Michael Fabiano

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Arts in the News: Jedi Musicians, New Blue for Crayola, When Kids’ Opinions Mean More than Critics’, Touring Logistics for a Ballet Company

June 11th, 2017

Jedi Musicians with Lightsaber Bows

In honor of “Star Wars Day,” as May 4th has come to be known (as fans make a pun on the famous Jedi blessing “May the force be with you” by saying “May the fourth be with you”), a video has been making its rounds on social media showing a rather unusual school music concert. Last year, students at the École de l’Harmonie St Édouard and École Secondaire de La Seigneurie in Quebec put on a Star Wars-themed concert in which they performed excerpts from John Williams famous score dressed as Jedis. The final touch? Their violin bows were equipped with LEDs, thanks to their inventive teacher Philippe Amyot, giving the appearance that the students were playing with lightsabers. The young musicians entertained guests at a local cinema, performing only a week after a fire forced their school to close. What a delightful way to create a unique performance and get kids excited about music!

New Blue for Crayola

Months after announcing it would be retiring the yellow “Dandelion” crayon, Crayola has announced that a new blue crayon, inspired by the YInMn blue pigment, will replace it. The YInMn blue color was discovered by accident in 2009 in a chemistry lab run by Mas Subramanian at Oregon State University; its name comes from the three elements that compose the pigment: yttrium, indium, an dmanganese oxides. Mas and the other chemists in his lab had been mixing and heating these chemicals in order to find a new material for electronics, when one of the samples came out bright blue after being headed to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. Crayola’s YInMn crayon won’t actually contain the pigment–it is simply inspired by it, since YInMn cannot yet be added to paints and materials until more experimentation is done. Subramanian hopes that the new blue crayon will inspire children to see the creative potential in scientific experimentation. Yet another example of the science and art worlds working together!

When Kids’ Opinions Mean More than Critics’

Ever since the stage adaptation of Beauty and the Beast in 1994, family musicals have been a big business on Broadway. Often, these musicals, like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Anastasia, are hugely successful despite harsh words from critics. David Rooney, chief theater critic for The Hollywood Reporter, said of Anastasia: “It’s kind of clunky. It’s kind of old fashioned. It’s a little bit kitsch.” Still, the stage adaptation of the 1997 Fox animated movie continues to sell out. Rooney himself admits that when he saw Anastasia, the young girls in the audience were incredibly enthusiastic. As NPR’s Jeff Lunden explains, “It’s the kids–and the parents who pay for the tickets–who will ultimately decide if Anastasia and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory have long healthy runs.” After all, kids don’t care what critics have to say. Rooney believes that the upcoming Broadway production of the megahit movie Frozen will likely follow in the footsteps of other family musicals, emphasizing spectacle and energy in order to dazzle kids, not necessarily critics. These family musicals are certainly a reminder that Broadway entertains and inspires a variety of audiences in many different ways!

Mind-Boggling Touring Logistics for a Ballet Company

The Birmingham Royal Ballet is used to touring, traveling across the UK and abroad. But how much is actually involved in organizing a tour for such a sizeable ballet company? For a company of 60 dancers, there are 25 technical staff and as many as 45 musicians, along with all of the equipment and costume paraphernalia. The company must transport the entire set, with lighting and props. They travel with 1000 hair pins, 250 hair rollers, 78 wigs, 44 tutus, 8 baskets of shoes, and two washing machines. They also take two physiotherapists in tow. All costume and set equipment must be handled very carefully, as many are designed by world-class artists and have elaborate details. The artists travel by coach, while the technical teams go first via train. Company manager Will Mauchline is in charge of making sure all of these logistics are taken care of for the Birmingham Royal Ballet, and that any injuries or issues are handled: “I was once told there’s a fine line between company manager and mother. A company manager works with everyone to make sure it all happens, from the company coach to performers to guests watching rehearsals and so on. When it doesn’t go to plan, I deal with it and hopefully overcome the problem, ideally with minimal upset.” Next time you see a touring performance, just think about all of the logistics that went into making it all come together!

Arts in the News: Difficulty for Visiting Artists, Hacker Blackmails Netflix, NYC Museums and U.S. National Report Card for Students

May 30th, 2017

Economic Austerity in Mongolia Means Difficulty for Visiting Artists
The Philadelphia Orchestra was set to visit Mongolia on a spring tour of the Far East, but due to economic austerity measures in the host country, Mongolia can no longer afford to host the orchestra. “Changes happen when you work with external partners far away,” explains Ryan Fleur, executive vice president of orchestra advancement. The orchestra is exploring several options, including sending a smaller group of musicians for outreach concerts. The originally planned visit was intended to further cement diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Mongolia; last fall, the Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj expressed his happiness to work with the Philadelphia Orchestra to make the tour visit happen. Hopefully the orchestra will still be able to make the visit in some capacity, even if it is with a smaller contingent of musicians. The world tours of orchestras and other arts and music groups are no doubt important ways to share beauty and culture across borders.

Hacker Blackmails Netflix, Releases New Episodes of Popular Series
An anonymous hacker has released pirated episodes of the new season of Netflix’s original series “Orange Is The New Black.” After Netflix failed to pay what the hacker called a “modest” ransom, the hacker, who goes by the screen name “thedarkoverlord,” announced on Twitter that episodes 2-10 (of the 13-episode fifth season) were available to be illegally downloaded. Netflix originally planned the release of the fifth season for June 9 of this year; the leak has many thinking the streaming service will move up the release date. The hacker has apparently accessed material from other television providers, including ABC, National Geographic, Fox, and IFC, and is warning them to learn from Netflix’s mistake in not paying the ransom offered. Netflix currently enjoys a worldwide subscriber base of nearly 100 million; some are speculating the leak may inhibit subscriber growth and prove detrimental to the company’s earnings. If the hacker’s threats prove to be real, other companies may face similar consequences. The leak brings new attention to the issue of illegal downloading and the ramifications for arts and entertainment producers.

NYC Museums “Trading Places” on Social Media
For one day at the end of April, museums in New York City switched Instagram accounts with one another to introduce followers to other arts institutions in their neighborhoods. Thirty-two museums are participating in the social media initiative, called #MuseumInstaSwap, including the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Guggenheim Museum. Each museum was paired with a partner museum; throughout the day, each posted photos from the other’s collection, enticing Instagram followers to explore those collections in person. Museums are hoping that the campaign will show the solidarity of the museum world and the connections between, say, the American Folk Art Museum and the Japan Society. Hopefully the campaign helped to inspire New Yorkers to visit different museums and more deeply explore the amazing art collections the city has to offer!

U.S. National Report Card for Students in Visual Arts and Music
For the third time in its history, the U.S. government has released a national report card looking at the knowledge, understanding, and abilities of American eighth-graders in visual arts and music. Unfortunately, the report shows little progress since the last assessment was released in 2008. One of the few areas of improvement shows that the achievement gap between white and Hispanic students has narrowed, though the gap itself is still significant. The report is released by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which regularly reports on student achievement in math, reading, and science, but only rarely (1997, 2008, and now from 2016) in music and visual arts. The arts assessment measures students’ ability to understand and interpret historical pieces of art and music, as well as their creative abilities. On a scale of 1-300, students averaged 147 in music and 149 in visual arts (lower than the averages of 150 in both categories in 2008, but not statistically significantly so). Perhaps one of the most disappointing findings is that fewer than half of eighth graders had taken an arts class in 2016–only 42 percent. Hopefully the report brings much needed attention to the state of arts education in the U.S. and important areas for improvement!

#FabFive Things That Are Surprisingly Toxic to Dog

May 20th, 2017

As parents of both the fur and human variety know, it only takes a second for your child to put something harmful in their mouth when you turn your back for a moment.  This is exactly the situation my dear friend found herself in the other day.  While she was putting something in the refrigerator, her dog Kimmy (who I lovingly refer to as my “fur niece”) swiped a nearly-full pack of Trident gum from the counter and instantly inhaled the remaining 17 pieces.  My friend went into full panic mode as Xylitol, a common ingredient in gum, is toxic to dogs and rushed her to the vet.  Thankfully, the vet was able to induce vomiting in time and with the help of fluids, Kimmy (pictured below) made a full recovery later that day.

My friend and I were talking on the phone and I was surprised to learn just how toxic Xylitol is.  As a fur dad myself, I never had to worry about this with Buster because he is unable to reach the counter and largely has no interest in food like candy or gum.  This is not the case for other pet owners and dogs like Kimmy who will eat anything that remotely appear edible.  As a result, I am dedicating a #FabFive to spread awareness about 5 common items that are surprisingly toxic to dogs.

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Embracing Intellectual Humility

May 13th, 2017


Embracing Intellectual Humility

A friend of mine often recites a translation from the Confucian Analects that has always stuck with me: “True knowledge is understanding the difference between what you know and what you don’t.”  On some level, we implicitly acknowledge the truth of this statement every time we see a doctor, consult a lawyer, or utilize an accountant.  We recognize that some people are specialists and therefore welcome their expertise.  At the same time, being a “know-it-all” is not a desirable trait we seek in others and know-it-alls often become punch lines known for their constant “one-upping.”

Yet, the business and artistic world perpetuate one-upping with slogans like “fake it ‘til you make it.” “I don’t know” is taboo because we succumb to the pressure of being “in the know” and pass on the opportunity to humbly admit our knowledge deficit and listen to someone who may know more than we do.  What makes this worse is that humans have a proclivity to overestimate how much they know thereby exacerbating the “know-it-all” mindset.  Thus, even though we know a know-it-all is annoying and undesirable, our survival instinct tells us to act like one.

Why does this matter?  It matters because we are robbing ourselves of the opportunity to embrace intellectual humility and consequently understand the true limit of our own knowledge.  Inc. recently reported on a study conducted with regards to intellectual humility and good decision making.  Intellectual humility is “the willingness to accept that you might be wrong and to not get defensive when arguments or information that’s unfavorable to your position comes to light.”  The study found that those who lack intellectual humility make markedly worse choices.  This makes sense as many sources have reported that fast learning requires a willingness to admit error and a state of openness to new ideas is key to effectively engaging in civil discourse.

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Interview: Michael Fabiano on Faust

Limelight Magazine's Editor, Clive Paget, heads backstage to meet American tenor Michael Fabiano ahead of his appearance in David McVicar's production of Gounod's Faust, for Opera Australia.

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