Toussaint and Preservation Hall Jazz Band October 21

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Allen Toussaint will perform with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in St. Johnsbury on October 21.  Photo courtesy of Kingdom County Productions

Allen Toussaint will perform with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in St. Johnsbury on October 21. Photo courtesy of Kingdom County Productions

Kingdom County Productions will present the exclusive northern New England production of “Legends of New Orleans Jazz” featuring rhythm-and-blues ace and six-time Grammy nominee Allen Toussaint joining forces with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band for the first time, on tour. Showtime is 7 p.m. on Tuesday, October 21, at Fuller Hall, at St. Johnsbury Academy. Tickets are on sale at kingdomcounty.org or by calling 748-2600.

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band has toured the world since its founding in the early 1960s, as the essential vehicle to keep traditional New Orleans jazz traditions alive. During recent years, the band has played 150 annual dates at venues ranging from Carnegie Hall to Lincoln Center and the Hollywood Bowl. And they have branched out to ensure a future as a living and breathing group driven by fresh influences and inspirations, adding a number of dynamic new musical directions to their rock-solid repertoire of the classic New Orleans style.

Preservation Hall has appeared on stage with artists ranging from Dr. John, Wynton Marsalis, and the Grateful Dead, to The Black Keys, Bonnie Raitt, and Tom Waits. In an Oval Office White House ceremony, the group was awarded the 2006 National Medal of Arts, the nation’s highest honor for artistic excellence. In 2010, the San Francisco Examiner called Preservation Hall, “the best jazz band in the land.”

Mr. Toussaint ranks as a key figure in the development of R&B, and his songs have been recorded by a staggering array of artists including Otis Redding, Phish, Boz Skaggs, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Aaron Neville, The Doors, Glenn Campbell, Warren Zevon, The Yardbirds, Jerry Garcia, Paul Butterfield, Derek Trucks Band, Ringo Starr, Trombone Shorty, Three Dog Night, and The Hollies. Other collaborations include The Band, Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, Bo Diddley, Levon Helm, Robert Plant, and Alison Krauss. Mr. Toussaint’s many awards and recognitions include his 1998 induction into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

“When I meet someone like Allen Toussaint — that for me is like meeting, you know, someone the equivalent of the Dalai Lama, because for me, he influenced the way I played the piano,” said Elton John. “He’s an historical part of rock-and-roll.”

For more information, visit kingdomcounty.org or contact series producer Jay Craven at jcraven@marlboro.edu. — from Kingdom County Productions.

For more things to do, see Things to Do in the Northeast Kingdom.

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ETA releases self-titled album of originals

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The cover for the Evansville Transit Authority’s new CD of original music is nothing if not homegrown and simple.

The cover for the Evansville Transit Authority’s new CD of original music is nothing if not homegrown and simple.

copyright the Chronicle May 28, 2014

by Bethany M. Dunbar

The estimated time of arrival for the new ETA compact disc of original music is:  now.

The Evansville Transit Authority (ETA) band has been a local phenomenon for a dozen years and got its first paid gig when the boys were in high school. For the most part, they have played other people’s songs, from famous rock and country bands.

Their new self-titled CD is their own original music, and it’s good — good guitar playing, good singing, lyrics, and percussion.

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Westmore woman plays prescriptive music

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Linda Schneck plays her harp at her home in Westmore.  Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

Linda Schneck plays her harp at her home in Westmore. Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

copyright the Chronicle February 5, 2014

by Bethany M. Dunbar

WESTMORE — Linda Schneck’s father died, in front of her, when she was nine years old.  The family was on vacation in Florida and he died suddenly and unexpectedly, and she was there.  That changed her life in all sorts of ways.

At first, she became withdrawn and uncommunicative.  She had been extremely close to her father and was devastated at the loss.

Her family did all they could to console her.

“My uncle traded a woman a roof for a piano,” she said.  Her uncle was a roofer, and he put a roof on the woman’s home in trade for a player piano.  Young Linda had been begging for piano lessons for a long time.  Her uncle made it happen.

“I think music is what really helped me,” she said.

