2018 Recap

2018 was a great year.  Sunshine City, the Musical was performed in concert at St Petersburg Opera in October as part of the St Petersburg Festival of the Arts. Dewey and I are optimistic that Sunshine City will be back on stage next year here in St Pete! Details to follow!

In March, Frankie & Giannia Micro-Opera, premiered as part of GASP!2018 at the Tampa Museum of Art, starring Colleen Cherry and Brandon Evans. F&G was also performed to a standing ovation at Studio@620 in March and at Creative Pinellas’ Arts Annual in August.

Having received an Act II grant from Pinellas Community Foundation in August, I set out to write something about “Aging in Place.” Having lost my mother in April of 2018, I decided to write a piece about age-related dementia and dedicate it to her. She suffered from dementia, as do a majority of people who reach their 90s.

Three Dementians for String Quartet explores the topic musically and theatrically. Having three distinct movements, the piece begins, of course, with all four players on stage. At the conclusion of the first movement, the 2nd Violinist exits the stage leaving only 3 players to perform the 2nd movement. The thinner texture of a trio along with the more serious nature of the second movement reinforces the visual metaphor musically.  At the conclusion of the 2nd movement, the Violist exits the stage, leaving only the Violinist and Cellist onstage. This movement begins somewhat contentiously, as confusion dominates, until we hear the Viola playing offstage. Reprising themes from the first and second movements, the offstage players represent distant memories being called to mind. Onstage confusion and offstage memories compete in this 3rd movement, until all four instrumentalists, onstage and off, play together, in a somber statement of acceptance.

Three Dementians premiered at Festivale 50 on February 20, performed brilliantly by the Ibis String Quartet.

In my next blog, I’ll discuss my upcoming project(s) which I’ll be creating for the 2019 Creative Pinellas Professional Artist Grant.




Tom Sivak

Arts In: Tom Sivak

Tom Sivak

Tom Sivak is an adventurous composer and lyricist who talks about turning Beatles songs into Bach fugues, a musical version of “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die – in 3D!!!” and an Andrews Sisters spoof on Shakespeare that featured Jose Ferrer at Lincoln Center. Tom spoke to us shortly after revealing his new comic opera, “Dr. Dilligaff’s Baboon,” at The Palladium.

You can find out more about Tom’s work at https://tomsivak.com and follow the development of “Dr. Dilligaff’s Baboon” at https://www.rapidreturns.org/artistslandingpage/.


Arts In is produced by Matt and Sheila Cowley. Executive Producer, Barbara St. Clair for Creative Pinellas.

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This past week has been busy with rehearsals as the cast of “Doctor Dilligaff’s Baboon” prepared for Opening Night—tonight, August 29th, 2016, at the Palladium.

About a month ago, individual rehearsals with myself and each cast member began. Learning new and very difficult music takes time and repetition to master. First rehearsals were with Todd Donovan and Melissa Misener who play the leads, Doctor Dilligaff and his receptionist, Monika because they have the largest roles.  Over the course of the past month, they grew more comfortable with the material and about 2 weeks ago, we met to rehearse their duets, which proliferate the opera. Over the same period, I met with Jenny Kim-Godfrey and Brandon Evans, individually, to teach them their music.

This past week is when we put it all together. Full cast rehearsals to master the ensemble numbers, our first run through of the show, plus a rehearsal with cellist, Lowell Adams, culminated in a dress rehearsal yesterday at the Palladium.

A “concert performance” of an opera, is in essence, a staged reading, meaning that there are no costumes or sets, no choreography or stage blocking. Performers sing the material standing at music desks, and any stage movement that is essential to the understanding of the show is related to the audience by a narrator. Although it may seem limited or 2-dimensional, staged readings are wonderfully entertaining and give the audience a real feel for the show without the cost or time commitment that a full production requires. It is a standard way to begin the life of a show as it heads to a the goal of a full production.

The cast of “Doctor Dilligaff’s Baboon” is engaging and I say this from the bottom of my heart: I could not have found a better cast anywhere. No one has ever played these roles before. I may have written the music and the words, but it takes a talented performer to make that character live and breathe on the stage. I couldn’t be happier with what Todd, Melissa, Jenny and Brandon have created from the words and little dots I put on a page.

Juliana Davis, our director, worked with the cast to help them make their performances ring true. She has brilliantly incorporated minimal movement to convey the intent of the script in a way that will delight and inform the audience. She also serves as narrator and moderator for the evening’s proceedings.

I have to mention Lowell Adams our cellist, as well. He serves as Second Principal Cellist for the Florida Orchestra, as well as playing for Opera Tampa. A big fan of opera, Lowell is a consummate professional and truth be told—I probably wouldn’t have been able to procure his services if not for the fact that he and I attended Northern Illinois University together, where we both obtained our Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Music. It has been great to reconnect with him and he brings so much to the score with his sensitive, emotional playing style.

There will be a second performance of “Doctor Dilligaff’s Baboon” at the Octagon Arts Center in Clearwater on Wednesday, August 31st. Both performances are free.

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