Category: Conservatory

Lawrence’s John Holiday finds joy in recruiting young music talent

John Holiday works with a student in his voice studio.
John Holiday works with a student at the Lawrence Conservatory of Music.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

John Holiday slips comfortably into multiple roles.

There’s John Holiday the performer, considered one of the rising young countertenors on the world opera stage.

There’s John Holiday the educator, a sought-after voice instructor at Lawrence University’s Conservatory of Music.

And then there’s John Holiday the recruiter, a man on a mission to draw some of the finest student musicians in the country to Lawrence.

He’ll be wearing all those hats this week as he joins the conservatory’s Presto! tour to Houston, but perhaps none as significantly as that of recruiter.

Houston is Holiday’s hometown. His connections there are deep, meaningful and current, and he’ll spend much of this week connecting young musicians from his beloved Texas to the university 1,200 miles away that he now calls home.

Collaborations key to Presto tour to Houston: See story here

“I have significant ties to Houston because of my family and my upbringing and my church,” said Holiday, who was born in Houston and grew up in nearby Rosenberg. “Subsequently, whenever I travel home, I always make sure that I plan to visit many of the high schools in the Houston area, chiefly the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, which is a long-standing, well-known school for the creative arts, one of the best in the United States. They have won many, many awards at the national level.”

The Presto! tour, a six-day visit to Houston featuring two Lawrence music ensembles and seven faculty members, brings Holiday’s skills in performance, teaching and recruitment into almost ideal alignment. He’ll perform on March 21 along with the two ensembles in a public concert at the Midtown Arts and Theatre Center and spend considerable time teaching and recruiting at area high schools.

He usually makes the visits to the schools solo. This time he’ll have a team with him, spreading the word of the Conservatory of Music and selling high-achieving students on why a Lawrence education would make sense.

“What I do when I go home is I always make sure that I set up master classes and important meetings with the students, not only at HSPVA but other high schools and junior highs in the area as well, so they can become acquainted with me in terms of the opera singing and the jazz singing that I do, but also so they can become acquainted with what I know is an excellent, excellent place for them, which is the Conservatory of Music at Lawrence University.

“So, it’s really keeping with that that we came up with the idea to take Presto! to Houston.”

Texas is a state that’s rich with music talent. The 33-year-old Holiday, who has been teaching at Lawrence for nearly two years, already has three students from Texas studying in his voice studio. He makes no secret that he’d love to draw more.

“Texas is a huge, huge, huge arts state,” Holiday said. “As long as we’ve got football, there’s always going to be a phenomenal band and choir in Texas. And, because I’m from Houston, I think Houston has the best.

“But I also can say I’ve experienced wonderful singing and wonderful learning in the Dallas and Austin areas, San Antonio, too. They are all over.”









“It’s my endeavor wherever I go to find those students who I believe represent what I think is a good Lawrentian.”

John Holiday


Holiday has much to sell when it comes to student recruitment. First, of course, there is the world-class quality and social outreach of the Lawrence Conservatory. Then there is his own impressive resume, which includes winning the prestigious Marian Anderson Vocal Award and performing on some of the world’s most celebrated stages.

Consider his performance schedule in the coming weeks and months. In addition to his teaching duties and the Presto! tour, there’s a date with the Dallas Opera, a May 1 faculty recital here in Appleton, a recital at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, a run of performances in England, a recital in Beverly Hills, a tour to Shanghai, a performance at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, performances in Switzerland and then an early 2020 run of performances at the Los Angeles Opera.

That will get the attention of any aspiring musician looking for a mentor.

“Whenever I am somewhere singing a show, I am always recruiting,” Holiday said. “So, if I am in Florida, I’m finding a high school or a group where I can go in and mentor them and do a master class. If I’m in California, I’ll try to find the same thing. I’m actively recruiting because I believe in this school. I believe that we are a phenomenal institution and I believe that we should make it possible for students to get here, so it’s my endeavor wherever I go to find those students who I believe represent what I think is a good Lawrentian.

“A lot of these students have already heard of Lawrence. Then they are able to put a face with a name, with me. And then put a face with the school. Now they say, I know this person is there, so I should totally give it a look.”

More information on Lawrence Conservatory of Music here

It’s hard to put a value on that sort of outreach and energy, said Brian Pertl, dean of the conservatory.

“For us, it’s been an incredible advantage having him on the faculty because he just loves the recruiting,” he said.

Doing that recruiting in your hometown? Even better.

“I’m so looking forward to it,” Holiday said of this week’s Presto! visit to Houston. “It makes my heart soar just knowing there are Texas students coming here, because I am a Texas guy through and through.”