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At NCUHS: Choral director receives surprise send-off

Retiring North Country choral director Anne Hamilton reacts to a musical tribute from present and former students.  New words to the song “’Til There Was You,” were written by Adam (left) and Matt Podd, who have gone on to professional music careers in New York City.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

Retiring North Country choral director Anne Hamilton reacts to a musical tribute from present and former students. New words to the song “’Til There Was You,” were written by Adam (left) and Matt Podd, who have gone on to professional music careers in New York City. Photo by Joseph Gresser

by Joseph Gresser

copyright the Chronicle June 5, 2013

NEWPORT — The choral program at North Country Union High School has been successful long enough to have established traditions.  For instance, the Christmas concert always ends with a performance of the “Hallelujah Chorus,” in which alumni of North Country are invited to participate.  Similarly, the second part of the annual pops concert always features solos by graduating seniors set amid choral performances.

At this year’s concert, on May 29, the traditions were unexpectedly mingled.  Anne Hamilton, retiring after serving as the school’s choral director for the past 13 years, planned a medley of Beatles songs for her final North Country concert.

During the performance, Ms. Hamilton said a few days later, she looked out into the audience and noticed that many of her former students were present.

“I didn’t want them to leave without getting to say hello to them,” Ms. Hamilton said.  So shortly before the final selection, “Hey Jude,” she invited alumni in the audience to come down to the front of the auditorium and join in the final section of the song.

Ms. Hamilton couldn’t have prevented them from doing so.  Unbeknownst to her, a conspiracy had been hatched by present and former students.

When the final strains of “Hey Jude,” were sung, accompanist Vivian Spates turned over the piano to Mark Violette.

“When I saw Mark at the piano, I felt things were spiraling out of control,” Ms. Hamilton said.

They were, perhaps, but not in a bad way.  Sheets of music were distributed as Mr. Violette played the opening bars of “’Til There Was You,” a song from the musical The Music Man, that was actually covered by The Beatles.

“There were notes on the page

But we never knew their meaning

No, we never knew it at all

’Til there was you,” sang students past and present.  Meredith Wilson’s original words had been replaced with ones written for the occasion by brothers Adam and Matt Podd.

“You put songs in our lives

And you taught us all sight-reading

Do Re Mi Fa

Ti Ti Ta La

’Til There Was You!”

Ms. Hamilton, seated next to Ms. Spates in the front row, seemed overcome by what was happening before her eyes and ears.  At the next verse…

“And there was All-State!

And other logistical nightmares

The drama of high notes and hormones,”

Ms. Hamilton burst into laughter.  She kept smiling as the chorus concluded their serenade.

“So we thank you

For the time that we had

And the joy we found in singing

We’re so grateful for all those years

Singing with you.”

After their first time through the song, North Country graduate Phil Gosselin, an actor who usually resides in New York City, took the microphone and thanked Ms. Hamilton on behalf of his fellow alumni.

ann hamilton spates

Ms. Hamilton and long-time accompanist Vivian Spates enjoy the witty lyrics and the enthusiastic performance. Photo by Joseph Gresser

He was followed by Joseph Cornelius who said he was taught by Ms. Hamilton in pre-school, a claim she later denied.  Mr. Cornelius was one of Ms. Hamilton’s students when he attended elementary school in Island Pond and at North Country.

“I hoped that my two daughters would get to study with her,” Mr. Cornelius said, “but it was not to be.”  He urged present North Country students to appreciate their good fortune in having the experience of Ms. Hamilton as their teacher.

After another chorus of “’Til There Was You,” the concert ended as present and former students surrounded and embraced Ms. Hamilton.

A couple of days after the concert, Ms. Hamilton reflected on the event and her time at North Country.

She said an all-Beatles concert was not a random choice.

“That’s the pops concert I wanted to go out on,” Ms. Hamilton said.  The quality of the music and the opportunities it gave for her students to shine made for an ideal final concert, she said.

“I want the students to feel they can be successful, and that means to be truly successful,” Ms. Hamilton said. “Everyone’s a winner, doesn’t work.”

