May 27, 2020

“MONTEREY”: This photo by Michael Ast is featured in the 27th Phillips Mill Photographic Exhibition, now on view in an online gallery at Ast won Best in Show and Best Body of Work awards in the juried show.

The 27th Phillips Mill Photographic Exhibition is a prestigious, well-regarded photo show traditionally showcased in the Phillips Mill Gallery in New Hope, Pa., but it is in an online gallery form this year due to the pandemic. Only 14 percent of the 1,000 entries from 13 states and three countries were accepted by juror Emmet Gowin, formerly professor of art at Princeton University. See the 143 accepted photographs online at All work is for sale.

Michael Ast won both Best in Show and Best Body of Work awards. His four photographs show his photojournalistic background of being more objective in his work and his ongoing concept of creating a photo essay that builds a narrative with multiple images. His heavy use of blacks and tonality express his interiority, adding a more psychological aspect to his work. Ast’s work is more lyrical and about emotion than a specific place. He prints his own work from a digital darkroom. See more photos at

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May 20, 2020

By Stuart Mitchner

Picture a poet who makes a living writing thrillers. He’s on the run in San Francisco, having been falsely convicted of murder, and his face is all over the papers. Escaped Killer On the Loose. A rich, beautiful, sympathetic woman who followed the trial and has good reason to believe he’s innocent gives him shelter in her deluxe apartment overlooking the bay.

That night he flags down a taxi driven by a friendly, worldly, wise-cracking cabbie who immediately recognizes him. The cabbie knows of a genius plastic surgeon who can give the poet a new face that very night for $200. “Not only that,” says the cabbie, “this guy is a bit of a dark poet himself, he can mend your mind while he’s fixing your face.”

The first thing the doctor asks the poet is “What sorta face do you want?” He has a gallery of possibilities. “I could give you middle period T.S. Eliot. Or I could do early Robert Frost.”

“Nah,” says the poet, “How about Humphrey Bogart? Can you do a good Bogie?”

“Sure, all the time. Everybody wants to be Bogart, but I thought you were a poet.”

“I make a living writing thrillers,” says the poet. “I thought the cabbie told you. Anyway, Bogart is a poet.”

“Funny, now that I think of it, you talk just like him,” says the doctor. “You’ve got his voice.”

“So do you, doc. Everyone should sound like Bogart at three in the morning. That’s what I want to hear as the drug kicks in. I want a film noir mood. Voices speaking soft and low. The sound of coffee and cigarettes, sheltering in place while the world goes mad.”

“Right, but when you’re going under, you want poetry. I usually say a few words. To see folks through. Something mildly hypnotic. Sounds like you don’t want clarity. You want to mask the meaning. Give it a touch of mystery. Just the thing to be hearing as you flow down into darkness. Wallace Stevens always works. Like ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird’ — by the fifth blackbird, you’re on your way. Now… just close your eyes.” more

KEEPING PATRONS ENGAGED: A scene from the Princeton Festival’s production of “Madame Butterfly,” which streams on June 7 at 1 p.m., during the first week of the organization’s busy online season. (Photo by Jessi Franco Designs)

By Anne Levin

Of the various rosters of virtual events currently offered by local arts organizations, the Princeton Festival’s is among the most ambitious. The recently released schedule of “Virtually Yours” — performances, poetry readings, podcasts, discussions, and artists’ videos — covers the month of June, which is when the 2020 festival would have taken place if a worldwide pandemic hadn’t caused its cancellation.

“Our patrons are used to this time period,” said Artistic Director Richard Tang Yuk in a phone call from his native Trinidad, where he has been sheltering since March. “I thought, rather than spread this out over several months, why don’t we just try to curate something and do it during the time people are used to seeing us?”

The long list of free, streamed events begins Monday, June 1 with Princeton Festival artists singing selections from The Sound of Music, and continues through the week with artists’ videos, a podcast on “Women in Music,” a lecture by Tim Urban on “Why We Love Opera,” a WWFM broadcast of the Concordia Chamber Players, an organ recital by Matthew Middletown, and a Princeton Festival performance of the opera Madame Butterfly. The next three weeks are similarly varied.

