Category: Conservatory

New Music Ensemble performances took audience interaction to new heights

Lawrence musicians reflect
on “Ten Thousand Birds”
experience, a highlight
of fall term in the Conservatory

“I’ve always been really inspired by music that is tied to the outdoors, but I’ve never played music that tries to emulate the outdoors.” — Helen Threlkeld ’23

Story by Emily Austin ’21

Julian Bennett ’20, a cello performance major, called it “something out of a storybook.”

He and the other musicians in the Lawrence University New Music Ensemble were performing Ten Thousand Birds, creating music inspired by bird calls and interacting with the audience in the natural settings of the Green Bay Botanical Gardens.

“At one point I had about five ladybugs on my cello as I was playing and all the birds in the garden were singing back at us,” Bennett said.

The magical experience — in addition to the botanical gardens performance, the ensemble had a performance at Lawrence that was moved indoors because of bad weather and a public rehearsal at Bjorklunden in Door County — was among the highlights of fall term in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music and shined a light on the possibilities that come with participation in the New Music Ensemble.

We caught up with students who took part in the Ten Thousand Birds performances to talk about what they took from the experience — performing music based on Midwestern animal sounds and bird calls, playing while walking in and around the audience, and exploring the nature around them.

Lawrence musicians perform amid the audience during the "Ten Thousand Birds" performance in the Warch Campus Center.
“Ten Thousand Birds” is performed Oct. 13 in the Warch Campus Center. It was moved indoors due to inclement weather. It also was performed outdoors at the Green Bay Botanical Gardens and at Bjorklunden in Door County. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Zoe Markle ’20, a bass performance major, said her playing was directly affected by these “interactions with the audience” as well as those with the environment around them and believes that in the end the musicians “were as much a part of the piece as the music.”

Because the structure of this particular piece is left up to the musicians and based largely on improvisation, how the audience reacts and interacts can change the music.

 “It was always fascinating to hear how the performances would differ from each other, and what melodic lines I would hear that I hadn’t heard before,” percussion major Alex Quade ’20 said.

Learning and rehearsing Ten Thousand Birds was unlike any process the students had experienced, though each piece they learn in the New Music Ensemble provides a new and different learning challenge. Because the work is constructed on a timetable, there is no mapped-out score. Every sound comes in at a different timing.

For these performances, the directors of the ensemble, visiting assistant professor of entrepreneurial studies and social engagement Michael Clayville and associate professor of music Erin Lesser, decided to arrange the piece in a day-long journey, placing the sounds one would typically hear at different times of the day. Both professors are part of the award-winning contemporary ensemble Alarm Will Sound, which has performed the piece in this arrangement several times.

“We rehearsed the piece by sound and were split up into small groups for many rehearsals, rather than working as a whole,” Markle said.

This small group work is a major draw for students participating in the New Music Ensemble, she said.

Markle noted that a huge reason she joined the group was because she loves “to perform in smaller chamber ensembles” as she is “able to connect more on an individual level with all the members of the ensemble.” 

Erin Ijzer and Julian Bennett perform “Ten Thousand Birds” in the Warch Campus Center.

Ten Thousand Birds is a piece by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Luther Adams that was commissioned for Alarm Will Sound. The work is a collection of bird calls and animal sounds that can be found in the Midwest and takes the form of a folio, each page of notated animal sounds separate so that the musicians can arrange them whichever way they like. If Ten Thousand Birds is performed outside the Midwest, it can be updated to feature the animal sounds of that region.

The work was initially introduced to Lawrence’s ensemble by Clayville and Lesser last spring when they asked if students would be interested in playing outdoors. The response was a unanimous yes.

Helen Threlkeld ’23, a flute performance and biology double degree student, explained that it was an especially cathartic experience for her, having grown up embracing nature.

“I’ve always been really inspired by music that is tied to the outdoors,” she said, “but I’ve never played music that tries to emulate the outdoors.”

As a flutist, playing bird calls was especially exciting for Threlkeld, who explained that “a lot of composers have used bird song as inspiration, like Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf,” but she notes that no composer has done what Adams has by notating them directly into playable notation. 

Before bringing Ten Thousand Birds to Lawrence and the Green Bay Botanical Gardens, the New Music Ensemble traveled to Björklunden, the university’s retreat campus on the Door County banks of Lake Michigan. The group rehearsed outdoors in the woods surrounding the main lodge to get a feel for playing in nature and to bond as an ensemble.

During the rehearsal, Threlkeld also realized how much the environment played a part in the piece.

“The waves coming up on the shore created a soundscape that sort of enveloped all the performers,” she said.

During the community performance at Björklunden, she said she experienced the power of the piece and described a moment where she “lost all passage of time” while they were playing.

The ensemble also pushes students to develop new skill sets within their musicianship. During the Ten Thousand Birds experience, students were encouraged to improvise, choosing the times they would play and how they responded to other players.

Thelkeld noted the difference in thinking about this contemporary piece and traditional classical music. She’d often think hard about “what the composer wanted” when learning a piece. That was flipped this time, she said.

“I had more of a chance to use my own judgment and use my own responsibility as a musician to create an experience for the audience instead of worrying about ‘what did Mahler’ or ‘what did Dvorák think?’”

Alarm Will Sound came to Lawrence for a residency last year and opened up their rehearsals to members of the New Music Ensemble, challenging them to sight-read through one of the pieces they were working on. It tied in with the ensemble’s mantra to push musical boundaries.

Quade called the experience “invaluable,” emphasizing how important it is to take advantage of “the opportunity to rehearse, interact, and learn” from groups that come in.

“Having these connections, along with every Lawrence professor, is such an asset that everyone needs to take advantage of,” Quade said.

Being part of the New Music Ensemble is pushing the participants to become better listeners and communicators, and the deep connections they’ve made with faculty is changing the way they play and collaborate.

The success of Ten Thousand Birds bodes well for this ensemble, which will have more performances and a guest artist residency in the spring.

Emily Austin ’21 is a student writer in the Conservatory of Music.

Lawrence Conservatory’s Albright in the mix on Bon Iver’s Grammy-nominated “i,i”

Tim Albright, assistant professor of music, and junior Allie Goldman play trombones during a teaching session Thursday in Shattuck Hall of Music.
Tim Albright, assistant professor of music in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music, works Thursday with Allie Goldman ’21 during a trombone teaching session in Shattuck Hall. Albright and his trombone are on Bon Iver’s “i,i” album. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

“Justin took me aside to say he wants to share his studio with students, Lawrence students included. He wants his studio to be a place where budding musicians can experiment with recording and creating music.”  

—Tim Albright on Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon

———

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

When Grammy nominations were rolled out Wednesday, Bon Iver’s i,i snagged three of them, including in the headline-grabbing Album of the Year and Record of the Year categories. The album, released in summer, also is starting to show up on critics’ best-of-the-year lists.

That’s all of particular note to a Lawrence University music professor who lent his considerable trombone talents to the album.

Tim Albright, a professor in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music, spent four days in recording sessions in Justin Vernon’s home studio in Eau Claire, part of a horn section dubbed the Worm Crew.

“The horn section was made up of the unusual combination of trumpet, French horn, two trombones, saxophone and bass harmonica,” Albright said. “It was an unconventional assortment of instruments, but the sound was gorgeous.”

Vernon, the creative mastermind behind Bon Iver, has carved a deeply respected reputation for collaboration and musical experimentation. His annual Eaux Claires music festival — it took a hiatus for 2019 with an expectation to return in 2020 — and other musical outreach has raised Eau Claire’s arts profile considerably. His home studio, 180 miles west of Appleton, has become known as a gathering place for talented musicians.