Ms. Hamilton said she was very pleased that the seniors who chose to perform solos all rose to the challenge of performing such familiar and beloved music.

She said she was caught completely by surprise by the tribute organized by her former students.  The Podd brothers, she said, were at North Country giving a presentation to students on Tuesday.

“They were very coy about whether they would be able to make it to the concert,” Ms. Hamilton said.  After the workshop with the students, she took them out to dinner and invited Mr. Gosselin, one of their former classmates, whom she knew was in town working with QNEK.

At dinner, the Podd brothers told Ms. Hamilton that Mr. Gosselin would be delayed by a rehearsal.

“They didn’t tell me that it was a rehearsal for their surprise,” she said.

Ms. Hamilton said she herself followed a popular choral teacher, Glory Douglass, when she arrived at North Country after six years teaching at North Country Union Junior High School and nine years cruising between Brighton, Morgan, Holland and Charleston teaching music to elementary school students.

Ms. Hamilton said she had 11 years between graduating college and beginning her teaching career.  Although she was certified as a music teacher, Ms. Hamilton said, she felt she needed more training.

One of the benefits of going back to school, she said, was making the acquaintance of Sandi MacLeod, who today directs Music-Comp, a program that helps students learn to write music.  Ms. Hamilton has been involved in the program since its inception and she said she plans to continue working with the organization after she leaves North Country.

Ms. Hamilton said she also plans to continue leading Northsong, a locally based chamber choir that performs around the Northeast Kingdom.  Northsong will allow Ms. Hamilton to continue her collaboration with Ms. Spates, whose musicianship and generosity she praised.

Aside from that, Ms. Hamilton said she plans to take some time to think.  She said she is “50 percent committed” to learning the violin.  Her husband, Amos, after retiring from the Customs service, took up the clarinet seriously and frequently plays chamber music with friends.

After 13 years teaching at the school, Ms. Hamilton still has much good to say about North Country and the Newport community.

She said that the Rotary Club’s steadfast support of the annual music festival has translated into a general support for student artistic achievement.

“This community has always been supportive of the arts, it’s legend.  People around the state can’t believe it,” Ms. Hamilton said.

She said that she has been very well supported by the administration and her colleagues at North Country.

“This is a very nice job,” Ms. Hamilton mused, “This is a very nice job.”

contact Joseph Gresser at joseph@bartonchronicle.com

For more free articles from the Chronicle like this one, see our Featuring pages. For all the Chronicle’s stories, pick up a print copy or subscribe, either for print or digital  editions.
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Young composers get a chance to hear their works

North Country music teacher Anne Hamilton and Adele Woodmansee listen as musicians from the Burlington Ensemble, including violinists Michael Dabrowski and Sofia Hirsch, rehearse Ms. Woodmansee’s String Quartet in D Minor.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

North Country music teacher Anne Hamilton and Adele Woodmansee listen as musicians from the Burlington Ensemble, including violinists Michael Dabrowski and Sofia Hirsch, rehearse Ms. Woodmansee’s String Quartet in D Minor. Photo by Joseph Gresser

copyright the chronicle 05-08-13

by Joseph Gresser

DERBY LINE — At noon on a fine spring Wednesday, a stream of youngsters from elementary to high school age poured into the doors of the Haskell Opera House.  In front of the entrance to the Haskell Free Library a man sat gazing intently at sheets of paper in his lap as he conducted an invisible orchestra.

That man, Eric Nielsen, is a distinguished Vermont composer and one of many who work behind the scenes as part of Music-Comp.  That organization, once known as the Vermont Midi Project, encourages students in their efforts to compose music by having professionals mentor them through the Internet.

On May 1, preparations were nearing completion for the twenty-sixth in a series of concerts which allow student composers to hear their works performed by professional musicians.

Among the 26 composers whose pieces were to be featured on the evening’s bill were three from North Country Union High School — Adele Woodmansee, Erin Spoerl and Bradley Dopp.  Their teacher, Anne Hamilton, has been involved with Music-Comp since it began in 1995, and has heard many of her students’ compositions played over that time.

