“50 years of Garth Fagan Dance” with Gath Fagan and Jeff Tyzik

“50 years of Garth Fagan Dance” with Gath Fagan and Jeff Tyzik

Jeff, when’s the first time you heard the
name Garth Fagan? Well when I was a student at Eastman I came to Rochester
in 1969 and it was the bottom of the bucket at that point but where I
experienced Garth was in one of the arrangements holidays summer concerts
that we used to put together an orchestra for and Garth was doing he was
on stage with this studio orchestra doing this Miles Davis piece and I was
playing in this summer orchestra and it just blew me away.
I was so enthralled with the human body the movement to music but with also the
musicians being right there it was an incredible experience and it was a dream
of mine at that point to work with Garth and then about 20 years ago 20, 25 years
ago when I first started working with the orchestra we got in touch with each
other and trying to figure out a way that we could work together and I have
to say I kind of was not confident at that time as a musician and I got I
scared myself off I didn’t think I could live up to the amazing things that Garth
was creating and I always kind of felt like there’s going to be a time when we
can work together and we got together about maybe seven or eight months ago
and and we both said you know let’s make this thing happen and it’s been a dream
come true for me. Is it easy to sit down with a guy like Jeff Tyzik and put a
show together like this that’s kind of multi-genre. No, it’s never easy when
you’re putting two art forms together and I’m very particular about the music
I’ve chosen through the years the company’s gonna be 50 years old next
year and I was a wee babe when we started but still I’m here but like we’re doing
the Dvorak cello concerto, Oatka Trail, which is a trail near here. Steve Humphrey has performed it around the world to rave reviews and
now we have a new dancer during it, Vitolio Jeune and two other dancers so I’m
looking forward to this beautiful music it’s beautiful movement not said just by
me but by all the critics in the world and I can’t wait to see it and I can’t
wait to hear it. Norwood Pennewell, your right-hand man,
he says he was a rebellious teen when he met you, Yes, but you were too right? Yeah. So is that a connection? Yes. PJ is now my rehearsal
director, he was my assistant on Lion King. You know he was my bad son he got
married two years ago and he’s an angel now. He’s got a wonderful Capricorn, Irish
lass, who tamed him. She doesn’t take no Stuff. PJ is thinking he might do Oatka Trail – so it’s up to him at this age with all he
has to do. I don’t want to pressure him into dancing but if he wants to dance so be it. I formed this company to keep mature dancers performing so that lots that we
learn in life from outside our art forms they can bring to the stage whereas
other art forms actors they all go into their adult age. Even as young
as me. Jeff, you’re of the age – yeah yeah – do you feel like experience makes
you better? Clearly makes Garth. Oh – no question about it, no question about it, and I think this concert is an example because Garth’s
chosen a Brahms piece, a cello concerto, a Jelly
Roll Morton piece, a spanish-flavored piece by Villalobos, so there’s great
music there of a incredible variety and the fact that over time that even though
I’m known here as the pops conductor I’ve conducted a fair amount of
classical repertoire I have a feel for all that and I was really excited with
the variety of the music he chose and one of the things I think that’s amazing
about this concert is it’s live. I mean with the orchestras on stage we’re gonna
be behind a scrim when Garth is dancing but between pieces the scrim is going to
go up and we’re going to play complementary music. We’re doing this
piece William Grant Still, Ennanga, but we’re also going to play a movement of
his symphony just before that piece and Harry Burley who was originally from
Erie, Pennsylvania who went to New York to become to go to the Conservatory of
Music in New York City in the early 1900s who came and his his mother’s
patrons paid for him to come to New York and he went to the conservatory and they
made him a janitor and then he became Dvorak copyist and he taught Dvorak what
spirituals were and one of them was Swing Low Sweet Chariot and that’s where
the movement of Dvorak’s 9th Symphony that movement came from because
it’s all built on the African pentatonic scale so before we work we do the Dvorak
cello concerto with Garth we’re gonna play this tribute to Harry Burleigh so
the audience sees where the music came from. So these magical things are gonna
happen and we’re building out the stage into the Eastman theatre another 10 feet
to make sure we can all fit on stage so experience of doing concerts over the
years contributes to making this concert a success for me. Okay. Garth you’re
pretty gregarious guy right? I can see that. You’re a gregarious kind
of a guy right? You got a sense of humor. Something else, here’s something you said
to me about five years ago quote from you “reaching for a unique
deep rich shattering something for me that comes from a place of solitude.” Is that you? What was the last part of the question? for me that comes from a place of solitude. Yes. So you’re two guys? I’d say
yes, yes. What do you think Jeff? Funny guy, gregarious guy but private.
Exactly. If I’m if I’m in a room working on let’s say I’ve created a bunch of
music for orchestra of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn and that music, they didnt write for Symphony Orchestra very few pieces but when I’m in the room
working on it I feel like Duke and Billie are looking over my shoulder.
I feel like they’re in the room so there’s a deep transcendent spiritual
