• Local teacher-artists win grant support
     | November 20,2012
    Provided Photo

    Brian Boyes is one of two local teachers who received arts grants recently.

    Two area teachers have been awarded grants from the Vermont Community Foundation to further pursue their professional fields in the arts.

    Kerrin McCadden, 46, an English teacher at Montpelier High School, says the grant is not only a welcome recognition of the support local artists and writers need but also satisfies the “business side” of the profession that artists so often struggle with.

    The other recipient is Brian Boyes, 39, of the Cabot School.

    The foundation is a public charity that distributes and invests money given by organizations, businesses, individuals and families. McCadden and Boyes are receiving $1,000 and $2,500, respectively, from the Vermont Arts Endowment Fund.

    Twelve artists received a share of the fund this year.

    McCadden has been teaching at Montpelier High School for 21 years, but she didn’t seriously pursue her writing career until more recently, when, at the urging of the students in her creative writing course, she submitted some of her work and got into Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.

    “It was a disassembling and reassembling process. This was what the world of writing was outside of my brain. It was a really powerful experience,” she said.

    McCadden has since participated a couple more times and teaches the Young Writers’ Conference there.

    “There’s something to be said for putting yourself out there. You are forced to really look at your work and hold it to a higher standard. You try to work toward the caliber of work that you yourself would read,” she said.

    She published her first poem six years ago and has been successfully submitting work regularly since then, including a piece in the 2012 edition of “Best American Poetry.” This was the first grant she had sought. A second grant she was awarded will be announced in the coming weeks, and though she can’t talk about it, she said it is very exciting.

    “A piece of what is so important about this is schools supporting teachers who are pursuing their professions. Every time I’ve asked Montpelier High School for money for professional development they’ve said yes. ... I never would have gotten to this point without that support,” she said.

    Boyes, whose instrument of choice is the trumpet, has been playing professionally in Vermont for about 20 years. Part of that time was spent touring regionally and across the country, and he began to slowly overlap his professional playing with teaching, spurred by a grant from the Vermont Arts Council for a jazz program at Cabot School. Eventually he went from a full-time professional musician to a full-time music teacher.

    Of all the professional groups he played with, a septet called Tala was the only one more focused on original compositions. After guest conducting for the Winooski Valley District Jazz Festival — a sort of all-star jazz band for area high schools — two years ago, he realized it was the first time he had taken his original work and applied it to a large jazz ensemble. “That’s when it hit me, ‘Wow, there’s a lot of unexplored potential here,’ and I wanted to pursue it in a professional capacity,” Boyes said.

    And so was born the Saturn People’s Sound Collective, a 20-piece ensemble with the slogan “Imagine Sun Ra, Steve Reich and Sonic Youth met up on the Silk Road with Maria Schneider along for the ride.”

    According to Boyes, Ra was a big-band leader who claimed to be from the planet Saturn. An African-American who grew up in Alabama in the 1930s, he saw music as a vehicle to transcend the racism and hatred of the time. He played what he called “joyful outer-space music” — “Joyful noise,” said Boyes.

    Reich is a minimalist composer who extensively influenced 20th-century music with his experiments with phasing patterns and focus on slowly mutating sound themes (like the clapping of hands).

    Sonic Youth was an alternative rock band from the 1980s and 1990s at the forefront of the alternative- and indie-rock scene. And Maria Schneider is an American composer, arranger and big-band leader.

    “I’m harnessing the creative spirit of jazz with orchestral and world music elements, basically infusing a lot of my influences into one cohesive sound,” Boyes added.

    Dec. 7 is the premiere at Goddard College’s Haybarn Theatre as part of the Goddard College Concert Series with WGDR/WGDH, the college’s radio station.

    “In the last two years Goddard has done an amazing job of promoting and encouraging the artistic presence to the public,” said Boyes.

    Among those efforts is Local Spotlight, a program that will allow local acts like the Saturn People’s Sound Collective to perform in the same space that usually hosts nationally and internationally recognized groups.

    “Local Spotlight is an incubator for the arts. It’s a great opportunity that Goddard is providing for local arts,” he said. He added that the grant has allowed him to reach what he said is a balance of teaching, giving back and being creative.

    Every year the Vermont Arts Endowment Fund awards area artists and arts organizations up to $5,000 to support the creation and production of new work, as well as technical assistance for arts organizations. The fund awarded a total of $38,500 to artists and arts organizations in 2012, in support of work ranging from documentary filming to the commission of pieces by Vermont composers.

    The grant, established in 1990, requires applicants to describe in detail how their proposed work will contribute to their communities in new and innovative ways, and submit a project budget and sample pieces of previous work. The quality of work and the artist’s ability to carry out the plan and ensure public presentation of the work are among the criteria.

    Both McCadden and Boyes said the state and region are great for supporting the arts.

    To read some of McCadden’s work, visit www.pankmagazine.com/kerrin-mccadden/ or www.failbetter.com and search Kerrin McCadden.

    For more on Brian Boyes and the Saturn People’s Sound Collective, visit www.brianboyes.com.

    Kathryn Eddy is a freelance writer from Braintree.

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