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Arts Spotlight: Jazz Ambassador Reuben Jackson

Written by Bill Anderson on . Posted in The Arts No Comments

ReubenJackson_credit Stephanie Seguino

Reuben Jackson. Courtesy photo by Stephanie Seguino.

A treasure in our midst, Reuben Jackson, host of VPR’s “Friday Night Jazz,” moved to Vermont in 2011 after 20 years as the curator of the Duke Ellington Collection at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. As a teenager, he first encountered Vermont in 1974 en route home from a vacation in Montreal, and while, at first, he says he was panic-stricken — “I’d never been stared at before,” — by the time he left, “I was smitten by the state’s beauty.”

He returned to attend Goddard College, and after working in D.C., he came back to Vermont; then in 2012 he took over as host of “Friday Night Jazz.” Calm and equipoised, Jackson’s show reliably presents, as one listener commented online, “an elegantly eclectic mix of textures, tempos and eras.” Each program displays a formidable range, yet never feels forced.

“I try to balance old and new,” Jackson says, “and I love cross-pollinations. I enjoy looking at the relationships between the music, and the evolution of that which continues to influence jazz.”

To read the extended version of this spotlight, see page 16 in the Summer 2015 issue.

Q&A: Thunder Road’s Dick Blake

Written by Sky Barsch on . Posted in Way of (Vermont) Life

Dick Blake and his wrecker. Photo by Ken Burris.

Dick Blake and his wrecker. Photographed by Ken Burris.

When the stock car racers at Barre’s Thunder Road get into trouble, it’s Dick Blake and his wrecker crew who get them out. At 84, Blake runs the tow truck at “The Nation’s Site of Excitement,” where fans of all ages enjoy fast cars, fried dough and checkered flags.

VL: How long have you been running the wrecker?
DB: This will be my 53rd year. I was going to retire after the 50th year, but Ken Squier and Tom Curley said I’ve got to stay with ’em … as long as they own the track. I said as long as I’m able, I’ll do it.

VL: Is it a job or volunteer work?
DB: We volunteer, but I get a little gas money every once in a while, and I get good advertisement after all these years, and I enjoy doing it.

VL: Have you ever had a car stuck that you couldn’t get out?
DB: Never. We’ve seen ’em over the fence into the parking lot a couple of times; they’ve been everywhere. I’ve probably picked up a car on every inch of that track over the years — on top of the wall, over the bank in the trees. We’ve seen some pretty mysterious accidents and have been lucky nobody’s been killed.

VL: Where’s the best spot to watch the races?
DB: Off the fourth turn. That’s where a lot of the action happens, or starts to happen.

VL: Do you ever get a sense before you go in for the night if it’s going to be a big wreck night or pretty mellow?
DB: Generally if you have a full moon,

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Vermont by Design | Why is a global landscape business based in Saxtons River?

Written by Kim Asch on . Posted in Entrepreneurs, Outdoor Recreation and Nature

In 2004, Julie Moir Messervy, a prominent figure in the esoteric realm of high-end design, uprooted from the Boston area and moved her business to a speck on the map called Saxtons River, Vermont. The decision was a gamble — she was already well established where she was, with a client list that included Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and celebrity cellist Yo-Yo Ma — but the chance to live in Vermont’s open spaces and natural beauty seemed worth the risk.

Julie Moir Messervy, second from right, at work in Saxtons River with members of the creative team at Julie Moir Messervy Design Studio Inc. Photograph by Ken Burris.

Messervy, who was 53 at the time, had raised three children with her first husband in bustling Wellesley, Massachusetts, writing landscape books and drawing designs at her dining room table while tending to her family, in the latter years as a single mom. Now that the kids were launched, she told her second husband, longtime Vermonter Steve Jonas, that she would relocate so they could make a rural home together. “I had lived in cities and I had lived in suburbs, but I had never lived in the country,” she says. “I realized that a landscape designer should learn the real fundamentals of living close to the land.”

Together, Messervy and Jonas toured southern

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