HER Arts

The Muses com­bines tal­ent, kind­ness

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Contents - Story by Lind­sey Wells, pho­tog­ra­phy by Mara Kuhn

The Muses Creative Artistry Project is cel­e­brat­ing 10 years in Hot Springs this year and con­tin­ues each year to thrive and ex­pand. Ac­cord­ing to The Muses web­site, the project is a re­gional per­form­ing arts tour­ing com­pany that em­ploys pro­fes­sional artists, mu­si­cians, and teach­ers from within the state and across the coun­try to cre­ate di­verse per­for­mance op­por­tu­ni­ties and pre­sen­ta­tions in all gen­res of high­est qual­ity artis­tic col­lab­o­ra­tion in­clud­ing in­stru­men­tal and vo­cal mu­sic, fine art, lit­er­a­ture, po­etry, drama and dance.

Deleen David­son, The Muses’ founder, gen­eral di­rec­tor and artis­tic di­rec­tor, is a clas­si­cally trained so­prano who re­lo­cated to Hot Springs from New Or­leans in 2005 af­ter Hur­ri­cane Katrina took ev­ery­thing from her. Toni Spears, The Muses’ com­pany man­ager and head of its Ed­u­ca­tional Out­reach and Heal­ing Arts Chap­ter, fol­lowed af­ter “tak­ing the long way around,” she said, re­lo­cat­ing first from New Or­leans to Cal­i­for­nia in 2005, then to Hot Springs in 2009.

“Deleen and I are dear friends,” Toni said. “We go back — I could lie — we go back over 20 years.”

The Muses was born from a vi­sion that be­gan for Deleen in New Or­leans, and Toni helps to ex­e­cute that vi­sion.

“We didn’t know what it was go­ing to even­tu­ally be but the seeds of the ideas be­gan to ger­mi­nate even in New Or­leans, be­fore Hur­ri­cane Katrina changed all that. We each lost ev­ery­thing, so we knew it was time to re­lo­cate,” Toni said.

The Muses con­sists of three com­po­nents: the per­form­ing arts, the creative arts, and the heal­ing arts.

Toni said the troupe be­lieves that “art heals” and she pre­sents quar­terly sem­i­nars on whole and holis­tic heal­ing and well-be­ing. She is also a cer­ti­fied life coach.

“I get to work with some of the per­form­ers. We get per­form­ers from all over the coun­try. Life has its chal­lenges. One of the rea­sons they like com­ing here to Hot Springs is be­cause of its charm and its quaint­ness, and the peo­ple are good and kind. And we take very good care of our per­form­ers,” she said. “We give them this great plat­form. We also draw peo­ple who are not only tal­ented, but kind and nice. That’s one of the things we re­quire.”

One of The Muses’ mot­tos is “be nice or leave,” she said, adding, “be­cause you can get tal­ent but to have that com­bi­na­tion of kind­ness and tal­ent is ex­tra­or­di­nary.”

One of The Muses’ re­gional per­form­ers, Ruth’e Kore­litz, is a clas­si­cally trained vo­cal­ist with a reper­toire that spans from opera to jazz, per­form­ing with var­i­ous opera and the­ater com­pa­nies from Mis­sis­sippi to Cal­i­for­nia. Lo­cally, Ruth’e is a soloist for area churches and pri­vate venues. She is also a found­ing mem­ber of the Hot Springs Vil­lage vo­cal en­sem­ble Voices Ris­ing.

Ruth’e came to The Muses in 2009 af­ter meet­ing Deleen by ac­ci­dent at a Hot Springs Mu­sic Fes­ti­val af­ter-party.

“I was look­ing for live clas­si­cal mu­sic be­cause that’s one of the things that’s not easy to find in the Hot Springs area. Deleen in­vited me to come and sing with her church and I said yes, and it sort of got me back into the arts again, which I had missed so sorely. I had left kind of a bad sit­u­a­tion where I was, I was go­ing through a di­vorce and I had lost some peo­ple who were very close to me all at the same time. I was kind of look­ing for some­thing to com­fort my soul and that’s when these ladies showed up in my life.”

The project also men­tors its per­form­ers through its Young Artist Pro­gram. Toni de­scribes it as a “lay­ered men­tor­ing process.”

“You’ve got the high level, highly trained pro­fes­sional artists, you’ve got re­gional per­form­ers, and you’ve got re­cent col­lege grad­u­ates who are teach­ing and maybe not per­form­ing but still want to keep their chops. Then, you’ve got col­lege mu­sic stu­dents and you’ve got high school. What we’ve seen is the pro­fes­sion­als end up men­tor­ing di­rectly the other pro­fes­sion­als, the other pro­fes­sion­als men­tor the col­lege, the col­lege men­tor the high school.

