Category: Community

Lawrence music education team “a difference maker” for Appleton’s annual Mile of Music festival

MoM_poster_newsblogIf you’re not already familiar with gumbooting or boomwhackers, Leila Ramagopal Pertl ’87 can’t wait to introduce you to them.

Pertl serves as the music education curator of Appleton’s four-day Mile of Music festival, a celebration of original music featuring more than 850 live performances by 240 artists from 28 states and four countries at 70 venues along College Avenue and the Fox River. The fourth iteration of the handcrafted artisan festival — Mile Four — runs Aug. 4-7.

Since its launch in 2013, music education has been a central and defining component of the festival. And Ramagopal Pertl, along with her husband, Brian Pertl ’86, dean of the Lawrence Conservatory of Music, have been at the forefront of those efforts, leading a team of 16 dedicated music educators, most of whom are Lawrence graduates or current students.

“Brian and Leila were two of the first people we met with about the Mile of Music concept,” said festival co-founder Dave Willems. “The Music Education Team has evolved through them into one of the highlights of the festival for attendees, artists and organizers alike. They immediately saw this as a neat community-campus collaboration and the enthusiasm of the entire education and interactive team has never wavered.”

Calling music “a birthright,” Ramagopal Pertl will oversee 59 hands-on education workshops and hands-on performance opportunities over the course of the festival for music lovers of all ages. Everything from ukulele and Didjeridu to Irish dance and Balinese Gamelan will be represented.

For the uninitiated, gumbooting, a powerful, percussive dance developed in South African mines during apartheid, and boomwhackers, pitched tube instruments used to create rhythms and grooves, also will be among the eclectic mix of education sessions.

Mile-of-Music-'16_newsblog“It’s an incredible privilege to have a world-class music festival right here in Appleton that puts music education at its very core and that is willing to embrace the power of community music-making,” said Ramagopal Pertl, who is a music education instructor at the Lawrence conservatory as well as an instructor of harp at the Lawrence Academy of Music.

One of the new workshops this year will feature Jose Corey Torres, a 2012 Lawrence graduate also known as “Knowledge.” Torres will lead three different hip-hop poetry and beats workshops for ages 8-12, 13-16 and 17 through adult.

Torres, who grew up in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, was inspired by Ramagopal Pertl’s passion for the festival’s music education events to get involved this year.

“I’m someone who loves working closely with people,” said Torres, a firm believer in the power of spiritual awareness. “It’s always a good feeling when someone sees the gift you have and encourages you to share that gift with others who could benefit from it.

“We all have a story to tell, some are aware of the power it holds and some are not,” Torres added. “Through my artistry I strive to be a positive resource for those who need the extra push.”

There are a lot of reasons Mile of Music has taken on such a unique flavor, but the fact that we have such an amazing institution like Lawrence University as a core partner has been one of the keys from the start.”
    — Dave Willems, Mile of Music co-founder

Torres said his workshops will focus on the art of writing lyrics.

“Writing song lyrics is much easier than people think. I’d love to share why songs are written and help bring the artistry out of those who choose to participate. When I first wrote a song as a teenager, it derived from my personal experiences I felt needed to be expressed outwardly. What started out as a journal entry, later turned into a song. Since then I’ve been super connected to the art of writing and projecting my lyrics on different styles of beats.”

Corey-Torres_newsblog
Corey Torres ’12 will lead three hip-hop poetry and beats workships during this year’s Mile of Music festival.

Ramagopal Pertl said Torres’ artistry and ability to make people feel comfortable made adding him to the team “a slam dunk.”

“Corey is a fantastic artist and an incredibly genuine human being. I knew from my first conversation with him that he needed to be part of the team,” said Ramagopal Pertl. “Hip-hop is a great opportunity to dive deep into the ideas and emotions and express them back in poetry and music. It is an important and relevant art form that our community will love to experience.”

Also new to this year’s education sessions is a collaboration with the Fox Valley Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), featuring singer/songwriter Paul Demer and other musicians who have addressed mental health through the power of music.

