I learned it from watching him, ok?

by Andy Dudas-

My training and education in anything people would call Art is limited.  Very.  I took only the required ‘Art’ classes throughout my schooling.  But most of that kind of Art was expended doodling in the margins of the homework for my other classes that I should have been concentrating on much more closely.  I don’t have any post secondary education.  I am a product of the public school system of Richmond, Indiana…all in all, I think I turned out ok.

Andy trombone band uniform
photo credit: David Geier

There was a decade spent in music playing the trombone.  When I was just nine years old, my oldest brother’s best friend played the trombone, and with him being the coolest person I knew, it seemed the only choice.  Cool guy = trombone player, right?  Missed that one by a lot.  Sorry, ladies.

But the trombone, like my Art classes, were more of a ‘have to’ than a ‘want to.’  The trombone was shiny and held my attention in the beginning, but over time that waned into work and not play.  That all changed when I got to high school and became a member of the marching band.  Suddenly, the idea of playing music become much more enjoyable.  Combining the aspects of a marching routine and the selections of typically well known music, my band director proved early on with me he was going to have a profound effect on my artistic development.  Of course I didn’t realize at the time that it was happening, all I knew was that it was fun!

Stephen C. Varnell(a bit of legend in our community) had been the director of Bands

Varnell conducting
photo credit: Carol Varnell Gegner

at Richmond High School for a while.  For nearly twenty years, Varnell led the RHS bands in a military like fashion but still managed to make it fun for the kids.  From a teacher’s point of view, he taught us respect not just for those around us, but for ourselves and for the organization(s) we represented.  Lessons learned from him we would bring into our lives as adults and ultimately in some cases, as Artists.

Varnell had a wonderful gift for programming and branding.  His competition and football halftime shows and basketball pregames were always so much fun and very entertaining.  I’m sure his concert season selections were equally as thoughtful, but as a teenager, I was much more interested in playing Edgar Winter‘s “Frankenstein” for a Halloween show, or an arrangement of “Proud Mary” and even “Johnny B. Goode” as part of a movie themed show that included “Ghostbusters,” “Brian’s Song,” “The Pink Panther” and the main theme from “Back to the Future.”

Andy Xmas story
photo credit: Cindy Dorrel Perez

Now, nearly thirty years later I am reminded everyday of the influence this man had on me and the person I am today.  Every time I have stepped into a spotlight on stage, every time I sing alongside either an orchestra or even just a lone piano, directing a show, or when I designed the logo for DIVA(keep reading-full description coming in just a few more lines)…his influence is everywhere.  He imprinted on me and I will never forget that or him.



The connections I have made with other artists and performers over the years has lead

Wizard of Oz 1
photo credit: Brenna Heuberger

us to the creation of DIVA. The Dudas Inspiration Venue for the Arts is alive and breathing as a direct result of this man’s influence on my life. When my wife Amy and I turned DIVA into a reality, I took stock in all that I learned from Mr. Varnell.  Moving forward I find I recall back to the glory days of old when he would call us to attention and begin teaching us a new routine or formation more and more.

I’ve been lucky enough to have been part of a great many wonderful shows at Richmond Civic Theatre.  With each show I learn a new facet of live performance.  A new part of art.  A new piece of this thing called life.  I take great pride in my efforts and rejoice in the successes of me and my colleagues.  Through it all, the respect I learned from my teacher is the common thread.  People can learn a lot of things.  There are some people fortunate enough to have been born with certain abilities of which the rest of us can only be envious.  Whatever it is that I bring to the table as bestowed upon me by my Creator was fostered in my youth by Varnell.

Spamalot 2
photo credit: Doug Wambo

When I do something as simple as nail on a sawtooth hanger to an unpainted canvas in preparation for my next Art project, the largest I have yet to undertake and something we will be hanging in our offices for all to see(more than a little scary) I am reminded of Mr. Varnell.  The man was quick witted with a dry humor for the sarcastic.  So when we are soon to begin our foray into the world of Improv, even in this Varnell will be there with me.

He always has been, right from the start.

If my words here have piqued your interest, please consider donating to DIVA.  Please go through our blog page.  I suspect there are more than a few posts that you would be interested in reading.

Andy Dudas 10/26/2017


Andy Dudas has interests varying from painting and singing, to photography and prop making.  Pretty much anything that has a creative element.  Amateur status in all endeavors, he finds art everywhere he looks.  Always seeking his next inspiration.DIVA logo square transparent bg


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