Once it became clear that the COVID-19 crisis was a serious threat, Tang Yuk and colleagues formed a special task force. “They were looking at reports every day as we got closer and closer to June,” he said. “In March, we realized we weren’t going to be able to do the festival this summer. Not everyone had canceled their summer festivals at that point, but it became clearer to us that we weren’t going to be able to do it. I always remind people that rehearsal starts at the beginning of May. So we made the decision at the beginning of April to cancel the physical season.” more

TRASHED ART CONTEST: From left, “Spectral Chamber,” “Sun,” “Two Fossil Forms,” and “Consumption Confusion” were featured in the TrashedArt 2019 Contest. Presented by the Mercer County Library System (MCLS), this year’s TrashedArt Contest was held virtually, with a reception and awards ceremony to be held Thursday, May 21 on the MCLS’ Facebook page.

Due to the continuing health and safety concerns surrounding coronavirus (COVID-19), the Mercer County Library System (MCLS) is closed until further notice. E-books, audiobooks, streaming media, and digital resources are still available 24/7 online.

In light of these events, the Library System’s TrashedArt 2020 Contest was held virtually through its website. The contest celebrated Earth Day by encouraging patrons to turn ordinary trash into extraordinary art.  more

IN CONVERSATION: The Arts Council of Princeton presents In Conversation with Mira DeMartino, pictured here, and Timothy M. Andrews on Tuesday, May 26, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Visit to link into the free conversation via Zoom.

The Arts Council of Princeton continues its In Conversation series with Mira DeMartino and Timothy M. Andrews on Tuesday, May 26 at 7 p.m.

This curated series of discussions is designed to celebrate and connect those who make art and those who love art. Visit to link into the free conversation via Zoom. more

May 13, 2020

By Stuart Mitchner

Let’s get rid of that old man hate
And bring our fellow man up to date.
—Little Richard (1932-2020)

“Good Golly, Miss Molly,” it looks like the death of Little Richard has invaded a column marking the 50th anniversary of Kent State, Paul McCartney’s first solo album, and the break-up of the Beatles. But surely there’s room for the man who taught Paul “everything he knows.”

By the time they formed a band, Lennon and McCartney had taken crash courses at the College of Little Richard, as can be heard in John’s frenzied “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” and Paul’s out-of-the-body and over-the-top “Long Tall Sally.” With some help from the singer who “came screaming into my life as a teenager,” Paul took rock-and-roll-roller-coaster hysteria to another level in “Helter Skelter,” a fitting theme song for the state of the nation, whether you mean May 1970 or May 2020.
America Screaming

Speaking of college, say you’re on the first day of a European tour, one of 36 American students, all but eight of them females. It’s a sunny afternoon in Delft, and you’re coming out of Vermeer’s house in a still-life spell feeling three centuries away from the U.S.A. You’re wandering through a street fair with calliopes and bump-em cars near a quaint park with swans when you hear a sound — no, it’s too big to hear, the sound descends on you, it attacks you, it eats you alive; it’s the sound of America screaming — “A wop-boppa-LOO-BOP a-lop-BAM-BOOM!” Yes! Glory be! Hallelujah, suddenly you’re a rock ‘n’ roll patriot ready to sing the anthem and salute the Stars and Stripes of joyous chaos (“I got a girl named Daisy, she almost drives me crazy”) — but except for one or two Daisys and Miss Mollys, most of the girls seem appalled and embarrassed by the neuron-shattering blast of “Tutti Frutti.” more

MCCARTER@HOME: McCarter Theatre presented an online conversation between Emily Mann, its outgoing artistic director and resident playwright, and Oskar Eustis, artistic director of The Public Theater. (Mann photo by Matt Pilsner; Eustis photo by Joan Marcus, courtesy of The Public Theater)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

McCarter Theatre presented “McCarter LIVE: In Conversation with Oskar Eustis” on May 8. The discussion was part of the theatre’s ongoing McCarter@Home series of livestreamed events. McCarter’s artistic engagement manager, Paula T. Alekson, curated the conversation. The event was hosted via Zoom, as well as McCarter’s Facebook page.

Eustis became artistic director of San Francisco’s Eureka Theatre Company in 1986, following his position there as resident director and dramaturg. He became artistic director of the Mark Taper Forum (Los Angeles) in 1989, followed by Trinity Repertory Company (Providence, Rhode Island) in 1994. He has been artistic director of The Public Theater in New York City since 2005. His association with Emily Mann predates her 30-year tenure as McCarter’s artistic director and resident playwright.

