Since NPC first opened its doors in 1974, there has been a commitment to providing cultural opportunities for our communities through the fine and performing arts. This year three new faces – Julie Neish, Magda Gluszek and Peterson Yazzie – join department chair Dr. Michael Solomonson in providing “a quality education that encourages self-initiative, a disciplined work ethic, critical thinking and artistic expression.” And for performing arts students, there is also “group accountability.”
“Dr. Mike,” as he is called by his students, teaches speech, theatre and film/television. He came to NPC in 2000, after two years as the entertainment director for Old Tucson Studios and an adjunct instructor for the University of Arizona. His prior teaching experience included being a graduate instructor while earning his master’s degree in speech from Kansas State University and doctorate in theatre arts from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.
Solmonson is a frequent national and international conference presenter. A talk he presented in Cadiz, Spain, in 2009 is the basis for an article published earlier this year entitled Rebecca Gilman’s Exploration of Gender Conditioning as a Factor in Violence Against Women published in Violence in American Drama: Essays on Its Staging, Meanings and Effects. He also co-wrote the play Intimations From the Brook, adapted from Susan Glaspell’s Brook Evans, which had its world premier at NPC in April 2006.
“I read something early in my teaching career that has stayed with me: Students don’t care what you know, until they know that you care. I think most of my theatre students would probably say this caring teacher/student dynamic positively influenced their lives through the self-confidence and freedom of self-expression they experienced through the classes and plays that we collaborated on at NPC,” commented Solomonson.
Among the subjects he teaches, theatre best reflects his life. “I feel most connected to theatre because it allows me to explore my own creativity as a director, actor, writer, and scholar,” he noted. “I like to explore subjects that aren’t ‘safe’ or that gives the ‘status quo’ a pat on the back. I think the memorable plays are ones that cause people to look at the world around them with fresh eyes and perhaps dare to ask the question: “why?”
Music professor Julie Neish came to NPC from the Washington, D.C. area, where she performed as a faculty pianist and directed ensembles at George Mason University’s School of Music. At GMU, she directed the vocal jazz ensemble Soundcheque, and the musical theatre ensemble Timesquare Singers, which she founded.
Julie also assistant conducted and accompanied the University Singers, the 100-voice GMU University Chorale, the GMU Women’s Chorale, and GMU’s finest choral ensemble, the 16-voice Vocal Chamber Ensemble. Julie enjoyed her work as a vocal coach for the GMU Opera, and for numerous GMU voice majors, including Brandon, from 4 Shore, currently competing on X Factor, who wrote, “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again … I won’t sing certain songs unless Julie is performing with me.”
Numerous similar comments about how Ms. Neish has influenced their lives abound from former students. “I think my students would comment on my optimism, enthusiasm, and passion,” said Julie. “I have helped students understand that through the process of tackling a difficult piece of music, and by rehearsing hard and working together, you can achieve anything in life, no matter how difficult or daunting the task may seem. I always stress that you can achieve anything with diligence and imagination, AND have a great time throughout the entire process,” she added.
One of the main ways music performance reflects her life is “in my quest to create something beautiful, excellent, and perfect. I strive to not accept mediocrity and I enjoy helping individuals and ensembles reach new levels of excellence through musical performance and a strong sense of community,” she said.
Ever watch Glee or The Sing Off and wanted to be a part of the performance instead of just watching? This spring, Ms. Neish is conducting auditions for NPC’s newest ensemble, Soundcheck, a contemporary music and vocal jazz group, that will meet on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, 6:30 to 7:25, at the Performing Arts Center in Snowflake/Taylor. Auditions for the one-credit MUS 129 (Section 12906) course will be Tuesday and Thursday, Jan. 17 and 19, starting at 6:30 p.m. Contact Ms. Neish, 536-6247 or (800) 266-7845, ext. 6247, for more details.
In addition to her work at GMU, Julie served as an assistant director and accompanist for the National Philharmonic Chorale’s performance of Verdi’s Requiem, which toured in the Umbria region of Italy this past summer. She also assistant directed and accompanied the Georgetown Chorale this past year in their 22nd season of charitable fundraising through musical performance. Julie has extensive experience working with choral and musical theatre programs in public schools, and worked closely with numerous programs throughout the greater D.C. area. She also performed as a featured pianist and celeste player with the Capital City Symphony in the spring of 2009.
Ms. Neish earned her Bachelor of Science in Music with an emphasis in Piano Performance in 2006, from Brigham Young University–Idaho. Julie has been a musical director for numerous musical theatre productions and cabarets since 2002; NPC's November musical theatre production of Grease was Julie's 40th musical theatre production.
