Ben Evans has worked at IS183 Art School in Stockbridge, MA as the Ceramics Studio Manager. He has taught Wheel Working, Hand Building, Tile Making, and Slip Casting, and he has been the Summer Camp Ceramic Instructor. Ben received his BFA, majoring in Ceramics, from the State University of New York at New Paltz. His other teaching experience includes work at Morningside Elementary School in Pittsfield, the after-school program at Taconic High School, and as an art club teacher at Richmond Consolidated School. He has also worked as a studio assistant for Michael Brod in Rhinebeck, NY, and Mary Roehm in High Falls, NY, and as a teaching assistant for Jeff Zamek at the Penland School of Crafts in NC.
Charles teaches Music and coordinates BCD’s private instrumental music program. He most recently taught at an elementary charter school and at New Design Middle School in New York, and he has been a guest lecturer with the New York Composers Collective. Charles is an accomplished musician, singer, choral director, and composer, and has worked professionally with Cantori New York, Treasure House Chorale, Young New Yorker’s Chorus, and the New York Symphony. Charles co-founded the Harlem Creates Music Festival and produced “Celebramos Juntos!” for the Riverbank State Park’s Hispanic Heritage Month. Several of his compositions have been performed in the United States and abroad. Music education at BCD begins in Preschool and students in Kindergarten through Grade 6 have classes based on the Orff-Schulwerk approach. Concepts are learned through song, dance, movement, drama, and percussion instruments. Improvisation, composition, and a natural sense of play are encouraged. Starting in Grade 1, students participate in chorus where they learn to cooperate and work as a group towards a common goal. Students in Grades 4 through 6 are members of the Middle School chorus and develop good vocal technique, proper breath support, clear diction, and confident stage presence.
Joe Katz is an accomplished woodworker, sculptor, and teacher. Joe has over twenty years of experience teaching students in Grades 4 through 12. At BCD, students in Grades 4 through 6 take shop class for one trimester each year. Using real tools is essential in developing minds, muscles, strength, and stamina. A strong emphasis is placed on craftsmanship and proper planning, while always working with safety in mind. In addition to teaching woodworking, Joe has experience working with students in such areas as metalworking, ceramics, jewelry making, and architectural design. Joe has operated his own woodworking and cabinetry business for ten years, was a member of the Peace Corps in both Ethiopia and the Marshall Islands, and then taught at Waldorf schools in Vancouver and New Zealand. He received a B.S. in Industrial Arts Education from Millersville University and a B.A. in Art from Westfield State University.
Robert Oakes received a B.A. in English from Montclair State University, where he was awarded the McGee Scholarship, the English department’s highest award for excellence in literature studies. He has worked as a writer and editor for North Jersey Newspapers, AAA, Canyon Ranch and Dr. Mark Hyman and has served as an on-call substitute teacher for both BCD and Lenox Public Schools. He has extensive knowledge of numerous graphic art design software and has created websites, newsletters, ads, and invitations. Robert is also a singer/songwriter, performing and recording as part of the Berkshire-based folk duo Oakes and Smith.
Sasha Sicurella is the Coordinator of BCD’s Visual Arts Program and as a K-6 arts instructor. Sasha is an arts education specialist, artist, and consultant. As the Director of Education at Omi International Arts Center in Ghent, NY, Sasha has spent ten years developing and implementing public, arts-based programming for people of all ages. Through her work as the founding director of the I AM: International Foundation, Sasha provides opportunities for children to explore identity through art and self-portrait photography. To date, the I AM: Projects have served more than 1,000 children in 15 countries across 5 continents. Her work has been exhibited in the United States and internationally at museums and art centers in Tel Aviv, Milan, Mumbai, Addis Ababa, Bratislava, Ulan Bator, Sao Paulo, and New York.
Max Spitzer is experienced in a variety of media and processes, from mold making to oil painting to ceramics to woodworking. Max has taught art to students ages 5-13 as the Head Studio Instructor at Omi International Arts Center and at a summer camp in Vermont for four years. He has also worked as an Artist Intern at Salem Art Works in Salem, NY, as a Resident Artist at Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont, as an Artist Assistant to Tom Sachs and Gregory Barsamian, both in NYC, and a Junior Luthier at S.E. Spitzer Guitar Company in Kinderhook, NY. Max attended Brown University, and he received a BFA with Honors from Rhode Island School of Design, where he studied sculpture. Max lives and maintains a studio in Hudson, NY where he also works as a luthier.
