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Arts We Have Loved
Music lessons were important in the history of many of our family members. Bruce's mother was in an early Chautauqua group in the early 1900s. The Chautauqua institution that flourished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, named after the Chautauqua Lake in western New York, provided popular education, along with entertainment, in the form of lectures, concerts and plays. The programs were often presented outdoors or in a tent. Bruce's mother, Frances Stringham, played violin with a group of women who traveled principally about the Midwest. Later, she taught herself to play piano. Bruce has a cousin (retired director at Michigan State University), who continues to travel about the world sharing his knowledge and experience as a former band/music director and teacher. His wife, a vocal talent, has performed and taught in Michigan and around the world.
I grew up in a rural area of North Dakota where the country church and one-room school were our centers for learning, guidance, and entertainment. I was introduced to music and soon singing solos and participating in choral activities, beginning in the early grades. In high school, I did more of the same and frequently sang at weddings and other special events. I did a dramatic interpretive reading at a competition, which took state honors. I can recall some of its lines now, that of Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth regaling each other with tortured insults.
My mother, Irene Reimers, wrote thousands of pages of stories about our early pioneer ancestors before her death in 1996. One of her stories won first prize in a North Dakota state competition for seniors. The success of that story represented the fulfillment of her dream ( in a small way) of becoming a writer.
Our son, Bruce, began organ and piano lessons as a young boy. We promised him he could discontinue the lessons when he entered high school. He chose to do otherwise. In college, at the University of Southern California, he played trumpet in the marching band and studied synthesizer. Later, he played piano and other keyboards professionally in rock bands, trios, duos, and as a single in piano bars. Today, he sells real estate in Flagstaff, AZ., as a profession and only occasionally plays piano for his pleasure and ours. Much of the time, our grand piano in the living room collects dust. Not too long ago, Bruce did an impromptu after dinner concert in a Flagstaff hotel lobby and recalled the pleasure of sharing his musical talents. Bruce was one of of the volunteer stage hands, part of the muscle and crew to move music equipment in and out of place at Sedona's new Cultural Center for their annual Jazz Festival, first held in that location several years ago.
Our son, Brian, and wife, Laura, are retired professional ballet dancers. For many years, we enjoyed the ballet music and excitement of watching them dance. Many people have asked us how we (a pilot and nurse) managed to produce a family of performing artists. Perhaps our needs were different from theirs when we were growing up? Many times economic necessity precluded thoughts of following a dream in the arts. Many of my ancestors were wonderful story tellers and talented at drawing or some other creative endeavor. We cannot discount the creativity that a talented cook or homemaker displays frequently, whether it is with a cherished recipe, handcrafted quilt, garden of flowers, or beautifully decorated room.
Although Bruce Srs.' father was a banker by profession, as a young man he frequently performed in plays. It seems many of us had the acting bug to some extent or another.
SouthWestern Art has become part of our lives and expression. A bronze sculpture, painting, or Indian artifact can give us equal pleasure. When our son, Brian's, high school in Illinois continued to display some his original paintings perhaps ten years after his graduation, we suspected Brian had creative genes that went far beyond his talents in dance and drama. As a high school freshman he played Otto Frank in the drama department's production of "Anne Frank." Around that same time he was getting a little drama coaching from members of the Steppenwolf Theatre's ensemble. John Malkovich was part of that talented group at the time. As a ballet Principal Character Dancer, Brian's fine dramatic skills were frequently called upon and displayed for our enjoyment. His son got to see him dance the lead role in "The Mighty Casey," a ballet created and choreographed with Brian in mind for the part.Today, Brian's vocation is in finance. Perhaps there is some subtle connection between the financial world and that of performing arts?
It is perhaps our daughter-in-law's inspired ballet dancing that we look back on with the most awe and regret. A fan expressed our feelings well when she said it just wasn't the same any more with Laura retired. Yes, her dancing was special and her characterizations unique. We miss seeing both Brian and Laura on stage. It is with sadness that we consider their daughter will have none of those memories.The video tapes just don't capture the magic of the live performance.