Caroline Toman's PAMKA Grant Trip to Scotland
"In Search of Macbeth"
Due to PAMKA's generosity, I was lucky enough to be awarded a grant to travel to Scotland over Spring Break to embark on an adventure that took me to ancient castles, highland hills, sacred burial sites and battle grounds-turned sheep fields in search of Macbeth, both the tyrant Shakespeare wrote about and the actual king who ruled Scotland in the 11th Century.
I have been teaching Shakespeare's Macbeth to sophomores at MKA for nine years. It never gets boring, and it has always stimulated my longing to visit Scotland and actually see the places Shakespeare wrote about. I was given the amazing opportunity to do just that, but when there, I was exposed to so much more.
My original intended goal for my PAMKA Grant trip to Scotland was to see the land that inspired Shakespeare's dark play and to visit the places depicted in Macbeth that I could only before imagine while teaching the Core Work to my sophomores, places like Scone, Cawdor, Glamis, Inverness, and Fife. I did visit these places, and I was overjoyed to be able to return to MKA with first hand experiences that will now bring a new life to my Macbeth lessons.
While in Scotland, however, an additional purpose to my trip became clear. I came to learn that the Macbeth Shakespeare wrote about is neither an accurate nor fair representation of the actual historic figure. He was, in fact, a noble ruler who is revered by the Scottish people as one of their great kings. So, I found myself determined to do my part as a teacher of Macbeth and find out as much as I could about the man many feel has been slandered by Shakespeare. (gasp!)
My quest took me to an ancient site known as Macbeth's Cairn, a sacred pile of rocks (behind an old farmer's house in the village of Lumphanan) that is thought to mark the site where the real Macbeth died in battle against Malcolm and his forces. I stood on the actual ground where Macbeth would have been crowned in Scone, and I walked through fields thought to be battlegrounds where he fought bravely. I also was able to locate the last remaining tree in the famous Birnam Wood, near the village of Dunkeld. Shakespeare describes the English army's cutting down branches from these woods in order to camouflage themselves while approaching Macbeth's castle, and I learned that it is possible that branches from these woods may very well have been used by the opposing army. I returned to MKA with fallen branches from this tree to show the curious sophomores, and it brought an exciting realism to their study of Macbeth.
These "relics" along with many photographs and stories of my adventures will certainly enhance my teaching of Macbeth, and now when my students ask about the real Macbeth, I have so much to tell them! And as the Scots do, despite my love for Shakespeare, I will also defend Macbeth against his unjust representation. I am grateful to PAMKA for allowing me the opportunity to be so enlightened!From the Fjords to the Moors: Studying My Core Works
by Laura Gerard
In June, I was so fortunate to travel to both Norway and Yorkshire, England to study the authors of the two Core Works in my upper-level elective classes. In my Literature of Modern Drama class, the core work is Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, and in my Gothic Literature class, Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights is the Core Work. So, I set off on an adventure in June to see all in Norway that is Ibsen and all in Yorkshire that is Bronte.
My husband Dominique and I took off after school let out and got to see the beauty of Norway first - the fjords, the scenic villages, and the beautiful countryside. Then, I found what I was really looking for - Ibsen, Norway's favorite son. I was fortunate enough to spend a day at the University of Oslo's Center for Ibsen Studies, where I was given access to every article, every letter, every piece of criticism, and every play ... what a treat. There was a wealth of memorabilia on display as well - tickets to the first showing of A Doll's House, photographs of Ibsen, and framed posters advertising the play's premiere. I read reviews, news clippings of the time period, criticism, and even sequels. My students will love sifting through those, for they always want to know what happened to Nora! Then I dragged Dominique to Venstop, Ibsen's childhood home, which was definitely "off the beaten path." We were the only people there; in fact, we were the only people within 100 miles of the place, we think! But it was beautiful and we got a one-on-one tour of Ibsen's home and the grounds. It was amazing.
We had a marvelous time; when I wasn't studying or touring all things Ibsen, we cruised the fjords, saw Viking ships, and yes, sampled lots of salmon!
After Norway, I sent Dominique home, met up with my sister in London (she is also an English teacher), and found myself in the land of Heathcliff, who, if you know me, you know I am more than a little obsessed with. I spent an entire day in the Bronte parsonage, the home of the Brontes, just soaking it all in.
