Rizo Rocks Zinzanni

Lady Rizo makes a world for you, a place of danger but offering — paradoxically — the ultimate safety. She demands vulnerability of you, and offers it herself. Give in to her charms and you’ll arrive someplace safe, where anything, be it ever so outrageous, can be said out loud. She teases, she cajoles, she jokes, she seduces, she sings to you, and slowly, you give in to one of the best performers going. A friend of hers got to the heart of the Lady Rizo experience. “It’s dangerous. We really don’t know what you’re going to do, and that’s what makes you so intoxicating.” Intoxicating, amazing. Does she tire of hearing that she’s amazing? “I’m never tired of hearing that I’m amazing,” she quips. “People always love to say that to me: ‘You don’t need to hear this.’ And I’m like, ‘I do! I need to hear it!’ Every performer does, you’re just a crying little baby looking for approval.” She thinks for a moment and says, a little more seriously, “I need it less these days because I’m comfortable in what I have to give.”

Amelia Zirin-Brown ’99 — Lady Rizo offstage —couldn’t look more natural or at home lounging on a velvet couch, even with an impossibly exuberant spray of paper flowers behind her and a gilded side table beside her so florid it would make Louis XV blush. The setting must be over-the-top, of course, for she is in the lobby of Seattle’s own palais des rêves, Teatro Zinzanni. Lady Rizo is appearing in the latest Zinzanni explosive confection, The Hot Spot, through June. No spoiler alert here, let’s just say her entrance and exit at Zinzanni will be show-stoppers.

“I love being in a circus,” she says of working at Zinzanni, “These people have these … clowning skills and acrobatic skills, and they also are singing and dancing and acting.” Those familiar with Rizo’s act should prepare for some surprises over and above those she always offers her fans. “This is a different version of me for sure.”

Amelia was always a star, certainly at Cornish, where she was presented with a full scholarship, and before that, probably. But now she’s a seasoned performer at the top of her game and a star on the New York City diva circuit. She’s a staple at Joe’s Café, the cabaret space of The Public Theater. When the theater’s packed and the lights go down, she’s the master. “The doors are closed, and then I’m in charge,” she says. “I set that very clearly. Because I’m in charge there, we’re in an alternate reality. Like people use booze or drugs to create freedom, I do feel like the alter ego of Lady Rizo can be that portal, and that people feel that viscerally. … I’m in a space of taking any impulse and following it.”

Cornish provided an important step in Amelia’s success, especially in her work with cabaret and another class that might surprise many. “There were seeds that started in David Taft’s clown class,” she says. “My clown was this very sexual French clown — I would speak gibberish French." Taft’s annual clown class performance has been packing Raisbeck Hall to the rafters and been the hysterical scene of wholesale comic murder. The show has gotten so big that this April it’s been moved to the Studio of the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center, doubling capacity.

The clown class and Cornish have become something of a “Diva U.” Jinkx Monsoon (Jerick Hoffer ’10), winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race and off-Broadway sensation with partner Major Scales (Richard Andriesson ’10) also honed his act in clown class. If you’re wondering, Jinkx and Rizo are indeed friends, and more. “What’s exciting is that this year we were up against each for a Helpmann Award,” she says, “which is the Tony of Australia, for best cabaret show. And we both lost.” Amelia says that Jerick has suggested they do a duet on his upcoming album; fans will be salivating for that, no doubt about it.

Amelia understands how Jerick found the clown class valuable in developing Jinkx Monsoon, and offers her own angle. “I mean, drag and clown, it’s about exaggerating life. I mean, I’m a bio-fem drag queen,” she says, astonishingly. “I’m the kind of woman that people base drag queens off of. … If I’m truly as successful as I want to be, in 10 years there will be drag queens of Lady Rizo.”

Big success of the household-name variety is somewhere down the pike, but for Amelia, the joy of being Lady Rizo is enough for now, that and the joy she brings to her fans. “I love the audience, and that’s genuine. I love people. I love what I do. And I love the moment that I’m creating. I love to sing. I serve the purpose of being a prism, reflecting the light that is coming at me, reflecting a celebration of the people in the room.

“It’s feeling like the people in the room are special,” Amelia continues. “Because this night is only going to happen tonight.” ​

Cornish Presents Continues with Pianist Dr. Peter Mack

Dr. Peter Mack. Photo by courtesy of the artist.

Cornish Presents Continues with Pianist Dr. Peter Mack

Sometimes you look far and wide to bring in the best; sometimes they are to be found right next door. Dr. Peter Mack is in great demand as a performer, yet he is to be found on the campus of Cornish College of the Arts as professor of piano performance. A Steinway artist, Dr. Mack will perform a solo piano concert that features seldom-heard gems from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries at Cornish’s PONCHO Concert Hall in historic Kerry Hall on Sunday, February 22, at 7:00 p.m. Presented as part of the Cornish Presents series, the program will include works by Grieg, Medtner, Rimsky-Korsakov, Sorabji, and Julian Scriabin.

As the year 2015 is the 330th birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach and the 100th anniversary of Alexander Scriabin’s death, the evening’s program will also explore works by these composers.

Tickets and information.

Mack’s talent has been recognized with a series of competition wins, including the New Orleans, Young Keyboard Artists, and Pacific International Piano competitions. He has performed all over the country and the world. "Mack is one of those lucky ones,” writes Albert Goldberg of the Los Angeles Times, “born with a completely balanced set of talents.  He has perfect piano hands, his technique is all but infallible, he has boundless temperament, style and taste, and above all, he communicates directly. …  In all capacities he is indefatigable."  

