Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Yale Arts Alumni Honored

Yale arts alumni Sidra Bell and Derek Bermel (above) and Chester Biscardi and Andrew Young (below) were recipients of ArtsWestchester awards in April in Tarrytown
ArtsWestchester, the local arts organization that promotes the arts and artists in this region, celebrated its 50th anniversary in April and had a lunch party in Tarrytown Apr. 16 to celebrate itself. It was also an occasion to honor 50 artists who work in Westchester, whose work has been presented here, who live here, or who grew up in the area.

Among the 50 honored were at least four Yale graduates, whose work was nurtured at Yale and who, after Yale, went on to have illustrious careers in music, dance and film.  But their work, their careers, and their artistic expression are far from over. Yale alumni who won "50 for 50" awards ($1,000 prizes each) include clarinetist and composer Derek Bamel '89, music professor and composer Chester Biscardi '76 MM, '80 DMA, choreographer Sidra Bell '01, film director and photographer Andrew Young '88 MPhil.

They were honored for years of contributions, for their work and for past performances. All four continue to be engaged in current projects, commissioned work, spring and summer tours, in all aspects of the creative process and in teaching their talents to others.

Biscardi teaches at Sarah Lawrence College.  Bamel, who has been nominated for Grammys, will return from a West Coast tour this spring to perform with the New Rochelle High School jazz band at Carnegie Hall, Jun. 3. Bell and her dance company start their New York season next month.  Young, who lives in Croton on Hudson, and his film company are involved in many productions. 

"Working artists are the lifeblood of a creative community, and we believe it's important to honor them and recognize their contributions," Janet Langsam, CEO of ArtsWestchester, told the White Plains Daily Voice after the event. 

Derek Bermel '89

Bermel's music has been described as a blend of classical, world music, fund and jazz.  Besides the ArtsWestchester award, he has been honored with a Guggenheim Fellowship and an American Academy in Rome residency.

Bermel has been a composer in residence at the Mannes School of Music, the Institute in Advanced Study in Princeton, and the Copland House in Mt. Kisco. He studies ethnomusicology and orchestration and has recorded numerous works as performer, conductor and composer. This spring he will appear in concerts (as performer, conductor or composer) around the country and will lecture at the University of California-Berkeley before his June appearance with the New Rochelle band.

His most recent work includes A Shout, a Whisper, and a Trace (for orchestra) and Canzonas Americanas (for large chamber ensemble).  The former will be performed by the Columbus (Oh.) Symphony this fall.

Chester Biscardi '76MM, '80DMA

Biscardi, like Bermel, also received the American Academy in Rome and Guggenheim fellowships, as well as other awards.  At Sarah Lawrence College, he is the director of its music program. He has produced numerous recordings as conductor and composer.

His compositions were highlighted in a concert in New York at the Century Association, Apr. 30. The concert featured his songs Guru, Chez Vous, The Gift of Life, Do You Remember, and others.  He appeared as a vocalist and pianist.

"As a teacher I am primarily interested in what makes up my students' imaginations," he wrote on the Sarah Lawrence website. "In order to advise them I need to know a lot about them as human beings—whatever they feel comfortable to reveal to me—everything from their musical preferences to how they like to have fun."

"And every student is different, and every student changes along the way," he added. "So the approach to teaching is different in each case, even during each individual conference."

Andrew Young '88 MPhil.

Young and his wife Susan Todd, also a film producer and director, are the co-founders of Archipelago Films. They have both been nominated for an Academy Award, have won an Emmy for their work, and are involved in film, television and commercial projects.

Their work, Children of Fate, about a family in Sicily struggling in poverty, earned them the Academy Award nomination and has appeared on HBO. They have also produced, directed and edited It Ain't Love, Cutting Lose, Madagascar: A World Apart, and Americanos. 

In productions, Young is chief of photography and filming. His camera work earned him the Emmy award.

Sidra Bell '01

Bell founded her own contemporary modern-dance company after she graduated from Yale with a BA in history and earned an MFA in choreography from Purchase College. Her company, for which she is director and choreographer, has performed across the country (including in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Pittsburgh) and around the world (including Germany, Bulgaria, Brazil and Greece).

"Bell has a lot working in her favor," a New York Times reviewer wrote, "Powerful, daredevil dancers and an almost garish imagination capable of dreaming up surreal scenarios."

Based in White Plains, the company  returned from performances in Louisiana and San Francisco this past month. In San Francisco, the dancers performed her work Unidentifiable Bodies. The company hosts its home season in New York at the Baruch Performing Arts Center, Jun. 4-7.

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