WBEZ | diversity http://www.wbez.org/tags/diversity Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Morning Shift: The state of diversity on stage and screen http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-30/morning-shift-state-diversity-stage-and-screen-110104 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/White people on stage Flickr Lieven SOETE.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We look at new efforts aimed at bringing diversity into comedy. Plus, Governor Quinn selects new director for DCFS. And, a little reclaimed soul.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-state-of-diversity-on-stage-and/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-state-of-diversity-on-stage-and.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-state-of-diversity-on-stage-and" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: The state of diversity on stage and screen" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Wed, 30 Apr 2014 08:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-30/morning-shift-state-diversity-stage-and-screen-110104 Don't ignore the "diversity factor" http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-10/dont-ignore-diversity-factor-109000 <p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-3d52e672-ebd7-3d0f-e479-6ae2ed2d58a6"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1398363_540486319363338_1251593255_o.jpg" style="height: 429px; width: 620px;" title="(Facebook/Sleepy Hollow)" /></span></p><p dir="ltr">I won&rsquo;t say that the only reason why I first tuned into &quot;Scandal&quot; was because there was a character &ndash; the lead character &ndash; that looked like me, but that was certainly a major factor. Television, despite its fluctuating ratings and successes from network to network, has become a larger medium. Its influence and storytelling capabilities have become more influential and more important than films.</p><p dir="ltr">In fact, as the film industry moves closer and closer to a formula that avoids &quot;risk&quot; (whether risk means original storytelling, romantic comedies, or stories featuring women), television &ndash; with its abundance of channels and numerous options available at any given moment &ndash; has become more experimental in its presentation.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-3d52e672-ebd7-3d0f-e479-6ae2ed2d58a6">On the surface, it is ridiculous to say &ldquo;adding diversity&rdquo; is a risk. With ensemble casts, it is easy to throw in a black or East Asian face and call it a day. Whether or not the character is interesting or relevant to the show&rsquo;s structure as a whole matters little. Their presence should presumably be enough. But visibility can only go so far. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-3d52e672-ebd7-3d0f-e479-6ae2ed2d58a6">It&rsquo;s not a matter of just adding new faces. It&#39;s a matter of showing that these faces are here for a reason, that they matter, that the show could not function without them there. That is a true sign of diversity. That the faces and bodies are different, yes, but also that they are just like anyone else: flawed, charismatic, and central to what makes a show &ldquo;click.&rdquo; </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-3d52e672-ebd7-3d0f-e479-6ae2ed2d58a6">Few television creators are bucking this trend, but there are noticeable, successful exceptions. Shonda Rhimes, the creator of &quot;Grey&rsquo;s Anatomy,&quot; recently cancelled</span> &quot;Private Practice,<span>&quot; and still rising &quot;Scandal,&quot; has found a formula that works: cast based on talent rather than physical appearance. Her shows regularly feature leads of a variety of different races and ethnicities (not just &ldquo;black,&rdquo; which many lazy executives recognize as the only type of diversity necessary). And by sticking to this formula of casting for quality over race, Rhimes&rsquo; shows have found a home with millions of viewers. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-3d52e672-ebd7-3d0f-e479-6ae2ed2d58a6">&nbsp;<a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/176301651/Hollywood-Diversity-Brief-Spotlight-2013" target="_blank">A new study</a></span>&nbsp;from the UCLA Bunche Center for African American Studies reported television shows that featured a cast of 40-50% people of color performed the best in median household ratings in 2011-2012. To boot, casts that were more than 90% white performed the worst, both cable and broadcast television.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-3d52e672-ebd7-3d0f-e479-6ae2ed2d58a6">According to a </span><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/08/arts/television/08foge.html?pagewanted=print&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">New York Times article</a>, Rhimes &ldquo;didn&#39;t specify the characters&#39; ethnicities,&quot; in the pilot of &quot;Grey&#39;s Anatomy,&quot; her first show, &quot;so her casting process was wide open.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><span>Sandra Oh reportedly shaped her character </span><span>Christina Yang when she walked in the door: </span></p><p dir="ltr" style="margin-left:36pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-3d52e672-ebd7-3d0f-e479-6ae2ed2d58a6">&ldquo;Even though some network executives assumed Ms. Oh&#39;s hypercompetitive character would be white, Ms. Rhimes did not - in the pilot&#39;s script she wasn&#39;t even given a last name - so all it took was one &quot;fabulous&quot; audition from the &quot;Sideways&quot; star to christen the character Cristina Yang.&rdquo; </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-3d52e672-ebd7-3d0f-e479-6ae2ed2d58a6">The success of Rhimes&#39; shows have given ABC much needed life. Outside CBS, the remaining three major networks are struggling to create a new hit, yet Rhimes has managed to produce one with nearly every new show.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-3d52e672-ebd7-3d0f-e479-6ae2ed2d58a6">More recent examples include FOX&rsquo;s &quot;Sleepy Hollow.&quot; It features black, Hispanic, and Korean-American actors, and was the first new show of the 2013-2014 television season to get an order for a second season. This same formula can be found in movies, such as the &quot;Fast and Furious&quot; films which have become more successful as they get more diverse.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>Many young black adults of my generation consider the &#39;90s to be the golden era of diverse TV. It was a time when shows featuring black actors with agency, hopes, fears and character development was a reality. Our childhoods made shows like</span> &quot;Living Single,&quot; &quot;Family Matters,&quot; and &quot;The Fresh Prince of Bel Air&quot; <span>seem like the norm rather than the exception. It seems now our golden era was merely a fluke, a series of network decisions to capture the trend of black people on television and ride it to a final conclusion in which there would be none at all. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-3d52e672-ebd7-3d0f-e479-6ae2ed2d58a6">In 2013, the issue is not just about blacks on television, but about a variety of different races, ethnicities, genders, and bodies on television. Our understanding of diversity has expanded since then. Blacks are used as the default because of our history as the country&#39;s largest minority population, but &ldquo;the black factor&rdquo; and the&ldquo;diversity factor&rdquo; remain at issue. If the &#39;90s were the golden era, then the aughts were the draught. In this new decade, let&#39;s reverse the damage.&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Britt Julious is the co-host of&nbsp;<a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbezs-changing-channels" target="_blank">WBEZ&#39;s Changing Channels</a>, a podcast about the future of television. She also writes about race and culture in and outside of Chicago. Follow Britt&#39;s essays for&nbsp;<a href="http://wbez.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">WBEZ&#39;s Tumblr</a>&nbsp;or on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/britticisms" target="_blank">@britticisms</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 24 Oct 2013 14:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-10/dont-ignore-diversity-factor-109000 Study finds high-achieving minorities shun teaching http://www.wbez.org/news/study-finds-high-achieving-minorities-shun-teaching-108963 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Teacher diversity_131018_oy.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>A <a href="http://www.siue.edu/ierc/">decade-long study of more than 225,000 Illinois public high school graduates</a> finds many reasons that minorities are not becoming teachers. The Illinois Education Research Council at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville&nbsp;tracked the classes of 2002 and 2003 as they moved beyond high school and into their careers. The study sheds light on where students, including African-American and Latino graduates, drop out of that pipeline.</p><p>Illinois education officials have been wrestling with a significant mismatch between the number of minority teachers and the number of minority students in the state&rsquo;s public schools. While almost half of students are non-white, more than 80 percent of their teachers are Caucasian. A <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/push-teacher-quality-illinois-takes-toll-minority-candidates-108601">recent push to increase teacher quality standards </a>threatens to exacerbate the difference.</p><p>The Illinois Education Research Council study, meanwhile, finds that while roughly one-third of Illinois public high school graduates earned a Bachelor&rsquo;s degree, only 3 percent became teachers. Within the pool of 4-year college degree earners, minorities went on to become teachers in Illinois public schools at a noticeably lower rate than their white counterparts.</p><p>&ldquo;The minority numbers were actually surprising to me,&rdquo; said Brad White, lead researcher on the study. &ldquo;I sort of went into the study thinking that a lot of that story could be told simply by looking at different rates of enrollment and graduation from college. And that wasn&rsquo;t the case at all.&rdquo;</p><p>White said minority graduates with Bachelor&rsquo;s degrees, and particularly those who fell into the top third of ACT scores, opted to earn teaching certificates at lower rates than similarly qualified white students. And beyond that, African-Americans who did receive teaching certificates were less likely to get teaching positions in Illinois public schools.</p><p>White suggested that the state could increase its pool of minority teachers by recruiting promising students into the profession as early as high school. He said the state could also focus on improving educational opportunities for minority students before they get to college.</p><p>&ldquo;We might be able to see changes in the number of those students that are interested in pursuing teaching as a career if the career is perceived as more prestigious and more difficult to enter,&rdquo; White added. This is an approach state officials say they are trying to take, by increasing testing standards required to enter the profession.</p><p>A spokesperson for the Illinois State Board of Education noted that the state encourages colleges and universities to partner with local school districts to recruit diverse students into the teaching profession, and that the state has expanded funding for Teach for America recruitment. The study found that alternative certification programs such as TFA appear to be good pathways for academically gifted minorities into the teaching profession.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a>.</em></p><p>Note: This article incorrectly stated that the Illinois Education Research Council is at Southeastern Illinois University in Edwardsville. It is at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.</p></p> Fri, 18 Oct 2013 10:34:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/study-finds-high-achieving-minorities-shun-teaching-108963 Morning Shift: A call for different voices http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-09-25/morning-shift-call-different-voices-108759 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Media Flickr Elsie esq..jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We may be surrounded by media, but does it broaden our perspective? We&#39;ll talk about the need for diversity with writer and media expert Michele Weldon. Also, religion journalist, Judy Valente, attempts to bring us some inner peace, and musician Alex Cuba performs.&nbsp;</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-130925/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-130925.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-130925" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: A call for different voices" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Wed, 25 Sep 2013 08:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-09-25/morning-shift-call-different-voices-108759 Push for teacher quality in Illinois takes toll on minority candidates http://www.wbez.org/news/push-teacher-quality-illinois-takes-toll-minority-candidates-108601 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Teacher diversity_130904_oy.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Across the nation, states are considering ways to make teaching a more selective profession. The push for &ldquo;higher aptitude&rdquo; teachers has often come from the nation&rsquo;s top education officials. &ldquo;In Finland it&rsquo;s the top ten percent of college grads (who) are going into education,&rdquo; U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4ykyW4F9q8">said to an audience of educators in Massachusetts</a> last year. &ldquo;Ninety percent don&rsquo;t have that opportunity.