Carrizozo arts grow with 'Music With Gwendolyn'Erik LeDuc firstname.lastname@example.orgPosted: 03/05/2013 04:46:20 PM MST
Click photo to enlargeGwendolyn Watson breathes with her cello as she improvises a melody. (Erik LeDuc/Ruidoso News)The town of Carrizozo already is heading down a fairly artistic path. Music in Parks offers world-class musicians free to the public, art galleries continue to proliferate along 12th Street, dance lessons are held in the Masonic Lodge, knitters and weavers click away for charitable causes over the weekends and volunteer gardeners gather to beautify the town's public areas during warmer days.
Now, another artistic niche has been filled. Gwendolyn Watson, musician and teacher, has recently moved to town, offering instruction, encouragement and consultations to those interested, provided the interest is not overwhelming - she's testing out the retired life after leaving her home in Georgia.
"I wanted to live in a place unlike any other I had ever lived in," she said. "I also wanted to move west, but not back to California. There's that adventurous spirit. Then I found this house that was available, and I have a few friends here, came out here and liked the area. I've never lived in any place like it."
Life of song
Born 1941 in California, Watson started out small in the early years of her music, plinking away on her xylophone to come to an independent discovery of transposition as she learned she could play the same series of notes in a different key.
"My mother and father said, 'well, she must be musical,'" Watson said.
At the age of seven, she began her first actual lessons, studying piano and "all those scales, etudes and dead people's music," she said,
Advertisement tongue in cheek. "I love classical music. But then my mother would come out after I had done that and say, 'now honey, can we hear some of your music?'"This meant improvisation, and the young Watson would play on, blending sets of styles, rhythms and notes into a new composition. Most importantly, her parents were never discouraging, "never said, 'this isn't as good as Mozart,'" Watson said.
As she began her teenage years, Watson picked up a second instrument, the cello, to play in her high school orchestra - a path she pursued through college and beyond, she said.
Watson earned a bachelor's degree in cello performance from Santa Barbara City College in 1962, then put another four years in at Mills College in Oakland, Calif., to earn her master's degree in composition, she said.
From there, it was off to the theater, traipsing through New York, N.Y., and other cities, and "for the next 34 years of my life, I earned my living improvising for American Modern Dance," she said. "It was perfect for me, because my mother had been a dancer and I loved dancing, but I was a musician from the get-go. So, how do you be around dancers when you're a musician? You play music for dancers. It was quite an interesting life."
There, Watson said she played for the dedicated dancers who would rehearse or practice "nearly every day," watching and learning as the dancers began their routines before adding sounds to complement their movements.
"I made the dance the score," she said. "I tried to translate something about what they were doing."
If it was a day of leaps and energy, Watson might play something heavier, faster on the piano; fingers racing across the keys, pacing the dancers and anticipating the leap - silence, then a crash down on a scale as they landed.
For calmer days, perhaps in the spirit of a ballet, she would coax soulful tones out of her cello, an Austrian antique crafted around 1780, letting her bow glide in time with spins.
"Every instrument has its personality and every instrument seems to solicit a different way of moving," she added. "The first few years were kind of painful, I had to rapidly learn they needed certain things to be moving, but I didn't have to be 100 percent creative at all moments."
Sliding over to her piano, Watson tapped out a simple one-two, one-two tempo in the lower octaves before adding more another series of notes, then another, as she demonstrated how the music would adapt to complement the dance.
"It was a creative challenge, but I got paid money to be creative," she laughed.
That life lasted until the early 1980s, when Watson went on to play chamber music, her favorite form of classical music, and teach in Rome, Ga.
"In chamber music, each person has their own part, but they need to work together," she said. "I'm a collaborator, I like working with other artists as much as I like working with other musicians. Whether it would be to accompany a dancer, or with a prayer, something sacred, and then responding afterwards so you could think what you were thinking a little longer before going on to something else."
Music with Gwendolyn
That collaboration, along with a healthy dose of fun, is what "Music With Gwendolyn," Fridays at Watson's house, is all about, she said.
"The main focus is I'm helping people to find their own creativity, rather than entertaining them," she said. "There were six people here last Friday. They came with fear and trepidation and left with laughter and good feelings."
Visitors would come in and musically experiment "without grades, without judgment," in an improvisational orchestra.
"But also appreciating other people's creativity, it's not a think tank, it's a sound tank," she said. "Someone brought a guitar, someone brought a flute, some could play very advanced, others could barely put two sticks together - but that didn't matter. If you have curiosity, just come, you can stay and listen if you like.
"Nobody just listened for more than five minutes."
For those new to music, Watson taught them simple rhythms they could mix, match and modify, adding to the overall song, she said. "I couldn't have written anything more interesting."
"Music With Gwendolyn" is hosted from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Friday at 114 Central Avenue. A $5 donation is encouraged.
Watson also is offering private lessons on cello or piano to anyone willing to put forth the effort to learn, particularly adult students, she said.
Lessons are $10 for a 40-minute session and students are encouraged to provide their own instruments and practice at home.
For more information, or to schedule a lesson, contact Watson at (575) 648-4422 or email@example.com.
Watson also will be playing in Capitan, 5 to 7 p.m. Saturdays in March, at El Paisano restaurant.