View from the Pond
Baird Carillon

Baird Carillon Renovated and Celebrating 75th Anniversary

It’s been silent since April 2010, but the Charles Baird Carillon, 120 feet up in Burton Memorial Tower (BMT) on Central Campus, is once again ringing loud and clear. Steven Ball, University carillonneur and assistant professor of organ and carillon at SMTD, oversaw a complete refurbishing to restore the original 1936 carillon to pristine condition. Now completed, the University celebrated the carillon’s 75th anniversary on December 4 with Ball recreating the dedicatory recital that was performed when the carillon was first played on that date in 1936.


Prior to the December celebration, the restored Baird Carillon was unveiled last June with a day of multiple performances on the newly renovated bells, along with a spectrum of other events, during the week-long joint meeting of the World Carillon Federation and the Guild of Carillonneurs.


The Charles Baird Carillon is the principal teaching and performance instrument of the oldest program for the study of carillon and campanology in the nation. Donated by Charles Baird, U-M graduate and former U-M athletic director, the original carillon was replaced in a 1974 renovation and almost sent to the scrapyard before being rescued by Ball. Also restored is the original keyboard, discovered in a warehouse of its owners, the Verdin Company, makers of bells, carillons, and towers. The keyboard was saved from obsolescence by Dr. James E. Harris, world-famed Egyptologist and great supporter of organ and carillon at SMTD, who funded its restoration.



Conductor Kenneth Kiesler and University Symphony Orchestra Honored

Kenneth Kiesler, director of University Orchestras and SMTD conducting professor, and the University Symphony Orchestra (USO) were respectively chosen to receive the American Prize in Orchestral Conducting and the American Prize in Orchestral Performance (college/university division). In accepting the prizes, Professor Kiesler said, “We are honored by the selection, and will regard this not only as affirmation of the work we have been doing, but as an inspiration as we move forward.”


The American Prize is a series of non-profit, national competitions, unique in scope and structure, designed to recognize and reward the very best in the performing arts in the United States. It was founded in 2009 and has been awarded annually in many areas of the performing arts since 2010. In selecting Kiesler and the USO as the recipients of its top orchestral awards in the college/university division, the American Prize judges described the USO as “one of the world’s leading student orchestras” and cited the ensemble’s extensive repertoire and impressive recording and touring history.


Jane Fonda and Richard Perry

Richard Perry and Jane Fonda Hold Q&A with U-M Students

In October, U-M alumnus Richard Perry, recognized as one of the most successful record producers of all time, returned to campus with his partner, Academy Award-winning actress Jane Fonda, to answer questions about their careers and offer advice to students interested in breaking into their respective fields. Perry (BMus ’64) has produced dozens of top-selling albums and singles with some of the biggest names in music, including Barbra Streisand, Rod Stewart, and Carly Simon. He was honored by U-M in 1975 with an Outstanding Achievement Award and that same year established the “Richard Perry Scholarship.” At the intimate Q&A session at Rackham, he and Fonda talked candidly about their lives and careers, discussing the challenges and rewards of their artforms and offering insight into their creative processes. The couple also received a tour of U-M’s North Campus, about which Perry said he was “blown away,” particularly in regard to the Walgreen Drama Center and the extensive recording and technology studios at the Duderstadt Center. He added that if he were a student at U-M today he “would never leave North Campus.”



Carnegie Hall Welcomes U-M Profs. Daugherty & Porter

SMTD will be well represented at Carnegie Hall in March when flute professor Amy Porter takes the stage to perform Trail of Tears for Flute and Orchestra by composition professor Michael Daugherty. Performed with the American Composers Orchestra (ACO) under the direction of George Manahan, the NYC debut of the concerto takes place on March 22 at 7:30 p.m. The ACO, whose mission is to create opportunities for American composers, is presenting Trail of Tears on a program of “musical narratives that connect our national past, present, and future.” The moving concerto was inspired by the forced and tragic relocation of the Native American Cherokees in 1838. “It is a dream come true to perform Trail of Tears at Zankel Hall in Carnegie Hall with this esteemed group,” said Amy Porter. “Trail of Tears is a true vehicle of expression and I think Michael’s writing makes fantastic use of the instrument. I try to channel the writings of the Native Americans, think about their pain and memories of homeland, and it inspires me to be mournful, meditative, and take the listener with me through these emotions.”


