PVCC's Singer-Songwriter Tribute: Meet the Singers

PVCC is proud to present A Musical Tribute to SINGER-SONGWRITERS on Friday, June 2nd at 7:30pm. Performed by the Union32 All-Star Band with dynamic singer-songwriters Ciara Cisneros, Cameron DeGurski, Janae Dunn, Micah Lukas, Alex Mullins, Ally Owens, and Callie Young.

Featuring music from some of greatest singer-songwriters from the 1970s through today, including James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Billy Joel, Stevie Nicks, Ryan Adams, George Ezra, Vance Joy and much more!

All proceeds from this concert will benefit the Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock to PVCC Pathway Scholarship Fund. Held at the Center for Performing Arts, Admission is $6-$10.  


Ciara Cisneros

Inspired by:

Heart, Kaki King, Pink, Led Zeppelin, Prince, Hosier, Ed Sheeran, Foo Fighters

I got my first taste of performing as a singer in a 6th grade talent show and have loved it ever since. Two years later I found another passion: playing guitar. I'm currently writing my own music and performing at local venues around the valley. I hope to release my first EP by the end of the year or in early 2018. I am beyond excited to be playing with the faculty musicians. I was very fortunate to perform at PVCC during the Alice Cooper Proof in the Pudding contest and at the Festival of Tales, which both took place last year. Both experiences were fabulous, from the beautiful venue to the amazing people at PVCC. I can't wait to see everyone at this show and all for a GREAT cause!

There is nothing like jamming with other musicians who also love music and then connecting with an audience. It blows my mind every time!


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Cameron DeGurski

Inspired by:

Ryan Adams, Chris Cornell, Eddie Vedder, Emily King, D'Angelo, Bill Withers, Justin Pierre

"I'm not going to play anything I can't pour my heart into." 

Straightforward, honest, and un-apologetically raw, Arizona-native Cameron DeGurski (say it with me - "dee" "grr" "ski") doesn't mind baring his soul behind the microphone. He's a self-proclaimed "purveyor of sounds and feels." 

With a style that incorporates elements of folk, soul, grunge, and even alt-country, a genre-specific definition is hard to come by for DeGurski, something he takes pride in. Listeners can find shades of Ryan Adams, Chris Cornell, David Gray, and Bill Withers peeking through in his performances. One word that everyone can agree on? Emotion. 

"I'd rather play something that exudes emotion, and make an audience feel something, ANYTHING, than regurgitate the tunes you can play in any jukebox, at any bar in town. If you want the jukebox, I'll give you a quarter. If you want to share some energy, and leave feeling a little more human, 'I'm your Huckleberry.'"

 I've been a student at ASU, GCC, and I even did a small stint in culinary school - but I've never felt as involved or as much a part of a community as I do here at PVCC. I truly enjoy coming to class and interacting with the other students and faculty. PVCC has really cultivated something special, and I'm glad to be a part of it.



Janae Dunn

Inspired by:

Sara Bareilles, Ed Sheeran, John Mayer, Jason Mraz, Birdy

Janae Dunn is an independent singer-songwriter, and actress in the valley. She has been singing since she could talk, and begun making up my own little ditties shortly after that, and it all blossomed from there. She creates music about promoting self-love, mending heartbreak, and how to navigate the surprises of this rollar-coaster we all call life. Music is much like therapy in some ways for Janae, for it always works as a vessel to unlocking and understanding the emotions and complexities lying within her heart. She thanks God everyday for the creation of music, its incredible power, and the abilities to do it and pursue it. 

I am all about lyrics to a song first: the metaphors and painting pictures and feelings with words. I am super excited to get to perform with a live band; I always love seeing other passionate artists living out their love for music. It's a perfect example of the beautiful power music has in the world and in bringing people together.


