Lawrence University News

Not Just Fiddlin’ Around: Martha McDonnell Helping Launch World Premiere of Sting Musical in Chicago

Posted on: April 22nd, 2014 by Rick Peterson
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Martha McDonnell ’14

Martha McDonnell is going to miss a seminal moment in her life: her upcoming college graduation ceremony.

And she has musical icon Sting to “thank” for her absence.

The Lawrence University senior and serious fiddler from Wayne, Ill., won’t be able to personally accept her Bachelor of Music diploma at commencement on June 15. Instead, she will be busy performing as a hand-selected member of the pit orchestra for the world premiere run of Sting’s new musical “The Last Ship,” which opens June 10 at downtown Chicago’s Bank of America Theatre.

The production is loosely based on the 16-time Grammy Award winner’s ship-building hometown of Wallsend, England. Directed by two-time Tony Award winner Joe Mantello, “The Last Ship” is scheduled for a 38-show run in Chicago before heading to Broadway’s Neil Simon Theatre in late September.

Thanks to a recommendation from a Scottish fiddle-playing friend of hers, McDonnell was extended one of a limited number of invitations to audition for a chair in the show’s orchestra.

“Going into it, I was very anxious because it wasn’t like any audition I’ve ever done and I really had no idea what to expect.” McDonnell said of the audition conducted at Chicago’s famed Steppenwolf Theatre. “Sting actually hadn’t shown up yet, but he came in just as I sat down to start playing.

“The audition was really casual and laid-back. Sting played his guitar and sang while the show’s music director played the piano,” McDonnell added. “I realized it was just a jam session like I do all the time with my band and at home, so I felt really comfortable. There were a few other musicians auditioning on different instruments as well. We were this little chamber group playing with Sting. It was really fun.”

No Notes, Just Chords

What made the audition unique was the fact McDonnell wasn’t given a written-out score to play. They provided her charts just with chords, no notes.

“Basically I had to listen to the recordings and write most of my own part,” McDonnell explained. “That was a really cool experience because I feel like Sting and his music director got to hear my musicality, my musical thoughts more than just how well I could play what they gave me.”

Martha-McDonnell_newsblog2McDonnell is currently working with Sting and his music director while writing her own fiddle part for the show.

As part of the audition, a personal request from Sting provided an opportunity for McDonnell to showcase her solo skills. She dazzled him with a pair of traditional Scottish fiddle tunes: “Pigeon on the Gate” and “Dinky’s Reel.”

“They seemed to like those,” said McDonnell, who began playing classical violin at the age of six, but had an epiphany the first time she played  “Boilin’ Them Cabbages Down.”

As her musicianship has evolved, McDonnell has employed the discipline and technique of her classical training to take her fiddling to the next level. Conversely, fiddle music also has added depth and joy to her classical performances.

“I realized early on in my playing that these two worlds rarely intersect,” said McDonnell, who plays violin in the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra. “Particularly in my formative years of classical training, I was advised to quit my fiddling ‘hobby,’ as it would only hold me back from becoming a ‘real’ concert violinist. Luckily, my passion for fiddling endured and I have worked to bridge the gap between these two worlds I inhabit.”

Founder of the Involuntary String Band

An important part of her fiddle world includes the Involuntary String Band, a popular folk fusion group that McDonnell founded in 2012. The four-member band grew out of a Lawrence class, the Entrepreneurial Musician, taught by Brian Pertl, dean of the Lawrence Conservatory of Music.

Martha-McDonnell_newsblog3“Martha is a fine violinist, amazing fiddler and wonderful person,” said Pertl. “I first saw her burning passion for fiddling in my Entrepreneurial Musician class. Her joyful nature comes out in everything she does. I am quite sure her gig with Sting will be just the first step in a long and exciting musical journey.”

In its short existence, McDonnell’s Involuntary String Band has already performed for both Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television, wowed the audience as the musical guest for a Lawrence convocation last spring, played in Appleton’s inaugural Mile of Music festival last August and most recently performed a bluegrass concerto with the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra.

