Teissia Treynet ’02

Seeing the link between Teissia Treynet’s work and her Idyllwild Arts Academy education requires imagination. That is, until her excited explanation spills out.

The Class of 2002 Theatre graduate remembers learning “about opening a theatre and putting together a business plan for it, and set design gave me the design bug that helps me give a client the aesthetic she wants for her wedding.”
Last December, Teissia’s company, Firefly Events (http://firefly-events.com/about), added to its Los Angeles and New York locations a new office in “an amazing wedding market”: Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

“Learning acting as a discipline”—at Idyllwild and at DePaul University, in Chicago—“teaches you to read people. And you have to read a client to figure out if she wants romantic, edgy, super-modern. . . it makes putting on a wedding as exciting as the opening night of a play!”

Because a couple that shops seriously in the luxury-wedding market may have the means to get married anywhere, Firefly usually plans and designs between one and three destination weddings per year.

“We did a memorable one in Morocco: two weeks of traveling throughout the country to source from local markets, then a week in Tangier to pull everything together.”

Teissia enjoys travel enough to give some thought to opening more offices.

“You never know. . . maybe the South of France.”

But other plans occupy her now.

“There’s getting an interior-design division going, since we’re already doing it on the side. And writing a book: a planning guide that will be an educational tool for aspiring wedding planners. Plus another book about the emotional journey of wedding planning.”

That journey can be a challenge to navigate if people don’t know what they’re doing, which is why professionals like Teissia can be so helpful.

James Baumann ’06

Being “passionate about education and social justice” has led James Baumann from California to Africa to South America.

The 2006 Idyllwild Arts Academy graduate in what was then called Moving Pictures was at San Francisco State University in 2013, studying Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts. A professor mentioned a Tanzanian school that James felt he had to see.

“Tumaini Junior School”—tumaini means “hope” in Swahili—“in a town called Karatu, teaches both primary school students and older students. It turns nobody away, including orphans.”

Africa’s overcrowded classrooms often leave teachers with no choice except to lecture, but Tumaini Junior School’s insistence on student participation made it different. James documented the school’s success for his senior project.

“The film went on the festival circuit and was picked up by the Tanzania Education Corporation (http://www.tanzania-schools.org/content/supporting-schools-tanzania).”

He was busy in Tanzania, shooting the documentary in a month. His next project outside the U.S. has kept him away longer.

“In 2015, I moved to Barranquilla, Colombia. I teach English Communication, which is mainly film-based, at two different schools to children from ten to eighteen.”

James has continued making documentaries. Breaking Boundaries (http://jamesbaumann.com) records the challenges faced by Barranquilla’s ambitious teachers and students. His current project, Stories of Conflict, departs from the familiar terrain of education.

“A woman I knew shocked me by saying she opposed the treaty that just ended the fifty-two-year-long civil war. How could you oppose peace? But FARC”—the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—“had kidnapped her brother seventeen years before. She still doesn’t know what happened to him. My film collects stories from people who experienced the war to give them a voice.”

This summer marks the end of James’s time in Colombia. Yet the M.A. in Strategic Communication with an Emphasis in Social Justice that he will seek from American University, in Washington, D.C., suggests that decades of encouraging the voiceless to speak lie ahead.

Chester Gilmore ’03

The number says something about how Chester Gilmore’s mind works.

“Eighty percent of what I learned at Idyllwild Arts is applicable to what I do today.”

Not the easy, obvious “one hundred percent” or the hyperbolical “hundred and ten percent,” but precisely eighty percent: as if the 2003 Academy graduate had analyzed carefully both what he does now and what the Theatre Department taught him when he was an Acting major.

What he does now demands painstaking analysis. Chester is Vice President of Manufacturing for Planet (www.planet.com), whose website is clear about the company’s insistence on precision:

“Our satellites image every location on earth, every day, at high resolution—providing a vital new data source that has never before been available.”

Planet is privately owned and valued at over a billion dollars.

“We build mosaic-based maps and sell data to other companies,” Chester adds. “We also publish images of refugee camps and fires.”

He works in the company’s San Francisco office and lives in the Sunset District with his wife, Caitlin Berry—an Academy Dance student in 2002-2003—and their five-year-old son and two-year-old daughter.

“After Idyllwild, I went to the University of Utah to study for a B.F.A. But it was a really well-rounded education that I’d received at Idyllwild. My studies at Utah seemed redundant, and I didn’t graduate.”

Chester had grown up in Palm Springs, so he came back to California.

“I was in Santa Barbara and racing bicycles, waiting tables, and looking for acting gigs. A friend recommended me for an entry-level position in a company that made technology to protect against attacks from rocket-propelled grenades.”

That company got acquired and Chester’s tech career continued its upward arc.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how my IAA Theatre design skills have translated.”

