The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By John J. Moser Morn­ing Call Le­high Val­ley Mu­sic re­porter and colum­nist John J. Moser can be reached at 610-820-6722 or jmoser

Just as Allentown is bur­geon­ing, its artis­tic ex­pres­sion is un­der­go­ing growth as well, the chair­woman of Allentown Art Com­mis­sion told an au­di­ence Thurs­day at its 31st an­nual Arts Ova­tion Awards at Allentown’s Miller Sym­phony Hall.

And it’s been the work of some long­time con­trib­u­tors to the arts com­mu­nity who have laid the ground­work for that to hap­pen, pre­sen­ters said.

The awards rec­og­nized a news­pa­per arts and en­ter­tain­ment ed­i­tor, a sym­phony or­ches­tra con­duc­tor, a per­form­ing mu­si­cian, a vis­ual artist and a cos­tume de­signer and oth­ers whose work for decades has helped de­fine and pro­mote the arts and bring Allentown to where it is to­day.

“Our city is grow­ing and our can­vas is grow­ing just as fast,” Arts Com­mis­sion Ova­tion Chair­woman Jane Heft said. She noted that 10 mu­rals have been cre­ated through­out the city in just the past year, and a grant from the Trexler Trust will pay to re­store some of the city’s pub­lic art pieces. It also plans to start a grant pro­gram to fur­ther the arts.

Leonard Light­ner, Allentown’s direc­tor of com­mu­nity and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, said the com­mis­sion it­self was among those en­ti­ties that had brought the city’s art com­mu­nity to where it is to­day.

“To think, that 31 years ago the com­mis­sion looked at this and said, ‘We need to rec­og­nize the im­por­tance of art. We need to make sure it’s car­ried on,’ ” Light­ner said.

“We’re chang­ing the city eco­nom­i­cally, but also emo­tion­ally and spir­i­tu­ally,” Light­ner said. “What you’ve cre­ated and what you’re do­ing, it al­lows us to es­cape. You bring val­ues to the city.” He said the city plans to con­tinue to in­cor­po­rate the arts in all that it does.

The night’s top Life­time Achieve­ment Award went to

Jodi Duck­ett, who in Fe­bru­ary re­tired as The Morn­ing Call’s arts and en­ter­tain­ment ed­i­tor af­ter a nearly 40-year ca­reer.

“We would be hard-pressed to find a per­son in the arts com­mu­nity who has not been touched by the writ­ing of Jodi Duck­ett,” com­mis­sion mem­ber Ann El­iz­a­beth Sch­legel said in pre­sent­ing the award to Duck­ett, who was given a stand­ing ova­tion.

“I just re­ally cared,” Duck­ett said. “I still care. … We all con­sid­ered our work a pub­lic ser­vice. I’m not an artist, but I’m an arts ap­pre­ci­a­tor.”

She said her award rec­og­nized the im­por­tance of The Morn­ing Call and the press in gen­eral in the role of sup­port­ing the arts, and said the Le­high Val­ley was lucky to have an arts com­mu­nity that con­tin­ues to pro­duce in the face of re­duced arts fund­ing.

Duck­ett joined the paper in 1979 and was an award-win­ning re­porter for 20 years. In 1999, she be­came En­ter­tain­ment Ed­i­tor and for 20 years pro­duced the paper’s Go Guide on Thurs­days, Fri­days and Sun­days.

In ad­di­tion to pro­duc­ing the paper’s en­ter­tain­ment sec­tions, her du­ties in­cluded as­sign­ing and man­ag­ing re­porters, edit­ing their writ­ing, de­vel­op­ing cre­ative art con­cepts, pub­lic li­ai­son and even writ­ing.

Allentown Sym­phony Or­ches­tra’s mu­sic direc­tor and con­duc­tor Diane Wit­try, who started her 25th sea­son with the sym­phony Sept. 21, was hon­ored for Out­stand­ing Achieve­ment in Lit­er­ary Arts.

Wit­try has writ­ten two books. “Be­yond the Ba­ton” is a re­quired text at many col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties, in­clud­ing in Great Bri­tain and Aus­tralia. “Ba­ton Ba­sics — Com­mu­ni­cat­ing Mu­sic Through Ges­tures,” is used in con­duct­ing classes across the coun­try and in Europe.

She’s also a sought-out con­duct­ing teacher and men­tor, and this sum­mer was in­vited to teach at three in­ter­na­tional con­duct­ing sem­i­nars.

Wit­try’s Allentown Sym­phony ten­ure is the sec­ond­longest in the sym­phony’s his­tory and just five years short of the record. Last year, Wit­try agreed to ex­tend her con­tract through 2021.

“It’s great to live in a city where the arts are so ap­pre­ci­ated,” Wit­try said.

The new Crescendo Award, rec­og­niz­ing an Al­len­to­nian who has “grown their tal­ents to in­ter­na­tional lev­els and con­tinue to give back to our com­mu­nity,” went to Michael McDon­ald ,a Tony Award-nom­i­nated New York cos­tumer de­signer who works on Broad­way pro­duc­tions.

“The take-away for me from a ca­reer in the the­ater is not the cos­tumes, but the friends,” McDon­ald said.

