A Life In Music and The Arts

Blog Monologues and dialogues......

about being born into a world of music, performing arts history and the advocacy of music and the Arts as a medium for personal and Social Change……
The Arts have an incredible agency to touch, enhance, empower change and heal lives……
I believe that The Performing Arts have the power to make critical differences within and across cultures and communities       
I believe that Arts organizations and social entrepreneurs have a critical responsibility to collaborate to create these enhancements for the greater Social Good.      
I am reminded….. of the African American church hymn that was a favorite of my grandmothers,  His Eye is On The Sparrow 
“If I can help  somebody, then my living shall not be in vain….”
The music you are listening to has immense personal meaning to me. 
It is emblematic of everything about this creative journey and this unique mosaic of The Creative Arts: music, dance, painting and creative movement of the inner soul.
This is music that unearths the conversation my mother shared with me that someone early on…told her  adamantly  that I needed to go to a special school for gifted children in The Arts…  I was age 6 1/2.  
The Arts.. for the 4 year old  Bill Doggett started with  Eurythmics:
dance movement and music education for children in classes at USC and age 5 with piano .   
Also known as The Dalcroze Method of Early Childhood Music Education, explore its history along with the other methods: Kodaly, Suzuki and Orff Schulwerk http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dalcroze_Eurhythmics
For me, understanding music has always been aboutfeeling the music and visualizing it     This sensibility I connect directly to The Dalcroze Method aka Eurythmics that established my early Childhood musical training.
My skill in Eurythmics led my mother to take me to see my first ballets: Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty age 4-5.   
To this day, I remember the very strong and scary impression that The Black Swan entrances and the leitfmotif music had on me.  Im not sure why, but that was scary….to me.  
Sleeping Beauty was better and it tied in to my favorite movie as a 4 year old, the brand new Disney classic: Sleeping Beauty.   How many times did my mother take me to see my favorite Disney movie.!    I was the Prince from Sleeping Beauty for 2 Halloweens in a row and kept my costume in its original box for years…   
Philadelphia in Los Angeles: The Philadelphia roots Doggett Family 1960
I am the little boy in the middle
Age 2 1/2 -3 
with my very famous uncle, 1956-59 Rock n Roll Era jazz organist, Bill Doggett of HONKY TONK King Records fame, after whom Im named. I am held by my mother, Frances.   Both parents and uncle were from North Philadelphia of the 1920s-30s
I’m from the generation of  late “baby boomer kids “who grew up during the  Etch-A-Sketch rage of 1960-1962.   My Etch-A-Sketch was my ipad of 
 The Flintstones Era,  the era of  Black&White TV sets, The Lone Ranger, I Love Lucy, The Mouseketeers, Bugs Bunny, Popeye, Mighty Mouse and Looney Tunes cartoons
 I loved to create images which were all about Architecture and design as I was smitten with modern architecture-– skyscraper modernism, streamline modern, glass brick, green and black terre cotta buildings, like The Richfield building in downtown Los Angeles and The Wiltern Theater and The Pan Pacific Auditorium in the Wilshire and Fairfax Districts.
I was lucky enough to be a youngster when these architectural jewels were still vibrant.  The black and gold Richfield Building was my absolute favorite.  Tragically, it was torn down in 1968.
I so remember being totally fascinated with 
” Machine Age” industrial design and Streamline architecture age 5-7. 
 This design interest given life through my Etch- A- Sketch  extended to painting.  My paper paintings from Kindergarten-2nd grade were Impressionist.   I kept them for many years looking back at one in particular… a seeming Monet like Sunset in yellows and orange paint 
 I remember my mother saying that apparently the Eurhythmics teachers and a Piano teacher had talked about me to persons at this enriched School  but my mother deciding  from a place of her own experience as a child of the Great Depression in Philadelphia, that The  Arts would be a tough road even for a gifted Negro child….  I wish she had let me go…. I always felt that could have made  such a difference ….if not all the difference for me   
In retrospect, I understood her choice, as we talked about it decades later…    
My challenge was ,  I was the youngest male child of a prominent minister and civil rights leader and  at a time when public face- public perception was so very important….  
 And, I was very early on a visual artist using movement and at age 7.. a highly creative kid who wanted to compose and did  compose music written down by my piano teacher at USC.
I was also  reminded.. that I was also the namesake of someone very famous in jazz and popular music, my uncle, Bill Doggett and that
his story of the challenge of making a career in music in the 1930s-40s also impacted her and my father’s decision to….be more cautious.    
I was taken out of Eurhythmics because of concerns by my prominent minister father for the stereotypes associated with males and Dance and my natural proclivities towards art and design showcased in my Etch A Sketch work and paintings went unacknowledged….   I stayed in piano and composed but that too was put on the back burner..
In reading Alvin Ailey’s, James Baldwin’s and Fletcher Henderson’s stories, they talk about a similar experiences. 
It  hits a familiar nerve: the challenges and cultural limitations faced of their  generation and mine, as African American males….. engaged in the Arts  from within our own community…. We needed be mindful of family reputation, societal appearances within the black community.. as it was during the 1930s-70s and chronicled so poignantly by James Baldwin and other creative artists who followed.    
It is an interesting insight for many of us from an earlier time, who wanted to draw,paint, play jazz/blues instead of becoming a doctor, sing and perform classical music, conduct, compose, dance….        
At around age  6 1/2, I remember telling my parents, both educated middle class college graduates from Philadelphia with a love of The Arts, that I wanted to learn how to play all of the instruments in the orchestra!    Such was the enthusiasm of a 6 1/2 year old.  
You are listening to music by Michael Torke, a noted American Post Minimalist composer.
Torke’s music is … immediately visual and choreographic …… evoking a perpetual interplay of a series of Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollack  paintings . 
Nuanced  colors, rhythms and layered intricacies.  
 I am at heart a visual artist  interested in  choreographing  space, sound, voice, music, lighting, design, thereby creating a blended experience that is greater the sum of its individual parts…. Gesamtkunst     
As I remark in the sections below regarding my encounter with the great innovator and master of multi media and dance theater, Alvin Nikolais  back stage during the 1984 Los Angeles US Summer Olympics Arts Festival,  the Arts concept of  Gesamtkunst  informs my complete conceptualization of the progressive blending of The Visual Arts, Music and Movement.   
For me, there is  an intersection of creative innovation  in the Art of Nikolais Dance Theatre and the  post Minimalist music of Michael Torke.
This informs WHY the connection with Alvin Nikolais  talked about below continues to be of the utmost importance to me in 2019.
There are many layers of  personal resonance in this music.
This is music that evokes the heady boldly creative music years as cellist for Fairfax High School’s Dance Improvisation Workshops, the years 1973-75 while an undergrad at Georgetown University and principal cellist with The Georgetown Symphony experiencing with great interest  the world of  Minimalism through the lense of  the music of Steve Reich in weekend trips to New York City.