Ace Eure ’02

Planning a trip to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics? Consider a side trip of three hundred miles to the west. Travel less than four hours by high-speed train and you can appreciate the work of Ace Eure, a 2002 Idyllwild Arts Academy graduate. The bullet train will take you to Osaka and a brand-new Nintendo-themed park.

“I’ve been hired as Art Director for the whole experience of the project that will open in Japan.”

Ace—an acronym of Andrew Carter Eure—was art director for the grand opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, at Universal Studios Hollywood, in April of last year.

“I was passionate about set design when I was at Idyllwild, and then at Carnegie Mellon I also studied set design. Now, as art director for these big shows and theme parks, I have to make practicality and artistic vision work in concert. I work with set designers, architects, and an entire technical team.”

His interviewer tries to imagine exactly what Ace does: “So you might have a certain vision, which an architect tells you is impossible according to the laws of physics, and then you have to come up with something else that’s close to your original vision?”

“You’ve pretty much described my entire day,” Ace says.

He grew up in Riverside, an hour and a half from Idyllwild. The next few years will be spent in Japan.

“I get to do what I always wanted: to combine my work with international travel.”

Ace describes that work as a “combination of theater, or film, and architecture.”

It’s satisfying work, partly because “the people I work with are phenomenally talented.”

Traveling from Tokyo to enjoy the product of that phenomenal talent—including Ace’s—might still cost under $200 by bullet train when Super Nintendo World opens.

Emma Campbell ’02

It’s a long way from a small town where “you don’t exist if you’re not interested in sports” to a pirate ship in the Caribbean. But Emma Campbell made the journey, even though her ship has run aground in Florida this winter.

Emma graduated from Idyllwild Arts Academy in 2002 as a Musical Theatre major. Now, the wide vocal range that enables her to sing both alto and soprano is on show in multiple roles in The Greatest Pirate Story Never Told!, playing through March 26 at the Florida Renaissance Festival.

The sports-mad town where she spent the bulk of her childhood is Jasper, Indiana. Her two years in Idyllwild led to the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, in England, where she found that she still hadn’t fallen in love with basketball. Instead, she majored in Theatre and minored in Directing, graduating in 2005.

One highlight of Emma’s time there was traveling throughout the UK and France with an eclectic company of theatrical performers, chemists, and mathematicians, creating and performing educational skits about science for children.

“We had the dry ice explode a couple of times, so having the chemists along came in handy.”

Returning to the United States meant deciding between Los Angeles and New York.

“But for stage work, New York has greater opportunities than LA—plus I don’t have to drive.”

She lives now in the Ditmars Boulevard area in the northwest corner of Queens, which she calls “the next Brooklyn.”

“And believe it or not, it’s only ten subway stops from my apartment to the theatrical district in Manhattan.”

Emma gives acting and singing lessons to children and has done a lot of cabaret, and even Shakespeare. So her career is not simply about musical comedies like The Greatest Pirate Story Never Told!

Arrgh.

Nora Francesca Germain ’09

Nora Francesca GermainAnyone lucky enough to be in the audience for the Idyllwild Arts Academy Alumni Jazz Concert on March 5 heard many superb musicians. Choosing one performer to write about from company like that can only be arbitrary, but Nora Germain’s youth might make her especially interesting: she’s just twenty-four, having graduated from the Academy in 2009.

Yet her career is far along, as shown by the appearance this month of both her new music album, Go For It, and her first book, Go For It: Surviving the Challenges of Becoming an Artist.

The saxophonist and award-winning composer and arranger John Altman calls Nora “the best jazz violinist in the world, bar none,” and last year Downbeat magazine highlighted her as a Rising Star of Jazz Violin.

She finished her freshman and sophomore years at a public high school in Madison, Wisconsin, and then “I had to beg my parents to go to Idyllwild” because “I was feeling underwhelmed in Wisconsin.”

Nora admits that until then “nothing had inspired me on a deep level.”

But inspiration is never lacking for very long at Idyllwild Arts. For Nora, feeling uninspired lasted only until she met “this amazing teacher who gives you so much responsibility and love” and who can “know what you’re going to be good at even when you don’t know it yourself”: the honoree of that March 5 Alumni Jazz Concert, Marshall Hawkins.

About the effect of Marshall’s teaching on her, Nora says “it’s just a matter of passing on a little drop of fuel to ignite you.”

Now she does plenty of igniting herself.

Sean Stromsoe ’09

“More and more roads here are suitable for skateboarding now.”

The sleek roads that Chinese companies are building in Ethiopia—the East African country with annual economic growth surpassing ten percent—aren’t meant for skateboarders. But a lot of Ethiopian teenagers are repurposing those roads, and Sean Stromsoe, a 2009 graduate of Idyllwild Arts Academy, enjoys feeding their passion.

“We’re doing a crowdfunding campaign at addispark.org to raise funds for Ethiopia’s first skateboard park.”

To see young Ethiopians devoted to skateboarding is a refreshing reminder that even in poor countries there’s more to life than worrying about how to get enough to eat or obtain medicine. Yet the project that took Sean there for the first time, in 2011, was precisely about medical care.

He had majored in Film, which was called Moving Pictures by the Academy at the time. The department had formed a connection with the nonprofit Tropical Health Alliance Foundation, based in Loma Linda, California. One of the teachers, Ira Abrams (since retired), chaperoned three of his students to a remote village where the foundation was offering free dental care, and Sean joined them to help film the work.

Being in Ethiopia was rewarding enough to bring him back “about a dozen” times—he’s lost count—and now he divides his time between the capital, Addis Ababa, and his home town of Cambria, California.

Sean has filmed music videos and commercials in addition to documenting Ethiopia’s growing skateboard culture. It’s far from home, but he loves it. With friends, he rents a house “smack-dab in the middle of Addis Ababa,” where they pay $750 per month and don’t need a car.

That truly sounds like a long way from Southern California.

Changing Lives

Amber Pairis (r.) with fellow scientist/activist Danielle Boudreau

“Art can bring along the community and the policy-makers by translating scientific research into something that touches your life in a personal way.”
Amber Pairis graduated from Idyllwild Arts Academy in 1992, having concentrated on photography as a major in InterArts (called Independent Major at that time). She has taken to heart Idyllwild Arts Foundation’s mission that it “changes lives through the transformative power of art.”

As for the scientific research that concerns her most of all, into climate change—to which she was led by several years of studying endangered species on the most remote Hawaiian Islands —Amber definitely wants it to change lives.

“The pieces to promote resilience to climate change are out there, but it’s time to put the puzzle together.”
It was a warm, cloudless October day. Amber—or Dr. Pairis, thanks to her graduate work at Antioch University New England—had returned to the Academy because she knew that many of its students were eager to attack the jigsaw.

The new Art in Society program’s Global Seminar series had invited Amber, now Director of the Climate Science Alliance-South Coast, working out of San Diego.
“Idyllwild students are uniquely positioned to be innovative leaders on this front.”

She looked up at the majestic pine tree that gave her shade.

“Plus I got to come home to the most beautiful place on earth!”

Even for committed activists, there’s more to life than making life better for everybody.

Engaging with Music

As if Idyllwild Arts Academy’s resident classical piano teachers aren’t already masterful, Michael Noble, Class of 2006, was brought back to teach a masterclass this fall.

“I’m actually more nervous about the class than about my upcoming concerts on the East Coast,” he admitted a few days before teaching.

The comparison said a lot about the confidence he has earned by performing throughout Europe, winning the 2013 Carmel Music Society Piano Competition in Carmel, California, and performing more recently in Bangkok.

Michael is nearing completion of Yale’s distinctively rigorous Doctor of Musical Arts program, which requires three to five years to build a performance portfolio after writing a thesis. In his case, that meant writing about the American Marxist composer Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938) and his goal of using classical music to engage audiences politically.

The thesis points out that “if Rzewski writes political music,” then “his main goal” should apparently “be to reach the largest possible audience,” and yet, paradoxically, he “employs avant-garde and virtuosic techniques.”

His thesis has satisfied the Yale graduate music faculty’s demand for D.M.A. candidates to demonstrate “intellectual curiosity about music and ability to discuss in depth its history, theory, styles, sources, and relationship to the other arts and to society.” Having finished writing, Michael is now a little skeptical of classical music’s power to bring about the kind of engagement that Rzewski has always sought.

But his masterclass and the subsequent performance in Stephens Recital Hall proved his ability to engage listeners in the way that classical music usually does. No one who had read the Carmel Music Society’s praise of his “exciting, but refined performances” which always called attention “to the music he was playing and not his technical prowess” was disappointed.

Creating a Better Way

Clifton Alexander’s path from an arts high school to the profession he loves is less surprising than Dobrina’s or Teissia’s. A native Californian and 1995 Idyllwild graduate who majored in Visual Art and went on to the Kansas City Art Institute to study graphic design, Clifton built a design business that has become a permanent fixture in Kansas City.

He complained when his parents enrolled him in Idyllwild Arts twenty-five years ago.

“I was into sports, so the kids running around with purple hair took time to get used to.”

Some of the banks, law firms, and other corporate clients that his business re-brands and markets may not appreciate purple hair, either. But they certainly value the “way of thinking you learn in an environment centered on creativity,” Clifton says.

“You’re trained to think differently: to think there’s always a better way. What can we do next? What is nobody else doing?”

Clifton is a living demonstration of what arts education is good for.