Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Frank and Roselynn Curro Arts and Humanities Award


Old family portrait.
My sister Andy and I were remembering our parents, recalling the hard times and the good times, recalling their dedication to education and making sure we went to college. It was May 2011 and I had just returned from Ukraine. A year before, our dear brother Loren had died suddenly of a heart attack while on a hike with the Tallahassee Trails Association. He joined our mom and dad we like to say to this day.

That's when we decided to establish the Frank and Roselynn Curro Arts and Humanities Award at the Harley School, a wonderful private school in Rochester, NY.  We wanted to honor our parents, avid supporters of Harley and of the arts and humanities. The award would go to a graduating senior enthralled with the liberal and fine arts and going on to college to pursue their dreams.

Our parents made sure we had a strong foundation in the liberal arts. They were readers and thinkers. Dad, a small businessman, filled our home with music and was a great, and funny, storyteller. Mom was a teacher, artist and opera singer. They inhabited the culture and art of Italy and Europe and we imbibed it as naturally as the air we breathed. Mom loved the Italian and German operas and sang the beautiful arias. She made sure we studied the piano and learned how to read music and to appreciate it fully. I was okay at the piano, but my sister played beautifully and I still hear her playing Clementi, Bach, Chopin. We played duets for family entertainment.  We can still hammer those out.

Both parents belonged to a Great Books Club, popular in the 1950s, which made for interesting dinner-table conversations. Imagine discussions about Plato and Aristotle, Dante's Inferno, Cervantes, Tolstoy, and other classics of the western tradition. Once mom went on a rant about Sartre and existentialism. Andy choked on her pork chop. I was entranced. We went round and round until dinner was over. I remember another dinner where we talked about Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Mom, ever the teacher, made it interesting. The best thing about that memory?   Mom and Dad actually planned a trip to New York City, where we went to see “West Side Story!”  I can never listen to that brilliant score by Leonard Bernstein, with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and choreography by Jerome Robbins, such masters of their crafts, without remembering my mom and dad. The theater experience of a lifetime, one of my enduring childhood memories.

It's hard to believe that the arts and humanities are under attack today when we need them now more than ever. Trump and the extremist Republicans have zeroed them out in their proposed budgets, along with PBS and other cultural, historical, and environmental programs, including our national parks and historic sites. It will impoverish our spirits, impoverish our shared American culture.

What we took for granted so many years ago, we now cherish as a special gift. This year's Curro award went to a young scholar and high school leader going on to study the humanities in college. Previous awards have gone to art, language, and liberal arts students. We hope all the recipients of the Curro award will continue to enjoy the arts and humanities throughout their lives, and advocate for them in the public arena. I think this was one of the best lessons we learned from our parents, and at Harley, and it will stay with us forever.







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