BY DAVID SPRUIT
PHOTOGRAPHY TERRY JOHNSTON
February 23, 2013 Fifth Third Ballpark, Comstock Park, MI
6,000 of your closest friends.
On a cold, snowy winter Saturday, the 2013 Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Festival was a veritable fantasy land for Michigan beer lovers. The gates opened and throngs of ravenous beer fans flooded the festival grounds, while a brisk breeze and steady snowfall set the stage for epic afternoon of beer quaffing and reveling. Festival goers clad in all manner of outlandish outfits made their way through four tents of breweries, large and small from across the land shaped like a hand. All though food vendors were selling neanderthal sized turkey drumsticks many festival goers choose to snack on their ‘pretzel necklaces’ resplendent with everything from simple pretzels to full on bagel sandwiches and beef jerky.
Eccentricities were not left alone to the festival participants, breweries brought some of their most ‘out there’ beers. Right Brain Brewery out of Traverse City brought their Mangalitsa Pig Porter, yep you read that right … pig in your beer. According to David Springsteen, a ‘Libations Liaison’ for the brewery, three cold smoked pigs heads are used in the brewing process. The beer has an appealing smoky, unctuous character without being meaty, words normally used to describe a bacon heavy dish applied to a beer. Who would have thought?
Not surprisingly, Beer City USA was well represented at the festival with nine breweries offering 77 different beers. With long lines for Founders Brewing Company perennially coveted Kentucky Breakfast Stout and their backstage series beers. Additionally, burgeoning excitement for some young breweries has really added another dimension to the Grand Rapids beer scene.
One of those young breweries is The Mitten Brewing Company, which just happened to have one of my favorite offerings of the entire festival. Their Death to Flying Things Bourbon Imperial Stout, clocking in at 10.2% ABV, is a wonderfully complex concoction of warm vanilla booziness and smoky roasted malt flavors. I had the opportunity to speak with the very busy co-owner Chris Andrus and we discussed how these flavors are accentuated by a one month stint in repurposed bourbon barrels.
Speaking of festival favorites, when I originally reviewed the overwhelming list of beer offerings, I had selected 32 must try beers. Clearly not able to logistically sample all 32 beers nor a smart decision, I decided to go with the flow and let my impulse guide the samples I’d try. Besides the aforementioned The Mitten Brewing Company’s Death to Flying Things, here’s the rest of my favorites in no particular order:
• Arcadia Brewing Company Bourbon Barrel Aged Cereal Killer Barleywine: Sweet and smoky bourbon notes with complex malt backbone. The flavors lingered for quite some time, highly enjoyable.
• Kuhnhenn Brewing Company Simcoe Silly Belgian IPA: Intense dank hop aroma and exciting yeast characters. Every sip was extremely interesting.
• Blackrocks Brewery Double Ginger IPA: Fiery ginger and sweet maltiness made this immensely appealing. Citrus aromas interplay with the ginger keeping your senses on their toes.
One exciting trend that appeared at the festival was the use of Michigan grown ingredients. New Holland Brewing Company brought back an old favorite, Paleooza, Michigan Pale Ale, hopped with only Michigan grown Cascade hops. While local hopped beers are common in the fall as the harvest is coming in, its great to see a commitment to a mainstay beer with lengthier availability.
When all was said and done (and everyone thawed out) and the last kegs were emptied the 2013 Winter Beer Festival was a smashing success. Overwhelming at times with just the shear selection of high quality Michigan beers and the spectacle that comes with the frenzied enthusiasm, good times were had by all.
February 22 & 23, 2013
By: Sparkly Stellafly
Photography Terry Johnston / Tim Motley
With the excitement of Oscar weekend, there is a lot of talk about red carpets, fabulous gowns, and glamorous parties. However, Grand Rapids had its own taste of a glamorous weekend with the Legacy Ball Luncheon held on Friday and the Legacy Ball on Saturday evening.
Jessica Ann Tyson began the Legacy Ball program in 2008 as an event to raise money for local nonprofits and student scholarships, recognize African American community leaders, and celebrate Black History Month. The Legacy Ball Luncheon is held the day before the Legacy Ball, and this year’s lunch event took place in the Gerald R. Ford Ballroom at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.
The Legacy Luncheon was a complete success—with a sold out crowd and featuring special guest Sophia Rochon, the 2013 Miss Black Michigan USA. Guests dined on a delicious southern-themed menu and the luncheon’s theme was Beauty and Brains: A Community Conversation. It was the perfect precursor to the following evening’s event, the Legacy Ball.
Saturday night was a beautiful snowy evening outside, and on the inside of the JW Marriott there was a celebration happening, the Legacy Ball. The night began with a VIP Reception and Celebrity Silent Auction, followed by a candlelight dinner honoring the Student Advancement Fund and William C. Abney Academy in Grand Rapids. Since its inception in 2008, the Legacy Ball has given away more than $20,000 to local nonprofit organizations and scholarship funds. This event has a great history of honoring African American elected officials, pastors, attorneys, and community leaders.
The Student Advancement Foundation raises funds for invests in the students and programs of Grand Rapids Public Schools. Since 1993, the foundation has raised over $8 million to support the areas of literacy, arts, math & science, environmental education, and physical wellness. The William C. Abney Academy opened in 1998 and is a tuition-free public school for children in grades K-7.