Jon Suters is an accomplished musician and teacher, and is well-known throughout the Berkshires and beyond as a professional musician and bandleader. Jon plays the piano, guitar, string bass, cello, violin, trombone, saxophone, drumset and percussion, and steel drums. He has performed music with Charles Neville (the Neville Brothers), Ed Mann (Frank Zappa), Eugene Friesen and Paul Halley (the Paul Winter Consort), and has shared the stage with Taj Mahal, Rickie Lee Jones, Tuck and Patti, Martin Sexton, Madeline Peyroux and many others. Jon works with students, beginning in Grade 4, who choose to study a band instrument and participate in the group lessons that are offered once a week. After a year of lessons, students are invited to join the Beginning Band which performs at various concerts throughout the school year.
Phil Knoll teaches a Drawing class each trimester, and Tom O’Neil teaches a Painting class during the winter and spring trimesters. Both have shown their work extensively in solo and group exhibitions, have been included in numerous arts publications, and are current BCD parents. Phil, who has extensive teaching experience, received his undergraduate degree from the University of Texas and an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. Tom, who has previously taught an inspiring Arts Block course at BCD, received a B.S. in Fine Art and Art History from Skidmore College, and he has studied at Rhode Island School of Design.
Years and grades at BCD: Preschool-9th grade (1973-84)What are your fondest memories from BCD?
I spent 11 amazing years at BCD, and made friendships and learned lessons that have literally lasted a lifetime, so to fully do this question justice would require a book of its own. Among the many highlights, I remember with great fondness Tracy MacGruer – in my mind, the archetypal kindergarten teacher – who combined just the right mix of fun, guided instruction and sharp wit. Mrs. MacGruer got me and my class off to a flying start at BCD. Mme. Grad may have been diminutive in stature, but she holds an outsized presence in my learning experience. Thanks to her, I learned the rules of French grammar inside and out. In an age before widespread computer use, when good penmanship had greater value, I had the privilege of helping to transcribe Mme. Grad’s famous cahier – her notebook of rules and examples (I was considered to have good handwriting at the time, something that will come as a surprise to anyone who has seen me hand-write anything lately). Mrs. Fawcett’s Latin class was similarly influential for me, from the basics of grammar to Caesar’s Gallic wars to the poems of Catullus, the excellent grounding I got in both Latin and French helped me learn other Romance languages far more easily in high school and college. Mr. Fawcett’s 9th grade English class is still the best literature course I’ve ever had the privilege of taking. Finally, although I myself was never a particularly accomplished athlete, I have great memories of our soccer and baseball teams and the bus trips we took to play neighboring schools. We may not have always won, but regardless of the outcome, we had a lot of fun.
Where did you go once you left BCD?
For 10th grade, I went to Pittsfield High School (PHS), followed by a year abroad in Milan, Italy as an exchange student, where I lived with an Italian family and attended the Liceo Scientifico Elio Vittorini. I returned to PHS for my final year of high school. From there, I attended Columbia University in New York, where I majored in U.S. History.
Along the way, I cultivated an interest in Latin America, and that led me to spend the spring semester of my junior year in Lima, Peru, at the Universidad Católica. I traveled widely throughout Peru during the six months I spent there, despite a raging civil war that effectively closed off large swaths of the country. After my semester abroad ended, I went to Macchu Picchu (the highlight of my trip and still the most amazing place I’ve ever visited) followed by a five-week-long trip by train and bus through Bolivia, Argentina and Chile.
In the year before starting my doctoral program in Latin American History at Rutgers University, I spent 10 months living in São Paulo, Brazil, learning Portuguese, working as an intern at a human rights organization and teaching English on the side. I was fortunate to be able to travel Brazil from top to bottom while I was there. I returned to Brazil in my fourth year of graduate school on a Fulbright fellowship to do my dissertation research, living this time in Rio de Janeiro for over a year. I finished my Ph.D. in January 1999.
Where are you living and what are you doing now?
