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Bloomington Herald-Times articles

June 17-19, 2006

IU grad student writes script for film that takes Academy gold
by Nicole Kauffman
June 18, 2006

BLOOMINGTON -- On June 10, Andrew "Cass" Burt sat in the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, Calif., waiting to see if his film would win the coveted Academy Award. Well, its student version, anyway.

The 27-year-old Carmel native and Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs graduate student wrote the script for "Perspective," a 20-minute film that won the Region II Student Academy Awards for best alternative film.

On that recent Saturday in California, it was one of 12 films vying for four winning spots - out of more than 300 entries. By late that night, Burt had his answer: The film took home the gold, beating out "6 a.m.," a film by students at City College of New York.

"Perspective" is about a college-aged man who runs into his ex-girlfriend and tries to win her back. The audience sees the action between the couple, as well as what's going on inside the male character's head throughout that interaction.

"There's a past to it, a memory to it. ... It's no longer how you see things, but the meaning those things hold to you," Burt said.

The voices of the male's id and superego layer on top of his speaking voice, giving the viewer a well-rounded view of his thoughts.

Layering the character voices was one tricky aspect of the writing. Although Burt has no professional writing experience, he was a longtime actor who enjoyed writing scenes as a hobby. (He also has penned a script called, "Honesty and Other Things That Kill Relationships.")

After he finished his undergraduate degree at Ball State University, Burt worked at the U Network, a university television network headquartered in Muncie. Friend Travis Hatfield decided to make a film to enter into the Student Academy Awards, and he asked Burt to do the writing.

Together, they settled on the idea of a man going on a date, with the viewers privy to his private thoughts. Eventually, that developed into "Perspective," which also boasts an all-original score.

The Student Academy Awards are given annually by the same organization - the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences - that hands out those coveted golden statuettes, the Oscars, to big-name films. Each year, university and college film students enter the competition. Many are from well-known film schools such as Columbia University, New York University and the University of Southern California.

Spike Lee, Bob Saget, Trey Parker and Robert Zemeckis are among past winners.

The 2005 winner, Jaron Henrie-McCrea, was a student at Ball State University, the first Indiana student ever to receive the award.

There is no overnight success for performers; Thousands attend IUmusic school, but only a handful achieve superstar status
by Nicole Kauffman
June 18, 2006

BLOOMINGTON -- They make it look so easy.

Chris Botti, his brown hair tipped with blond, his fine suits pressed, plays trumpet on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

Soprano Angela Brown graces the cover of the New York Times, after wowing the audience at the Metropolitan Opera.

Percussionist Shawn Pelton, cool in a cap and a hoop earring, is having the time of his life behind his drum set with the "Saturday Night Live" band.

All three are former Indiana University Jacobs School of Music students, and their footsteps echo through the institution's halls, representing the hopes and dreams of students who feel they, too, belong in the spotlight.

But the reality that comes with leaving the world of academia is harsh, especially for solo musicians with stars in their eyes. Of the 13,500 School of Music graduates to date, only a handful have achieved superstar status.

"Young musicians that go to music school, unfortunately, are some of the most in-the-dark about what it takes to be musicians after school," Botti said in an interview with the Hoosier Times.

Getting there

Botti remembers his trying early years, including the time his girlfriend dropped him off in the Bronx for a gig that started at 3 a.m. He planned to catch a ride home with the bassist after the performance, but when the musicians left the club at 6 a.m., they found their ride up on blocks, in the process of being dismantled. So they headed for the subway.

"I got home, and I got my money - $20 or something," said Botti, 43.

There were many such nights after Botti left IU shortly before completing his degree - something he never has finished - to take on a three-week gig with Frank Sinatra. He was riding the rush of that experience when he moved to New York at age 22. It took little time for him to realize life there meant sharing space with "giant" rats and playing late-night gigs in bad neighborhoods.

Pelton, now in his 14th year as the drummer for the "Saturday Night Live" band, has played with everyone from Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen to Billy Joel. He, too, recalls a difficult introduction to New York. He lived in Spanish Harlem, where crack addicts and drug dealers hung out on his building's stoop, and homeless people relieved themselves under the three flights of stairs he had to ascend with his drums in tow. To top it off, his truck was repeatedly broken into.

"There were a lot of hard years there before big success. It's extremely difficult to make it happen," Pelton said.

Help on the way

Still, those musicians are proof that it can happen, and IU graduate Sara Caswell hopes she, too, will meet her musical goals in New York.

The 28-year-old violinist, who plays jazz and classical, lives in a small apartment with two other musicians. She sleeps in the living room. She just completed her master's degree at the Manhattan School of Music, so she's ready to spend her time hanging out in clubs to network with other jazz musicians, assembling thick press packets and mastering the business side of booking gigs.

