HEAD OF THE MUSIC DEPARTMENT
the end of an academic year is a fitting time to take stock of recent accomplishments and on-going projects and also to look to the future with joy and anticipation.
Indeed, the Muhlenberg College music department has been growing at a rapid pace for the past several years. In fact, this year the number of music majors reached 40, requiring the addition of new faculty and a complete revision of the department's course offerings. As a result, students can now choose between concentrations in performance, music history and music theory and composition.
In addition, in an effort to provide challenging performance opportunities for this growing core of students, many new ensembles have been developed. The Jazz Improvisation Ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Ted Conner, gives students a place to hone their improvisation skills in many jazz idioms. The Collegium Musicum, also under the direction Dr. Conner, provides an opportunity for students and faculty to experience vocal and instrumental music of the Renaissance and Baroque periods. The Chamber Orchestra, which I direct, has steadily grown and matured. We presented an All-Mozart program this spring and in the fall, the Chamber Orchestra will perform the world premiere of a work for glass harmonica and orchestra written especially for us by California-based composer, Garry Eister. This project is made possible by a grant the orchestra has received during each of the past two years from the Bessie Graham Trust here in Allentown.
History buffs might find it interesting to note that the glass harmonica is another of the many inventions that can be credited to Benjamin Franklin. Both Mozart and Beethoven wrote small pieces for this most ethereal sounding instrument.
We are also proud to report that more than 110 Muhlenberg students will include the study of singing in their academic schedules this fall, working with one of the eight voice teachers currently on our staff. A similar number will be studying orchestral instruments, piano or guitar during the coming year. These talented young people will be following in the footsteps of recent Muhlenberg alumni who have gone on to graduate study at the Juilliard School, Peabody Conservatory and other schools of high reputation in areas as diverse as vocal performance and jazz studies. Some of our majors have been accepted into prestigious programs in other fields such as French civilization and culture, reflecting the strong liberal arts background students receive here at Muhlenberg.
Recent months have also been very accomplished in activities outside the classrooms and studios as well. In the spring semester, 28 students participated in a lavish production of "Dido and Aeneas" presented in cooperation with the department of theater and dance. In conjunction with this production, an interdisciplinary conference entitled "Unmasquing 17th Century English Performance" was presented. This event, planned by Dr. Conner of the music department, Dr. Jill Stephen of the English department and Professor James Peck of the theatre department, attracted scholars and performers from the United States and Europe.