The Chautauqua Years Early Recollections: Richard Ozanne The Artist in His Studio\Chautauqua Years 1959-86 One can say I was almost born at Chautauqua. Certainly I was! This was the place of some of my earliest recollections as a child through adulthood over the course of summers. Chautatuqua Institution is a small town in upstate New York. The summer school range of special studies courses in music, art, dance, drama and general topics are also offered. The Chautauqua Schools of Music offer extremely competitive programs on the basis of scholarship. (A long time ago before the programs were really known, the programs were on a walk-in sign up basis. As the programs grew, so did the prestige and Chautauqua was an international setting that was generally "Purely American". It was once said that the main square on the grounds would be the ideal American setting-which could be a truism. It was a setting in which was All American, especially given the texture and climate of the buildings and structures, almost a natural "Hallmark" setting for a film on American life in a Norman Rockwell painting, all during a summer session. It was a place where one could contrast excellent examples of Symphonic music with the home spun, a great lecture by Pearl Buck in contrast with a little known author who lectures of his or her work in a very casual setting in a wooden floored late victorian college setting. All of this one could find very much convention as well as subtle contrast among part-time or permanent residents. The air of Chautauqua was always very conservative as well as the conventions of a very tight knit setting. Among the residents were people with extraordinary backgrounds, as well as ordinary people who would join the summer on the grounds joining in on some cultural possibility. Growing up I have many memories of being introduced to various and people who had some great story to tell about the past. You never quite knew who was at Chautauqua, right around the corner, on a slow day whom you may bump into walking down the street, sitting on a bench, or walking besides you. Of course some of these recollections were purely historical. Making reference to stories and personal anecdotes are also part of this story of the summer. (Over the course of years I had kept notes, on people and recollections of the past. This is without reference except word of mouth. I would repeatedly talk to my father about such appearances of people at his classes, some who in regard, would have extraordinary circumstances, hearing pianists and composers of the past and talk about their recollections. Of course we can stretch this out into the timeframe. An elderly person 90 years old in 1970 would have been born in 1880, at 20 years old it is possible to have heard a great composer play in 1900 and 1890 been able to have possibly heard or met Brahms who died in 1897. I recall numerous stories, or such analogies throughout my life to respect of composers, musicians and artists. ) There was one german lady I remember, a Mrs. Adelman, who used to come to Piano Master Classes and interpretation classes for several summers held by father at Chautauqua. She would always appear at some interpretation recitals of my fathers with open arms, and her story.. I never forget her compliment of my fathers Liszt playing as being “Better and more exciting than composers…” Her story of meeting Franz Liszt and hearing him play. The lady was always lauding at my father for his interpretations, comparing him to her memories and love for Franz Liszt. She was a pianist at one time, and knew other pianists of that generation, some of whose names had disappeared into the fabric of time. The major story this German lady Ms. Adelmann purported is that : she actually remembered and attended a concert of the composer Franz Liszt as a child and meet him after concert as a young music student in Dresden. I remember at least 4 times we were introduced, and she was a lovely elderly lady, who was always making comparisons to the late Liszt when she heard my father play, sometimes as critic. My father asked her about him, his character, and his demeanor. Her experience of him, as I was interested as a young child in the composer, was that he was a very warm and friendly older man with white hair and eyes that would radiate the meaning of his music in a gigantic style and upward stretching of grand proportions, as he performed his compositional fireworks! Apparently he would make improvisation of other notes in the performance. She remembered he was phenomenal but very eccentric and daring when it came to his own playing. The concerto he played was the Liszt piano concerto in E flat, followed by solo pieces from the composers library. The crowd rose to their feet in bravos after the performance, the elderly Liszt, taking a gentle bow from the stage. It was around 1884 and Ms. Adelmann was about 10 years old at the time, never forgetting the experience of this performance as a youth. Now that was very long ago, and she was quite aged, since Franz Liszt died in 1886 Ms Adelman must have been about 98 years of age the years I remember her were 1968-70, replete with a cane and attendant, and unusual clarity for her age and admiration for classical music. She was born in the