“We rehearsed and recorded for four days and nights,” Albright said of the recording sessions. “When we weren’t making music, we shared meals, slept in bunk beds, and listened to music in Vernon’s state-of-the art control room. I was struck by his warmth and hospitality. He made us all feel completely at home, which helped the music come alive. 

“I think the album sounds amazing.”

Indeed, it does.

The album, Bon Iver’s fourth, was one of eight nominated for album of the year. The track “Hey, Ma” (it features Albright’s trombone) got a nod for Record of the Year, and the album also was nominated for Best Alternative Music Album. The Grammys will be held Jan. 26.

Cover of Bon Iver's "i,i"
Bon Iver’s “i,i” earned three music Grammy nods and a fourth for album packaging.

Esquire magazine included the album on its list of 50 Best Albums of 2019 (So Far), posted on Nov. 11.

“Twelve years after the seminal album For Emma, Forever Ago, Wisconsin singer Justin Vernon and his extended band find new ways to break your heart with their unusual indie-folk music,” Olivia Ovenden writes. “As on 22, A Million, follow-up i,i is filled with noodling jazz riffs, auto-tuned vocals and glitchy electronic samples.”

Esquire points in particular to the song “Salem,” which features Albright. “A patter of soft bleeping notes layer over each other and lift into a euphoric chorus which cries, ‘So I won’t lead no lie / With our hearts the only matter why.’”

Craig Jenkins of Vulture calls the album one of the best of the year.

“The lyrics are heavy on close inspection, but the music makes them buoyant,” he writes.

Making a connection

Albright’s connection to Vernon and Bon Iver comes via a trumpet player friend who had hooked him up in the mid-2000s for a recording session with The National, a then-unknown band that was preparing for the release of the album Boxer.

“I’ve known CJ for about 15 years from my time working in New York City,” Albright said. “When the band The National was just getting started, he said, ‘I wonder if you could come out to my friend Bryce’s house and record for a group called The National. I think they’re going to become big.’ Not thinking much of it, I took the train out to a tree-lined street in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, to record a one-minute fanfare in a stranger’s living room.”

Bryce turned out to be Bryce Dessner, one of the founding members of The National. And the trumpet player friend would prove prophetic. Boxer would indeed put the band on the map.

It was a couple of months later when Albright and his wife were walking through the Atlantic Terminal Shopping Mall in Brooklyn when he heard a new song playing overhead. It caught his ear.

“I nudged her and said, ‘Hey, listen, there’s trombone on that record,’” Albright said. “A moment later I realized the trombone player was me from the track I had recorded in Ditmas.”

That same trumpet player friend reached out to Albright again in 2018 when Vernon was looking for collaborators on his coming album. They needed a trombone.

In a media statement he released just prior to the release of i,i, Vernon noted contributions from a bevy of musicians, some with widely recognized names like Bryce Dessner and Bruce Hornsby, others more under the radar.

“This project began with a single person, but throughout the last 11 years, the identity of Bon Iver has bloomed and can only be defined by the faces in the ever-growing family we are,” Vernon said.

Albright, on the Lawrence faculty since 2016 and a member of the Atlantic Brass Quintet, is now part of that extended Bon Iver family. He doesn’t know if he’ll get to record with the band again, but he knows having that connection with Vernon could build other important bridges, perhaps involving his Lawrence students.

“Justin took me aside to say he wants to share his studio with students, Lawrence students included,” Albright said. “He wants his studio to be a place where budding musicians can experiment with recording and creating music. He cares deeply about giving back to the Wisconsin community that helped shape his musical voice.”

In the meantime, Albright will cherish his contributions to an album that will almost certainly be showing up on additional best-of lists between now and the end of the year. His name is all over the credits, which isn’t a bad place to be.

“It’s fun to be in that world, to touch a little bit of stardom,” Albright said.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Studio Orchestra concert featuring 100-plus musicians to highlight Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend

Tarrel Nedderman takes part in a Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble rhythm section rehearsal in advance of Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend. The LUJE will be part of the Studio Orchestra concert on Nov. 8. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

When the annual two-day Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend kicks off at Lawrence University on Friday, it will be, per usual, a celebration of all things jazz.

But this year’s 39th annual event will be a celebration beyond that, a nod to the jazz program’s rich history in the Conservatory, the wide and deep range of student talent across the Conservatory, and the cherished nature of student-faculty collaborations.

The weekend is focused on jazz education, with students from more than 30 middle and high schools on campus to learn, listen, and practice. But the highlights each year are two public performances in Memorial Chapel. This year features the Lawrence University Studio Orchestra Concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday and the Miguel Zenon Quartet at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The concerts are sponsored by Wisconsin Public Radio.

Members of the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra rehearse in Shattuck Hall.
Members of the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra rehearse in advance of Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend. The LSO will join forces with the Jazz Ensemble for a Studio Orchestra concert Nov. 8 in Lawrence Memorial Chapel. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Friday’s massive music celebration

The Studio Orchestra is a combination of Lawrence’s Jazz Ensemble and Symphony Orchestra, bringing more than 100 musicians to the stage. It also includes contributions from a number of Conservatory faculty members.

It’s a music project that has been talked about for a long time. It’s been a decade or more since something like this has been tried.

“The whole idea kind of evolved,” said Patty Darling, director of the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble (LUJE). “We’ve wanted to combine LUJE and the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra (LSO) for a couple of years now, and when we got together last spring we started out by exploring studio orchestra repertoire.”

Darling, Director of Jazz Studies Jose Encarnacion, Director of Orchestral Studies Mark Dupere, and Director of Bands Andrew Mast all bought in. So did the student musicians and other faculty. Difficult logistics aside, enthusiasm across the Conservatory has continued to grow as the weekend has drawn closer.

“I think both of our groups can learn a great deal from each other even as we work in such different styles,” Dupere said. “I’ve always been drawn to the immediacy of musical expression that jazz performance tends to emit. And in the end, it is just so much fun.”

It was also seen as an opportunity to honor Fred Sturm, the late composer and jazz studies director who founded Lawrence’s Jazz Celebration Weekend in 1981 and set the stage for an event that would bring in such notable performers as Bobby McFerrin, Dizzy Gillespie, Diana Krall, and Branford Marsalis, among others.

“One piece that we absolutely had to include was Terlingua by Fred Sturm,” Darling said of the repertoire for Friday’s concert. “It is so beautiful. We wanted to honor Fred, as he was the founder of Jazz Celebration Weekend and also head of the jazz department for many years, a world-renowned jazz composer and educator, and a dear friend, mentor, and inspiration to us and so many people. From there, we kept expanding the collaboration to involve more faculty and students.”

For more on the Lawrence Conservatory of Music, see here.

José Encarnación, assistant professor of music and director of jazz studies, works with students during a Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble rehearsal. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

The Friday concert will feature works from Sturm, Chuck Owen, Duke Ellington and others. Besides the LUJE and LSO, there will be contributions from the Faculty Jazz Group. It should be a treat for an audience that will include hundreds of middle and high school musicians.

“Not only will they hear a 108-plus-piece studio orchestra with beautiful colors not often used in big band rep, they will also get to experience incredible jazz improvisation by the Faculty Jazz Group — the communication, the connections, free improvisation, in the moment, things that make jazz so exciting,” Darling said.

Getting them all on stage at once might prove to be the biggest challenge.

