HER Arts

Styles com­bine for Spa City fes­ti­vals

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Contents - STORY BY LORIEN E. DAHL

If per­form­ing mu­sic sud­denly be­came il­le­gal, at least three lo­cal en­ter­tain­ers say they would con­tinue shar­ing their crafts as out­laws in an un­der­ground scene. For­tu­nately, there’s noth­ing point­ing to the demise of public song in the Val­ley of the Va­pors — quite the op­po­site, as both the Hot Springs Jazz So­ci­ety and Spa City Blues So­ci­ety will put forth their an­nual fes­ti­vals at month’s end.

Mezzo-so­prano Diane Kes­ling, jazz vo­cal­ist Shirley Chau­vin, and blues bassist Kathy Kidd re­cently met up­stairs in the his­toric Ohio Club to talk about their mu­si­cal ori­gins and in­spi­ra­tions.

This will be Kidd’s first year to take part in the Blues Fes­ti­val. She said, “It is such a big thing for me. I’m so ex­cited to be able to play on that stage.”

Re­fer­ring to her­self as a “late bloomer,” Kidd’s ca­reer in mu­sic be­gan when her hus­band’s band broke up, and he drew upon the tal­ent she pos­sessed for a duo act. That first per­for­mance hap­pened af­ter only six weeks of re­hearsals, so she was thrown into the deep end pretty quickly. From there, she went on to play pro­fes­sion­ally sev­eral nights a week in venues around Fayet­teville, New Or­leans and Texas.

For Chau­vin, mu­si­cian­ship ran in her fam­ily. She took to en­ter­tain­ing an au­di­ence as early as first grade, and said she’s “never got­ten over lov­ing the ap­plause.” Dur­ing mid­dle school, she be­gan study­ing piano and even­tu­ally added vo­cal coach­ing lessons.

Her stel­lar abil­ity to im­pro­vise vo­cally came when Chau­vin be­came the first vo­cal­ist and fe­male mem­ber of the ac­claimed One O’Clock Lab Band at the Univer­sity of North Texas. Af­ter that, she was able to take those skills on the road, trav­el­ing across the coun­try with pro­fes­sional big bands dur­ing the 1950s and ’60s, which she said re­ally

pol­ished her as a per­former.

In Kes­ling’s case, mu­si­cal study started with the vi­o­lin, but she trans­ferred to vo­cal stud­ies in col­lege. Her in­struc­tor there sug­gested she take typ­ing lessons, say­ing she wouldn’t be able to sing pro­fes­sion­ally, but Kes­ling worked hard, and went on to be­come a long­time mem­ber of New York City’s Met­ro­pol­i­tan Opera House.

Al­though these ladies make mu­sic look easy, each pointed out the ded­i­ca­tion and dis­ci­pline re­quired to make it in the busi­ness. Chau­vin keeps boom boxes in her kitchen, bath­room and by her tread­mill, along with both CD and tape play­ers in her car, so she’s al­ways work­ing with her voice.

Kes­ling added, “Once you get to the top, then you have to keep putting in the time — you can­not stop.”

All three agreed that while the ag­ing process may present chal­lenges, the ex­pe­ri­ences gained over time al­low for richer on­stage ex­pres­sion that helps them reach au­di­ences emo­tion­ally.

Kidd said, “In the blues, it’s a sim­ple form, so the emo­tional as­pect re­ally is the essence of the art form. … If you don’t have that, I re­ally don’t think you have any­thing in mu­sic.”

Chau­vin has found mu­si­cal lib­er­a­tion as she’s grown older, wor­ry­ing far less about what oth­ers think. She said that has given her in­creased vul­ner­a­bil­ity, which af­fords her the men­tal space to give lis­ten­ers ev­ery­thing she’s got.

Train­ing for Kes­ling may have taken place on the lyri­cal stage, but she’s come to adore jazz per­for­mance, say­ing, “I love singing in this dis­ci­pline be­cause it’s so much more free. You can put your own emo­tion and style into it.” Her first ex­pe­ri­ence with Jaz­zFest was when musician Clyde Pound orig­i­nated the Clas­si­cal and Jazz Blow Out, where Chau­vin will em­cee this year and Kes­ling will per­form an aria.

Blues is part of Kidd’s lifeblood. She said, “I was born pretty close to Mem­phis, over in the Delta, so I think it may just have come up through my feet. … It’s al­ways been in my heart.”

Jazz was the only thing Chau­vin ever heard in her par­ents’ home, and she said, “I didn’t know there was any other kind of mu­sic.” That love has gone on to ben­e­fit the area, as she was a found­ing mem­ber of the lo­cal Jazz So­ci­ety and has been in­te­gral to its fes­ti­val since the be­gin­nings, in 1992.

Along with the mu­sic, she ap­pre­ci­ates that fes­ti­vals can be an ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­nity for stu­dents, which is a big part of the HSJS goals, as the or­ga­ni­za­tion gives stu­dent schol­ar­ships an­nu­ally.

Kes­ling sees fes­ti­vals as spe­cial be­cause, “You have a zil­lion peo­ple to­gether that all love the same thing,” adding, “I just love the free­dom and com­fort you get from mu­sic. It fills all as­pects of our psy­che.”

This year, the Hot Springs Blues Fes­ti­val’s of­fi­cial dates are Sept. 2-3 at Hill Wheat­ley Plaza, but ad­di­tional per­for­mances at the Big Chill be­gin­ning Aug. 30 will lead up to the down­town event.

The Hot Springs Jazz So­ci­ety’s 26th Jaz­zFest will run Aug. 31-Sept. 4 at var­i­ous venues.

stu­art Coles, left, and ray blue per­form dur­ing the 2014 jazz fest.

rachel mcbride per­form­ing dur­ing the 2012 blues fes­ti­val.

mezzo-so­prano Diane Kes­ling, blues bassist Kathy Kidd, and jazz vo­cal­ist shirley Chau­vin.

earl Hesse per­forms dur­ing the 2009 jazz fes­ti­val.

the spa City Young­bloods per­form dur­ing the 2016 blues fes­ti­val.

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