early 1870’s in Berlin. She purportedly heard Liszt when she was ten...1880, he died in 1886. Of course this was entirely possible! Now my father was skeptical that she could have met the composer if it weren't for certain details that she recalled. He was amiable especially to younger people and spoke with a slight whistle in his breath. My fathers teacher Emil Von Sauer, knew the composer in detail, and the facts were almost exactly matching Sauers description of the composer. Chautauqua could be a living museum of people, this was true of many others as well. I remember a couple who recollected the young George Gershwin when he was working for a couple of summers at Chautauqua. Apparently in his busy schedule he would come up to work on his pieces in private during the summers. He would meet Arnold Schoenberg over the weekends for a tennis match. The head of music at Chautauqua at that time was a bit taken by by the musical output of his composer however, something to do with the jazz element...but the director of music gave permission with a clause, to keep practice early and for to Gershwin to use the studios on these conditions. (He had his Piano Concerto in F debut at Sherwood Studios with a young piano student running as second piano to a polite applause of the new work) Sherwood Studios was where my father and mother taught classes and gave piano lectures. Gershwin had worked in "Room 6", [my mothers old studio] on the Rhapsody in Blue, and in a small wooden practice shack which still carries the banner of his name. Here there were many legendary tales of a young man with quick fingers and a nervous personality who played...Jazz in those days, but what is now called classical today. There were many legends here if one probed deep enough over the years at Chautauqua, only the names seem to have been passed by in history. There were people of affluence whose wealth towered over many in Chautauqua, as well as those who had 'great names' but little else. My memories recall musicians, writers and artists who were having their summer respite at the institution. These were many stories left to be told from the lectern to the park bench,many in passing inspirational and thought provoking if nothing else. In the early 1960's Chautauqua was a haven for intelligentsia to descend. The word intelligentsia may be a bit loaded, but the 50s and 60's were an age full of upward discovery and challenge especially at Chautauqua . In the 1960’s it was a place that was not too expensive and still accessible by most, if not all of the artistic community making it a place where music and art could thrive in a summer session experience that was unparalleled. Now one might think this place was a brain-camp, others may think of Chautauqua just as a religious community, a nice place to go shopping, relax and take a casual stroll. At times it was all of these things. The years of my youth I had the experience of many in passing. Later when I returned as an adult I had more memories, some interesting to communicate, others just echos and recollections. Chautauqua as I remember it in the 1960's was predominantly an older, retired community. The old hotels and pensions were just the right price for some to come and stay, take part in the religious, artistic community and then return the next summer for a vacation. I can say my childhood was unusually pleasant. As the wave of youth began to well, the Chautauqua experience grew to be more and more interesting. New programs and services were offered and expanded to this place that seemed almost a relic of old America in the 1960's. On the streets, winding, and roads torn up with pot holes, there were signs of “hot-cold running water” on the outside of some of the small hotels and pensions. Some of the buildings still used gas lighting, most probably as for nostalgic purposes. The old and often run-down buildings began to look ancient, sometimes tilting on their foundations before reconstruction or being torn down. Every once in a while one would notice or two buildings missing that was there the summer before. The telephone service in those days was sometimes hard to come by, having to go through an operator. But it was Chautauqua and those early years. Droves of white haired people on Sunday, the band concerts, and the children playing in the town-square. It was almost an idyllic childhood. Childhood memories go on seemingly forever, each place at Chautauqua seemed to have a story. As I grew older, every corner of the Chautauqua grounds had a memory, inspired both by music and art. Growing up for the summers at Chautauqua Institute was indeed an experience. Over the summers recollections of noted and not so not-so-note people were met in passing..but moreover, was a deeply embracing experience. For my parents it meant work, and a very busy schedule. Not a single reprieve was made for family enjoyment during the summers at Chautauqua that I could remember, only resting for a few hours in the evening before the next days schedule would begin. It was a commanding schedule of my parents work on each day of summers classes in teaching piano. Memories of Ms Painter... During the days of the summer, was cared for by a lady from St Louis who we picked up enroute to our stay at Chautauqua or who