“I want to introduce the folk music I love so much to other classical and non-classical musicians in the hope they will break the musical boundaries we have been given,” said McDonnell. “I want to not only mix American styles of folk music, but also to merge them with international fiddling styles and introduce them to a new audience.”

As for whether McDonnell will accompany “The Last Ship” on to New York’s Great White Way later this year, that is still to be determined.

“I think anything’s possible, but that hasn’t been brought up yet,” said McDonnell. “I am hoping I can use this experience as a launching pad for other opportunities.”

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2014 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Convocation Series Welcomes Global Health Pioneer Dr. Paul Farmer

Posted on: April 21st, 2014 by Rick Peterson

Internationally renowned medical anthropologist Dr. Paul Farmer delivers the Lawrence University convocation “In the Company of the Poor” Tuesday, April 22 at 11:10 a.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. He also will conduct a question-and-answer session at 2:30 in the Warch Campus Center. Both events are free and open to the public.

Farmer’s convocation also will be webcast live at htttp://www.livestream.com/lawrenceuniversity beginning at 11 o’clock.

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Dr. Paul Farmer

A professor of global health and social medicine at Harvard Medical School, Farmer pioneered community-based treatment strategies of high-quality health care in impoverished settings worldwide. Named one of the “Best 100 Global Thinkers” by Foreign Policy magazine, Farmer is a founding director of Partners in Health, an organization dedicated to providing health care to the world’s poor. He was recognized with a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation MacArthur “genius” fellowship in 1993.

Influenced as an undergraduate at Duke University by the liberation theology of Catholic clergy resisting dictator rule in Central America and the public health practice of 19th-century German physician and scientist Rudolf Virchow, Farmer felt compelled to improve the situation of global health among the world’s poorest populations.

Farmer began working toward that goal in Haiti while completing his medical degree and medical anthropology doctorate through Harvard Medical School. Over a decade’s span, he introduced medical techniques that cured infectious diseases for a fraction of the cost such treatment would be in a U.S. hospital. These cost-effective, high-quality technologies have since been implemented by Partners in Health  in the Navajo Nation in the United State as well as in Lesotho, Malawi, Mexico, Peru, Rwanda and Russia.

Farmer’s efforts were chronicled in Tracy Kidder’s New York Times bestseller “Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World.” Farmer has written extensively about global health and human rights and serves as U.N. Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Community-based Medicine and Lessons from Haiti.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2014 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

 

Arts Advocate Extraordinaire: Lawrence’s Lynn Hagee Named Recipient of Community Volunteer Award

Posted on: April 18th, 2014 by Rick Peterson

Lynn Hagee’s passion for the Fox Cities’ arts community knows no bounds.

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Lynn Hagee ’58

On any given day, chances are good she can be found greeting guests at an exhibition opening at the Trout Museum, soliciting donations for an area organization’s silent auction, ushering at a Makaroff Youth Ballet performance or sharing her planning expertise at a meeting for an upcoming Lawrence Academy of Music fundraising event.

Next month, Hagee will be recognized as the 2014 recipient of the Hanns Kretzschmar Award for Excellence in the Arts for her dedicated service and leadership to numerous community arts organizations.

Currently the director of special projects at Lawrence University, Hagee has served in a variety of positions ranging from director of catering to director of conferences and summer programs since joining the college in 2001.

Hagee will be one of eight community award winners honored Tuesday, May 6 for their outstanding efforts at the annual “Celebrating Our Volunteers” dinner at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel in downtown Appleton. The event, sponsored by The Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, Inc. and Post-Crescent Media, has saluted deserving area individuals for their volunteerism since 1998.

The Hanns Kretzschmar Award for Excellence in the Arts “recognizes an individual for leadership and volunteer service in local arts organizations and activities; for long-standing commitment to the local arts community; and for noteworthy personal involvement in developing and promoting arts within the community.” Sponsored by Thrivent Financial For Lutherans, the award includes $5,000 to be donated to a charity of the recipient’s choosing.

