Local podcast reveals artistic mentors’ insights
Alright, everyone, it’s time to shake off 2020 and jump into 2021 with ambition. But it’s cold and COVID’s still out there… yeah, yeah, yeah, we know. But try this on for size — you can motivate by simply plugging in your new AirPods and listening to Capital City Concert’s podcast “Muse Mentors,” hosted by Cornwall’s Karen Kevra.
Most of us know Kevra as the founder of Captital City Concerts and a professional flutist. But when the pandemic hit and public gatherings came to a screeching halt, Kevra was faced with two options: “We could stagnate or reinvent ourselves.”
She decided to start podcasting.
“I was a single mom, empty-nester when my one and only son went to college 10 years ago,” Kevra remembered. “That’s when I discovered podcasts. Maybe they gave me a false companionship, but they really sparked my creativity. I felt more alive.”
When she was considering what kind of podcast she wanted to make she knew she wanted something that was a respite from the news (even though she listens to a lot of political podcasts.) “I wanted it to be a feel good experience.”
Her original idea was to interview musicians. “But then I thought why limit it?” Kevra said during an interview in December.
Kevra, a now unemployed professional musician herself, knows full well that artist bios can be formal and, well, dull. She wanted to give her podcasts more of an edge.
“What’s interesting is how they got there and who helped them,” Kevra said. “I wanted to explore artists and their mentors, and then them becoming mentors themselves.”
Kevra met her own mentor, the late Louis Moyse, over two decades ago. She talks about her experience with him in the introduction episode of Muse Mentors.
“I was already playing professionally, but felt like something was missing,” she said. “Louis was a great household name in the flute world and he was living in Westport, N.Y. — just a two hour drive from my home. I got up my nerve and asked to come play for him and have a lesson. I went from Montpelier to Westport on a beautiful September day and my life changed.
“I remember the moment I laid eyes on him and he smiled and we got to work,” Kevra continued. “He was 81 at the time. I remember worrying he was old and wondering how much time would we have. He died in 2007… I’ve had lots of teachers and great teachers; but a teacher is not always a mentor. He invited me into his life. We would see each other a few times a week and have meals together with his wife; watch operas on TV, or go to concerts together. He was also a beautiful composer.”
Kevra admitted that she assumed everyone would have a mentor story just like she did.
“A mentor doesn’t just show you how to do something,” she said. “They show you how to live life. I view the world in a very different way because of the time I had living and working with Louis. Every time I perform I can hear his voice, remember his gestures and his smiles.”
She dove into her interviews ready to be surprised and amazed by other artists’ stories of mentorship.
Her first full podcast dropped in October 2020 — an interview with pianist Jeffrey Chappell.
“Chappell reflects on his life and his formative mentorships first with pianist Jane Allen, and later with the legendary Leon Fleisher,” reads the podcast synopsis. The interview-style podcast reveals Chappell’s “early childhood genesis story with the piano; his studies at the Curtis Institute and Peabody Conservatory, and path that led him to an astounding last minute substitution for Claudio Arrau with the Baltimore Symphony. He addresses overcoming challenges and adversity and speaks about his lifelong meditation practice and his book ‘Answers from Silence.’”
Kevra followed this episode with Illustrator Armando Veve, Circus Smirkus founder Rob Mermin, visual artist Katie Runde (who moved to Middlebury recently), and tenor Tony Barrand.
“Thousands of people are podcasting now, and a lot are interview format,” Kevra said. “The Muse Mentor episodes are heavily edited. I spend about two hours interviewing someone and then boil it down to about 30-35 minutes.”
After editing the “real fun” begins. “I weave the music and sound effects into the episode, which I feel like gives it a spark and color that wouldn’t be there otherwise.”
Kevra taught herself how to do all this with the help of her son Owen, who moved back home, and online tutorials.
“The first episode was a nightmare to put together, but I’ve learned my way around now,” she said, noting that she’s doing all the work herself. “It takes me about 120 hours per episode, and I try to put one out every other Tuesday.”
Yup, that’s ambitious.
But Kevra’s got the line up for it.
“I’ve got a long list of guests that keeps growing,” she said. “Paula Robison, a Boston based flautist — one of the most famous flutists in the world — will be coming soon. And Bill MiKibben… that’ll be exciting. And Jim Blair, the wonderful retired National Geographic photographer.”
Currently Muse Mentors has listeners on every continent and about 2,000 downloads. “It’s an exponential thing that happens as people find the podcast,” Kevra said. “And our audience is expanding.”
Muse Mentors is Kevra’s way of staying connected to her audience without doing virtual concerts. She has every intention of continuing the podcast until the Capital City Concert series can start up again — whenever that may be. For now, Kevra’s Muse Mentors offers us engaging interviews of artists as they share personal stories of deep connection that will warm our hearts and inspire our ambitions.
Happy New Year!
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