would come by bus to greet me. She watched out for me and tended the home or dwelling we had over the course of summers, my parents providing a room for her in the home. Her name was Marie, ironically her last name was “Painter”. She was retired lady with a streak of gray hair in her 60’s. She was steady with her mind, and upright in her standards, but very wanting . She was a moral foundation during my youth and brought me into “attention” of the various religious aspects of Chautauqua in my upbringing. She would take me to church on Sundays, watch over me during my play, and keep a keen eye on me in behalf of my parents. She was actually our landlords wife when we lived in St. Charles. Later after her husband died, she took care of me, almost as an aunt, so respectfully I named her Aunt Marie. She stayed with us until 1974 and retired from taking care of me, to do the chores of keeping house for my parents. I was the good child who attended school and summer camp, boys club or the newest book club to enrich my experience. Good music, as it was called was always available. Piano Concertos, Violin Concertos and Symphony Concerts rang forth from the Amphitheater which, a century old, was filled to capacity for these events. Back in the 1960's one could not even imagine a rock concert ever being performed at the Chautauqua Amphitheater, perhaps at the most a pops or jazz ensemble. Of course once in a while a group would perform, and it became more and more common to hear the modern music as more of a standard than the old and beloved music of Strauss and Offenbach. I remember so well the long lines going to the performances at Chautauqua of famous classical performers, and the long lined that descended backstage after these. I remember conductors such as Arthur Fiedler, Walter Hendl, Andre Kostelanetz and others, performers such as Van Cliburn, Lili Kraus and many others who graced the old wooden structure called the Amphitheater at Chautauqua. I remember the consequence of “long hairs” descending to Chautauqua and how much they were disliked. The hippies were rounded up and set outside the front gate. The police were always on guard as well as “moral” citizens watching over each aspect of the Chautauqua environment. Liquor of any sort was not and (is still) not allowed on the Chautauqua grounds. It was an absolutely puritan setting with rules-regulations and activities of conduct that were required. In my teens I remember how strict these rules were. Regulations from one end to another seemed to grow on many minds. I remember the students of the various studios in music, and art as well as the theater schools sometimes rebel to these rules. That this was the “ultimate” gated community was an interesting concept and that there was a loosely confining curfew at 11pm seemed restricting for any parties to occur. These did not happen, at least to public view. “Silence” was enforced at 11pm. If at 1am the Chautauqua grounds were absolutely “in silence”. The teenagers didn’t have too much to do and sometimes they would file through holes in the fence to various nearby towns to party and return the following day with an office inconspicuous smile. There was a “College Club” with various ongoing events that ended before 10pm. There were some concerts that were on the grounds that brought the police. Chautauqua was a very safe environment for the summer except for a few times when gangs made their way onto the grounds. (It was amazing how someone could lose their rights to stay with a simple injunction of not following the rules-regulations, even though they owned properties. Today they are called CC&R's, but I always felt the Chautauqua environment was the inventor of this kind of community. There was a remembrance of the thousands of hours of work in my studio at Chautauqua studying with Revington Arthur. I began classes in 1967, accidently being enrolled in the "adult" class- Revington Arthur a well known and respected artist, was quite taken by the young child student in his class. During this particular summer I eventually made my way to be a private student under an artist by the name of Vickie Williams. Memories of art, and the summers spent at Chautauqua, Revington Arthur-noted artist and student of Arshile Gorky, George Lux and others. I was his assistant during the last years of study at Chautauqua. Memories of the days and nights in the studio. The people I met who influenced me and recollections of unique events which inspired me. (100 pages here)
"Attitudes are more important than facts." ring true, as "imagination is more important than knowledge. The author of the first quote: Karl Menninger who just happened to be a frequent lecturer at Chautauqua and was active in the arts. Of course the second quote was by Albert Einstein. I imagined that this his genius would bolster the first statement by Menninger. A healthy attitude is required for art to be art to be made. Putting aside semantics and dramatic episodes for concrete facts, however they were laid out would be a rather boring study in this episode of my experiment in biography. An artist studio is something of a chapel-study, intrinsically speaking, a place to work and a chapel for ideas and influences to grow. This was Chautauqua during my years there.
