Whitney Palmer

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Grant Llewellyn, “Music Was Everywhere”

Published in the December 2010 Boom! NC Magazine

By Whitney L.J. Howell

Growing up in Wales, Grant Llewellyn really had no choice but to become a music lover. From the cradle forward, he was surrounded by the piano and singing as his family and friends used melodies as a form of social and community activity.

“Music was everywhere-at school and in church. Most families had a piano in those days,” Llewellyn said, talking with me after rehearsing with the symphony orchestra at Appalachian State University in Boone. “I grew up listening to my grandmother play badly, but even then, I responded as she hammered out a melody.”

Surprisingly, the piano wasn’t the instrument on which he cut his musical teeth. Instead, he first picked up the cello. His parents recognized his innate talent when he was ten years old, and they encouraged him to audition for the Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, much like the Juilliard School in New York City, where he could study performance, composition, and conducting. He was accepted, starting his lifelong journey as a musician and conductor.

Today, Llewellyn, who turns 50 this month, speaks with the same palpable energy and enthusiasm you would expect from that 10 year old boy. He is the current music director for the North Carolina Symphony, but he often works with other acclaimed ensembles and frequently returns to Wales to be with his family. Given his hectic travel schedule, he needs every ounce of his abundant verve to maintain the pace.

That vigor has given him career longevity that has, in turn, benefited his professional and personal lives, he said. By immersing himself in multiple musical genres-whether it’s a Russian dance, a Chinese march, or a Brahms symphony-he’s learned how different voices in music interplay, much akin to being a solo actor on stage and playing all the roles.

As his ability to relate to heroes and heroines in music grew and he found it easier to translate his understanding to the general public, he also discovered the same skills could help him at home.

“I think when you’re just starting out, you’re desperately trying to juggle a young family, and there are many variables in motion at the same time,” he said. “But, as my experience as a director grew, so did my ability to navigate the kids’ activities. The wide swath of emotions presented in music also helped me negotiate my way through the wide spectrum of emotions that comes from children as they age.”

Although Llewellyn’s love of conducting is a driving force in his life, he readily admits it isn’t the only musical career he would enjoy. An extensive part of working with an orchestra deals with education as the ensemble learns to work together, and bringing that experience to students would be rewarding, as well as trying, he said.

“I take my hat off to the classroom teachers who battle to keep schoolchildren interested and engaged in music,” he said. “It’s a challenge with students, young and old, to make musical instruction fun and not sound condescending.”

Music isn’t Llewellyn’s only passion, however. When he’s not conducting in Raleigh or jetting across the country working with a myriad of prestigious orchestras, you can likely find him at his home in the countryside of South Wales. He passes his time watching his boys play rugby or playing soccer with his girls. He also devotes much of his focus to the garden adjacent to his house.

“It’s a bit like therapy. I fly around, stay in hotels, and jump from city center to center,” he said. “Then, I get to come home, pull up weeds, and get muddy.”


December 1, 2010 Posted by | Profiles | , , , | Leave a comment

Betty McKim ~ Wearable Art

Published in the October 2010 Boom! Magazine

by Whitney L.J. Howell

As a child, Betty McKim enjoyed making crafts with her hands. It was a passion she carried with her to Chowan University in Murfreesboro, N.C., but she didn’t have a specific focus until a professor said she reminded him of a jewelry maker. His suggestion launched her career.

“I was greatly influenced by my professor,” McKim said. “I went on to East Carolina University for a master’s in fine arts, took my first class in jewelry making, and have never looked back.”

McKim, who surprised me by revealing that she doesn’t wear much jewelry herself, said she enjoys the problem-solving aspects of jewelry making. It’s the attention to details and the intricacies of the tools used to make jewelry that have kept her attention for 35 years.

The repeating shapes and textures found in nature are her biggest inspiration, she said. The result is jewelry that can be playful, restrained, indulgent, or sensuous. McKim, 56, predominantly uses silver, but she occasionally accents pieces with gold or gemstones, giving each item a unique flair. Understandably, she hopes that the jewelry will be worn for many years.

The jewelry frequently reflects McKim’s mental state or what she sees around her at any given time. The memory of using a sprig of rosemary from her dinner plate as a springboard for a popular earring design makes her chuckle.

“When you look at my work, you see where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing,” she said. “The jewelry is all about the relationships in my life, and hopefully, the person buying it can relate to it as well.”

Each year, McKim exhibits her jewelry at three or four crafts fairs. She will participate in the Carolina Designer Craftsmen show in Raleigh November 26-28 at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds Exposition Center. Throughout the year, she also shows her jewelry at Art in the Park in Blowing Rock, as well as in Raleigh’s Boylan Heights Art Walk and the Larkspur Garden Show.

In addition to producing jewelry for sale, McKim also teaches others to design and create their own artworks. Shortly after completing her master’s degree, she taught pre-teen children at Buck’s Rock Camp in Connecticut. For the past 15 years, however, she has worked full time at the Pullen Arts Center in Raleigh. Today, she is the center’s assistant director, and she teaches both beginning and advanced adult students.

“I thoroughly enjoy what I do,” she said. “When it comes to teaching, I want to entertain and excite people with what’s possible in making jewelry. These classes are an environment where people can share a sincere interest in making something beautiful.”

But creating jewelry isn’t for everyone, she said. I found it interesting that she can usually tell within a few classes which students have the mentality to make jewelry. The process requires a great amount of patience and heavy concentration. Anyone interested in making jewelry shouldn’t expect instant gratification, she said-learning to use the right tools takes extensive practice, and the necessary detail work is very intricate. It is an excellent endeavor for someone who enjoys solo projects, she added, because “few people will sit and watch you create a piece of jewelry.”

For McKim, working alone is the perfect method. It allows her to make each piece an individual time investment-a project designed for one, specific, unknown person.

“I often think about how someone has each piece of jewelry I’ve made. Running into someone who’s wearing one of my creations completes the process for me,” she said. “It’s worth the time investment to specialize each piece and create something that is meaningful.”

To read the article online: http://www.boomnc.com/2010/10/articles_fiftyfab_triangle_201010.html

October 4, 2010 Posted by | Profiles | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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