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By: Annie Marosits, Children’s Arts Fair Intern, Gettysburg College ’11

This year, the Gettysburg Festival’s Children’s Arts Fair will boast a Curious George-inspired day of fun, learning, and of course, art! Prepare yourself for projects that will evoke creativity, performances that are sure to wow, and thanks to media partner witf, a live Curious George character! We’re excited to have the inquisitive little monkey present at our fair, and interested to see what sort of shenanigans he’ll undoubtedly get into.

But here at the office, we got to wondering: How is it that this beloved childhood staple came to be?  We know of his antics; how George can do the naughty things your parents would have never allowed you do.  Paint the inside of your house, let the animals out of their pens, and disrupt the pizza man while he works. But where did he come from? I started researching, and thanks in large parts to Houghton Mifflin, discovered that George, and his creators, have quite the history.

Hans Agusto Rey and his wife, Margret Rey, are responsible for the creative character most of us remember growing up with. The couple reconnected, after a brief encounter years before, in 1935 in Rio de Janeiro.  Hans was selling bathtubs at the time.  They were married in August of that same year, and moved to Paris. There, after a French publisher had seen Hans’ giraffe drawings in a local newspaper, he was asked to write a children’s book.  Raffy and the Nine Monkeys was the result. George played a minor role in Hans’ first book, but he and Margret both agreed, the curious monkey deserved a story of his own.

However, the writing of George’s story came to a halt in 1940.  Hitler and his Nazi army were making their way to France, and both Hans and Margret were Jewish.  They fled the country on bicycles, leaving almost everything they owned behind.  They brought with them a few articles of clothing, a small ration of food, and five manuscripts—one of them, Curious George.

The Rey’s eventually made it safely to the United States, and continued to work on their story.  Hans was in charge of ideas and illustrations, and Margret worked on the plot and writing.  The result of the dynamic duos efforts? A contract with Houghton Mifflin in 1941, sparking a children’s book that has sold over twenty-five million copies!

But George has branched out, covering industries other than just literature. He’s been the star of a major motion picture, the hit feature of a television series, the face of childhood curiosity, and now, the theme of the Children’s Arts Fair in Gettysburg.  For a monkey that is originally from Africa, George has literally been around the world!  His book has been published in sixteen languages—a worldwide crowd pleaser.

Now that you know the history of the infamous monkey we’ve all come to know and love, be sure not to miss him during the Children’s Arts Fair, set for Friday, June 17 at the Festival Main Stage, Gettysburg College.  Admission and many of the activities are free; several activities require tickets ($1 each or 6/$5).  And children “of all ages” are sure to enjoy the timeless, classic theme of “Curious George.”

By Rachel W. Wynn, PR & Marketing Intern

When I was a child my mom would sit me down at the piano and try to teach me the notes and keys. My legs swinging, we would play “Heart & Soul” over and over again. However, that’s as far as I got in my music career. My patience would quickly wear thin and thus I’d scurry off and bury my nose in a great book, the first chance I got.

Below are the short bios of two musicians who have such amazing talent and patience that they, at the ages of thirteen and sixteen, have already mastered their respective instruments.

Gettysburg Festival's "From the Top" takes place at the Majestic Theater

The Gettysburg Festival is pleased to have PA residents Kathryn Westerlund and Elaine Kang along with other young talented musicians grace the Majestic Theater stage this Friday, June 18 to kick off the Festival’s 2010 performance schedule. The performers all applied to From the Top, a nationally-broadcast, classical music radio program hosted by Christopher O’Riley. This NPR Radio Program heard throughout Central PA on WITF 89.5FM focuses on showcasing gifted young musicians from 8-18 years old.

Kathryn, 13, is from Lebanon, PA and has been homeschooled all her life; however, she attends the Pennsylvania Academy of Music three times a week for private lessons with her instructor Sara Male. Her specialty is the cello, which she has played since she was just three years old! Kathryn plays in the Pennsylvania Academy of Music Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as chamber music ensembles.

Elaine, 16, is from Port Matilda, PA and attends State College Area High School. Elaine’s primary instrument is the violin, which she has studied for 11 years.  She plays in her High School Orchestra and has performed with a string quartet at the Bowdoin International Music Festival.

I had the wonderful opportunity to interview these two talented young women and their families. Below you can view the Q & A to our conversations. Part 1 of this blog will contain the interview with Elaine Kang; Part 2 will have the interview with Kathryn Westerlund.

