Aug 142018
 

Bill Damaschke ’85 is a former Chief Creative Officer at DreamWorks Animation and as of recently, current president of Animation and Family Entertainment at Skydance Media.

After graduating from IWU with a B.F.A. in musical theater, Damaschke spent several years in New York working as an actor both on and off Broadway, and as an assistant for producers and executives at movie studios and record labels, along with “a million other things.” But after moving to Los Angeles on a whim, he decided to pursue a job as a production assistant and ended up spending over 20 years at DreamWorks Animation, which at the time was a startup company led by film director and producer Steven Spielberg, former Disney executive Jeffrey Katzenberg and music executive David Geffen.

He rose from an entry-level position to the company’s Chief Creative Officer. Damaschke served as a production assistant on Prince of Egypt, the company’s first animated film, and since then has worked on 27 other DreamWorks animated films – including box office hits How to Train Your Dragon, the Madagascar franchise and the Shrek franchise. He also helped launch the company’s theater and television divisions. All the while, DreamWorks was constantly expanding, as a whirlwind of animators, writers, storyboard artists, directors and other creatives under Damaschke’s purview made film after film, sometimes as many as five films every two years. Damaschke’s journey also eventually lead to the creation of his own production company, StoryKey Entertainment, which is producing musicals such as Moulin Rouge! and The Prom, coming to Broadway later this year.

Now, as president of Animation and Family Entertainment at Skydance Media, Damaschke looks forward to continuing to lead creative teams in crafting animated feature films that will leave a lasting impression on viewers of all ages.

Founded in 2010, Skydance Media specializes in film, television, interactive platforming, and most recently, animation. Damaschke was brought on board in 2017 to head the company’s animation division, which has partnered with Ilion Animation Studios in Spain for two upcoming fantasy films Luck (March 2021) and Split (TBA), as well as several others in the production pipeline.

At the helm of this new branch of Skydance, Damaschke finds himself in a similar “startup mode” to when he first began at DreamWorks Animation. “It requires you to be super excited and roll up your sleeves, and certainly in the environment and culture we have here at Skydance, every single person’s contribution matters,” said Damaschke.

The chance to create movies from an entirely clean slate is an exciting prospect for Damaschke. “We live in a world where there’s so many reboots and so many remakes. And I love going to all those movies. But that’s the one very clear thing about Skydance. We’re starting from scratch and we are making original films.”

Congratulations, Bill!

Read the full article here.

 Posted by at 9:42 am
Aug 012018
 

Amy (Kistner) de Lannoy ’87 recently reconnected with Alumni Association President, Scott Huch ’86, at a lunch at the legendary Sardi’s Restaurant in NYC.

Amy and Scott laughed a lot, but also spoke of their professional journeys since their college days at IWU. Amy subsequently shared with Scott a clip from a recent stint on TV.

Featured in a segment titled “Tips for Changing Your Career Path Later in Life” on Good Morning Connecticut at Nine, Amy noted that her career path was anything but direct. While she started her career in pharmaceutical sales, she then attended law school and became a corporate attorney. After 15 years as a corporate attorney, she “fell into a great opportunity” managing a medical practice. When she decided to re-enter the legal profession, she found a way to “package” together her pharmaceutical experience, years as a practice manager, and legal experience to retool herself as a Healthcare Attorney.

On the segment, Amy reminded others that “sometimes stepping away from your chosen field can help you reset your trajectory.” She encouraged people to “seek our certifications that tie together your unusual resume”, noting that she completed a one-year Healthcare Compliance Certificate Program that “filled in some of the gaps” and allowed her to repackage her experiences towards her new path as a Healthcare Attorney at Halloran Sage in Hartford, Connecticut. Amy was nervous about getting back into law after being out of the practice for almost 10 years, but says she feels fortunate that Halloran Sage viewed her varied experience as a valuable asset.

Amy’s flexibility and adaptability also came in handy when she was randomly chosen from the audience on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert to be featured in a Valentine’s Day segment called ‘First Drafts’ of which you may view here.

Watch Amy’s feature on Good-morning Connecticut at Nine here.