&rdquo;</p><p>Education leaders in Illinois have taken up that call, but the way they&rsquo;ve done it has raised some red flags. That&rsquo;s because tougher standards are coming at a cost: fewer minorities are on track to become teachers. The data have state officials talking about whether they should do things differently.</p><p>The issue became a key point of discussion at last month&rsquo;s regular meeting of the Illinois State Board of Education. Though it wasn&rsquo;t on the board&rsquo;s agenda, a handful of outsiders showed up to bring it to the board&rsquo;s attention during the public comment portion of the meeting. Linda Wegner, a teacher in Rochelle, IL, spoke on behalf of the <a href="http://www.ieanea.org/">Illinois Education Association</a>. &ldquo;I want to encourage my minority students to be teachers. I try to, I always have,&rdquo; she told</p><p>Wegner warned the board that unless it intervenes, Illinois&rsquo; teaching force will become whiter. That&rsquo;s because the number of African Americans and Latinos in teaching schools is way down. She and many others attributed this to a change in the <a href="http://www.il.nesinc.com/">Test of Academic Proficiency</a>, or TAP, an admissions test for colleges of education. Anyone who wants to be a teacher in Illinois must pass the TAP.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re seeing a diminution in the number of minority candidates who are passing this exam, so we&rsquo;re worried about it,&rdquo; said Gery Chico, chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education. Chico told Wegner he is seriously alarmed about data that show that fewer African Americans and Hispanics are passing the TAP. He said the board had feared this might happen when it raised standards to pass the TAP in 2010.</p><p>That year, the board doubled the scores needed to pass each section of the TAP, and also <a href="http://www.isbe.net/licensure/pdf/icts_test.pdf">limited students to five tries</a>. &ldquo;It was really part and parcel of that overall movement to increase the rigor of various standards that affect the entire profession,&rdquo; Chico explained.</p><p>Last year, the board also began allowing teacher candidates to <a href="http://www.isbe.net/licensure/pdf/act-sat-grade-use-notice0113.pdf">submit test scores on other standardized assessments in lieu of the TAP</a>. A score of at least 22 on the ACT or 1030 on the SAT would qualify. However, the state has not tracked whether this has allowed more candidates of color into colleges of education. Both of those cutoff scores are above what African Americans and Hispanics in Illinois average on those exams; they are below what Caucasians average.</p><h2 dir="ltr"><strong>Data is in</strong></h2><p>But now, it&rsquo;s been three years, and the numbers are in: the overall pass rate for the TAP is less than half what it was before, and the changes have disproportionately hurt non-Asian minorities. Sixty percent of African-Americans used to pass the TAP; now it&rsquo;s 17 percent. For Hispanics, the pass rate has dropped from 70 percent, to 22 percent.</p><p>Many are quick to warn that this is not because those candidates are less capable, but that they themselves were products of poor schools. &ldquo;If you think about who have we been under-educating in the past, it tends to be low-income and minority students,&rdquo; said Robin Steans of <a href="http://www.advanceillinois.org/">Advance Illinois</a>, an education policy group.</p><p>Steans rejects the idea that raising teacher standards must come at the cost of diversity. She says colleges of education should do more to recruit talented minorities.</p><p>But the reality is, Illinois is seeing a tradeoff. She and many others in the education field in Illinois believe this matters because year after year the white student population in the state has shrunk. According to the Illinois State Board of Education, white students make up 50.3 percent of school enrollment this year. Meanwhile, the share of white teachers in Illinois has barely changed, <a href="http://iirc.niu.edu/State.aspx?source=About_Educators&amp;source2=Teacher_Demographics">hovering between 82 and 85 percent</a>. Many feel the new TAP further exacerbates the mismatch.</p><p>&ldquo;Don&rsquo;t we want kids to have elementary teachers who have a solid grasp of these subjects?&rdquo; said Arthur McKee, of the <a href="http://www.nctq.org/siteHome.do">National Council on Teacher Quality</a>. The NCTQ has become a vocal advocate in pressuring states to raise teacher standards. McKee said Illinois made the right changes to the TAP, and should stay its course. &ldquo;We actually think that it&rsquo;s a good assessment,&rdquo; he continued. &ldquo;We believe that teachers should generally be drawn from the top half of the college-going population.&rdquo;</p><p>Nationally, that&rsquo;s where things are going. Many states are considering policy changes to make teaching more selective. Some would weed candidates out after they finish their education degrees, but others like New Jersey and Nebraska are thinking of doing what Illinois does: narrowing the pool at the front end. In most of these places, there are debates about whether changes might limit diversity in their teaching pool. Illinois is the early adopter that shows those fears are well-founded.</p><h2 dir="ltr"><strong>Teachers of their own culture</strong></h2><p>Practitioners on the ground agree that we need smart teachers, but many also believe students do better with teachers of their own culture. &ldquo;I just think it&rsquo;s so important for children to see people that look like them in positive situations,&rdquo; said Shalonda Randle, principal of Roosevelt Junior High and Elementary School in south suburban Riverdale, &ldquo;so that they can see that African Americans are teachers, are principals, are in positions of power and authority.&rdquo;</p><p>Randle started at the school as a teacher in 1996, and said she saw the student body change. &ldquo;When I first started, the demographics was pretty much, I would say 50 percent Caucasian, 50 percent African American,&rdquo; she remembered. &ldquo;Within the course of 3 years, by 1998 until &nbsp;2000 the demographics went to 100 percent African-American students.&rdquo; Meanwhile, Randle recalled being one of only two African American teachers at that time.</p><p>When Randle became principal in 2003, she said she made it a priority to hire more teachers of color. Today, more than half her teachers are African-American. She said she doesn&rsquo;t compromise the quality of her teachers for race, but she worries that the TAP may be locking out people who might make really good teachers. Randle said Illinois should keep high standards, but it should measure teacher aptitude in a variety of ways.