“Not only are there so many people to fit, but it is also difficult to seat the musicians in a way that they all can hear well,” Dupere said. “In the end, we’ve placed the rhythm section — bass, drums, guitar, and piano — in the middle of the ensemble so that they form a nucleus that the rest of the studio orchestra can gather around and play off of.”

Preparing for the concert has been a logistical juggling act, with smaller group rehearsals interspersed with larger sessions. There have been a lot of moving pieces over the past few weeks.

“The soloists with the rhythm section, the LSO woodwinds with LUJE, our LUJE pianist with Janet Planet and strings — all these components were prepared independently, and now we are in final prep with the combined rehearsals,” Darling said.

It all comes together on Friday night.

For details on jazz offerings at Lawrence, see here.

Portrait of Miguel Zenon sitting with his saxophone.
Miguel Zenon will lead the Miguel Zenon Quartet in a Nov. 9 concert at Lawrence Memorial Chapel, the second night of the Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend.

Saturday’s concert features a saxophone innovator

Come Saturday, the audience will get to hear and experience what is making Miguel Zenon such a rising star. The saxophonist from San Juan, Puerto Rico, has multiple Grammy nominations and Guggenheim and MacArthur fellowships on his resume already.

He’ll lead the Miguel Zenon Quartet in a concert mixing Latin American folkloric music and jazz.

“His music, artist, and genius,” Encarnacion said of what makes the Zenon Quartet special. “They are one unit in complete alignment with the universe.”

In advance of the concert, Zenon will be doing an open sound check and Q&A from 5 to 6 p.m. at Memorial Chapel, a chance for Lawrence musicians and visiting students to interact with him.

“It’s very important that our students get the opportunity to interact with an artist of this caliber,” Encarnacion said. “It is so valuable in so many ways — as a performer, composer, music business person, improviser, entrepreneur, and educator. Miguel can speak to our students and faculty about his experiences and perspectives on all these aspects of being a professional musician.”

Encarnacion said he first encountered Zenon in the early 1990s on a visit to Hato Rey, Puerto Rico, to see an old high school saxophone teacher. The teacher wanted to show off one of his talented young musicians.

“He said, ‘Come here, I want to introduce you to one of my students. This guy is going to be amazing; his name is Miguel Zenon.’ He was right.”

Zenon has released 11 albums through the years and has toured or recorded with the likes of Charlie Haden, Fred Hersch, and The Mingus Big Band, among others.

“I love the way Miguel conceptualizes traditional or folkloric music from Puerto Rico with jazz music,” Encarnacion said. “I love all his recordings. They are always fresh, rooted in the tradition but always moving forward with new sounds, rhythmic complexities, and adventurous musical stories.”

Admission to the Friday and Saturday concerts at the Chapel will be $25-$30 ($20-$25 for seniors, free for students).

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

“Ten Thousand Birds” to take flight again, this time on Sunday in Green Bay

A Lawrence student performs in "Ten Thousand Birds" in the Warch Campus Center.
“Ten Thousand Birds” was performed last Sunday in Lawrence University’s Warch Campus Center. It will be presented again at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20 at the Green Bay Botanical Garden.

If you missed the performance of “Ten Thousand Birds” on Sunday — or would love a second look in a new setting — you are in luck.

The piece from Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Luther Adams was performed Sunday by Lawrence Conservatory of Music students in Warch Campus Center (originally planned for Main Hall Green, it was moved indoors due to inclement weather). It will get a second performance at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Green Bay Botanical Garden, located 30 miles north of Appleton. 

Here’s a photo gallery of scenes from Sunday’s performance in Warch.

“Ten Thousand Birds” is a soundscape experience of bird songs and other natural sounds, played by 40 musicians on percussion and wind instruments, strings and piano, a celebration of music and nature. It’s designed to feature natural sounds from the region where it’s being performed. In this case, it’ll be the sounds of animals native to the Midwest or which migrate through the region.

Audience members are free to move about, walking amongst the musicians and choosing their own pathways through the concert in order to create an individual experience of the music.

Directors of the Lawrence University New Music Ensemble, Michael Clayville and Erin Lesser, brought “Ten Thousand Birds” to campus after premiering it with their award-winning group, Alarm Will Sound. The group commissioned Adams to write a piece for them in 2014, intrigued by the “sound worlds” he so masterfully creates in his compositions. What they received was a “folio” of bird songs, an open-ended score that was intended to be performed outdoors, and arranged in any way the ensemble wished.

Take a listen to a snippet from rehearsal of “Ten Thousand Birds.”

7 days, 7 events: From concerts to Latin film festival, this week is jam-packed

A still from "Perfect Strangers."
“Perfect Strangers” will be shown as part of the Latin American and Spanish Film Festival, running Wednesday through Saturday at Lawrence University. It’s one piece of a busy week on campus.

This week marks one of the busiest of the fall term when it comes to significant events on the Lawrence campus, beginning with a Sunday music performance on the Main Hall Green and ending with a four-day film festival.

We couldn’t hit them all (check the calendar at lawrence.edu for a full listing of events), but here are seven Lawrence University events — all with free admission — packed into one glorious seven-day stretch.

1. Birds celebrated with music on Main Hall Green

Visitors will experience “Ten Thousand Birds” by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Luther Adams on Lawrence’s main lawn at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13. The Lawrence University New Music Ensemble, under the direction of Michael Clayville and Erin Lesser, will transform the outdoor space with music based on the songs of birds that are native to, or migrate through, the Midwest.

During the 90-minute performance, musicians and audience can move freely around the space. In that way, “Ten Thousand Birds” is analogous to a walk in which you discover bird and other natural sounds — bird songs become music and the open setting becomes an artistic space, blurring the lines between human creativity and natural phenomena.

This performance will be repeated at 2 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Green Bay Botanical Gardens.

2. “Family and friends” a theme for Sunday night performance

A recital to be held Sunday, Oct. 13 in Lawrence University’s Harper Hall will carry a theme focused on the bonds of family and friends.

Matthew Michelic, an associate professor of music in the Lawrence Conservatory, will lead the performance, titled “Music for Family and Friends.” It will feature music written for close friends or family either of the composers or the performers. It begins at 7 p.m.

Each piece in the program has a story that will be related during the recital. 

The composers represented include three current or former Lawrence faculty: Stephen McCardell is a teacher of music theory, Keith Dom Powell is a teacher of horn for the Academy of Music and has instructed in Lawrence’s Freshman Studies program, and Thom Ritter George served as interim conductor of the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra. 

The program begins with a work that W.A. Mozart wrote to help a friend in need, and ends with the famous Sonatina by Antonin Dvorak, written for and dedicated to his children.

The performers include faculty pianists Anthony Padilla and Michael Mizrahi, trombone faculty Tim Albright, and adjunct faculty members Emily Dupere on violin and Leslie Outland Michelic on English horn. 

3. Indigenous People’s Day features Oneida dancers

Lawrence University Native Americans (LUNA) will host a celebration of Indigenous People’s Day at 5 p.m. Monday in the Warch Campus Center.

The event celebrates and honors the lives and cultures of Indigenous People across the Americas.

Oneida pow wow dancers will provide a demonstration, and an emcee will talk about the importance of regalia, dance, and song. LUNA will serve indigenous foods that are central to a couple of Native American tribes, and provide information about the importance of each food and the tribe from which it comes.

4. Music for All concert series is back

The first installment of Lawrence’s Music for All concert series will be held at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15, at the Riverview Gardens Community Center, marking the beginning of the fourth season of the series.

