LeAnne Martin
Christians in the Arts

Monday, January 29, 2007

Calvin Edwards: Thinking in New Ways

Today I’m featuring arts enthusiast Calvin Edwards. Calvin is an executive with more than 20 years experience working with charitable, educational, and religious institutions. In 2001 he founded Calvin Edwards & Company (www.calvinedwardscompany.com), to “maximize the good of giving” by consulting with philanthropists as they support faith-based causes. The firm brings a mixture of art and science to bear on major giving decisions made by affluent persons, family offices, and private foundations.

Calvin is also the good friend who introduced me to my husband, for which I'll forever be grateful.

LeAnne: Why do you love the arts? Have you always loved them?

I love the arts because they make me think in new ways, they help me see the world from a different perspective. I like who I am, or who I become, when I engage with the arts.

Now, I realize that some people will think this is a little peculiar, that my love for the arts revolves around thinking—some would say the arts are about feeling, imagining, and experiencing, not something cerebral like thinking. And the arts surely are about all those things. My point is precisely that one thinks differently as a result of feeling things.

A few weeks ago on this blog Mart Martin referred to Les Miserables and the impact of that great musical (or film). One cannot help but be deeply moved by the contrast between grace and law in this monumental metaphor set in the French Revolution. To immerse in that profound and engaging story is to emerge a different person. How? After being there, I think about life differently. I understand the power of grace and want to show it to others. It is more than just a great story, it changes lives. Ultimately the arts help to shape who I am, what I believe, and how I think.

Have I always loved them? The short answer is “no.” I grew up in rural New Zealand where sheep grazed outside my bedroom window. My friends’ dads drove bulldozers in a logging town. There was beauty in my life, but not the arts. However, my father had a great collection of classical and sacred music on 7” spools of tape that I learned to load on a tape player when I was a teenager.

I came to love and appreciate the arts as a college student when I was invited into a circle of friends who loved music, drama, and literature--and many performed, some even performed live on the Australian ABC. I remember thinking how peculiar it was to lie on the floor and listen to Mozart or Handel on an old gramophone when others were listening to Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, or AC/DC. I’m grateful to those friends who introduced me to the world of the arts.

LM: Which of the arts would you say are your favorites?

My favorites would have to be live theater and classical music. I go to more live theater each year than I go to movies. (Sorry Hollywood.) Last year my wife and I had season tickets to three production companies and couldn’t use all the tickets and ended up giving some away. I enjoy everything from Shakespeare and the classics, to modern drama, to musicals and comedy. Especially if it has something important and challenging to say.

One musical I really enjoyed is the Broadway show, The Boy From Oz, a biographical sketch of the life of Peter Allen. The songwriter and performer married Lisa Minnelli in 1967 but soon separated and later died of AIDS. I saw it in Allen’s home country of Australia which added to its power and impact. It is the moving and passionate story of a kid who rises above his circumstances, finds his purpose, but never finds his home. A soul-stirring musical extravaganza that makes one think about one’s own life, values, and direction.

I love all manner of classical music but when asked for a favorite, two come to mind, Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suites and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. Who cannot be moved as the cannons are sounded at the triumphant end of that magnificently crafted composition? One can feel the celebration of Russia’s victory over Napoleon’s armies in the core of one’s being at the climax of the Overture. (By the way, Grieg’s piece is based on Ibsen’s play by the same name, and another piece of theater worth seeing is Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, an early, wrenching exploration of feminist themes.)

More from Calvin Edwards on Thursday.

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