“An Engaged Stakeholder”

“I’ve never considered the arts an ‘extra.’ They have always been a part of my life,” said Hagee, who graduated from Lawrence in 1958 with a degree in art history and studio art. “To me, the arts are a universal language which can cut across all barriers — racial, cultural, economic and social. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen got it right when he reminds us ‘a community’s quality of life is greatly enhanced by the arts. They  have a crucial impact on our economy and are an important catalyst for learning, discovery and achievement in our country.’”

Hagee’s volunteerism touches numerous organizations throughout the area arts community, including service as a member of the board of directors for Makaroff Youth Ballet and Appleton Downtown Incorporated. She also is actively engaged with Friends of the Library, the Lawrence Academy of Music and the Trout Museum of Art, among others.

“Lynn is a familiar face at artistic events all over the community,” said Linda Drezdzon, executive director of Makaroff Youth Ballet, in nominating Hagee for the award. “And she usually invites a guest or two to expand their exposure to the arts. She recognizes that awareness and participation are essential to a thriving arts community.”

Downtown Appleton Inc. Executive Director Jennifer Stephany saluted Hagee as “an engaged stakeholder” in the community.

“Lynn embodies the true spirit of an arts supporter through her volunteerism, financial support and participation in infusing art and culture in all aspects of our community,” said Stephany in her nomination of Hagee.

Hagee is the third Lawrentian to receive the Hanns Kretzschmar Award for Excellence in the Arts. Rick Bjella, former Lawrence choral director and artistic director of the White Heron Chorale (now newVoices) was recognized in 2006. Arlene Atwood Trettin, a 1961 Lawrence graduate, was honored in 2011 for her long-time work with Kaukauna Community Players.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2014 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Seraphic Fire, Spektral Quartet Present Lenten Tribute in Lawrence University Artist Series Concert

Posted on: April 15th, 2014 by Rick Peterson
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Seraphic Fire

Twice Grammy Award-nominated vocal group Seraphic Fire and the string ensemble Spektral Quartet collaborate in a Good Friday performance of Haydn’s “Seven Last Words of Christ,” a Lenten work offering choral/instrumental treatments to each of the seven last utterances of Jesus on the cross, in a Lawrence University Artist Series concert April 18 in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel.

Tickets, at $22-24 for adults, $20-22 for seniors and $17-19 for students, are available at the Lawrence Box Office, 920-832-6749.

One of America’s leading vocal ensembles, Miami’s Seraphic Fire is best known for repertoire ranging from Gregorian chant to newly commissioned works and has produced a discography that includes 10 recordings.

“Quigley has a strong background in Renaissance and Baroque music, but he’s not a ‘museum curator,’” said Stephen Sieck, Lawrence assistant professor of music and co-director of choral studies. “He creates singularly vibrant performances and often finds masterworks that had gone under the radar for centuries.”

In 2012, Seraphic Fire received Grammy Award nominations for Best Choral Performance for its rendition of Brahms’ “Ein Deutsches Requiem,” which debuted at no. 7 on Billboard Magazine’s Classical Charts, and Best Small Ensemble Performance for “A Seraphic Fire Christmas,” which NPR hailed as “just fabulous” in a review. Seraphic Fire was the only choir in North or South America to be nominated for a Grammy Award in 2012. It also was also the sole classical ensemble to be nominated for two separate projects.

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Spektral Quartet

The Chicago-based Spektral Quartet has been praised for “leading the charge toward progressive, high-caliber contemporary classical music” by The Chicago Reader. The group’s performances focus on eliminating the divide between classical masterworks and present-day compositions, staging intimate concerts with carefully curated set lists emphasizing the “conversational” potential contemporary and classical pairings.

The quartet holds an artist-in-residency at the University of Chicago and often undertakes unique musical projects. For its “Mobile Miniatures” initiative, the quartet commissioned 40 composers to write ringtone-length pieces of music for use on mobile devices.