It is hard to put into words the feeling of walking through Emily's home, seeing the views from her bedroom window, seeing the letters she wrote, walking the paths she walked. I found it quite simple to see how the moors and the spectacular landscape of Haworth became her passion in life; I know now why she couldn't bear to leave it!
One night, by way of a fabulous coincidence, my sister and I were having dinner in a pub, discussing the day in the Parsonage. We looked up to see a Bronte historian, who had been sitting at the next table, approaching us. He sat down, and we started chatting. He pulled out notes of his latest writings, rare photographs, and after a night of talking all things Bronte, he offered to show my sister and me the "real" sights. We were delighted! For the next few days, along with some friends of his, we toured the off-the-beaten path sites that I could never have planned to have seen on my own. I found myself walking on the moors that Emily and her sisters walked so often (and I still have the rock to prove I was there; it is framed in my office!). I marveled at seeing homes and ruins that the sisters used as settings in their writings.
The five of us spent time at the grave of Emily Bronte and her sisters; the pub where Branwell Bronte drank himself into oblivion nightly; Rochester House, where Charlotte probably got the inspiration for her Jane Eyre hero, Rochester; and Gawthorpe Hall, where Charlotte visited several times during her short-lived married life (she died in her late 30s due to complications in pregnancy). We ate dinner in a medieval castle, and my favorite sight, a sight that caused me to gasp as I encountered it, was the inspiration for Charlotte's Ferndean Manor in Jane Eyre - a ruined home on a dirt road that I would never have found myself.
But back to Wuthering Heights ....
Anyone familiar with the film version starring Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche (and I highly recommend it) knows the spectacular scenery from the film. I found many of the sights used in the film, for it was filmed on location in the sights that scholars say actually inspired Emily. Upon finding the tombstones used on Cathy's and Heathcliff's graves at the end of the film, I was absolutely beside myself.
All in all, it was a beautiful trip. It is hard to put a value on seeing the sights that inspired your favorite pieces of literature, on seeing the thoughts and feelings of these authors poured out in their own handwriting in rare letters, or on walking in their homes and getting a better sense of who they really were. To say I learned so very much is such an understatement. More than that, I renewed my passion for both Ibsen and Wuthering Heights.
Thank you, PAMKA, for a dream come true.What I Did Over Summer Vacation
by Ken Bishé
Like a child stumbling through an attic wardrobe into Narnia, or Mary Poppins leaping through a sidewalk chalk drawing into an animated English countryside, my grant opened a portal into an architectural world I had only imagined. Thanks to the largesse of PAMKA, I had the opportunity to see - if not in the flesh, then in steel, stone, and glass - magnificent pieces of architecture that, for me, had existed only in two dimensions in the pages of books.
Through my interest in architecture, I found as I drafted my application that, surprisingly, I'd been preparing this trip for decades. I wanted to experience the grandeur of European public buildings and to see their influence on America. I wanted to see how modern architectural constructions blended with long-established traditional forms. I wanted to leave time to explore and learn the historical "tidbits" that breathe life into cold walls. My grant provided all this and much more.
Domes particularly captured my imagination and I saw many, from the towering St. Paul's in London to the Pantheon's monument to the people of France in Paris. From the modern, glass and steel dome atop the Reichstag in Berlin to the Byzantine-influenced St. Mark's in Venice, domes dominated much of my trip. Churches completed much of the remaining itinerary. Some held the allure of fame like Salisbury, Canterbury, or Notre Dame while others called to me for their singular features like the riot of stone carvings in Roslyn Chapel or the one hundred and nineteen angels carved into the roof hammer beams of St. Wendreda's.
