| QUE JONES
THE PAST MONTH marked the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and Russia spent an exuberant amount of money, more than previous years combined, to host the winter games. The opening ceremonies were a spectacular display of lights and athletes all accompanied by beautiful music. While the world spotlight has illuminated this Far East country, not all has been good. We are all familiar with the travesty happening currently with homosexuality in Russian culture. Many fought to pull the games from Russia altogether. Yet Russia shone a light on its past during the opening ceremonies, a light led by a flaming bird and two historically great men, one of whom happened to be homosexual.
The Firebird Overture written by Stravinsky permeated the entire opening ceremonies. This work about death and rebirth, written in the early 20th century, meant a lot to the composer. Stravinsky was not gay, but he was a firm believer in modern ideals and art. Stravinsky’s early music had an early cry for freedom and interestingly enough this was his only music written while in Russia. Stravinsky lived in Russia until he was 28. He then lived in Switzerland and France for 29 years and spent his final 32 years in the U.S. Filled with Russian folk songs, The Firebird, tells a story of the world being destroyed and reborn in the flames. Many historians believe this was a reference to the political turmoil in Russia, and this turmoil inevitably led to Stravinsky abandoning his homeland. Stravinsky started his career idolizing the music of Tchaikovsky.
Tchaikovsky, as you may remember, was a homosexual in 19th century Russia. He is also one of the Great Russian composers and is considered one of the greatest romantics to ever live. Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, many Columbus residents may be familiar with this work due to BalletMets’ yearly performances, was also heavily featured during the Sochi Olympic’s opening ceremonies. Why would a country so fervently speaking out against homosexuals feature a man who was a homosexual? Tchaikovsky’s brother, Modest, was an openly gay male who resided with his boyfriend Kolia at the end of the 19th century. Today he would be imprisoned and his property seized by the government.
While Russia was removing rights from homosexuals, both those native to Russia and international visitors for the games, remember they were also very proud of their classical culture – a culture filled with great artists whom, importantly, also happen to be gay.
A BREIF HISTORY
| QUE JONES
MANY PEOPLE, MYSELF included, go to a gallery to see modern art or a concert of new music and think, “What were they thinking?” Sometimes it is because you don’t understand the work, and sometimes it’s because it is so amazing you can’t believe a person created it. What goes on in an artist’s head? I am here to answer that question and give you a glimpse into the creative geniuses of our time.
Most artists aren’t as deep as people try to make their art. Don’t get me wrong, artists do put a lot of thought into what they do, but often the meaning is a result of interpretation and comes from the subconscious. This also wasn’t necessarily in the artist’s head; sometimes you just start working. I have found there are two basic categories of working in the art world. The first is the just the “sit down and start method,” or “do what you feel.” This method is great when you are lacking ideas and just need to get something out. The second method is the “I have had an idea for weeks/months/years and have been slowly tweaking it in my head.” In this process, artists are almost constantly thinking, either consciously or subconsciously, about their project and what material they should or shouldn’t use. Both ways can create masterpieces, and both ways can create flops. It’s all up to the artist.
Artists work a lot! I am a composer and musician, and as a result, my work week is technically only about four hours. This of course is not true in the end, as there is countless time spent in between those hours sitting at a piano and practicing or composing for whatever commission I may have coming up. The same goes for painters.
You may look and say they only have a show every couple of weeks (if they are extremely virtuosic). This does not mean they have it easy! Most of the artists I know spend hours and hours moving a brush to get the texture just right and mixing paints to get that color exactly what they imagined. However, when it all comes together, it can create absolute magic, and that makes the time well worth it!
The modern world is the bane of every artist. Pinterest makes everyone think they are fantastic artists. Apple’s GarageBand app makes it seem as if anyone can create good music. Neither of those statements is true. Artists and musicians are highly trained individuals; the arts are such a difficult college major, Yahoo! Education lists the arts as the fourth most difficult major in academia, just under engineering, physical sciences and biological sciences. In my undergraduate education I spent about six hours a day just practicing piano. This time does not include the times I was in class, studying, composing, working or anything else. I was simply locked in a room playing the same music over and over until I mastered it.
Creativity is demanding work! When an artist is trying to create something original, it takes an absurd amount of thought power. An artist needs to stay up to date on what all other artists are working on… they wouldn’t want to spend a year on a project just to find out somebody else just had the same idea and did it first. This requires a large amount of research and networking.
So the next time you are at a concert or gallery, remember these artists have poured their time, lives and souls into their works. Appreciate it, even if you don’t personally like it and support the arts in all forms.
Don’t let 2014 be another stagnant year. Live it to the fullest and claim some culture for your own.
Happy New Year!
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, voted the number one zoo in America by USA Travel Guide, puts on a spectacular light show every winter season. Featuring more than 3 million lights in both stationary and animated musical shows, this twinkling spectacular is a must-see. Running November 22 through January 5, Wildlights is a beautiful sight to enjoy with friends, family, or maybe even a loved one. While the schedule is not posted yet, the zoo features local and national musicians on their many stages. Check their website, pick a group you want to hear, and make plans to head to the zoo this holiday season. Make sure to dress warmly, as this outdoor spectacular can get quite chilly.
Dickens of a Christmas is a yearly event held at the Ohio Historical Society Village. This faux-Victorian village comes complete with actors portraying traditional 19th-century characters. This complete town, located right off interstate 71 just north of downtown, will transport you back in time with crafts, caroling, food, and a beautiful glimpse into the ghosts of Christmas past. Running December 13, 14, 20, 21, and 22, this traditional town will warm your heart and put you into the perfect holiday spirit!
New Year’s Eve in Columbus is one of downtown’s biggest parties. Taking place on December 31, First Night Columbus, starting at 5 p.m. and climaxing with a fireworks display at midnight, this downtown extravaganza is full of live music on several stages. Head downtown, enjoy the sounds of some local groups, enjoy some street art, eat vendor food, and see a fireworks display in this substance-free, family-orientated event. While this event winds down after midnight, your night doesn’t have to as the Short North is just a short walk up High Street.
Be sure to fight the winter blues and resist the urge to hibernate this winter. Columbus is a hotbed of culture and holiday fun sure to keep you warm and fulfilled during this exciting time of year.
| Que Jones
WE ARE A CULTURE of selfish, self-centered, and narcissistic individuals, and yes, I am aware this sounds harsh. This is not entirely our fault, but it’s also not fair to place all the blame on the media, companies, and those around us. While these companies do always advertise the next big thing, without us jumping the gun to purchase these items, that would cease. Do we really need that new HD TV that is two inches larger than the 2-year-old TV hanging on our wall? In a world that is all about receiving, let us take a moment to look at the people around us.
Just this past month, I was sitting on the COTA bus on my way to school. It was a Tuesday and the weather was that of a blustery autumn day. I witnessed something that morning that would shake the very foundations of how I think. In front of our Short North Kroger were two homeless gentlemen sitting on the bench by the bus stop. One was eating a bag of snack mix and sharing with the older of the two. The bus pulled up and they both stood up to get on the bus; I later found out they were on their way to a lunch program in north Columbus. The older man paid his way on with a bus ticket while the other man counted change he had been given to get on the bus. He came up short! At this point other passengers were getting irritated as well as the driver (he had a schedule to keep) and the man sheepishly began to step off the bus. The older gentleman, who was also homeless, pulled out a dollar to pay the other man's way onto the bus. It wasn't the college students standing in the front who would readily throw their dollars into a cup of coffee or soda who paid for his ticket, but the homeless man who barely had enough to take care of himself. The other man thanked him and got on the bus, where they proceeded to sit in different spots.
“Don’t give them money without striking up a conversation. Some can’t manage their money as it is, and some will buy drugs or booze. Find out who they are, and if you can, give them something that will help. One-use bus passes are great! Pack a sandwich in your bag before you leave for the day with the intention of giving it to someone. Blankets are bulky and hard to move around with. , give long underwear; someone can wear it, stay warm, and be able to easily maneuver the city.”
What I learned from Red is that we need to help each other, and I mean TRULY HELP! Giving someone a dollar may be what he or she needs, and it may not. Take a second of your time and get to know them because maybe there is something else you can do. And finally, GIVE TO CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS! We don’t need most of what we want and living without it will simply make us appreciate life more. When giving to charities however, beware! Make sure it is a valid charity with truly wonderful goals, and is open to all people. I’m not naming any names, but we will let the bells in the distance speak for themselves.
AS CADY SO ELOQUENTLY STATED in the blockbuster smash “Mean Girls,” “Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.” And while that may be true for pubescent girls and some of our less developed friends, most of us seek to inspire more than an erection when attending a Halloween-inspired get together. Whether it is High-Ball Halloween (as some call it “gay Christmas”), an office get together, or even a friend’s annual party, choosing the right costume can either make or break your night. Here are a few tips to help you choose the perfect costume for your audience!
Know your crowd!
Knowing whom you are spending your time with is crucial to choosing a tasteful costume. Situational humor is always funny, but remember: Those jokes are only to people who are confident enough to laugh at themselves. Everyone loves an inside joke, but make sure not to rub your bosses the wrong way. Teasing is fun… when everyone is in on the joke. The High-Ball Halloween theme this year is “electric avenue,” so make sure to light up the night and bring your best glow. The Short North’s largest block party of the year, High-Ball, is a chance to let your hair down and have fun. Just remember, last year it was extremely cold, so wear a costume you will be comfortable in while braving the weather for the music, costume, food, and booze-packed evening.
Don't be an average Jane!