"It's like two or three full-time jobs," she said. "It's a struggle because of the fact that a lot of us haven't been equipped with business skills for this sort of thing."

Alain Barker, director of marketing and publicity for the School of Music, said there are plans to formalize a program to teach students those kinds of business skills. But right now, it's up to individual instructors how they want to prepare students for "the real world."

Practical advice

Pelton and Botti both say teachers who passed along real-world knowledge - jazz professor David Baker, trumpeter Bill Adam and Bloomington-based percussionist Kenny Aronoff - are to thank for their success.

But Botti adds the most important thing a musician can have is drive: For him, that came in the form of fear - especially the fear of having to fall back on something other than music.

"I had an I'm-gonna-make-it-or-die-trying attitude," he said.

Botti also said he understood early that as a soloist, he had to stand out in the crowd. Taking his cues from such charismatic players as bassist Edgar Meyer and violinist Joshua Bell - Botti's peers at IU - he developed his personal style alongside his trumpeting skills.

Even so, it wasn't until two years ago that he has felt he was a success, when he performed alongside a variety of famous artists at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, where he was the only instrumentalist.

Pelton says aspiring musicians should keep in mind how important it is to work well with others. That attribute earned him a good reputation as a session musician in New York, where word-of-mouth can mean the world.

Both recommend heading to New York - the sooner, the better.

"It's easier to deal with the hardship of New York when you're young. There's a big kind of thing musicians say, 'Well, I'm gonna stay in Bloomington and wait …'. The quicker you go there, the quicker you struggle, and the quicker it will go away," he said.

Opera singer Brown agrees, but admits she was afraid of New York and put off moving there for a couple of years. When she landed a position with the Metropolitan Opera, she developed a support system through her church. She stayed in Manhattan for five years.

"Once you go and do it, it's like, oh, OK, people are people everywhere," she said.

Staying on top

Today, Botti is reaping the fruits of his labor, but he has little time for anything but work. He puts in 18-hour days, "day after day," and has no time for a personal life. He doesn't even have a place he calls home right now.

Brown, who now lives near her family in Indianapolis and is enjoying some down time before hitting the road for nine months, says people can't begin to imagine the pressures of her job.

"You just got off the stage, singing 'Aida,' and you're whisked off to a gala. People expect you to be fabulous all the time. You have to smile and press the flesh, as I call it. Everybody's asking you the same questions. It's glamorous, but it's work, and it's all part of the job. I can't have an off moment."

Pelton is no longer greeted by crack addicts at his apartment building; he also works hard to keep up his career. The 43-year-old can't imagine having time for a family.

"I don't think people understand the all-consuming drive it takes to really make it as a performer. It's really a commitment," he said.

Exhausting as their careers may be, Botti, Brown and Pelton will continue to do their work because they love it, and Caswell has no doubt her career will be a musical one. But that doesn't mean she's without worry. She wonders if audiences for jazz will dwindle, and she wonders how she will stay financially secure.

"There's a reason they call us 'starving artists,'" she said.

She's not going to give up, though, and if a solo career doesn't pan out, there's always teaching, of course.

"I see myself as more of a performer, but I get a lot of joy watching people learn," she said.

In brief

They may have tasted success now, but there was a time when trumpeter Chris Botti, soprano Angela Brown and percussionist Shawn Pelton were students at the IU Jacobs School of Music. They were faces in a crowd of thousands, all with big dreams -- and big obstacles to overcome.

The life of a working musician or performer isn't easy. Those who have made a career in performing offer some advice to those students dreaming big.

Big in Japan; Latest version of area-based show about to 'Blast' off
by Nicole Kauffman
June 18, 2006

BLOOMINGTON -- For the past three summers, "Blast!" consistently has sold out shows in Japan.

"There's no spoken language," said James Mason, its creator. "Music is the universal language being communicated to them."

So, when Mason and others with the award-winning musical decided to create a new version, they decided its world premiere would be in Tokyo. "Blast II: M.I.X." is being financed completely by a Japanese company, and a two-year North American tour is expected to follow this summer's five-month stint in Japan.

Mason hopes the new show -- "M.I.X." stands for "Music In Xtreme" -- will follow a path similar to that of its predecessor, ultimately making it to Broadway or landing a spot in Las Vegas. But, for now, he and the cast are focused on refining their production as they see it on stage in the coming days.

"It's a work in progress," said the Bloomington resident by phone from New York City, where he lives part time.

Area residents can catch preview shows at the RiverPark Center in Owensboro, Ky., on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Tickets are available online at

Blast! off

The original "Blast!" featured brass instruments, color guard, drums and dance. It evolved out of the Star of Indiana drum corps, which businessman Bill Cook sponsored to give Indiana students a music education. In 1984, he hired Mason to be the creative force behind it.

The drum corps won the Drum Corps International World Championship in 1991, and Mason, a drum corps veteran, brought the show to an indoor stage.

