As the heart of the entertainment industry, Los Angeles has long offered frequent opportunities to hear the biggest names in showbiz share their creative process at speaking events citywide. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought an abrupt halt to those events, but California School of the Arts – San Gabriel Valley is coming to the rescue by opening up its virtual 2020-2021 Master Artist Series to everyone.
CSArts-SGV just announced the lineup for the series, now in its fourth year, which brings together acclaimed artists, performers, authors, educators and industry leaders to share their experience and career advice through master classes, workshops, panel discussions and demonstrations. Among those slated to appear are director and character artist Dan Povenmire, choral conductor and composer Eric Whitacre, acclaimed soprano Angel Blue and Tony Award-winning playwright and composer Michael R. Jackson. Watch the series here.
The public charter school in Duarte provides arts and academic education to a diverse student body of 1,200 students in grades 7 through 12 who are passionate about the arts. CSArts-SGV is the first regional campus to open in a network of charter schools operated by the California School of the Arts Foundation.
“For an aspiring young artist, the experience of working directly with a professional is often life-changing as it strengthens their belief in themselves and what’s possible,” said CSArts-SGV founder Ralph Opacic. “Although many of our classes will take place virtually to begin the school year, the students will still be able to receive feedback on their work, hear inspiring stories and ask their burning questions. We are grateful to the artists for their time and passion in giving back to the next generation by providing this transformative experience.”
Other speakers include animated character designer and illustrator Elsa Chang, who worked for Sony Animation and Nickelodeon prior to her current stint at Disney Television Animation. The literary world is represented by author and podcast host Jeff Garvin, whose young adult novel Symptoms of Being Human earned an American Library Association Best Fiction for Young Adults award.
Another top writer in the series is Giannina Braschi, the award-winning author of Empire of Dreams, Yo-Yo Boing! and United States of Banana, all hybrids of poetry, fiction, theater and political philosophy. Children’s book illustrator Robin Glasser, who has worked on more than 100 titles including the Fancy Nancy series, will focus on the visual side of book publishing.
Eagle Rock resident and actor John Michael Higgins, who’s known for his work in Christopher Guest’s mockumentaries (A Mighty Wind, Waiting for Guffman) and the hit movie Pitch Perfect, will discuss film acting. Meanwhile, theater director and actor Stephanie Weeks will share her insights from working Off Broadway and in regional theaters across the country, including La Jolla Playhouse and the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.
The dance world will be amply represented, thanks to appearances by performer Eugenia Rodriguez of the Entity Contemporary Dance Company and dancer and educator Daniela Sabbath, former principal of the Portland School of Ballet. Also scheduled are talks by innovative choreographer, dancer and director Teddy Tedholm of the tedted Performance Group and international tap star, choreographer and dancer Maud Arnold of the all-female tap band Syncopated Ladies.
Go backstage with Zach Elefante, a master of 3D modeling and furniture fabrication for theatrical shows including Les Miserables and Beauty and the Beast. Brooklyn-based stage manager Jonathan Castanlen, a recipient of the 2013 Kennedy Center stage management fellowship, will talk about that vital skill.
The music world will be represented by several speakers, including Zanaida Stewart Robles, a vocalist on film scores including Smallfoot and Frozen 2 as well as a sought-after singer, conductor, composer, instructor and advocate for diversity in music education. Conductor/composer Paul Smith, cofounder of the music education charity VOCES8, will discuss bringing the power of song to communities around the world.
Other musicians in the program include Anibal Seminario, a woodwind artist and cofounder/director of the Afro-Peruvian Jazz Orchestra, and Joey Sellers, the head of Saddleback College’s jazz studies program and an award-winning composer and trombonist. Dr. Ray Briggs, an ethnomusicologist, jazz historian and educator who has performed with John Clayton, Benny Green and Rufus Reid, rounds out the speakers on music.
The visual arts are examined by street artist Plastic Jesus, who will discuss his bold stencil and installation work inspired by world events, society, the urban environment, culture and politics. Finally, Iranian-American artist Yalda Sepahpour will talk about her paintings of wildlife and nature, displaying her strong attachment to her heritage.