Elaine Kang


Q: I see that you will be performing Carmen Fantasy by Sarasate; does this piece have a special meaning to you?

A: I’ve always liked pieces with layer and spire (peak points); they are exciting to hear and play. The piece is adapted from one of the main songs of the opera Carmen. Carmen is also the main character who is really gifted and talented.

Q: Do you ever get stage fright? What do you focus on when you’re in front of an audience?

A: Every musician has stage fright. It freaks you out to look at the audience, all you see are their eyes staring at you. So I just close my own eyes and breathe. It’s important to remember to breathe; when I was younger I’d do a whole song in one breath and at the end I’d take a huge gasp of air and the audience would laugh.

Q: In addition to the violin do you play any other instruments?

A: I used to play the piano but it was hard to balance with school and the violin practice. I wanted to concentrate my efforts into one instrument and get good at it. For me, there is something about the sound of the violin; I like string instruments in general and they seem to convey emotion better.

Q: What is your favorite TV show?  Favorite movie?

A: I really like Ghost Whisperer, and also Supernatural.  My favorite movies are Batman: The Dark Knight and The Blind Side.

Q: I understand you also enjoy ice skating. Are their similarities between these two interests, music and ice skating?

A: Yes, with skating there is gliding, jumping, and footwork which is like the violin. Gliding is the pulling of the bow across the strings, jumping is with the hands, and the footwork is the intricacy if the notes. Also, Carmen is a popular song in ice skating right now.

Q: Do you have any siblings? Are they also musically gifted?

A: I’ve always wanted an older brother, he’d be like a guardian.

Q: What aspirations do you have for the future? Do you plan to attend college or a full time music school?

A: I’m actually fascinated with science, I’ve always loved it. I want to go to college and be a double major of science and music.

Q: If you had an entire day to do whatever you wanted, how would you spend your time?

A: I really like eating! My mom’s a great cook and so I’d spend a good part of the day doing that. I would also play violin or listen to music; music is just a huge part of my life. I’d also walk around outside with friends outside, I love outdoors and going camping.

Q: Do you regularly listen to the show “From the Top”?

A: I have listened to the show a lot; it’s pretty popular in my community. Although the local radio doesn’t carry program, so have to listen to it out of town or online.

Q: What did you think when they notified you and told you that you’d made the show?

A: Oh my gosh! Was my first reaction. I was so so excited; it’s a breakthrough in my musical career! I think it will be the worst stage fright so far. But I’ll just relax and be Carmen.

I also enjoyed talking with Elaine’s parents about their daughter’s incredible talent:

Q: What did you think when Elaine first became interested in the violin?

A: She was at a friend’s house when she was four years old, and she saw a cello asked to try it. I thought she was too young, but she kept insisting. So I enrolled her in lessons at the Suzuki School for Strings.

Q: Did you see a natural talent in her?

A: No not at first; I think she was too young for us to tell. But she loves music. When we’d go to restaurants when she was younger there would sometimes be classical music playing and she seemed to really enjoy it and get attached to it.

Q: Can you remember or pinpoint a time when she was first interested in the violin? Did she learn quickly, or were there many screeching sounds at first?

A: It took her about 3-4 months to learn; it was hard for us to be patient. But finally she got the rhythm and the music started at age 6 or 7.

Q: What is your dream for Elaine?

A: We don’t have specific occupations for her in mind, it’s her life. But we want her to have a job where she will be happy to go to work every day, and so far she’s happy with her choices in science and music. Her goal for music is to play in a string quartet or piano trio.

Host of "From the Top," Christopher O'Riley, photo credit: Wendy Lynch

Q: What goes through your mind when you hear and see Elaine on stage?

A: It’s actually really hard, I’m nervous for her, maybe even more nervous than her! I have a hard time enjoying it, even after she started competing, because I’m so anxious.

Q: What does it mean to see Elaine achieve placement on the show “From the Top”?

A: It’s almost like a dream to be on the show! When I got the call I couldn’t believe it, I texted her at school and she called me back so excited! It’s an honor for her to play with Christopher O’Riley

Q: Have you been to Gettysburg before?

A: No, it will be the first time for my husband and I, Elaine has been a few times with school when she was younger. 

Check in soon for Part 2 of “Playing With String” featuring Kathryn Westerlund!