Tuesday’s concert will include performances by professors Erin Lesser (flute), Michael Mizrahi (piano), Dane Richeson (percussion) and Mark Urness (bass), as well as performances by other students and faculty. Each piece will be introduced before it is performed, providing context and suggestions for what the audience should listen for, thus creating a more immersive and interactive experience.

This series was founded by Mizrahi and Lesser as part of Lawrence’s partnership with Riverview Gardens, a nonprofit focused on addressing homelessness and poverty in the Fox Cities. Mizrahi and Lesser modeled the program off of their work in Decoda, a dynamic musical group that tries to achieve a social impact through performances.

The Stone Arch Brewpub will provide light refreshments during the reception.

Future concerts in the series are set for Nov. 18, Jan. 20, Feb. 23, April 21, and May 18.

5. Latin American and Spanish Film Festival returns

The eighth annual Lawrence University Latin American and Spanish Film Festival is set for Oct. 16–19, featuring seven of the top Spanish-language films of 2018, in the Warch Campus Center Cinema. The festival will begin at 5 p.m. each night and will include films from Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Spain and Colombia.

The festival will open on Wednesday night with two comedies from Mexico and Chile, Perfect Strangers and Broken Panties, respectively. The films on Thursday and Friday night will take on a more dramatic tone with three dramas and one thriller: Birds of Passage (Colombia), The Angel (Argentina), The Chambermaid (Mexico) and Journey to a Mother’s Room (Spain). Saturday night will begin with a showing of Chilean drama, Damn Kids, and will be followed with a special audience Q&A with the film’s director, Gonzalo Justiniano. After the Q&A, guests are welcome to attend the 7:45 p.m. reception in the Esch-Hurvis Room, located within the Warch Campus Center.

Professors Cecilia Herrera and Rosa Tapia of the Spanish Department organized this year’s event.

“The Latin American and Spanish Film Festival has become a cherished and unique event in our state,” Tapia stated. “It brings our diverse community together and it reminds us of our shared humanity and common love for the arts.”

More information on the festival can be found at go.lawrence.edu/lasf.

6. Indian classical dancer to open dance series

Renowned Indian classical dancer Anindita Neogy Anaam will perform at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16, in the Warch Campus Center, marking the beginning of this year’s ongoing dance series.

Anaam, who is based in Wisconsin, is one of the leading figures in Kathak, a form of Indian classical dance. As a dancer, instructor and choreographer, Anaam has garnered praise and worldwide recognition, such as being awarded the Indian Raga Fellowship, an award that few North American dancers have received. She has performed as a soloist in India, Germany and the U.S.

Future performances of the dance series include Set Go on Jan. 17, Michelle Ellsworth on April 8, and Rythea Lee on April 27.

7. Pianist McDonald to be in concert in Chapel

Soloist and chamber musician Robert McDonald, a music instructor at the Juilliard School and a 1973 Lawrence University graduate, will perform a guest piano recital in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel at 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17.

Along with receiving his bachelor’s degree from Lawrence, McDonald has earned degrees from the Curtis Institute of Music, the Juilliard School and the Manhattan School of Music. He has been recognized internationally with various prestigious awards, including the Deutsche Schallplatten Critics Award and the gold medal at the Busoni International Piano Competition, among others.

Although McDonald is a faculty member at both Juilliard (since 1999) and the Curtis Institute of Music (since 2007), he continues to tour throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and South America.

McDonald also will be teaching a master class at 4 p.m. Saturday in Harper Hall. (It was moved back one hour from the planned 3 p.m. start because of a scheduling conflict.)

Compiled by Alex Freeman ’23, a student assistant in the Communications office.

“Ten Thousand Birds” on Main Hall Green to be celebration of music, nature

Lawrence students play their instruments amid the trees on the Bjorklunden property.
Lawrence musicians practiced for the outdoor performance of “Ten Thousand Birds” during a trip to Bjorklunden in Door County. They’ll bring the performance to the Main Hall Green on Sunday.

Story by Emily Austin ’21

Nature lovers and musicians of all kinds will be gathering on Lawrence University’s Main Hall Green at 2 p.m. Sunday to experience a performance of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Luther Adams’ “Ten Thousand Birds.”

The piece is a soundscape experience of bird songs and other natural sounds, played by 40 musicians on percussion and wind instruments, strings and piano, a celebration of music and nature for all to enjoy on the expanse of lawn that serves as Lawrence’s front yard.

It’s designed to feature natural sounds from the region where it’s being performed. In this case, it’ll be the sounds of animals native to the Midwest or which migrate through the region.

The performers will be made up of Lawrence students and a few faculty members.

Audience members will be free to move about, walking amongst the musicians and choosing their own pathways through the concert in order to create an individual experience of the music. In effect, the performance is an experiment on breaking the walls between performers and their audience as well as between the natural world and human musicianship.

Take a listen to a snippet from rehearsal of “Ten Thousand Birds.”

Directors of the Lawrence University New Music Ensemble, Michael Clayville and Erin Lesser, brought “Ten Thousand Birds” to campus after premiering it with their award-winning group, Alarm Will Sound. The group commissioned Adams to write a piece for them in 2014, intrigued by the “sound worlds” he so masterfully creates in his compositions. What they received was a “folio” of bird songs, an open-ended score that was intended to be performed outdoors, and arranged in any way the ensemble wished.

Alan Pierson, artistic director of Alarm Will Sound, formatted the bird calls into a day-long journey. With a run time of 90 minutes, audience members will travel through an entire day of bird calls, opening with a chorus of dawn birds, moving through the afternoon and into the nighttime, and again hearing the reawakening of the natural world in the early morning.

Listen carefully for the field sparrows, played on piccolo and temple block, song sparrows on piccolo and bongos, and even the raucous blue jays, played on timpani, bassoon, oboe, trombone, trumpet, flute, and French horn.

While the piece has been performed in art museums, sculpture gardens, and parks, this will be the first time it is presented on a university campus, and only the second time Lawrence has had an outdoor performance of this sort. On both occasions, the outdoor concerts have been performances of Adams’ work.

Clayville said that Adams’ music is political in nature, though the composer wouldn’t call it political.

“He doesn’t set out to write political art,” Clayville said. “But it’s something that tries to bring awareness to the environment in which it’s performed.”

A college campus seems fitting then to present this music, as much of today’s environmental activism is taking root through the work of young people. Bringing this music into our outdoor world, allowing it to transform the space, and maybe even the people inside, and leaving it changed but undamaged, is a perfect metaphor for the environmental citizenship Lawrence and its students promote.

Clayville goes so far as to call it “a meditative experience.” 

If the weather doesn’t cooperate with an outdoor performance on Sunday, it will be moved into the Warch Campus Center. The piece also will be performed on Oct. 20 at the Green Bay Botanical Gardens, in the upper gardens. 

Emily Austin ’21 is a student writer with the Lawrence Conservatory.

Roots of collaboration: Lawrence, Refuge Foundation nurture deeper connections

Students from the Sound Lab: American Roots Music class record a song in the main performance space at the Refuge in Appleton.
Lawrence students work on a recording last fall at the Refuge in Appleton. The students in the Sound Lab: American Roots Music class created their own roots music.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Get Cory Chisel talking about American roots music and the floodgates open.

The Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter who is forging new partnerships with Lawrence University — including venturing into the classroom — will tell you about wisdom gained from working alongside genre-defining singers such as Rosanne Cash and Emmylou Harris.