Dr. Peter Mack is in great demand as a clinician, convention artist, adjudicator, and teacher, as well as for his work as a performer. He is celebrated for his moving playing and his easy rapport with audiences and his extensive repertoire, having performed 26 concertos with orchestras.  A choral scholar at Trinity College Dublin and a fellow of Trinity College London, he holds a doctorate in piano performance from the University of Washington. Mack's 2014-2015 list of engagements includes performances in two of the most acoustically perfect performance spaces in Europe; the Salle Cortot of the École Normale in Paris, and the Haydnsaal of the Esterhazy Palace in Eisenstadt, Austria.  

In the program:

J.S. Bach: Prelude in B minor, transcribed by Alexander Siloti

Edvard Grieg: 'Holberg' Suite, op.40

        i) Praeludium  
        ii) Sarabande
        iii) Gavotte
        iv) Air
        v) Rigaudon

Nikolai Medtner: Sonate-Elegie in D minor, op.11, No.2

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: A Song of India from the opera Sadko, transcribed by Alexander Siloti

Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji: Pastiche on the Hindu Merchant's song from Sadko by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1922)

Alexander Scriabin
        Prelude for the Left Hand alone, op. 9, No.1
        Albumleaf, op. 45, No.1
        Prelude, op.51, No.2 (Lugubre)
        Prelude, op.74, No.2 (Très lent, contemplatif)

Julian Scriabin: Two Preludes, op.3

Alexander Scriabin: Etude in D sharp minor, op.8, No.12

Dance Seniors Show Off Their Style

2015 BFA Dance seniors.. Photo by Winnie Westergard.

Dance Seniors Show Off Their Style

An eclectic array of dance styles and viewpoints make up the 2015 BFA Dance Concerts this Saturday and next. The seniors will perform pieces ranging from modern dance to contemporary ballet, jazz and performance art, with some dances performed to live music. The concert series also includes performances of works commissioned from professional guest choreographers.

As part of their preparation last fall, the seniors also organized a photo shoot and the design of their marketing materials for the concert, including their elegant red-and-black poster. The BFA capstone project is intended to represent the graduating senior’s highest level of accomplishment and reflects a synthesis of the learning experience at Cornish College of the Arts, according Dance Chair Kitty Daniels. Senior Caitlyn Pumphrey created a work for five dancers called To You Baby, a process that she called "a fun journey" in her program notes. In addition, she will dance a solo work created by local choreographer and Cornish faculty member Wade Madsen, Corner of Fifth and Broadway. "I enjoyed working with [Madsen], hearing all of his feedback and learning from him," she said in the program for tomorrow's performances.

All BFA Dance Concert performances take place at the Broadway Performance Hall, 1625 Broadway, in Seattle. The performances are open to the public and free but advance reservations for seats can be made through Brown Paper Tickets. 

February 14, 2 p.m and 8 p.m.
BFA Dance Concert - Program One
Featuring: Mariah Davis, Christine Dickson, Madison Haines, Mackenzie Kimbrel, Caitlyn Pumphrey, Kenysha Smith, and Phelicity Thompson.
Guest choreographers: Corrie Befort, Barbara Caioli,  Mike Esperanza, Jamie Karlovich, Wade Madsen, and Molly Sides.

February 21, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
BFA Dance Concert - Program Two    
Featuring: Jennifer Allie, Maya Horowitz, Yamari Maynard-Berley, Sage Miller, Elizabeth Monsoor, Sean Rosado, and Julia Sloane.
Guest choreographers: Sidra Bell, Jonathan Campbell and Austin Diaz of MADboots Dance Company,  Solomon Dumas, Terence Marling, Dennis Nahat, Alia Swersky, and Kate Wallich.

Nienkämper Brings Design Star Power to Cornish

You should have learned the name if you love design, but even if you haven’t, you know the work of Nienkämper. You've seen it everywhere. It is the name of a man and of the company he owns, a company that has set the standard for beautiful, functional, and rugged furniture for public spaces. It is furniture that has architectural integrity, which inhabits modern buildings with award-winning grace. In Seattle to visit Cornish on February 10, Klaus Nienkämper delighted and charmed the audience of design students, faculty, and staffers with collected photos of the work of the Nienkämper company and his personal stories of coming from postwar Germany to start his business.

Afterwards, Nienkämper toured the new combined offices of Art, Design, Film + Media and heard about the exciting changes in the Design Department’s Interior Architecture program. Interior Architecture students are now taking part in the foundation year with all the students of the combined art and design departments, which will bring new insights and inspiration. Like its counterpart tracks, Interior Architecture will be integrated and cohort-based, emphasizing collaboration.

The Interior Architecture program, under the guidance of Julie Myers, has amassed a fantastic success rate for its students. Design studios around Seattle and beyond come to Cornish every year to look for fresh talent. This year, as so many other years, the juniors and seniors in Interior Architecture captured top awards from the area’s professional organization.

Cornish Art Show Illuminates Changes in Curriculum

At a century-old beloved Seattle institution where Mark Tobey once taught painting, changing up the visuals arts curriculum caused such an uproar in the local arts community that Seattle Magazine selected Cornish College of the Arts’ Provost and Vice-President Moira Scott Payne as one of the 51 most influential people in the city last year.

Now the public can see some of the early results of those changes in the Northwest's grande dame of arts education. After a series of “studio walks” last Fall at the college’s South Lake Union campus, a selection of work by 33 current Cornish sophomores, juniors, and seniors has been hung in main gallery under the title “Changing Our Stripes: The New Art Program at Cornish.”

“We are in our 100th year at Cornish and the newly launched art program represents the future where integrated learning and cultivating communities of practice are at the heart of what we do,” said Art Department Chair Christy Johnson. “Students took this exciting and challenging opportunity to investigate the externals factors which shape and frame contemporary art today, and the broader world in which they live.”