“When the high school stu­dents see these pro­fes­sion­als still prac­tic­ing, work­ing, pre­par­ing to get on stage, it’s not like, ‘Oh, I’ve got this, I don’t need to prac­tice’ — they are run­ning lines, they are singing, so it in­forms them on an­other level. What we know is that the skills that they ac­quire are trans­fer­able. It doesn’t mean you have to be­come a singer or per­former, but what it does is it con­nects to that part of us that want ex­cel­lence. Not per­fec­tion, but ex­cel­lence, so you can bring that to any walk of life. That’s ba­si­cally the bot­tom line,” Toni said.

The Muses Young Artist Pro­gram also al­lows col­lege or grad­u­ate aged mu­sic stu­dents to per­form along­side pro­fes­sional per­form­ers from other ar­eas.

“We usu­ally have about six to 10 col­lege-age stu­dents that au­di­tion for me through­out the year. They’re al­ready in their mu­sic de­gree, they’re al­ready prac­tic­ing their craft, but they join us in first the en­sem­ble and then, as their tal­ent in­creases, as they get more ex­pe­ri­ence on­stage, then we give them small roles and even­tu­ally step them up into larger roles,” Deleen said.

“The ad­van­tage to a col­lege stu­dent of hav­ing a plat­form to prac­tice their craft is so dif­fer­ent than the ex­pe­ri­ence that they’ve had in the univer­sity set­ting, no mat­ter how ex­cel­lent their school train­ing is. They need that in­terim po­si­tion to step out, do it in front of an au­di­ence, work with skilled pro­fes­sion­als that they can model. So it’s a men­tor­ing pro­gram. They stay with us as long as they can un­til they go to their next level,” she added.

Deleen said they have stu­dents that have gone through the Young Artist Pro­gram and went on to per­form in big­ger cities such as Chicago and New Or­leans.

“It’s real world ex­pe­ri­ence that they could not get any­where else,” Toni added.

In ad­di­tion, the stu­dents are taught en­trepreneur­ship, the busi­ness side of a creative pro­fes­sion, how to self mar­ket, how to pro­mote, and “how to know that it’s not a reg­u­lar 9-5 bank teller job,” Deleen said.

“You have to con­stantly be re­spon­si­ble for your own ca­reer; you are your own man­ager. Teach­ing them that, show­ing them that, giv­ing them the tools to do it, help­ing with their re­sumes, help­ing them with their rec­om­men­da­tions, get­ting that prac­ti­cal side of it in there, it all makes it much more likely that they’re not go­ing to bail on an artis­tic life and go sell in­sur­ance,” she added.

The project also works to men­tor teach­ers who aren’t nec­es­sar­ily look­ing for a ca­reer in per­form­ing arts, but are teach­ing stu­dents who are.

“We give them that plat­form. They nour­ish their own tal­ent and they’re able to not only spot tal­ent in their stu­dents but they’re able to use some of the tech­niques and the skills that they’ve learned through The Muses Project and men­tor­ing and devel­op­ing their stu­dents,” Toni said. “It’s see­ing the ev­i­dence of a whole other gen­er­a­tion ben­e­fit­ing from their ex­pe­ri­ence.”

When asked where she sees The Muses in 10 years, Deleen said, “I know we’ll still be ded­i­cated to the same mis­sion of the clas­si­cal arts.”

She said she ex­pects the Young Artist Pro­gram to have ex­panded to in­clude col­lege stu­dents from around the state, not just Lit­tle Rock and Arkadel­phia. She also said that be­cause of a grow­ing need for live per­for­mance in smaller com­mu­ni­ties, she ex­pects the troupe to do a lot more tour­ing in the fu­ture and bring the phi­los­o­phy of The Muses and the phi­los­o­phy of ex­cel­lence and in­spi­ra­tion to a broader geo­graphic re­gion.

The Muses’ sea­sonal subscription se­ries con­sist of its Celtic Spring con­certs dur­ing spring­time, its Broad­way con­certs dur­ing sum­mer­time, its Opera con­certs dur­ing fall, and its up­com­ing Voices of An­gels con­certs dur­ing Christ­mas­time.

This year, The Muses will present its 12th an­nual Voices of An­gels sa­cred Christ­mas con­cert tour, per­form­ing five shows in Hot Springs, Hot Springs Vil­lage, and El Do­rado. Tick­ets are $35 and show dates are set for Dec. 6-10. Visit http://www.the­mus­espro­ject.org or call 501-609-9811 for in­for­ma­tion.

The 2016 cast of The Muses per­form dur­ing the open­ing num­ber of the Broad­way Cabaret at the Hot Springs Cul­tural Cen­ter.

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