Scott Huch ’86 and Amy (Kistner) de Lannoy ’87 at Sardi’s in NYC.

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 Posted by at 12:28 pm
Jul 312018
 

Paintings by Renee McGinnis ’84 are being featured in a Summer Group Show at ZG Gallery in Chicago, Illinois that opened Friday, July 13th and will be on display until August 31st, 2018. The show also features works by artists Amy Casey, Gregory Jacobsen, Steve Hough, Eric Tucker, and more.

“Krakatoa” oil on gesso panel 25×31 in. framed.

Here is a link with more information about the show.
Here is a link to Renee’s website.
Congratulations, Renee!
 Posted by at 11:13 am
Jul 302018
 

The work of artist, Dick Folse ’85, will be featured in the Illinois Wesleyan Merwin Gallery from July 28- August 25, 2018 and as a part of Bloomington First Friday on August 3, 2018 from 5-8 pm. From September 7- October 31, 2018, his work will be showcased in an exhibit entitled “Redefining” at the Springfield Art Association Collective at Hoogland Galleries in Springfield, Illinois.

 

“Barcelona: vistas desde las montañas hasta el mar”

For more information about Dick’s work visit https://dickfolse.com/.

You can visit the IWU Merwin Gallery during its Summer Hours: Tuesday & Wednesday 12 – 2 pm; Thursday 4 – 6 pm; Saturday 10 – 12; or by appointment (email info@dickfolse.com).

More information about Bloomington First Friday on August 3, 2018 can be found here.

Here is a link to information about the Springfield Art Association Collective.

Congratulations, Dick!

 Posted by at 11:38 am
Jul 252018
 
Dawn Upshaw ’82 was recently featured in an Opera News article entitled “The Teaching Artist” in which she spoke about her work as a teacher at the Tanglewood Music Center, where she is head of the vocal arts program, and at Bard College Conservatory of Music, where she is artistic director of the graduate vocal arts program. In the article, she reflected on her career after her time at Illinois Wesleyan as well as her hopes for the future.

On what kind of singer she wants for the Tanglewood Program: “We look at the voice, and the quality, the talent in communication. We are also looking for students we think we can help guide—someone who’s open to working collaboratively. That’s what it’s all about. The singers in the program tend to be people who have just finished grad school. It’s a small enough group, and we get enough applicants, that we really are able to stick to a certain level of artist. That’s the level I was most interested in at Bard, too. I actually began at Bard in 2004, before I took the position at Tanglewood. When Bard first approached me, they were creating an undergraduate conservatory, and I said I didn’t want to create an undergraduate vocal program. I was more interested in the openness and the skill level of graduate-level students. 

“Our program at Bard is centered on the core seminar classes. There are four semesters in a two-year program, so there are four core seminars. The course I love the most is called ‘Creating Unique Performance Opportunities.’ The students are put into two groups of three or four, and they do everything—they choose their program, they rehearse, they do the research, they do their program notes, they find the venue, they book the concert and do all the publicity. It has to be off-campus, and in the community around Bard. All of this is done by Thanksgiving. So it’s a very quick turnaround, very intense class, but it shows them that they can create their own performance opportunities. The impetus for that class comes from me believing things are constantly evolving in the business, and in the work. I truly believe that the most exciting thing about the future in music is the new young musicians that are coming along and saying they want to do this. They find a way to say what they want to say with their music. And so they need a place they can create for themselves in which to say what they want to say with their work.

“Our goal at Bard is to instill in the students excitement for collaboration and connecting with other people through the art form. It can be a lonely road, sometimes, being a singing artist. But I have found in my own experience that the greatest work that I can do has always been in collaboration with someone else”

Dawn brings a unique perspective on performing and a passion for sharing her experiences to her mission of shaping aspiring singers.
Read the full article here.
Jul 102018
 
Ansel Johnson ’81 is an optometrist at Blue Island-based Vision Salon Eye Care Associates who is working to detect and combat diabetes in his patients.
Among the technology Johnson uses is a device he acquired in December that makes it easier to detect very subtle changes in patients’ color vision that can happen as a result of diabetes.
His 28-year old practice now has about 1,200 patients annually and more than $1 million in revenues. Johnson’s practice utilizes retinal imaging technology. “It’s like taking an MRI of the back of the eye, he said, adding, “instead of just looking at the surface of the eye, we can look inside the eye. A lot of times that has very subtle changes.”
Johnson also conducts A1c blood testing for diabetes and offers a diabetes risk test for patients.
He is a member of the American Association of Diabetes Educators, and for the past 20 years, he has presented lecture series on diabetes and glaucoma at libraries, churches and schools, he said.
His practice, in partnership with a North Carolina based company, recently began rolling out a formal diabetes education and prevention program for patients called KNOC. It’s an acronym for knowledge, nutrition and ocular health coaching.
With the initial roll out of the education initiative, he is making grants available to cover the cost for patients to enroll in the program and is in conversations with insurance providers to encourage them to cover the costs, he said. Johnson, who considers himself a holistic doctor and partner to his patients’ health care providers, said while physicians refer patients to diabetes education programs, he sees many patients who have never gone or who only went when they were first diagnosed. He is trying to fill the gap, he said.
His life saving message should be followed. Nearly 26 million children and adults in the U.S. have diabetes, and 79 million have prediabetes placing them at increased risk for developing the disease, according to the American Diabetes Association.
African-Americans are 77 percent more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes compared to white Americans and are hit harder by diabetes-related eye complications, according to the association. Diabetic retinopathy, which is damage to the blood vessels in the back of the eye that can lead to blindness, is 46 percent more prevalent in African-Americans than whites. In Illinois, roughly 1.3 million people are diabetic and 341,000 of them don’t know it, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Rates are highest in the state among blacks and Hispanics.
Diabetes costs the state an estimated $12.2 billion each year because of complications that include heart disease, stroke, amputations, kidney disease, blindness and death, the Illinois agency reported .The staggering impact diabetes is having on minority communities is what drives Johnson. More importantly, education and prevention can save lives and preserve vision, he said.
Here is a link to the full article published in the Chicago Tribune.
Jul 022018
 

Since the late 1980’s Robert Poynton has been associated with international recording artists “The Lettermen”.  The combination of Tony Butala, Donovan Tea and Poynton is the longest any 3 members of the group have ever sung together. Recently, it was announced by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, that The Lettermen would be recognized for their distinguished recording career with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  The Lettermen join other artists such as Michael Buble, Faith Hill, Pink and Linda Rondstadt as well as actors Robert De Niro, Guillermo Del Toro, Ann Hathaway and many others as the Class of 2019.  The induction ceremony will be sometime in 2020 in Los Angeles.

Here is a link to the article from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.

Jun 292018
 
Dawn Upshaw ’82 will be performing at the indoor theatre at the upcoming Ravina Festival, the oldest outdoor music festival in the United States, with a series of outdoor concerts and performances held every summer from June to September.
A review of one of Dawn’s recent programs from the Washington Post reads:  “Upshaw has had an impressive career throughout a spectrum of new music, and she made a fine case for these songs. What is striking is that she has so little vocal presence apart from the music she sings. She can float a beautiful high note, but the singing that was called for her was a straightforward, almost childlike sound, and that’s what she delivered: a voice free of operatic allures, sometimes sounding taxed and a little frayed by the demands of the music. It was a kind of singer-songwriter approach from an artist who specializes in reinventing herself for the pieces that she champions and who was here very much one of the guys in a truly refreshing program.”
 
Purchase tickets for Dawn’s Ravina Festival performance here.
Read the article in the Washington Post here.
 

Jun 082018
 

Stephen R. White ’85 is working with fellow alum Vianey Salazar ’18 on a new play titled Now and Then by Sean Grennan at the Peninsula Players Theater in Fish Creek, Wisconsin. Stephen is working as Lighting Designer and Vianey the Master Electrician. Now and Then opens June 12 and runs until July 1. 2018.

You can find more information about the production here.

Congratulations, Steve!

 Posted by at 12:09 pm