Winter 2004 Magazine Archive & SearchMuhlenberg Home

 

The Last Word
By Ken Butler

 

 

This has been a banner year for the department of music, with 54 declared majors and studios bursting at the seams with 300 students in applied music classes each week. Department Head Douglas Ovens reports that the academic quality and artistic talent of his students continues to rise and that they seek greater
challenges in both the classroom and rehearsal hall.

In addition to the department’s existing performing ensembles – the Chamber Orchestra, Chamber Singers, College Choir, Collegium Musicum, Jazz Ensemble and Wind Ensemble – Ovens has begun a new performing group, the Percussion Ensemble, which debuted in the recent Performing Arts Student Showcase during the President’s Inauguration in October and performed again during the Chamber Orchestra Concert in November. In addition, several of the department’s ensembles – Chamber Orchestra, Wind Ensemble and College Choir – provided the music for President Helm’s inauguration.

The Chamber Orchestra itself is a typical music department success story. Formed in 1997 with only six students, the orchestra has grown to a membership of over 30 staff and students and now tackles challenging orchestral literature, including a recent performance of Mozart’s 39th Symphony (K. 543). In fact, the department mounts at least 25 concerts each year, not counting its departmental recitals, informal concerts where students perform for their peers and instructors.

Music faculty and students also engage in research. Senior Karen Uslin recently completed a paper entitled “Jewish Composers in Nazi Europe.” She studied three composers: Arnold Schoenberg, Viktor Ullmann, and Wladyslaw Szpilaman (the artist on whom the film “The Pianist” is based). Uslin looked at how culture, sociological circumstances and
political situation affected these composers, and performed an in-depth analysis of their music. Assistant Professor of Music Diane Follet and Associate Professor of Physics Jane Flood received a National Science Foundation grant to research and develop a course in musical acoustics, which they will team-teach during the spring, 2004, semester. And Douglas Ovens just released a new CD, “Seven Improvisations: Music for Solo Percussion” on the North/South recording label. The CD
features cover artwork by art department Professors Joe Elliott and Scott Sherk

This spring will prove an exciting semester for singers at Muhlenberg, who will have the privilege of performing the Mozart Requiem (K. 626) in March with the Philadelphia Singers, under the direction of its artistic director David Hayes. The Philadelphia Singers, formed in 1972, has been called “one of the musical treasures of Philadelphia” by Maestro Wolfgang Sawallisch, music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and has been widely praised for its artistry and technique. Acclaimed for its “all-star quality,” the Philadelphia Singers perform regularly with leading national and local performing arts organizations including: The Philadelphia Orchestra, The New York Philharmonic, The Pennsylvania Ballet, The Curtis Institute of Music, The Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and Astral Artistic Services.

This residency and concert will be sponsored by the Baker Artist-in-Residence Program. Begun in 1991 as the result of a $1 million gift from the Dexter and Dorothy Baker Foundation, the Program funds nationally recognized artists to work with students in extended residencies on the Muhlenberg College campus. The term of each residency varies and the artist or company may collaborate with other area arts groups as well as ’Berg music, theatre and dance students, but the thrust of each residency is to allow our students to work on an individual basis with professional artists of high stature in their respective fields.

The Baker Artist-in-Residence Program is shared by the dance, music and theatre programs and has sponsored 10 major residencies since its inception (see sidebar). Twelve musicians, four choreographers, three dance companies, two playwrights, an actor and a theatre company have interacted with Muhlenberg students in residencies that have ranged in length from six weeks to an entire academic year.

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