All of us are familiar with the pop culture mishaps that have happened over the last year,. While they can be very funny costumes, nobody wants to be the fourth peach-bikini-wearing, foam-finger-toting, strange-ponytail-styling, tongue-hanging Miley Cyrus to walk through the door. The same goes for Paula Dean. If you want to make a pop-culture reference, instead bring back a humorous memory people have forgotten about. That could be George Bush with a pretzel around his throat, Arnold Schwarzenegger dressed as a maid, or any of the other farces that have humored our society in the past. Be original!
Homemade is always better!
While some of us are limited on time, the barrage of Halloween decorations for sale at every store from September on reminds us the holiday of spooks is fast approaching. Use this time to your advantage. There is nothing more embarrassing than showing up at a ritzy event wearing the same off-the-shelf-shelf gown as someone else. Think who wore it better; only you are the butt of the joke. The only way to avoid that is to make an original costume. Now I don’t mean you have to be the tailor/seamstress of the century, but everyone can put something unique together. Be creative! Wear atypical items! Don’t be afraid to get messy! Being one of a kind will ensure you are the talk of the town, as well as make your Halloween experience one to remember.
For the past year, I had the privilege of working and performing numerous concerts with Dr. Scott Jones, one of the OSU band directors. Jones is an openly gay professor who encourages his students in a very positive way.
After receiving his degree from OSU, Jones taught at Teays Valley High School, Twin Cities in Chicago, and Concordia College. He then returned to OSU. When asked how he learned to balance being an openly gay male, a dedicated educator, and a source of inspiration to his students, Jones responded, “I thought to myself, my career is going to fit around my life…not the other way around. My walk is to teach. It’s what I’m designed to do and I am going to do it.” Jones grew up in a time after the onset of the AIDS epidemic when “the only time you heard ‘gay’ was on a 60 Minutes special.” While Jones said, “I didn’t see myself in the gay culture…what I saw in pride parades, I couldn’t relate to that,” his community thought “He’s not gay… he’s just single.”
“Fear is one of the most terrible things in the world…The reality is, much of our fear comes from not understanding. Once you get to the point where you recognize there is some of me in you and some of you in me, it all gets better. Fear is one of the worst motivators in life.” Jones now realizes his fears were “products of (his) own worry more than anything.”
Jones did not fully emerge from hiding until his collegiate position at Concordia. During his interview process he said to a committee member as they walked across campus, “Hey, I’m gay and if this is going to be a problem, thanks but no thanks.” The committee member replied, “No, there is no problem.” Jones shared that this is the point when he crossed the threshold and realized that academia was the best of all possible worlds. This process was repeated during his hiring process at OSU.
“That’s part of what I bring to the university, someone who is trying to thrive, had a 15 year public school career, seems happy, views the glass as half full, and is also gay. It is all compatible; it is all possible. That’s part of what being a teacher or professor is. It’s about learning life through music.”
Dr. Melanie Richards has taught at Columbus City Schools for the past 13 years. She holds a DMA (musical equivalent of a PhD) in clarinet performance from OSU. Speaking on her personal life, Richards said, “During my young adult years I was defined as a lesbian. And then when I was 25, I married a man and was married to him for 20 years. We are divorced now. And when I separated, I decided that I needed to reclaim my lesbianism.” In discussing her marriage, Richards stated, “I fell in love with the idea of being in love with him. In the late 1980s it wasn’t really an option for two women to have a family together. I have two kids. My youngest child is by birth and is eight years old. My oldest child is adopted. He is 16 now… 16 years ago do you think they would have given him to me as a single adult, or a woman in a same-sex relationship?”
“With middle school kids, they are very curious about your personal life. When I first separated from my husband, my students noticed I wasn’t wearing my wedding ring any more. The students asked and I simply said I was separated. This past year my partner asked me to spend the rest of my life with her. I said ‘yes’, with the hope that one day it would become a real marriage. I started wearing a ring and my students started asking me about it. I talked to lots of other LGBT colleagues and got a variety of opinions. The one who got through to me was a teacher who is really out who said, ‘If you were straight and got engaged would you hesitate to tell them?’ This stuck with me and I thought, ‘I am protected by Columbus Public Schools,’ so the next time they asked I simply said, ‘I am engaged to a woman.’ The students responded with ‘What’s the big deal? Why did you try to hide it? Can we go to the wedding?’ It was very liberating!”
When asked what advice would she like to pass on to upcoming teachers, Richards responded, “With any situation you enter, you need to know your crowd…For example, if I lived in northwest Ohio and taught in a school district with 2,000 kids, my life would be completely different. Be aware of where you are going to be working and speak to that environment.”
Within the world of academia there is much structure and rigor which are not always conducive to a creative person. You have heard from two individuals whom have found a balance in their personal and professional lives. Their accomplishments have and will continue to lead the way for others.
Author | Que Jones