The session, at 10 a.m. Saturday (8/6) in Harper Hall of Lawrence’s Music-Drama Center, will be a rich experience of personal stories, music performances, education and performer-audience conversation surrounding mental illness. This event also will feature Val Neff ’13 and I Dewa Ketut Alit Adnyana, director of Lawrence’s Gamelan Cahaya Asri.

“One of the things Paul and I are both passionate about is destigmatizing mental illness and bringing mental health to the fore,” said Ramagopal Pertl. “Music is not just about performance, it is not just about entertainment, it is a way of life. Music holds incredible power to help process important issues like mental illness.”

Among the new members of the music education team this year is Matthew Arau, assistant professor of music education and associate director of bands at Lawrence. His close relationship with the large brass instrument manufacturing company Conn-Selmer will enable the festival to host its first pBone fun zone. Conn-Selmer will provide 40 colorful pBones —plastic trombones — so anyone, even those with no previous experience can learn how to play the trombone.

Leila-Pertle_MoM-newsblog
Leila Ramagopal Pertl ’87 has been the music education curator for the Mile of Music since the festival was launched in 2013.

“There are a lot of reasons Mile of Music has taken on such a unique flavor, but the fact that we have such an amazing institution like Lawrence University as a core partner has been one of the keys from the start,” said Willems. “To be able to weave that creativity, talent and passion from the educators into our overall program and to do it so seamlessly, has been a difference-maker for us.”

Other members of this year’s music education team include Nick Allen ’14, Ilan Blanck ’17, Sarah Clewitt ’17,  Joseph Connor ’15, Patricia Darling ’85, Nestor Dominguez ’14, Melissa Fields, Sean Goldman ’18, Eli Grover ’11, Adam Korber ’17, Jaclyn Kottman ’12, Chris Misch-Bloxdorf ’13, Sarah Phelps ’07,  Mike Pope ’12, Dan Reifsteck ’15, Luke Rivard ’15 Becca Shuman ’15, Kennison Ther ’16 and Marshall Yoes ’14.

Beyond the music educators, Lawrence alumni will be well represented on the performance stages by 2016 graduate Mariantonia Longhi, Ross Catterton ’08, The Crowe Brothers and Porky’s Groove Machine.

Proceeds from Mile of Music support, in part, the Mile of Music Education Fund within the Appleton Education Foundation to further emphasize music education in the community. In addition to Lawrence, music education events are supported by the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, Inc. and Jewelers Mutual Insurance Co.

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 book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College” and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges 2016. Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Two Academy of Music Girl Choir singers to represent Wisconsin at national convention

A pair of singers from the Lawrence Academy of Music Girl Choir will represent Wisconsin at the 2016 “Let Freedom SING!” Girlchoir National Convention.

Elena-Anderla_newsblog
Elena Anderla

Elena Anderla of Appleton and Haley Corcoran of Kaukauna will serve as singer delegates at the six-day choral festival July 24-29 in Philadelphia. The festival will be held at the same time in the same city as the Democratic National Convention.

“The fact that these two conventions are taking place at the same time is no coincidence,” said Steven Fisher, founder and artistic director of the “Let Freedom SING!” festival. “In presidential election seasons, I, like most Americans, grow weary of partisan politics dividing us as a country. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to showcase choral music and its extraordinary ability to quite literally unite all 50 states.”

Convention organizers asked only one youth choir from each state to send delegates to the convention according to Karen Bruno, director of the Academy of Music, artisitic director of the Girl Choir program and conductor of the Girl Choir Bel Canto singers.

“We are honored to know that our Girl Choir program has been recognized nationally for its outstanding musicianship, and thrilled that two of our singers have the opportunity to participate in this unique event,” said Bruno.

Anderla, a senior Xavier High School, has been a member of the Lawrence Academy Girl Choir for eight years.

“I’m honored to have been chosen for this amazing experience to sing with new voices and a new director in Philadelphia for a week,” said Anderla. “This convention will be a great way to show the country that music truly has the power to unite us despite our many different backgrounds.”