Tickets to NPR’s From the Top Concert are available online at or by calling the Majestic Theater at 717.337.8200. The show is sponsored by media partner WITF and the Sunderman Conservatory of Music at Gettysburg College.

By Cary Burkett, Host of WITF’s Classical Air

I stepped out on the stage with a microphone in one hand, and a carefully organized stack of notes on a clipboard in the other. The notes contained tidbits of information about the extraordinary young classical artists I would be interviewing on the stage.  The occasion was the Rising Stars Concert at the Pennsylvania Academy of Music which took place just a few weeks ago. The performers were all students at the academy who had been chosen through audition to be showcased in this special concert. I was the host, taking on the role that Christopher O’Riley performs every week on the popular NPR radio program, From the Top.

I had my list of questions for each young performer, to hopefully elicit interesting comments and conversation, but I wasn’t sure what kind of responses to expect. I knew that I had to be ready to go with the flow and allow things to be spontaneous. Inside I felt a few butterflies myself, wondering if things might become awkward or stilted in the interviews. I needn’t have worried. These young students, for all their exceptional talent and training, demonstrated just how down-to-earth and natural they could be. Warm, funny, passionate, creative, they displayed unique personalities but also showed such common human traits that made us all think to ourselves, “Why, they’re just ordinary kids.”  And then they performed with dazzling musical skill which took our collective breath away.

Kathryn Westerlund

There was a moment of note when I introduced the 13-year old cellist, Kathryn Westerlund from Cornwall. I had just received word, and was able to announce publicly for the first time, that Kathryn had just been chosen to appear as a performer on From the Top at the Gettysburg Festival. A ripple of appreciation went through the audience. They understood the achievement of having been selected out of nationwide auditions to appear on this NPR radio program.

Every week Christopher O’Riley has an experience similar to that which I had on the night of the Rising Stars concert. He chats with these young musicians and we get a glimpse of their human, everyday side. Then we see their talent and their passion displayed in remarkable performances. These young artists will go on to musical careers in a wide variety of genres. Some will become solo concert artists. Others will perform in orchestras throughout the country, in symphonic halls, Broadway shows, small groups of players and ensembles of all types.

The real Christopher O'Riley

From the Top entertains us on different levels. There’s the fun and humor of the interviews and sketches, and the spectacular musical performances. But also there is the knowledge that we’re watching the beginning stages of careers that will have an impact on music in years to come. That makes the show carry an excitement beyond the enjoyment of what is happening onstage.

I’m looking forward to sitting in the audience watching how Christopher O’Riley interacts with the young artists when From the Top comes to the Gettysburg festival.  But when Kathryn Westerlund from Cornwall takes the stage with him, I won’t be able to resist a certain inner satisfaction that I actually got to interview her before he did.

By Arden Bortzfield, WITF Marketing & Promotions

This year, Gettysburg Festival and WITF have the distinct pleasure of hosting NPR’s From the Top in Central PA.  This popular radio program is giving young classical musicians the opportunity to appear on a critically acclaimed music program.  From the Top will record an episode of the show at the Gettysburg Festival on opening day, Friday, June 18, at the beautiful Majestic Theater.  The show will be broadcast on WITF media and on NPR-affiliated stations across the country, airing in September.

The Gettysburg Festival and WITF especially encourage young musicians in this region to audition for the chance to perform on this local episode of From the Top.  All classical artists are encouraged to apply by submitting the application available at With talented host Christopher O’Riley as their mentor, musicians are in for the experience of a lifetime. 

Alice Ivy Pemberton Performs on Show 174 with Host Christopher O'Riley

Even though there isn’t a set application “deadline” for the Gettysburg Festival program, the show’s producers will be determining the performing lineup soon, so don’t delay in sending in your auditions.  Applications are received and reviewed on a rolling basis from around the country, but the producers certainly like to feature as many local and regional kids as possible on the programs.

From the Top is one of the most well-known classical music programs on radio today.  The program is broadcast nationwide on nearly 250 radio stations and garners an audience of more than 700,000 listeners a week!  From the Top is hosted by world-renowned pianist Christopher O’Riley who gives young musicians the opportunity to showcase their artistic talent.

Here’s the link to From the Top’s website, for more information or to apply!  Click here to read more about Gettysburg Festival’s From the Top taping, including ticketing information.  And finally… we leave you with a fun clip from a recent episode:

The first snowfall of winter is melting away at the Festival office...

