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Thursday, January 31, 2013 - February News

We begin this month by reminding you of our ongoing Thursday Arts-After- Work Series with performances starting at 6 p.m. and a "pay what you wish" ticket price. On February 7, we have a very special offering that no dance lover should miss. Contemporary dance companies Shifting Sol and soduo will appear in Varner Recital Hall in an artistic exploration called Take Root, based on themes inspired by trees. Among the highlights will be a dance inspired by images of ancient yew trees which are visually stunning. The trees have interweaving branches that fracture. Those images reminded the choreographers of “tangled octopuses” and they have attempted to capture this idea in dance.

In this multifaceted collaborative event, choreographers and OU dance professors Thayer Jonutz and Ali Woerner celebrate continuous growth and intricacy. Multimedia specialist Alvin Hill has composed a score of electronic music which creates an environment for the dancers to exist in physically. If you cannot make the Thursday performance, Take Root will also be performed on  Friday, February 8 at 8 p.m. when tickets are $14 for general admission and $8 for students. Watch your email for notification of the rest of the Arts-After-Works Season.

We send our warmest congratulations to Dr. David DiChiera, who in January received the Eminent Artist Award from the Kresge Foundation. The citation read, “The Kresge Eminent Artist award and $50,000 prize recognize DiChiera’s contributions as founder, music and general director of the Michigan Opera Theatre, his creativity and commitment to the community and his efforts to build cultural bridges through the arts.” You can read the full text here.

We feel a special connection to Dr. DiChiera because it was a position on the music faculty of the recently opened Oakland University that first brought him to Michigan in 1962. He spoke about this in an interview with the Kresge Foundation. “If it was about the weather, I wouldn’t be here. I’m a Californian. Chancellor Varner said to me when I came out . . . and he showed me the campus, which was very new at that time . . . ‘You know, David, this all has to be done by people with vision. If you have that, I think you’ll want to come here.’ And I did. I chose Oakland University over some very established universities on either of the coasts, because I realized that at those universities, they were going to ask me to specialize in areas that I was published in. But at Oakland, I thought: I can help shape this university. And I did that for 10 years.” You can read the rest of Dr. DiChiera’s interview on the Kresge Foundation website.

In the years since Dr. DiChiera left OU, our department has grown and flowered, which means we have many award winners of our very own to congratulate. Please read the article about how successfully our theatre students represented us at the recent Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Region III conference at Saginaw Valley State University.

One of our music students recently received a prestigious award, the Rosamond Haeberle Piano Award, which is given every year by the Tuesday Musicale of Greater Pontiac in memory of one of their former members. Alexandra Zetye played Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in F sharp minor and Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in E Major to win the competition. Rebecca Happel, Alexandra’s piano teacher, helped her prepare her music, but Alex also gives much credit to her former teacher Yin Zheng, with whom she studied for three years. Astonishingly, Alex is a quadruple major. In addition to piano performance, she is majoring in engineering biology, math and French language.

This month also saw the announcement of our own Oakland University Concerto Competition winners. Joe Walters, Emily Hudock, Luke Perzyk, Nicolette Book and Chynna Roose were delighted to be chosen and now have the honor of appearing with the Oakland Symphony Orchestra at their next concert on Sunday, February 10 at 3 p.m. Please read more about our students in the article about this concert, which will be the 16th Annual David Daniels Young Artists Concert.

One of the concerto winners had a great experience over the holiday break. Voice major Chynna Roose wrote to tell us about it. “I had the opportunity to participate in a recording of a new composition by Dolora Zajick. The piece will premiere at Carnegie Hall to commemorate the 500th birthday of Saint Teresa of Ávila. It will be used to promote the opera and raise funds for the production. The piece is written for dramatic soprano, orchestra and woman’s chorus. For the purpose of the recording, the lead role was split between Ms. Zajick, myself and other students from Ms. Zajick’s Institute for Young Dramatic Voices. It was an honor to sing with such marvelous musicians in both the orchestra and the ensemble. The orchestra consisted of Carmelite nuns who have retired from a life in the spotlight for a life of service in the mountains of Reno, Nevada. They are not your average nuns. These women were some of the top musicians in the country, playing for Leonard Bernstein and the New York City Ballet. It was my first paid gig and a great learning experience.” We encourage other students to send us news of their opportunities and experiences.

We also have news from our faculty. At the recent Michigan Music Conference at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids, two of them gave very popular presentations. Oakland County Teacher of the Year 2012 Mike Medvinsky, who teaches Music Education Technology at OU, presented “Assessing Individual Student Growth in the Arts” and “Songwriting and Joining a Global Community.” The latter presentation was so popular, Mike gave it twice.

Also presenting at the conference was Alan MacNair, who directs the University Chamber Orchestra and also teaches at Troy High School. Alan is one of the country’s most highly respected string teachers. He gave a clinic on “The Perfect Rehearsal.” We hear there was standing room only for this presentation in which Alan spoke about ways to maximize efficiency during rehearsal time. He also addressed issues such as ensemble practice, balance and style. And he gave away his secrets concerning “finding a balance between patience and impatience” when working with students! He took a group of 20 students with him from his top orchestra to demonstrate ensemble rehearsal technique.

Associate Professor of Music Education Joe Shively presided over a session at the conference and many of our students attended as did other faculty. Conference topics were diverse and substantive. If you attended we hope you stopped by the OU booth.

Theatre faculty member Jeremy Barnett let us know of his most recent design work. He is working on the design for Next to Normal for our friends and neighbors at Meadow Brook Theatre. Read more about Next to Normal here.

Finally, if you didn’t attend the recent North American International Auto Show in Detroit you will have missed theatre faculty member Tom Mahard’s most recent gig playing Henry Ford. Listen to Tom’s interview on WDET and catch up with what that was all about!

Photo: Top right: Alexandra Zetye, photo by Johnston Photography in Clarkston, Michigan.

Middle left: OU attendees at the Michigan Music Conference, photo by Carly Uhrig.

Lower right: Tom Mahard as Henry Ford.