Their first collaboration was a production of Mann’s Obie Award-winning play Still Life. Speaking from his home in Brooklyn, Eustis recalls that Still Life — the result of Mann’s interviews with three people whose lives have been affected by the Vietnam War — was “one of the most brilliant and piercing things I’d read. I was about 21 years old. This was before I’d met Emily; I just knew she’d written this brilliant play, and somehow we’d get the rights to do it.”

“That’s how I got to meet Oskar,” says Mann. “I remember Oskar calling with Tony Taccone [the Eureka’s artistic director at the time]. We had what ended up being, for me, a life-changing conversation. I had never talked to a pair of directors, or a dramaturg [Eustis], who understood the play on such a deep level. So I got on an airplane, and I went out to San Francisco — and the rest is history. We became fast friends.” more

A RINGING ENDORSEMENT: Westminster’s Concert Bell Choir is among Westminster Choir College’s seven primary choirs. In September, the Bell Choir will begin its 42nd anniversary season.

Rider University is the recipient of a $125,000 Presser Foundation capital grant to support the University’s renowned Westminster Concert Bell Choir.

The grant will be used to create a specialized rehearsal space on the first floor of the Fine Arts Center on Rider’s Lawrenceville campus, to which Westminster Choir College is scheduled to move this fall. The space will accommodate the choir’s extensive collection of handbells and Malmark Choirchime instruments, and it will feature sound attenuation that will protect student hearing during rehearsals and minimize sound transfer to adjacent offices and classrooms. The grant will also provide a security system for the instruments, which have an estimated value of more than $200,000.

The Westminster Concert Bell Choir has made 11 solo recordings and has been featured on numerous television broadcasts, including Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and NBC’s Today show. The ensemble performs on the largest range of handbells in the world — eight octaves, from C1 to C9. Many of the bells are made of bronze and range in weight from four ounces to 11 pounds.

Westminster Choir College is a leader in education in the handbell world. Thousands have attended Westminster for this very specific study, and Westminster is unequaled in the number of handbell ringers, conductors, clinicians, and composers it has produced since its training and performance curriculum was first developed in 1978. more

AN ORCHESTRAL FIRST: Composer Jose Luis Dominguez has created a work specifically for physically distanced orchestra, to be performed by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and Montclair University Singers for a virtual world premiere on June 8.  (Photo by Fred Stucker)

In response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, and to express gratitude to frontline medical and service workers, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO) has commissioned a new work, Gratias Tibi, for physically distanced orchestra and choir from José Luis Domínguez.

The Montclair State University Singers, longtime NJSO partners, will join the musicians of the NJSO for a virtual world premiere on June 8. All performers will record their parts individually from home, and each part will be stitched together to create the finished work.

Gratias Tibi, which means “thank you” in Latin, offers a message of thanks to all frontline workers who have responded to this unprecedented emergency with bravery and compassion. more

“THE DEPTHS”: NJ Emerging Artist alum Ry An created this mixed recycled media work. The focus of the Emerging Artist 2020-2021 series, now open for submissions, is representing the underrepresented in the arts. For more information, visit

The Monmouth Museum’s well-established New Jersey Emerging Artist Series has announced an open call to welcome artists to apply to become a NJ Emerging Artist for the 2020-2021 series.

The focus of the Emerging Artists for the next series will be representing the underrepresented in the arts, as it applies to all fields and disciplines.

“We look to thoughtfully engage a broad group of artists and prioritize diversity in all areas, including gender, age, background, socioeconomic level, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and the special needs community,” said said Donna Kessinger, executive director. “The focus is to encourage the artistic expression of those artists underrepresented in the art world, at their point of emerging in their next career level as an artist.”

By creating a platform and providing a voice to these diverse perspectives, the exhibits and their workshops can provide an inclusive and interactive space for artistic exploration and support a collaborative environment for attendees. more

May 6, 2020

By Stuart Mitchner

There is certainly not one government in Europe but is now watching the war in this country, with the ardent prayer that the United States may be effectually split, crippled, and dismember’d by it.
—Walt Whitman, circa 1864

It was when the current administration seemed to be inciting civil unrest in the name of liberty that I began rereading the 1861-1865 entries in Walt Whitman’s Specimen Days in America, where he calls “the war of attempted secession … the distinguishing event” of his time. In his notes to the volume he assembled in the early 1880s, the “specimens” were “impromptu jottings” collected during visits to “the sick and wounded of the army, both on the field and in the hospitals in and around Washington city.” Given the science-driven nature of the ongoing, no-end-in-sight “war” against the coronavirus, it’s worth noting that the poet’s use of the clinical word “specimens” refers to “persons, sights, occurrences in camp, by the bed-side, and not seldom by the corpses of the dead.” Some entries “were scratch’d down … while watching, or waiting, or tending somebody amid those scenes,” and are left just as he “threw them by after the war, blotch’d here and there with more than one blood-stain, hurriedly written, … not seldom amid the excitement of uncertainty, or defeat, or of action, or getting ready for it, or a march.”

