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Robert Whitman is an outstanding American artist who is best known for his seminal and continuing work in creating innovative, non-narrative, imagistic theater pieces. His theater works are rich in visual and sound images, and incorporate actors, film, slides, sound, and evocative props in environments of his own making. Whitman was the first artist to use film in his theater works and in his sculpture pieces.
Born in 1935, Robert Whitman graduated from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Whitman was a member of the group of visual artists, who in the early 1960s presented theater pieces on the lower east side in Manhattan. Since that time Whitman has presented more than 40 theater pieces in the United States and abroad.
His performance work MoonRain was presented at the Seligmann Center in 2011.
Whitman has had numerous one-person exhibitions of his sculpture and installation pieces at museum in the United States and abroad; and has had one-person gallery exhibitions at Pace Gallery, which represents him.
Whitman was one of the co-founders of Experiments in Art and Technology and has collaborated with engineers on installations and works that incorporate new technology: laser sculptures, and advanced optics among them. In the early 1970s, Whitman produced his first telephone piece , NEWS, which has been restaged over the years with updated technology, culminating in Local Report 2012 that used video cell phones and the Internet in an international performance.
His most recent theater piece, Swim, at Montclair State University, using images, sound and liver performers, was created to be accessible to both blind and sighed audiences.
Barbara DeFina made her start in the film industry working as a production assistant and worked her way up through various production capacities, eventually acting as a production coordinator on over 15 films, including Paul Mazursky’s AN UNMARRIED WOMAN, THE GAMBLER, THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123, THE VALACHI PAPERS and Woody Allen’s INTERIORS.
Ms. DeFina then became associate producer for Rupert Hitzig and Alan King’s company King/Hitzig Productions. There she developed feature film properties including CATTLE ANNIE AND LITTLE BRITCHES, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GEMINI and WOLFEN as well as a number of television movies and TV pilots.
She worked as unit manager/associate producer with Jay Presson Allen on Sidney Lumet’s highly acclaimed PRINCE OF THE CITY and as unit manager for a number of Universal and Spelling/Goldberg television productions, including PAPER DOLLS and THE EQUALIZER. She was also unit manager on the film THE CHOSEN.
Ms. DeFina then became associated with filmmaker Sean Cunningham, working as associate producer on SPRING BREAK and THE NEW KIDS.
She began her association with Martin Scorsese on THE KING OF COMEDY where she worked as unit manager during post production. She then produced with Irving Axelrad, THE COLOR OF MONEY and then served as producer on BAD, Scorsese’s music video with Michael Jackson.
She produced the following films with Scorsese directing: THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, the LIFE LESSONS segment of NEW YORK STORIES, CAPE FEAR, THE AGE OF INNOCENCE, CASINO, KUNDUN, BRINGING OUT THE DEAD as well as his documentaries MY VOYAGE TO ITALY and MADE IN MILAN. She executive produced Scorsese’s films GOODFELLAS and HUGO.
Ms. DeFina also worked with the director Stephen Frears, executive producing THE GRIFTERS, and producing THE HI LO COUNTRY. She produced KICKED IN THE HEAD with Matthew Harrison directing and YOU CAN COUNT ON ME with Kenneth Lonergan directing as well as THE MESMERIST with Gil Cates, Jr. directing, BRIDES with Pantelis Voulgaris directing and LYMELIFE with Derick Martini directing.
She is currently developing KILLER INSTINCT with Bruce Beresford and completing a documentary about Graham Greene entitled DANGEROUS EDGE.
Clarinetist, saxophonist, singer, and bandleader Jimmy Sturr is easily one of the most popular modern-day polka practitioners, with more than 100 albums to his credit since the 1960s. After extensive touring and recording, Sturr came into his own during the ’80s and ’90s, dominating the Grammy Awards’ Best Polka Album honors and setting a record for the most consecutive nominations in any category. Looking beyond the standard outlets for polka music, Sturr’s brand of polka aimed for greater mainstream appeal, and borrowed from pop, rock, big-band swing, country, Tex-Mex, and Cajun music. Sturr’s eclectic hybrids led polka into the new millennium, by which point he was arguably the music’s best-known ambassador.