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Alex Mullins

Inspired by:

U2, Coldplay, Imagine Dragons, The Killers, Queen, The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen

Alex Mullins is a 23-year-old singer/songwriter from Phoenix Arizona. Alex has been playing around Arizona as well as the greater southwest for the past 4 years both solo and with his former band, Alex Mullins and The Royal. After the disbanding of Alex Mullins and The Royal in 2017, Alex resumed his solo career with a folk, funk, soul and pop flare that stays true to his roots from growing up with the ubiquity of Bruce Springsteen, U2 and countless others. He also continues to compose and write for other artists around the country. His debut EP is set to release in the fall of 2017.

It is humbling to play alongside such talented musicians with savant qualities. All the essentials to recording, performing and live sound were instilled in me at PVCC. Performing here is like a small college reunion every time.


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Ally Owens

Inspired by:

Ann Wilson, Joan Jett, Tracey Chapman, Michael Jackson, Guns N Roses, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin

18 year old Ally Owens performs a wide range of music throughout the Valley as a soloist as well as with her band, Second Soulstice. She was the 2013 Prescott Idol winner, 2015 Miss Tempe’s Outstanding Teen and made it to the semi finals of both the 2014 and 2016 Alice Cooper’s Proof is in the Pudding Talent Competition as a soloist. Ally also enjoys community service including performing at the St. Vincent de Paul Hearts and Hands monthly event, the Annual Arthritis Walk and Juvenile Arthritis Convention as well as creating a fundraiser for the Arthritis Foundation called Mocha for Moola - musical event geared to raise funds. She was selected to be a part of the Arizona Ambassadors Choir and this June she will be traveling to Europe performing with the group.

It's always great to work with new musicians and having new learning experiences. I performed at the Festival of Tales at PVCC and it was fun to interact with the kids and help them see how great music is. Performing on the PVCC stage for Proof is in the Pudding was a great experience!


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Callie Young

Inspired by:

Stevie Nicks, Lana Del Rey, Heart

Callie Young is a sixteen-year-old singer/songwriter from Phoenix, Arizona. She plays guitar, ukulele, piano, and has been performing since she was ten. She was a two time finalist in Alice Cooper's Proof is in the Pudding Competition and has been featured on Alice's Taste of Christmas Pudding CD. Callie had the privilege of being able to perform at the 2017 NAMM Show at the Anaheim Convention Center- the biggest music trade show in the nation. She plays all over the valley at concert venues, restaurants, coffee shops, festivals, and so much more! Callie will be recording and EP this summer.

Playing with a band is always such a fun experience. Don't get me wrong, I love playing with my guitar. But having the chance to dance around and use your whole body when you perform is amazing. 


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Student Feature: Taylor Wilson for Women's History Month

The Sustainable Guide to Uterus Ownership | A Lecture by Taylor Wilson

For Spring 2017's Women's History Month, PVCC Fine Arts student Taylor Wilson presented her lecture titled "The Sustainable Guide to Uterus Ownership". Held on March 29th and attended by students of Karen Fehr (health and wellness) and Tatum Voeller (sustainability), Taylor addressed the taboo topic of menstruation. Her lectured called attention to global mistreatment of women and presented sustainable feminine care products such as reusable cloth ads, Thinx brand underwear, and menstrual cups as viable options to pads and tampons. 

Taylor's presentation also brought up a remarkable statistic: "According to flow, the average woman throws away 250-300 pounds of pads and applicators in a lifetime, and considering the average woman menstruates for 38 years, that’s about  62, 415 pounds of garbage!" Taylor discussed the material benefits of switching to sustainable products, "An estimate is that over the course of a lifetime a woman could save $4000 by switching to use of a menstrual cup." 

We got a chance to ask Taylor more about her lecture. She shared with us the motivation for this talk, her experience at PVCC and what she hopes listeners came away with:

What is your major/medium as an art student? 

I work in a way that doesn't restrict me to certain mediums. Really, my process is to work from a concept to whatever medium best represents it. I usually start with some form of interview process where I ask others around me questions related to my topic in order to generate ideas for what will best work.

