Tag Archives: Chautauqua Institution


Dad taught me so many things. How to lay bricks around a pool, three years in a row. How to get the stones and make a retaining wall. He taught me how to eat an ice cream cone and drink a milkshake through a straw, He told me I could be anyone I wanted to be.

How to think about what kind of resume I would have, before and after I went to college. Having fun in Italy. Opening presents Christmas day. Midnight Mass.

Irish singers, beltway bandits, Iranian royalty, cellists, flautists, tenors, ballet and opera divas, theater a la art elope epiduris, you name it, he brought it.

I just brought the check and roses for the divas that were de-thorned and placed in little vessels to keep them “alive” to take off in time to hand them to him to take on stage, then place them back. College summers. It was a long time ago, I was with Program reading and complying with contract riders, my brother was a sweeper as a kid then Amp Crew. My sister worked gardening and early morning garbage truck after sleeping maybe two hours after she sneaked into our quarters. Baby sister was just a little kid.

Dad had an impact on all of us. We all got together for his funeral, which was lovely but a fiasco for his children. Beyond that we were able to get together once as our family, another brief time with cousins before everyone headed for the airport. It was a sad day, a good day when everyone told stories. I love stories. Art Alone Endures, art elope epiduris, that’s what it looks like above the stage in Erte style. Dee


A letter to the National Trust for Historic Preservation:

The Star-Spangled Banner is sung at every game in the nation, yet Fort McHenry was deemed unsavable due to a transportation overpass, then saved because Francis Scott Key penned our National Anthem during war. Our National Trust for Historic Preservation is helping historic structures such as Fort McHenry and others including the Amphitheater at Chautauqua Institution, an institution that had FDR’s I Hate War speech at the Miller Cottage, Presidents and world leaders, artists, dancers, musicians play “The Amp.” They did critique the paint and one said “save me, paint me” and did a musical bet over weeks to figure out whether James Galway’s flute would beat a trumpet, then a tuba in the one-minute Flight of the Bumblebees. Galway laid down the gauntlet. I do not know who won but it was a fight for the historic Amphitheater that goes on today.

Please protect Section 4(f) in the Transportation Bill. Your leadership will allow us to save natural and man-made resources that are our nation’s history.

Europe keeps things for millenia, centuries and make things work without building roads through or over them. Think about it. We think 100 years is old and tear down beautiful homes and libraries and think new is better. We have a history as Americans and have a duty to keep our history alive. What’s better than taking a tour with in-laws through the Adirondacks to visit Revolutionary War sites? Remembering Haym Solomon Day in New York, I helped pass that without knowing the family but he helped bankroll our country against the Brits. Please vote for your family’s history, and ours. Respectfully, Dee

Big Ideas, Small Spaces

Chautauqua Institution wants to tear town its historic Victorian Amphitheater to build something larger.

This is an over 150 year-old institution. I sang there at age eight in a state choir championship. We came in second with Panis Angelicus. My father was the Institution’s President from 1978-1985.

Now, the Institution has raised prices that keep rural neighbors out, and are trying to make it their own Disney place with only rich people allowed.

FDR made his I Hate War speech at the Miller (one of the founders) cottage. There are many ideas and speeches and concerts that can be in a smaller space and not spend $35 million to gain 300 seats and eviscerate an historic space.

The Chautauqua Amphitheater is on the NY State list of historic places. Look at what was done years ago for the Athaneaum Hotel, the largest wood structure in the USA. It is gorgeous.

Chautauqua is supposed to be about history, but most of all, ideas. We are about to lose both. Uncomfortable seating and structural poles are Chautauqua. So would have been school teachers from Yonkers yelling “Louda” which means louder in English, before they were priced out of their hotels.

Sometimes history and ideas make the grade. This time, it looks like they will lose this battle with spoiled rich people. Unhappily, Dee


There’s a documentary that will premier tonight on your local PBS channel, http://www.ciweb.org/news/2010/11/11/premiere-date-set-for-pbs-documentary-chautauqua-an-american.html

Chautauqua: An American Narrative. People ask “what is Chautauqua?” First it’s a lake whose name means “bag tied in the middle.” My aunt still lives in Westfield NY on Lake Erie, and Portage Road takes one to Chautauqua lake, where the earliest settlers portaged their canoes 12 miles.

I didn’t grow up there but worked there several summers, the first in a restaurant where I was forced to pay most of my wages to the owner for room and board even though I didn’t live there and never ate there once. I was living in the president’s home, provided by the Institution to my father, who helped preserve and enhance the Chautauqua that visitors see today.

Stories abound but mine are all work-related. After that disastrous summer I joined the program staff and with the hours I worked made much less than I did at the restaurant! The last summer I asked for hourly pay and made enough to pay my part of college tuition. The other kids there were sailing or hanging out in bars but I was working, and loving it. The people I got to meet were well worth 14-hour days. What was my job? Make people happy. Read the contracts and riders and make sure everyone was a go, run a staff of five drivers who brought lecturers, ballerinas, and other stars to their lodging and to the stage. Write gate passes (pre-computer) for hundreds of performers, order roses for divas and deliver them to my father backstage. I just thought of a funny thing – I wrote all my father’s intro’s and in the beginning he’d edit or have me rewrite but when I made it sound like him, it just worked. As president, he had to introduce every major program, from the morning lecture to evening concert.

So what is Chautauqua? Much more than the Methodist church camp it started out as, and the Sunday school teacher haven it became. Teachers used to come in from NYC every summer. Arts, recreation, education, religion, not necessarily in that order. When I was there it always had its own ballet company, opera company, orchestra and resident theatrical company. World-reknowned speakers were brought in, as were soloists in dance, music and theatre. Religion began with a speaker from a different religion every week at a service for up to 8,000 participants and added a song service and lectures during the week at smaller venues. The “practice shacks” housed pianists, violinists, tuba players and although everyone had their own practice space, walking by was a peaceful cacophany.

I can’t tell you what a kid who was brought up there summers would think, as they’d remember Boys & Girls Club and sailing. My brother used to cut B&G and go play chess with old guys at one of the hotels. I remember working and music and lectures and plays and falling asleep in my bed for a few hours to get up and do it again. People wrote in to complain that I used a car for some of my errands but I couldn’t have done my job otherwise.

Now, Chautauqua is a haven for the rich. I’ve been there over the past few years and locals can’t afford it. So, it is a gated community for so-called landed gentry and others who want privacy and don’t mind paying a price for it. When programming is at its best, it does provide a variety of activities for a daily, weekly, or season pass. It would be great to surprise my husband with a ticket to see Clint Black on August 12!

Please see the film and visit Chautauqua. Plan on leaving your car outside and walking a lot, going back over 100 years to small streets, a bell tower with concerts that an old friend used to operate, have lunch at the Athanaeum (two desserts!) and if you’re there on July 4th sit down by the lake and watch the Mayville Fire Department do their annual fireworks. Chautauqua is too many things to tell you here. Cheers, Dee