By Karen Hendricks, Festival PR/Marketing Director

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year from the Gettysburg Festival!  The holiday season truly is “the most wonderful time of the year,” but the festival season is also upon us with less than six action-packed months until the 2010 Festival.  And for that reason, it’s also “the most wonderful time of the year” as the Gettysburg Festival office is transformed into an exciting whirlwind of activity.  I’ll even drop a few hints about 2010 highlight events in a moment…

The Festival's new Director of Development, Mary Lynn Billitteri, with husband Tom, enjoyed meeting Friends and volunteers, in between putting together exciting, new Festival sponsorships.

A Festival Open House set the holiday tone in early December, as we welcomed all volunteers and 2009 Friends of the Festival.  These warm and extremely supportive friends form the backbone of the June Festival, lending a helping hand with everything from office support, to transportation, monetary contributions, and serving as the friendly faces that welcome attendees to Festival events in June.  It’s so appropriate to recognize these key contributors during this season of giving.

Cheers! Brass Volunteer Ann Mease-Shiner toasts a successful 2009 Festival.

Speaking of giving, the Festival presented a holiday gift to the Borough of Gettysburg at the December Borough Council meeting.  Blue Lincoln, a massive painting by the 09 Festival artist Hunt Slonem, will now be on display to the public at Borough Hall.   Mayor William Troxell said of this $24,000 gift, “I think this magnificent painting is representative of not only the enduring legacy of President Lincoln, but also of the significance of the arts in Gettysburg.  We are truly blessed to have The Gettysburg Festival taking place in our borough every June.  We have always welcomed visitors attracted by Gettysburg’s history; now we are seeing more and more visitors coming for the Gettysburg Festival’s arts and culture as well.”

Bernie Yannetti, the Festival's Chairman of the Board of Trustees, presents "Blue Lincoln" to Mayor Troxell and members of Borough Council. The painting is almost as tall as the Mayor!

So as we wrap up 2009 and look forward to 2010, Festival plans are sizzling and percolating, (appropriate choice of words since many of our most popular events are of the culinary variety).  Here are a few tidbits to whet your appetite: 

  • Walter Scheib, returning as Artistic Director of Culinary Events in 2010, is designing an amazing, mouth-watering culinary lineup… including a repeat of the fun brunch event that sold out in 2009, plus a newly-designed formal dinner on a stage, a Caribbean-style cookout, and much more.  Stay tuned for more details!
  • Ben Jones is putting the finishing touches on the 2010 lineup, which will again offer about 20 concerts entirely free of charge to the public.  After showcasing such critically-acclaimed brass performers as Gramercy Brass Orchestra in 2008 and the River City Brass in 2009, we are looking north to a city known for its beans… to find our highlight brass performers for 2010. 
  • One of Gettysburg’s most popular arts and cultural events for the past dozen years, the annual History Meets the Arts Festival will be part of the Gettysburg Festival in 2010.  This will put Gettysburg’s unique downtown galleries in the spotlight.   In case you missed the official announcement a few weeks ago, click here for more details:
  • We are also proud to announce that WITF is once again partnering with the Festival as media sponsor.  This dynamic PBS and NPR affiliate is especially proud to promote a Festival-opening event set for June 18.  Let’s just say it’s going to be a wonderful event at the TOP of our lineup.
  • Buzz Jones is designing a fun and creative jazz lineup for 2010.  Events that cross-promote various genres of the arts have
    Buzz Jones, June 2009

    found the most success, and this year’s jazz lineup integrates that principal.  One of the jazz acts will be showcased within Walter’s afore-mentioned Caribbean-style cookout—fun!  Another jazz act will feature the music of “the chairman of the board” known for his hat and “old blue eyes.”  (more cheesy clues)

  • Speaking of hats, the Festival has found an enthusiastic partner “across the pond” in the DERBYshire region of the UK.  This partnership will bring an entirely new dimension to the Festival, while relying on a series of works from the 1800’s.  More details to come…

Well that’s enough for now.  We don’t want to let too many cats out of the bag.  There will be plenty of time for that in 2010—stay connected to the Festival via the website, e-newsletter, Facebook and Twitter as the plans for 2010 are revealed.  Here’s to a happy, healthy and artistic 2010!

Helpful Links:

Last chance to become a 2010 “Friend of the Festival” while enjoying the tax credit for 2009:

Become a Fan of the Festival on Facebook: