l Capital University Journal
Arts - The Next Generation
by Laurie Hall
photos by Sherry Mark
Region abounds with artists who got their start in the concert halls,
classrooms, studios and theatres of Sac State. Building on that tradition
is a energetic crop of new creative talents, destined to add to the Universitys
imprint on the arts community. These five students are just a few of the
up-and-comers to watch for.
chosen to choreograph for Sac States popular Dale Scholl Dance/Art
company is a coup for a dancer. But if youre still an undergraduate
student like Joseph Candelaria, its also a rarity. Its
unusual. I was surprised, Candelaria says. Generally its
only faculty or outside choreographers who work on choreography for the
The 21-year-old has been a part of every Dance/Art production for the
last year and a half. He relishes the opportunity to experiment with different
types of music and often uses contemporary artists such as Madonna, David
Bowie andfor the troupes fall productionU2.
But he resists the temptation to interpret the songs lyrics into
a live music video. I try to get the essence of what the music says
and go with that. I want to tell a story but though metaphors and images.
Candelaria also teaches dance at an area high school as an ArtsBridge
scholar. Sac States ArtsBridge program is part of a statewide effort
to match top arts majors with schools wishing to enhance their arts curriculum.
His work as a choreographer began attracting attention with a piece he
created as a tribute to his high school dance teacher. It was one of eight
works, out of nearly 50 submitted, selected to be performed at a national
competition held in Montana.
Candelaria prefers not to dance in his own projects because he finds it
easier to choreograph for other dancers. When I perform one of my
own pieces, Im so aware of what everyone else is doing that I dont
pay attention to what Im doing, he says.
The challenge came in developing his own style rather than imitating the
movements of other choreographers. After my first choreography class,
I didnt understand what the professor was talking about, he
says. Then over the summer I started experimenting with movement
and found how to define my style.
Each time I do a new work I try to do something different. Im
always learning from my mistakes.
been seen on campus walking on stilts. He rewards his elementary school
band students by standing on his head on the piano. But while Christopher
Cook approaches life lightheartedly, his professors take his clarinet-playing
Cook has been in clarinet choir since he was 14, but when he first started
playing he was hardly first-chair. In fifth grade I was horrible
like everyone else but I stuck with it, he says.
He decided to come to Sac State after meeting music professor Robert Halseth.
Bob Halseth showed up to conduct an honor band when I was in high
school, Cook says. Four other students he conducted ended
up here as well.
Now 22, Cook is frequently called upon to perform with Sac State faculty
and in the community. At last years annual Festival of New American
Music, he sat in with the Wind Ensemble. His playing can be heard on one
of flute professor Laurel Zuckers CDs and he worked with clarinet
professor Deborah Pittman and puppetry professor Richard Bay on a puppet
theater production of Peter and the Hood, which toured area schools.
Over the summer, he played in the woodwind section for three productions
at Sacramentos Music Circus.
But where Cook shines is in composition. He wrote the music for last semesters
production of Medea, a puppetry interpretation of the Greek tragedy.
However, most of his works arent nearly so dark and hes not
afraid to push the envelope. One piece for a student composition competition
featured three saxophonesand two bicycles. Another incorporated
movement and spoken word. It was a stretch, he admits, but
hes not about to stop tweaking tradition.
We as musicians get very into the idea of coming out on stage and
giving a concert. Its very scripted, Cook says. But
were entertainers. So we should entertain. I look at it theatrically.
I want to reach out and grab the audience.
His final recital this fall, The Lady and the Clarinet, promises
to be typically over-the-top. I hope to end it swimming in the American
River, he says.
Behind the Scenes
many students, Barbara Norris is spending hours in the library preparing
her masters thesis. But at the end she wont file it on a shelfit
will be seen by a live audience.
The student directors production of M. Butterfly will be one of
the theatre and dance departments spring offerings. Its one
of four campus plays shes had the opportunity to direct, including
productions of The Vagina Monologues, Danny and the Deep Blue
Sea and How I Learned to Drive. But this time she gets the
bigger room, access to set and costume designers and, perhaps most importantly,
This department has been so supportive. I feel honored and blessed,
she says. Everyone has gotten behind me and said, Yes, yes.
Norris has been interested in theater for as long as she can remember.
Theater is my first love and my greatest love, she says. But
for a while it was more of a hobby.
After earning a bachelors degree in theater, Norris married and
had a life which included raising her two daughters and taking
care of her terminally ill father. She had always wanted to go back for
her masters degree, and when her father died, she decided it was
Ive learned so much, she says. The seminars are
good, and demanding. And I learn from my fellow grad students all bringing
something into the mix.
Her training also gets put to use at the community theater she opened
in her hometown of Fairfield. We do alternative theateredgy
stuff, she says.
She came to directing gradually. Im an actor. And over the
course of time, you just progress, she says. As artistic director
at the theater, I sat in on a lot of rehearsals and found I really, really
Norris also enjoys working with the actors in the theatre and dance department.
I give them direction and just let them go. An actor can come up
with so many creative things that I wouldnt have thought of,
she says. As director, you need to have a vision but you also need
to let them do what they do best.
Art of Life
a child in Mexico, Sergio Saenz earned money selling Canels gum
at the train station. The tiny treats are still a part of his life, but
now as the medium for his art.
The 25-year-old graduate student painstakingly glues the individual pieces
to panels, mimicking the striped design of a swatch of Mexican fabric.
The gum comes in a big box of mixed flavors and he spends hours separating
the eight varieties by color before he can apply it to the backing.
The gum inspiration came partly out of memories of my childhood,
Saenz says. I grew up poor in Mexico and to make money we sold gum.
I think of those times when wed go to the train station and wait
for the train to come. Id play with the different colors. I do the
same thing now.
These compositions are hard to define. They represent things Im
dealing with, my identity, he says. There are so many labelsMexican,
Hispanic, Latinothat dont define who I am. So Ive created
things that look like paintings but theyre not really paintings.
Anyone can define what they think they are.
Saenz didnt expect to become an artist. In high school and junior
college he was more interested in chemistry than art. But fate stepped
in in the form of a photography class. I stumbled into art,
he says. It was like chemistry, mixing the chemicals and everything,
but it was more fun.
His gum artwork was featured at this years California State Fair.
It was nice to have people who wouldnt normally go to the
galleries see my work, Saenz says.
He has also had his photography displayed in galleries on campus and he
sets up phantom galleries in empty buildings during the citys
Second Saturday art events.
His current series features close-ups of painted-over graffiti in midtown
Sacramento. Its a form of strange public art in my neighborhood.
Its kind of like abstract expressionism, like found art, he
says. And like his other work, its not easily defined. He thinks
that when people look at it theyll wonder, Is it photography
or is it painting?
Reading Into Things
mother knows best. When Ben Waller was trying to decide what he wanted
to do as a career, he followed the lead of his moma student in Sac
States English departmentand enrolled in the departments
And it was there he learned that he definitely wants to be a literature
As a kid, Waller never expected to be on this path. I hated reading
and I hated school until the end of high school, he says. Then
I discovered something. I started taking an English class and I saw I
could do this. Its fun.
He says he now feels his choice of career is more meaningful because it
survived the years when he wanted nothing to do with school. No
one suggested I should teach, he says. I realized it on my
Wallers primary focus is English literature, looking at criticism
theory on a broad range of topics. I analyze literature in terms
of approach, he says. Im exploring all the ways literature
can have meaning and impact for people. There are many different ways
to look at it.
Studying literature is like studying life. Its one of the
most important things you can do in educating people.
After earning his bachelors degree elsewhere, Waller is thrilled
by his choice of graduate school. My department is superb,
he says. They know how to present concepts and inspire students
to want to do the same.
The faculty has also sparked his interest in studying mythology, which
led him to look for examples of the mythological approach in other types
of literature. I like the really old and really new mythology as
well as medieval Old English and Middle English, he says. He also
studies recent works on the ramifications of modern theories of criticism.
While he finishes his degree, hes paying his way with either the
dream jobor expensive temptationfor a literature buff. He
works at a bookstore. Its terrible, he says. I
see so many things I want.