&nbsp;</p><p>Joyce Jackson agrees; she said by any other measure, she&rsquo;d be deemed worth to teach. Jackson returned a phone call to WBEZ just hours after she had taken the math portion of the TAP. &ldquo;You can hear the shakiness in my voice, because I&rsquo;ve just come from taking the Basic Skills math portion of the new TAP exam,&rdquo; Jackson said in a recorded voice message, &ldquo;and as you can hear I am so upset because I have yet not passed it again.&rdquo;</p><h2 dir="ltr"><strong>A rigorous test</strong></h2><p>My editor had me take the TAP, to see what it&rsquo;s like. It&rsquo;s a five-hour, computer-based test, geared toward a college sophomore level. My experience was that the test is doable, but certainly rigorous.</p><p>Jackson has taken the math portion of that test seven times. She is board president for Randle&rsquo;s school district, and decided to go back to school herself to fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming a teacher. But after years of trying to pass the TAP, and hundreds of dollars in test preparation and test-taking, she&rsquo;s reaching the end of her tether. She has not been able to move forward in her coursework at Governor State University to complete her teaching credits.</p><p>&ldquo;I also have enough credits to switch a major and go maybe into sociology or social work or psychology,&rdquo; said Jackson. Officials of colleges of education at UIC, NEIU and Governor State University all said that many of their minority teaching candidates do what Jackson is considering: switch to other majors after failing the TAP. Jackson says it breaks her heart to think of this, because all she wanted was to teach students that they could be whatever they want.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 04 Sep 2013 07:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/push-teacher-quality-illinois-takes-toll-minority-candidates-108601 It's OK to love Shonda Rhimes' television shows http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-05/its-ok-love-shonda-rhimes-television-shows-107128 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP120110152184 (1).jpg" title="Showrunner and producer Shonda Rhimes (left) with 'Scandal' star Kerry Washington. (AP/Chris Pizzello)" /></div><p>Shonda Rhimes is important. She is critical. That it has taken the <a href="http://t.co/jULNPbAiIH" target="_blank"><strong>mainstream media</strong></a>&nbsp;this many years to discover and talk about this speaks to the ways in which we discuss the creation of entertainment and the systems within the entertainment industry itself. The entertainment industry is male-dominanted, exclusive, and isolationary.</p><p>Shonda Rhimes &ndash; a writer, producer, and showrunner who at one time maintained three successful television shows (<em>Grey&rsquo;s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal</em>) at the same time on one network &ndash; bucks this industry standard, instead creating work that is inclusive, unique, feminine and fun. These traits are not typically used to describe Important Television, but Rhimes&rsquo; rate of success over failure, fandom over derision, deserves further examination and praise.</p><p>Shonda Rhimes is a feminist. She might not say it explicitly, but it can be seen in her shows. They stem from a female perspective. This is a reflection of Rhimes herself. She is a female writer, producer, and showrunner, an extreme rarity seen only in a handful of recent examples (Lena Dunham and Mindy Kaling most notably). Rhimes controls the content of her shows. They are born out of her vision.</p><p>And it is her vision that turned many from indifferent to appreciative. Rhimes&rsquo; shows feature female lead characters. This strong vision can be seen through the actions of her characters &ndash; their decisions to openly discuss and have abortions, their struggles over life choices in work and home life &ndash; and even the conceit of the shows themselves. She explores their inner lives, desires, wants, and concerns and takes them seriously.</p><p>Audiences witnessed <em>Grey&#39;s Anatomy</em>&#39;s Christina Yang&rsquo;s (Sandra Oh) forthright desire to have an abortion when pregnant. The first time, she suffered a miscarriage before the procedure. The second time, years later, she underwent the procedure, never wavering from her desire to not be a parent. That millions of viewers saw this on primetime television and the world did not implode shows that Rhimes&rsquo; vision is a reflection of the very real inner lives and actions of many contemporary women. Her audiences can appreciate such storylines because they are true and because they are given the respect they deserve.</p><p>As well, Rhimes&rsquo; shows are diverse, something that is still a rarity on mainstream television and in Hollywood in general. Her latest show, <em>Scandal</em>, features a black female lead portrayed by Kerry Washington. Earlier this year, when reflecting on the importance of <em>Scandal</em>&rsquo;s Olivia Pope, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-02/praise-messiness-scandals-olivia-pope-105271" target="_blank">I wrote</a>:</p><blockquote><p>Depictions of black characters in film and television especially usually fall into one of a limited number of tropes: the tragic, the sassy, the perfect. Olivia does not fit neatly into any one category. She is a woman in the wrong kind of relationship, one that is forbidden and heartbreaking. She is smart and authoritative and strong in self-assuredness. When she is right, she is very right and she will let you know it.</p></blockquote><p>This same characterization can be seen throughout her shows. The characters are messy and complicated. Their decisions are often riddled with holes and major consequences. Like real life, Rhimes understands that these are choices people make &ndash; white or black, young or old &ndash; and the things we normally consider their otherness have little bearing on the matter. She does not treat diversity as if it&rsquo;s something to dwell on. The experiences of the average person of color do not revolve around their race, ethnicity, gender, or other factor that makes them a minority. Rather, their experiences are just like those considered a part of the mainstream. When race is brought up, it is done casually and pointedly, not overwrought.</p><p>But most importantly, Rhimes&rsquo; shows are fun. Although <em>Grey&rsquo;s Anatomy</em> has diminished in quality the longer it has been on the air, the show in its earliest state (and <em>Scandal</em> in its current state) was an engaging, exciting, and unique program. <em>Grey&rsquo;s Anatomy</em>, currently in its ninth season, continues to outperform many new and established broadcast television shows.<em> Scandal</em> <a href="http://www.deadline.com/2013/05/ratings-rat-race-idol-rises-scandal-hits-series-high-glee-two-men-finales-down-office-up/" target="_blank">reached its series high</a> this week.