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

Collaborations key as Lawrence Conservatory takes its social impact mantra on the road to Houston

Poster and link to information on the Presto Houston tour.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Three years ago, Brian Pertl, equipped with donated funds that would allow the Lawrence Conservatory to launch an annual music tour, set forth a vision for what that might be.

Concert performances would be only one part of any touring experience, the dean of the conservatory said. Any tour would have to mesh with how the conservatory has been evolving and growing over the past decade.

“We’ve been trying very hard to redefine what a conservatory education is,” Pertl said. “Part of that vision is to really ask the question, how can music impact society in positive ways?”

It was with that mission in mind that Presto! was launched three years ago, an annual music tour that would take Lawrence musicians — students and faculty — into a chosen metro market for a mix of musical performances and community outreach, an immersion aimed at establishing relationships and community well-being as much as sharing talents and expanding the conservatory’s musical footprint.

First came a multi-day visit to Minneapolis, with outreach efforts focused on mental health awareness, in addition to public performances. The second year was a deep dive into Chicago, where concerts were supplemented with outreach efforts with groups serving underrepresented communities.

Link to video of Presto visit to Chicago in 2018.
Video: Revisit the 2018 Presto! tour to Chicago

Now comes year three, and the most ambitious Presto! excursion to date. Beginning today, the New Music Ensemble and a select jazz ensemble, along with seven faculty members, will embark on a six-day trip to Houston — hometown of rising opera star and Assistant Professor of Music John Holiday — to perform at the Midtown Arts and Theatre Center and do music outreach and education.

Presto! 2019 details: Houston info here

Meet LU’s John Holiday: Rising music star and talent recruiter

The outreach will include two days of music collaborations with young artists who create electronic music at Workshop Houston, a nonprofit after-school organization that recently made news when it received a $100,000 donation from rapper Travis Scott.

The Lawrence students also will spend three days in an elementary school working with third- and fourth-graders, teaching arts-integrated lesson plans.

John Holiday head and shoulders photo
John Holiday

A concert on Thursday, March 21 will showcase both of the Lawrence ensembles, featuring students and faculty members. Transitioning from one ensemble to the next will be a set by Holiday, first displaying his talents with a classical repertoire, then pivoting to jazz, where his talents are equally lauded.

Faculty members and Lawrence students also will pay visits to Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. The school is a hotbed for the kind of smart, talented musicians Lawrence covets. Pertl said he would love to see more HSPVA students choose to come to Appleton.

“Texas has probably the most astounding public-school music programs in the country,” Pertl said. “It’s phenomenal, the musicians coming out of Texas and the number of musicians coming out of Texas.

“So, for us, if we’re looking at recruiting, anywhere in Texas is a big deal — the fact that John Holiday is from Houston, the fact that John has already created this really amazing relationship with the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, makes Houston a logical choice for the tour. We already have several students from Texas at our conservatory, and we would love to see more.”

Holiday was honored a year ago as the winner of the prestigious Marian Anderson Vocal Award and is considered one of the rising stars of the opera world, a countertenor who got a hometown welcome in November when he sang the National Anthem at a Houston Rockets game.

“He is quickly becoming one of the top operatic countertenors in the world, and his hometown of Houston is embracing their hometown hero,” Pertl said.

Featuring Holiday on the Houston trip, both in recruiting young talent and being showcased at the concert, ties everything together. In the case of the concert, that tie is literal, with the two ensembles and their distinctly different repertoires bookending the set from Holiday.

“Since John does both classical music at the highest level and jazz at the highest level, it seemed like a great idea to have him as the pivot point between the New Music Ensemble and the jazz,” Pertl said.










Brian Pertl: “It’s really an amazing thing, and it changes our students.”

Music Tour With a Mission

The underlying tone of the Presto! Houston tour — music with a purpose — speaks to the direction the conservatory has taken since Pertl arrived in 2008. From the Music for All series that takes live performances into spaces that rarely experience such things to ongoing ensemble performances in a nearby prison, the conservatory has put an emphasis on community outreach and positivity.

The Lawrence Conservatory education is deep, focused on bringing students to the highest level of musicianship, but the education doesn’t stop there. Lawrence is also focused on how music can positively impact society. That’s something that separates Lawrence from other conservatories, and people are taking notice.

“A blog that came out last year on musicschoolcentral.com was all about Lawrence and it was titled, ‘Is this the world’s most socially conscious music school?’” Pertl said. “Yes, we are. I’ll take that headline any day.”

More on ensembles on Presto tour: New MusicJazz

When monies donated three years ago by Lawrence alumnus Tom Hurvis ’60 and his foundation made the annual tour possible — the original commitment was for three years but that has now been extended to at least five — Pertl and his faculty set out to create a touring experience that would be substantive and heartfelt for not only the students but the community to which they would be reaching out.