He’ll tell you about learning to look deeply inward, needing to embrace his own journey before the music could come out.

And he’ll tell you about an eclectic collection of family members who influenced his musical psyche from early on, instilling in him a passion for early American roots music from the likes of Willie Dixon and Robert Johnson — survival music, he calls it.

“My uncle took me to a record player and we sat down, and with no explanation whatsoever he made me lay on the floor and let the music come into my body,” the Appleton-raised Chisel said. “Not just into my ears, but vibrationally into my body. He taught me how to receive music as a medicine. I learned about that style of music with my toes and my fingers and my back and my bones.”

If you think that sounds a little like Deep Listening, the practice espoused by and taught via Lawrence’s Conservatory of Music, you’re not wrong. Call it a reflection of the deepening connections between Lawrence, Chisel and his Refuge Foundation for the Arts, a nonprofit artistic haven operated out of a converted monastery just two miles up the road from the Appleton liberal arts college.

When Lawrence’s fall term begins, Chisel will return to the classroom, co-teaching Sound Lab: American Roots Music with Brian Pertl, dean of the conservatory, and Leila Ramagopal Pertl, a class they first launched a year ago. Lawrence students will again have opportunities to create their own music, record at the Refuge, talk with visiting musicians and hear from music industry professionals who periodically make their way to Appleton for sessions with Chisel and his rotating menagerie of artists.

The bonds began nearly seven years ago, when Chisel was co-founding Mile of Music with marketing executive Dave Willems and reached out to Pertl for advice on infusing music education into the all-original music festival. That led to a meeting with Ramagopal Pertl, a music education instructor at Lawrence who would become the music education curator for the annual downtown Appleton festival.

“It was like talking to the soul brother I never had,” Ramagopal Pertl said of those first meetings with Chisel.

Lawrence widens musical path with new B.M.A. degree: See announcement here

Cory Chisel works with five Lawrence students on a song as part of the Sound Lab: American Roots Music class.
Cory Chisel (wearing hat) works with students as part of last fall’s Sound Lab: American Roots Music class. He’ll return to the classroom for fall term in a co-teaching role.

Three years later, Chisel and his partner, Adriel Denae, founded the Refuge Foundation for the Arts and moved into the former Monte Alverno retreat, a monastery overlooking Riverside Cemetery that once served as a sanctuary for the monks of the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph Order.

It’s become a gathering place for musicians, some local, some coming in from places across the country and even around the world. They come to record, to find their artistic bearings, often staying for extended stretches of time, sleeping among the dozens of tiny guest rooms that once housed the monks.

For Pertl, the mere existence of the Refuge in Appleton is a gift to the conservatory. That Chisel and Denae share the philosophies of Lawrence and the passions of creative music-making, all the better.

“Our vision and our hope is that this partnership grows, it becomes porous, that what the Refuge can offer can flow into Lawrence and the conservatory, and what the conservatory and Lawrence can offer can flow into the Refuge,” Pertl said.

Classroom connections

What the Refuge can offer became abundantly clear to Pertl as he and Chisel ventured into the Sound Lab class last fall. They asked the 13 students to explore their own musical journeys, the influences that shaped them, and then partner with classmates to create their own roots music.

Listen to one of the student-created songs below.

It was a different approach than anything the conservatory has done, but something that might become more familiar with the launch of the new Bachelor of Musical Arts degree that aims to open the doors of the conservatory to a wider breadth of musical interests and styles.

The students in last fall’s class made numerous visits to the Refuge. They met with members of the Lumineers. They met with a record label executive who had signed Chisel to a recording contract more than a decade earlier. They laid down tracks as the songs they crafted in class came to fruition, eight of them later shared in a public performance. Similar experiences are on tap for this fall’s class.

Cory Chisel listens as students in the Sound Lab: American Roots Music class work on a song.
“We are on a parallel path,” Cory Chisel, seen here during a classroom session, says of the Refuge Foundation for the Arts and the Lawrence Conservatory of Music.

Having this resource so readily available provides another layer to the Lawrence education, allowing music students to interact with musicians and music industry people who are navigating the world of music-making in a very real way. They’re not talking about it. They’re doing it.

“The Refuge and all of the connections that it offers into the greater world of commercial music-making gives Lawrence this incredible pathway into learning about the music world that is rare among America’s top conservatories,” Pertl said. “The whole class came over and hung out with the Lumineers. They heard the Head and the Heart in a recording session. They were talking to one of the head execs at RCA Records. When the class came over here, most of them didn’t know this building existed. They were just walking around with their jaws open.”

A project is born

Sam Taylor ’19 was one of those students. The Sound Lab class inspired his Lullaby Project, an effort to work through Lawrence, the Refuge, Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs and New York’s Carnegie Hall to teach mothers at the Appleton shelter to write lullabies for their children. Carnegie Hall, where Taylor interned this summer, originally began the Lullaby Project with unwed mothers. It now provides guidance for related projects across the country.

Even though he graduated in spring, Taylor will be back in Appleton this fall — splitting his time between here and Madison — to see the project through, working with Chisel and Denae, Lawrence students, and Harbor House staff to bring the lullabies to fruition and get them recorded at the Refuge.

That’s just one slice of the value that came from the Sound Lab class, Taylor said.

“The Roots class came at the perfect time in my Lawrence career,” he said. “I was reflecting a lot on my time as a student, musician, and person. This course not only allowed us but also encouraged us to explore our individual journeys and music. … Who inspired us? Where our sound comes from. It gave me time to place myself on a larger timeline, to find specific moments that have led me to this exact time and space.”

New adventure, a shared vision

For Chisel, the opportunity to teach at Lawrence, to share his passion for roots music, is something he didn’t envision earlier in his life. He doesn’t hide his history of once shunning school. But now he has something that’s drawing him to the classroom, and a receptive audience ready and willing to listen and respond.

“When people found out I was being welcomed to teach at Lawrence University, I had teachers calling me, saying, ‘I have to say, I never saw this one coming,’” Chisel said. “I’d be lying if I said I did. But that’s not really what it’s about. The idea that through effort and maybe this emphasis on approach, which is on the individual and the elevation of the consciousness, that really might be what we’re on to.

“I think when you spend your whole life not wanting to go to class, you get a good idea of what it might look like when there’s a class you want to go to.”

Cory Chisel speaks at the podium during Lawrence's 2015 Report to the Community. He received a collaboration award for Mile of Music.
Cory Chisel accepted a collaboration award for Mile of Music from Lawrence University in 2015. The relationship with Lawrence has continued to grow since then.

That elevated consciousness, the looking inward to discover your own musical roots and then pouring that into song, was front and center when Pertl first broached the idea of jointly teaching a class with Chisel on American roots music, in the process emphatically cementing a relationship between Lawrence and the Refuge that had already been quietly blossoming.

“We are on a parallel path,” Chisel said. “That’s been the beauty of this. We’ve bounced off of each other’s ideas, but in certain ways we were really plowing the same field. Eventually, it was, ‘Let’s line this all up and get organized.’”

A new classroom approach

How to co-teach the course was the question that needed a fresh answer.

“This was not going to be a standard musicology class,” Pertl said. “I have taught that class dozens of times at other institutions. Here’s the history of American roots music. I’ve done that. It’s a fine approach. We did not want to do that here at Lawrence. We wanted to blow that paradigm out of the water and say, ‘Why can’t musicology be performative? And why can’t performances be influenced by history?’ That’s about as liberal arts as you can get.”

The class took the students by surprise, Pertl said.