What motivated you to give this talk? 

I became interested in the topic of menstruation after becoming aware of sustainable menstrual products like the DivaCup, which were a healthier option than what I had been raised to be aware of. In doing research, I discovered many of the stigmas and taboos that women internationally have to deal with that can even prevent them from having access to information about their bodies.

Describe your experience as a PVCC art student.

I have had an amazing experience in PVCC's art program. I came from doing IB Art in high school and needed someplace that would allow me to continue to foster that development and growth with a bit more conceptual rigor than I would find in a basic art class. The classes that I took over the last two years, especially with Adria Pecora, have done that and then some. I've been given to many opportunities to push myself and my work to a place that I would not have been able to achieve on my own, and I am so appreciative of that.

Describe a positive interaction had before, during or after your talk (either with a faculty member or participant).

Many of the questions that I received during my lecture were encouraging in that there were people that were genuinely interested in the new ideas I was presenting, and I received a request to submit an application to teach most of the same information at a local summer camp.

What do yo hope listeners take away from your lecture?

I hope the people that came to hear me speak came away with knowledge that there are more options in the world than just the disposable products we have all been taught to be aware of, and that they are at least willing to try something like a menstrual cup that could save them money and could prevent more non-biodegradable waste from filling landfills and polluting the environment. I also hope that I was able to spread awareness of the need for women in the developing world to have access to information about their bodies and of the taboos that need to be broken in order for them to have a better quality of life.

Taylor Wilson is an interdisciplinary artist currently residing in Phoenix. She is passionate about sharing the art world with the community and using art to foster understanding between others. She has been featured in the Emerging Artist's Exhibition on PVCC's campus in 2017 and received the PVCC Visual Arts Scholarship in 2016. 

Festival of Tales: A Literacy-Based Celebration | April 29th, 2017

In addition to the FREE BOOKS, GREAT GAMES, FOOD TRUCKS & ARTS+CRAFTS offered at the 2017 Festival of Tales, the day is full of great entertainment, STORYTELLING and LIVE MUSIC! Check out some of our featured entertainers below.

Maps & event schedules are provided on the day of the event along with your raffle tickets for free prizes & books.

It’s amazing to be able to turn a learning environment into fun with the family. This was my first time going to the Festival of Tales and I thought it was the cutest thing ever. They had good music, great books, and awesome craft activities for the kids!
— Sandra Israel, Fall 2016


with author Phoebe Fox and Illustrator Michael Hale

The Spring 2017 Festival of Tales is pleased to welcome author Phoebe Fox to our storytelling lineup. Along with illustrator Michael Hale, she will be reading from their newest book "UP UP UP" published by Southwest Human Development. 

Via mamafoxbooks.com:

Reading aloud to children is one of my favorite things to do.  In fact, I have enjoyed reading aloud to young audiences for almost twenty years.  As a library media specialist in the Tempe Elementary School District and later as the librarian at Christ Church School in Paradise Valley, I read to and taught library skills to children ages three to twelve years.
Music, singing, puppets, big books, games, art activities, author studies and visits, and more helped me engage my students in all kinds of stories.  And we had a blast!  Now I get to share my love for children's literature and read my very own books to children all over the Valley.


Storytelling sessions will be held at 10:00am, 11:30am and 1:00pm. Schedules with descriptions are provided on the day of the event.

The storytellers get Two Thumbs Up! Great job once again, PVCC! We absolutely love this event.
— Julie Martina Berlin, Fall 2015

live music in the amphitheater

9:00am    North Ranch Elementary Hand Chime Choir 9:00a
9:30am    Valley Academy Choir
10:15am    AZ Beat Lab
11:00am    Benchmark Show Choir
11:30am    Copper Canyon Kids Choir
12:00pm   Copper Canyon Junior Choir
12:30pm   Sophie Dorsten from Alice Cooper's Solid Rock
1:00pm     Eddie Eberle
1:30pm     Janae Dunn




Our headline panel discussion this semester is "Females in the Military." Join various speakers for an inspiring group discussion sure to be enjoyed by all. 