Beyond her varied choral, opera and musical theatre experiences, Ms. Neish has worked as a professional stagehand and lighting designer for nine years with employment at Prism Lighting in New York City; the Berrie Performing Arts Center in northern New Jersey; the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh, N.C.; Disney World in Florida; and the Regency Amphitheatre in Cary, N.C. While at Disney World she was a certified pyrotechnician and a member of International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IAATSE). At the Regency Amphitheatre she designed and ran lights for concerts with Bobby McFerrin, K. D. Lang, and Harry Connick, Jr., among others. While lighting design is her technical specialty, Ms. Neish has filled the roles of sound technician, rigger, stagehand, stage manager, projectionist, spotlight operator, costume designer and manager, and technical director.
Magdalene Gluszek, NPC’s new 3-D art instructor, received well over a dozen honors and scholarships during her educational career, capped this past year by being named one of six “Emerging Artists of 2011” by the prestigious National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA).
“Magda,” as she prefers to be called, came to NPC from Panama City, Fla., where she served as an adjunct instructor and visiting artist at Gulf Coast Community College. She has been a visiting artist or lecturer at various colleges, art schools and centers in the southeast after earning her Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Florida, Gainesville. She earned two Bachelor of Arts in Visual Arts degrees, both awarded Summa Cum Laude, from the State University of New York College at Fredonia, with concentrations in painting, graphic design and ceramics. Her master’s is also concentrated in ceramics. Born and raised in Syracuse, N.Y., this is the first time the self-labeled “outdoors type” has lived in the West.
“My artwork is figurative and reflects my observations about people in general and myself,” she said. “I am really interested in how people present themselves publicly, who their audience is, and how they intend to be perceived. Everyone makes choices about their appearance regarding clothing style, body posture and general demeanor,” she continued. “I learn a lot about my own choices and those of others through observing and making my art.”
While versed in many different techniques, Miss Gluszek employs a painstaking and complex methodology for her own creations. She initially constructs a maquette, a small “3-D sketch” or miniature model of her intended piece. Constantly referencing the model, she sculpts the larger solid-clay version. When the piece is sufficiently dry, she carefully hollows it out. Her works often blend animal and human features in figures she then accessorizes with what she calls, “confectionary texture and colors.” Her fascinating use of colors and patterns and costumes and elaborate handcrafted wigs underline a whimsical, sometimes biting, commentary about today’s self-involved popular culture.
When asked what her previous students would say about her that most influenced their lives, Magda replied: “I hope my students would say that my dedication to their progress and to my own artwork is evident in my teaching. I try very hard to be a good listener and communicator when I teach. I want students to express their ideas in the most successful way possible, both technically and aesthetically. I also believe that being active in my artistic work sets a good example and helps me acquire new knowledge to share.”
Teaching at a community college gives Magda the opportunity to work with a really broad group of students. “People come to community colleges for a wide range of reasons and from many different backgrounds,” she said. “It makes the dialogue in the classroom and the artwork that students produce really interesting.”
In addition to ceramics studio classes, Ms. Gluszek is teaching Art History II and managing the Talon Gallery exhibits on the Show Low campus.
Both Magda and new 2-D art instructor Peterson Yazzie were featured as the October Artspace artists in the White Mountain Independent. Peterson is a contemporary Navajo artist from Greasewood Springs. He identifies himself in the traditional way of the Diné – is of the Mexican Clan, One Who Walks Around Clan, Red House and Coyote Pass Clan.
While a junior at Holbrook High School, Peterson was forced to enroll in a “Southwest Art” class taught by Don Whitesinger, a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA). That class unveiled a hidden talent for art that would result in a full-tuition scholarship to NPC, and additional scholarships from the Heard Museum in Phoenix and the University of Evansville (Indiana), and an art internship at Northern Arizona University.
This talented artist chose to attend the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, N.M., earning both an associate’s and bachelor’s degree. He completed his Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of New Mexico, in Albuquerque, in 2008. Now he has come full circle, teaching painting at NPC.
Navajo culture and personal life experiences are the foundation of his paintings. Peterson’s paintings go beyond just being a “pretty picture,” to “positive and negative realities.” Peterson says, “My paintings are expressions of who I am, an individual co-existing between worlds. I use traditional aspects of my culture to communicate in a contemporary society.”
Yazzie has won numerous awards for his paintings, including being named the 2010 Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) Fellowship Recipient for Santa Fe Indian Market and 2008 IAIA Distinguished Alumni for Contemporary Art.
Artspace writer Jan van Dierendonck describes Peterson’s very different approach to painting: “With no preconceived idea of what he is going to paint he literally throws paint on the canvas, and then begins searching for the painting that is in the canvas to come out.”
This spring Yazzie is teaching Understanding Art on the audio system and Basic Design on video, plus painting and drawing classes in Holbrook, and Winslow. For more about his artwork, visit www.petersonyazzie.com.