“The vision we wanted to explore, which nobody really had done, is integrating high-level performance experiences with deeply meaningful community collaborations,” Pertl said. “How can a tour impact a place positively? How can we form meaningful collaborations with organizations so both parties feel like it’s an incredible, positive experience?”

Getting creative in Houston

The Lawrence contingent will try to do just that in Houston, most notably with Workshop Houston, an after-school organization that has programs in Houston’s Third Ward that range from fashion design to dance to music. The students who gather in the music spaces work on computers to create electronic beats.

Workshop Houston officials have been sending tracks their students created to Lawrence. Conservatory professors Jose Encarnacion and Patty Darling and their jazz students have been listening to them and are preparing to collaborate with the young artists when they get to Houston, mixing live playing with the electronic beats to create new music.

“So, improvisation, creating riffs and music over the top, and then at the end of the two days there will be a concert featuring the students from Workshop Houston and Lawrence,” Pertl said.

The key is the collaboration — honing and developing skills and finding the joy in creating something together, said Betsy Kowal, who is helping to facilitate the trip for Lawrence.

Workshop Houston originally opened as a bike repair shop where kids could go after school to work on their bikes. It has evolved over the past 15 years into a multi-tiered program drawing students between sixth and 12th grades interested in a range of arts and academic activities.

Deidra Motton, the community liaison at Workshop Houston, said there are 25 to 30 students who regularly work on music in the organization’s Beat Shop. The five or six students who are the most deeply involved in exploring electronic music will be the ones partnering with the Lawrence contingent in creating new music that melds the computer-generated beats with the live performance.

“This is very new to us,” Motton said. “I just love to see these two worlds collide. It seems like Lawrence is very focused on the classical aspects of music composition and performance, and our students are really digging into the whole programming aspect. I’ve never seen a program merge those two worlds quite like this, so I’m really excited.”

Meanwhile, the outreach with students at Scarborough Elementary School is being facilitated, in part, by Craig Hauschildt, a Lawrence alumnus who is an arts integration specialist in Houston. The goal during the three-day residency in the school is to use music to teach skills that can be used long after the Lawrence students have departed, including preparing the young students for success in their state standardized testing.

“When we design our community engagement residencies, we’re always asking ourselves, how can this residency serve the mission of our partner and benefit their organization in the long run?” Kowal said.

Lessons learned in Minneapolis and Chicago will be applied to Houston. That includes a focus on those lasting impacts. Appleton is 1,200 miles from Houston, so a return visit isn’t realistic. But how can the work being done on this tour pay dividends going forward?

“Each year brings a new understanding of how this project can grow and develop,” Kowal said. “We’re constantly learning as we go, and it’s an ever-evolving understanding.”

The results thus far have been positive, Pertl said, if for no other reason than showing conservatory students in a very real way the power of music and how it can change someone’s world. In a survey following last year’s Chicago tour, 65 percent of the students who participated said their vision of what they wanted to do with music changed because of their Presto! experience.

“It’s really an amazing thing, and it changes our students,” Pertl said. “I love to see that. That’s a lot better than just going on tour and the thing you remember is going out to Denny’s at 1 in the morning.”

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

Much-anticipated performance of Bernstein’s ‘Mass’ ready to open

Lawrence Opera Theatre’s presentation of Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass” runs from Thursday through Sunday at Stansbury Theater. Here’s what you need to know before you go. Tickets are available via the Lawrence Box Office

Image from video interview with Robert SchleiferA Lawrence University production of Leonard Bernstein’s highly acclaimed “Mass” will be staged this week with a significant twist.

The much-anticipated production by Lawrence’s Opera Theatre Ensemble, led by Copeland Woodruff, the award-winning Director of Opera Studies and Associate Professor of Music at Lawrence, will incorporate a Deaf character played by professional Deaf actor Robert Schleifer.

“My inspiration was two-fold — the obvious metaphor of our current society, where people have a difficult time listening to one another, and the inclusion of community members who might not necessarily attend an opera,” Woodruff said.

American Sign Language (ASL) and Pidgin Signed English (PSE) will be used throughout the production. Twenty-one members of the student ensemble have spent weeks learning to communicate in sign language.

There’s a lot to unpack with this production, opening Thursday (Feb. 14) and running through Sunday (Feb. 17) at Lawrence’s Stansbury Theater.

A cast member gets makeup applied before rehearsal.
Actors prepare for Tuesday’s dress rehearsal of “Mass.”

First, there’s the staging of a production as wide-ranging as “Mass,” which was both acclaimed and controversial when it debuted in 1971 and is being presented now as part of the world-wide celebration of Bernstein’s 100th birthday.

Woodruff and his ensemble are collaborating with members of two local children’s choirs to reimagine Mass, structured like a Roman Catholic Tridentine Mass but mixing sacred and secular texts and music. The celebrant leads the ceremony, and the Deaf character is the voice of the congregation challenging the celebrant. They argue and search for answers to universal questions together—their diversity highlighted by an eclectic blend of blues, rock, gospel, folk, Broadway, jazz, hymnal, Middle Eastern dance and orchestral music. Ultimately, they affirm the value of faith and hope for peace.

“Distinctive productions like Mass provide students with a rich educational opportunity to practice being a singer-actor, hone full-bodied communication skills, as well as develop appreciation and respect for the experience of others,” Woodruff said. “We hope that students will learn that the arts can be a powerful vehicle for personal and societal awareness and change.”

Actors on stage use sign language during dress rehearsal.
Sign language is used in real time throughout the production.

That speaks to the addition of Schleifer’s Deaf character, a statement on the difficulties we have in communicating when ideological differences come between us, be it political, religious or otherwise. It’s also a nod to the Deaf and hard-of-hearing communities and the daily struggles they endure.

“The use of ASL and PSE underscores the struggle to communicate, particularly between Deaf and hearing communications and within the Deaf community itself,” Woodruff said.

Community connections

Woodruff has a track record of partnering with community groups to examine socially relevant issues through opera. Members of the production team hope Mass will reach more than 2,000 people in the Fox Valley, many of them from the Deaf and hard-of-hearing communities.

“It is rare — even at the national level — for a signed opera to be produced and performed,” Woodruff said. “The majority of our area’s theater-going public would not ordinarily experience this type of performance. Mass will open dialogues about faith and inclusion to our community.”

Besides Schleifer, Kristine Orkin, a local interpreter for the Deaf, and two professional vocal/style specialists are participating in the production. Schleifer, along with Lawrence student performers, will sign most of the opera’s lyrics in real-time during the performance. Deaf audience members also will be able to read supertitles.

Lawrence student Erik Nordstrum, who shares the main role of the celebrant with Aria Minasian, said he has learned a lot about himself through his work on the production.

“Through working on this piece, I realized that I have not been listening to other people, or to myself, as intently or as consistently as I would like to, and that so many human failures stem from a failure to communicate,” he said.

Minasian, meanwhile, has taken lessons from members of the Deaf community she’s interacted with in the lead-up to the production.

“Learning about the Deaf community and applying it to the show has been awesome,” she said. “I’ve also found challenges with figuring out how to be a female celebrant in a Roman Catholic church setting. This show has a lot to unpack and many different ways it can be presented and interpreted, leaving a lot to the performers and production team.”

Religious conversations

Congregants from four Fox Cities faith communities have used this production of Mass as a vehicle to talk about how we communicate – or more likely, don’t communicate – when it comes to our differences.

“The Mass is this touchpoint for us,” said Linda Morgan-Clement, the Julie Esch Hurvis Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life at Lawrence.

Morgan-Clement’s office has been collaborating with Woodruff to bring together public conversations about Mass. She led a discussion at First Congregational United Church of Christ that included participants from that congregation as well as Memorial Presbyterian Church, First English Lutheran Church and the Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. It was a chance to talk about our often jumbled and conflicting faith journeys and the barriers that keep us from communicating effectively. The arts — and in this case, Bernstein’s Mass — can be used to engage people in conversations they might not otherwise have.

“It gives people a touchpoint around which to come together,” Morgan-Clement said. “It’s not just let’s get together and talk about the ways we don’t talk.”

This production provides a plethora of jumping off points in that conversation.

There’s the modern music, the discord, the journey of doubt playing out on stage, all crashing into the deep traditions of a Catholic mass. It provides an avenue for discussion of our differences and our similarities.

“So, it opens up this moment in today’s time for people to talk about the ways in which we … are still being human together, sharing this earth, a lot of commonality in our emotional framework and the ways we operate,” Morgan-Clement said. “And in what ways do the symbols and the language get in our way of actually hearing each other?”

‘Touches my soul’

For Schleifer, the blending of opera with sign language is powerful and moving.

Robert Schleifer performs on stage during dress rehearsal.
Robert Schleifer performs in a dress rehearsal of “Mass.”

“My love of opera is longstanding, its visual language fascinating — depicted through conductor wand gyrations, the energetic dance of bodies fused with instruments in orchestral rhythms, singers’ storytelling through facial expression and movement and breathing strength — the power I see touches my soul,” he said.

Bernstein’s Mass – full title is Mass: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers — debuted in 1971 after the famed composer was asked by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to compose a piece for the 1971 inauguration of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Seeing it unfold on an LU stage come Thursday night with sign language being incorporated throughout will be an emotional moment for Schleifer.

“Bernstein’s Mass project has been both a challenging and awesome experience,” he said, “from the sound of the music itself and the abstract concepts portrayed through tone and inflection, which I cannot hear, relying on facial and body cues, figuring how to match American Sign Language with operatic language, to the awesome collaboration with Copeland and Kris, who helped me understand the complexities of poetic language, appreciate the culture of opera, and together watch the beautiful magic unfold.”

