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A staging of Stevie Wonder's Innervisions Re-Envisioned

Richard Barone and his students rehearse for their final exam production of Stevie Wonder's "Innervsions Re-Envisioned
Richard Barone and his students rehearse for their final exam production of Stevie Wonder's "Innervsions Re-Envisioned
Linda Covello

Clive Davis is without question one of the legendary figures of the music industry. Along with Tommy Mottola, who is credited with giving Mariah Carey her start, Sam Phillips, who first signed Elvis Presley to a little label he owned called Sun Records, and Berry Gordy, the founder of the Motown record label, Davis is firmly fixed in the constellation of music giants. Davis is the man who brought Whitney Houston to prominence, under his guidance when he signed her to his label, Arista Records. Before founding Arista, Davis was president of Columbia/CBS Records, where he signed titans of music like Bruce Springsteen, Santana, Aerosmith and many more colossal stars.

This Saturday, May 10th, 2014, at Subculture-Arts Underground at 2:30PM
courtesy of Richard Barone

Davis' career has been prolific, and in 2004 he founded The Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music as part of the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. This undergraduate degree program has four main areas of curricular study: business, production, history & criticism, and musicianship & performance, all with a special focus on pop, rock, R&B, and hip hop. It is the only program of its kind to offer a BFA degree in Recorded Music. Students who enroll in Recorded Music have a wide range of aspirations. Some aspire to become CEOs of record labels. Others aspire to become innovative record producers who helm successful production companies. Some students are performing artists or music critics who want to develop their business acumen so that they might build a successful brand.

The list of course offerings at The Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music is extensive, with specialized areas of study falling under six categories: Writing, History & Emergent Media Courses, Business Courses, Production Courses, Musicianship & Performance Courses, Colloquia and International. One of the courses offered under Musicianship & Performance is Stage Presence and The Art of Performance. The focus of the class sessions is on helping students develop their performance skills, their "brands" as performers and their ability to compellingly and convincingly command any stage. The students are expected to find and set up their own live gigs and/or to regularly post online videos of themselves performing toward increased page views. During weekly class sessions, students are expected to perform their material, and are given specific individual and collaborative exercises to design to improve their craft, as they get regular constructive feedback from the instructor.

Stage Presence & The Art of Performance is a class of 7 students who have been chosen by the course instructor over a four day audition process from hundreds of applicants. Richard Barone was appointed Professor of the course in 2011. Barone is a recording artist, performer, producer and author. Since pioneering the indie rock scene in Hoboken, NJ as frontman for The Bongos, Barone has produced countless studio recordings and worked with artists in every musical style. Rolling Stone described his first solo album, "cool blue halo" as "chamber rock", helping give rise to the popular genre. Recent collaborations and cohorts have included Tony Visconti, Beach Boy Al Jardine, Sean Lennon, folk-rock luminary Donovan, the late rock legend Lou Reed, and American icon Pete Seeger. He has scored shows and staged all-star concert events at such world-class venues as Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl. Barone published his memoirs, "Frontman: Surviving The Rock Star Myth" in 2007.

Barone has been working with his students as they rehearse their upcoming production of Stevie Wonder's 1973 opus, "Innervisions" for their final exam, which will be presented Saturday, May 10th at 2:30PM at Subculture-Arts Underground on Bleecker Street. Directed by Barone and Jeffrey Peretz, a fellow Professor whose courses are Music Theory for Producers, Advanced Music Theory for Producers and World Music, the production is titled "Stevie Wonder's Innervisions Re-Envisioned". Barone, whose personal CD and vinyl collection is vast, felt compelled one night to pull Wonder's 16th studio album off his shelf and found himself listening to it with an entirely new perspective. "Innervisions" has been considered by many fans, critics and colleagues to be among Stevie Wonder's finest work and one of the great albums in popular music history. The album has been revisited countless times in different lists of the greatest albums of all time. For Barone, the work tells a powerful story of the spiritual evolution of a young man from the South and his discovery of the city and transformation from callow youth to autonomous seeker of personal truth. Barone points out the significance of Wonder's blindness and his status as an African-American in America in the early 70's, a time that was still rife with prejudice and social and political unrest, as the central theme of the album.

Working in the studio with his students this past Monday, Barone encouraged each one to bring their personal style and voice to each of the songs on the album. With voices that are already mature and skilled, it is astonishing to hear one slender young woman sing one of Wonder's compositions with a deep and torchy quality. The students are all supportive of each other, and the vibe in the studio is like being on tour with a group that has been together for years. Their rapport with their instructor is clearly one of deep respect and admiration, and Barone appears to excel in the role of musical mentor, sending e-mails to each student that included his interpretation and personal breakdown of each song. The production is deeply imbued with Barone's spirit, and on Saturday his students will get the chance to experience the satisfaction of performing for a paying audience. Tickets are on sale online for $10.00 and $12.00 at the door.

Subculture-Arts Underground

45 Bleecker Street

New York, NY 10012

212 533 5470

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