“In a traditional conservatory education, we have brilliant musicians who can play anything,” he said. “But often you are so focused on getting all those notes right to play Chopin or Liszt that you forget that you have a voice, too. You are used to always channeling someone else’s voice. All of a sudden in this class, two or three weeks in, we say, ‘OK, so your assignment is to write about your musical roots. Who are you musically?’

“All of a sudden the class pivots to be about them instead of about dead people. All of a sudden roots isn’t about something that happened in the ’20s, it’s now. All of a sudden they’re reading their roots to each other and it’s like, ‘Oh my god, our roots are similar because our musical roots both came out of church traditions, completely different church traditions.’

“And then the next pivot was, ‘OK, now we’re going to create together, you’re going to use your roots collaboratively to create music.’ And to me that is where the magic of the class really took off.”

The students would go on to create eight original songs together and record them at the Refuge. They then performed those songs for a live audience at The Draw.

“Once the roots music became real to them, and once it became about their story, at that point they could see the way in and see what its use is,” Chisel said. “And then you just get excited. And then we couldn’t keep up.”

A mutual respect

The lessons learned don’t go just one way. While Pertl and Ramagopal Pertl call the Refuge an unbelievably valuable resource, Chisel is quick to praise Lawrence, the intelligence and vibrancy of its students and faculty and its deep history.

“We look at Lawrence with a great deal of respect, just the reverence that we haven’t had around here that really exists within that institution,” Chisel said. “As time goes on, we’re going to remain our own identities, but I think respectfully we at the Refuge are learning how to walk a walk of sustainability and longevity. We really want to be a place like Lawrence. When people say they’re from Appleton, Wisconsin, people are like, ‘Oh yea, Lawrence University.’ We want to be one of those places.”

Pertl paints the connections with the Refuge as a relationship not bound by a contract. It’s fluid, and it dovetails nicely with the conservatory’s efforts to help prepare 21st century students to live their best musical lives, to be a light both in and out of the traditional corridors of the music world.

“We want to hold open possibilities, but we know if we can make this relationship closer and closer and integrate it more and more, it’s going to benefit both institutions in ways that we probably can’t completely imagine,” Pertl said. “We definitely think it’ll benefit the B.M.A. in beautiful ways as more contemporary singers come in and more singer-songwriters come in, more people trending toward that side of the music business. The basis of the B.M.A. is jazz and improvisation, but from that foundation you can go anywhere.

“As a university, if you stagnate, you’re going backwards. If you are treading water, you are going downstream. Unless you’re absolutely thinking about what’s next, you’re probably not going to have long-term viability. And I never say that as if change itself is the thing. You have to pursue thoughtful change and insightful change and forward-thinking change.

“We’re doing this because our partnership will better prepare our students for the world they’re going to be launching into after graduation,” Pertl continued. “And this place, the Refuge, Cory, Adriel, everyone here can help our students better prepare for the unknowns of that world.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu.

Eventful fall: 16 events we’re looking forward to in Fall Term

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

Pull out your cozy sweaters and go find your pumpkin-carving kit, because fall is upon us. Personally, I love fall. The cool weather, leaves changing colors, cute fall outfits — everything about fall is just perfect. And I get it, some of you may be sad about summer ending. But honestly, there is no reason to be sad over summer, because Fall Term is jam-packed with so many fun things to do on and off campus. That is why I have created this list of things Lawrence students can look forward to this fall. 

1) Soup Walk 

This is exactly what it sounds like. On Oct. 19 from 1 to 4 p.m., restaurants in downtown Appleton will have their best soups for people to try. With your soup ticket, you can walk into the participating restaurants on College Avenue and try their soups. And once you’ve had all the soup your heart desires, vote for your favorite. Tickets for the soup walk are $20 and go on sale Oct. 1. There’s is nothing better than a bowl of soup on a cool autumn day. 

2) Downtown Appleton Christmas Parade 

The Downtown Appleton Christmas Parade always takes place on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. That’s Nov. 26 this year. As odd as that might be, it’s great for Lawrence students because we are still on campus for it! The parade takes place on College Avenue, meaning you can see the parade from campus. It is filled with floats, bands, Santa Claus, even floats that shoot out fire to make sure everyone stays warm. If you want to watch the show from College Ave., be sure to get there early because the streets do fill up. The parade starts at 7 p.m.  

3) Octoberfest

Who doesn’t love fancy cars and good food? On Sept. 27 and 28, Appleton will be hosting its annual Octoberfest. The first night of Octoberfest kicks off with a classic car show called License to Cruise. The car show is filled with about 400 cars, live music, and great food. And if you think that’s great, the second day of Octoberfest is a huge block party — Appleton’s largest block party of the year. The party boasts five stages with live music, an arts and crafts station, and more delicious food. Luckily for us, Octoberfest takes place right on College Avenue, only a few blocks from campus. 

The Fox Cities Performing Arts Center as seen from College Ave.

4) ‘Hamilton’ in Appleton 

Your eyes are not deceiving you; Hamilton is coming to Appleton! The Broadway production that took the world by storm will be at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center for a multi-week run in October. And unlike trying to see Hamilton on Broadway, you may actually be able to get tickets thanks to their lottery system. Check the PAC website for show dates and details.

5) Apple picking 

This is a fall classic! As a kid, my favorite school trip was going to the nearest orchard and going apple picking. I didn’t really like eating the apples; I just really enjoyed picking them. Luckily for us, Appleton has a ton of apple farms, (see what I did there?), meaning we can take part in this fall ritual. The Hofacker’s Hillside Orchard is the closest orchard to campus, and they also have a pumpkin patch! 

6) Fall Formal  

Get your outfits ready! Every year Lawrence International hosts a Fall Formal, which is happening Sept. 27. The formal will be taking place at Liberty Hall in Kimberly, which is about 15 minutes from campus. If you don’t have a ride, no worries. There will be a shuttle running from campus to Liberty Hall every 15 minutes.     

7) Convocation 

A new academic year means a new Convocation Series. Every year, the Convocation series is kicked-off with the Matriculation Convocation. This Convocation is special because it is led by our very own president, Mark Burstein. This year, the Matriculation Convocation will be held at 11 a.m. Sept. 19 in Memorial Chapel.  

Dancers perform traditional Native American ceremony in Warch Campus Center on Indigenous Peoples Day.

8) Indigenous Peoples Day  

Every year, the Lawrence University Native American Organization (LUNA) hosts an Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration. This year, the celebration will be held on Oct. 14 on Main Hall Green. The celebration is typically filled with music, food, and traditional dancing that is sacred to indigenous cultures. This celebration gives indigenous students a chance to celebrate and share their culture with the wider campus as it also gives non-indigenous students a chance to learn about indigenous cultures.  

9) The Price is Right  

Lawrentians, come on down! As a way to celebrate Lawrence’s annual Giving Day, the Student Ambassadors Program (SAP) will be hosting a game of The Price is Right. Students will be able to dress in funky costumes and guess the price on different items around Lawrence to win prizes … just like the game show! The game will be held on Oct. 10 in the Mead Witter Room (second floor Warch), starting at 6:30 p.m. Giving Day will also have other events for students. Stay tuned.  

10) Blue and White Weekend  

Let’s go Vikes! As a way to celebrate the Lawrence community, Lawrence University hosts an annual Blue and White WeekendFrom Oct. 3-6, Lawrence will be filled with different events for families, alumni, and students. Last year’s Blue and White weekend was so much fun! There were different sporting events, concerts, and lots of places on campus to get free food, so I can’t wait to see what they have in store for this year! 