McDon­ald be­gan his ca­reer as a teen vol­un­teer, de­sign­ing more than 25 pro­duc­tions with Civic The­atre of Allentown. He has also de­signed cos­tumes for Penn­syl­va­nia Play­house, The The­ater Out­let and The PA Shake­speare Fes­ti­val. He still of­ten re­turns to Allentown to de­sign cos­tumes for Muh­len­berg’s Sum­mer The­atre.

He later worked on Broad­way pro­duc­tions such as “Hair,” for which he got a Tony nom­i­na­tion; Off-Broad­way and re­gional shows, and con­tin­ues to work on Broad­way, pro­duc­tions at The Pub­lic The­atre, one of New York’s most pres­ti­gious arts cen­ters, and many re­spected re­gional and Off-Broad­way the­aters.

He also teaches at the New York Univer­sity Tisch School of the Arts and Rut­gers Ma­son Gross School of the Arts.

Gui­tarist Mike Krisukas, a long­time Le­high Val­ley gui­tarist and com­poser who has had a ca­reer of more than 40 years, was given the award for Out­stand­ing Achieve­ment in Per­form­ing Arts.

Krisukas was founder and song­writer of the cabaret rock band Zen for Pri­mates and toured Ja­pan as the gui­tarist for R&B band The Three De­grees and France and Greece with In­ter­laken. He has writ­ten jin­gles and film/video sound­tracks and co-founded the for­mer Bum­mer Tent Records, on which many re­gional mu­sic acts recorded.

The award for Out­stand­ing Achieve­ment in Vis­ual Arts went to Ron De Long, known for his im­pact on the arts in

Allentown as a vis­ual artist. He’s also an in­struc­tor, ad­vo­cate and bene­fac­tor of the Ron De Long Art Gallery at Penn State Le­high Val­ley, where he’s an art lec­turer and fine arts in­struc­tor. He also op­er­ates Stu­dio and Gallery 2908.

Other awards given were: Allentown Sym­phony As­so­ci­a­tion’s El Sis­tema Le­high

Val­ley pro­gram, which gives stu­dents two to three hours a day of vo­cal and in­stru­men­tal in­struc­tion, as well as in­struc­tion in other ar­eas, full hot meals and trans­porta­tion, was hon­ored for Out­stand­ing Achieve­ment in Arts Ed­u­ca­tion.

El Sis­tema started at Sym­phony Hall in 2012 as a branch of an in­ter­na­tional pro­gram that uses mu­sic and artis­tic op­por­tu­ni­ties to help im­pov­er­ished chil­dren be­come suc­cess­ful and ac­tive cit­i­zens in their com­mu­nity. It was the only pro­gram in the United States in­vited to par­tic­i­pate in the record­ing of “Love Peo­ple,” a video fea­tur­ing 1,000 chil­dren from 13 coun­tries to sing an an­them of tol­er­ance, har­mony and un­der­stand­ing. Out­stand­ing Achieve­ment in Phi­lan­thropy to de­vel­op­ers Cen­ter City Allentown, whose Build­ing Com­mu­nity Ini­tia­tive fo­cuses on the arts, ed­u­ca­tion and com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment. In 2018, City Cen­ter do­nated more than $4.3 mil­lion to 123 or­ga­ni­za­tions through the pro­gram. In

ad­di­tion, the com­pany’s 25 em­ploy­ees vol­un­teered 2,000 hours at 45 or­ga­ni­za­tions. Out­stand­ing Ser­vice to the

Arts to pub­lic ra­dio sta­tion WDIY-FM, 88.1, of Beth­le­hem. The Val­ley’s only lo­cally based mem­ber of the na­tional pub­lic ra­dio net­work, it went on the air in 1995 and cov­ers a 250-square mile area, from west­ern Berks County to Clin­ton, N.J. In ad­di­tion to fea­tur­ing NPR’s flag­ship news pro­grams and its own pub­lic af­fairs pro­grams, the sta­tion pro­duces a wide range of mu­sic pro­grams.

Emerg­ing Artist to Aaron Stone, 18, a high school se­nior known for his fan­tasy masks. He has par­tic­i­pated in ex­hi­bi­tions through school and has been a fa­vorite at Allentown’s West End Art In The Park. He re­ceived the Dr. Chris­tine Is­abella Oak­lan­der Award for ex­cel­lence in the vis­ual arts in the 2018 East Cen­tral Penn­syl­va­nia Scholas­tic Art Awards. Arts Ova­tion Schol­ar­ships

went to Xia­mari Oso­rio of Allen High School, Delilah Ro­driguezRey­es of Dieruff High School, Ri­ley Loz of Allentown Cen­tral Catholic High and Natalia Lugo of Build­ing 21 Allentown High School.


Diane Wit­try re­ceives the Out­stand­ing Achieve­ment In Lit­er­ary Arts award on Thurs­day dur­ing the cer­e­mony at Miller Sym­phony Hall in Allentown.

Mike Krisukas re­ceives the Out­stand­ing Achieve­ment In The Per­form­ing Arts award on Thurs­day dur­ing the 31st an­nual Arts Ova­tion Awards at Miller Sym­phony Hall in Allentown.

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