She guided her students through the rehearsal process, sitting with Adele Woodmansee on the stage of the Haskell as four players from the Burlington Ensemble ran through her String Quartet in D Minor.

First violinist Michael Dabrowski asked Ms. Hamilton, “Is our goal to learn the piece?”

“The goal is to have a conversation with the composer,” Ms. Hamilton replied.

Her response reflected an attitude of respect that permeates the program.

The musicians immediately got it, and began asking Ms. Woodmansee technical questions about how she thought the piece should be performed.

Ms. Woodmansee, herself an accomplished violinist, answered easily in a manner that revealed that she had given the questions a great deal of thought during the compositional process.

That she did so is in part due to the work of Mr. Nielsen and his fellow composer mentors, who look over compositions e-mailed to them by the young composers and make suggestions for ways the pieces might be developed.

The exchanges often grow lengthy as compositions change and new possibilities open up.

One astounding aspect of the concerts is that young composers are afforded instrumental possibilities that a professional would envy.  For the Opus 26 performance, composers had a string quartet plus a contra bass at their beck and call, as well as the forces of the Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble, a wind consort that includes flute, oboe or English horn, bassoon and clarinet.

Mr. Dopp’s composition Frosk, a Norwegian word meaning frog, he explained, brought together bass clarinet, contra bass and bassoon.

He, the musicians, Ms. Hamilton and some classmates squeezed themselves into a tiny dressing room for his rehearsal.

Bassist Evan Premo mentioned in an offhand way that Mr. Dopp had marked the tempo for his piece in a way that was difficult for the musicians to understand.  He took a moment to explain the math needed to figure how fast Mr. Dopp wished the piece to be performed, and made a suggestion about how to handle the matter in the future.

Clarinet player Steve Klimowski asked Mr. Dopp how he wanted a very quiet entrance performed.

The trio performed Mr. Dopp’s piece once and Mr. Klimowski made a major error, finishing long after the other two musicians.  A second attempt corrected that mistake.

Afterward, Mr. Klimowski explained to a curious onlooker that, although musicians receive the pieces well in advance of the concert, it is hard to know how an ensemble will sound without playing together.  He said there is time to work through any technical challenges an individual player might face, but only about ten minutes to play each work together.

The musicians worked through the afternoon until all trooped off to the Universalist Church for dinner.

As part of its Opus 25 concert, Music-Comp produced an e-book reviewing the organization’s history.  Executive Director Sandi MacLeod said the book will be available on the organization’s website in the middle of May.

Ms. MacLeod said the book was part of a fund-raising effort.  Grants that were available in the program’s early days are drying up, she said, and the organization is seeking new revenues.

One way they are going about it is by expanding Music-Comp’s horizons.  Ms. MacLeod said the organization changed its name in part because midi is old technology and in part because it is now a national organization working with students in many other states, including New York, Indiana and California.

Among those testifying to the effect the organization has had on them are a number of students from Orleans County, many of whom are now pursuing music as a career in one way or another.

Twins Matt and Adam Podd graduated from North Country and are living in New York City working as freelance pianists, arrangers and composers.  Matt Podd still maintains his connection with Music-Comp and works as a composer mentor.

Sam Schiavone of Greensboro, whose work was performed in four Opus concerts, is a graduate student in mathematics at the University of Vermont.  Another Greensboro participant, Mavis McNeil studies music at Skidmore College.

When students returned to the auditorium, and the audience filtered in, there was a moment not usually seen in the concert hall as composers, musicians and teachers crowded the stage for a group photo.  The performance began with a work by Susie Francy, a ninth grader from Leland and Gray High School.

Ms. Francy, who was the first from her school to have a work chosen for performance, was accompanied by her parents and her music teacher, Ronald Kelley.  She stood when her piece, called Child, was introduced and again at the conclusion stood for the applause.

Two composers, Ivan Voinov and Ms. Spoerl took turns introducing the pieces and reading statements from the artists. Ms. Francy said her composition, written for flute, oboe, cello, bassoon and clarinet, was a depiction of a child’s growth to adolescence.