Portrait of four members of Brooklyn Rider
Brooklyn Rider

11) Artist and Jazz Series 

The performers coming to Lawrence during 2019-20 season have been announced! Brooklyn Rider will be the first group to kick-off the Artist Series, preforming Oct. 4 at 8 p.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. Brooklyn Rider is a strings quartet that creates music focused on healing. The Jazz Series, meanwhile, will begin with the Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekendwith the Miguel Zenon Quartet as the first featured performance. Miguel Zenon is a Grammy-nominated saxophonist who will be preforming at the Lawrence Memorial Chapel at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9. You will not want to miss these performances, and the best part is, they’re free for students.

12) Game Night  

As a way to ease the transition from high school to college for first-year students, Lawrence University’s Black Student Union (BSU) will be hosting a series of game nightsThe game nights will be open to the entire campus with a focus on being a space where students of color can have fun and get to know each other. The first game night will be held at 8:30 p.m. Sept. 20 in the Diversity and Intercultural Center.  

13) Events from S.O.U.P. 

S.O.U.P. is the Student Organization for University Planning. All the fun, really random things that happen on campus are typically brought to us by S.O.U.P.  This year will be no different, as S.O.U.P. continues to bring new events to campus for student to enjoy. On Sept. 28, S.O.U.P will be hosting Blacklight Zumba and bringing magician Peter Boie to campus. Be sure to be on the lookout for more events hosted by S.O.U.P happening this fall. 

The Vikings offensive line faces University of Chicago football players on the Banta Bowl field.

14) Fall Sports  

TOUCHDOWN! Fall term means fall sports. Be sure to stay up to date on the schedules for the football, volleyball, soccer, and tennis teams so you can support our Vikes! 

15) Wriston Art

Let there be ART! The Wriston Art Gallery will soon be opening its fall exhibitions. New pieces will be displayed in the gallery with an opening reception at 8 p.m. Sept. 27. Come check out the incredible art right here on campus. 

16) World Music Series 

The World Music Series is keeping the ball rolling from last year with a performance from Çudamani: Gamelan and Dance of Bali. This group is considered Bali’s most forward-thinking ensemble and will be coming to campus at 8 p.m. Sept. 23. The World Music Series is free for students, so be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to see performances from around the world. 

Awa Badiane ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office. 

Lawrence unveils new B.M.A. degree, widening path for student musicians

The Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble performs at Memorial Chapel during the 2018-19 academic year.
The Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble has been part of the Lawrence Conservatory of Music’s long history of jazz education excellence. The new B.M.A. degree, beginning this fall, will build on that with its Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation track.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Electric guitars and synthesizers could soon become as familiar as violins and bassoons in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music.

A new degree program is being introduced at Lawrence University that is expected to open the school’s Conservatory of Music to a wider group of student musicians. Bachelor of Musical Arts (B.M.A.), with a Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation track, has been added to Lawrence’s degree options, joining Bachelor of Music (B.Mus.) and Bachelor of Arts (B.A.).

It’s a new avenue for a conservatory whose history dates back to the 19th century. Built on the strength of a nationally recognized jazz program that has been earning major honors since the 1970s, the new degree expands on the classical music component in the Conservatory, allowing students for the first time to audition with non-classical repertoire. The foundation is in jazz and contemporary improvisation, but the degree is built to accommodate a wide range of music making.

The B.M.A. degree, in place beginning this academic year, has a 50-50 split between music studies and a student’s choice of another field in the liberal arts landscape, with expectations to connect the two.

The high standards haven’t changed. The audition process for acceptance into the Conservatory remains intact, and the skill-development expectations continue to be top level. But for prospective students eyeing the B.M.A. degree, the audition no longer needs to be limited to pieces from the Western classical repertoire, potentially opening the door for students who see their strengths and interests in jazz or pop or hip-hop or another music genre. And the new degree presents an alternate path of study for classical musicians, as well.

It unwraps all sorts of additional choices, said Brian Pertl, dean of the Conservatory.

“The new degree will open the Conservatory to a broader range of musical interests,” he said. “No longer does a student have to audition on a Western classical instrument and perform classical repertoire. Drummers, electric guitarists, fiddlers, keyboard players, jazz vocalists, songwriters and contemporary composers are all welcome to audition into the new program.”

For more on the Lawrence Conservatory of Music, see here.

For details on the new B.M.A. degree, including an FAQ, see here.

This isn’t completely new territory for the Conservatory. It has long had a thriving jazz program. Lawrence won the first of its 28 Downbeat jazz education awards as far back as 1985, its latest as recently as April, picking up the award for the best undergraduate large ensemble for the second consecutive year. But current students have had to come into the jazz track via the classical music auditions and training, then seek a jazz emphasis while also studying classical repertoire.

The current B.Mus. degree, Pertl said, works well for many aspiring musicians who seek both classical and jazz training, but it leaves out those whose aspirations do not include the classical side of performance training. The new degree will rectify that. It also will expand the opportunities to tap into music-related fields that don’t necessarily involve performance.

Students perform as part of a Jazz Ensemble concert in Memorial Chapel.
Jazz and improvisation have long been part of the Lawrence Conservatory of Music. The new B.M.A. degree will add flexibility for music students.

Read more: Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble wins DownBeat Award for second consecutive year

Read more: Roomful of Teeth’s Estelí Gomez to join Lawrence Conservatory

The late Fred Sturm, who oversaw the jazz studies program at Lawrence for 26 years, began laying the groundwork for the new degree prior to his death in 2014.

What started as a specific focus on jazz eventually grew into the more wide-ranging B.M.A. degree, Pertl said. The degree allows the Conservatory to welcome in musicians who don’t necessarily fit a certain musical footprint.

“Last year, for example, we graduated an exceptional student from Chicago named Bernard Lilly,” Pertl said. “Bernard is an amazing soul singer. He’d been singing long before he came to Lawrence and sang all the way through Lawrence, but he never took any courses in the Conservatory because he didn’t feel like there was anything there for him, until his last term in his senior year when he took my entrepreneurship class and studied with (voice professor) John Holiday, and worked with professors in our jazz department. He would have been a perfect candidate for a B.M.A. degree.

“To be able to give students like Bernard high-level musical training will certainly broaden what they can do. But it also expands the musical culture of the Conservatory, mixing different genres and different musical sensibilities. This will be a huge advantage to everyone at the Conservatory.”

Students pursuing a B.Mus. degree in the Conservatory take about two-thirds of their classes in their major area of study and about one-third in general education or electives. Music students who pursue a double degree — a music degree and a B.A. in the college — do so on a five-year plan.

The new B.M.A., meanwhile, combines high-level music study with another field of interest in a four-year plan. As part of the degree requirements, students pursue a cognate focus that makes up 15% of their coursework. The cognate allows them to deeply explore another area of interest that ties into their music studies.

“It could be musically oriented but in the area of anthropology,” Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine Kodat said. “Or musically oriented but in political science.”

Core classes, one-on-one work with faculty and a wide range of electives give B.M.A. students opportunities to carve their own musical paths, some performance based, some not.

That, said Patty Darling, director of the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble, speaks to how music can inform so many disciplines in a variety of ways. Today, preparing young musicians to pursue their musical lives can’t be limited to focusing solely on technical mastery. Each year, opportunities will arise that don’t exist today, so musicians need to pair their high-level musicianship with high-level thinking, creative problem-solving, and the flexibility to capitalize on opportunities that others don’t even see.