“If ever there was a combination of ensembles that could provide the very highest of musical refinement and offer it in a new and impactful way, this is that,” said Sieck.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2014 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

 

Lawrence Documentary on Austrian Holocaust Gets Community Screening at Appleton Public Library

Posted on: April 12th, 2014 by Rick Peterson

A free public screening of the Lawrence University-produced documentary film “Surviving Anschluss: Austrian Jews in the Holocaust” will be held Tuesday, April 15 at 7 p.m. at the Appleton Public Library. An audience Q & A follows the screening. In addition to the library, the film is presented in conjunction with the city of Appleton’s diversity and inclusion department.

Surviving-Anschluss_newsblogAnschluss refers to Adolf Hitler’s 1938 annexation of Austria into political union with Germany. The film was created by Lawrence students in the college’s film studies program and was inspired by Lawrence’s 2012 multimedia Holocaust Symposium.

The film features clips from the symposium as well as individual interviews with four survivors of the Anschluss, including Curtis Brown of Neenah. Anne Kelemen, Gerda Lederer and Renee Weiner, all from New York City, along with Brown share personal stories of fleeing Austria in 1938 to escape the Nazis.

The documentary was produced by award-winning filmmaker Catherine Tatge, who is serving as an artist-in-resident at Lawrence, and edited by Anna Ryndova Johnson.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2014 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Pianist Orion Weiss Performs April 11 in Artist Series Concert

Posted on: April 10th, 2014 by Rick Peterson

 Pianist Orion Weiss, one of the most sought-after soloists of his generation, performs Friday, April 11 at 8 p.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel in a Lawrence University 2013-14 Artist Series concert.

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Pianist Orion Weiss performs Friday, April 11 in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel.

Tickets, at $22-24 for adults, $20-22 for seniors and $17-19 for students, are available through the Lawrence Box Office, 920-832-6749.

Known for his deeply felt style, Weiss has performed with leading orchestras across the United States, the Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, New York Philharmonic and Los Angeles Philharmonic among them. Internationally, he has appeared in France, Mexico and China and toured Israel under world-renowned conductor and violinist Itzhak Perlman.

Lawrence Professor of Music Catherine Kautsky praised Weiss as “one of the real rising stars of the young generation of pianists.”

“Orion is doing a fascinating, imaginative program and is well-known for his poetic playing,” said Kautsky, who teaches piano at Lawrence. “It will be wonderful to have him in town. I’m expecting a splendid concert.”

Noted by the Washington Post for his “star power,” Weiss’ virtuosity has earned him numerous honors, including the Classical Recording Foundation’s 2010 Young Artist of the Year title. His discography features a recital album of works by Bartok, Prokofiev and Bartok, which MusicWeb International praised for showcasing Weiss’s “prodigious technique.”

Weiss also released a critically acclaimed album of Gershwin pieces centered on his iconic “Rhapsody in Blue,” which Classics Today deemed “positively luscious.” The album is the first of a two-part recording project of the complete Gershwin repertoire.

Weiss attended the Cleveland Institute of Music and the Juilliard School, where he studied with Grammy Award-winning classical pianist Emanuel Ax.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2014 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Third Annual Lawrence University Latin America Film Fest Celebrates Contemporary Cinema

Posted on: April 8th, 2014 by Rick Peterson

Eight award-winning films from the 2013-2014 international festival season, including appearances by directors Juan Andres Arango and Adrián Saba, highlight Lawrence University’s third Latin American and Spanish Film Festival April 9-12.

Latin-Film-Fest-Logo_newsblogEach film, shown in Spanish with English subtitles in the Warch Campus Center cinema, is free and open to the public.

A reception to open the festival will be held Wednesday, April 9 at 7 p.m. and a closing reception will conclude the festival Saturday, April 12 at 7 p.m. Both events will be held in the Mead Witter Room of the Warch Campus Center.