With George Pinney - the Emmy Award-winning choreographer for a PBS production of "Blast!" and Indiana University professor of theater and drama and head of acting/directing - as acting director of the stage show, "Blast!" opened in London in 1999. It became a hit before it headed to Broadway, where it won a 2001 Tony Award for Best Theatrical Event.

"I was really surprised how quickly we climbed the ladder, (with) something that was immersed in (Indiana) tradition," said Mason, CEO and president of Mason Entertainment Group and "Blast II" artistic director, composer and arranger.

New hit?

Now, after two other Mason Entertainment Group shows followed "Blast!" with less of a bang - "Shockwave" and "Cyberjam" - Mason says "Blast II" has got it right.

"'Shockwave' got it 60-percent correct; 'Cyberjam' was 75- to 80-percent correct," he said. "This show really takes it another step."

The cast is 45 strong, and flute, clarinet and saxophone have been added. Even bungee jumping and pogo balls are featured, and the production includes a world-class jump roper (who plays the horn) and a world-champion baton twirler.

The cast was chosen through a long screening process, Mason said. Performers sent in videotapes of themselves, and many were recommended by college band directors and drum and bugle corps directors.

Mason said the limits of physicality are stretched in the show, which he likes to describe as the "Stan Kenton Big Band on steroids."

"We're starting to get very excited about it," he said.

'Blast II'

WHAT: "Blast II: M.I.X.," the new production based on the hit musical, "Blast!"

WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday, 9 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: RiverPark Center, 101 Daviess St., Owensboro, Ky. - then the show heads to Japan for a five-month run.

HOW MUCH: $39.50, with a discount for groups of 20 or more.

INFO: http://www.riverpark, 270-687-ARTS

The business of the bean; Coffee stores open in area as Starbucks continues worldwide growth
by Mike Ricketts
June 18, 2006

In less than two decades, Starbucks Coffee Co. has steamed its way into the Top 10 of restaurant moneymakers in the United States.

And the company, founded by three college buddies in 1971, doesn't appear to be coming down from its caffeine-driven high anytime soon.

Seattle-based Starbucks is adding to its 11,225 worldwide locations at a rate of five a day, said Keith Stewart, regional marketing manager of Starbucks.

With six locations in Bloomington (including one just recently opened on South Walnut Street), one in Martinsville and one being built in Bedford, south-central Indiana hasn't been immune to the growth.

Stewart said the philosophy of the company is to serve the "world's finest premium coffee" where there are those who drink it.

"We have not operated with a particular strategy as we've expanded into smaller American markets," Stewart said. "Instead, we strive to always meet the demands of coffee lovers."

Bringing the Starbucks brand to smaller communities slower than to the metropolitan areas has never been because of market criteria, he added.

"In the past, our location restrictions were due to distribution limitations," Stewart said. "Now, with our growth throughout the country, we are better able to service smaller markets."

With $3.1 billion in revenue last year, can there be drinkers of premium coffee who are not already paying a Starbucks barista somewhere to pull them a made-to-order coffee drink?

"The rate of Starbucks' growth is going to level off probably, but the growth is not going to stop for them," said Indiana University marketing professor Jonlee Andrews. "They seem to be very, very good at figuring out where they fit in to certain cultures in the world."

That includes creating a culture unto itself, with its own terminology and well-trained staff that serves a reliable coffee made with top-quality beans, said Mark Pendergrast, author of "Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How it Transformed Our World."

"As (Starbucks' leader Howard) Schultz is fond of pointing out, Starbucks provides a 'third place' for people to meet comfortably and to socialize -- not home, not work -- that has been missing in America since the demise of the soda fountain," Pendergrast said.

Part of the attraction and mystique of Starbucks is that is driven by designer status, leaving it without an economy model, said Dick Canada, executive director the Center for Global Sales Leadership at IU.

"For something that cost a nickel, a dime, a quarter and suddenly to pay $3 for it and to smile while you're buying it just doesn't make sense," Canada said. "I buy it and then wonder if I'm crazy."

That's not to say everybody smiles after buying coffee from Starbucks.

When the company opened it first Bloomington store, protesters picketed, accusing the corporate giant of trying to slay the Davids of the world.

But Pendergrast believes even the negative publicity has helped heighten the Starbucks buzz.

"Comedians and movies love to make fun of Starbucks, and many critics love to hate them because they are successful and big compared to any other coffeehouse chain," Pendergrast said. "But all publicity is good publicity."

The reality, though -- as Andrews, Pendergrast and even Bloomington coffeehouse competitor Dean Foster agreed -- is that Starbucks is a solid corporate citizen.

"The truth is they're a pretty good company," said Foster, who owns three locations of the Copper Cup in Bloomington. "Even their part-timers are offered health insurance."

It is respect more than fear that Foster has for Starbucks.