“We are honored to know that our Girl Choir program has been recognized nationally for its outstanding musicianship, and thrilled that two of our singers have the opportunity to participate in this unique event.”
— Karen Bruno

Haley-Corcoran_newsblog
Haley Corcoran

Corcoran, who has sung with the Girl Choir program the past six years, is a junior at Kaukauna High School.

“Music is a big part of my life and I am honored to be selected to represent Wisconsin at the convention,” said Corcoran. “I am most looking forward to meeting new people who share the same passions as I do. I’m sure this will be the highlight of my high school music career. I I’m excited for this opportunity.”

Like all of the singer delegates, Anderla and Corcoran will need to learn a repertoire of 10 songs before they arrive in Philadelphia. In addition to a culminating “Let Freedom SING!”  concert on July 27 at Arcadia University, Anderla and Corcoran will participate in other “pop up” performance at historic sites throughout Philadelphia.

“It will be a magical choral moment at the opening of the convention when these young women get to hear for the first time what 50 states singing together sounds like,” said Fisher. “As a founder of an organization that aims to transform the lives of young people through the power of making music together, I’m keenly aware of how choral music empowers young women in a unique way when they have the opportunity to make it surround by other girls, helping them to develop into strong, confident women who are at the ready to literally let their voices be heard.”

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 book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College” and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges 2016. Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

 

Environmental law professor discusses renewable energy strategies, challenges in presentation

Integrating cleaner energy into the existing infrastructure and strategies for new facilities to incorporate renewable energy will be explored in a Lawrence University science hall/economics colloquium.

Elizabeth Wilson
Elizabeth Wilson

Elizabeth Wilson, professor of energy and environmental policy and law at the University of Minnesota, presents “Remaking Energy: Creating Sustainable Electricity Systems” Monday, May 16 at 4:30 p.m. in the Wriston Art Center auditorium. The talk is free and open to the public.

Wilson’s research focuses on the implementation of energy and environmental policies and laws. She studies how institutions support and thwart energy system transitions, focusing on the interplay between technology innovation, policy creation and institutional decision making.

Her most recent research has examined how energy policy stakeholders view the opportunities and challenges of decision-making within Regional Transmission Organizations and creating smart grids. RTOs currently manage the transmission planning, electricity markets and grid operations for more than 70 percent of North America.

Wilson was awarded a 2015 an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship that will support research in Denmark, Germany and Spain of their energy systems, which include high levels of renewable resources as well as nuclear policies and electric grid architectures different than the United States.

She is the co-author of the 2015 book “Smart Grid (R)Evolution: Electric Power Struggles” and the 2014 book “Energy Law and Policy.”

A former employee of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Wilson spent a year as a visiting scholar in China at Beijing’s Tsinghua University and also has worked in Belgium, Burundi and Tanzania. She earned a Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University in engineering and public policy.

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 book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College” and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges 2016. Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Civic Life Project community film screening May 3 in Warch Campus Center

 Jamie DeMotts began experimenting with filmmaking when she was 11 years old.Civic-Life-Project-logo_newsblog

Without any editing software, the Lawrence University senior from St. Cloud, Minn., had to settle for manipulating an old JVC tape camera, recording over old footage to shoot new scenes.

With the help of “real” equipment and some valuable guidance from Lawrence faculty, DeMotts’ skills as a filmmaker have blossomed. One of her latest efforts, “Brown Water,” which she made with classmates Taylor Dodson and Hugo Espinosa, will be one of four documentaries shown Tuesday, May 3 at 6 p.m. in the Warch Campus Center at the fourth community screening of Lawrence University’s Civic Life Project.

The screening is free and open to the public, but advance registration is requested at http://go.lawrence.edu/qdfw or by calling 920-832-7019.

“Filmmaking is a fantastic way to communicate stories,” said DeMotts, a self-designed environmental studies and film studies major. “Thanks to online videos, anyone can be a filmmaker. It’s a great way to express yourself and find your voice. I think everyone should be a filmmaker.”

