Thomas Lauderdale Supports Oregon’s Poetry Out Loud Champions

Poets receive an unexpected gift from Pink Martini founder.  

When Jillian Frakes won the Oregon state Poetry Out Loud (POL) championship Saturday, March 31 in Salem, she and runner up Alexander Barnes received an unexpected gift from Pink Martini founder Thomas Lauderdale.

In addition to official awards from The National Endowment for the Arts and The Poetry Foundation and an all-expense paid trip to Washington DC to compete in the national contest this May, Frakes received a $500 pledge from Lauderdale and $100 for her school library. Lauderdale also pledged $300 for Barnes plus $100 for a library of his choosing, as Barnes is homeschooled.  

Lauderdale, who started the small orchestra Pink Martini in 1994 and went on to tour worldwide and sell millions of albums with the group, has been active in Oregon arts, politics and education since the 1980s. During the POL contest last Saturday, he announced his donation of $1,000 to the two winners. “I am thrilled to support the young Oregonians who participate in Poetry Out Loud,” said Lauderdale. He said the contest “gives young people and opportunity to understand great poetry as a performative, immersive experience, which, like music… has the power to bridge differences… and make our worlds better and more beautiful.”

The donation did not surprise Portland artist Sarah Dougher POL 2012 Coordinator. When she told Lauderdale, a friend and colleague, about the contest, “he immediately wondered how he could help,” said Dougher. “(Thomas) is a great supporter of young people in the arts, whether by including them on albums, showcasing them at shows, or generally being a booster of public accessibility for arts experiences, especially for high school students.”

Frakes, 17, a senior at Cascade Christian High School in Medford, not only writes fiction and poetry, she, like Lauderdale, plays piano. Suzanne Ray, Frakes’ teacher at Cascade Christian High, said she was excited for Jillian and for the school. “Jillian has been serious about drama and poetry throughout her high school career. She is both a creative writer and an appreciator of good writing.”

Barnes, a home school student since kindergarten, began mentoring Ashland Middle School sixth grade poetry classes in 2010. Suzanne Barnes, who teaches her son as part of Jackson County Home School, said, “In everything Alexander does, he seems to find a venue to mentor others.” Barnes intends to pursue law and, in addition to poetry, he enjoys debate and public speaking.  
Frakes is slated to represent Oregon in the national finals May 13-15 during an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, DC. The Oregon champion wins a $500 scholarship and her school library will receive $200 for the purchase of poetry books. National finalists will compete for over $35,000 in scholarships.  

Poetry Out Loud was created by The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation in 2004, POL is administered in partnership with Oregon Arts Commission in this state.

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