On stage

What: Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass”

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 14 through Saturday, Feb. 16; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17

Where: Stansbury Theater, Lawrence University, Appleton

Cost: $15 ($8 for seniors and non-LU students; free for LU students and staff)

Contact: 920-832-6749,  boxoffice@lawrence.edu, or buy online

 

 

Shared musical experiences foster camaraderie, community connections

This column by Michael Mizrahi, Associate Professor of Music at Lawrence University, first appeared in The Post-Crescent on Sunday, Feb. 3 as part of its weekly Voices of the Arts feature.

On a small grassy field in downtown Appleton, my children and I are trying to draw sounds from plastic trombones. We laugh at the squeaks and squawks coming from our instruments while dancing with dozens of others along to the funky rhythm laid down by the Mile of Music’s Music Education Team.

Portrait of Michael Mizrahi
Michael Mizrahi

We shout in excitement as my six-year old daughter finally gets one low trombone note to sustain.

In the Lawrence Memorial Chapel, the audience sits in rapt silence as a performance by the Lawrence Academy Girl Choir fills the beautiful space. The high school-aged musicians have spent weeks rehearsing their parts, and years before that practicing their vocal skills and musicianship. After their thirty-minute set reaches its exciting conclusion, the audience erupts into sustained applause.

Shared musical experiences like the ones I’ve described can take a variety of forms here in Appleton, from seeing a live band at Houdini Plaza to joining a sing-along at Mile of Music to attending a Lawrence Symphony Orchestra concert. In fact, all the examples I’ve given so far represent admission-free events in our community. No matter the venue, a shared musical experience has the potential to create a spirit of community and camaraderie.

I am a professional performing musician myself (on piano, not trombone!), and a member of the Lawrence Conservatory of Music faculty. For the past five years I have co-directed Music For All, a series of free performances presented by Lawrence students and faculty in a variety of spaces around the Fox Cities, including Riverview Gardens, the Pillars Adult Shelter, the Freedom Center Food Pantry, various retirement communities, and at local public schools.

Most of the singers and instrumentalists who perform on our series are studying classical music performance at Lawrence. One of our objectives is to present concerts in which audiences can sit up close to the performance, and all members of the community have an informal space in which to mingle before and after the event.

Noah Vazquez, a Lawrence University sophomore and piano performance major, says that “being in the position to establish some level of interpersonal connection before, after or sometimes even during a performance immediately adds a whole new layer to the experience.”

Cosette Bardawil, a Lawrence University senior and flute performance major, says that in these performances “there is an exchange of listening and responding that happens between performers and audience members that creates a unique and momentary energy.”

In these cold winter months, when our city’s fields and plazas are covered with snow, we are fortunate to have many other welcoming spaces in which to experience the warmth of a shared musical community.

On Sunday, February 17, the Music For All series is partnering with Mile of Music to present a free Family Concert at Riverview Gardens. The event is designed for children of all ages, but especially geared towards elementary-aged children. The event will begin at 1:30 p.m. and feature a variety of music-making stations that invite interaction and participation, followed by a short, engaging concert presented by students and faculty of the Lawrence Conservatory.

Michael Mizrahi is Associate Professor of Music at Lawrence University. He wrote this column for The Post-Crescent in partnership with the Fox Arts Network (FAN), a grassroots organization of nonprofit arts groups serving the Fox Cities and surrounding communities.  FAN’s goal is to encourage trial in all art forms. For more information contact foxartsnetwork@gmail.com

Collaboration on ‘Mass’ brings public conversations on faith, communication

Linda Morgan-Clement and Copeland Woodruff see an opportunity for conversation.

About faith. About no faith. About shared experiences and differing ideologies. About inclusion. About the barriers that keep us from talking freely about our own cluttered spiritual journeys.

Students practice using American Sign Language
Lawrence University students learn American Sign Language in preparation for the production of “Mass”.

With Lawrence University Opera Theatre presenting in mid-February a much-anticipated retelling of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, featuring a Deaf character and the use of sign language, there is a window in which to engage people in conversation about how we communicate — or better yet, don’t communicate — on those often uncomfortable topics.

“The Mass is this touchpoint for us,” said Morgan-Clement, the Julie Esch Hurvis Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life at Lawrence.

Morgan-Clement’s office is collaborating with Woodruff, the award-winning Director of Opera Studies and Associate Professor of Music at Lawrence, to bring together public conversations about Mass, a production that was both acclaimed and controversial when it debuted in 1971 and is being presented now as part of the world-wide celebration of Bernstein’s 100th birthday.

Mass will be staged Feb. 14-17 at Lawrence University’s Stansbury Theater.

Congregants from Memorial Presbyterian Church, First English Lutheran Church, First Congregational United Church of Christ and the Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship will take part in the public conversations.

The first session is a talk led by Morgan-Clement from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m. Wednesday, February 6 at First Congregational UCC, 724 E. South River St., Appleton. Participants will then be able to sign up to attend a dress rehearsal of Mass at Stansbury Theater and will have the opportunity to purchase reduced-price tickets to one of the performances. They also will be able to participate in a post-performance talk back with cast members.

Portrait of Linda Morgan-Clement
Linda Morgan-Clement

The opera, with its use of a Deaf character and the incorporating of American Sign Language (ASL) and Pidgen Signed English (PSE), provides an interesting opportunity to talk about how we communicate and the barriers we often put up, Morgan-Clement said.

“Part of what (Woodruff) is doing is trying to bring it into the contemporary world, so he will be using a Deaf actor for kind of a metaphor for thinking about how we communicate,” she said.

The arts — and in this case, Bernstein’s Mass — can be used to engage people in conversations they might not otherwise have.

“It gives people a touchpoint around which to come together,” Morgan-Clement said. “It’s not just let’s get together and talk about the ways we don’t talk.”

There is so much to unpack with this production that the conversations come naturally.

“It’s the Mass, which was so controversial in its own time,” Morgan-Clement said.

The modern music, the discord, the journey of doubt playing out on stage, all crashing into the deep traditions of a Catholic mass. It provides an avenue for discussion of our differences and our similarities.

“So it opens up this moment in today’s time for people to talk about the ways in which we … are still being human together, sharing this earth, a lot of commonality in our emotional framework and the ways we operate,” Morgan-Clement said. “And in what ways do the symbols and the language get in our way of actually hearing each other?”

Important dialogue

Woodruff often looks for community partnerships as he uses opera to explore a range of socially relevant issues. With Mass, the incorporation of a Deaf character provides an opportunity for engagement with the Deaf and hard-of-hearing communities, discussion of language and culture issues in those communities and a wider dialogue surrounding communication barriers that often hamper conversations on spiritual topics.

In addition to the collaboration with the Office of Spiritual and Religious Life, Lawrence students are taking part in community engagement activities, including a performance of selections from the opera at Appleton’s Edison Elementary School, which serves both Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing students.

Members of the production team say the opera could reach as many as 2,000 people in the Fox Valley.

“It is rare — even at the national level — for a signed opera to be produced and performed,” Woodruff said. “The majority of our area’s theater-going public would not ordinarily experience this type of performance. Mass will open dialogues about faith and inclusion to our community.”

Woodruff and the Lawrence University Opera Theatre Ensemble are partnering with members of two local children’s choirs to reimagine Mass, which is structured like a Roman Catholic Tridentine Mass but mixes sacred and secular texts and music. The Celebrant leads the ceremony, and the Deaf character is the voice of the congregation challenging the Celebrant. They argue and search for answers to universal questions together — their diversity highlighted by an eclectic blend of blues, rock, gospel, folk, Broadway, jazz, hymnal, Middle Eastern dance and orchestral music.

Through the production, the characters seek a new path to shared communication, exploring how we can hear each other despite our differences.

Ultimately, they affirm the value of faith and a desire for peace.

That’s the path Morgan-Clement is looking to explore in the session that kicks off the conversation on Feb. 6.

“It just makes sense for us to see whether there are things we can or would like to do together,” she said of the collaboration with the Opera Theatre team.

Incorporating sign language

The production of Mass features a professional Deaf actor, Robert Schleifer, as well as a local interpreter for the Deaf, Kristine Orkin. Schleifer, along with Lawrence student performers, will sign most of the opera’s lyrics in real time during the performance. Lawrence students have been getting training in using ASL. Deaf audience members also will be able to read supertitles.

For Schleifer, the blending of opera with ASL is powerful and moving.

“My love of opera is longstanding, its visual language fascinating — depicted through conductor wand gyrations, the energetic dance of bodies fused with instruments in orchestral rhythms, singers’ storytelling through facial expression and movement and breathing strength — the power I see touches my soul,” he said.

“Bernstein’s Mass project has been both a challenging and awesome experience, from the sound of the music itself and the abstract concepts portrayed through tone and inflection, which I cannot hear, relying on facial and body cues, figuring how to match American Sign Language with operatic language, to the awesome collaboration with Copeland and Kris, who helped me understand the complexities of poetic language, appreciate the culture of opera, and together watch the beautiful magic unfold.”