Ms. Francy received a good round of applause, and the concert continued with pieces by younger composers, all of which belied their years.  It was only when a young composer stood to be recognized and was little taller than when seated, that his or her youth was apparent.

The younger composers took up the first part of the concert.  After an intermission the program was to continue with works by older students.

Instead, Ms. MacLeod stood and announced that the musicians were not satisfied with the performance they had given of Ms. Francy’s piece.

The five players returned to their places and performed the work again as a gesture of simple respect.

contact Joseph Gresser at joseph@bartonchronicle.com

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In Memoriam: Maureen O’Donnell July 6, 1952 – December 11, 2012

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maureen memoriam

Maureen O’Donnell at home in Albany, with her 1959 Melody Maker guitar. Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

Iconic and ironic, O’Donnell releases Rogue Element

This article first appeared in the Chronicle in 2009.  It is republished here in her memory.

by Bethany M. Dunbar

ALBANY — In these days of excitement about renewable energy, it just might be the perfect moment for Maureen O’Donnell to release her new compact disc.

Years ago, Ms. O’Donnell was a local celebrity as part of a band called the BTUs.  The BTUs rocked out at the Valley House in Orleans and other local venues, back in the days when dancing was the preferred weekend aerobic exercise in the Kingdom.

“We were ironic as hell and iconic,” says Ms. O’Donnell, when the timing is pointed out to her.

Ms. O’Donnell has been making music by singing and with a guitar and harmonica and other instruments since she was a small child.  She remembers thinking that someday she would get rich and have a place in the country.  It’s all true except for the rich part (so far).

This is the introduction from Ms. O’Donnell’s notes to be included with her new compact disc, Rogue Element.

“Listening to another ‘final mix’ thru JBL’s in a 20’ X 24’ room with a large window view of beautiful meadows, free of all traces of human endeavor.  A moose gazing in at me, so close I could count the flies on her magnificent mouth.  Fifty or so wild turkeys strutting in a line through the yard; crows cackling, calling; hawk soaring, swooping, elegant, effortless in the totality of its being, nothing more, nothing less.”

The cover photo is Ms. O’Donnell practicing — not with her guitar.  She is shown in a black T-shirt and cap, ear and eye protection in place, holding — with what appears to be complete comfort — a rather large rifle.  The photo was taken by David Bradshaw, a shooting friend.

Ms. O’Donnell’s album could be described as rock or folk, alternative, or something like that.  She has written all the songs except for “Cover Me” by Bruce Springsteen, which was recorded live with the Reused Blues Band at Burlington City Hall.

Ms. O’Donnell’s voice is, on some tracks, Bonnie Raitt-esque.  It’s full of soul and life, and life experience.  It’s less frightening and more forgiving than the cover art.

She produced the CD herself.  Its sound is homegrown and authentic.  On the intro, she puts it this way:

“This slim collection represents my first solo process relying almost entirely upon my own skills (or lack thereof), as writer, musician, engineer, producer, singer, objective witness and executioner…

“Honest and raw as November, sonic imperfection becomes part of the charm of this offering, no opting for technical preciousness.”

At age four, Ms. O’Donnell first saw a Telecaster guitar and remembers it in perfect detail.

“It was kind of a blondish vanilla with a white maple neck, and I was just gone.  I didn’t want anything else ever,” she said.

One issue right away when she was growing up was that girls did back up.  Ms. O’Donnell had talent, but people kept telling her “chicks didn’t play lead.”

They wanted to put her in tall, white go-go boots and a short skirt with a tambourine.  She said she thought she would prefer her Carhartts.

“When I saw the Beatles, I wanted to be one.  I didn’t want to marry one,” she said.

The Beatles were a huge influence on her because it seemed possible for music to be a career.

“All of a sudden you knew you didn’t have to go to home ec.  You knew you didn’t have to be Betty Crocker or a Barbie Doll.”

Ms. O’Donnell grew up in Brookfield, Connecticut, which she said was — in those days — a lot like Vermont is now.

“It was a great place to be a kid,” she said.