Prior to the film screening on Friday, April 11, a panel discussion with artist-in-residence and award-winning filmmaker Catherine Tatge and student filmmakers will be held at 4:30 p.m. in the cinema.

“I was intent on bringing some of the best and most sought-after films of the year,” said Rosa Tapia, associate professor of Spanish and organizer of the festival. “Most are regional premieres, which means we beat Madison, Milwaukee and even Chicago in many cases. Our audience will be able to enjoy five films Chicagoans will have to wait until the International Film Fest in October to see.”

Tapia noted the two filmmakers who will be visiting the festival directed their countries’ respective entries for the Academy Awards nominations in the Best Foreign Film category.

“I think our audience will be thrilled to meet these two talented artists, as they tell us about their successful films and their craft,” said Tapia.

The festival line-up:
• Wednesday, April 9, 5 p.m., “After Lucia” (Mexico, 2012)
“After Lucia” follows a man’s relationship with his 17-year-old daughter after his wife’s death. Based on a mixture of several real cases, the film was the 2012 winner of the Prize of Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival.

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A scene from “Wakolda.”

• Wednesday, April 9, 8:30 p.m., “Wakolda (The German Doctor)” (Argentina, 2013)
A family unknowingly lives with a Nazi war criminal. The film was Argentina’s entry for the 2014 Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.

• Thursday, April 10, 5 p.m., “La Playa D.C.” (Colombia, 2012)
Tomas, after fleeing Colombia’s Pacific coast during the war, must search for his younger brother after he disappears. The film was Colombia’s entry for the 2014 Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. A Q & A with the film’s director,  Juan Andrés Arango, follows the screening at 6:30 p.m.

• Thursday, April 10, 8:30 p.m. “So Much Water” (Uruguay, 2013)
A divorced Uruguayan man tries to keep his two rebellious children entertained during a rain-sodden vacation. The directorial debut of Ana Guevara, it was awarded Best Debut Film at the 2013 Miami International Film Festival.       

• Friday, April 11, 5 p.m. , “The Cleaner” (Peru, 2012)
A forensic cleaner becomes accountable for an 8-year-old orphan who has been left behind in the middle of an epidemic crisis in Lima. The film was Peru’s entry for the 2014 Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. A Q & A with the film’s director, Adrián Saba, follows the screening at 6:30 p.m.

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A scene from “White Elephant.”

• Friday, April 11, 8:30 p.m., “White Elephant” (Argentina, 2012)
Two priests face a variety of problems as they work in a Buenos Aires slum. The film was nominated for Un Certain Regard Prize at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.

• Saturday, April 12, 5 p.m. “Gloria” (Chile, 2013)
Gloria, a free-spirited older woman, faces the realities of her whirlwind relationship with a former naval officer whom she meets out in the clubs. The film was Chile’s entry for the 2014 Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. Paulina Garcia won a best actress Golden Bear Award at Berlin’s International Film Festival.

• Saturday, April 12, 8:30 p.m., “Cannibal” (Spain, 2013)
Carlos, a tailor and murderer, only starts to feel remorse and love after meeting Nina. The film won Best Movie, Best Director and Best Script awards at Premios del Cine Andaluz and was nominated for eight Goya Awards, Spain’s version of the Academy Awards.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2014 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

 

Lawrence Welcomes Authors For Annual Fox Cities Book Festival

Posted on: April 6th, 2014 by Rick Peterson

 Lawrence University will host visits by three authors and a book artist in conjunction with the 7th annual Fox Cities Book Festival.  All events are free and open to the public. Lawrence is one of the sponsors of the annual festival.

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David Rhodes

David Rhodes, whose five novels have each received national acclaim, reads Monday, April 7 at 6:30 p.m. in the Warch Campus Center cinema. Rhodes’ most recent novel, “Jewelweed,” centers around the residents of a small Wisconsin town who are trying to come to grips with their problems and make their way in the community. Booklist hailed it as a “many-faceted novel of profound dilemmas, survival, and gratitude.”

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Shawn Sheehy

Book artist Shawn Sheehy appears Thursday, April 10 at 4:30 in the Wriston Art Center. Sheehy, whose limited-edition pop-up books combine paper engineering with an interest in biology and cultural evolution, uses his work to “exploit the expressive potential of a book’s structure.” Sheehy also teaches paper engineering workshops throughout the country. His work is featured in the current exhibition at Lawrence’s Wriston Art Center galleries.

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Bruce Machart

Authors Bruce Machart and Matthew Batt discuss the use of scene and exposition in a craft talk on fiction and creative nonfiction Friday, April 11 at 4 p.m. in the Pusey Room in the Warch Campus Center.

Machart has written a collection of 10 short stories — “Men in the Making” — as well as the award-winning novel “The Wake of Forgiveness,” which was named to several top 10 lists in 2010.

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Matthew Batt

Batt’s work has been featured in the New Yorker, New York Times, Christian Science Monitor and the Huffington Post. He is the author of “Sugarhouse,” a memoir that chronicles his experience and personal growth while renovating a Salt Lake City crack house. A professor of English at Minnesota’s University of St. Thomas, he is currently finishing a collection of essays as well as a new novel.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2014 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Multimillion Dollar Gifts Enable Lawrence University to Establish Two New Endowed Professorships

Posted on: April 4th, 2014 by Rick Peterson
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Amy Abugo Ongiri

Deep-seated appreciation for film and opera has led a pair of Lawrence University alumni and an anonymous donor to establish new endowed professorships at the college. Lawrence requires a minimum of $2.5 million to establish an endowed professorship.

Tom Hurvis, and his wife, Julie, 1960 and 1961 Lawrence graduates, respectively, and the Caerus Foundation, Inc., have established the Jill Beck Professorship in Film Studies in recognition of Lawrence’s 15th president, her service to Lawrence, their love of film and their conviction that student participation in film studies has an important role in a liberal arts education.

In 2011, a $5 million gift from the Hurvises enabled Lawrence to establish the Hurvis Center for Interdisciplinary Film Studies, a facility dedicated to the integration of film production into the Lawrence curriculum.

Motivated by a desire to encourage participation in music and arts at Lawrence, an anonymous donor made a gift to enhance the college’s capacity to provide learning and performance opportunities for students in opera studies while increasing multifaceted collaboration within the curriculum by establishing the endowed director of opera studies position. The Lawrence conservatory, with the support of the theatre arts department, has annually staged an opera production since 1961.

In conjunction with the newly created professorships, Lawrence President Mark Burstein announced the appointment of Amy Abugo Ongiri, currently an associate professor of English at the University of Florida, as the Jill Beck Professor and Director of Film Studies and J. Copeland Woodruff, assistant professor and co-director of opera studies at the University of Memphis, as Director of Opera Studies.

Both Ongri and Woodruff join the faculty with the rank of associate professor. Ongiri’s appointment includes tenure.

“One of the many strengths that a Lawrence education develops is the ability to link a student’s own talent and creativity with performance and presentation, a skill one needs to succeed in the world today,” said Burstein in announcing the appointments. “The addition of Amy Abugo Ongiri and J. Copeland Woodruff significantly enhances our capability in this area both for students interested in film studies and in the conservatory and also in the larger Lawrence student body.

“I want to thank Julie and Tom Hurvis and anonymous members of the Lawrence community for making these two important appointments to our faculty possible,” Burstein added.

Award-winning Educator

Ongiri joined the University of Florida faculty in 2003 after four years at the University of California-Riverside. In 2006, she was recognized with both UF’s Teacher  of the Year Award and  College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Teacher of the Year Award.

Her scholarship interests focus on African American literature and culture, film studies, cultural studies, and gender and sexuality studies. She is the author of nearly 20 published journal articles, three dozen conference papers and the 2009 book, “Spectacular Blackness: The Cultural Politics of the Black Power Movement and the Search for a Black Aesthetic.” She spent 2005 in Dakar, Senegal on a National Endowment for the Humanities summer seminar in African film.