I had planned the June jailbreak releasing me from my architectural literary "cell" and bringing the buildings to life in their true form as well as function. But I had not anticipated how the varied experiences on this trip would rekindle my love for learning from so many different sources. For example, the docent in York Minster who informed us of the revision made by the Victorians in a hundreds-of-years-old stained glass window. Disturbed by a nativity scene depicting the Virgin Mary nursing her newborn son, they had the window replaced to show the baby Jesus being fed ... from a bottle! I found myself remembering the thrill of taking risks, the excitement of meeting new acquaintances like the artist who, when I expressed interest in his work at Salisbury Close, invited me back to his home to see the rest of his paintings, meet his wife, and dine in the local pub. I learned to enjoy the satisfaction from living with decisions that worked, like traveling overnight by train just to see the glass dome in Berlin that reflects sunlight down into the plenary hall of the Bundestag to show that it would forever be an open government. I also learned to deal with plans that didn't work, like finding that the entrance to the Victoria and Albert Museum that I had photographs of had never actually been built! I learned again to deal with decisions made on the fly and the frightening freedom of immersion in alien cultures.
I discovered the value of the little actions for which we recognize our students and the good Karma that derives from good actions done for unselfish reasons. Arriving in Athens at midnight with no idea how to read a language with a different alphabet, I happened to offer my bus seat to a woman and her young son. Later, thinking I'd missed the proper stop, she overheard the name of my hotel and, climbing over a bus full of passengers, convinced the driver to let me off at its front door. Overall, I found myself remembering the terrifying joy of being a student again, and I hope to forever keep this in mind with my own classes.
In the bustle of preparing for this trip, of all things, I forgot the power of yet another facet of Europe that flooded every minute, the palpable sense of history. I climbed the steps trod by Plato and Socrates. I entered York through the same gate, or should I say "bar," as Richard III. I stood before the tomb of Napoleon and toured the Louvre. I visited Stonehenge and took the same final steps as Thomas Becket. I strolled the grounds of Alnwick Castle, the home and fortress of the Duke of Northumberland, and stood upon Hadrian's wall. How much I saw and experienced, and how much more must I someday return to see.
Finally, like a pageant or Oscar winner, I must say my thank you to those people from PAMKA who envisioned these grants and those who chose to award one to me. I cannot find the words to express my gratitude enough, but, perhaps, if the thousand words each of these pictures represent are "merci's," "grazie's," "danke shoen's," "eucaristw's," or "thank you's," it will make an appropriate start.
"Oh! Those Summer Nights!!"
by Nancy Pi-Sunyer
When people ask me what I found most fascinating or amazing on my PAMKA-Grant trip to Alaska, I have to say, "The light!" Perhaps it's time for me to do a deep study of the physics of light, but there were SO many aspects of light that affected this journey that I've chosen to focus on illuminating you about that!
My husband Luis joined me for our month-long adventure. Sharing the wonder was half the fun, which is why I am so eager to share it with you. We arrived in Fairbanks, Alaska, on the 15th of June. Record heat there made for a warm welcome, but we located our lovely rural B&B and had a good night's rest. Well, not really! Until you have experienced it, daylight at midnight cannot be appreciated. I kept thinking it must be about 6:30, but it was 11:00 p.m. It took two nights and a sleep mask to finally get into the rhythm of sleep in bright light.
We had a productive two days visiting with scientists at the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks and took time to soak up some local flavor as well. I acquired pictures, books, and hours of material to read on Mars from John Chapellow, a doctoral student in Planetary Sciences. This will give our Mars terra-forming unit a firmer foundation. He helped us locate an ideal spot for photographing the midnight sun, and we went up to Murphy Dome, an old DEW-line sight, to photograph the sunset on the 20th-21st. For the youngsters among you, the DEW line was the series of distant early warning facilities set up during the Cold War to keep the U.S. safe from rocket invasions. We drove along miles of gravel road to this high point from which we could almost see to the Arctic Circle, but we certainly could see the midnight sun. It was broad daylight when we drove up there near 10 p.m. and there was still plenty light to drive down the mountain at 1 a.m. The sun was still well above the horizon when we departed. I confess, we did not stay up there until 1:45 a.m. when the sun would have come close to setting, since the area was clouding over.
Among the marvelous experiences we shared was visiting with Mary Shields, the first woman to complete the Iditarod Dog Sled Race, and her team of sled dogs at her home. We saw Susan Butcher and her team in action as well. We watched "First Nations" peoples dancing, carving, weaving, and telling their folk tales. We learned the history of Alaska from the early Russian expeditions led by Vitis Bearing to the Gold Rush and the establishment of the oil pipe-line. We panned for gold and I danced with the Aleutik and Tsimshian dancers. We watched sea otters at play and orcas and humpback whales feeding. We observed the tidal bore rush up Turnagain Sound and learned the touching story of the creation of the state flag of Alaska by a 13-year-old native orphan boy. We heard Robert W. Service poetry recited at the Malemute Saloon and we learned about muskox and the differences between reindeer and caribou.
We saw the first ship that sailed both east to west and west to east through the Northwest Passage, and we heard the tragic and inspiring tales of the search for that legendary waterway. We watched glaciers calve and found much evidence of global warming, and we learned of its effects on the plants, animals, and ecosystems of Alaska. We discovered that, in Alaska, many of your colored photos look like black-and-white, but that ice can be white or black or deep aquamarine. Rainbows in Alaska (light again) are perhaps the most intense I have ever seen, and we saw three gorgeous ones. We found that being "low man on the totem pole" is actually a sign of honor, and that being included in a totem pole is not necessarily an honor. We learned of missionaries and explorers and prospectors and homesteaders who devoted their lives to making Alaska the great land that it has become.
While I know that many among you have cruised Alaska with Princess or Holland America, I encourage you at some point, without young children who require entertainment, to treat yourselves to a small cruise ship, like Cruise West, where you can get up close and personal with the land and the sea. One day our captain turned the ship around and waited for an hour while we observed a mother bear and her cubs on an island. We came close enough to glaciers to feel the spray of them calving. We took zodiac rides up narrow fjords to observe wildlife and ice formations. And our captain granted us several leisurely hours motoring slowly among a pod of eleven orcas while we observed breaching humpbacks, porpoising white-sided dolphins, and seabirds by the hundreds. The chocolate buffet wasn't bad either!!
I look forward to finding an opportunity to share some of the over 1,000 photographs I took and expanding on some of the experiences I have mentioned. Thank you SO very much for an entertaining, relaxing, informative, and enlightening adventure. Rainbows are very special to me, and this Alaska experience truly presented a brilliant visible spectrum of art, science, history and culture to me.
Desert Discourse: An Intensive Encounter with Islam
By Lynn Salehi
Imagine spending two summer weeks in the desert at a place called Dar al Islam, studying the history and theology of Islam, attending prayers in a mosque, and discussing the meaning of the Qur'an with internationally known scholars. Now imagine that this is NOT the Middle East, but the middle of New Mexico. This was my experience at the Teachers' Institute on Understanding and Teaching about Islam, sponsored by PAMKA's generosity.
Dar al Islam was founded in 1979 with the purpose of educating both Muslim and non-Muslim Americans about Islam. The yearly Teachers' Institute is attended by twenty educators from all over the country: history and comparative religion teachers, ESOL teachers, college professors and campus ministry personnel.
The most apt word to describe these two weeks is intense. For one, the heat of the desert was intense. The Dar al Islam mosque, madressa (school) and housing are located in the desert of Abiquiu, not far from Georgia O'Keefe's Ghost Ranch. In fact, the "Plaza Blanca", a collection of awe-inspiring rock formations O'Keefe often painted, was on the property of Dar al Islam and I hiked it often during my stay. All hiking was reserved for early morning or evening, since the heat of the day often reached 106 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course it was, as they always say, a "dry heat", but past a certain point, hot is hot!
Another reason my hiking was limited to these times was the intense class and study schedule of the Institute. A typical day's schedule included a three-hour morning lecture, an afternoon lecture, a small study group on Qur'anic readings, an evening lecture, and finally an open panel discussion. The Muslims among the students and faculty had even less unscheduled time, as the coffee breaks were scheduled to coincide with some of the five times they prayed each day.
Fortunately, the quality of the faculty at the Institute made the challenging schedule worthwhile. It included Dr. Abdal Hakim Jackson, an expert in Islamic law and theology at Stanford University; Dr. Sulayman Nyang, a former Gambian ambassador to Saudi Arabia and co-director of Muslims in the American Public Square; and Ms. Susan Douglass, principal writer and researcher for the Council on Islamic Education. Lecture topics included a history of Islam from its inception to today, foundational beliefs and practices, cultural contributions of the Muslim world, and contemporary issues of particular concern, such as jihad and women's rights. Several lectures were also given on pedagogy and resources for teaching about Islam. In addition, the participants met with faculty in small groups to study selections from the Qur'an, and with each other to develop curriculum projects they could use in their own classrooms.
Lest you think that the entire trip was all work and no play, I should mention that the middle weekend of my visit included a refreshing swim in Lake Abiquiu, a hike among centuries-old cave dwellings in Bandelier National Park and a quick trip to Santa Fe for dinner and sightseeing.
Overall, the Dar al Islam Teacher's Institute provided me with an enormous wealth of information and insight into the Muslim faith - the equivalent of two semesters of college study in two weeks. Beyond that, one of the most valuable things about the Institute was getting to know a number of Muslims as classmates, teachers and friends, and to begin to understand their faith as they live it, rather than how it is presented in a textbook. During my stay, I attended Friday prayers in the mosque, talked with several teens about growing up Muslim in America, heard firsthand about several friends' experiences on Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), and had several late-night talks with Muslim women about their personal decisions to cover or not cover their heads. It was these experiences alongside formal academic study that helped me to understand Islam as it is practiced in today's world, and left me feeling infinitely better prepared to share that understanding with my students and colleagues.
A Musician's Dream Come True
by Dimitri Hadjipetkov
Many years ago I began learning, and interpreting the virtuoso chamber music works for violin and piano by Franz Schubert. Originally I was drawn by the composer's work after playing his piano trio in B flat with two Dutch musicians in the early nineties. A year later I was invited to perform a European tour with the North Carolina Festival Orchestra and I was exposed to multiple Schubert orchestral works. After learning his piano trio and some of his orchestral symphonies, I started looking into his other works for violin and piano, only to discover how few violinists have recorded them. I knew that many big violinists avoid these pieces due to the fact that Schubert composed them on the piano, disregarding the technical abilities of the violin. Therefore, these works are extremely uncomfortable and certain sections are even impossible to play. I came across one of Menuhin's archival recordings of these works where the music was altered in many places. At this point, I was completely in love with these works and I was determined to learn them in their original version as the composer had intended. This process involved countless hours of practice to overcome the enormous technical challenges these pieces have to offer, and to understand the deep meaning of Schubert's complicated musical language. This was a musical language that reflected his controversial, dramatic, passionate, and complicated life. I'd like to personally thank my teacher and first violinist of the Brentano String Quartet, Mark Steinberg, for the guidance he gave me on Schubert's style and interpretation.
In the fall of 1999, I was preparing to perform my graduation recital at New York's Carnegie Hall to complete my Master's degree studies at NYU. After disastrous practice rehearsals, I had to find another pianist to work with a month before the recital date. In despair, I made many phone calls looking for a replacement pianist. No one could learn and perform Bartok's First Sonata for Violin and Piano in a month - no one but one person, Yuan Sheng, a graduate student in the piano studio of Prof. Solomon Mikowsky and an accompanist at the Manhattan School of Music. After my graduation recital, Yuan and I began working together on various musical projects and performances. Although he has permanently moved back to his native China, when I asked him to perform and record as my pianist on the PAMKA-sponsored CD, he enthusiastically accepted.
The ultimate goal for any musician is the release of a record. This had been a dream of mine ever since the age of 9 when my mother gave me an LP record of David Oistrakh performing the Brahms Violin Concerto for my birthday, and said to me: "Maybe one day you will grow up to be a great violinist and have a record of your own." Ever since that day, I have been dreaming of putting out my own record. A few years ago, back in Europe, I was asked by a classical record company executive to record an album for their label. The problem was that there was a big financial gap for this project. If you are not involved in the music business, it is hard to imagine how difficult funding is, especially when it comes to classical music. Thanks to PAMKA, they made the production of this album possible.
This past summer I spent getting ready for the first stage of the CD production. Searching for the right recording studio and engineer was also a challenging task. Finally, I found what I was looking for, a classically trained pianist as my recording engineer and editor, a 9-foot Hamburg Steinway in mint condition, and in his studio he offered me a set of the finest microphones ever made - original AKG-C12 vintage tube microphones valued at over $10,000 a piece. At this moment, I knew this was the place to record. My pianist confirmed that the Steinway is one of the finest instruments he has played and I had to look no further. By the end of last summer, we completed the longest and most difficult work on the program. By the end of the spring, we are hoping to have most of the recording done. I am estimating between 14 and 18 hours of music. Then the recording goes to the second stage of the production, which is editing. We sit down with the recording engineer and select and put together the best parts of the 18 hours of music. Then the recording will go to the third stage, which is the mastering process of beautifying the sound quality and making it suitable for radio broadcasts and playback on home audio systems. The final stage of the production is multiplying the record and creating the CD cover and program notes. We are hoping to release the record in the fall of 2006.
This project is an exploration of the romantic, deep, inner world of chamber music presented to the listener in the highest digital sound format available. I find this project very similar to what MKA is all about: appreciating and studying timeless works of art, literature, and music, while keeping up with the fast pace of today's world and technology. Our Common Purpose calls for "intellectual and personal fulfillment for students and faculty." This is exactly what this experience will bring back to my students and myself.
The students of MKA appreciate and value the achievements of their teachers. I strongly believe that it is very important for the students to see that their teacher is professionally alive, active, and creative in the field he is teaching. I have heard students and parents admiring the creative work of other faculty members of the F&PA dept. who were also sponsored by PAMKA. I know that my record will have a similar effect on my students. I am looking forward to sharing my experiences with all of them, and I know that all I have learned would be especially helpful to those students preparing college audition tapes. Thank you again, PAMKA, for giving me this amazing opportunity.
Tracy Foster's Visit to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Thanks to PAMKA, I had an absolutely fabulous time attending the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. My eldest daughter Kate, who wants to major in theatre in college, traveled with me. Together, we saw 14 shows in 5 days! With 1800 shows to choose from in 300 different venues, we only wish we'd had a few more days to see more theatre and just enjoy the lovely city of Edinburgh. Great Britain's weather can keep you guessing, but we were blessed with mostly sunny skies and summer temperatures. Walking hilly Edinburgh was great exercise, and I got to pretend I was a schoolgirl again, staying in a dorm, the St. Mary's Music School, bath down the hall.
The 3-week festival was in full-swing when we arrived, so we had the benefit of not only reading reviews but also talking to fellow thespians from around the globe to discover what shows were "must-sees." I saw a brilliant production, performed by a professional theatre group in Dublin, the Corn Exchange, done in the commedia style titled "Dublin By Lamplight" (I purchased the script and am inspired to do some mask work with 8th grade students in Actor's Studio this year). I was introduced to one of England's well-known comedians named Daniel Kitson and saw two off-Broadway shows I missed in NYC - "Squeeze Box" (a one-woman show about a woman who discovers herself while working in an LA homeless shelter) and "Exonerated"(starring Aiden Quinn and one of the actual death-row women who was saved, though her wrongfully accused husband was executed). I saw a premiere of a two-woman show about Audrey Hepburn and eating disorders that incorporated trapeze arts. And finally, my daughter and I experienced an amazingly beautiful, heart-wrenching theatrical event performed outdoors in the Botanical Gardens. "Children of the Sea" tells the story of Shakespeare's "Pericles" and the plight of Sri Lankan children directly affected by the recent tsunami catastrophe. As the audience traveled to different gardens to watch the enfolding scenes, with Edinburgh's Castle lit up against the nighttime sky, the actors, dancers and musicians, many of them 14-19 year old refugees who lost so much on December 26, shared their stories, their fears, and joy in being alive. Given the horrible comparisons of the tsunami to the recent devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, I wonder how my classes might use drama to explore their own fears and concerns about these disasters.
In addition to the Fringe Festival, I also spent a morning at the International Book Festival and attended one main stage Edinburgh Theatre Festival play, "Blackbird," directed by Germany's star, Peter Stein. Further, I was in heaven running along the Leith and around the Dean Gallery and Museum of Modern Art grounds. I already miss the mesmerizing wail of bag pipes, the lilt of the Scot's accent, and men in kilts!
By definition, the Fringe Festival is designed to encourage theatrical artists and audiences to think "outside the box." It was so much fun to be an audience member, seeing loads of theatre created by theatre artists and ensembles from all over the world. I look forward to exploring with my students ways to mix performance genres and theatrical elements. We will undoubtedly discover many different ways to tell a dramatic story.
Thank you PAMKA for funding this theatrical adventure.