Betty Ginsberg Anderson came to Idyllwild when daughter Gemini started in the Idyllwild Arts theater program. “We thought we’d stay for two years while Gemini finished school,” said Betty. “I’m a beach person and wasn’t sure I’d like the mountains. We came up from San Diego and rented a house. But then I started meeting people here.
“It started with the people. People here don’t talk about what they do. I didn’t know what they did but they all seemed really nice. And I’m the kind of person that wants to know about the spirit and hearts of others.”
Soon she and then husband Pete bought a house and launched into the life of Idyllwild. Actually “burst” onto Idyllwild’s art scene would better characterize Betty’s entrance — she is a woman of enormous talent, energy, caring and heart. Whatever she undertakes, she undertakes with full commitment and enthusiasm. And, her levels of talent and expertise in singing, acting, teaching, living and giving are every bit as strong as her enthusiasm and commitment.
Born, raised and schooled in Nashville, Betty was noticed in seventh grade by her choir teacher for her extraordinary voice. She was given a scholarship to train at the Blair School of Music, now part of Vanderbilt University. “It became my home — voice lessons, music theory and music history,” she remembered. Her training at Blair helped land a scholarship to study opera at the University of Evansville in Indiana. Within one semester, Betty had found her passion and migrated from opera study to musical theater. “I got involved in musical theater and that was it. It was both my passion and a family.”
She graduated with a degree in education and a minor in musical theater, and alternated between teaching and performing for most of her career. “Both gave me the same levels of satisfaction and feelings of accomplishment,” she said.
She moved to Tucson, Arizona, and taught at every grade level. She began a master’s degree program at the University of Arizona but after one year was hired to perform regularly at the still popular Gaslight Theatre Melodrama.
“Pete and I started forming bands,” she remembered. “They were all across the board — jazz, ’60s pop and all styles. One of the most popular was one called Betty and the Bebops, a house band at this club. When we started, there were maybe three people in the audience. Not long after there were lines around the block. It was great.
“They say the thing that you do when you lose track of time is your passion. For me, that’s performing. When I perform I can be in shoes that squeeze my toes blue for four hours and not notice. It’s the same with teaching. I just get so caught up in what I’m doing, loving every minute of the experience. My greatest journey as a performer has been to learn ‘less is more,’” she said. “Of course, there’s ‘always leave them wanting more,’ but I mean the less affectation I put on, the more I strip down a performance, that is what brings people in.”
And Anderson has done quite a lot to bring people in — teaching in public and private schools, conducting a performance arts residency for kids who have been through drug and alcohol treatment, performing her own arrangements of songs with the Tucson Symphony, performing in opera and musical theater throughout her career, serving as an adjunct professor of musical theater at Belmont University in Nashville, winning “Best Voice of the Fringe,” at the Orlando Fringe Festival — and all the while, doing so with indefatigable enthusiasm, joy and pleasure in giving. Because, what most characterizes Betty Ginsberg Anderson is her willingness to share, to help others, to encourage and to support.
“Art lets people know that it’s going to go on and it’s going to be OK,” she said. “It’s also a safe place for people to look at themselves and say, ‘Hmmm, I wonder if I could be doing that?’”
Betty is returning to her classical roots by singing soprano with the Idyllwild Master Chorale in its presentation of the Christmas section of Handel’s “Messiah.” Last year, she starred in the IMC production of Stephen Sondheim’s musical “Into the Woods.”
“That role, of the Witch, is my favorite. It let me show two sides of myself and was very challenging, both as an actor and singer.” She also has thrilled and challenged Idyllwild audiences with her audacious cabaret performances. She is a large and magnetic presence on stage and has a large heart in person.
Betty also will be performing in the Idyllwild Actors Theatre’s upcoming Christmas show.
“We can’t deny what we need for our spirit,” she said.