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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Words & Music, Season III: An Interview with Jerry Libstaff

Jerry Libstaff

The first time I was formally introduced to Jerry Libstaff, he was interviewing Mark Runions (pianist) and me, as representatives of our band, Jazz Musette.  His article would appear in the following month’s Key Peninsula News.  Jerry was a great fan of our band and, as we talked, I found him to be tremendously supportive of other artists, in every genre…especially when it came to our young, budding artists.  The three of us spent a delightful afternoon on my back deck, overlooking Joe’s Bay, six years ago now.

Mr. Libstaff has served Key Peninsula well; a year as Vice President of Two Waters Arts Alliance, in 2004, a year as President of TWAA, in 2005, during which time he wrote monthly Art articles for the Key Pen News.  I remember being part of a music event he organized, Jazz Musette sharing the bill with Tacoma’s own Vicci Martinez.  He was far from done.

In past posts I’ve written many times about “Words & Music,” covering every house concert of the first season.  It was amazing to see the crème de la crème of Folk Music, in a most beautiful house, at the mouth of Dutcher’s Cove, less than fifteen minutes from my house.  Each singer-songwriter was paired with a wordsmith, be it poetry, novels, or both.  In every audience were people who had come from out of state, even out of country, great fans of each performer.

Love's reflection
As Jerry says, “For a small donation, our guests have the opportunity to see world-class authors and singer-songwriters, and watch artists work during the event.  Guests aren’t separated from the artists by a stage, they’re even able to meet and talk with them.  It’s better than a back-stage pass.  We also provide food and beverages, for the same donation.”

Erm…providing food and beverages does not begin to describe the spread of canapés, sushi, fresh fruit, wine, coffee, mineral water and, oh yes, chocolate, chocolate-covered strawberries, chocolate cookies…oh my, the spread!

Jerry, and his dynamo wife, Pamela, make perfect hosts, welcoming everyone into their home as cherished guests, only asking for donations to Jerry’s “Young Writers” program  (more on that in a moment) which is at the heart of their house concerts.  It was Pamela’s dream, to be able to gather good folks in their salon, for music, poetry, and author’s readings.  I love to see her smile, from the back of the kitchen, as she watches artists and audience enter conversations, smiles again, watching people gather around Tweed Meyer’s paintings of both artist and performance. When she's able to join the show, she adds a dimension all her own.

Tweed Meyer
House concerts are a brilliant way for minstrels (oh yes, so has it ever been) to make a living, touring and selling their CD’s.  They’re also wonderful for raising money, so badly needed for artistic programs to continue, for the next generation of writers and performers.  I’ll keep saying this until I drop…growing brains need the Arts, to create language between left and right brains.  Children need this process, to push both intellect and imagination.  Hidden, here on the Key, behind the expensive, waterfront homes, are families in need, with their children especially in need of help, activities, and hope in those growing brains.

I asked Jerry, what the focus was, for the Young Writer’s program he established in 2006.

“We pair [young writers] with successful, published authors, to show them they can have a future as a writer.  It’s a free event for teens. The workshops offer kids a role model, as well as inspiration and instruction.  All of our programs accept donations, specifically to help present these workshops. To date we have worked with nearly 100 local teens to provide them confidence to write. It's always wonderful when the kids come into the program as strangers and go home as friends, with something in common.”

 What made Jerry and Pam decide to create this series of House Concerts as fundraisers?

“When Pam and I left the busy East Side, for the serene life of the Key Peninsula, we left behind access to many of the arts and artists we knew and loved.  The act of attending a concert changed, from an evening that involved a ten of fifteen minute commute, to one of more than two hours in each direction.”

Pam's wish
“We reached out to the art world of Key Peninsula, to both enjoy it, as well as provide that quick access for our neighbors.  Still, the prospect of experiencing world-class entertainment was often hours away.  We decided to bring it home.  Pam suggested we call our concert series “Words & Music” so we could include the written word with songwriters.  Our first program involved eight visual artists as well.”

How does Jerry find the authors and singers…and where do these artists come from?

“In the beginning, we were fortunate to find two East Coast singer-songwriters, who were touring the country.  Both appeared here in the Northwest during different months, and they agreed to perform at our house.  As we went forward, we contacted several of our favorite singers, and asked to present them.  One took four years of requests, and another took two.  At this time, however, we’re fortunate enough to have singers contact us.  It’s a dream come true.”

“We have had singers from across the country, up and down the East Coast, Austin Texas, Tennessee, Colorado, California and, of course, Washington State.  We’ve presented a classical guitarist from Britton, and entertainers from Canada.  Also, we’ve had guests fly here from New York, New Jersey, Michigan, and Texas.  Some have driven from B.C., Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon and California, to attend Word & Music.  Not quite the fifteen minute commute!”

Ari Hest
This season’s Words & Music begins on February 18th, with New York singer-songwriter Ari Hest, just returned from a tour in Germany.  Mr. Hest has a dozen albums to his credit, a wonderful performer.  Washington poet, Jane Alynn, will read from her works.  Ms. Alynn is an award-winning writer, with several books.  Sounds like a wonderful way to kick off “Words & Music” for Season III

If you would like more information, to make reservations for seating, or to get on “Words & Music” mailing list, write to Jerry, at this address.


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