Shared themes and topics addressed by the students include civil disobedience, consumer culture, systems and process art, postmodernism, and art history.

“The selection of work is also meant to represent the variety of mediums, approaches, and genres with which students are encouraged to experiment. Collectively these works get at the core mission of our new program: the idea that creating objects and images is also a form of critical thinking,” said Melissa Feldman, the critical and contextual studies faculty member who served as the guest curator for the show.  

Works on display range from flat to three-dimensional -- and some even light the space surrounding them.

During Wednesday's opening night reception, faculty, students, staff, and friends filled the gallery. The festive atmosphere included a myriad of discussions ranging from the art on display to the new energy sizzling through Cornish.  Everyone agreed it was a great start to the school's second century of teaching art.

Theater Winter New Works Festival Underway

​The 2015 Cornish Winter New Works Festival is in production and set to open February 6 at the Studio of the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center. A series of readings of new plays by members of the senior class in the Theater Department's Original Works program, the writers are supported by professional directors and dramaturgs with casts made up of Cornish theater students. Each play goes through a three-week development process: a week of rehearsal, an interim week for the playwright to do rewrites as indicated, and then another week of rehearsal, capped by two public readings.​ All readings are from 8-10:00 p.m. and are free to the public.

​“We've got three ambitious plays by Cornish seniors — two Theater and one Performance Production Original Works — that are being directed by three top-flight directors,” writes department chair Richard E.T. White. The directors include Gregory-winner Kate Jaeger, Cornish’s own Kathleen Collins, and Intiman artistic director Andrew Russell. Dramaturgs for the projects include Stephanie Timm of New Century Theatre, Elizabeth Heffron, Cornish faculty and author of Bo-nita which premiered at Seattle Rep last year, and Christine Sumption of the Hedgebrook Women Playwrights Festival.

Polyphony, by Kendra Lee
​Performance Production ​2015
Director: Kate Jaeger
Dramaturg: Christine Sumption
Original Music by Mitchell Gustin, Music ​2015
​A man with a great talent for piano is found, sopping wet and mute, walking along the side of the road. He is taken to the hospital where, despite his silence, he changes the lives of people he meets while coping with hauntings from his own past.
Public Readings Friday, February 6 and Saturday, February 7, 8:00 p.m.

Stranded! or Where There's a Will...  by Taylor Westerlund
​Theater ​2015
Director: Kathleen Collins
Dramaturg: Stephanie Timm
​In the midst of a crisis a young man named Will finds himself stranded on an island off the Northwest coast. His fears, desires and secrets seem to have followed him there and take shape before his eyes. As the island's populace grows, Will must face himself and the manifestations of his subconscious in order to find his way home.
Public Readings Friday, February 13 and Saturday, February 14, 8:00 p.m.

Definitely Native, by Kalea Salvador
​Theater ​2015
Director: Andrew Russell
Dramaturg: Elizabeth Heffron
Marie Sanchez lives with her family on the Acoma Reservation in New Mexico,​in a home whose door is a window that you climb through. On a night shot through with pain and love, Marie relives her complicated upbringing (which she believes to be completely average). Coping with her brother’s thieveries, her grandmother’s sharp tongue, her aunt’s control freak habits, and her uncle’s taste in cowboy attire, Marie must learn to balance her strict traditions with her family’s shortcomings and find a way to accept them for who they are.
Public Readings Friday, February 20 and Saturday, February 21, 8:00 p.m.

Cornish College of the Arts Joins Kronos’ Fifty For The Future

Kronos Quartet. Photo by Jay Blakesberg.

Cornish College of the Arts Joins Kronos’ Fifty For The Future

The Kronos Quartet/Kronos Performing Arts Association’s new program, Fifty for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire, was unveiled on January 28. With a lead partner, Carnegie Hall, Fifty for the Future will provide musicians with the most recent approaches to string quartet, designed expressly for the training of students and emerging professionals.

Cornish College of the Arts will be one of the first institutions of higher education to take advantage of this exciting new initiative. “We are delighted and honored to be a partner in Kronos’ Fifty for the Future,” said Cornish President Nancy J. Uscher. “Creating new music and new ways of teaching music is very much a part of Cornish's pioneering spirit and legacy. Most importantly, this partnership with Kronos exemplifies the type of distinctive collaboration that Cornish will continue to develop in its second century.”

Cornish also will be working with Kronos’ Fifty for the Future commissioning partner Seattle Theatre Group for local presentations, added Uscher.

Beginning in the 2015/16 season, Kronos’ Fifty for the Future will commission a collection of 50 new works – ten per year for five years – devoted to the most recent approaches to the string quartet and suitable for training of students and emerging professionals. The works will be commissioned from an eclectic group of composers – 25 men and 25 women – and the collection will represent the truly globe-spanning state of the art of the string quartet in the 21st century. “I see a need for a thought-out and comprehensive primer, created by some of our very best collaborators. This primer is in part inspired by Béla Bartók's Mikrokosmos, which he wrote for his son as an entry point to piano studies,” said David Harrington, the artistic director and founder of Kronos.

Harrington’s championship of new music began in 1973. Living in Seattle, the then 22-year-old Harrington commissioned his first composer, Ken Benshoof (also a Seattle resident), and paid him with a bag of doughnuts. Kronos’ very first performance included the resulting “Traveling Music” by Benshoof – along with Bartók’s Third Quartet, “Black Angels” by George Crumb, and Webern’s Six Bagatelles – all performed at North Seattle Community College before an audience of friends and family. According to Harrington, they also performed at Cornish College of the Arts during that first year. More recently, Kronos received honorary doctorates from Cornish in 2012 and headlined the 2013 Cornish gala.

