The Diva Jazz Orchestra’s “Diva + The Boys” album cover.
Congratulations to The DIVA Jazz Orchestra for hitting #1 on JazzWeek with “DIVA + THE BOYS!” This is tremendous feat and we are honored that the album has touched so many people. We have enjoyed working with DIVA over the years. This album features four soloists Ken Peplowski, Jay Ashby, Claudio Roditi and our Executive Producer Marty Ashby with exciting arrangements filled with fire, finesse, and swing.
“This is a well-deserved accomplishment by The DIVA Jazz Orchestra. MCG Jazz has enjoyed a wonderful relationship with the DIVA organization for over 25 years and we are thrilled to help bring their brilliant music to the public,” said Ashby.
It is officially the season of giving and there is no better way to end the year than by giving back to your community! Get ready to give! Starting at 12 a.m. on December 3rd, visit GiveBigPittsburgh’s website and make a donation to Bidwell Training Center, MCG Jazz and/or MCG Youth & Arts. Your donation serves as an investment in Manchester Bidwell Corporation (MBC) and the people whose lives we transform every day. Whether its $5 or $50, no gift is too small to make a BIG impact on your community.
GiveBigPittsburgh raises money for local nonprofits through a single online donation platform, providing a simple way to connect donors to the charitable causes they care about most. This 24-hour online fundraising effort, hosted by Pittsburgh Magazine and local sponsors, offers nonprofits the chance to raise funds to support their critical missions. Learn more.
Derrick Wallace, a Carrick High School graduate, admits he didn’t have much aspiration for his future before enrolling in Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild Youth & Arts’ (MCG Youth & Arts) after-school arts programming.
“Before the Guild, I wasn’t in the best place mentally. I had no confidence. I had no plans for my future, my self-esteem was at an all-time low, but the Guild led me in the exact direction I needed to be in.” Derrick remembers, “Being a high school senior with no plans, it’s amazing to think how far I’ve come because MCG played a big part in my life.”
Derrick took many digital art classes during his time at MCG Youth & Arts. He recalls, “through those classes, I saw the teaching artists being open-minded and willing to help others learn. The MCG staff has become like a family to me, they are people I can look up to when I need motivation.”
Derrick immersed himself in the variety of opportunities that MCG Youth & Arts has to offer. He signed up for the Psychology 101 course that is part of MCG Youth & Arts’ partnership program with Westminster College. The courses taught by Westminster professors, offers college credit to MCG Youth & Arts junior and senior high school students. These courses help students strengthen their preparation for their college careers. He explained that taking that class truly motivated him to stay focused.
“We learned about the act of control and how that inevitably affects a person’s decisions,” Derrick said.
“It taught me a lot about myself.” In addition to the psychology course, Derrick also joined staff and fellow students on the annual Yellowstone National Park trip, helped artist Kyle Holbrook paint the Pittsburgh Pirates Roberto Clemente mural in Lawrenceville, and traveled to visit Edinboro University.
Derrick is currently a freshman studying Art Education at Edinboro University.
When asked if attending MCG Youth & Arts gave him the confidence to pursue a college education, Derrick stated “Absolutely. MCG is the reason I even thought about pursuing my passions and seeking out my dreams. I honestly believe I’d still be at home in Pittsburgh, if Sam and Talon [MCG Youth & Arts staff] didn’t drive me up to Edinboro on the field trip. They are the reason that I’m even at college and studying Art Education right now.”
Ultimately, Derrick hopes to find a worthwhile job in the arts, so that he can continue to grow and help others achieve their passions.
Derrick recognizes the importance of having students participate in art programs like MCG Youth & Arts.
“Getting involved is a way to expand your horizons, a way to put yourself out there, and meet new people,” said Derrick. “Through the Guild, they help artists widen their range of talents and improve themselves for the future.”
by Bill Strickland, Founder and Executive Chairman of Manchester Bidwell Corporation
Bill Strickland teaching Fred Rogers pottery in 1991 on episode 1644 of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Image courtesy of Fred Rogers Productions.
