Charlie Huisking’s Arts Capital

By: Charlie Huisking

“Twin” Peaking Growing up in Venice in the 1990s wasn’t the most pleasant experience for George Lewis Jr. A native of the Dominican Republic, he was lonely and alienated and occasionally felt the sting of racism. But Venice was also the place where, in a church choir, he first sang in public and began to […]


Twin Shadow lead singer George Lewis Jr. grew up in Venice.“Twin” Peaking Growing up in Venice in the 1990s wasn’t the most pleasant experience for George Lewis Jr. A native of the Dominican Republic, he was lonely and alienated and occasionally felt the sting of racism. But Venice was also the place where, in a church choir, he first sang in public and began to play the piano and guitar.

Lewis isn’t lonely any more. As writer and lead singer for the band Twin Shadow, the soulful, charismatic performer is creating international buzz. Spin magazine called Forget, the group’s 2010 debut album, “a perfectly manicured collection of heartbreak pop” that could be “the soundtrack to a night of furtive glances and stolen kisses.” (Lewis said the title refers in part to his effort to move beyond unhappy experiences from his past.) Rolling Stone calls his music “fully-formed, haunted and haunting in equal measure.”

Lewis has appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and was just in a GQ fashion spread, where he was called “an indie-rock version of Prince.” Twin Shadow is currently on a national tour.

In a phone conversation from the road, the 28-year-old said he’s trying to keep his focus amidst all the craziness. “This is something I’ve wanted for a long time and have worked hard for,” he says.

The band’s title references the fact that Lewis has a twin sister, Ligia. “She was extroverted, and I was the introvert,” he says. “In childhood pictures, I’m in the corner being very quiet.”

Lewis was in the VPA program at Booker High School for a year before dropping out and spending many nights at a Sarasota club called the Blue Parrot. “I hear it’s closed now, so I won’t get anybody in trouble who let me in when I was underage,” he says, laughing.

Lewis left Florida in 2000 for Boston and ultimately, New York. He hasn’t been back since. “But, hey, maybe I’m on track for the Van Wezel,” he quips.

New season, new team for the Sarasota Ballet This has already been an exciting season for the dancers of the Sarasota Ballet, who performed in October at the prestigious Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Now the ballet is hoping that its new management team will also have a banner year.

Michael Shelton, the ballet’s managing director for the past three years, resigned in June in what the board said was a mutual decision. Shelton had earned high praise during his tenure for slashing expenses and turning a $1-million deficit into a small surplus. But I’m told his demanding manner alienated staff members, and he began clashing with artistic director Iain Webb. Apparently, he completely alienated Webb, who had often publicly credited Shelton with creating the stable atmosphere in which he could thrive.

Mary Anne Servian, the company’s former business manager, has succeeded Shelton as managing director. Ironically, she had been brought on board by Shelton, a longtime friend who had managed her campaigns for the Sarasota City Commission.

When Shelton left, news reports noted the high rate of management turnover at the ballet—Shelton was the fourth managing director in four years. In fairness, there were many reasons—including illness—for the changes. And Servian says the organization is functioning smoothly.

 “We have an incredible team of talented and hard-working people who are doing a remarkable job. No one should have any concerns about that,” she says.

That team includes new development director Noreen Delaney, who succeeds Michael Scott. In what Servian calls a lateral move, Scott will now serve as business manager. “But we’re dividing the development responsibilities,” she says. “Noreen will handle individual donors, and Michael the corporate donations. And he’ll continue to handle special events, which he’s great at.”

The ballet has also hired Susan Reeves, the highly respected house manager at the Sarasota Opera House. She will assist Michael Marraccini in the box office and also serve as company manager.

The box office is booming, by the way, with supporters excited about a season featuring works by Balanchine, Frederick Ashton, Agnes de Mille and Twyla Tharp. Ticket sales are up 9 percent over last year, Servian says; opening nights are sold out.

You might still be able to grab a ticket for the Nov. 18 performances, at 2 and 8 p.m. at Van Wezel. Joined by the Suzanne Farrell Ballet, the company will again perform Balanchine’s Diamonds, which it danced at the Kennedy Center.

 

Seminole Love My, how relations between Florida State University and the FSU/Asolo Conservatory have changed. A few years ago, FSU questioned the cost and value of the Sarasota graduate program and threatened to move it to Tallahassee. But FSU’s new president, Eric Barron, seems to appreciate what the conservatory and its alliance with the Asolo Rep bring to the university. In September, he invited the 36 conservatory students to sit in his box at FSU’s first home football game. They also got to schmooze with Barron at a reception.

 

MUSIC MAN While the Sarasota Orchestra conducts a search for a new conductor that could take two seasons, Dirk Meyer will provide the artistic continuity. Meyer, the orchestra’s assistant conductor since 2006, has been promoted to associate conductor.

Meyer will have a wide range of responsibilities, from conducting some orchestral concerts and overseeing chamber-music programs to leading one of the Journeys to Genius programs. He’ll also do some public speaking on behalf of the orchestra.

Anyone who’s heard the articulate, affable Meyer talk from the podium during one of the Great Escapes concerts will know he’s an able spokesman indeed. (Meyer will continue conducting in the Great Escapes series.)

“We have a great organization, and some of the most talented musicians in the country,” Meyer says. “It’s a true honor to be in this position of artistic leadership.”

Meyer earned his doctor of musical arts and master’s degrees in orchestral conducting from Michigan State University. Passionate about contemporary music, he created a new-music series for the orchestra, and has recently published a book about the contemporary music repertoire. As a guest conductor this season, he’ll make his debut with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

 

Jerry Kids I was shocked to discover that it’s been 13 years since the final episode of Seinfeld aired on NBC. The brilliance of that show has not diminished with time, as the many fans who still watch the series regularly in syndication can tell you.

That’s why I’m thrilled that the Van Wezel Foundation has booked Jerry Seinfeld for its 25th anniversary fund-raising gala on Feb. 25. His show may have been about “nothing,” but Seinfeld’s debut appearance in Sarasota will be something. Since tickets will likely sell out quickly, call 366-5578 to get yours.
 


Click here to read Charlie Huisking’s “Arts & Travel” blog.

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