For more than forty years, Kronos has premiered literally hundreds of new compositions. “Now Kronos has access to a worldwide community of exceptionally creative people capable of making a multi-faceted introduction for the youngest enthusiasts among us. We’re trying to use all of our experience to create a body of music for future generations,” said Harrington. “Our idea is that as we're touring and playing these 50 pieces, Kronos will be working with and mentoring younger quartets, and the music will begin to appear in concerts of other groups all over the place; being played in homes, in schools, art galleries, concert halls, wherever music is played and listened to.”

Through jointly designed master classes, workshops, and residencies, Kronos will work with Cornish and other Kronos’ Fifty for the Future partners to extend the reach of this educational program. “As Kronos/Kronos Performing Arts Association (KPAA) enters its fifth decade, we are incredibly pleased to be launching the largest artistic and organizational undertaking in our history - Fifty for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire,” said Janet Cowperthwaite, managing director of the Kronos Performing Arts Association. “Building on Kronos’ more than 40-year success in working with both a wide range of immensely creative composers and a dedicated, adventurous group of presenters, funders and other partner organizations, this project exemplifies the curiosity, ingenuity, and diversity that has been the hallmark of Kronos’ vision and artistic output since day one.”

Kronos will premiere each work and create companion materials, including recordings, video, performance notes, and composer interviews. All of Kronos’ Fifty for the Future project materials – including scores and parts – will be distributed online and made available at no charge, in perpetuity. In the forward-looking spirit of Kronos’ decades-long history, Fifty for the Future will present string quartet music as a living art form, providing emerging musicians with both an indispensable library of learning, and a blueprint for their own future collaborations with composers.

"What truly excites me about this project is how it goes beyond our music department and will have the opportunity to involve students from all the disciplines at Cornish. The first piece, in 2016, will have elements of film and visual arts as a component," added Uscher.

Cornish Presents 2015 Season Starts Jan. 25

The Spring 2015 Cornish Presents music series kicks off Jan. 25 with the Ben Wendel Quartet at the PONCHO Concert Hall located in Kerry Hall. The Grammy nominated saxophonist's varied career includes work as a performer, composer, producer and most recently, conductor.  He has appeared on multiple domestic and international tours with such artists as Cuban drumming legend Ignacio Berroa, Thelonious Monk Piano Competition Winner Tigran Hamasyan, hip-hop artist Snoop Dogg and the Artist formerly known as Prince. Wendel is a founding member of the Grammy nominated group Kneebody and will be part of the Seattle Jazz Experience later this spring.

Next up will be Thumbscrew featuring the adventurous young guitarist Mary Halvorson along with bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Tomas Fujiwara. Their compositions are based on a co-operative spirit in the truest sense with  bass and drums solo fully part of the ensemble. As Thumbscrew explains on their website: "No one needs to be loudest. The blend is tight: one string (or metal) sound may bleed into another. It’s something to hear—something twisty and turny and always on the move."

Other Cornish Present jazz concerts include vocalist René  Marie and her tribute to the legendary Eartha Kitt, , the noted New York-based trombonist Ryan Keberle and his group Catharsis.

Chamber music concerts will include a recital by noted pianist and Cornish faculty member Peter Mack, classical guitarist Benjamin Verdery, and pianist/composer Dawn Clement. Another exciting Seattle collaboration occurs between Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra concertmaster Michael Lim (violin), chamber artist Melia Watras (viola), and jazz artists Cuong Vu (trumpet) and Ted Poor (drums).

The spring season concludes with audience perennial favorite Gamelan Pacifica in a concert celebrating the release of their new recording Nourishment.

Tickets for all Spring 2015 shows are now available through Also open to the public are the many master classes provided by these visiting artists and others.

Cornish Presents Spring 2015 Season

Ben Wendel Quartet
January 25 at 8 p.m.
PONCHO Concert Hall
Kneebody mainstay Ben Wendel returns to Seattle with his latest project, a blazing new quartet featuring the pianist Taylor Eigsti, bassist Harish Raghavan, and drummer Eric Harland.  Presented in association with Earshot Jazz

February 8 at 8 p.m.
PONCHO Concert Hall
Thumbscrew brings together three of the most adventurous souls in jazz today: Mary Halvorson (guitar), Michael Formanek (double bass), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums). Presented in association with Earshot Jazz

Peter Mack
February 22 at 7 p.m.
PONCHO Concert Hall
Cornish faculty member and nationally known Steinway artist Dr. Peter Mack presents a solo piano recital featuring seldom heard gems from the 19th and 20th Century piano repertoire.

René Marie
March 24 at 8 p.m.
PONCHO Concert Hall
Daring singer, actress, performer René Marie sings selections from her new album, I Wanna Be Evil (With Love to Eartha Kitt.

Lim + Watras + Vu + Poor
March 29 at 7 p.m.
PONCHO Concert Hall
The accomplished classical music duo of Michael Jinsoo Lim (violin) and Melia Watras (viola) teams up with jazz greats Cuong Vu (trumpet) and Ted Poor (drums). Lim and Watras start the evening with compositions for violin and viola and are joined on the second half by Vu and Poor for a set of improvised music.

Ryan Keberle & Catharsis
April 7 at 8 p.m.
PONCHO Concert Hall
“A trombonist and composer with far-ranging credentials, Ryan Keberle is onto something with Catharsis, his update of a pianoless post-bop quartet,” writes Nate Chinen in The New York Times.