She is a member of the editorial board of the journals American Literature and Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies and serves as a reviewer for the Journal  of African American History and the Journal of American History.

At Florida, Ongiri has taught courses ranging from the history of film and African cinema in a world cinema context to an introduction to Asian American film and video.

Ongiri earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Bryn Mawr College, a master’s degree from the University of Texas and a Ph.D. from Cornell University.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have Amy Ongiri as the first director of film studies,” said Brent Peterson, professor of German, chair of Lawrence’s film studies program and a member of the search committee. “She is an accomplished scholar and dedicated teacher; someone who is there for every last one of her students at a large public university. She will be a terrific asset for Lawrence students. She is also exactly the right person to put together an expanded curriculum for film studies and to shape the program in film making.”

“Amazingly Creative, Innovative”

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J. Copeland Woodruff

Woodruff has taught at the University of Memphis since 2008. He previously has held teaching appointments at The Julliard School, Oberlin College, Temple and Yale universities as well as the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia and Germany’s Universität Bamberg. He also has served as a guest instructor with La Musica Lirica in Italy, the Festival of International Opera of the Americas in Brazil and at Bejing University.

He has directed more than 90 opera productions, including the 2013 world premiere of “Raise the Red Lantern” at the Tianqiao Theatre in Bejing, one of three productions in China he has directed. Since 2006, Woodruff has earned four first-place National Opera Association Best Opera Production Awards and was recognized in 2013 with the University of Memphis’ Dean’s Creative Achievement Award.

Woodruff has enjoyed an extended relationship with Boston’s Guerilla Opera, serving as stage director of a new production of “Heart of a Dog” and earning Second Prize in the 2012 American Prize in Opera Performance competition, professional division.

“It is with great excitement that we welcome Copeland Woodruff to Lawrence,” said Brian Pertl, dean of the conservatory of music. “Besides being an amazingly creative, innovative and well-respected opera director and educator, he is also passionate about  the liberal arts and cross-disciplinary collaboration. In short, he will absolutely flourish at Lawrence. We are entering an exciting new era for opera studies at Lawrence and I can’t wait to see how all the possibilities unfold.”

Woodruff attended the University of South Carolina, where he earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in vocal performance and also completed extensive master’s level coursework in theatrical design. He earned a master’s degree in stage directing for opera from Indiana University.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2014 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

It’s “All About Life” When Wild Space Dance Company Performs April 12 in Stansbury Theatre

Posted on: April 3rd, 2014 by Rick Peterson

The elements of life become an exhilarating tangle when members of Milwaukee-based Wild Space Dance Company present “All About Life” Saturday, April 5 at 8 p.m. in Lawrence University’s Stansbury Theatre.

Tickets, at $10 for adults, $5 for senior citizens and students, are available through the Lawrence University Box Office, 920-832-6749.

WildSpace_AllAboutLife_newsblogThe performance features Wild Space affiliate artists Mauriah Kraker, Monica Rodero and Daniel Schuchart in the evening-length collaborative work.

“All About Life” unfolds like a memoir in chapters that present the deep and disconnected aspects of daily life. The show weaves together a number of smaller stories to present a larger picture of life with all its expectations, reality, endings, beginnings and secrets.

Wild Space Dance Company has served as a company-in-residence at Lawrence since 2000, bringing professional dance to the Lawrence community and providing students principles of dance art in performance through classes and workshops taught by company artistic director Debra Loewen and members of her company.

Named 2011 Artist of the Year by the Milwaukee Arts Board, Loewen has led Wild Space Dance Company for more than 25 years. Known for its site-specific dance events and artistic collaborations, the company merges dance with visual art, architecture and music to create inventive choreography and emotionally-charged performances. It has toured performance work to Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, South Korea and Japan.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2014 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.