I ran into quite a number of interesting people during my years at Chautauqua. To make a list would be an academic exercise, and to write endless passages a message of my pen.
I began the Art School in 1967 when I was 8 years old. This was one of the first full summers of art-painting and drawing that I can recollect with much clarity. During the summer years at Chautauqua (1959-1986) I knew I entered the Children s Art Classes perhaps earlier than this date-Perhaps 1964 or 65 but I don’t want so much bearing on my age. 1967 was a good year to start more formal studies in the arts. As children art school goes-mostly crafts and clay work, perhaps and introduction to some media- I had an advantage. I was interested in the subject, instilled by my parents (mostly my mother) to take advantage of some really advanced children s art teachers that they had at Chautauqua. Vickie Williams was this art teachers name, and she was phenomenal. I actually brought out oil paints for the first time and began to study pastels. These were not children s media but Ms Williams had a gist with young students and encouraged their progress. I certainly do as well as the expanse of imagination that helped her young pupils worked from. She was knowledgeable help and extremely gifted with students. I trained with her several summers after that and once in a while...just once in a while would be taken up to the adult class with Revington Arthur to work. Chautauqua was an amazing place for a young child to learn. I experienced every possibility to advance in my studies as a child whether it be in reading, or learning poetry, playing piano (a rather obvious one...when I could receive lessons from my mother which was always extremely busy) or socialization, sports, ;and learning from others. I did what young children do. I went to Boys Club for several summers, but being more of the creative type had a journey that was needed, a calling somewhere inside, as well as interests that needed to be preserved. From 1967 forward I studied art and this quite simply. Each summer there was an exhibition of children s work and later the more strict levels of classes which evolved. Each summer I was a part of this ongoing expression. When did I first take art "seriously"? When was it that I took my first class and said...I want to be an artist? 1974/75/76 were the leaning years. I knew this career was what I wanted. I can say the year of "seriousness in art " took place in 1976/77 when I made up my mind to spend hours outside class-time in study and preparation and had available to me my first studio at Chautauqua. During my summers I had the opportunity to become part of reading groups and other societies that came to Chautauqua in the sessions of CLSC (Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle). I was encouraged to have a well rounded education during the summers ventures. I wish elaborate on this as time comes to pass, as my interests during my youth had a number of different dimensions. Some of the people I met had met at Chautauqua as a youth, inspired me for my entire life via their lectures which were numerous in the 60's and 70's: Robert Kennedy Dr. Karl Menninger Pearl S. Buck Madame Shao Fang Sheng Buckminster Fuller (An inspiration after meeting him after a lecture) John Glenn Many Others who would give lectures or appear on the "grounds" during summers residence. Through the years 1977-1986 I advanced and became interim to assistant to Revington Arthur during these years finally gaining scholarships for my summers study in the early 1980's. Revington Arthur was to some, an obvious iconoclast of realism, romanticism and other methods of art. Many of his students in those years were older, but there were some younger members of the art classes who were more serious and getting their appropriate degrees in college or university. Needless to say Arthur’s lectures at Chautauqua were a two-fold curiosity. He taught beginners and advanced students from universities across the United States. His lectures included a good fabric of American art history woven into their fabric. Critiques would be either very general or pounding commentary of history from American Realism through Abstract Expressionism, most not the New York School. He was tough on his advanced students if they cared for objective criticism. There were times when the critiques were so strong that people, beginners as well as advanced students came away with questions.