Sturr was born in the village of Florida, NY. Although he came from Irish stock, he was absorbed into the town’s strongly Polish-American culture from a young age, attending polka dances regularly and watching his hero Myron Floren on The Lawrence Welk Show. He took up the clarinet and began performing locally at age 13, and won a music scholarship to the Valley Forge Military Academy. After college at the University of Scranton, during which he continued to perform with his group on a part-time basis, Sturr returned to the polka circuit, and spent most of the ’60s performing and recording. He formed his own label, Starr Records, in 1969, and subsequently started a number of other area business ventures, including a polka artists’ management firm, a music publishing company, a travel agency, and a radio station. He continued to record steadily during the ’70s, always billed as Jimmy Sturr and His Orchestra, and offered a distinctly Americanized take on polka.
Sturr began to achieve wider recognition in the mid-’80s, shortly after the Grammys introduced a new category for Best Polka Album in 1985. In 1986, Sturr won the second-ever award for his album I Remember Warsaw, which kicked off a run of six consecutive wins over 1986-1991. By this time, Sturr was recording for the folk-oriented Vanguard label; he was also touring extensively behind his albums, playing numerous casinos, cruises, festivals, and similar venues all around the country. In the early ’90s, Sturr switched over to the roots label Rounder, and returned to Grammy prominence with 1995’s award-winning I Love to Polka. It inaugurated another string of four straight Grammy-winning albums, which featured an array of high-profile guests. Avowed fan Willie Nelson appeared on 1996’s Polka! All the Time, as did Cajun accordionist Jo-El Sonnier; 1997’s Living on Polka Time featured Tex-Mex accordion legend Flaco Jimenez and country singer Bill Anderson; 1998’s Dance With Me, officially Sturr’s 100th album, had contributions from the Oak Ridge Boys. Underlining his increasing connection to country music, Sturr made a successful appearance at the Grand Ole Opry, making him the first polka artist to do so; he also played Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center in New York, and traveled to Warsaw, Poland, for a well-received show at the Palace of Culture. He was inducted into the Polka Music Hall of Fame.
Sturr kicked off the new millennium by resuming his Grammy dominance. 2000’s Touched by a Polka showcased country veteran Mel Tillis; 2001’s Gone Polka welcomed back Willie Nelson, as well as Brenda Lee; 2002’s Top of the World featured folk legend Arlo Guthrie and bluegrass singer Rhonda Vincent. All three albums won Grammys, giving Sturr 13 in all. 2003’s Let’s Polka ‘Round continued the parade of guest stars with banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck, saxman Boots Randolph, and Charlie Daniels. He took on a bevy of rock & roll oldies in 2004 with Rock ‘N Polka, followed by more of the same on 2005’s Shake, Rattle and Polka! In 2006, Sturr released a live album as well as the themed studio album Polka in Paradise. Come Share the Wine appeared from Rounder Records in 2007.
Youth with Exceptional Promise honoree Angela Prictoe is currently a senior honors student at Monroe-Woodbury High School in Central Valley, New York. As an accomplished musician, Angela has earned principal position on trombone in every school ensemble including the Central Valley Elementary Band, the Middle School Symphonic Band & Wind Ensemble and currently the High School Wind Ensemble.
Angela began her trombone studies with Ms. Nicole Regan at Central Valley Elementary School and currently studies with Demian Austin and Weston Sprott of the Metropolitan Opera Pit Orchestra and Mr. Richard F. Regan of the Greater Newburgh Symphony Orchestra.
Additionally, Angela attends the Juilliard Pre-College program each Saturday, and maintains her private studies with her teachers weekly. Her lengthy list of training, performances and accomplishments far exceed most musicians and artists of her age.