Storybook Theater Performance

1030am & 12:00pm

Stage Dreams Youth Theater


Seven free books, free kinetic sand, storytelling sessions, and an obstacle course make for an awesome Saturday.
— Kathy Dix Biallas, Spring 2016

Student Feature: David Warner, Visual Arts

We recently sat down with David Warner, PVCC student and visual artist to discuss his work, his experience at PVCC and his creative process. David's colorful, symbolic paintings explore themes of loss and gain, perseverance, and the search for one’s own integrity and truth. He expresses these ideas through a combination of abstract and surreal elements. 



  "Taking the Dark to Light"

"Taking the Dark to Light"

When did you know you were an artist?

I started drawing when I was about 3 years old. At the time it was something that I really enjoyed and lost myself in. At one point when I was about 5 or 6 I remember vividly experiencing this physical and spiritual rush of excitement. It was around this point that I realized I loved drawing.  Around the same age I was drawing Biblical stories, scenes from Moby Dick, whales and scenes from movies such as “Jaws”, “Indiana Jones” and others. I was also interested in acting and directing for a long time and that deep passion has stayed with me as I’ve gotten older. 

How did you begin painting?

I first started painting seriously about 4 or 5 years ago. From a very early age I was very invested in drawing with pen and graphite before people started continuously encouraging me to use color in my work (something I was initially resistant to). I first tried oil painting when I was a senior in High School: there one was one night when I decided to bring a canvas and paints home and I painted for about 4 or 5 hours. It was that night that I realized oil painting was my passion. For some reason, the blending, the application and feel of the paint made so much sense to me and I was able to pick up the process very quickly.

  "The Plants Never Worry About Blooming"

"The Plants Never Worry About Blooming"

  "The Thing That Makes Me Slow Is The Thing that Makes Me Drive"

"The Thing That Makes Me Slow Is The Thing that Makes Me Drive"

Are you attracted to any other visual forms of art?

Yes. Around the same time that I picked up drawing at a young age, movies were another thing that I absolutely loved and obsessed over. To this day, I am a very committed and passionate film-watcher. 

How do you decide what you will paint?

Currently it is something that just comes to me. These days I just sit down in front of the canvas and let it loose. Right now I am invested in bringing several ways of painting something (aesthetically and technically) into a singular painting. Creativity is something that is always there, but on some days I feel it strongly and on other days I struggle to really tap into it. When I first started oil painting around 2012-2013 I would draw and sketch out the idea a few times before I would finally commit it to canvas. For the past year I have been working on a process where I start painting an image that is planned out and I destroy it (usually out of frustration) by painting over it with an abstract field. Once the painting dries, I got to it again and fully flesh out my idea. Sometimes it’ll take a couple of months to fully finish a painting, so I try to have a few going during the same time. My process is always evolving and changing and I try my best to go with it.

 "Speaking To You is Like Breathing"

"Speaking To You is Like Breathing"

  "Watcher of Thought"

"Watcher of Thought"

What are your influences?

My influences span from movies, music and painting to psychology, spirituality and day-to-day experiences. My earlier influences came from film, but at around the same time I was exposed to painters such as Salvador Dali and Renee Magritte whose work had a tremendous impact on me. For about 3 or 4 years I would hole up in my room and study works by Vincent Van Gogh, Wassily Kandinsky, Jean Michel-Basquiat, Henri Matisse, Caravaggio, Pablo Picasso, Milton Avery and Jackson Pollock among many others. Recently, musicians such as Aphex Twin and John Frusciante have profoundly impacted and spurred on the way I express myself. Film directors such as Paul Thomas Anderson, Michael Mann, John Carpenter and Danny Boyle have always had a special place in my heart. My art professor, Adria Pecora has had a tremendous impact on me during my stay at Paradise Valley Community College. Her versatility, talent and insight as an artist really helped me improve as an artist. She has a way of approaching the creative process and articulating the ideas behind the process that I really admire and look up to.