“The Moody Blues were my parents,” she said.  It might be a slight exaggeration, but her actual parents were dysfunctional and abusive.  Her mother was married six times, her father was married four times, and they married each other twice.  Ms. O’Donnell went to ten high schools due to her parents’ moving around.  Her father was a Teamster.  She got into drugs at age 15.

But music kept her interest.

“When I was ten I joined the drum corps,” she said.  She learned drumming from a man named Earl Sturtz, who was drum champion 36 years in a row.  He had an “impeccable sense of meter,” and she soaked it up.

She dropped out of school but was reading voraciously.  She would go to college campuses and argue Nietzsche and Kierkegaard with the students and professors.  She tended bar in a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall and met a band there called Spiral Country because all the songs were written in a spiral notebook.  She joined them, they got on the radio and got fan mail from all over — including truck drivers in Colorado.

She came to Vermont with a former lover who was going to Goddard.  Ms. O’Donnell graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and theater from Goddard.

“She and I had done a lot of feminist theater,” Ms. O’Donnell said, including at Yale Drama School.  She found more music in Vermont.

“Denny Clifford taught me the fundamentals of how to do the dobro,” she said.  And then there were the BTUs.

She recently went back to Ohio and got to play with old friends and some up-and-coming musicians, including one woman she had mentored out there years ago.  The shows were a blast — 1,000-seat venues, some with a packed house.

“I always knew I was meant to be on the big stage,” he said.  “I made good use of it.  I didn’t just stand there.”

Music has kept her going in hard times and good times.

“It’s just really nice to feel that you have something in your life that gives you a sense of self-respect and dignity, that you have something to offer the world,” she said.

“The tunes on this album kind of picked me,” she said.  “I was really shocked at the serendipity.”

She said she used to “push the river” a lot because of her own aggression and compulsion, but these days she’s trying, with some success, to let the music just come through.

“Now I’ve learned to empty yourself out and get out of your own way,” she said.

Ms. O’Donnell has a web site at http://InHouseMediaWorks.com, and by April 15 Rogue Element will be available for sale through CDBaby.com.  Anyone interested can also reach her by snail mail (1535 Creek Road, Irasburg, Vermont 05845) or e-mail (dragon52@localnet.com).

“The response to the CD has been amazing, considering so far it’s only been word of mouth,” she said.

“I wanted to just thank everyone for remembering.”

contact Bethany M. Dunbar at bethany@bartonchronicle.com

An obituary of Maureen O’Donnell appears here: /bartonchronicle.com/category/obituaries/

For more free articles from the Chronicle like this one, see our Featuring pages. For all the Chronicle’s stories, pick up a print copy or subscribe, either for print or digital  editions.

 

 

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Interview: Craftsbury’s Dave Bett wins Grammy Award

Dave Bett, design director at Columbia Records, sits in his Craftsbury home with his new Grammy award. Photos by Natalie Hormilla

copyright the chronicle July 11, 2012

by Natalie Hormilla

CRAFTSBURY — The public library here will have a special speaker on Wednesday night, July 11. Dave Bett, design director at Columbia Records in New York City, will give an informal presentation on the Bruce Springsteen box set The Promise:  The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story, for which Mr. Bett won a Grammy Award earlier this year.

He won the award along with his colleague, Michelle Holme, for the box set’s design. They won in the category Best Boxed/Special Limited Edition Package. The Grammy was a first for both designers.

Mr. Bett said that work on the box set took about three years to complete.
“A lot of it is research, anthropology, detective work, to find all the pieces that make the artist come alive,” he said.

The box set includes three CDs of music: one is the original 1978 Bruce Springsteen album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, and the other two consist of songs that didn’t make it on to that album. The set also includes three DVDs: one disc chronicles the making of the 1978 album, using footage shot by a friend of Mr. Springsteen’s at that time mixed with some new footage, and the other two discs are of live performances — one in 1978 in Houston, Texas, and another in 2009 in Asbury Park, New Jersey. The CDs and DVDs are housed in a facsimile of a blue, spiral bound Eagle Line notebook Mr. Springsteen kept while working on his fourth album leading up to its 1978 release, which is where Mr. Bett’s work really shines.