Gamelan Pacifica
April 12 at 7 p.m.
PONCHO Concert Hall
Gamelan Pacifica celebrates the release of its new recording Nourishmentfeaturing works by Lou Harrison, Philip Glass, Al. Suwardi, Jessika Kenney, Stephen Fandrich, and Jarrad Powell. An audience favorite for more than 30 years, the adventurous Javanese gamelan ensemble Gamelan Pacifica is under the direction of noted composer and Cornish College of the Arts Professor Jarrad Powell. “With an air of timelessness, Gamelan Pacifica has done an unparalleled job of taking gamelan music to new heights, while remaining respectful to the roots and cultural significance of its instruments.” - SOMA Magazine

An Evening with Dawn Clement
April 14 at 8 p.m.
PONCHO Concert Hall
Pianist/composer Dawn Clement presents a special concert featuring a set of her new works for string quartet and voice featuring violist Mara Gearman, cellist Paige Stockley, and violinists Mischa Schmidt and Adrianna Hulscher, as well as a set of solo piano improvisations by Clement. 

Benjamin Verdery
April 17 at 8 p.m.
PONCHO Concert Hall
Hailed for his innovative and eclectic musical career, guitarist and composer Benjamin Verdery performs at Cornish in conjunction with the 2015 Northwest Guitar Festival.


All master classes are free and open to the public and do not require a ticket. All master classes occur at Cornish College’s PONCHO Concert Hall in the historic Kerry Hall at 710 East Roy Street in Seattle.

The Tiptons Sax Quartet and Drums
January 15 at 12 p.m.
PONCHO Concert Hall

The Tiptons saxophone quartet members AmyDenio (alto sax, clarinet, voice), Jessica Lurie (alto and tenor sax and voice), Tina Richerson (baritone saxophone and
voice),  Sue Orfield (tenor sax, voice) and Tarik Abouzied (drums) share their own approach to music-making with Cornish student musicians.

February 9 at 12 p.m.
PONCHO Concert Hall
The jazz trio - Mary Halvorson (guitar), Michael Formanek (double bass) and Tomas Fujiwara (drums)  - presents a master class.

New West Guitar Group
February 18 at 12 p.m.
PONCHO Concert Hall
The cutting-edge guitar ensemble New West Guitar Group (John Storie, Perry Smith and Jeff Stein) presents a master class.

Morgan Smith
February 26 at 12 p.m.
One of America's top young baritones today, Morgan Smith returns to Cornish to present a master class for classical vocalists.

Hal Galper
March 3 at 1 p.m.
PONCHO Concert Hall
Noted jazz pianist Hal Galper presents a master class for Cornish student jazz composers and pianists.

René Marie
March 24 at 1 p.m.
PONCHO Concert Hall
Daring singer, actress, and writer René Marie conducts a master class with Cornish vocal jazz students.

Ryan Keberle
April 7 at 1 p.m.
PONCHO Concert Hall
Trombonist and composer Ryan Keberle presents a master class.

More About Cornish Presents

For more than than 35 years, Cornish College of the Arts’ professional music series has introduced Seattle audiences to both emerging artists and established masters in jazz, chamber music, world music, electronic arts, and more. Whether in theintimate PONCHO Concert Hall on Capitol Hill or the larger Cornish Playhouse at the Seattle Center, these low-cost concerts and the accompanying free master classes enhance not only the student experience at Cornish but also provide musicians and music lovers in the community a way to connect with the artists.

Cornish Throws a TASK Party for Everyone

Update: Happy, whirring, spinning pandemonium in the Beebe Building at Cornish's Main Campus as Oliver Herring's TASK Party blew open the doors January 16. With the crush and the constant action it was hard to count, but some 150-200 people took a task from the box and wrote one for someone else. Participants built castles, became robots, were invisible, hugged random folks, painted the floor, and carried out all manner of other creative, assigned tasks. The afternoon and early evening put collaboration and creative thinking on display. According to Art Department chair Christy Johnson, TASK was a wonderful introduction to the spirit of the department's new core curriculum it shares with the Design and Film+Media departments.

See more images from the TASK Party on the Cornish Facebook page.

Jan 8. It’s not everyday that a Cornish event calls for participants from the community, not just audience members and viewers. The concept and brainchild of Oliver Herring, TASK events have been held around the country in all kinds of venues. On Friday, January 16, from 2 pm to 6 pm, Cornish’s revamped Art Department acts as host, inviting members of the community to its Main Campus Beebe Building on 9th Avenue. The TASK Party is open to the public and absolutely free of charge. No one has to be an artist to take part, no one has to have any skills, and age doesn’t matter.

Participants don't bring anything to the event but themselves — and a friend or two, if they wish. “The tools are your imagination,” event creator Oliver Herring says of TASK, “and your imagination is limitless.”

Structured like a game, TASK is an improvisational event with a simple structure and very few rules. It’s art, but its meant to be fun and it is fun. Each participant draws a slip of paper with a task written on it from a box or bucket and follows the simple instructions and replaces it with a task they have invented. It’s that simple. The room is filled with tape and cardboard and paint and foil and all sorts of other materials with which to accomplish the tasks. What happens next is unpredictable except that it’s predictably fascinating as individuals grow together into a creative machine:

TASK’s open-ended, participatory structure creates almost unlimited opportunities for a group of people to interact with one another and their environment. TASK's flow and momentum depend on the tasks written and interpreted by its participants. In theory anything becomes possible. The continuous conception and interpretation of tasks is both chaotic and purpose driven. It is a complex, ever shifting environment of people who connect with one another through what is around them. It is also a platform for people to express and test their own ideas in an environment without failure and success (TASK always is what it is) or any other preconceptions of what can or should be done with an idea or a material. People’s tasks become absorbed into other people’s tasks, objects generated from one task are recycled into someone else’s task without issues of ownership or permanence."

In 2002, Oliver Herring created the improvisatory art event, which is really an ongoing series of events, workshops and parties in which participants of all ages and demographics collectively dream up instructions and carry them out with the materials provided. Increasingly, TASK is becoming a tool in classrooms and communities to access contemporary art in a way that is experimental, open-ended, and accessible to anyone.