What is the most difficult aspect of your creative process?

I think that one of the more difficult things about the creative process is not over-thinking it. I have noticed that having expectations for my art is something that does not work for me at this point in my journey. If I approach the canvas with a specific idea that is already mapped out, I struggle to maintain interest. At this point, the creative process has a mind of its own and if I am fortunate enough to organize all of these things in my head without forcing it at the right time, I am truly satisfied. The old cliché “organized chaos” rings true for me. Part of the creative process is relaxing into the frame of mind where thoughts fade and you loosen your grip on control. When you reach that point, the creativity just pours out. So, the difficult part is relaxing and going with it, not against it.

 "Past, PRESENT, Future"

"Past, PRESENT, Future"

What is the most rewarding aspect?

Drawing and painting is always something I have done to find a quiet place where everything makes sense to me. As I have gotten older, I have found that the creative process is inseparable from my spirituality and faith. Painting allows me to explore myself spiritually and connect with God. I feel that I can truly explore my thoughts and emotions and express these things through painting and drawing. It's my way of connecting and communicating to other people. At this point in my artistic journey, connecting with other people is the other most rewarding aspect. If I can communicate myself to people and have an emotional reaction and response, I feel that I have done my job as an artist.

  "Sea of Frequency"

"Sea of Frequency"

What would you change about your talents if you could?

I still have that voice that comes up and says, “You can do this better, why can’t you do THAT? What is not working in this painting?” I find that that critical voice can really push me to improve as an artist, but I still have to remind myself to appreciate and love what I do paint. I think most artists are like this. I want to find that balance of being objective and improving my craft but also appreciating and loving what I am doing. On a lighter note I would love to be able to play and create music. It is something that I have absolutely no channel to. 

What has been your experience at PVCC?

I have had an absolutely incredible, life-changing experience at this school. For a while I was lost and not sure as to what path to take in my life. All of my classes at this institution have been excellent and I simply enjoy walking the campus and encountering the faculty and fellow students who make this whole experience unique and fulfilling.

 "Nostalgic Sadness" 

"Nostalgic Sadness" 

Describe a positive interaction with a PVCC professor.

A couple of years ago I was finally convinced to return to school after years of shrugging it off. I attended SCC and was heading toward a degree in film before I dropped out. I had been lost for about 3 years prior to the decision to return to school. During my first semester at PVCC I attended a life-drawing class taught by Adria Pecora. I was initially terrified and very within myself; I hadn’t been to school in years and I was afraid. Adria from the first week was able to bring out my passion and my desire for learning. She basically opened my mind to all sorts of new possibilities creatively and gave me a support system that to this day I am absolutely grateful for. She has been incredibly helpful and committed to me as a PVCC student. I credit her as being an integral part of my transformation as an artist and as a person. She helped guide me to where I am now. I’ll be attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for my undergraduate degree and she encouraged me to take those steps to achieve that goal. She wrote an amazing letter of recommendation for me and I am very grateful for all of her support. She is an amazing artist, a supportive teacher and a good friend.

 "Pain and Pleasure"

"Pain and Pleasure"

Describe the group/community/class environment in your art classes.

I have found that the art classes are THE place to really engage with fellow students. Art is communication. I think the art classes offered at PVCC provide an atmosphere where students can really engage and learn about each other through expression. The whole experience is very enjoyable, supportive and therapeutic. I would highly recommend that even people who are not headed toward a degree in the Art field attend at least one class. There are many opportunities here and the professors are excellent.

You were recently featured in a gallery show at the Center for Performing Arts, how did that feel? 

It felt great to represent my school. Most of my paintings if not all were gathering dust in my room and I was waiting to get them out there for people to see. The only people who were aware of them were my art professors, colleagues, friends and family. To have several of them displayed for a month was a great feeling. I was happy to be in the show alongside other PVCC student artists.