Civic Life Project_brown water_newsblog
A scene from “Brown Water.”

Finding one’s voice is an important part of the mission of the Civic Life Project, which was created by award-winning filmmaker Catherine Tatge, and her husband, Dominique Lasseur. The CLP was launched at Lawrence in 2012 as an innovative educational tool to challenge students to learn about democracy in a unique way, discover more about the community in which they live and and find their own individual voice through the creation of a documentary video.

The ecologically-focused “Brown Water” explores the interaction between dairy farming and groundwater quality.

“People have heard about environmental problems so many times that it’s important to keep thinking of ways to represent them in a way that hits a target audience,” DeMotts explained of her team’s inspiration for film.

Other films featured at screening will be:

  • “Breaking the Silence: Unseen Racism” An examination of how racism goes unseen in a college town like Appleton.
  • “A Generation On Change” A local transgender student fights for not only her rights, but also for the rights of other transgender youths in the Fox Valley.
  • “Mental Health in the Prison System” A look at the value and use of mental health diagnosis and treatment in the Wisconsin criminal justice system.
Civic-Life-Project_signs_newsblog
A scene from “Breaking the Silence: Unseen Racism.”

The topics for the documentaries grew out of conversations Tatge conducted with numerous community leaders to identify issues of concern in the Fox Cities. Three-member teams of Lawrence students then shared the roles of writer, editor, producer, director and videographer in creating the documentaries.

Students will lead brief, round-table discussions related to the issues following the screening of each film.

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 book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College” and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges 2016. Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

2016 Fox Cities Book Festival: Lawrence welcomes José Ángel N., Carine McCandless

Lawrence University hosts a pair of authors for presentations as part of the 9th annual Fox Cities Book Festival. Both events are free and open to the public.Illegal_newsblog

José Ángel N., whose memoir “Illegal: Reflections of an Undocumented Immigrant,” was the featured book for Lawrence’s annual MLK day of service, discusses his experiences of of trying to build a new life in America Thursday, April at 11:10 a.m. in the Lawrence Diversity Center.

Arriving in the United States in the 1990s with a ninth-grade education after crawling through a tunnel from Tijuana, Mexico, N. made his way to Chicago, where he found access to ESL and GED classes. He eventually attended college and graduate school and became a professional translator.

Isolated by a lack of legal documentation, N. found solace in the education America provided. In his memoir, he challenges the stereotype that undocumented immigrants are freeloaders without access to education or opportunity for advancement while detailing the constraints, deceptions and humiliations that characterize alien life “amid the shadows.”

Entrepreneur and activist Carine McCandless discusses her 2014 best-selling book “The Wild Truth” Thursday April 21 at 7 p.m. in the Warch Campus Center.

Carine-McCandless_newsblog
Carine McCandless. Photo by Dominic Peters.

In “The Wild Truth,” McCandless explores her troubled family life growing up, presenting an intensely personal journey to set the record straight about her brother’s tragic story, which was chronicled in Jon Krakauer’s best-selling book “Into the Wild.” McCandless worked with Krakauer on “Into the Wild” as well as with actor Sean Penn, who directed the critically acclaimed 2007 film of the same name. McCandless’ script contributions to the film earned her a screen credit.

In a review of “The Wild Truth,” NPR said it “opens up a conversation about hideous domestic violence hidden behind a mask of prosperity and propriety.”

Linnea-Garcia_newsblog
Linnea Garcia ’15

As part of the 2016 book festival, 2015 Lawrence graduate Linnea Garcia presents “Tips for writing & marketing young adult fantasy” Friday, April 22 at 3 p.m. at the Kaukauna Public Library.

Garcia, who began writing novels at the age of 10, is the author of the 2014 self-published fantasy fiction book “The Healing Pool.” She was the 2007 first- and third-prize winner of the Jo-Anne Hirshfield Memorial Poetry Award.

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 book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College” and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges 2016. Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Mentoring Maven: Former Lawrence professor named recipient of community volunteer award

Mary-Poulson_newsblog
Mary Poulson

A born mentor, making a difference in people’s lives has been part of Mary Poulson’s modus operandi for most of her 85 years of life.

The long-time Lawrence University faculty member and barrier-breaking coach will be recognized Tuesday, April 19 as the 2016 recipient of the Paul and Elaine Groth Mentoring Award. The award is sponsored by the Mielke Family Foundation.

Poulson will be one of eight community award winners honored 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 Paul and Elaine Groth Mentoring Award recognizes an individual or group that has served as a mentor in the community over time and has, by example, made meaningful contributions to the quality of life in the Fox Cities.

Poulson was among 21 Milwaukee-Downer College faculty members who joined the Lawrence community in 1964 following the consolidation of the two institutions. During her 29-year career at Lawrence, she mentored thousands of students as a professor of physical education and coach of three sports, helping them discover themselves and find their niche in life.

When she first moved to Appleton, Poulson planned to stay just a year while exploring other options.

“Within weeks of settling in I realized what a special place Appleton was,” said Poulson. “During my 52 years here, friends, teachers and colleagues have provided me with many opportunities to share the fullness of life with others.”

A nationally ranked fencer in her own right, Mary Poulson coached Lawrence's men's and women's fencing team and helped it gain varsity status during her tenure.
A nationally ranked fencer in her own right, Mary Poulson coached Lawrence’s men’s and women’s fencing team for more than 20 years and helped it gain varsity status during her tenure.

At Lawrence, Poulson became the first woman coach of any sport in the Midwest Conference. A consummate multitasker, she coached women’s tennis —  Lawrence’s first varsity sport for women — men’s tennis and was the driving force behind the move from club status to varsity status of the men’s and women’s fencing teams, which she coached until her retirement in 1993.

In retirement, Poulson’s, and her late husband, John’s, own personal curiosities led to the creation of the Noonhour Philosophers, a free community speaker’s program held weekly at Trinity Lutheran Church in downtown Appleton. For more than 20 years, Poulson has organized and coordinated the program, arranging presenters spanning the spectrum to share their experiences and explore interesting and topical issues.

Patricia Boldt, a 1948 Lawrence graduate who nominated Poulson for the mentoring award, described the Noonhour Philosophers as “a welcoming institution that has made the Fox Cities a more interesting place to live.”

“She is a genius in finding both obscure and obvious presenters,” wrote Boldt.

In addition to running the Noonhour Philosophers program, Poulson has been active in the area’s annual Crop Walk for Hunger and with Leaven, a community based non-profit organization that works with volunteers to assist people in crisis who have basic needs that cannot be met elsewhere.

“All of these opportunities have helped me realize how blessed I’ve been and how generously Appleton residents share their blessings in all areas of life,” said Poulson. “I’m a behind-the-scenes sort of person, so it’s quite humbling to be recognized with the Paul and Elaine Groth Mentoring Award. I am extremely grateful to the Mielke Family Foundation and all those who make these awards possible.”

Poulson is the third Lawrentian to be honored with one of the community volunteer awards. Lynn Hagee, director of special projects at Lawrence, and Rick Bjella, former choral director at Lawrence and artistic director of the White Heron Chorale (now newVoices), received the Hanns Kretzschmar Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2014 and 2006, respectively.

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 book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College” and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges 2016. Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Lawrence Artist Series welcomes opera star Lawrence Brownlee

If you enjoy opera, you’ll love Lawrence Brownlee. If you don’t, he may turn you into a convert.

With effortless sound and sparkling diction, Brownlee brings his powerful and agile tenor voice to the Lawrence Memorial Chapel stage Saturday, April 16 at 8 p.m. in the latest Lawrence University’s Artist Series concert.

Lawrence-Brownlee_newsblog_2
Tenor Lawrence Brownlee

Tickets, at $25/$30 for adults, $20/$25 for seniors and $18/$20 for students are available through the Lawrence Box Office, 920-832-6749.

While performing opposite the leading ladies of contemporary opera, Brownlee has established himself as a star on the international scene. He has dazzled audiences in nearly every major theater in the world and enjoys a relationship with many prominent conductors and symphony orchestras.

Since being named Grand Prize winner of the 2001 Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions, the Associated Press has named him one of “the world’s leading bel canto tenors.” National Public Radio hailed his voice as “an instrument of great beauty and expression.” In 2006, Brownlee was named the winner of the prestigious Marian Anderson Vocal Award.

“Lawrence Brownlee is, without exaggeration, a phenomenon in today’s operatic world,” said Joanne Bozeman, a voice instructor in Lawrence’s conservatory of music. “With all due respect to other fine tenors, I don’t believe anyone currently matches him in the high-flying bel canto repertoire. NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert of Mr. Brownlee singing spirituals is a great way to sample what he will bring to the chapel stage as an equally phenomenal recitalist.”

Brownlee’s operatic highlights include: “La Cenerentola” in Milan, Houston, Philadelphia and the Metropolitan Opera; “L’italiana in Algeri” in Milan, Dresden, Boston and Seattle; and the title role in the 2015 world premiere of Daniel Schnyder’s “Charlie Parker’s Yardbird,” a work written specifically for him, at the Opera Philadelphia.

Brownlee’s discography boasts the Grammy Award-nominated “Virtuoso Rossini Arias,” a  testament to his broad impact in the classical music genre. He also has contributed several opera and concert recordings, among them “Armida” at the Metropolitan Opera and “Carmina Burana” with the Berlin Philharmonic.

In 2013, Brownlee released a collection of African-American spirituals entitled “Spiritual Sketches” with pianist Damien Sneed, which the pair performed at Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series. In a review of the album, NPR it as “soulful singing” that “sounds like it’s coming straight from his heart to yours.”

An avid salsa dancer and photographer, often taking portraits of his on-stage colleagues, Brownlee is a die-hard football fan and has treated many NFL audiences to his rendition of the national anthem.

A native of Youngstown, Ohio, Brownlee earned a bachelor’s degree from Indiana’s Anderson University and a graduate degree from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music.

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 book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College” and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges 2016. Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Appleton native, Iowa Writers’ Workshop Director named Lawrence’s 2016 commencement speaker, honorary degree recipient

It will be a homecoming of sorts for award-winning writer and Appleton native Lan Samantha Chang when she returns to the Lawrence University campus to receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree Sunday, June 12 at the college’s 167th commencement ceremony.

Chang, the director of the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, also will serve as the principal commencement speaker. This will be Chang’s first honorary degree.

“An understanding of the creative process is core to the education Lawrence offers,” said President Mark Burstein. “We are very pleased that Lan Samantha Chang will join us for commencement this spring so we can honor an Appleton native who has perfected her craft and now teaches it to others as director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. From her first book, which the New York Times described as ‘a taut, incisive study of Chinese immigrants in America and their almost wordless struggle to adapt to a new life,’ to more recent work, Samantha has provided us a window into the human experience.”

Lan Samantha Chang will receive an honorary degree from Lawrence and serve as the principal speaker at the college's 167th commencement June 12. Photo by Tom Jorgensen.
Lan Samantha Chang will receive an honorary degree from Lawrence and serve as the principal speaker at the college’s 167th commencement June 12. Photo by Tom Jorgensen.

Chang, whose parents emigrated to the United States from China, graduated from Appleton West High School in 1983. Her honorary degree will further connect her to Lawrence. Her mother earned a bachelor of music degree in piano pedagogy from Lawrence, while her father was an associate professor of engineering at the former Institute of Paper Chemistry, which had a long affiliation with Lawrence.

“Receiving an honorary degree from Lawrence means a great deal to me,” said Chang, “in part because when I was growing up, Lawrence was the center of intellectual life in Appleton. It is a greatly respected university. I have vivid memories of being at the conservatory during my mother’s recitals and meeting her professors.”