</p><p>Important Television can and should be fun. Yes, audiences desire something plot-driven, well thought-out and rich, but they also desire something to keep them coming back week to week. Rhimes succeeds where others fail. If we desire a future entertainment industry that reflects the diversity and stories of the world we live in, we should do more to praise those such as Rhimes who actively work to reflect that world.</p><p><em>Britt Julious blogs about culture in and outside of Chicago. Follow Britt&#39;s essays for <a href="http://wbez.tumblr.com/" target="_blank"><strong>WBEZ&#39;s Tumblr</strong></a> or on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/britticisms" target="_blank"><strong>@britticisms</strong></a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 10 May 2013 12:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-05/its-ok-love-shonda-rhimes-television-shows-107128 State government lags in hiring Asian-American workers http://www.wbez.org/state-government-lags-hiring-asian-american-workers-106789 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP429581287377.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>State agencies are starting to plan how they&rsquo;ll hire more Asian-American workers. Tuesday, a <a href="http://appointments.illinois.gov/appointmentsDetail.cfm?id=442" target="_blank">new Asian-American Advisory Council</a>, handpicked by Governor Pat Quinn, meets with agency representatives to identify barriers to Asian-American employment and promotion in the state labor force.</p><p>The council will also chart out how they&rsquo;ll recruit, retain, and promote more Asian-Americans.</p><p>The effort comes from the <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/publicacts/fulltext.asp?Name=097-0856" target="_blank">State Asian-American Employment Plan</a>, passed in the General Assembly and signed by Quinn last year.</p><p>The effort is similar to other plans for Hispanics and African-Americans, aimed at ensuring the mix of state employees reflects Illinois&rsquo; diversity. A report released in February shows that although Asian-Americans represent about 5 percent of Illinois&rsquo; population, they comprise only about 2.5 percent of the state&rsquo;s workforce.</p><p>The report surveying Asian-American employment in state agencies is the first of its kind in Illinois, mandated yearly by the underlying legislation.</p><p>&ldquo;We do want to make sure that the workforce reflects the diversity of the state and that everyone in the state, regardless of their background or language ability, has the ability to access services provided by state government,&rdquo; said Theresa Mah, Senior Policy Advisor and Director of Asian American Outreach to the Governor.</p><p>Mah said the Advisory Council will meet quarterly to follow through with state agencies on the plan&rsquo;s implementation and results.</p><p>&ldquo;There might be misconceptions about the availability of positions, or just not enough word-of-mouth that there are opportunities,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>The Asian-American Employment Plan was one of several recent political victories by an ethnic group that is growing in both population and political clout in Illinois. Several organizations, including the Asian American Institute and the Pan Asian Voter Empowerment Coalition have lobbied state legislators lately to create an <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/asian-americans-have-state-caucus-98917" target="_blank">Asian-American caucus</a> in the General Assembly and to consider Asian-American concerns in the legislative redistricting process.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&#39;s North Side bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/oyousef" target="_blank">@oyousef.</a></em></p></p> Tue, 23 Apr 2013 08:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/state-government-lags-hiring-asian-american-workers-106789 The Joffrey's Choreographers of Color http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-03/joffreys-choreographers-color-105964 <p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Joffrey%20Ballet%20Choreographers%20of%20Color_Photo%20by%20Herbert%20Migdoll.jpg" title="(Herbert Migdoll)" /></p><p>Contemporary dance is an underrated art form, even in Chicago, where the breadth of companies and performers is as diverse as the population it seeks to entertain. For many people, dance performances are inaccessible because of stereotypes regarding social class and age. Unlike theater or film or art, the most visually recognizable and misunderstood genre of dance is ballet. This identity, born out of the precision of the movements and its long history as an evening activity of the upper classes, overshadows the multitude of dancers and choreographers creating unique, experimental, and important new works.<br /><br />One such company that seeks to showcase emerging performers and choreographers is the Joffrey Ballet. On Sunday, March 10, the Joffrey will premiere their &quot;Choreographers of Color&quot; program featuring performers from a new generation of dancers in the Joffrey Training Academy. The show begins at 4 p.m. and <a href="http://www.harristheaterchicago.org/events/2012-2013-season/joffrey-ballet">tickets may be purchased online</a>. In its third year, the Joffrey&rsquo;s Choreographers of Color Award recognizes young minority choreographers in order to provide a unique perspective to the world of dance. Featuring four world premieres, this annual performance is both a welcome introduction to the world of dance as well as an important moment for the choreographers and the Joffrey.<br /><br /><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Joffrey%20Ballet%20Choreographers%20of%20Color%202_Photo%20by%20Herbert%20Migdoll.jpg" style="float: left; height: 350px;" title="(Herbert Migdoll)" />High above the constant frenzy of the corner of State and Lake, Chicago native William McClellan spoke briefly about the influences in his work, <em>Rise/Rebuild to the Occasion</em>. Bill T. Jones, dancer, choreographer, and artistic director once said, &ldquo;When the gauntlet falls, how do we rise to the occasion?&rdquo; This quote became a driving basis for McClellan&rsquo;s work, a reflection of the numerous recent social, cultural, and environmental tragedies such as the Japanese tsunami, the earthquake of Haiti, and the recent shootings in Chicago. McClellan, a South Side native, asks, &ldquo;How do we build ourselves back up?