This year’s award ceremony and student scholarship program was led by Sophia Rochon, and the dinner menu was designed especially for this event by the Executive Chef at the JW Marriott. Also included in the evening’s program was a performance by international award-winning soprano Kearstin Piper Brown. Ms. Brown has performed all throughout the United States and around the world, including Italy, the United Kingdom, and the Israeli Opera.
The Legacy Ball is a fantastic event that Stellafly was proud to be there for the third consecutive year. Congratulations to Jessica Ann Tyson and all of those who were involved in planning this weekend’s festivities!
Events by Jessica Ann, LLC, is an award winning, full-service event planning firm established in 2003 that handles every aspect of special occasion coordination, from conception through execution.
Events by Jessica Ann, LLC was awarded the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce 2008 Business of the Year, and was nominated for the Grand Rapids Area Chamber 2008 Small Business of the Year and Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce 2008 Minority Business of the Year.
NEW YORK – Those who question the competitive nature, athleticism or brains of cheerleaders likely have never met Laura Lyn.
As a member of the Minnesota Vikings cheerleading squad, she’s on the sidelines trying to rile up fans, but she also performs complex dance routines, all the while trying to keep one eye on the action, lest she and her teammates find themselves in the path of an oncoming professional football player.
A lifetime fan of the Vikings, Laura knows football, and also knows what it takes to compete. The 28-year-old Minnesota native grew up with dance and gymnastics and played tennis in high school and college. She also rode horses – “I could ride a horse before I could walk” – and later showed them as well.
Her latest competitive venture? Showing dogs. So, it’s a natural that a woman who works for an NFL team ended up competing at the “Super Bowl of dog shows,” the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City.
Her stall in the WKC benching area was decked out in Vikings purple and gold – the same colors of the famed Westminster Kennel Club. The grooming table used to spruce up Laura’s 4-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog, Kendra, was covered with a Minnesota Vikings towel.
Kendra didn’t win the dog equivalent of the Super Bowl – and the Vikings have appeared in four Super Bowls but never won – but she was awarded “select bitch” during the breed competition. And while she didn’t win “best of breed” to qualify for the Working Group finals at Madison Square Garden, Laura said she was happy with Kendra’s performance during their brief time in the ring.
“I think it went well … everyone said she looked good,” Laura said. “I’m always my own worst critic, so little tiny things, like, ‘Oh, her foot moved here,’ bug me. But it was very surreal standing outside the ring waiting to go in. I was like, ‘I am at Westminster.’
“I’m happy she got pulled (from the lineup) and got her award. It would have been fun to get best of breed but she got a piece of it, and I’m happy. She showed well, she looked good, and I had fun with her.”
It was her first time at Westminster, and Laura vows she’ll be back. Clearly, the competitor in her doesn’t give up easily. She wasn’t selected for the Vikings cheerleading team her first time around, either, but Laura persisted. She was placed in a training program in 2006 and finally made the team in 2009.
“I’ve been on the team for four years, but I’ve been with the (Vikings) organization for seven,” Laura said. “I was in the training program, because I didn’t make the team my first time trying out. In the training program they spend a year with you and they have alumni that coach you. They take what you need to work on and help you perfect it so you can try out again the next year. So I was on the training program for a couple of years.”
The team holds open auditions for cheerleaders every April, with a couple hundred women trying out. The field is narrowed to 50 or 60 by the end of the day, and those women go through a few weeks of training camp. Finally, the team of 35 is selected by a panel of judges in a competition held at the Mall of America.
Laura is the oldest on the team – the minimum age is 18 and there is no maximum age.
“When I first started there were girls well into their 30s,” she said. “As the years go on, they kept leaving, and I’m still here. But even as a veteran, you have to try out again each year, so there is no guaranteed spot on the team. That makes you work that much more for it.”
Laura grew up loving sports – she was on her high school’s state championship tennis team in Edina, Minn. She also grew up loving the Vikings. Her parents, Leo and Sharon Fourre, have been Vikings season ticket holders for as long as she can remember.
“I remember growing up and watching the girls on the sidelines and thinking, ‘How fun would that be?’ and one thing led to another eventually,” Laura said. “I don’t just work for the team, I’ve been a fan of the Vikings my whole life.”
She’s heard plenty of stories of the days of outdoor football at frigid Metropolitan Stadium, and even had a taste of those cold-weather adventures as part of the cheerleading team in 2010. That was the year the roof of the Hubert H. Humprey Metrodome, where the Vikings play their home games, collapsed from the weight of snow after a particularly brutal storm.
“We had to get all of our warm-weather clothes at the last minute,” she said. “It was cold and snowy and we didn’t have warm-weather team gear. We wore big puffy white jackets and pants. It was a really fun game, but I don’t know about outdoor football in 30-below weather.”
The winters in Minnesota no doubt played a role in her decision to attend the University of San Diego after graduating from high school. But she missed the Midwest (“I take warm-weather vacations now”) and tennis, and transferred to St. Thomas University in St. Paul, Minn., where she played tennis for a year.
“I got burned out on tennis but then not playing in college (in San Diego), of course, I wanted to play,” Laura said. “I started playing tennis because I thought it was a lifelong sport, but I went at it so heavy for such a long time that I needed a break.”
She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at College of St. Benedict, in biochemistry, pre-med and mathematics. Her full-time job now is in medical sales.