How did you select which pieces to enter?

I kind of knew immediately which pieces I wanted to put in the show, but there was some deliberation between pieces I wasn’t so sure about. I asked my family and friends to choose which pieces they liked best. I didn’t rely absolutely on their opinions, but I did take into account what they had to say. I still struggle sometimes with choosing the pieces for myself rather than relying on critiques and opinions from other people. I do consider art to belong to both the artist and the viewer, so I do take critiques objectively and I try to see how people respond to certain works. Granted, I will never change something in my work because of someone else’s opinion.

What do you hope viewers think or feel when they interact with your work?

As long as a viewer can be intrigued and interested with what I have painted, I am truly happy. I want my art to make people happy. I want people to experience a familiarity to my work that resonates with their own life. I want to connect with people on an emotional level and if I have done that I have done my job as an artist successfully.

 "Memories of You"

"Memories of You"

Exciting Spring 2017 Events at PVCC


Featuring PVCC's Wednesday Night Jazz Band and SCC's Jazz Big Band

Wednesday, March 29th at 7:30pm. $5 for MCCD students with ID.

Come out to see some great big band jazz featuring the PVCC Wednesday night ensemble presenting the music of Charles Mingus, directed by Adam Roberts and the SCC Jazz Big Band performing jazz favorites, directed by Eric Rasmussen.

The Nash is located at 110 E Roosevelt St, Phoenix, Arizona 85004

Click Here To Purchase Tickets Online


Saturday, April 1st at 7:30pm.

A kaleidoscopic view of the great record, taking the audience to unexplored aspects of the songs from "Revolver" - the 1966 classic Beatles recording. Highlights include: a drum-and-bass version of 'Eleanor Rigby', an avant-garde jazz version of 'Yellow Submarine'; and a harmonically-dense ballad of 'And Your Bird Can Sing' reminiscent of the music Bill Evans.

Click Here To Purchase Tickets Online


Featuring music by PVCC's Monday Night and Wednesday Night Jazz Bands

Wednesday, April 5th at 7:00pm. CPA Outdoor Stage. Free Admission. 

Audience is invited to bring folding chairs or blankets for lawn seating.


Thursday, April 6th at 7:00pm. Aquila Hall Outdoor Stage. Free Admission. 

Audience is invited to bring folding chairs or blankets for lawn seating.

PVCC's Black Mountain Campus is located at  34250 N. 60th Street, Scottsdale, AZ 85266 (60th St and Carefree Highway).

ALL MY SONS by Arthur Miller. Directed by Joe Flowers.
April 14, 15, 21, 22 at 7:30pm and 22 & 23 at 2:00pm. Admission:  $6-$12.  

In 1947, Arthur Miller exploded onto Broadway with his first major work, All My Sons, winning both the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best New Play and the Tony for Best Author. The play introduced themes that would preoccupy Miller throughout his career: the relationships between fathers and sons and the conflict between business and personal ethics.  All My Sons is still a powerful show, a true classic of the Theatre. 

Click HERE to purchase tickets

Festival of Tales is a fun day of reading, literacy and cultural activities for children and families that includes storytelling, arts and crafts, games, face painting, live music, food trucks and much more! PVCC’s Art of Storytelling classes Program, Division of Fine & Performing Arts, and the Music Program, this free event for children in the community.

For information, visit us online at www.festivaloftales.com



Free Children's Storytelling Festival: The 2017 Festival of Tales

Saturday, April 29th from 9:00am-3:00pm

Festival of Tales is a fun day of reading, literacy and cultural activities for children and families that includes storytelling, arts and crafts, games, face painting, live music, food trucks and much more! PVCC’s Art of Storytelling classes Program, Division of Fine & Performing Arts, and the Music Program, this free event for children in the community.