Bernstein’s Mass debuted in 1971 after the famed composer was asked by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to compose a piece for the 1971 inauguration of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Opera has been an integral part of the Lawrence voice program for almost 60 years, a centerpiece of the performance opportunities for voice students. Under Woodruff’s direction, Lawrence’s mainstage operas have received national awards, including Hydrogen Jukebox (2017) and The Beggar’s Opera (2016), which shared first prize for the American Prize in Opera Performance in the college/university division. Le comte Ory (2018) and The Beggar’s Opera also received first place from the National Opera Association; Hydrogen Jukebox received third place in the same competition. Woodruff was also named the 2018 recipient of the American Prize’s Charles Nelson Reilly Prize for stage direction.

Lawrence’s production of Mass is supported by grants from 91.1 The Avenue and the Jewelers Mutual Charitable Giving Fund and the Bright Idea Fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region. The Office of Spiritual and Religious Life is able to co-sponsor the production and public conversation through the Hurvis endowment.

Mass: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers will be performed February 14-17, 2019, in Stansbury Theatre on the Lawrence University campus. More information, including ticket information, can be found at go.lawrence.edu/massopera.

Note: This story has been updated to reflect the date change for the public conversation on faith and communication. Due to the extreme cold weather, it was moved from 5:30 p.m. Jan. 30 to 5:30 p.m. Feb. 6. All other details remain the same.

Exploring Communication Through Opera

Lawrence opera students utilize sign language in new conception of Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass.”

Lawrence University Conservatory of Music student rehearse ASL for the upcoming opera, "Mass."
Lawrence University Conservatory of Music students rehearse ASL for the upcoming opera, “Mass.”

Twenty-one members of the Lawrence University Opera Theatre Ensemble spent two weeks over their winter break learning American Sign Language (ASL). Why would opera singers need to know ASL?

In a twist on the original production of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers, award-winning Director of Opera Studies and Associate Professor of Music Copeland Woodruff has incorporated a Deaf character into the production, resulting in an exploration of communities breakdowns when opposing sides work to understand each other and move forward together. Performers will utilize ASL, as well as Pidgin Signed English (PSE), throughout the performance.

“The use of ASL and PSE underscores the struggle to communicate, particularly between Deaf and hearing communications and within the Deaf community itself,” says Woodruff of his decision. “My inspiration was two-fold: the obvious metaphor of our current society, where people have a difficult time listening to one another, and the inclusion of community members who might not necessarily attend an opera.”

Woodruff has a track record of partnering with community groups to examine socially relevant issues through opera. Mass is no exception. He is working with local partners to explore options for community engagement and dialogue about the history of the Deaf community in the U.S. and the world, as well as Deaf language and culture. In tandem with the show, Lawrence students will take part in planned community engagement activities, including a performance of selections from of the opera at Appleton’s Edison Elementary, which serves both Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing students.

Members of the production team hope that the opera will reach roughly 2,000 people in the Fox Valley region.

“It is rare—even at the national level—for a signed opera to be produced and performed,” said Woodruff. “The majority of our area’s theater-going public would not ordinarily experience this type of performance. Mass will open dialogues about faith and inclusion to our community.”

Robert Schleifer, professional Deaf actor, Kristine Orkin, local interpreter for the Deaf, and two professional vocal/style specialists are participating in the production. Schleifer, along with Lawrence student performers, will sign most of the opera’s lyrics in real-time during the performance. Deaf audience members will also be able to read supertitles.

As a part of the world-wide celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday, Woodruff and the Lawrence University Opera Theatre Ensemble will collaborate with members of two local children’s choirs to reimagine Mass, which is structured like a Roman Catholic Tridentine Mass but mixes sacred and secular texts and music. The Celebrant leads the ceremony, and the Deaf character is the voice of the congregation challenging the Celebrant. They argue and search for answers to universal questions together—their diversity highlighted by an eclectic blend of blues, rock, gospel, folk, Broadway, jazz, hymnal, Middle Eastern dance, and orchestral music. Ultimately, they affirm the value of faith and hope for peace.

“Distinctive productions like Mass provide students with a rich educational opportunity to practice being a singer-actor, hone full-bodied communication skills, as well as develop appreciation and respect for the experience of others,” said Woodruff. “We hope that students will learn that the arts can be a powerful vehicle for personal and societal awareness and change.”

Erik Nordstrum ’19, who shares the main role of the Celebrant with Aria Minasian ’19, has learned a great deal about his personal beliefs throughout his work on the production.

“Through working on this piece, I realized that I have not been listening to other people, or to myself, as intently or as consistently as I would like to, and that so many human failures stem from a failure to communicate,” Nordstrum said.

“I’d say some of the most challenging things are also the most enjoyable,” adds Minasian.

“Learning about the Deaf community and applying it to the show has been awesome. I’ve also found challenges with figuring out how to be a female Celebrant in a Roman Catholic Church setting. This show has a lot to unpack and many different ways it can be presented and interpreted, leaving a lot to the performers and production team.”