&rdquo;<br /><br />As evident from the earlier preview, moving on requires a total immersion of the body. <em>Rise/Rebuild to the Occasion</em> is a deeply athletic and strong work featuring forceful and powerful movements from its dancers. Featuring elements of ballet, modern dance, hip-hop, and what (at times) looks like footwork, the piece is almost aggressive in its visuals. It is a way to explore and explain the severity of what has happened and to counter what is ultimately needed to move forward. McClellan understands something fundamental to the human experience. One imagines that progress comes easy, but the everyday is not as easy to maneuver as one would like. Moving on takes the whole body; it takes everything you&rsquo;ve got and then some.<br /><br />In many ways, the work ties into <em>Black Iris</em>, another chosen choreographic work by Jeremy McQueen. Featuring a moving lead female performance by Nardia Boodoo, McQueen&rsquo;s work is a tribute and testament to Black womanhood. Like McClellan&rsquo;s work, McQueen asks how one navigates the world around them. It is about change and our reactions to the changes and world we can not control. McQueen&rsquo;s work is in dedication to the women he grew up who &ldquo;exemplify the perseverance, determination, confidence, and faith that is uniquely Black and woman.&rdquo;</p><p>It is a work about what it means to be a modern Black woman, the push and pull of the beauty and the groundedness, and the pursuit of a fulfilling existence against adversity and struggle.</p><p><br />In the debate about the need for more diversity in varying artistic fields, it is encouraging to see the Joffrey both attempting to address this issue and doing so on a regular basis. For a field that is often maligned for its inability to connect with younger or different audiences, the ongoing presence of the Choreographers of Color Award is a refreshing treat for Chicago audiences.</p><p>One might wonder why it&#39;s only a one-off performance once a year and why such a diverse line-up is relegated to the its own show rather than incorporated into the regular line up from the company or the Academy. As a whole however, some effort is better than none at all. As long as other companies and artists refuse to acknowledge their homogeneity, we will continue to see the same degrees of storytelling. It is a cycle that needs to be broken.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Follow Britt on twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/britticisms">@britticisms</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 07 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-03/joffreys-choreographers-color-105964 Girl problems: Why Lena Dunham gets scapegoated for TV's lack of diversity http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-02/girl-problems-why-lena-dunham-gets-scapegoated-tvs-lack-diversity-105376 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/large_2.jpg" style="width: 449px; height: 280px;" title="(Golden Globes/AP)" /></div><p>If you&rsquo;ve logged on the internet at all in the past year (or even passingly know what Jezebel is), you know that a lot of people have a big, casually racist bone to pick with Lena Dunham. As the writer/producer of <em>Girls</em>, Dunham was being billed as the &ldquo;voice of a generation,&rdquo; one that would revolutionize the ways in which we talk about women in the media.</p><p>The problem for many with Dunham is the inclusion of young, privileged white women&mdash;about which there are many shows&mdash;speaks to the disinclusion of women of color, who have no one speaking for them. The show continued to marginalize anyone not of Dunham&rsquo;s background and social status (as the daughter of a famous artist), and as the show was marketed as a representation of the Millenial Generation, many felt it was a damaging and problematic representation. Rather than pushing things forward, <em>Girls</em> represented a nudge in the right direction&mdash;or more like a plaintive tiptoe.</p><p>But to many, it looked like more of the same. It was White Girl Problems all over again.</p><p>In interviews, Dunham hasn&rsquo;t been shy about speaking to the show&rsquo;s race problem. She mentioned that, when casting the show, race was not much of a consideration, which speaks the ways in which both white feminists and the television industry often don&rsquo;t recognize racial inclusion as being an issue.</p><p>With the new season, I was looking forward to Dunham taking the internet&rsquo;s criticisms and learning from them, and lo and behold, the premiere practically opens with Dunham carnally knowledging Donald Glover, the black comedian known best for his role as Troy on <em>Community</em>.&nbsp; While they&rsquo;re getting all up in each other, Glover and Dunham keep repeating phrases like &ldquo;You wanted this&rdquo; and &ldquo;It&rsquo;s about damn time,&rdquo; as an overt message to the show&rsquo;s fans. Dunham gets it, y&rsquo;all.</p><p>Many were concerned that Glover was being cast to as a &ldquo;token black friend,&rdquo; and the fact that the show opened with them sexing each other didn&rsquo;t help much, as it looked like just another image of the hyper-sexualized black male. The fear was that Glover wouldn&rsquo;t be presented as a character but an essentialized object, a vehicle of desire. To an extent, that was exactly the case.</p><p>However, Dunham did something interesting: she used Glover&rsquo;s character to call her on her bullshit&mdash;criticizing her for tokenizing him and not being truly interested in getting to know him. Dunham&rsquo;s Hannah was the kind of girl who would date a black guy to feel cool and get to go to the &ldquo;scary&rdquo; part of town. Basically, Glover&rsquo;s character was calling her a hipster racist, which was the major charge against<em> Girls</em> last year. Dunham literally put all of her critics&rsquo; words in Glover&rsquo;s mouth.</p><p>True to her character&rsquo;s narcissism, Hannah ignores them and creates a narrative in which she&rsquo;s in the right in the break up. She&rsquo;s the savior. Life is like <em>The Blind Side</em>, guys.</p><p>Q: Is this progress?</p><p>A: Not so fast. Let&rsquo;s examine.</p><p>Last year, Dunham mentioned that she wrote for white girls because she wanted to write from her own experiences, and this scene serves to narratively let her off the hook for not writing a black actor into the show or doing the work of inclusion. Part of being a good writer is pushing yourself to write outside of your world. Was Dave Eggers an African refugee when he wrote <em>What Is the What</em>? No, but he pushed himself to get inside someone else&rsquo;s head and see the world from someone else&rsquo;s point of view.</p><p>Martin McDonagh, the playwright and director&rsquo;s newest film, <em>Seven Psychopaths</em>, comments on this phenomenon through his lead character, played by Colin Farrell. McDonagh has often been criticized for not writing roles for women, and his lead, a screenwriter, grapples with the same issues in his work. As a part of this meta-commentary, the film&rsquo;s two female characters are vastly underwritten, and actresses Abbie Cornish and Olga Kurlyenko maybe share ten minutes of screen time between the two of them.