Flexibility, an ability to adapt quickly, and a willingness to collaborate are all key attributes for anyone entering the world of music in the 21st century. Blending those core musicianship skills with an education in a student’s other field of interest is the next step in keeping the Conservatory forward-thinking.

“A lot of these students who come in wanting to create their own musical voice are pretty self-directed already,” Darling said. “While they’ll be gaining a lot of these core musicianship skills, they also want to be able to access entrepreneurial practices, music business models and opportunities for internships.

“It’s really interesting how the recording scene has developed, how music publishing has changed,” she said. “Even large ensembles and orchestras — all these musical opportunities have transformed dramatically in the last 10 years and students need the ability to self-promote. That’s a very important skill to have … to be able to put your best self out there.”

Pertl called the B.M.A. a natural progression for the Conservatory as it embraces and nurtures the modern musician.

“At Lawrence, we’ve already been incorporating so many of the elements of improvisation and world music into the trajectory of a classically trained musician for the same reason,” he said. “It’s going to be the flexibility of art, and of mind, that will help you to successfully create your musical life.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Music is everywhere as Mile 7 gets rolling; partnerships grow deeper

With a whistle in his mouth, Kenni Ther gestures while leading the Brazilian samba drumming workshop Thursday at Mile of Music.
Kenni Ther ’16 leads the Brazilian samba drumming workshop in Houdini Plaza during Thursday’s opening day of Mile of Music.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Kenni Ther ’16 had his young charges hanging on his every word, eyes focused, sticks in hand, a mix of drums and upside-down buckets in play on a gorgeous afternoon in downtown Appleton’s Houdini Plaza.

“I get tired of talking sometimes,” Ther told the gathering of several dozen kids and the adults they brought along for this high-energy teaching session on Brazilian samba drumming. “That’s why I have the drum. I’ll let the drum do the talking for me.”

And, so he did. And the young drummers followed suit as a couple hundred spectators nodded their approval.

A few hundred feet to the east, a crowd overflowed from the patio at Bazil’s Pub as singer-songwriter Christopher Gold played a heartfelt set and shared stories of joy and despair and the wisdom gained from both.

It was the middle of the afternoon. On a Thursday. Welcome to Mile of Music.

The annual four-day all-original music festival kicked off its seventh edition on Thursday, mixing nearly 900 live music sets in 70-plus venues with more than 40 interactive music education workshops, a blend that differentiates this festival from most any other music event on the planet. It continues through Sunday — and, yes, admission is free.

The Music Education Team, supported by a grant from the Bright Idea Fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, is a full-on Lawrence University juggernaut, led by music education instructor Leila Ramagopal Pertl. It features more than 25 instructors, many of them, like Ther, alumni who developed their musical skills and nurtured their passion for music while students at the Lawrence Conservatory of Music.

Full lineup of Mile 7 music education workshops here.

Meet the Lawrence-led Music Education Team here.

Like the festival itself, the music education workshops have grown in size and scope since first launching in 2013. More than 7,000 people are expected to take part in the hands-on sessions before the finale, a ukulele workshop, brings it to a close on Sunday afternoon.

“It’s great to get out in the community and have people learn music in not a classroom setting,” Ther said after the samba drumming workshop ended. “Sometimes people think you only get to learn music in your private lessons or in a school band or orchestra or choir. No, music is for everybody. Everyone listens to music, so everyone has the right to be their own musician and figure out music on their own.”

Nestor Dominguez ’14 talks to the audience during a mariachi workshop in The Grove, a green space next to Brokaw Hall.
Nestor Dominguez ’14 is joined by Mariachi Jabali as they lead a mariachi workshop Thursday in The Grove, a green space next to Brokaw Hall, during Mile of Music.

A few blocks down College Avenue, on the green space next to Brokaw Hall known as The Grove, Nestor Dominguez ’14 was leading a mariachi band — Mariachi Jabali, featuring students from Appleton North High School — as they introduced the music to a couple hundred onlookers. They ran through a variety of music within the mariachi genre, from jarabe to bolero to ranchera to polka.

“Just get up and wiggle around and come up with a dance,” Dominguez encouraged the crowd as the band showcased the popular jarabe style. “If you’re going to be here with us, you need to get up and dance.”

Then there was bolero, the mariachi music of romance. Dominguez, who plays and teaches mariachi music in Chicago, encouraged the crowd to make and maintain eye contact with the person next to them as the music played.

“Eye contact is so important,” he told them. “Let’s connect as human beings. … I’m not saying you’re going to fall in love with the person next to you, but that would be all right.”

A world of music in our back yard

As the music education offerings at Mile of Music have evolved over the past seven installments, they’ve taken on a more global feel, Brazilian samba drumming and mariachi being part of a festival mix that also includes, among others, Ghanaian drumming and dance, Afro-Cuban singing, and Balinese gamelan. New this year are sessions on Native American music and dances of India.

That’s not by accident. Ramagopal Pertl said the team has purposefully set out to showcase as many cultures and styles as possible, a theme embraced by team members and the audience alike.

“That is really important, especially for the little ones,” said Francisca Hiscocks of Appleton, a native of Spain who attended Thursday’s Brazilian samba drumming session. “Just for their education, to be exposed to something different, that’s important. For me being from a different country, I think this is so great.”

More on the connections between Lawrence, Mile of Music here.

Porky’s Groove Machine returns to Lawrence, Mile of Music. Read more here.

Thel, who teaches music at a middle school in Oshkosh, said cultural variety in the festival’s music education outreach is all about being inclusive and enlightening.

“Maybe hip hop is your thing, that’s great,” he said. “Maybe acoustic guitar playing is your thing, or the ukulele workshop, that’s your thing. Everyone has a specific rhythm in their heart that they can relate and respond to. We’re just trying to help people figure out what that is.”

Mile of Music was drawing rave reviews as it got rolling Thursday. Music could be heard coming from everywhere along and near College Avenue — in bars and coffee shops, in Memorial Chapel, on patios, in alleyways and on green spaces on the Lawrence campus. Even from a camper parked on the Ormsby Hall lawn, home to the Tiny House Listening Lounge, a new venue for this year’s festival.

“I think this is just all really cool,” said Sarah Fischer of Appleton, taking in the festival’s opening day.

Bernard Lilly ’18, who performs as B. Lilly, puts on a songwriting and performance workshop at Copper Rock Coffee Company during Mile of Music.

More photos of the 2019 Music Education Team workshops here.

Cool, indeed. And the opportunity to bang a drum, get a lesson in songwriting, or learn about Native American flute playing while you’re here, well, that’s a bonus that is music to the ears of anyone who cherishes the connections between the festival, the community and Lawrence.

“We all agreed from the beginning that this wasn’t the type of festival that was ogling celebrity, it was craft focused,” said Cory Chisel, the Appleton-raised singer-songwriter who co-founded the festival with marketing executive Dave Willems. “It was like, here are innovative, exciting songwriters from around the world, and I wanted to bring all those people to Appleton specifically because of the specialness of this place and the music that was inside of us and the talent level we have inside of us here.”

It isn’t just about listening to and discovering new music, although that is a huge focus of the festival. It’s also about participating in the music-making, connecting the community with the music, Chisel said. Hence, the launch and growth of the Music Education Team. The partnership with Lawrence for that piece was as important as anything else in establishing the festival as one of the bright lights of the Midwest music scene.

“Mile of Music was about that connection,” Chisel said. “And Lawrence has been deepening and strengthening that community relationship.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu