From colonialism to issues of racism, the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music piano department commemorates the 150thbirthday of French composer Claude Debussy Sunday, Oct. 28 with a day-long, multimedia examination of the social and cultural history of Paris that influenced Debussy’s work.

Music, art, theatrical readings, a dance competition, a gamelan demonstration and even a circus act will be featured in the “Debussy Carnival.”  The celebration begins at 11 a.m. and continues throughout the day in Harper Hall of the Music-Drama Center. All events are free and open to the public.

In conjunction with various presentations (“Humor in Debussy,” “Race and the Cakewalk”) and demonstrations of early Parisian courtly dances, the Lawrence student piano majors will perform nearly all of Debussy’s works for piano, many of which are short (2-3 minutes) pieces.

Professor Catherine Kautsky

“This celebration promises to be fascinating on every front,” said Professor of Music and keyboard department chair Catherine Kautsky, who will perform a 1 p.m. faculty recital as part of the day’s activities with conservatory colleagues Joanne Bozeman (soprano), Wen-Lei Gu (violin) and Steven Spears (tenor).  “No composer absorbed more from his surroundings than did Claude Debussy. We will be transported to his Paris of 1880-1918, complete with its circus acts, gamelan performances, as well as the political ambiguities arising from new colonies, visiting minstrel shows and a constant simmering resentment against the Germans.

“Debussy’s music is by turns funny and infinitely evocative— my hope is that the slides, readings and dances with which we surround it will well communicate all that imagination!”

An exhibition of art works that inspired Debussy’s compositions will be on display in the Harper Hall lobby from 11-7 p.m.  Following the celebration, the works will be exhibited Oct. 29 – Nov. 2, Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. in the Quirk Print Gallery in the Wriston Art Center.

A cakewalk dance competition will be held at 3 p.m. with a fresh-baked cake awarded as a first-place prize to the winning couple. The competition is open to all interested campus and community participants. Interested dancers are invited to a cakewalk instruction/practice session from 10-11 a.m.

For a complete schedule of events, visit

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a world-class conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2013 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 1,450 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries. Follow Lawrence on Facebook.