Mr. Bett and Ms. Holme created a sort of scrapbook of words by and images of Mr. Springsteen. They used snapshots, stills from videos, and copies of the many pages of lyrics, notes, lists and random thoughts Mr. Springsteen kept in the blue notebook while working on Darkness on the Edge of Town, his first album in three years after the 1975 hit Born to Run.

“This whole thing became about making an album, the creative process,” Mr. Bett said.
The box set version of the notebook looks a lot like the real notebook kept by Mr. Springsteen. It includes his scribbly handwriting, and realistic touches like the brown stains and random rips found in the pages of the original.

Mr. Bett said that real fans of The Boss will notice certain details in Mr. Springsteen’s notes, like lyrics that were moved to other songs in their recorded versions or that are missing entirely. There are also voting tallies of which songs should be in the album, and lists Mr. Springsteen kept of which songs and artists he was listening to at the time (Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, Elvis). These notes and lists are interspersed with photographs of Mr. Springsteen, chosen by Mr. Bett and Ms. Holme because they were either never used or seldom seen. Some of them are outtakes, and some of them are even stills from video footage, so that the images themselves did not even exist until the art directors at Columbia Records plucked them from old reels.

Pictured is a section of the Grammy-winning Bruce Springsteen box set The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story. On the left page is a list Mr. Springsteen kept while working on his 1978 album, of songs that he was listening to at the time. On the right page is a working version of the lyrics to Badlands. The pages are part of a facsimile of the original notebook Mr. Springsteen kept, designed by Dave Bett and Michelle Holme of Columbia Records.

“I sat and watched maybe two full days of video from those days,” Mr. Bett said, “and saying ‘oop, keep that frame, keep that frame.’”

The box set is something meant to be pored over by Mr. Springsteen’s biggest fans, to leaf through and learn from. Mr. Bett said that, in designing the box set, he asked himself, ‘what would a fan want to see?’

“The funny thing about doing Springsteen stuff is being from New Jersey,” said Mr. Bett, who is a native of the Red Bank, New Jersey area, near the heart of Mr. Springsteen’s original Jersey fan base. “I can remember hearing about him playing at a high school gym, and everybody wanted to see him.” Mr. Bett was in seventh grade at the time, and was told he was not old enough to go.

He said his mother played pinochle with the mother of a kid in Mr. Springsteen’s band at that time, a connection Mr. Bett told Mr. Springsteen about while working together.
Over the years, Mr. Bett said, he has worked on four or five Springsteen projects through Columbia, some with Ms. Holme.

So what does it mean to be a design director for a record company? “All of the artwork for Columbia’s artists — the packaging — goes through me in some form,” Mr. Bett said, whether he assigns the work to someone else or not.

“Say if Columbia has a project, and we need to get a box set design for it, I’ll either say, ‘I’ll do it,’ or I’ll assign it to another art director.”

Mr. Bett said that each project begins with some sort of direction from the artist.
“Usually it means you talk to the artist about the title, what they might want to see — either a picture of themselves, or a cool illustration, or maybe they have no idea at all — then you find a direction that fits the music. Then you have to find the right photographer, the right people….”

Mr. Bett said that his job involves a lot of coordinating between people. “It’s about building the right creative team and overseeing that.”

Mr. Bett was nominated for a Grammy once before, in the same category, for his work on Tori Amos’ 2003 Scarlet’s Walk.

He lives in Long Island, New York, with his wife, Kate Bernhard. Ms. Bernhard’s mother, Nan Murdoch, owned the cottage near Craftsbury Common that Mr. Bett and Ms. Bernhard visit. They have been coming to Craftsbury since 1981.  “We feel like part of the community,” he said.

When they’re in Craftsbury, Mr. Bett said that he and his wife read a lot, and visit Caspian Lake in Greensboro and Bread and Puppet in Glover.

Mr. Bett also volunteers at the Craftsbury Public Library, where he’ll give his talk on July 11 at 7 p.m. He brought along his Grammy and an edition of the box set for the night.

contact Natalie Hormilla at natalie@bartonchronicle.com

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