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Michigan Muse Magazine

Spring 2014

Message from the Dean

“We continue to look to the performing arts to celebrate, vivify events, enact rituals, and explain our world.”

Recent research has suggested that the great stone monoliths, transported a considerable distance to build Stonehenge, were chosen for their acoustical properties; apparently these prehistoric stones ring when struck. Other researchers have speculated that the locations of Paleolithic cave paintings may have been selected for their acoustical values, related to rituals conducted there. Talk about early music. These people must have known how to party.

Like our most ancient forebears, we recognize that events are profoundly enhanced by music, movement, and drama. Not a year—or semester or week for that matter—passes at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance without such exhilarating events that showcase our students. The past year of 2013-14 was particularly dense with such presentations, beginning almost immediately in September with the announcement of the U-M Gershwin Initiative. A partnership with the families of George and Ira Gershwin, the project allows us to create the first-ever critical edition of these seminal American artists’ work and, with the publication of each edition, to build tremendous performance and research opportunities for students in all SMTD disciplines, and across campus.

The Gershwin announcement was made from the stage of Hill Auditorium at a UMS concert featuring the great soprano—and star of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess—Audra McDonald, accompanied by our University Symphony Orchestra. This was the first of many occasions in which our students played a telling part this year, as their artistry was requested over and over to spark prestigious events and ancient rituals.

SMTD ensembles and soloists performed for New York City-area alumni and friends at Jazz at Lincoln Center; at the welcome for U-M President-elect Mark Schlissel; for the Regents of the University; and at the official groundbreaking ceremony for the Moore Building renovation and expansion project. The USO performed our thrilling mash-up, “Rhapsody in Maize & Blue” (rapidly becoming a classic), as a special farewell tribute to President Mary Sue Coleman at our annual Collage concert.

At the launch of our Victors for Michigan fundraising campaign in November, we announced our $90 million goal with a remarkable event celebrating the range and depth of talent and scholarship that thrives at our School. A more human-scaled Collage, this presentation was nevertheless breathtaking in its display of SMTD disciplines. Even music theory, usually occupying a behind-the-scenes role, took the stage with a delightful deconstruction of what makes “The Victors” the best fight song ever written.

Some might opine that we’ve come a long way from the “rock music” of the Neolithic Age. Still, like our ancestors, we continue to look to the performing arts to celebrate, vivify events, enact rituals, and explain our world, from the pond outward. Our students are stunningly skilled in bringing this ancient and most deeply human dimension to their lives and their communities’.

Christopher Kendall, Dean
Paul Boylan Collegiate Professor of Music
School of Music, Theatre & Dance


In this issue

  1. Collaboration Nation

    SMTD students explore the vast interdisciplinary opportunities at U-M. This summer, several dance majors from the School of Music, Theatre & Dance will be looking to the wind for inspiration…literally. With Ann Arbor Dance Works, the resident professional dance company of the Department of Dance, students are exploring the potential for harnessing the wind as…

  2. The Win-Win Legacy of PPLP

    Celebrating 30 Years of The Piano Pedagogy Laboratory Program On a sun-soaked Tuesday afternoon at the E.V. Moore Building, Kelley Benson, coordinator of SMTD’s Piano Pedagogy Laboratory Program (PPLP), sits with a 13-year-old student at a piano and offers gentle advice. He is playing Sonatina in G major, op. 20, no. 1 by Jan Dussek…

  3. Securely Talented

    Barrett Foa plays a techno-geek on TV, but is never far from his musical theatre roots. Barrett Foa (BFA ’99) never expected to enjoy the security of anything resembling a nine-to-five job. Like most musical theatre graduates, he lived the “gypsy” lifestyle of a Broadway actor/singer/dancer for the first 10 years of his performance career,…

  4. Works of Necessity

    As a freshman at the University of Michigan, Carolyn Dorfman was focused on becoming a teacher. “I wanted to be an educated teacher-to understand the body and teach dance not only from an artistic place but, on some level, from a scientific place; to train dancers in a healthy way.” Dorfman (BFA ’77) has achieved…

  5. Delivering The Goods

    One day a homicidal politico with vengeance issues, the next a sweet and supportive father raising two daughters on his own. Thus goes the life of Matt Letscher, whose ability to inhabit any role has made him one of Hollywood’s go-to character actors. With more than 40 television roles in 20 years-many of them recurring-along…