For information, visit us online at www.festivaloftales.com

2017 Juried Student Art Show: CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS

PVCC STUDENTS: Want your artwork showcased in the 2017 Juried Student Art Show? 

This is open to all students currently enrolled at PVCC (not just art students) during either Summer,/Fall, 2016, or Spring 2017 are eligible. 

Fee: $5 each, up to 3 works of art (2D & 3D media accepted)

Submit work: Friday, March 24, 1-5 pm, CPA Building. Artwork must be ready to display/hang in a professional manner.

Exhibit duration: April 3 - May 7, 2016

Reception: Wednesday, April 12, 5:30 pm

The Sgt. Pepper's Project: the significance of the album cover

By Tomi Johnson, Art History Faculty

Transcribed from a lecture given on February 16th, 2017

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is not only considered one of the best rock albums ever recorded, but its complex artistic design has made it one of the most iconic images from the second half of the 20th century.

This talk will explore the imagery with particular emphasis on the influences and motivations behind the intricate designs included in the packaging.

For this talk, I am indebted to a number of Beatles biographers, particularly the work of Hunter Davis and Steve Turner.

In order to understand the imagery of the Sgt. Pepper album, it is necessary to look at the time and context of its design.

By 1966, the Beatles had grown tired of constant touring and battling day to day just to live their lives.  They also discovered, to their horror, that the constant screaming of the crowds and the inability to hear themselves or each other during live shows had caused their playing to become incredibly sloppy.

They were also growing up, getting married, starting families, and developing interests that had long been dormant during the heights of Beatlemania.  

In 1966 the Beatles recorded Revolver, a watershed album that paved the way for the even more radical experimentation of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

In 1966 Paul McCartney began collecting the works of pop artist Peter Blake.  Peter Blake would be asked to coproduce the cover of Sgt. Pepper the following year.  McCartney had begun collecting modern art to decorate the home he had recently purchased in St. John’s Wood in London.

The young German artist Klaus Voormann had been chosen to create the cover for the previous album, Revolver, seen pictured here with Voormann.

Voormann’s style of drawing in black ink was very reminiscent of an English Victorian era artist by the name of Aubrey Beardsley.  

Beardsley was best known as the illustrator of Oscar Wilde’s Salome, a work that was highly eroticized, as most of Beardsley’s work was.  Here we see Salome embracing and nearly kissing the severed head of John the Baptist. A portrait of Beardsley would appear on the cover of Sgt. Pepper, and McCartney also collected some of Beardsley’s original works.

Revolver broke new ground in pop album artwork, in that it didn’t emphasize the Beatles’ physical attractiveness, nor did it display their name anywhere on the front cover.  Smaller photographs were inserted into the drawings, showing the Beatles in previous years, almost as if the old photographs represent a nightmare from which they are now escaping.  

The cover of Sgt. Pepper would duplicate this, with the Beatles standing beside their wax dummies as they were created in 1964 for Madame Tussaud’s Wax Musem.

The entire cover of Sgt. Pepper is filled with personal references of personal interests, people they admire, and even personal belongings.  In the lower left quadrant is a ceramic fukusuke figure that John Lennon bought in a shop while in Tokyo in 1966.  It is a “god of fortune” meant to bring good luck and prosperity to the owner.

Another personal element included in the album design was the inner sleeve, the actual vinyl jacket.  It was designed by the artist duo known as “the Fool.”  The Fool was Dutch artist Marijke Koger and her partner Simon Posthuma.  Koger had done extensive painting designs in George Harrison’s home after he and his wife Pattie returned from spending five weeks in India in 1966.

Unfortunately, only the first pressing of Sgt. Pepper included this element, and it is no longer available today.

But what about the concept of the album as a whole?  Why did the Beatles decide to record an album that was titled under a different name?  And where did this idea come from?

In 1966, Paul McCartney went on a long overseas trip under a different name, and wearing a simple disguise of a moustache and sunglasses.  It was enough to work, and allow him to do things that Paul McCartney could never do without being at best harassed or at worst mobbed by an enthusiastic public.