Herring’s work has been exhibited widely. In the United States, his work has been shown at the MOMA, the Guggenheim, the Whitney Museum of Art, the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and The Frye Art Museum, among many others.  Internationally, his work has been seen in London, Kyoto, Nagano, Lyon, and Erfurt, Germany. Herring was featured on Season 3 of PBS’s program Art21, Art in the 21st Century

Erickson, Carter Named Performance Production Interim Chairs

Professor Ron Erickson. Photo by Star Rush.

Erickson, Carter Named Performance Production Interim Chairs

Cornish Provost Moira Scott Payne has announced the appointment of Ron Erickson and Greg Carter as interim co-chairs of the Performance Production Department. They have already assumed their duties. The two replace long-time Cornish professor and chair of Performance Production Dave Tosti-Lane

"I am pleased to have Greg and Ron in this shared position," wrote Scott Payne, "and am confident their leadership will serve the department and college well."

Associate professor Greg Carter is the founding artistic director of Strawberry Theatre Workshop, where he has directed Our TownThis Land: Woody GuthrieInherit the WindGutenberg! The Musical!, and An Enemy of the People.  "Strawshop" won the 2007 Stranger Genius Award for an Arts Organization, and was nominated in four consecutive years for the TPS Gregory Award for Outstanding Production between 2010-13.  Carter is the former production manager at Book-It Repertory Theatre, where he designed scenery for productions on the stages of Seattle Rep, ACT, Intiman, and On the Boards.  He has also designed for Portland Center Stage, Seattle Symphony, Cornish, and designed puppets for ACT.  

At Cornish, Carter teaches classes in stage management, scenic design, and scenic construction. He has served as the lead contract negotiator for the Cornish Federation of Teachers since 2003 and served as president of the faculty Senate Executive Committee in 2013-14.  

Ron Erickson has designed costumes and scenery for many northwest theaters. His theater credits include designs for Pacific Northwest Ballet, Intiman, Tacoma Opera, Spectrum Dance, Book-It Theater, Seattle Shakespeare Company, Taproot Theater, and Strawberry Theater Workshop, among others.  Ron is currently Head of Wardrobe at Seattle Opera.

Erickson has taught at Cornish College for more than 30 years and is a founding faculty member of the Performance Production Department, where he is a professor and the area head of costume design. He has received three Excellence in Teaching Awards at Cornish College. He has studied at the San Francisco Art Institute and has a BFA in sculpture from the University of Washington. 

Scholastic Art & Writing Awards at Cornish

Student work for the Regional Scholastic Art & Writing Awards at Cornish on display at the Playhouse. Photo by Mark Bocek.

Scholastic Art & Writing Awards at Cornish

Cornish hosted the Washington regionals for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for high school students from every part of the state save Snohomish County. The students were honored at the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center on Sunday, January 11. An exhibition of the students' work currently is on display in the lobby of the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center from now through January 23rd on selected dates and times. Award winners at this level will go on to nationals at Carnegie Hall in New York.

Cornish Vice President for Enrollment Management Jonathan Lindsay said the College's support the awards is a natural extension of its work developing artists and innovators. The awards "creates an opportunity to build relationships with area art educators, helps us to identify strong students, and enhances the visibility of the College," he said.

The individual pieces submitted "made us smile, think, laugh and wonder," said Craig Snyder, Assistant Director of Admission and Adjunct Professor, Art / Humanities and Sciences Department. "Collectively, the work it made us appreciate that art instruction is alive and well in middle schools and high schools and that art is still a powerful tool to communicate with others."

Since 1923, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards have recognized the vision, ingenuity, and talent of students  in grades 7 through 12The national program relies on regional affiliate partners to bring the Awards to local communities. Teens from public, private, or home schools, applied in a variety of categories of art and writing for a chance to earn scholarships and have their works exhibited and published. Each year, an increasing number of teens have participated in the program - 255,000 original works were submitted to the program overall last year.

More information on the exhibition.

Since its founding, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards have established an amazing track record for identifying the early promise of such creative talents as Andy Warhol, Philip Pearlstein, Cy Twombly, Robert Indiana, Kay WalkingStick, and John Baldessari; writers Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, Bernard Malamud, Maya Goldberg, and Joyce Carol Oates; photographer Richard Avedon (who won for poetry); actors Frances Farmer, Robert Redford, Alan Arkin, and John Lithgow; and filmmakers Stan Brakhage, Ken Burns, and Richard Linklater.

"In our inaugural year of hosting the awards at Cornish, we received over 1000 entries from 500+ students," said Lindsay. More than 200 works from 125 individual artists were found worthy of Honorable Mention, Silver Key or Gold Key Awards, and many of these award winners can be seen as part of the exhibition currently on display in the lobby of the Cornish Playhouse.

"As a native Seattleite, it was a great honor to witness the breadth of strong work coming from students across the state of Washington," said Emily Gewax, Admission Counselor.


A list of all artists receiving Honorable Mention, Silver Key, or Gold Key Awards can be found here.

Cornish Looks Beautiful At 100

Student volunteers mingled with the guests at the Paramount.. Photo by Mark Bocek.

Cornish Looks Beautiful At 100

Cornish College of the Arts celebrated 100 years in Seattle on Friday, November 14, 2014, with a Centennial Gala at the Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St. The sold-out event attracted a record number of alumni, past and present trustees, and Seattle notables.

Graduate Mary Lambert headlined the entertainment in the grand gold-and-white theater that originally was built in the silent movie heyday. Overlooking the formally attired crowd, all black tie and ball gowns in normally laidback Seattle, Lambert remarked, “You look so beautiful out there. Like the Titanic. But we’re going to be OK.” 