My first appearance on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was in 1973. In the episode, Fred visits Elsie Neal’s craft shop where he finds a thinner version of me with a large Afro using the potter’s wheel, and we talked about the process of turning clay into a pot.
From that moment on I had two more appearances on the show and one of my most cherished friendships was born.
When we first met I was already five years into my work teaching children art at Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild. I believe he recognized that we were both trying to do the same thing: letting children know how special they are and that they deserve respect and dignity.
I’ve been thinking about Fred a lot recently. With the new feature film coming out, it makes my heart smile to know that his legacy of hope lives on. I dearly miss the conversations we had throughout the years about the hard work that goes into uplifting children when there can be so much darkness around them. We received a special gift that I can now look at to remember my friend. WQED and Fred Rogers Productions donated the piano Johnny Costa used on every episode of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” from 1987 to 2000 to our MCG Jazz program.
In the last episode I filmed with Fred, he came to Manchester Bidwell Corporation and I got him to get his hands dirty in some clay. At the end of the show he said some- thing I still keep with me.
“My friend Bill is a good teacher,” said Fred. “You can see that.”
Everyday I strive to still be a good teacher, so I never let Fred down.
Bayview Hunters Point Center for Arts and Technology (BAYCAT) students at YouTube headquarters in 2016. Photo by Nadia Andreini.
One of the early adopters of the Manchester Bidwell educational model celebrated 15 years of forging the future. The Bayview Hunters Point Center for Arts and Technology (BAYCAT) has been helping end racism and sexism through storytelling.
When the educational model is replicated in cities around the world, the National Center for Arts and Technology makes it a point to not bring Pittsburgh to another city but for each city to provide the services their community needs as long as the same foundational principles are installed. That is why no replication sites are the same but all work towards the same goal.
BAYCAT is no different as its offerings are different than any other replication site. Their academy provides free, after school digital media education to low-income minority students ages 11–17. Their studio is the professional arm that provides socially driven storytelling work for large clients like the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, the National Parks Service, Salesforce, Pixar, and more. The BAYCAT studio trains and hires young, diverse interns ages 18–25 and then helps them find jobs at large companies and institutions.
In the past 15 years, BAYCAT has had 4,250 students go through their academy and has helped launch more than 225 careers in filmmaking and storytelling.
BAYCAT is focused on proving that representation in media matters. Only 12.6 percent of film directors are people of color while being 40 percent of the population. One reason for this gap is that most minority creatives can’t afford the expensive technology and schools to learn the skills needed in the industry. BAYCAT offers professional-standard tools and resources for filmmaking and graphic arts to its students for free. Seventy-eight percent of BAYCAT graduates are people of color and 58 percent are women.
Eighty-two percent of BAYCAT graduates have been hired by major companies. Iman
BAYCAT graduate Iman Rodney who is an Emmy-winning cinematographer for the San Francisco Giants. Photo courtesy of BAYCAT.
Rodney started at BAYCAT at 13 years old as part of their free youth program and would continue there for four years. At 19, Rodney was hired part-time to work on a documentary for BAYCAT’s studio and eventually joined BAYCAT’s paid internship program. At 21, Rodney was hired by MLB’s San Francisco Giants’ broadcast team as an intern later working up to videographer and finally being promoted to his dream job of cinematographer. At 25, Rodney won his first Emmy award for “We Are Giants” and won two more Emmys the following year.
In the span of 12 years, Rodney went from being a teenager with asthma due to living in a home in a toxic waste dump in one of San Francisco’s poorest neighborhoods and not having access to computers, tablets, or smart phones to an Emmy-winning cinematographer due to his time at BAYCAT.
Over the next 15 years, BAYCAT wants to prove that when everyone sees themselves represented the world can be more beautiful.
The Drew Mathieson center for Horticultural and Agricultural Technology (DMC) remains dedicated to the preparation for the next stage in the DMC greenhouse operational evolution: the transition of approximately one-half of the existing commercial production space from floriculture to Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA). DMC is collaborating with strategic partners to break down the entire system into individual segments and identify associated best practices.
Early in the research process Chatham University’s Falk School of Sustainability and Environment was identified as a valuable collaborative partner organization. DMC partnered with Chatham University as a case study for two graduate-level courses, Fall 2018’s Applied Green and Social Innovation and Spring 2019’s Urban Agriculture.
Chatham University students received an in-depth orientation to DMC’s unique operating model, its history, and an outline of DMC’s CEA initiative. Students in the Applied Green and Social Innovation course developed and provided the “Hydroponics and Controlled Environment Agriculture in Western Pennsylvania Product Market Report.” The report reinforced the need to establish a market and sales outlet before produce is grown or harvested. Niche opportunities are available in the hydroponics and CEA markets through smaller regional distributors of produce and local restaurants. Hydroponic crop recommendations were included with projected volumes and crop price comparisons. The market research concludes organizations are seeking out local vendors with an emphasis on crop quality, selection, and price.
The Urban Agriculture students reinforced the need to develop a systems approach surrounding the transition to CEA and the potential impacts. They provided guidance to determine initial business planning metrics, identifying strategic partners, challenges, considerations, and opportunities.
This initiative represents a strategic investment in the CEA industry. The initiative will work to be a catalyst for market and industry growth that will be driven by consumer success and unique educational opportunities. The DMC and Chatham University collaboration is an example of partnerships that work through expanding our organizational impact by the combining of an established urban horticultural and agricultural facility with the research and academic influence of an expanding, cutting-edge university program. Unique and creative partnerships will continue to pave the way for new opportunities focused on research, education, and our ability to cultivate new sales and the expansion of our partner base.
In October, MCG Youth & Arts welcomed Justin Mazzei as the new Executive Director.
While new to the position, Mazzei’s history with the organization started 15 years ago
as a volunteer after graduating from Carlow University where he was studying arts education.
“Upon graduating Carlow University, MCG Youth & Arts was at the tip top of the list of places I wanted to be a part of,” said Mazzei. “I started as a ceramic technician and in the next eleven years I grew through the organization in various roles, from teaching artist, arts integrated specialist, and studio coordinator to program director.”
During his time here, Mazzei found magic in the building and in the students.
“The amount of high quality opportunities we provide is astounding,” said Mazzei. “It is a place where your dreams can become realities. It is a place where you can see real tangible growth with the kids in our programs and its real.”
Mazzei noted that the value of the program always revealed itself when he would see a student start their time in the program shy, nervous, and weary and leave the program a strong, confident, and empowered young adult with a matured sense of who they are and what their assets are.
Between his time as program director and his new role as executive director, Mazzei stepped away from MCG Youth & Arts and worked at Andrew Street High School, a part of Propel Schools here in the region.
Although he might have been away, his heart was still at MCG Youth & Arts. It was common to still see Mazzei at exhibit receptions and program events supporting students. He even took some of the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild story with him to the high school hoping to be the Frank Ross to a future Bill Strickland.
“I smile thinking of it,” noted Mazzei. “I implemented even the smallest details like playing jazz music on my record player during classes and saw the wonder and excitement and frankly confusion on the kids’ faces. Needless to say everything I did to positively impact the youth in my reach was directly pulled from the story of Frank and Bill and the experiences I had at Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild.”
However, Mazzei couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to fill the executive director position at MCG Youth & Arts when it was available.
In his new role as executive director, Mazzei wants to ensure that MCG Youth & Arts continues to provide world-class opportunities for youth in the region. One of his priorities is to collect and utilize meaningful data on new initiatives to expand the program’s family of partners, participants, and alumni.
When asked about potential changes, Mazzei looks to the past for inspiration. “When I think of changes I think of the process of wheel throwing that inspired a young Bill Strickland,” said Mazzei. “I think of how as a potter you are transforming the clay into something with value, something with purpose, something beautiful. I envision the same process for the program. Change is constant, but making well informed and purposeful change to ensure all students have access to programming that offers them a bright and promising future is important.”
Best-selling illustrator and children’s book author Carson Ellis shared her work and knowledge with MCG Youth & Arts students and her art is on display in our gallery. “Carson Ellis: Selected Works” presents a collection of original drawings, prints, and illustrations from the artist.
The featured works—selected by Ellis—showcase the artist’s signature style through a range of traditional mediums. Concert posters, album covers, book illustrations, and process sketches are on display.
Ellis’ work fits with MCG Youth & Arts’ 2019-20 theme “Celebrate. Collaborate.” Ellis works with her husband, The Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy, as well as with other authors and musicians. Her experience teaches students about the realities of being a professional illustrator while offering them inspiration to follow creative avenues they may already have access to.
“I found Carson through Instagram, but also kept noticing her books in the homes of friends, even those without children,” said Cecilia Ebitz, MCG Youth & Arts Visiting Artist and Exhibitions Coordinator. “I hope that the students will see themselves as a part of a creative community at MCG and figure out what collaborations can be made here.”
Ellis worked directly with students in the design studio as part of a threeday workshop. They went through the process of creating a picture book and talked about them as an art form and the process of storyboarding and character design.
Aside from her work as a professional artist, Ellis is fond of giving back and sharing her knowledge.
“I taught a 12-week drawing workshop for teen artists at the Portland Art Museum for years,” said Ellis. “These days I volunteer at a women’s prison teaching art to incarcerated moms and their kids, but I have a special place in my heart for working with teenagers because my own teen years were difficult and art was the thing that got me through them.”
“Carson Ellis: Selected Works” is on view until Dec. 23 at the Connie Kerr Gallery at 1815 Metropolitan St. Pittsburgh, PA 15233.
Always looking to preserve, present and promote jazz, MCG Jazz has published its first book, “Spirit to Spirit: A Portrait of Pittsburgh Jazz in the New Century.”
In 2018, MCG Jazz focused on Pittsburgh’s important jazz history with the release of the documentary “We Knew What We Had: The Greatest Jazz Story Never Told,” and now it is focused on the city’s current jazz community.
Award-winning Pittsburgh chroniclers Abby Mendelson and David Aschkenas set out on a two- year-long quest listening, interviewing and photographing the city’s current, rich jazz life. Designer David Wachter crafted the material into this visionary book.
Readers will enjoy profiles from prodigies barely out of high school to legendary icons like Roger Humphries.
“Spirit to Spirit” is available for purchase at mcgjazz.org and on Amazon.
Front cover of “Spirit to Spirit: A Portrait of Pittsburgh Jazz in the New Century.”
Jazz fans can enjoy two new albums from MCG Jazz this year that travel the spectrum between fierce and full of swing to quiet and introspective.
MCG Jazz has been involved with The Diva Jazz Orchestra—an ensemble of 15 talented female musicians— since its inception. In 2017, the orchestra wanted to try a project working with male soloists and performed on the MCG Jazz stage with Ken Peplowski, Jay Ashby, Claudio Roditi, and MCG Jazz Executive Producer Marty Ashby. From that live performance came the album “Diva + The Boys.” The collaborations led to exciting arrangements filled with fire, finesse, and swing. “Diva + The Boys” debuted at #16 on JazzWeek.
“For All We Know” is an album that was also built off a growing collaboration. Gloria Reuben’s last album “Perchance to Dream”—released on the MCG Jazz record label—ends with a duet between Reuben and Ashby. The chemistry behind creating that track led to this new collection of tunes that speaks to the deeply personal, often heart breaking, and eternally hopeful nature of love and relationships. Recorded in New Orleans, LA, all of the songs evoke in the listener the question: how do you face the denial, sorrow, and anger that arises from a break-up and pick yourself up to start over?