The Arts—Agents of Change and Source of Enchantment | Carl E. Olson | CWR
Dana and Ted Gioia discuss literature, music, education, business, culture, and the Catholic Faith.
Dana and Ted Gioia (pronounced JOY-uh) are authors, musicians, composers, critics, educators, and businessmen. They are also brothers, born and raised in Hawthorne, California, in an Italian-Mexican, Catholic family. Although both have been interviewed numerous times over the years, this marks the first time they have been interviewed together, answering the same questions.
Dana Gioia (www.DanaGioia.net), the eldest, is an internationally acclaimed and award-winning poet, and the former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. He received a BA and an MBA from Stanford University and an M.A. in Comparative Literature from Harvard University. He has published four full-length collections of poetry (and several shorter collections), and the collection Interrogations at Noon won the 2002 American Book Award. His poetry has also appeared in numerous anthologies. His 1991 book, Can Poetry Matter?, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award. His poems, translations, essays, and reviews have appeared in many magazines, including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Washington Post Book World, The New York Times Book Review, Slate, and The Hudson Review. Dana has written three opera libretti and is an active translator of poetry from Latin, Italian, and German. Renominated in November 2006 for a second term and once again unanimously confirmed by the US Senate, he was the ninth Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. He left his position as Chairman in 2009, and in 2011 he became the Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture at the University of Southern California, where he teaches each fall semester. He is also a member of the College of Fellows at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology (Berkeley). Dana has been the recipient of ten honorary degrees and has won numerous awards, including the 2010 Laetare Medal from Notre Dame. He and his wife, Mary, have two sons, and he divides his time between Los Angeles and Sonoma County, California.
Ted Gioia (www.TedGioia.com), seven years younger than Dana, has published eight non-fiction books, most recently the bestselling The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire. His book The History of Jazz was selected as one of the twenty best books of the year in 1997 by Jonathan Yardley in The Washington Post, and was chosen as a notable book of the year in The New York Times. His 2008 book Delta Blues was also selected by The New York Times as one of the 100 most notable of the year, and was picked as one of the best books of the year by The Economist. In 2006, Ted published two books simultaneously, Work Songs and Healing Songs, and both were honored with a special ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award. His 2009 book, The Birth (and the Death) of Cool, was a work of cultural criticism and a historical survey of hipness, and his concept of post-cool, outlined in this work, was highlighted as one of the “ideas of the year” by Adbusters. Ted’s writings have appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Salon, American Scholar, Hudson Review, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among other publications. Ted received a degree in English at Stanford (graduating with honors and distinction), served as editor of Stanford’s literary magazine, Sequoia. He also worked extensively as a jazz pianist during that time, and designed and taught a class on jazz at Stanford while still an undergraduate. After graduation, Gioia received a degree in philosophy, politics, and economics at Oxford University, where he graduated with first class honors. He then received an MBA from Stanford University. Ted has also consulted to Fortune 500 companies, and has undertaken business projects in numerous countries on five continents. In the 1980s he established a formal jazz studies program at Stanford, and served on the faculty alongside artist-in-residence Stan Getz for several years. His first book, The Imperfect Art, published in 1988, was awarded the ASCAP-Deems Taylor award and was named a “Jazz Book of the Century” by Jazz Educators Journal. Ted has recorded several jazz albums, including The End of the Open Road, Tango Cool, and The City is a Chinese Vase.
Carl E. Olson, editor of CWR, interviewed Dana and Ted over the past couple of months, asking each the same questions about their childhood, their faith, literature and music, education, American culture, and the role of the Church in supporting the arts.
CWR: Is it accurate to say that two influences profoundly shaped your childhood years: your family’s Catholic faith and your uncle, Ted, who died before you had a chance to know him? What role did each play in your intellectual and cultural formation? What other influences are noteworthy?