Currently on tour supporting her new record, “Heart On My Sleeve,” Lambert and her band sang an expanded version of the hook she wrote for Macklemore’s “Same Love” called “She Keeps Me Warm,” followed by “Body Love,” and “Red Lipstick.” After graduating in 2011 with a Bachelors in Music from Cornish, Lambert was  nominated for a Grammy and signed to Capitol Records.

In honor of Cornish’s 100th anniversary, long-time supporters James and Sherry Raisbeck, joined by Carl and Renée Behnke, started the “Raise the Paddle” with each couple pledging of $100,000. Additional donations, including sponsorships and matching funds brought the final evening total to $850,000. The net proceeds of the Gala will fund student scholarships.

Founder Nellie Cornish started her school on November 14, 1914, in Seattle, WA. Today the college’s campus includes facilities in the three neighborhoods: a 1921 historic landmark on Capitol Hill, multiple buildings in the South Lake Union neighborhood that serves as a home to Seattle tech giants such as, and the Cornish Playhouse at the Seattle Center.

“Throughout  its history, Cornish has been defined by innovation, risk-taking, and creativity,” said Cornish College of the Arts President Nancy J. Uscher during her opening remarks. “What is profoundly exciting in 2014 is that Cornish is expanding the thinking about the role of the artist in contemporary society. And we are leading the arts higher education community in this transformative work.”

Before and during a supper catered by Tom Douglas Catering, guests also were entertainedby animation performance artist Miwa Matreyek, and several student performances. Actor and Cornish faculty member Timothy McCuen Piggee acted as the host for the evening. Speakers included Dr. Nancy J. Uscher,Chair of the Board Virginia Anderson, and a special surprise guest, Seattle’s Mayor Ed Murray.

In honor of Cornish's Centennial, Murray proclaimed November 14, 2014, as Cornish College of the Arts Day in Seattle. A similar announcement was sent to the Gala by Governor Jay Inslee in recognition of Cornish’s contributions to Washington State. Letters of congratulations were received from Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and King County Executive Dow Constantine.

More About Centennial Sponsors:

The Cornish Centennial Gala set new records due in part to the following sponsors:  Amazon, Boeing, Bon Appetit, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Foster Pepper, KeyBank, Maybelle Clark Macdonald Fund, Merriman, The Rainier Group, Seattle Theatre Group, The Vance Corporation, and Weinstein A+U.

The  Centennial Gala kicked off a year-long Centennial Celebration for the College that will be marked by a series of events throughout the year. The Honorary Committee for the Centennial Celebration includes: Eve and Chap Alvord (Co-Chairs), Ida Cole, Dave Dederer, Joshua and Pam Green, Sherry and James Raisbeck, Scott Redman and Shawn Anderson, Norm and Constance Rice, Jon Shirley, David Skinner and Catherine Eaton Skinner, Julie Speidel, Severt Thurston, Howard S. Wright and Katherine Janeway, Virginia Wyman, The Honorable Ed Murray, Major of Seattle, Jim Kelly of 4Culture, Randy Engstrom from the Office of Arts & Culture, David Armstrong from The 5th Avenue Theatre, Jim Baker of Pilchuck Glass School, Kurt Beattie from ACT Theatre, Peter Boal from Pacific Northwest Ballet, Stefano Catalani from Bellevue Arts Museum, Lane Czaplinski from On the Boards, Luis Croquer from The Henry Gallery, Leonard Garfield of MOHAI, Robert Hunt of Village Theatre, Josh LaBelle from Seattle Theatre Group, and Aidan Lang from Seattle Opera.

Support  for the Centennial Celebration year is made possible by the following sponsors: Bernstein Global Wealth Management, City Arts, Hermanson, Peterson Sullivan, Sellen, Vulcan, Willis of Seattle, and the Cornish Residence Hall Partners, which includes Capstone Development Partners, Ankrom Moisan, Cochran, Coughlin Porter Lundeen, Holaday-Parks, Howard S. Wright, and Raymond Northwest.

Pictured: Student volunteers at the Centennial Gala, photo by Mark Bocek

Baker Named Interim Music Chair

Tom Baker (left) with Triptet. Photo by courtesy of artist.

Baker Named Interim Music Chair

Tom Baker, DMA, officially assumes his new position as interim chair of the Music Department on January 1, 2015, but his appointment already is creating buzz and excitement with local music media and professionals familiar with his work. According to Provost Moira Scott Payne, music study at Cornish will benefit from Baker’s previous experience as a faculty member as well as his lengthy professional resume.

“I am delighted to welcome Tom to this position,” said Scott Payne. “The department, and indeed the whole college, will benefit from his contributions. We look forward to a bright future under his capable direction.” 

Baker is ready for the challenge. “I am very excited to step into this position at what is an exceptional time here at Cornish College of the Arts,” he said. “I look forward to working through this period of great change in collaboration with the students, my faculty colleagues and our dedicated administration. The future seems open to a multitude of possibilities.”

Dr. Baker takes the place of Kent Devereaux ’84 who is leaving the Music Department and his alma mater for the presidency of the New Hampshire Institute of Art (NHIA). Baker has been a faculty member in the department since 2011.  He has been teaching composition, music theory, electronic music, and inter-arts at the College. Baker received his doctorate in composition in 1996 (Doctor of Musical Arts) from the University of Washington. He also holds a master’s degree in classical guitar performance from Arizona State University and a bachelor’s degree from Boise State University. Before coming to Cornish, he taught composition and music theory for thirteen years at the University of Washington.

Baker has been active as a composer, performer, and music producer in the new-music scene since arriving in Seattle in 1994. He is the artistic director of the Seattle Composers’ Salon, co-founder of the Seattle EXperimental Opera (SEXO), and an advisory board member of the Washington Composers’ Forum.

