, her second collection of poems. She accumulated a massive cannon of works, including her novel, Maud Martha in 1953. In addition to the Pulitzer, Brooks earned numerous honors throughout her life: she succeeded Carl Sandburg as the Poet Laureate of Illinois in 1968; from 1985-86, she served as Consultant in Poetry for the Library of Congress; and in 1995, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton. On December 3, 2000, at the age of eighty-three, Gwendolyn Brooks died at her home in Chicago.
 
Dorothy Mains Prince is the founder of Sojourns (Seeking our mothers… Ourselves), an educational enterprise designed to bring the lives of outstanding African-American women to students and community groups across the country. Prince holds BA and MA degrees from Emerson College in Boston and a MA from Teachers College, Columbia University in New York. For many years, she was an adjunct professor at Emerson College and directed community theatre groups in the Boston area. In 1995, Prince began her study and performance of African-American women of Distinction, appearing as a Chautauqua Scholar for the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Included in the series are Phillis Wheatley, Frances E. W. Harper, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Mary McLeod Bethune, and Zora Neale Hurston. She appeared as Phillis Wheatley in the 2001 Maryland Humanities Chautauqua.
 
July 7th: Ernest Miller Hemingway (1899-1961) was an American writer who is considered one of the greatest American literary figures of the twentieth century. Born on July 21, 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois to a well-educated family, Hemingway was an enthusiastic athlete in his youth, participating in numerous sports including boxing. He also did well in his English classes and was employed as a journalist for a short time after high school. In 1918, Hemingway signed on to become an ambulance driver for the Red Cross in Europe during World War I. Upon his return home, Hemingway’s work as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star sent him to Paris where he met writers and artists, such as Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Ezra Pound, and James Joyce. While in Paris, Hemingway wrote numerous short stories and poems that were published in the Toronto Star, but his work soon turned to fiction with the publication of his first novel, The Sun Also Rises in 1926. Hemingway returned to the US in 1928, where he published more novels including A Farewell to Arms, which was influenced by his military service. In his spare time, Hemingway engaged in many hobbies, including big game hunting, bull-fighting, and deep-sea fishing. He continued to work as a foreign correspondent reporting on the Spanish Civil War in 1937 and World War II, during which he was awarded a Bronze Star for bravery. In the post-war years, Hemingway resided in Cuba and continued to write, publishing The Old Man and the Sea, which earned the author the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953 and led to the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. On July 2, 1961, at the age of sixty-one, Ernest Hemingway died in Ketchum, Idaho.
 
Brian Gordon Sinclair, author of Hemingway On Stage, is a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada and holds a Master of Arts degree in Theatre from the University of Denver. He has also studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, England and at the National Film Board of Canada. Sinclair has completed writing a six-play series, Hemingway On Stage: The Road to Freedom. The first five plays have premiered at the Hemingway Days Festival in Key West, Florida. The sixth and final play of the series premiered at the Hemingway Colloquium in Havana. Other works by Brian Gordon Sinclair include Easter Rising: The Last Words of Patrick Pearse, which is now available in audio book format. Easter Rising is the only complete stage dramatization of the 1916 struggle for freedom in Dublin, Ireland. A recipient of the Sir Tyrone Guthrie Award for acting at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario and the Finca Vigia/ Museo Hemingway Award of Distinction, Sinclair has performed in Cuba, Denmark, England, Holland, Norway, Poland, Spain and at the Moscow Art Theatre in Russia. Sinclair is a proud dual citizen of Canada and Ireland.