In the mid to late 1970s, Performance Art Happenings and concerts at The Kitchen in New York City were all the rage.   The Kitchen continues today as one of the epicenters of avant and modern creative arts and performance happenings http://thekitchen.org


Evenings and weekend afternoons becoming engulfed in Music for Mallet Instruments, Six Pianos Music for Pieces of Wood , The American Premiere of the completed Lulu by Alban Berg at The Met, seeing Rudolf Nureyev dance The Preacher in Appalachian Spring with The Martha Graham Company… and spending hours upon hours at The Museum of Modern Art  were indelible experiences underscoring my earlier Fairfax High School creative world..…for this creative artsy African American 19-25 year old interested in New Music and the blended use of film, art and choreography…  I was… as they say, pretty out there…or  today, I might be called “an ARTs nerd”
As a 19-25 year old ARTs Nerd already blooming as a Visual Artist blending photography,cinematography and Constructivist/Expressionist Art themes in  fine art photography, the Arts world of Manhattan in the late 1970s was something to behold…… 
That is…. The Manhattan Arts World of Andy Warhol, the young Bill T Jones and Artie Zane, Alvin Ailey,  Arthur Mitchell & The Dance Theatre of Harlem, Meredith Monk, Phillip Glass, Steve Reich,  Keith Haring, Alvin Nikolais/Murray Louis and Robert Mapplethorpe…..
These experiences morphed and flowered during  my late college years at UCLA 1976-78 highlighted by the  life changing exposure to and influences on my self concept as an Artist… by the extraordinary Alvin Nikolais Dance Theatre through the auspices of UCLA’s Dance Series at Royce Hall
 Niklolais  was one of the critical 20th century pioneers in extending the Wagnerian Ring Cycle associated concept of Gesamtkunst– the convergence of the visual arts,theater,music,choreography and performance in the experience of Art.
Meeting Alvin Nikolais backstage during their 1984 Olympics Arts Festival performances and talking about his Art that I had been following since the mid 1970s continues to be one of my most personally significant Arts interactions.
Meeting Nikolais was for me…like meeting Elvis or Cab Calloway
……. A legendary, iconic genius whose pioneering gift for Multi Media Gesamtkunst.. was one of a kind….
*To view the two amazing videos click STOP on the Music player at the top of the page.* 
Seen at UCLA Royce Hall for the first time in Fall 1975,1976 and in the late 1970s at Manhattan’s restored Beacon Theater, I continue to be blown away by this total genius of this Master of Multi Media Gesamtkunst
This is also  music that symbolizes the excitement of New Music experiences as an 7-10 year old private piano student in USC’s School of Music Preparatory Division attending concerts of The USC Chamber Singers of my older sister at  Bovard Auditorium .
As a 7-10 year old  listening attentively to William Schuman’s Carols of Death, Samuel Barber’s Reincarnation, Aaron Copland’s In The Beginning and Bartok’s Romanian Folk Songs I began to notice my greater interest in New Music  than  traditional repertoire.   
It was at USC’s Bovard  Auditorium of 1961-66 that I also discovered at 7-10 years of age, Early Music, notably De Machaut and Perotin, two  composers of critical importance, whose early music continues to be a favorite today. 