On his long flight home from Africa, he spent some time reflecting on the feeling of freedom he’d experienced, and how that might be applied to the Beatles as a whole.  They were all feeling constricted by the constant touring, public appearances, and expectations that they continue to write and record bubbly pop songs.

I feel this is powerfully represented in visual form by placing the Madame Tussaud’s figures next to the Beatles on the cover of Sgt. Pepper.  It is visible proof of how the public saw and responded to the Beatles as a frozen, static entity, rather than as developing human beings who wanted to express their personal and artistic growth.

McCartney began thinking about adopting an entirely different identity for the group, something that could allow new dimensions in their creativity.

McCartney is quoted as saying, “I thought – let’s not be ourselves.  Let’s develop alter egos so we’re not having to project an image which we know.  It would be much more free.  What would be really interesting  would be to actually take on the personas of a different band.”

While McCartney was pondering these things, he was served a meal on the airplane, and given packets labeled “S & P”.  McCartney came up with the joke – Sgt. Pepper, instead of “Salt and Pepper.”  He liked the way it sounded.  He decided that Sgt. Pepper would be the leader of this new band.

Working off this idea, McCartney imagined the character to be from a previous generation, from the Victorian or Edwardian military band.  

Recently, “retro” style had become popular in England, and old army dress jackets with brass buttons, epaulettes, high collars, and stripes were at the cutting edge of street fashion.  It was taking the symbols of British imperialism and re-appropriating their message:  instead of symbolizing discipline, submission, and hierarchy, they were now associated with the youth sub-culture of freedom, rebellion, and equality.  

The Beatles were not the first to explore this type of appropriation.  Pete Townshend of the Who had worn a jacket made from the Union Jack for the photo shoot for Observer Magazine and subsequently wore it in concerts.   Others exploring this type of fashion rebellion were Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton.

As McCartney continued to develop his concept, he gave the character of Sgt. Pepper a band:  Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  It sounded old-fashioned and also psychedelic.

McCartney was further inspired by the release of Freak Out! A new album by Frank Zappa’s band The Mothers of Invention.  Inside the gatefold Zappa printed the names of 179 people who according to Zappa, “contributed materially in many ways to make our music what it is.”

The list included Elvis Presley, Ravi Shankar, comic Lenny Bruce, novelist James Joyce, artist Salvador Dali, producer Phil Spector, and actor John Wayne, and of course, many more.

The cover of Sgt. Pepper would acknowledge significant influences in a visual way, and on the front cover.

One of the first songs that the Beatles worked on was McCartney’s “When I’m Sixty-Four.”  McCartney had written the music as a teenager, and would sometimes play it live in the early days of the Beatles in the Cavern, as an instrumental on the piano.

Now he put lyrics to the tune and made it into a vaudeville-inspired song that sounded like it came from the 1920s.  McCartney wanted to make the point that Sgt. Pepper’s band could play music from any era or culture.

The final eclectic mix of musical styles on the album is a result of the wide-ranging interests of all the Beatles, and again is visualized in pictorial form on the album cover.  They drew upon a large frame of reference, and pictured themselves, in this case literally, as part of the tradition of painters, sculptors, filmmakers, poets, and novelists.

I will not identify each and every figure on the cover, as that would be tedious, and the information is widely available.

What is significant is that there are 14 actors, 11 writers, 8 visual artists, 6 comedians, and only 4 musicians.

It is easy to literally see that the Beatles saw themselves in a broader cultural context than being merely musicians and songwriters.

This idea of identity reinvention was appropriated by other popular artists who followed the Beatles such as David Bowie, and Madonna.

But, possibly the most obvious homage to this idea of artistic alter ego was by the English group XTC, pictured here on their album The Black Sea, who also cut several records as “The Dukes of Stratosphear,” an obvious loving reenactment of the Beatles retro-psychedelic exploration of artistic freedom.


Thank you.