</p><p>However, McDonagh calling himself on his own bullsh*t lends him an easy out, as he still doesn&rsquo;t have to write a female character. The same is true for Dunham, who gave herself a nice Get Out Of (Hipster Racist) Jail Free card by casting Glover for two whole episodes.</p><p>But what does give me hope is that Dunham has the courage to take responsibility for her show&rsquo;s representation of gender, race and sexuality in a way many shows do not. Shows like <em>How I Met Your</em> <em>Mother </em>and <em>Two and a Half Men</em> have repeatedly bashed transgender people for years, using the idea of transitioning as a cheap ploy for ridicule and laughter. <em>Two Broke Girls</em>, <em>That 70&rsquo;s Show</em>, <em>Sex and the City</em>, <em>Family Guy</em>, <em>Outsourced</em>, <em>Modern Family</em>, <em>Seinfeld </em>and <em>Homeland</em> have gotten away with trafficking in overt racial stereotypes, and shows like <em>Nashville</em>, <em>Mad Men</em>, <em>Raising Hope</em>, <em>The Middle</em>, <em>Enlightened</em> and my beloved <em>Cougar Town</em> have little to no POC representation.</p><p>Even reality shows aren&rsquo;t much better. Food for thought: Neither the <em>The Bachelor</em> nor <em>The Bachelorette </em>have ever starred a minority.</p><p>Last year, television critic Maureen Ryan argued that shows like <em>Girls</em> highlight the ongoing racial disparities on television. The problem isn&rsquo;t that Dunham is racist. Television is racist. Currently, the only primetime network sitcom about a black family is <em>The Cleveland Show</em>, which is a) animated and b) crazy problematic. In the 2000&rsquo;s, network TV saw shows like the traditional family comedy <em>My Wife and Kids</em> and the critically lauded <em>Everybody Hates Chris</em> come and go.</p><p>A television landscape that makes room for <em>A Different World</em>, <em>Cosby</em> and <em>The Fresh Prince</em> is largely a thing of the past, and unless it&rsquo;s Kerry Washington on <em>Scandal</em>, people of color are our black friends or casual flings&mdash;like Glover or Idris Elba on <em>The Big C</em>.&nbsp; Remember: Washington was the first black female lead on a network show in almost <a href="http://www.oprah.com/own-oprahs-next-chapter/Oprahs-Next-Chapter-Kerry-Washington-and-Shonda-Rhimes">forty years</a>. Clearly, TV has a race problem&mdash;or else Ken Jeong wouldn&rsquo;t be allowed to be in things.</p><p>However, Americans aren&rsquo;t often trained to see structural racism&mdash;although we&rsquo;re good at pointing out individual acts. (See: the movie<em> Crash</em>, which only looks at racism as a personal problem that can be overcome with a little shaming, yelling and Sandra Bullock falling down some stairs. Inequality solved!) <em>Scandal</em> showrunner Shonda Rhimes spoke to this tendency when she <a href="http://www.tvguide.com/News/Shonda-Rhimes-Bunheads-1048843.aspx">called out</a> ABC Family&rsquo;s <em>Bunheads</em> for not including girls of color, which sparked <a href="http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/amy-sherman-palladino-shonda-rhimes-bunheads-338681">fervent response</a> from creator Amy Sherman-Palladino.</p><p>However, Sherman-Palladino also worked on <em>Gilmore Girls</em>, which championed both women of color and full-figured women in its seven seasons. At a time when the Ally McBeal body was the norm, the show was practically bursting with big girls, and it was awesome.</p><p>I find it interesting that whereas showrunners like Larry David, Ryan Murphy, Michael Patrick King, Mark Brazil, Steven Levitan and Seth MacFarlane are often let off the hook for their race problems or lauded as champions of equal opportunity humor, Dunham and Sherman-Palladino are made to pay for our media sins. In my critiques of King and Murphy, many were quick to defend them and defend them as refreshingly un-PC, willing to say what others are not. <em>Sex and the City</em> was actually about that sort of thing.</p><p>However, almost no one has jumped to defend Dunham for the same reason to defend Sherman-Palladino&rsquo;s right to make a show about white girls. In film, directors like Wes Anderson have, for years, gotten away with making movies with all-white casts&mdash;with almost no one criticizing his right to completely leave people of color out. Anderson&rsquo;s lone black character was <em>The Royal Tenenbaums</em>&rsquo; Danny Glover, who had almost no lines, and his most <a href="http://seul-le-cinema.blogspot.com/2010/02/darjeeling-limited.html">racially inclusive</a> movie was <em>The Darjeeling Limited</em>, a film that could have been called <em>Orientalism: The Movie</em>. It was a <a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oew-pandey10oct10,0,7184917.story">neo-colonialist</a> <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2007/09/unbearable_whiteness.html">fever dream</a>.</p><p>And remember Pagoda? He won&rsquo;t be winning Anderson POC awesome points anytime soon.</p><p>The major difference between Dunham and Anderson is that one is male&mdash;and the other is not. Although the criticism of Dunham is accurate, one of the things that&rsquo;s made her so easy to critique is the fact that she&rsquo;s a woman and, thus, free game for public scrutiny and paternalism. In a tabloid- and blog-driven media, women&#39;s bodies are an avenue for debate, whether that&rsquo;s Jennifer Lawrence&rsquo;s &ldquo;fatness,&rdquo; Madonna&rsquo;s arms, Angelina Jolie&rsquo;s legs, Willow Smith&#39;s hair, Lindsay Lohan&rsquo;s plastic surgery, Megan Fox&rsquo;s thumbs or Jessica Simpson&rsquo;s pregnancy body. We look at women to ask &ldquo;Who wore it best?&rdquo;&mdash;to hold some up while others are destroyed.</p><p>If you look at shows like <em>Revenge </em>or the <em>Real Housewives </em>series, we root for women to be taken down or torn apart&mdash;to be called out and shown for the frauds they are. For instance, check out that Buzzfeed <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/louispeitzman/why-do-people-hate-anne-hathaway">article</a> on Anne Hathaway, which bashes every single facet of her career (and her &quot;stupid face&quot;)&mdash;but for what gain? Even if someone is gracious, hard-working and seemingly perfect, as Hathaway is, we can despise her anyway. As Slate <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2013/01/31/why_do_people_hate_anne_hathaway_one_reason_is_simple_sexism.html">put it</a>: &quot;Why do people hate Anne Hathaway? One simple reason is sexism.&quot;</p><p>And our media culture of lady hate sets up a discourse where we feel free to tear Lena Dunham apart&mdash;for her privilege, her non-normative body and the fact that she doesn&rsquo;t live up to our expectations who she&rsquo;s supposed to be. A parody of the show&rsquo;s poster&mdash;which re-titled the program as &ldquo;Nepotism&rdquo;&mdash;went viral before the show even aired, before Dunham&rsquo;s work even got the chance to speak for itself. The backlash against her was almost built-in, like the media&rsquo;s dogpiling on Diablo Cody and Kathryn Bigelow.