Bill Doggett Photography

My photography reflects a deep  inclination as both painter and photographer to the world of  cinematic DP- Director of Photgraphy and Mise en scène
Mise en scène is Creating……… design, intention and mood…..    filmic/ painterly storyboards that set the stage for a story with references to captured time and space– as a Film Art Director creates a visual matte for a Scene in which actors walk into and walk out of a Scene… 
My photography exists in double meaning.  These images are completely Mise en Scene  
Color, shapes.shadowthe use of light and intentional composition that disorients in my work is used as Metaphor ….   My intention is to re image your understanding of  missed and imperceptible spaces to a level of discerned consciousness….   
Yes, this discussion is part of my Artist’s Statement as an American Constructivist   photographer/painter working in the 1970s-today.
The 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics Arts Festival: LA ’84 
A Juried Photography ExhibitionThe Brand Arts Library, Glendale California.
 My iconic photographs, Hommage a Magritte and Meter After Antonioni were  Prize winners in this important Olympic Arts Festival exhibition.     
The event photographs below showcase me in my 20s, the Gesamtkunst Visual Artist.  I am grateful that my parents, the late Rev. John N Doggett Jr and Frances Doggett supported my gift as a Visual Artist at this stage of my life as shown below. It was such a joy that they traveled to support me in this event.
And it was during this time of critical emergence as a Visual Artist  that my father finally came to accept  his youngest son…as the Artist still deeply rooted in The Arts as I was as the precocious 6  1/2 year old whom my parents were told to put into a Performing Arts School of gifted children but did not.  
I never gave up on my artistic Self…. it is what brought me over many Trials
My story echoes that of so many….. Fletcher Henderson, Alvin Ailey…James Baldwin      We are called to let our bright lights shine despite the odds against us  -Photos from the proofsheet of this event taken by my father with my camera
1996 Seattle,Washington- Doggett,  as Visutal Artist:  photographer- painter  constructivist photography blending painting and cinematographic space in micro details. 
Group Show, Seattle, Washington Benham Studio Gallery. 
These photographs reference my long interest in the collage assemblage art of Expressionists Kurt Schwitters and Romare Bearden
It is said that it starts at home…..       For me, it began there but did not end there…..    
I thank my parents for their great love of The Arts and the great story telling about their dates in late 1930s Philadelphia listening to The Philadelphia Orchestra, summer nights outside of the gates of The Robin Hood Dell, either because they were too poor to buy a ticket or there was a color bar.  I wish they were still alive so I could verify which was the truer situation…….  
Marian Anderson, Roland Hayes, Paul Robeson were household names in my house at age 6…..    After all , my parents- early Civil Rights Movement progressives had co presented Roland Hayes in recital in Pasadena in 1951…years before I was born
Like Handel, Borodin and so many others,  I was steered away from The Arts for  more traditional occupations, yet I reclaimed my core self ….a decision I continue to feel strongly about.
Now, I am one to reach back, support and uplift other promising young people of Color at important junctures...in a life journey that can be enriched by The Arts .  
….From story telling through creative writing, poetry and Rap to community murals, video game,set design and film illustration, photography, dance, music and theater, we are called to create and touch lives…. to empower our individual and collective Inner Souls…..

ALVIN AILEY DANCE THEATER: Scene from “Revelations”