Musings on a Mask

As soon as I tie on the mask, an ordinary walk becomes a wartime narrative. Sensing someone else almost directly behind me, I obey the social distancing guidelines and move to my left, out of the way, and as he passes, we exchange a look, a shared awareness that there’s a war going on and we’re living in the so-called epicenter, with more fatalities per capita at this moment than any other state.

This being the first time I’ve been out for a walk with a piece of Scotch plaid tied over my nose and mouth, I’m imagining masked versions of everyone from Mickey Mouse to Mozart, Darwin to Dostoevsky, including my own history from the bandanna-masked outlaw in boyhood shoot-outs and sword fights to the surgical-masked, blissed-out father witnessing the birth of a son. Mainly, I’m hearing Bob Dylan’s voice as if through a densely-woven mask as he growls his way past “the cities of the plague” to “the last outback at the world’s end” in “Ain’t Talkin,’” the haunting endgame song on Modern Times, an album recorded 15 years ago. Another track on my pandemic playlist is “Murder Most Foul,” Dylan’s epic meditation on the Kennedy assassination, the title lifted from Shakespeare and presented as a gift to “fans and followers” along with the uncharacteristically empathetic advisory “stay safe, stay observant.”  more

CELEBRATING 30 YEARS: Emily Mann, McCarter’s outgoing artistic director and resident playwright, delivered heartfelt remarks to conclude an online gala celebrating her 30-year tenure with the theatre. (Photo by Matt Pilsner)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

The arts — and the theatre — are not a luxury,” asserts Emily Mann. “They are essential for the health of the soul.”

This comment was included in a segment of a video that was shown during a livestreamed tribute to Mann, who in 2019 announced her decision to step down from her dual position as McCarter Theatre’s artistic director and resident playwright. Because current restrictions necessitated by COVID-19 rendered a live gala impossible, McCarter hosted Saturday night’s heartfelt event via Zoom, as well as the theatre’s Facebook page.

A slideshow was presented before and after the event, featuring candid photos and production stills. Music by jazz trumpeter, composer, and arranger Baikida Carroll — who composed the score for the musical Betsey Brown (1991), one of Mann’s first McCarter productions — accompanied this montage.

The event served as a retrospective, featuring effusive plaudits from colleagues who have worked with Mann throughout her 30-year association with the theatre. Managing director Michael Rosenberg began the program by welcoming “over a thousand” viewers. He recalled meeting Mann in the mid-90s, when McCarter presented his West Village theatre company’s production of George Kaufman’ and Ring Lardner’s play June Moon. more

SPIRITUAL STORY: A scene from the filming of “Quakers: The Quiet Revolutionaries,” produced by the Gardner Group, headed by Princeton resident Janet Gardner. The documentary will air on NJTV on May 14 at 8 p.m. and on WNYC on May 26 at 11 p.m.

The history, deep faith, and enduring impact of the Religious Society of Friends, known as Quakers, are the subject of Quakers: The Quiet Revolutionaries, a new documentary produced by the Gardner Documentary Group, which is headed by Janet Gardner of Princeton.

The film will air on NJTV on Thursday, May 14 at 8 p.m., and on WNYC on Tuesday, May 26 at 11 p.m.

The 57-minute film tells the story of a spiritual movement that has played a remarkable role in the religious, social, and political life of our nation. Demonstrating an influence disproportionate to their numbers, Quakers have led anti-slavery, civil rights and women’s rights movements, and been strong advocates for world peace. Yet, as a relatively small denomination of less than 400,000, their influence far outweighs their numbers.  more

NEWMAN & OLTMAN GUITAR DUO: The co-founders of the Raritan River Music Festival will present an evening of Cuban dances and works from the past 100 years in a special virtual program on May 9 at 7:30 p.m. Visit for details.

Due to COVID-19, the 2020 Raritan River Music Festival will be held online, with links to every event available through the website. The festival is on Saturdays through May 23, at 7:30 p.m.