Albert Ginastera and Barbara Nissman

“Viva Ginastera” Festival Presents World Premiere of Concerto

The life and music of Alberto Ginastera, the leading Argentinian composer of the twentieth century—who was significantly connected to U-M at the height of his career—was celebrated with a multi-day “Viva Ginastera!” festival at SMTD in December. Featuring multiple lectures and concerts, the centerpiece of the festival was the world premiere of Ginastera’s Concierto Argentino with renowned pianist and SMTD alumna Barbara Nissman (BM ’66, MM ’66, DMA ’69) and the University Symphony Orchestra led by Kenneth Kiesler. Also included were Ginastera’s First and Second Piano Concertos. All three works were recorded by Nissman and the USO for later release.


Nissman enjoyed a long collaboration with Ginastera, beginning with her performance of his First Piano Concerto at U-M in 1970, when he was the composer-in-residence for U-M’s Contemporary Festival. Known for her recordings of the solo and piano/chamber works, Nissman recently discovered the manuscript for Concierto Argentino (written in 1935 and then withdrawn by the composer) in the Fleisher Manuscript Collection in Philadelphia. Aurora Nátola-Ginastera, the late widow of the composer, granted Nissman the exclusive rights to perform and make the first recording of the concerto.



Tennessee Williams @ 100

The Department of Theatre & Drama presented the “Tennessee Williams @ 100 Conference” in October, celebrating the centennial of one of America’s most controversial and acclaimed dramatists. Over four days, scholars, playwrights, and theater artists shared their perspectives on Williams’s impact on theater and the American consciousness, and explored his enduring influence on writers. Presented in conjunction with the Department's production of Williams's Suddenly Last Summer, the conference included multiple panels presenting papers and discussing the genius of the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner’s works and his themes of identity, sexuality, race, religion, age, class, and culture.


The Residential College of the University performed two of Williams’s one-acts, The Parade and Talk to Me in the Rain, and a staged reading of Something Cloudy, Something Clear. Plus, the 1959 film version of Suddenly Last Summer was screened, with a discussion led by Frank Beaver, professor emeritus of speech and communications. The conference’s keynote speaker was award-winning playwright Christopher Durang. His parody of Williams’s The Glass Menagerie, titled For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls, was performed by Basement Arts, the Department’s student-run company. 


Jessye Norman

SMTD and Jessye Norman Headline at Presidential Societies Weekend

 The 2011–2012 school year had just commenced when the SMTD was invited by U-M President Mary Sue Coleman to play a major role in the prestigious Presidential Societies Weekend in September. The annual event featured a special tribute to the music of George Gershwin with a lecture by associate professor of musicology Mark Clague and performances by voice, musical theater, and jazz students. The concert culminated with legendary soprano and SMTD alumna Jessye Norman singing some of Gershwin’s most beloved songs. Norman has a long history of returning to U-M to help mentor the next generation of emerging artists, and during this visit she gave generously of her time, conducting a master class for voice students and providing each with an individual critique.  Jessye Norman’s visit to U-M was made possible by Ambassador and Mrs. Ronald Weiser.



Exploring Einstein on the Beach and Other “Renegade” Works

SMTD and UMS join forces this winter to help audiences delve deeper into performances comprising UMS’s “Renegade” series, which focuses on innovation and experimentation in the performing arts. Musicology professor Mark Clague will lead a series of seven sessions that make up the brand new “UMS Night School.” The sessions are free and open to the public and take place at the Ann Arbor District Library (343 S. Fifth Ave.).


The first session, on January 9 at 7 p.m., will be devoted to exploring the greatly anticipated new UMS staging of Phillip Glass’s rarely performed and revolutionary opera, Einstein on the Beach. In the subsequent sessions, Clague will lead a 30-minute discussion of the previous week’s presentation, followed by a 60-minute introduction to the next performance on the series. The “Renegade” performance series runs from January 20 to March 25 and “UMS Night School” sessions will be held on Monday nights. For more information, visit



University Dance Company Performs Lucinda Childs’s “Dance #1”

The University Dance Company welcomes guest choreographer Lucinda Childs this winter for Dancelucent 2012, their annual modern dance celebration. The company will perform the twenty-minute first section of Childs’s “Dance,” featuring music by Philip Glass. Childs, one of the most celebrated choreographers of our time, created the piece after working with Glass and Robert Wilson on Einstein on the Beach, the groundbreaking opera that is being staged at UMS in January prior to a new world tour. Following performances of the piece by Childs’s company in Los Angeles this past spring, The L.A. Times, wrote: “It is a magnificent work on all levels. And it now includes a new level—that of history.” The Dancelucent program will also include innovative works by faculty Bill DeYoung, Peter Sparling, and Robin Wilson. Dancelucent takes place February 2–5 at the Power Center.