Baker’s works have been performed throughout the United States and Canada, and in Europe. His two most recent chamber operas, The Gospel of the Red-Hot Stars (2006) and Hunger: The Journey of Tamsen Donner (2008), were both premiered by the Seattle EXperimental Opera and are available on the Present Sounds label. Baker is also active as a performer, specializing in fretless guitar and live electronics. His group, Triptet, released their third album, Figure in the Carpet, on Engine Records in 2012.

Hang Ups Draws Crowd of Poster Lovers

2014 winners of Hang Ups.. Photo by Robynne Raye.

Hang Ups Draws Crowd of Poster Lovers

Robynne Raye declared that Hang Ups: Cornish Poster Show was a great success. "We had more than 200 people present at the event, with many student coming in from area schools including Seattle Central College, the University of Washington, and Shoreline Community College," said Raye, a Cornish faculty member and the co-founder of design studio Modern Dog.

The show was held at the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center where designers Art Chantry, Frida Clements, Jesse Le Doux, Derek Vander Griend, Shawn Wolfe, Dan Shafer, and Raye led a lively discussion on the state of the art.

Attendees viewed the student work and the judges awarded eight prizes. Runner-ups each received $50 and Best of Show was awarded a cash prize of $500. (All prize money was donated by Modern Dog Design Co.). In addition. the eight posters that placed during the show were invited to be in the permanent archives of Cornish College of the Arts by Cornish archive librarian Bridget Nowlin.

"I would like to congratulate my entire class for the additional planning, branding, marketing, and installation design that went beyond the class requirements," said Raye. "Their efforts made came together to form a memorable presentation."

Judges Choice Awards
Art Chantry: Mica Gaxiola-Flynn (2D or not 2D)
Frida Clements: Renee Legaux (Keaton Henson)
Jesse LeDoux: Haley Luden (No More Meat)
Derek Vander Griend: Zach Davis (Japanese Experimental Film Festival)
Shawn Wolfe: Kat Curtis (Pay it Forward)

Second Runner-up: Noelle Hoffman (Floss)

First Runner-up: Robert Baxter (The Black Keys)

Best of Show: Alex Wallace (Ingmar Bergman)

Clues to Music Development Found In Bird Song

Emily Doolittle. Photo by Photo supplied by E. Doolittle.

Clues to Music Development Found In Bird Song

“We need to be careful not to just project sound structures we are familiar with on to animal songs,” said Emily Doolittle, an assistant professor of music at Cornish who worked on the study about the possible relationship between bird song and human musical scales.  “But if we avoid looking at pitch relationships entirely, than we are missing out an an important way to understand the songs.”

In new research recently published, faculty members from Cornish College of the Arts, Seattle, WA, Philipps University of Marburg, Germany, and University of Vienna, Austria, demonstrated that the bird songs share certain traits with human music.

This research is the first to demonstrate note selection from the harmonic series occurs in the “song” of a non-human animal. The study, published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA (PNAS), is particularly relevant to the ongoing nature/nurture debate about whether musical traits, such pitch relationships, are biologically or culturally driven.

Doolittle and her colleagues found a North American songbird, the hermit thrush, uses notes that are generally related by simple integer proportions similar to that found in human music and that hermit thrushes probably select the pitches they sing. To arrive at this conclusion, Doolittle and Tecumseh Fitch of the University of Vienna analyzed high-quality recordings of the songs of 14 male hermit thrushes. Bruno Gingras, University of Vienna, and Dominik Endres, Philipps University of Marburg, then used two different statistical methods to demonstrate that the notes of the hermit thrush song were related to an overtone series.

Further research is needed to explain why hermit thrushes choose to sing pitches whose relationship follows the harmonic series. One possibility, mentioned by the researchers, is that female hermit thrushes may evaluate a male’s singing accuracy by its ability to follow the overtone series. Another possibility is that, like humans, hermit thrushes find it easier to remember or process pitches that follow the overtone series.

“A number of my compositions are inspired by bird or other animal songs, in various different ways,” said Doolittle. “I’m fascinated by the fact that bird and other animal songs are created by other living beings that are making choices about what they sing, but with minds so different than our own. Writing music based on animal song is, for me, a way of trying to understand the world from a perspective completely different than my own.”

This research, along with other work along the same lines, can help scientists and musicians better understand the relationship of nature as well as nurture when it comes to creating music.

Ferguson Piece Leads CDT Fall Concert Lineup

Mystery of Iniquity, Iyun Ashani Harrison’s offering for the Cornish Dance Theater Fall Concert, does not look back: the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, is today’s news. The events set in motion by the shooting of a young, weaponless African-American man by a police officer are not just fresh in our collective memory, they are searing. Harrison writes: “The piece is created in solidarity with the national outcry against police brutality.” Mystery of Iniquity, which is premiering at the concert, was a collaboration of Harrison’s and the group of sophomore’s dancing the piece.

For the first time, the concert took place at the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center, a theater built for the 1962 World's Fair.

Cornish Dance Theater (CDT) is the performing ensemble of the Dance Department at Cornish College of the Arts.  The CDT Fall 2014 Concert featured choreography by Harrison and faculty and guest choreographers José Limón, Vivian Little, Amy O’Neal ‘99, and Michele Miller.

Appearing along with the premiere of Mystery of Iniquity, were: Opus Provoco, choreographed by Vivian Little; No Excuses (2010), choreographed by Amy O’Neal ‘99 with rehearsal assistant Alice Gosti; Suite from A Choreographic Offering, choreographed by José Limón with staging and direction by Brenna Monroe-Cook; and I AM the Bully, choreographed by Michele Miller in collaboration with Catapult Dance.