Guitarists Laura Oltman and Michael Newman founded the festival with the promise of bringing live chamber music to historic venues in Hunterdon County.

Co-Founding Artistic Director Newman said, “The past month has been the most difficult, challenging, and painful for the arts, artists, and lovers of art in anyone’s memory throughout the world. In the midst of cancellations, loss of livelihood, and dearth of cultural and social enrichment, Raritan River Music stands firm in its commitment to make the 31st Raritan River Music Festival a reality – a virtual reality.”  more

Last week would have been the annual All-School Spring Concert at Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart. At the event, the award-winning Upper School choir would have sung “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” by J. Moore.

To still honor the work that the girls have put in since the start of the school year, Stuart’s music teacher and choir director Erin Camburn produced a virtual version of the performance. The students and their teacher hope the video brings people some joy in these difficult times.

WINES FOR PRESERVATION: Labels featuring art by James Fiorentino, whose landscapes come from the preserved lands of D&R Greenway Land Trust, are featured on three new wines from Old York Cellars. A percentage of each sale of the wines will benefit the land trust’s preservation and stewardship mission.

D&R Greenway Land Trust, in partnership with Old York Cellars of Ringoes, is offering a new program, Wines for Preservation. A large percentage of each sale of the three wines of the 2019 harvest will benefit the land trust’s preservation and stewardship mission. The wine labels feature art by James Fiorentino, whose landscapes come from the preserved lands of D&R Greenway Land Trust.

This official collaboration with a New Jersey vintner is fitting, due to D&R Greenway’s preservation of more than 8,000 acres of farmlands that contribute to New Jersey’s reputation as the Garden State. Old York Cellars is nestled in the Sourland Mountain area of central New Jersey, where D&R Greenway has preserved thousands of significant acres including its first preserved acre upon its founding 30 years ago. The land trust’s Sourlands successes ensure the health of a crucial watershed, essential in order to achieve excellent wines.

The wines are St. Michaels Red, Sourlands White, and Goat Hill Rosé.  Each label is a collector’s piece, presenting artwork of each of these three preserves. more

“ORION AND RUNNING MAN NEBULA”: This photograph by James Cahill is the Patron Award winner at the 27th Phillips Mill Photographic Exhibition, now on view online at

The 27th Phillips Mill Photographic Exhibition, a prestigious, well-regarded photo show traditionally showcased in the Phillips Mill Gallery in New Hope, Pa., is in an online gallery form this year due to the pandemic.

For the exhibit, juror Emmet Gowin, formerly professor of art at Princeton University, selected 143 images out of 1,000 images submitted from professional and amateur photographers from 13 states and three countries.  Gowin is one of the greats in the history of photography and is an internationally acclaimed photographer. His numerous honors include a Guggenheim, two NEA Fellowships, a Pew Fellowship, and a Governor’s Award.  He has exhibited at major museums and taught at Princeton University for more than 35 years.  Gowin says he loved the diversity of the work and the considerable talent evident in all the submissions.

The exhibit can be viewed at All work is for sale. Email any inquiries and other questions to

“YELLOWSTONE”: This photograph by Dave Burwell is one of 143 images featured in the 27th Phillips Mill Photographic Exhibition, now on view online at

April 29, 2020

By Stuart Mitchner

We’ll sigh goodbye to all we ever had
Alone where we have walked together…

—from “I’ll Remember April”

If I’ve been compulsively whistling, humming, thinking “I’ll Remember April” lately, it’s not because my mother and my son were born April 20 and 28, or because my father died April 14, or because Duke Ellington was born on April 29, in 1899, or because jazz great Lee Konitz died of the coronavirus on April 15, or even because Shakespeare arrived and departed on April 23. Any month with so Shakespearean a claim to fame is surely worth whistling about.

Kerouac and Konitz

My recent fixation on this great American standard — I mean the music, not the labored lyric — began on the night at Birdland in early October 1951 when Jack Kerouac watched “in amazement” as Lee Konitz took “complete command” of the song Kerouac instinctively puts in the present tense as “I Remember April.” First noted in his journal six years before the publication of On the Road, it’s a characteristic, blissfully contradictory free-association streaming of his Manhattan-based jazz consciousness reimagined in narrative form in Visions of Cody when he follows “the famous alto jazzman down the street” after spotting him in “that bar on the northeast corner of 49th and Sixth Avenue which is in a real old building that nobody ever notices because it forms the pebble at the hem of the shoe of the immense tall man which is the RCA building.”