thing that happens in those moments when you’re creating something and I’m sure
Garth has a similar kind of experience because that’s where the creation comes.
Duke was my mentor. Good, okay. Duke was my mentor and Duke cursed me
out after a performance in Ontario, Canada. I did a matinee performance and I
felt oh I’ll just telegraph it because I got a show tonight, an honey, Duke said
don’t you ever do that again. I don’t know who that was out there dancing? That
was not you. You left it in the wings how dare you blah blah blah blah blah blah
blah I’ll never forget it as long as Iive. And it was a blessing and those
were mentors that cared about us and cared about the standards and taught us
about the standards and insisted that we uphold them so alleluia.
I feel the same way about him which is why I want this to be an
amazing experience with Garth and the orchestra and I’ve already sent the
musicians recordings of the way he does it. I want everybody to walk in that room
and we know why we’re there and that’s to help him create the experience he
wants in his pieces and then to complement that when we’re the feature
of the thing so I don’t know what’s gonna happen I know it’s gonna work and
I know it’s gonna be incredible but it’s gonna be a journey they’re rehearsing
and how we do this and we’re all open to make it as good as it can possibly be
and for me again for 51 years I’ve admired him and I’ve wanted to do
something so it’s it’s an incredible opportunity and experience. You’ve both
been around the world you bring these experiences back to us. We’re very
grateful for it but what have you learned traveling the world performing and coming back to Rochester? Different
languages, different attitudes, difference that audience is bringing to the theater
with them. What they ate. What they discussed at home. What they saw on TV or whatever you know all of that it energizes the performances. It hurls
things at the performances and we either cathch them we let them fall by the wayside but we try to catch them and use them. Because travel is knowledge and
information those great rooms we dined at in London, you know there was a
time when you couldn’t get good food in London everything was boiled now you
have Italian restaurants, French restaurant, Yep, everything you can
imagine so you can enjoy. I’ve learned from the musician’s standpoint. We’re all
the same. I am in Malaysia with the Malaysia Philharmonic and Byron
Stripling, one of the great trumpet players of the world, is on stage with me
doing Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton and Fats Waller and that audience
is they are so enthralled with that music and taken by that music or I’m in
Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo with that orchestra doing American film music and
the audience and the orchestra they just love it we’re communicating or I’m in
Scotland with the Royal Scottish National doing the Crown Imperial March
one of the great marches of Walton and that’s what their music is and to stand
there and have them play that piece which is kind of when we play Stars and
Stripes Forever to have them play that March the way they played it and to know
that we could communicate and then turn around and play a Duke Ellington piece
it’s just communication it’s universal language so that that has made me
more hopeful and thankful to be doing what I do.
Garth you mentioned the restaurants in London. I know you like the good
things in life .You like the food, you like the wine, you like the people.
That’s how you got into dance to when you were growing up in Jamaica right?
Being around people and culture, right? people and culture and I’ve been all
over the world every major city I’ve been in and some pretty minor one’s.
Traveled all over Europe all over Africa we did a 10-week tour of Africa in very
small villages and it was so nice to hear them cheer and everybody claimed us. Every single community wanted us to be from them and we said thank you, thank
you, and one of the best women I’ve seen dance was in Ivory Coast and she’s right
up there with Makarova but she was a plump African woman doing African multi
paly rhythms and oh my god she could dance. You know it’s a different
standard than ballet but what she could do Makarova couldn’t do.
Jeff how about your interest in getting into music when you were a young man
teenager what were you interested in the life the culture or you a serious
student? You know I came from a very dysfunctional home and music was my
salvation. I sat in a room with the piano and I poured out my emotion and to sound
that I was plunking down on a keyboard and so you know after a little bit of
getting some skill and playing an instrument I did a concert one time and
I was in 6th grade I got to play a trumpet solo and it was called Johnny
Learns To Play and it’s where you sound really bad in the beginning but at the
end you play pretty well you know and at the end of the concert people are
applauding 6th grade people are applauding and I said I didn’t say wow I
was so good I thought you know this makes people feel good so that was my
motivation and then I realized you you meet some incredible people through
music so when I was in sixth grade again what a year my band director called up
before Memorial Day Parade and said hey there’s a service over at the Roosevelt
gravesite I grew up in Hyde Park and they want a trumpet player to play taps
so I’m a little kid you know in my case I go over there I walk back there’s four
guys with uniforms on and all these medals there’s a color guard and Eleanor
Roosevelt and her son John and me so I thought you know you get to meet
some interesting people through music and then I worked in a car wash
for a dollar five an hour for four years in high school and one weekend a guy who
played music would said hey we have a job next week and I said really yeah
we’re gonna play for two hours and make $15 each and get something to eat and
drink and I thought you know maybe you can make money in music. So it came from
a place of solitude to a place of wow this could be an interesting life and
that was really those are the things that kind of started me. You talk about the
dysfunctional family and there’s a lot of things that we have to get over in
life. Gareth you lost a daughter in a car accident, she was two I belive.
Norwood told me both of his parents were dead by the time I
believe he was 16. He was adopted. He feels you filled something in his life
that he lost. Did Norwood fill something fill something in your life that you
lost? PJ is my son if he was my flesh and
blood son I couldn’t love him more. and I really treated him…
My daddy was tough my daddy was an Oxford man and tough as nails you either
did it perfectly or you didn’t even attempt and I
survived that and I helped my baby brother who acted so poorly at the
dinner table that my dad had a stroke and when I came to Jamaica and dad was..
well he came out of his coma for me and his wife never forgave him but she said
he never came out for me but you came out for Garth.. I said well he knew me
twenty-something years before he met you and that’s all that is and vibe woke
him up you know and we fought but we loved each other there was not a bigger
love in my life than him and to this day when I have a problem I go back to daddy
and I say what should I do? What do you think? blah blah blah because he’s gonna
give me perfect good advice not easy to get – not easy to accomplish but
ultimately satisfying an enriching and that’s what I try to pass on to my
dancers. You know this question might actually apply to both you guys
but Garth why are you still in Rochester and Jeff why are you still here?
You guys could be anywhere. Well, I went to the Eastman School and
when I graduated I started working with Chuck Mangione so it was kind of a home
base here and I was gaining a lot of skill here in recording studios and
things like that and then you know we had my beautiful girl Jamie and we
thought well the schools are great here because people say to me even today
where do you live I say Marriott you know I’m traveling so much so many
airplanes this seemed like a really good environment to bring up a young person
then I became involved with the RPO which was a dream situation I mean I had
my own orchestra 26 years now I’ve written four hundred things for them to
play I can come in experiment try new things I can go to them and say I want
to work with Garth Fagan okay let’s make it happen so the opportunities for me
here have always been enriching, exciting, and seemingly endless in possibilities
so that’s why I’m here. Garth why are you here? I agree with 99.9 percent of what
he says under 1% is negligible but I enjoy it here it’s easy to get to all
the places I have to get to in the world. Through New York through Toronto through
Charlotte doesn’t matter we how but it works and I’m not too far from New York
City who to my taste is the capital of the world, to my taste, but I don’t mind
going to London, Paris, Rome, etc for gigs and I have to and I enjoy them and I
mentioned African tour that was incredible. But when I come back here the fall is to die for and the spring those are the two
seasons in Rochester and I just love. I love summer too
I am NOT a winter person. I go up to the mountain to ski and sit by the bar
and drink but spring and fall reminds me of creativity and of the
Supreme Being, God, Moses, Muhammad, whoever you want it to be is okay with me
as long as you realize that there’s somebody supreme who created all of this
and that you’re responsible for and that protects you, encourages you, that’s okay
with me. You’ll be 80 in May. I’ll be 80 on May
3rd. So looking back at 79 and a half how do you feel about it? Oh I feel real good.
I gotta take five pills a day for cholesterol for all kinds of crap but it
works okay and I don’t bend as well as I used to
if I drop something I gotta call Bill Bill because I can’t bend like I used to
you know but those are minute things compared to my brain, my eyesight, my
hearing is not as good as it used to be but that happens when you’re an
octogenarian and I’m gonna be an octogenarian on May, 3rd ..so respect
your elders. I do. Okay. I just wanna tell this Jeff and of course that Jeff was a
wee babe here to us to respect his elders. But elders helped me. I mean Alex
Haley was on my board and oh my god you know Marian Hawkes I mean lots of elders
helped me through life. And of course Duke Ellington and I had a
fortunate of directing and choreographing his Street Opera, Queenie Pie, at Canada
Center when everybody else fell apart so.. We respect you. Looking ahead to this
year, it’s your year, 50 years here. What …do you want us to think about you as we go through this year of celebrating
pretty much what you’ve done? That I busted my derriere and worked hard
every single day way into midnight in the evening. That I had to accept all the
drama’s that human beings who are my canvas and my oil and when I painted
with canvas and oil they never spoke back to me and they never told me that
oh my boyfriend is gone, oh my girlfriend, no, none of that but with human beings
you have to bring that in and you have to absorb it and keep the work going
forward but still give them a nice hand a pat, whatever, to get him out of this
doldrum and let them know that history has proved to you that this too will
pass and just roll up your sleeves and fight it and find a way to improve it.

local_offerevent_note January 16, 2020

account_box Matthew Anderson


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