I live in Columbia County, NY. I work (primarily remotely) for a company in New York City called eMarketer that provides businesses with insights and information about digital marketing trends. I serve as the lead mobile analyst, which means I spend a lot of time helping our clients understand the latest developments in mobile devices, content, commerce and marketing. On the surface, it’s a long way from my academic training, but I actually end up putting many of the same critical thinking skills to work. Although it may sound ironic coming from a trained historian, I think of it as helping people grasp the future rather than delving into the past.
Last year was a particularly busy year. In addition to living temporarily in Austin, Texas, where my wife Barbara was a visiting scholar at the University of Texas, I co-authored Mobile Marketing: An Hour a Day (published by Wiley/Sybex in December 2012). The idea behind the book is to offer insights and practical advice that readers of any experience level can absorb in an hour a day.
I am happy to say that both my children now attend BCD. Max, age 5½, is in Kindergarten in the same classroom where I went to Preschool (later the school’s first computer lab), and Zora, age 3½, is in the Beginner 3s program.
What are your plans for the future?
I hope to write more books and look forward to a role as an active BCD parent.
How do you think your time at BCD influenced the choices you’ve made?
I think often of the School’s motto – discere explorare est (Learning is Discovery). It has shaped a love of both learning and the journey that accompanies it. And it’s a lesson I’ve tried to impart to my own children as they begin their time at BCD, knowing they will share in a similar adventure.
What about your time at BCD are you most thankful for?
The excellent teachers, the inspiring curriculum and the many friendships I developed in the 11 years I was here. Having an entire institution dedicated to encouraging students to indulge their interests and develop and strengthen skills is, in my experience, incredibly important, and creates a vital base for future achievement.
What advice can you offer current students at BCD?
The great thing about BCD is the level of trust teachers put in students and the doors they are willing to open for them. One illustrative example: Long after I graduated, I asked Mr. Fawcett about the advanced reading list for our 9th grade English class, which included works by Mikhail Lermontov and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and he simply said something to the effect of, “I thought all of you could handle it.”
My advice: go through as many of those doors as possible. The curriculum alone is terrific, but the combination of creative and talented students, dedicated teachers and the additional learning opportunities they can provide is nothing short of remarkable.
Upon my family relocating to the Berkshires from New York, I attended BCD from mid-year in 7th grade through 9th grade graduation in 1984. I was terrified to join the class mid-year, but the students and teachers made my transition an easy one. Every class must hear from faculty and parents that they are a ‘special’ group, but we really were! We were the largest graduating class up to that point. By ninth grade the 20 of us were a wonderfully cohesive group. My kids attend BCD now (Toby is in 6th grade, Henry is in 3rd), and I delight in the dynamic I see in both of their grades. BCD is still providing that same sense of community to this generation.After BCD I attended Berkshire School where I met the boy who would become my husband. A failed attempt at a large university taught me that I yearned to return to the community feeling of a small school. I wound up at Antioch College in Ohio and thrived! All through college Pieter and I stayed in touch and began dating after graduation. We married in 1997. We lived in the suburbs of Philadelphia for 16 years where I worked for Pottery Barn. Our 2 boys went to a wonderful school and I quickly became involved in volunteering at school and in our community, though we always dreamt of moving back to New England someday.When the economy exploded Pieter’s company closed. It was evident to us that, rather than waiting for things to return to ‘normal’, we needed to invent a new normal for ourselves and our family. Someday was now. We decided to move to the Berkshires. I was so excited at the prospect of my kids attending BCD. I told them all about MY school and now, three years later, I am thrilled that BCD is truly THEIR school.
Last Spring I opened a business in Lenox called Second Home. It is a home-design shop featuring upcycled home furnishings and accessories. Finally my small business training and design experience have melded together into a satisfying career for myself! This is my new normal. I love living here, raising my kids here and being able to be involved with BCD and the community as a parent! There are so many ways to volunteer and be involved at BCD and by doing so I hope I am teaching my boys the importance of being a part of something.
I hope my kids, as BCD students and beyond, can gather the courage and the confidence to make their own path in life. To realize that it’s never too late to change their course, and that if they’re willing to contribute to a community then they’ll always be able to come home.