Following Kerouac through a wildly free-form meditation on Konitz’s solo in the journal, you go from the player standing “with the alto on his gut, leaning to it slightly like Charlie Parker the Master but more tense and his ideas more white” to “a 12th-century monk, some Buxtehudian scholar of the dank gloomy cathedrals practicing and practicing endlessly in the bosom of the great formal school in which he is not only an apprentice but a startling innovator in the first flush of his wild, undisciplined, crazily creative artistic youth (with admiring old organ monks watching from the background).” After blowing a series of “beautiful, sad, long phrases, in fact long sentences that leave you hanging in wonder,” Konitz “suddenly reveals the solution,” a weirdly dazzling combination of musicianly foresight and hindsight “that at last gives you the complete university education” in the structure of the song, “a beautiful and American structure” that leads inevitably to Kerouac’s realization (as if you didn’t already know) that Konitz “is doing exactly what I’m doing … and here I’ve been worried all along that people wouldn’t understand this new work of mine.” He means of course the work in progress that became On the Roadmore

By Donald H. Sanborn III

The biggest revelation for me was the combination of seriousness and fun that I saw at every rehearsal I witnessed at Kelsey Theatre,” says Princeton University professor Stacy Wolf, author of Beyond Broadway: The Pleasure and Promise of Musical Theatre Across America (Oxford University Press, 2020). “I loved witnessing those emotions sitting together.”

Kelsey is the focus of “Community Theatre,” the fourth chapter of Beyond Broadway. As its title suggests, the book examines productions by organizations throughout the country. Wolf’s research included visits to Worthington High School in Minnesota; the Zilker Summer Theatre in Texas; and the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in Colorado.

Although Wolf lives fairly close to Kelsey, which is on the campus of Mercer County Community College in West Windsor, she did not always intend for it to be the focus of the chapter about community theatre. “Originally, I assumed that I would write about a number of different community theatres across the country, and examine how they operate differently,” Wolf says.

That approach would have resembled that of the following chapter, “The Sound of Music at Outdoor Summer Musical Theatres,” which includes the Open Air Theatre in Washington Crossing, Pa., plus outdoor theatres in Austin, Texas, and Marin, Calif.  more

Sarah Rasmussen

McCarter Theatre Center has announced the appointment of Sarah Rasmussen as its new artistic director, effective August 1. Rasmussen is currently artistic director of the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis.

“The search committee was impressed with Sarah’s commitments to inclusive artistry and inventive storytelling,” said McCarter Board Chair Robert Caruso, who co-chaired the search for a new artistic director with board member Jill Dolan. “McCarter looks forward to how she — partnering with managing director Mike Rosenberg — will expand the theatre’s audiences with innovative programming and original content.”

Rasmussen will succeed Emily Mann, who is departing from McCarter after 30 years leading the theatre. “I have long admired Emily and her legacy of commissioning and developing new work,” said Rasmussen. “I am energized by the conversations I’ve had with McCarter board, staff and community about this next chapter. And, as a former professor, I look forward to the possibilities between the theater and Princeton University.”

Mann said, “I am so very happy to light the torch of my successor, Sarah Rasmussen, and wish her a glorious tenure as McCarter’s new artistic director.”  more

Vinroy D. Brown Jr.

The Trenton Children’s Chorus (TCC) has announced that Vinroy D. Brown, Jr. will take over as artistic director, starting this summer.

“On behalf of the entire board and the entire organization, we are thrilled to have Vinroy join us as our next artistic director,” said board Co-Presidents Jill Jackson Carr and Nora Schultz. “With his outstanding music skills, his energy and enthusiasm, and his strong commitment to connecting communities through music, Vinroy was a unanimous choice. We are confident that Vinroy will carry on the TCC 30-year legacy and lead the Trenton Children’s Chorus into its next era.”

TCC will be hosting a free “Meet Our New Artistic Director” livestream session on Tuesday, May 5 at 5 p.m. More information is available at

Brown has credits in conducting, sacred music, and music education. He is a member of the sacred music faculty at Westminster Choir College, where he conducts the Westminster Jubilee Singers. A church musician, he is director of music and worship Arts at Elmwood United Presbyterian Church in East Orange. He is the founder and artistic director of the Elmwood Concert Singers and is artistic director and conductor of the Capital Singers of Trenton.