</p><p>Compare the constant criticism of Sofia Coppola for &ldquo;always doing the same thing&rdquo; to Woody Allen who gets awarded for it. The Oscar-nominated <em>Match Point</em> was lauded as a return to form and his best film in 25 years, despite being a virtual remake of his own film, <em>Crimes and Misdemeanors</em>.</p><p>Of course, I don&rsquo;t think the fact of her gender lets her off the hook for the criticism lobbied against her. In her Golden Globes speech, Dunham thanked HBO for letting a misfit like her into their space, as girls who look like Lena Dunham aren&rsquo;t often allowed to sit at the table. However, Lena Dunham needs to use her power of representation to allow others the same privilege and use that power for good. Rather than taking the easy way out, her show needs to do the actual work of inclusion by letting others sit at the table, too. Dunham needs to realize she isn&rsquo;t the only girl in the world and make room for the Issa Raes and the Mindy Kalings.</p><p>However, the burden of change isn&rsquo;t on Dunham alone. The industry itself needs to see racial inclusion as an issue, and we as a public need to hold ourselves accountable to seeing the bigger picture. While critiquing Lena Dunham, we need to hold the industry to the same standards and ask why one of our <em>Two and a Half Men</em> can&rsquo;t be black or our <em>Two Broke Girls</em> can&rsquo;t be Asian. If we&rsquo;re serious about making TV a better place, we need to expect change out of more than just one show and one girl and stop asking women to make it better while the rest of us sit back and watch.</p><p>Dunham has clearly got girl problems, but fixing all of ours isn&rsquo;t one. We all need to call ourselves on our bullsh*t.</p><p><em>Nico Lang blogs about LGBTQ life in Chicago for WBEZ.org. </em><em>To talk more about Gilmore Girls, follow Nico Lang on Twitter @<a href="http://www.twitter.com/Nico_Lang">Nico_Lang</a> or find Nico on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/NicoRLang">Facebook</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 06 Feb 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-02/girl-problems-why-lena-dunham-gets-scapegoated-tvs-lack-diversity-105376 Experimental Sound inspires local musicians, artists http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-01/experimental-sound-inspires-local-musicians-artists-105041 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Spires.jpg" title="Pysch folk band Spires That in the Sunset Rise from Decatur, Ill. performs at Experimental Sound Studio. (Flickr/Experimental Sound Studio)" /></p><div class="image-insert-image ">Although my twenty-something generation prides itself on being oh-so original and anti-mainstream, fitting in with the right crowd is just as important now as it&rsquo;s ever been. We still worry about people judging our taste in music (&ldquo;you actually <em>like</em> neugrass?&rdquo;) or discouraging the unique and alternative ways that we choose to make art.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><p>Thankfully, <a href="http://www.experimentalsoundstudio.org">Experimental Sound Studio</a> in Ravenswood is a safe haven for eccentrics: a place where out-of-the-box musicians, artists and audio engineers can explore their craft and also belong to a community that supports them.&nbsp;</p><p>Founded in 1986, Experimental Sound Studio (ESS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the production, preservation and continued advancement of the sonic arts. Several events are held throughout the year to integrate more experimental sounds into the public, as well as to promote atypical composers, musicians and improvisational artists in a gorgeous studio setting.&nbsp;</p><p>Fortunately for music lovers and listeners, one of the studio&rsquo;s most eagerly anticipated events is only weeks away. Outer Ear returns this spring with a diverse array of workshops and concert performances, many of them featuring female artists who specialize in experimental or improvisational sound.&nbsp;</p><p>The series begins on February 23 with <a href="http://reneebakercomposer.com">Renee Baker Artet</a>, a brilliant Chicago instrumentalist and composer of over 900 creative works. More show dates for Spring 2013:&nbsp;<a href="http://nbntrio.tumblr.com">NbN Trio</a> on March 16, <a href="http://volcanoradar.com/?p=13">Volcano Radar </a>on March 23, <a href="http://soundcloud.com/syntjuntan">SyntJunton</a> on April 5, <a href="http://garudarecords.com">Ed Herrmann</a>&nbsp;on April 20, <a href="http://bayimproviser.com/artistdetail.asp?artist_id=337">Laurie Amat </a>on April 27 and <a href="http://hardr.bandcamp.com">Hard R</a> on May 4. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Other events sponsored by ESS include Sunday Solos (held bi-weekly), SummerSonic (an annual series held in the studio&rsquo;s beautiful outdoor garden) and Florasonic (audio art projects featured at the Fern Room of the Lincoln Park Conservatory until January 31).&nbsp;Additional exhibitions, workshops and concert performances are hosted on special occasions in the studio&rsquo;s Audible Gallery.&nbsp;</p><p>ESS also directly supports local artists by providing fiscal sponsorships, artist residency programs and one-on-one tutorials with experienced audio engineers.&nbsp;For audiophiles who want hands-on experience inside a professional soundtrack and mastering suite, overdub booth and 800-square foot multi-track recording studio, ESS is the ideal place to learn.&nbsp;<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/dhalgren.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 300px; float: right; " title="Members of the Chicago synth-rock band Dhalgren. (dhalgren.bandcamp.com)" /></p><p>And for the music-makers themselves, the studio offers a space to perform, interact and connect with listeners on an unusually intimate level.&nbsp;</p><p><a href="http://www.dhalgren.bandcamp.com">Dhalgren</a>, a Chicago synth-rock band with sci-fi influences, combines ambient drones and processed vocals with an ethereal gong-bath of electronic noise. Their sound is perfectly suited for ESS, which is perhaps why the keyboard quartet began hosting a monthly performance series at the studio called &ldquo;Dhalgren Days.&rdquo;</p><p>On every first Sunday for the forseeable future, Dhalgren will compose a piece and then record the session live in front of a studio audience that same evening. Their next concert, the third performance in the series, is scheduled for February 3.</p><p><em>Follow Leah on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/leahkpickett">@leahkpickett</a></em></p></p> Mon, 21 Jan 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-01/experimental-sound-inspires-local-musicians-artists-105041