Her path to award-winning writer followed a circuitous route. Chang attended Yale University intending to satisfy her parent’s wishes of pursuing a medical degree, but she soon decided becoming a doctor was not in her future. After earning a degree in East Asian Studies, she told her parents she would become a lawyer, another career option more designed to please her parents than her own interests. She eventually earned a master’s of public administration degree from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

“I realized that I didn’t want to pursue that direction either,” Chang explained of her second change of heart. “It was really just a question of coming to face the fact that I had never wanted to do anything else except write fiction and that it would be pointless to try to keep trying to do other things.”

Chang eventually enrolled at the University of Iowa and earned a master of fine arts in creative writing.

While she says her life has been much easier since then, “I don’t think I’ve ever circled as much as I did after college when I understood that I would have to disappoint my parents and pursue an uncertain life,” said Chang.

Before returning to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Chang taught creative writing at Stanford University as Jones Lecturer in Fiction, in Warren Wilson College’s MFA program for writers and at Harvard University as Briggs-Copland Lecturer in Creative Writing.

Since 2006, she has served as the program director of the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, where she also teaches English as the May Brodbeck Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Chang’s experiences as an Asian American inspired her to write two novels and a collection of short stories about the merging of Chinese and American culture and the dynamics of family and wealth in times of hardship or after war. Her works include 1998’s “Hunger: A Novella and Stories,” 2004’s “Inheritance: A Novel” and “All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost: A Novel” in 2010.

Chang’s work has been recognized with the 2005 PEN Open Book Award for “Inheritance,” while “Hunger” was the winner of the Southern Review Fiction Prize and named a finalist for a Los Angeles Times Book Award. Chang’s writing has been selected twice (1994, 1996) for inclusion in the yearly anthology “The Best American Short Stories.”

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 book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College” and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges 2016. Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Premiere screening of third installment of Civic Life Project documentaries Oct. 15

When she began working with the Civic Life Project, Rose Nelson found motivation to dive into the world of mental health issues in the prison system through what she calls “society’s tendency to ostracize those who do not fit a specific mold regarding health.”

The Lawrence University senior from Chicago, Ill., will be one of several student filmmakers who will premiere documentaries Thursday, Oct. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at Fox Valley Technical College as part of the third installment of Lawrence’s Civic Life Project.

CLP_brownwater_newsblog
“Brown Water” examines the interaction between dairy farming and groundwater quality.

Students will lead brief, round-table discussions related to the issues following the screening of each film.

Nelson’s film, “Confinement,” will be one of four short films shown in the Commons on the FVTC campus, 1825 N. Bluemound Dr., Appleton. Visitors are encouraged to use Entrance 6 off of the south parking lot. The screening is free, but advance registration is requested.

“Confinement” explores the value and use of mental health diagnosis and treatment in the criminal justice.

“The most important thing I learned from this project is how important everyday people are in solving the major issues that we touch on in these films,” said Nelson, who collaborated on “Confinement” with sophomore Sara Morrison, Skokie, Ill. “While the politicians, the wardens, the prisoners and the mental health providers clearly need to be part of the solution, no progress can be made without community involvement.”

In addition to “Confinement,” other 2015 Civic Life Project films are:

  • “Brown Water” an examination of the interaction between dairy farming and groundwater quality. Jamie DeMotts, St. Cloud, Minn.; Taylor Dodson, Kenosha; Hugo Antonio Espinosa, Bethesda, Md.

    CLP-Transgender_newsblog
    In “A Generation On Change,” a transgender youth fights for not only her rights, but also for other transgender youths in the Fox Valley.
  • “A Generation On Change” A transgender youth fights for not only her rights, but also for other transgender youths in the Fox Valley. Christopher Gore-Gammon, Appleton; Htee T. Moo, St. Paul, Minn.
  • “A Second Chance” one individual’s struggle through heroin addiction and recovery. Haley Ruiz, Gurnee, Ill., Izaya Turenne, Janesville; Isa Vazquez-Thorpe, St. Paul, Minn.