“This appointment holds special meaning for me,” said Brown. “I’ve been connected to the TCC family since my undergraduate years at Westminster Choir College, as a guest conductor and soloist. Being able to serve this great organization as its artistic director is nothing but a dream realized. I look forward to the possibilities for this next chapter in the life of TCC and my own.”  more

“THE TILED HALLWAY”: This painting by Lucretia E. McGuff-Silverman won second prize in the West Windsor Arts Council’s “2020 Member Show: Built Environment.” The exhibit is on view at, with a virtual tour on May 8 at 7:15 p.m. with the juror and artists on hand to discuss their work.

The West Windsor Arts Council’s (WWAC) 2020 Member Show: Built Environment features the dynamic work of 22 artists showing how they incorporate structures into their work. Artwork featured in the online show considers the built environment as a source of inspiration as it reflects identity, ancientness, modernity, interstitial space-built forms, and the architectural design.

The exhibition is on view on the West Windsor Arts Council’s website ( A virtual tour is set for May 8 at 7:15 p.m. with the juror and artists on hand to discuss their work. The juror, Alexandra Schoenberg, is both an architect and an artist with a studio in East Orange.

Schoenberg was born in Cali, Colombia. She pursued architecture studies at Universidad Javeriana in Bogota graduating in 1986. Her training in technical drafting and architectural rendering greatly influenced her art practice and love for pencil drawing. Schoenberg moved to the United States in 1987, working for several architect firms. She earned her MFA degree in 2014 from Montclair State University where she embraced the techniques of architecture drafting as an art medium. She has exhibited widely. In her art practice, different tropes of architectural representation collide to expose the mechanics of how we observe the world. more

April 22, 2020

By Stuart Mitchner

Find Your Place at the Library,” the theme for National Library Week, April 19-25, was chosen before the pandemic forced most libraries to temporarily close their doors. The American Library Association’s animated lighthouse logo cleverly puts the in-home alternative “Find the Library at Your Place” simultaneously in play through the flashing of the lighthouse beacon. With each flash of the beam, the silhouette of a sailboat appears headed toward the lighthouse while a library user can be seen in a tiny window near the top of the tower.

That little sailboat flashes me back to third grade and the library activity in which the number of books you read was indicated by the progress of your miniature ship or car or train or fire engine on a large prominently displayed chart. For me the most evocative image in the ALA logo isn’t the lighthouse, it’s the sailboat. Before you’re aware of such things as symbols and metaphors, you’re already playing the game; with each book you finish, the ship with your name on it moves closer to the goal. While the idea may have been to put a competitive charge into reading, what happened in my case was a merging of reading, identity, and motion: the more you read the farther you travel, guided, in effect, by that lighthouse beacon. It was more about going places than finding a place in the library or finishing more books than anyone else.  more

“BE INSPIRED”: A performance of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8, performed by the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, could be the inspiration for art, poetry, or prose in the orchestra’s “Be Inspired” online activity.

The Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) invites the greater Princeton community and friends worldwide to listen to its music, then respond creatively, tapping into the poet, painter, and writer within.

As outlined on the orchestra’s latest online activity page “Be Inspired,” ( visitors can listen to one of the PSO’s weekly featured recordings, consider the emotional impact of the music, and let it lead to an outward expression of feelings or memory it evokes. If desired, participants can send in their art, poetry, and/or prose for possible publication on the webpage and/or as a post on social media. more

Kelsey Swanson

Trenton Music Makers has announced that on May 1, Teaching Artist Kelsey Swanson will become its Early Childhood Program Director, succeeding the program’s founder, Ronnie Ragen.

Ragen, the founder of Trenton Music Makers’ Music for the Very Young, launched the program in 2000 in the wake of the landmark Abbott v. Burke decision, which brought universal Pre-K to Trenton. In the intervening 21 years, thousands of Trenton preschoolers have engaged in high-quality music and movement in their schools, hundreds of preschools teachers have received mentorship in building a musical classroom, and parents have joined their children for Family Music Parties at school, and played music games at home with the books and recordings they receive as part of the program.

Swanson joined the team as project coordinator in 2015, when Trenton Music Makers was selected by PNC Bank as a partner in its Trenton Makes – WORDS! program. Together with teaching artists from The Children’s Home Society of New Jersey, and the New Jersey State Museum, Swanson helped young children and their parents discover the joy of new words, in a collaboration that used music, science, and multicultural adventures to support vocabulary development and kindergarten readiness. more