Foster delivers a quality product and uses local culture, such as displaying works by area artists in his shops. And he doesn't believe the coffee behemoth has hurt his business.

"There is a nice local following for local businesses," Foster said. "And if a local can do it as well as chain, they will get the local business over the chain."

In smaller markets, such as Bedford and Martinsville, that don't have or haven't been able to keep coffee houses, there often isn't competition.

But the question becomes, can Bedford residents buy enough espressos, lattes and desserts to continue the Starbucks record of having never pulled a location out of a market?

Pendergrast, from his knowledge of the company's success, leans toward yes.

"No one can really predict the future, and it depends on each location and how small 'really small' is," Pendergrast said. "In general, I think many rural communities would love to have a Starbucks nearby; so yes, I think they could survive."

More coffee houses in Bloomington -- Starbucks or otherwise -- might be a different story, though.

"Bloomington is nearing saturation," Foster said. "From my standpoint, I don't think there is anywhere we could expand within Bloomington."

Starbucks roots

1971 Three college buddies start the Seattle "hippie-like boutique" to roast and sell coffee beans.

1982 Starbucks hires salesman Howard Schultz.

1983 Schultz convinces Starbucks owners to begin selling coffee drinks. He travels to Italy and falls in love with the coffeehouses and the espresso drinks they serve.

1989 Schultz buys Starbucks. With 87 stores and operating in the red, Schultz convinces the investors to suffer losses while the company grows.

1990 By this time the company has lost $1.2 million.

1991 The company, now with 100 stores, has about $57 million in sales.

1992 Starbucks goes public.

2000 The company shows a net revenue of $2.2 billion per year.

2003 Starbucks has an annual net revenue of $5.3 billion a year for a net revenue growth of 30 percent from 2002.

2006 The coffee company is opening, on average, five new locations every day.

Source: Starbucks, Mark Pendergrast, "Uncommon Grounds."

Carnival-inspired fun, fear and family time continues
by Lanetta J. Williams
June 18, 2006

BLOOMINGTON -- Four-year-old Emma Hale zeroed in on a yellow balloon, arched her wrist and let the dart fly.

It was the winning throw that netted her a black, stuffed police car, which was added to her already sizeable treasure of three large Care Bears.

She pointed at the rainbow-colored wall of balloons and said the game was her favorite so far "because I like to pop balloons," and then she dragged her dad to yet another ride.

Dad Danny Hale happily endured the stuffed animals and 91-degree weather to share the experience with his young daughter.

I do this "for the enjoyment of her," he said pointing at Emma.

The pair took in the Fun Frolic Saturday in the Indiana University Memorial Stadium parking lot. The summertime carnival screams, spins and whirls through June 24.

Diane Ridge watched her son Jesse, 9, run over to a multicolored train after winning a plastic toy gun. She said he's been good this week and the outing was a reward for his behavior.

"He's having a wonderful time," she said. "I like to reward him for an excellent week."

The Fun Frolic is a fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters and IU Campus Child Care. For kids of all ages, there's an assortment of carnival rides, games and food. The event continues through June 24.

School district wins large grant to teach history
by Hannah Lodge
June 17, 2006

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded the Metropolitan School District of Martinsville a grant of $999,735 to be used for teaching American history.

The grant will be used to expand teachers' and students' knowledge of American history through seminars, workshops and travel experiences, said Jerry Sanders, assistant superintendent of instruction for the district.

Sanders said the school system has been working to obtain the grant since December and outlined its proposal based on input from teachers and faculty members.

Of the 313 proposals for the grant, only 124 were accepted and only four school corporations in Indiana received the grant.

"If you really want to be effective as a teacher, you want to engage the kids," Sanders said. "That's what this is all about."

The district will partner with IUPUI scholars and the Indiana Historical Society staff to bring distinguished historians and educators to Martinsville schools. Teachers from the Ninevah-Hensley Jackson School Corp. were also invited to participate in a limited number of seminars, Sanders said.

Ninevah-Hensley Superintendent John Reed said he is eager for his district to participate in the program.

"We're real excited about that," he said. "It was their initiative to go after that grant."

During the three-year course of seminars and workshops provided by the grant, 120 kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers from the school district of Martinsville and Ninevah-Hensley-Jackson schools will participate in seminars, and as many as 12 will participate in intensive summer field experiences.

Each summer, field trip teams of four to five teachers will be selected to travel across the country. Those teams will pool their resources and travel experiences to develop educational DVDs with help from the Polis Center, a multidisciplinary unit of Indiana University in Indianapolis on the IUPUI campus. Those DVDs could then be distributed to schools throughout the state, Sanders said.

For the 2006-07 school year, the workshops will focus on the Colonial period through the early republic. In the second year, the Reconstruction period will be covered, and the third will cover the year 1877 through the civil rights movement.