All Vikings cheerleaders must be either a full-time student, full-time mother or have a full-time job. Needless to say, between her full-time job, part-time job with the Vikings and her “hobby” of showing dogs, Laura is constantly on the go. She arrived for the dog show in New York fresh off a military tour with the Vikings cheerleaders at a Naval base in Japan.
“Tryouts are in April, and then we’re in full swing,” Laura said. “We shoot a calendar, do photo shoots, have team shots for marketing and we practice three nights a week. We spend all summer memorizing and learning the routines.
“As a team, we do about 400 to 500 appearances a year. I did about 120 myself last year. So, we definitely keep busy in the community, even more than at games. We’re always doing a lot of charity work in communities. It’s such a big part of why I love doing it … we can have an impact on the people we get to meet, and it means a lot.”
Showing her Bernese Mountain Dogs is more a hobby than a line of work for Laura.
“This is so non-mainstream,” she said. “This is a more unique hobby, sports and competition wrapped in one. If I could make this my career, I’d be happy, but I probably wouldn’t like it as much because then it’s more of a job.”
For now, she plans to keep it her hobby. But that’s not to say she isn’t out to win. Her first taste of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show won’t be her last, she promised.
“I’ve watched the show for years, and going over to the Garden (Monday night) was like, ‘I can’t believe I’m here.’ It’s so big,” she said. “But I’m super competitive. After being at the Garden (to watch the Group competition), I said, ‘I’m not done here until I’m at the Garden (as best of breed winner).’
“I don’t know when, but I will be back there at some point in time.”
NEW YORK – When Jay Richardson entered the ring at Madison Square Garden, he was greeted with some familiar – and some not so familiar – faces. But it was the half-black, half-white face that captivated him.
Richardson, of St. Charles, Ill., was chosen as the Terrier Group judge for this year’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. It was Richardson’s responsibility to select the best of the best from a gathering of 30 terriers who were selected tops among their breed earlier in the day.
His choice would move on the Best In Show judging, earning a shot at becoming “America’s Top Dog.”
“I’ve grown up in this business,” Richardson, 59, said. “For anyone who shows dogs competitively, winning something at the Garden is the ultimate. Everybody would love to judge in New York. I am extremely fortunate to be chosen to do the terrier group in just my second assignment (with the WKC).”
Richardson’s only previous judging assignment with the WKC, in 2008, was a preliminary for junior showmanship, where the handler, and not the breed, is the focus.
“You don’t judge the quality of the dogs, but you judge the handler and how they present,” Richardson said.
Growing up, Richardson was surrounded by poodles. His parents raised and showed poodles, primarily the standard poodle. After school, he worked in a kennel that featured collies. He has shown different breeds, but mainly soft-coated Wheaten terriers. Presently, two older miniature wirehaired Dachshunds and a young Brussels Griffon (his daughter’s) call the Richardson household home.
But judging terriers is Richardson’s passion. Terrier judges are a rather small group, Richardson said, and he thinks that might have played into his selection to be a group judge. He found out about his assignment in April 2011, when a letter from the WKC arrived in the mail.
“It basically said, ‘We invite you to judge and your assignment is as follows,’ ” Richardson said. “I thought, ‘Great, I get to go back (to WKC) … I wonder what breed I’ll be judging.’ When I saw it was the Terrier Group, I thought, ‘Wow.’ It’s something I never imagined or planned on. This is as good as it gets, doing a group, and especially the Terrier Group at the Garden. It’s the ultimate.”
He said it’s the challenge of judging terriers that attracts him to the group.
“Someone once said it’s hard to hide things on a smooth-coated dog, and that’s true,” Richardson said. “Terriers provide a great challenge to a handler. I think what sets them apart from other dogs is the conditioning that it entails and the grooming … the ability to groom the dog and take that hard coat and make it into what it’s supposed to be.
“When you get into the bigger shows, the level of dogs you are judging is superb. As a judge you really have to think. It gives you the opportunity to be a little pickier than you normally are. At the Garden, all the group dogs will be in perfect condition. You have the best of the best … the best dogs in the best condition, and you hope they show the best they can. It presents a challenge.”
For those who have watched the WKC Dog Show and wondered how one dog could possibly win out over another, Richardson offers insight into his approach. Given that he judges terriers, attitude sometimes plays a role.
“It’s very subjective and I always feel there’s no right or wrong way,” he said. “The way I approach it is I try to determine how good of a specimen is that individual dog of his breed. Is that Airedale terrier a better Airedale than the Kerry blue is a Kerry blue? The level you’re talking about at Westminster, something that factors in is who wants to win that day? Great show dogs tend to rise to the occasion.
“My personal feeling is that in most situations when you have a very difficult decision, one dog seems to help you out a little more than others. It sort of says, ‘Hey people, this is my space. Kiss my ass.’ They have that fire in their eyes, they watch you the whole way and if you got into a staring match with them, you would blink first.”
It was the stare that captured Richardson when he selected Adam as winner of the Terrier Group at Westminster. The smooth fox terrier’s head is split right down the middle between black and white. Adam, a 5-year-old owned by JW Smith of North Collins, N.Y., had also won the Terrier Group in 2011 and was second in the Group in 2012.
It wasn’t the first time Richardson had judged Adam. He had seen him four years ago as a young dog in California and gave him second to a Scottish terrier, Sadie, who went on to win Best in Show at Westminster in 2010. He awarded Adam best in breed and best in group in another show in Louisville, and also had previously judged him Best in Show.
This year at Madison Square Garden, Adam stood out again, Richardson said. He selected Adam over the wire fox terrier, Sky, who had won the Eukanuba and National Dog Show championships coming into Westminster and was handled by Gabriel Rangel, who took Sadie to Best in Show.
“In my opinion, Adam is as good a fox terrier as any that has come down the road,” he said. “I believe he was a better smooth than the wire was a wire. I was happy with the group and happy they all showed as well as they did. I just thought the night belonged to the smooth over the wire.
“Logic would say the wire would be the one to beat. I don’t think Gabriel lost a show with her all year. She had won consistently week in and week out.”
Sky finished second in the group, followed by the border terrier, Mia, and the Russell terrier, Bosse.
Richardson said he was surprised as anyone to see Adam competing. Group judges are sequestered and are not aware of which dogs they’ll be judging until they are in the ring.
“It’s my understanding that they didn’t decide until Friday or Saturday that they were going to show him,” Richardson said. “I didn’t even know he was going to be there until he walked into the ring.”
Richardson himself pulled off somewhat of a surprise, judging the 5-year-old Russell terrier from Sawyer, Mich., fourth in the group. It was the first year the Russell terrier was entered in the WKC Dog Show, and it’s a rarity for a new breed to score in its first year.
“I had never judged that dog before,” Richardson said. “I had seen it from a distance. I actually read the Russell terrier standard several times on Tuesday just to be sure. It was a great show dog … his head, his ears and the standard calls for that collapsible chest. When I put my hands on him and pressed, the chest collapsed just like it’s supposed to.
“I was very happy with the four dogs I placed.”
When it came to placement, Richardson said everything about Adam on that night made it clear he was the top terrier.
“He is just a superb example of what I think the smooth fox terrier is supposed to look like,” Richardson said. “From the nape, the neckline, the beautiful face, such wonderful eyes and ears… and that piercing terrier expression.
“His eyes just burn through you when you come up on him. He is just a beautiful dog.”
Design types are renown for being insanely passionate and, at times, a bit obstinate. Traits that proved to be quite handy one recent Thursday evening – when despite a paralyzing snowstorm – the creative community came out in full force to witness the launch of a major international design exhibition at the Grand Rapids Art Museum.
“This is something really special outside the tradition of GRAM’s traditional comfort zone,” Dana Friis-Hansen, CEO of the GRAM said. “But it is ideal for this town.”
Wendy Wassink validated his sentiments, “We have been enthused about this since it’s opening at the Walker. When Dana mentioned the possibility of this coming to Grand Rapids, we literally jumped at the prospect of being a part of it.”
Giddy with anticipation, the evening kicked off early before museum doors opened with a rousing cocktail pre-party at the Lumber Baron in the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel hosted by Kantorwassink. Friends, patrons, clients and special guests mingled with co-curator, Andrew Blauvelt, with cocktails by the fire.
What followed was an exclusive sneak preview for sponsors, members and special guests. A dizzying array of work produced since 2000, guests explore the worlds of design-driven magazines, newspapers, books and posters; the entrepreneurial spirit of designer-produced goods; the renaissance in digital typeface design; the storytelling potential of film and television titling sequences; and the transformation of raw data into compelling information narratives.
This massive exhibition marks the first collaborative exhibition presentation between GRAM and Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University. Not surprisingly, the exhibition with seven separate themes is too big to put in either space. Visitors shuttle between the two buildings to take in the show.
“I’m not sure which was more impressive, the show itself or the sheer number of people who came out to see it. The atmosphere was electric,” Dave Kantor, of Kantorwassink, remarked of the evening. He continued, “The show is very inspiring. It’s not going to be just compelling for people in the design industry – It’s just plain engaging and really fun to experience.” He went on to say that he planned to come back and experience it again with his children.
The evening culminated with doors opening to the public at 9:30pm for The After Party at the GRAM. Those just heading out for the night and those still on their feet from the beginning explored the galleries late into the night with live music by the Boogiman & Mr. Fables.
The largest of the design professions, graphic design is the art of visual communication that gives shape to the thousands of messages we encounter each day — from the printed page to the computer screen and beyond. Graphic designers use color, typography, images, symbols, and systems to make the surfaces around us come alive with meaning.
Read between the lines, and you discover she’s a trusted guide and friend to the foundation’s donors as they decide where to invest their funds. She visits with them at home, learns about their families and shares about her own.
“Our donors adore her,” says Roberta King, vice president of public relations and marketing for the foundation. “She’s honest — she’s not afraid to tell people the truth of a situation. And she’s a very good listener.
“Many nonprofits work on volume — they need lots of $25 and $50 gifts,” King says. “When our donors start a donor-advised fund for a significant amount of money, or include the Foundation in their estate plan, that becomes a personal relationship — a lifelong commitment. Jonse is perfect for that.”
“I’m building relationships,” Young says. “I ask our donors, ‘What are you passionate about? What kind of a difference do you want to make?’”
They’re the kind of questions she’s asked herself.
At Wedgwood, she helped raise funds to start Lighthouse Academy, a school for Kent County youth expelled from other schools.
“If kids have the right support system, no matter what they’ve been through, they can make it,” she says. “These kids have been expelled, and rightly so — they did some bad deeds. But who knows the circumstances? What drove them to their actions?
“They need a second chance,” she says. “And a third chance. And a fourth. We can’t give up on our kids.”
Soon after she started at the community foundation, Young mobilized African American leaders who wanted to make a difference in the community through philanthropy.
“African Americans weren’t viewed as givers, but receivers,” she says. “I knew that was the furthest thing from the truth.”
She knew. But there wasn’t much evidence. So she commissioned a study.
“It proved what I knew — that giving may not be formalized, but it was happening,” she says. “Through churches. Through alma maters. Just giving money to a niece or nephew who needed it.”
She started the African American Heritage Fund, drawing 117 donors who kicked in more than $100,000 to fund summer youth programming. Young secured another $1.2 million in national grants for the cause.
“We dispelled some myths,” Young says happily. “Philanthropy is alive and well in the African American community.”
Her mission to help has deep roots.
Young grew up mostly on Sheldon Avenue SE with brother Kendrick and her mom, Inita. Her grandmother Lee Ella, 87, helped raise her, too, when the family moved to Alabama occasionally and moved in with her.
Her grandmother was passionately involved in her church community, and that rubbed off on young Jonse. Young still attends her childhood church, St. Luke A.M.E. Zion.
Growing up, she lived in four different homes on Sheldon, usually in houses stuffed with relatives.
“I think that was the impetus for me liking people,” she muses. “Sometimes three different families would live in one house. They brought in their friends and relatives. I was always meeting and connecting with new people.
“In hindsight,” she says, “I’m happy I was brought up that way.”
Her single mom raised Jonse and her brother with help from welfare and food stamps. She cleaned houses, and when Jonse was working her way through college, she cleaned houses, too.
“It was our anchor,” Young says. “We called it ‘The Methodist.’ It was like my extended family. My Mom didn’t have to worry about where I was.”
She took photography classes and learned to cook. (She’s pretty proud of her meat loaf and peach cobbler.) She felt safe and nurtured.
“In my life, I was lucky to have the right people around me,” Young says. “It’s why I turned out the way I did.
“I had friends who made different choices,” she says. “It made a difference, having people who cared about me, who pushed me.”
“You can tell her childhood shaped her,” says Diana Sieger, president of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. “She was able to be with adults who really cared about her. You can see that in her now as a leader at her church. You can see it in how she’s raising her son, Austin. She doesn’t take the importance of helping young people lightly.”
Adds King: “It led her to this place.”
Young’s other refuge was St. Luke A.M.E. Zion Church. It’s the oldest African American church in the city, she says, celebrating 150 years this year.
“I used to hear the choir sing when I was 9 or 10,” she recalls. “I thought, ‘One day, I want to sing in that choir.’”
Tears suddenly fill her eyes and spill over, and Young fumbles in her purse for a tissue. “Oh, I’m getting emotional,” she says, wiping the tears.
“I used to be very shy,” she says. “I never imagined being able to stand up in front of anybody and do anything.”
But by age 12 Jonse mustered the courage to ask if she could sing in the choir. Her beautiful voice has soared there ever since.
“Now I direct the choir,” she says, and more tears spill over.
“That meant the world to me at the time,” she says, dabbing her eyes. “It gave me the courage to go after things I’m interested in.”
Slowly, Jonse wasn’t shy anymore. These days, she speaks to groups with confidence and ease.
“I owe it all to my church,” she says. “It gave me confidence. It made me feel good. It was a source of comfort.”
Her church friends might not know it, but Young does a great Tina Turner. Give her a karaoke machine, Sieger says, and stand back.
“She’s a person full of joy,” Sieger says. “She’s a positive force.
“She doesn’t know a stranger,” Sieger says. “She can be in the grocery store line and get to know everybody in line.”
Chances are, she’s the best-dressed shopper in the cheese aisle. Sparkling rhinestone belts. Sky-high platform heels. Orange leather jackets. Perfectly styled scarves. She’s a T.J. Maxx maven.
She changes her hairstyle so often, her staff head shot is always outdated.
Young and her husband, Allen, both were raised by single moms with help from grandmothers. Now they raise their 15-year-old son, Austin, with high expectations. An A-student, he plays the piano and cello, preaches at churches and serves on the Grand Rapids Community Foundation Youth Grant Committee.
At school the kids call him “Mr. President.”
“He looks a bit like President Obama,” Young explains.
Young’s church asked her recently if she’d be in charge of the youth choir. It would add to a long list of volunteer commitments that already keep her crazy busy.
Young smiles as she tells what the answer had to be.
“There are so many young girls with beautiful voices.”
GRAND RAPIDS – Upon graduation from college, Cathy Holbrook started down an extraordinary career path that she never guessed would’ve ended up with her returning home and becoming the executive director of St. Cecilia Music Center, a proud 129-year-old cultural landmark here.
Holbrook left Miami of Ohio with a degree in mass communications in the mid-1980s and embarked on a long and winding road that began with a public relations firm in San Diego and has included stops in New York, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, Calif., where she formed important relationships with some of the nation’s elite musicians, conductors, composers and artistic directors. Those relationships ultimately helped her land her current position at St. Cecilia and helped her strike a deal with the Lincoln Center in New York to bring some of chamber music’s finest performers to Grand Rapids.
“The response from the audience was pretty amazing,” Holbrook said of the Nov. 29 opening performance in the NYC2GR series that featured famed cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han. “They could clearly tell they were seeing music at its best. The Lincoln Center has partnerships like this with just five organizations around the country – one in Boston, one in Chicago, one in the south, one in New Jersey and Grand Rapids. It’s such a coup for Grand Rapids and for St. Cecilia Music Center that we are being talked about on a national level. It goes beyond that we’re just bringing people in from New York.”
Tickets for the “Grand Statements” concert at 7:30 p.m. are $35, $30 and $10 for students.
The third and final performance of the inaugural season of the NYC2GR series is scheduled for April 11.
The story of how St. Cecilia and Lincoln Center got together begins with Holbrook’s extraordinary career path that has been full of ironic twists of fate and long-lasting relationships, and which even led her to a chance meeting with a former high school classmate who is now her husband.
It’s a path that has come full circle, indeed.
Her musical foundation
The start of Holbrook’s musical career occurred at home.
She took piano lessons from her mother and later played French horn in the FHC marching band. In college, she gave up the French horn and didn’t pursue a music major, but she did play piano on her own and continued her lifelong love affair with music while preparing for a life in the business world.
“I did have a musical background, but now I joke that I play the computer,” the smiling Holbrook said from her office at St. Cecilia Music Center. “It’s all business now. I’m around all these professional musicians.
“My mom was a piano teacher. I grew up, every day, 3 o’clock, somebody was playing the piano at my house. Students came to her. She was the neighborhood piano teacher. She taught them the fundamentals and how to read music. My mom did teach me, and, in retrospect, we both agree I probably should’ve been taught by someone else. It’s so much easier to argue with your mom about practicing.
“I played the piano growing up, but I wasn’t great. I played the French horn in the high school band. I started playing French horn in fifth grade and all the way through high school. I was first chair and pretty good.”
She set out for California upon earning her degree from Miami.
It was the beginning of a romantic journey that brought her to the Hollywood Bowl, an apprenticeship under acclaimed composer, conductor and pianist Andre Previn, and also the unexpected love of her life.
Her first job was an entry-level position at a public relations outfit that didn’t last.
“I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life,” Holbrook said of a business career. “I went to work for a PR firm in San Diego right out of college. I liked it, but it was all about you made a copy and you charged it to a company. I remember when I first landed a job with a music organization, I felt like that was home.”
Her first big break almost happened as an accident.
She attended a Gospel choir concert at the University of California-Santa Barbara and felt inspired to make contact with a woman in the school’s music department who had introduced the group performing that night.
“I was out of work because I got laid off from the PR firm. I went to this concert by myself,” she recalled. “I’m in San Diego by myself, I’ve got no family or friends there. The woman that got up to introduce the group said she had some role in the music department, and I called her the next day and told her I would love to get involved in the music business. I told her, ‘You don’t know me from Adam, but would you meet with me?’
“She brought me to her office, she bought me lunch, she looked at my resume and gave me some tips. She told me, ‘I think the La Jolla Chamber Music Society is looking for someone right now.’ And that was that.”
Holbrook applied for the job in La Jolla, Calif., and got it.
“I got that job on a whim. That first job was the turning point in my career” she said. “I was only there for two years, but it really set me on that path. It’s where I first met David Finckel and Wu Han, when they came to SummerFest. That’s where I met (Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra Music Director and conductor) Heiichiro Ohyama. That’s where I met Andre Previn. That’s where I met all of these chamber musicians.”
The path just kept getting more and more interesting after that.
A unique opportunity
Her relationship with Previn turned into a stunning job offer.
Previn, married to actress Mia Farrow, hired Holbrook to serve as his personal assistant, handling all of his personal affairs and traveling to Europe as part of her duties for one unforgettable year.
“I felt like I had found my niche,” Holbrook said of her job in La Jolla. “I didn’t know where that was going to take me at the time. I was having a good time living in California working for an arts organization. It had a summer festival. In my first year, Andre Previn played there. He was going to do his first live jazz performance in about 30 years. He had not played jazz in forever. At the time, he’s a famous conductor, but he started out playing jazz. It was going to be recorded and be a benefit the La Jolla Music Society.
“I did all the PR and marketing around that concert. We hit it off right away. He’s just the smartest, funniest, coolest guy. He came back the following year and he ended up offering me a job. I knew it was only going to be for a year because he had a planned sabbatical,” she added, “but that was fine with me. I thought this is a great opportunity. I’m going to travel with him and live in New York, this is great.
“You’re like his secretary, but I didn’t necessarily want to be a secretary. I wanted to do more than that, but the opportunity to hang out with him for a year and doing things with the Chamber Music Society at Lincoln Center was great. I was hanging out with these musicians who were the crème de la crème of that world.”
It opened up Holbrook’s eyes to a much wider musical universe.
“I got to go to Vienna, and when he goes to Vienna, it’s like you’re traveling with Bon Jovi. He’s a rock star there. So, wherever you go, it’s ‘maestro, maestro.’ I worked with these musicians in La Jolla, and then I worked for Andre in 1993. You cross paths with them and see these musicians again and again.”
A return trip to California
Holbrook kept crossing paths with earlier acquaintances in her next two jobs.
She returned from her time spent with Previn and found a job with the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra. The allure of that position was being involved with the Hollywood Bowl.
“I was looking for work again and I ended up getting a job at the L.A. Philharmonic. It was a low-position job, but the L.A. Philharmonic and the Hollywood Bowl are part of the same organization. What I really wanted was to work at the Hollywood Bowl and I ended up getting transferred there,” she said.
“I worked there for about a year. It was a ton of fun because it was the Hollywood Bowl and there were all these famous people, but I did not like L.A. at all. Day-to-day life there is really hard. Your whole day it based upon what time is it and how long will it take me to get there. It was only 12 miles from the Hollywood Bowl to my apartment, and it would take me 45 minutes at least every day,” she lamented. “That’s a short commute there. I wasn’t in love with L.A., so I really couldn’t see myself being there long term. It’s just this sprawling metropolis. It’s a parking lot. I knew that was not going to be my residence forever.”
Again, prior connections helped Holbrook land her next job.
“Heiichiro Ohyama, the artistic director for SummerFest, also was the director for a chamber music organization in Santa Barbara. He had kind of been wooing for me for that job, but, at the time, it was a part-time job and Santa Barbara is expensive,” she recalled. “So, when Andre came knocking, I picked door No. 1. But I kept in touch with Ohyama the whole time. I told him I can’t imagine living in New York forever.”
A year later, Ohyama informed her the Santa Barbara position would be a full-time gig.
“I had this brutal interview that lasted four hours with five people. You would’ve thought I was going to run the world or something. I remember thinking, ‘If I get this, whatever.’ I spent the next day in Santa Barbara and then thought, ‘I hope I get this job because it’s just so gorgeous.’ And I did, I got the job,” she said. “My dalmatian and I moved up to Santa Barbara, which is a completely different universe from L.A. I loved it. I ran the chamber orchestra there for 11 years. I just adored that job and loved living there.”
All her dreams coming true
Changes in her personal life prompted Holbrook to seek a fresh start.
She had no definite plans about what she wanted to pursue, but she decided to come home to Grand Rapids and start contemplating the next steps along the path, both personally and professionally.
A series of life-changing moments all happened within a few months.
Holbrook returned home in December 2005 just in time for her 20th anniversary high school reunion, where, ironically, she reconnected with a former classmate. She had hardly interacted with Jim Holbrook at FH Central, but their chance encounter two decades later ended with a trip down the aisle and marriage.
“I moved back to Grand Rapids and attended my 20th anniversary high school reunion. That’s where I met my husband. We knew who each other were, but we really weren’t friends in high school,” Holbrook recalled with a laugh. “At our 20th high school reunion, we just connected. I was in the process of moving when I went to the reunion. The house that we live in now, I had just looked at the day before the reunion.
“I needed to make some decisions about where I was going and what I wanted to do,” she added. “I met Jim at the reunion and there were sparks there. About a year and a half later, we were married.”
At the same time Holbrook returned home, the executive director’s job had opened up at St. Cecilia. The board conducted a national search and found the perfect candidate had just returned to her roots.
“I move back to Grand Rapids and start dating my future husband and, basically, this job opened. It opened while I was in the midst of moving. It open up November or December and I moved in January, but I hadn’t really applied for the job,” she said. “I had met with a board member. I officially applied for it when I got here.
“I’ll always remember the date I started here, March 20th, because it’s my husband’s birthday. I moved here the beginning of January with no job prospects, honestly, and I was working a few months later.”
In seven years at St. Cecilia, she has led a thriving organization.
It was through Holbrook’s impressive career connections that she was able to get Finckel and Han to serve as St. Cecilia’s co-artistic directors of the chamber music programming for the next three seasons.
The collaboration between them resulted in the popular NYC2GR series.
“It’s all about those connections clearly,” Holbrook said. “You get to work with those people that you end up realizing you have a similar vision or there’s something there that you make happen.”
It’s all part of a fateful and blessed path that has led her right back where she belongs.
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., Feb. 6, 2013- ArtPrize, the radically open, international art competition, today announced plans that will guide the organization into 2013 and beyond, including a new partnership experiment with the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minn. called ArtPrize Pitch Night.
The organization also announced Anne Pasternak, president and artistic director of Creative Time, a public arts organization based in New York City, as its first of three jurors for the Juried Grand Prize. Concurrently, ArtPrize showed a three-minute trailer of a documentary film detailing the process behind the 2012 Juried Grand Prize, which is currently in post-production.
In addition, the team announced key dates and deadlines for the 2013 event, including:
Venue Registration March 11-April 11
Artist Registration April 22-June 6
Connections April 29-June 20.
With its mix of public voting and juried awards, ArtPrize explores the tension between the professional and populist in an epic conversation. The organization announced the fifth edition of the popular art competition would take place Sept. 18 – Oct. 6, 2013.
Daryn Kuipers, interim executive director for ArtPrize, walked the standing room-only crowd of sponsors and partners through a recap of the 2012 event, which set records for engagement, including 47,160 registered voters who placed 412,460 total votes. Kuipers also reiterated the organization’s goal of becoming financially sustainable in 2013.
“ArtPrize has followed the lifecycle of a startup company, rather than a traditional non-profit organization, and we are on track to break even in 2013,” said Kuipers.
The organization made several additional announcements:
ArtPrize Pitch Night
The organization announced ArtPrize Pitch Night. Modeled after the successful 5×5 Night series, which granted money to anyone with a creative idea, the new experiment will grant $5,000 to an artist or curator with an idea for a public space during ArtPrize 2013.
Starting in May, ArtPrize will create a four-week open call for projects, targeting the Minneapolis art community. The organization has partnered with the Walker Art Center who will host the Pitch Night and provide five judges for the event. Finalists will have five minutes to make their case for the $5,000 grant.
“ArtPrize is Grand Rapids, unequivocally, but we want to develop a program that will help cities and organizations engage and activate their artist communities, as well as explore new ways that will help artists bring their ideas to ArtPrize,” said DeVos.
First 2013 Grand Prize Juror
In its first presentation since becoming the sponsor of the ArtPrize Juried Grand Prize, Dr. David Rosen, president of Kendall College of Art and Design at Ferris State University, announced Anne Pasternak as the first of three jurors for the 2013 prize.
“Through Creative Time, Pasternak has built a reputation for commissioning and supporting projects that engage average Americans with art,” said Dr. Rosen. “Her insight and opinions on public art will be a strong voice on the jury panel.”
With Pasternak at its helm, Creative Time has commissioned numerous public art projects, most notably, the “Tribute in Light” at the World Financial Center to honor the victims of 9/11. On March 11, 2002, twin beams of light shot seemingly miles into the sky, mirroring the footprint of the Twin Towers.
“It’s important to give artists the opportunities to experiment, to push and grow. Public spaces are for free expression, and artists matter in society and they should be weighing in on how we live,” said Pasternak, in a January 2012 feature in The Wall Street Journal.
The six juried awards (five $20,000 prizes and one $100,000 prize) creates a purposeful dialog between the opinions of arts professionals and the public, focusing on the artists’ work. The remaining jurors will be announced in the spring, prior to artist registration.
Most people are familiar with the process behind the public vote prizes: the person with the most votes wins. In 2013, ArtPrize will debut a documentary film showing the process behind the 2012 Juried Grand Prize.
“As with all juried prizes, we received some questions as to how the jury came to their decision, and we decided to pull back the curtain through a documentary film,” said Todd Herring, marketing director at ArtPrize.
The currently unnamed documentary will be offered to museums and other non-profits at no cost. The trailer is available on ArtPrize’s Vimeo page, www.vimeo.com/artprize.
ArtPrize is an international art competition, open to any artist and decided by public vote. It invites artists to try out new ideas on a large and diverse population of people. It seeks to broaden the critical dialog around contemporary art by awarding the world’s largest art prize, at $560,000. Registered artists and venues match themselves at artprize.org, and the public votes for the winners using mobile devices and the Web. ArtPrize 2012 included 1,517 entries from 46 countries and 41 U.S. states and territories, as well as 400,000 active participants. Since its inception, individuals of all backgrounds have cast more than 1.7 million votes for public art.
“You don’t get any better than this,” said Eddie Tadlock, a chamber music fan and assistant manager of DeVos Place Performance Hall and Convention Center. “This is world-class. I moved here from Seattle and to have this caliber of music here from New York just blows my mind. I was blogging earlier today and my friends from Seattle and other places were jealous that I’m here. It’s unheard of for this market. The acoustics (in Royce Auditorium) are top shelf and it’s right on part with Lincoln Center.
“I’ve been there to Lincoln Center. The acoustics are pure magic here.”
The approximately 350 patrons who braved the latest snowstorm across the region ended up being treated to a remarkable performance that featured baritone Randall Scarlata, pianists Gilbert Kalish and Gloria Chien, violinists Ani and Ida Kavafian, violaist Richard O’Neill and celloist Mihai Marica.
“Extraordinary,” said Foley Schuler, Blue Lake Public Radio afternoon host on WBLU-FM(88.9) in Grand Rapids and WBLV-FM (90.3) along the lakeshore, during a reception following the concert. “It definitely puts St. Cecilia on the map and Grand Rapids on the map with the Lincoln Center musicians here. Gilbert Kalish, one of the legends of the piano, played on two pieces. This is one of the finest halls for any type of music, but especially chamber music. The musicians that come through here find a gem of a venue.”
The 2012-13 NYC2GR series is part of a three-year partnership between St. Cecilia and the acclaimed Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. The season’s final performance inside Royce Auditorium, 24 Ransom Ave. SE, is scheduled for April 11 and is set to feature acclaimed pianist Wu Han.
Cathy Holbrook, executive director of St. Cecilia, reached an agreement with Han and renowned cellist David Finckel, artistic directors at Lincoln Center, to program the chamber music series for the 129-year-old Grand Rapids cultural landmark. It is the inaugural year of a three-year deal between the two organizations.
The Lincoln Center has a similar arrangements with just four other U.S. cities.
“I was texting with my friends and they told me it’s cheaper to come here to see this performance than to catch a flight to New York City,” Tadlock said. “A lot of them wished they could’ve been here.”
Ida Kavafian and Chien, who replacing Anne-Marie McDermott due to a family emergency, opened the concert performing Strauss’ “Sonata in E-flat Major.” It prompted the first standing ovation of the night.
Scarlata wowed patrons with his vocal prowess on Rorem’s “Aftermath,” while being accompanied by Kalish, Ani Kavafian and Marica. Each note sung he Scarlata, who needed to microphone, could be heard clearly and distinctly throughout all corners of 650-seat Royce Auditorium.
Kalish, the Kavafians, O’Neill and Marica returned to the stage after a short intermission, upping the tempo and playing Franck’s “Quintet in F-minor” to conclude a memorable evening of elite performances.
“I thought it was fabulous,” St. Cecilia board member Clare Wade said. “The series has far exceeded my expectations so far. We’re so fortunate to have that level of talent coming here to Grand Rapids. It brings a whole different group of people together – people who’ve maybe never been to St. Cecilia before.
“The word is just starting to get out about the Lincoln Center musicians It’ll be more of the best in April coming here.”