Nelson hopes the message of each of the films resonates with the viewers.

“I want every audience member to come away not only from my film, but all of the films, with a greater understanding of the issue and a drive to try to understand people in their communities whom they might have previously not given any consideration to,” said Nelson.

CLP_heroin_newsblog
“A Second Chance” follows one individual’s struggle through heroin addiction and recovery.

The Civic Life Project is the brainchild of award-winning documentary filmmaker and 1972 Lawrence graduate Catherine Tatge and her husband, Dominique Lasseur. They launched the project in 2010 in their home state of Connecticut, and brought it to Lawrence in 2012.

Tatge and Lasseur designed the Civic Life Project as an innovative educational tool to challenge each student to learn about civics and democracy in a unique way, discover more about the community in which they reside and find their own individual voice through the creation of a documentary video.

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 book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College” and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges 2016. Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

 

 

Lawrence composer weaves musical mosaic with help from 20 eighth graders

Asha-Srinivasan_headshot
Asha Srinivasan

A collaborative project between Lawrence University composer Asha Srinivasan, Lawrence graduates Jesse Dochnahl (2006) and Carrie Winkler (1986) and a pair of middle school bands in two different states led to a recent world premiere performance.

The Sheboygan Falls Middle School eighth-grade band, under the direction of Winkler, featured Srinivasan’s “Chroma Mosaic” in its spring band concert earlier this month.

The composition grew out of a first-year project called Mission to Commission. The brainchild of Dochnahl, who directs the eighth-grade band at CS Porter Middle School in Missoula, Mont., Mission to Commission seeks opportunities for year-long creativity, communication and collaboration for two middle school band programs.

Under Dochnahl’s baton, Porter Middle School’s eighth-grade band will perform “Chroma Mosaic” May 26 in its own concert.

Asha-addresses-audience_newblog
Assistant Professor of Music Asha Srinivasan addresses the audience prior to the world premiere performance by the Sheboygan Falls Middle School band of “Chroma Mosaic.”

Starting in April 2014, Srinivasan began working with Dochnahl on the idea of a joint collaboration. Starting last September, through personal visits to Sheboygan Falls and Skyping with the students in Montana, Srinivasan mentored the young musicians on the art and process of music composition.

Students from both schools composed a series of individual melodies and each school ultimately chose 10, ranging in length from 10 to 20 seconds, to submit to Srinivasan, who then skillfully arranged 14 of them into a single, moving mosaic of music.

“Some of them I used in their entirety and others I just used small snippets,” explained Srinivasan, who returned the finished composition in mid-March to the students to begin practicing. “I adjusted the melodies in terms of tempo, key and instrumentation to create the larger, composite piece.”

The culmination of the collaboration — the premiere performance of the six-minute composition by the Sheboygan Falls eighth-grade band — left Srinivasan feeling overwhelmed.

Asha-hug_newsblog
Carrie Winkler ’86, director of the Sheboygan Falls Middle School band, congratulates Lawrence composer Asha Srinivasan following the premiere performance of Srinivasan’s “Chroma Mosaic.”

“I told the students afterward that was the best, most meaningful performance I’ve ever experienced. It wasn’t just my music, it was our music. I hope the experience, the impression, the memory stays with them just as it is going to stay with me.

“This was really one of the neatest projects I’ve been involved with,” added Srinivasan. “It’s really hard to compose music for the middle-school band level, so this was a major learning process on my end as well.”

Srinivasan, who joined the Lawrence faculty in 2008, has won two international awards for her competition “Dviraag.” She was the winner of the Ruam Samai Award at the 2011 Thailand International Composition Festival and earned first-place honors in the Flute New Music Consortium’s 2014 international composition competition, which attracted more than 250 entries from composers in more than 20 countries.

“Dviraag” is included on the CD “Millennial Masters Vol. 4” by Ablaze Records and also can be heard on SoundCloud.

The Mission to Commission project was supported by the Kohler Foundation and the Plum Creek Foundation.

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 2015 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.