Oh Yes, I remember a small boy whose mother was sitting in the front row at the Joyce Theater in New York City. He was tap dancer, actor, and choreographer Savion Glover, now all grown up and still tap dancing. That’s a fortunate thing for his audience. He was the youngest of three sons, born to a black mother and white father who left before Glover’s birth. Glover’s great grandfather on his mother’s side managed Negro-League baseball teams. His grandfather was a big-band pianist and vocalist. His grandmother was the Minister of Music at a church in Newark. She was the one who first noticed Savion’s musical talent. Gregory Hines, a tap legend, said, “Savion is possibly the best tap dancer that ever lived.” One person called Glover “the sponge” because he learns everything very quickly (the dancer has taught tap since he was 14 years old). At age 7, he drummed in a group and he insisted that he could dance while he played the drums. When Savion choreographs a piece, he improvises while he generates a dance sequence. The incredible artist finds extraordinary joy while he dances. At 15, he became one of the youngest performers ever nominated for a Tony Award. In some musicals, Glover both performed and choreographed. In 2016 he was nominated for a Tony for best choreographer plus a drama desk award. If you are interested in knowing more, you should read – “Savion! My Life in Tap.” The still young man, 45, is currently involved in an Encores’ off-center revival. A young Savion still remembers chanting songs in the back seat of his family’s car on the way to camp. His active years? 1985 to the present. Young man, just keep on doin’ what you’re doin’!
What’s in a Name?
I enjoy a baby named Joseph, Olivia, Jordan and Reese, but what kind of name is Spike? Well, I do know of a full-grown man who in 1957 was named Spike, and I’m betting you do, too. He is a film director, professor, and an actor who has been active from 1977 to the present. Of course I’m referring to the one and only Spike Lee. Lee was born in Atlanta. His mother was a teacher of arts and black literature; his father was a jazz musician and composer. So who picked the name Spike for him? You guessed, it was his mother, who nicknamed him Spike during his childhood and it stuck. In spite of his name, or perhaps because of it, Spike Lee grew up proud and different. In 1991, Lee taught film at Harvard and just two years later he began to teach at NYU. It was there that he received his Master of Fine Art. In 1985 I recall seeing his first feature film, “She’s Gotta Have It.” It was followed by many award winning ones. Personally, I fully enjoyed the film. His latest film is a different story completely. BlacKkKlansman is based on a true story from the 1950s. The New York Times said, “It’s perfectly pitched to the crazy reality of our moment.” My grownup children felt seeing it was a rewarding history lesson. It’s “a blend of satire, realism, and in your face political commentary.” It’s perfectly in keeping with the time we live in: “pure undiluted insanity.” It’s different; so is Spike Lee. In this film he touches on historical footage yet exposes the evil of the Klan and how influential and destructive it is. The movie is based on a true story with very contemporary problems. Lee’s ending is “homegrown, apple pie, red white & blue terrorism.” In BlackkKlansman Spike Lee takes on the Klan.
His is a furious, funny, blunt and brilliant confrontation with the truth. So, Spike Lee, what’s in a name? I do love to quote Shakespeare!
Czech her Out
Many of my readers enjoy a bit of a guessing game—and many do not. So I am going to give you a choice. I am writing about a lady who served as the 64th Secretary of State and is currently chairing two big management groups. Also, she is the author of five best-selling books. Here’s a big hint: she was born Marie Jana Korbelova. Game over. She is politician and diplomat Madeleine Albright, and very bright she is. Her family settled in Denver after immigrating to the United States from Czechoslovakia; she became a U.S. citizen in 1957.
She graduated from Wellesley College and earned a PhD from Columbia University. Flash forward. Albright joined its academic staff and also advised democratic candidates regarding foreign policy. In 2012, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. In 1982 Albright joined the academic staff at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. Eight years later, Bill Clinton nominated her to be the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. It was her first diplomatic position. When Albright took office as the 64th U.S. Secretary of State she became the highest-ranking woman in the history of the United States government. Secretary Albright serves as a director on the board of the Council on Foreign Relations. What a gal!
All that Jazz
It leaves me breathless to simply think about Wynton Learson Marsalis. His occupation? Make that plural. He’s an excellent trumpeter, composer, and educator in addition to being Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. Not surprisingly, Marsalis was born to a musical family in New Orleans. He is the second of six sons. His father is a pianist and music professor. His three brothers are all jazz musicians: his brother Branford (saxophonist), Delfeayo (trombonist), and Jason (drummer). What else? At the age of 6, Wynton (pardon the familiarity) received his first trumpet as a gift from trumpeter Al Hirt. In fact, I enjoyed hearing him in the very best place, New Orleans. He was given the trumpet because his father didn’t want him to feel excluded after seeing one of his brothers playing the piano and saxophone. Ha! When he was 8 he was already performing with the New Orleans Philharmonic. At 17 he was the youngest musician admitted to the Tanglewood Music Center. In 1979 he moved to New York City to attend Juilliard. By 1980 Marsalis had recorded his first solo album. I personally remember that seven years later he helped start the classical jazz summer concerts at Lincoln Center. It was so successful that it led to Jazz at Lincoln Center. Eventually that became an independent entity. Marsalis became an artistic director of the center and its musical director. At present, he takes his music on tour, to schools, and he also appears on radio and television in addition to producing an album. Currently Jazz at Lincoln Center has embraced its educational operation and reached thousands of schools nationwide. Lincoln Center’s founding artistic director maintains that jazz is a classical style with a rhythmic foundation. Wynton Marsalis minds traditions even while looking ahead. I personally bless him and breathe a sigh of relief. Among his many awards he received the Pulitzer Prize for Music. Well, what else should one expect? In an interview he is quoted as saying, “There are always going to be new things that people do. In as much as their forms have jazz at their root we’ll bring them to Lincoln Center.” It’s not amazing considering him and his musically talented family! It makes me feel happy just to think about them, and of course, even more so to hear them.
You can e-mail June Sturz at email@example.com.