Opera has been an integral part of the Lawrence voice program for almost 60 years, a centerpiece of the performance opportunities for voice students. Under Woodruff’s direction, Lawrence’s mainstage operas have received national awards, including Hydrogen Jukebox (2017) and The Beggar’s Opera (2016), which shared first prize for the American Prize in Opera Performance in the college/university division. Le comte Ory (2018) and The Beggar’s Opera also received first place from the National Opera Association; Hydrogen Jukebox received third place in the same competition. Woodruff was also named the 2018 recipient of the American Prize’s Charles Nelson Reilly Prize for stage direction.

The production is supported by grants from 91.1 The Avenue and the Jewelers Mutual Charitable Giving Fund and the Bright Idea Fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region.

Mass: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers will be performed February 14-17, 2019, in Stansbury Theatre on the Lawrence University campus. More information, including ticket information, can be found at go.lawrence.edu/massopera.

An A+ for D Term: Students Offered a Rich Array of Experiences During Winter Break

From Appleton to London to Hong Kong, Lawrence faculty and students used D-Term 2018 to explore ideas, art, research skills and the wider world. D-Term, or December Term, is a two-week mini-term that offers brief, intensive enrichment courses. This year, students had the opportunity to engage with questions of sustainability and historical resilience to disasters, bring a liberal arts perspective to wellness and sharpen practical skills in design and data analysis.

Read more about this year’s D-Term classrooms, whether it’s a room in Main Hall, an urban garden in Hong Kong or the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, through insights from faculty members.

Hong Kong: Sustainability, Livability, and Urban Design

Group of Lawrence students with Hong Kong skyline in background
Students taking part in the D-Term trip to Hong Kong stand on Victoria Peak, overlooking the Hong Kong skyline.

This combined discussion-and-travel course examined sustainable, livable urban design through the lens of contemporary Hong Kong. The class, taught by Stephen Edward Scarff Professor of International Affairs and Associate Professor of Government Jason Brozek and Associate Professor of Government Ameya Balsekar, spent one week on campus reading and preparing, followed by several days in Hong Kong for on-the-ground study, including meetings with local NGOs, government officials and business leaders. Below are excerpts from Jason Brozek’s daily reports on the opportunities for students during the on-the-ground study portion of the class:

Day 1: The first day of the on-the-ground portion of our class on livability, sustainability and urban design in Hong Kong focused on the city’s history, British & Chinese influences and its emergence as a global trading and financial hub. We visited Chunking Mansions to engage with “low-end globalization” (a concept and case study from one of the books we discussed during our week of prep on campus), did a mapping activity with a scan of a vintage 1930 map of Kowloon, visited the Hong Kong Museum of History and hiked at Victoria Peak. We ended the day by having dinner at the Happy Valley Jockey Club with KK Tse (’81) and Wendy Lai.

Day 2: We focused on the preservation of things like urban green space and historic buildings—the  kind of things some cities have lost as they tried to build and grow quickly. We did a slow-looking activity in Kowloon Park (inspired by Freshman Studies), then compared it to wilder green space by hiking across the Wan Chai Gap trail to the reservoir on the south side of Hong Kong Island. Connected to a different class discussion, we also visited some preserved historic sites. They included a former army barracks in Kowloon Park, the 1912 Wan Chai Post Office (now the Environmental Resource Centre) and the international award-winning Blue House.

Day 3: We kicked off with Rooftop Republic, a nonprofit that helps corporations and schools build rooftop farms. At this site, they grow on top of a shopping mall and donate the produce to local food banks.

Then we met with Rick Kroos ’66, who was the engineer for the HSBC headquarters in Hong Kong’s financial district (as well as many other projects). Rick connected us with a wide range of other speakers, including Billy Wong, deputy head of research at the HK Trade Development Council; Anneliese Smilie from Redress, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing waste in Hong Kong’s garment industry; and Bernard Chang, an architect with the firm KPF.

Day 4: We spent the morning with the staff of Department of City Planning to learn about the HK2030+ strategic vision. Overall, Hong Kong is focused on livability, sustainability and integration with the broader Pearl River Delta (Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Macau and other nearby cities in China). The students asked terrific (hard!) questions about how this plan intersects with climate change, affordable housing, green space, waste management, historic preservation and land reclamation. In the afternoon, we visited the new Kowloon terminal for the high-speed rail connection with mainland China, which is controversial in Hong Kong. Many people here see it as encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy, which is guaranteed under the Basic Law and One Country, Two Systems principle.

You can view the full gallery of photos from Hong Kong here.

Bebop Language and Innovations

Director of Jazz Studies Jose Encarnacion writing musical notations on whiteboard.
Director of Jazz Studies José Encarnación and students make musical notations.

All instruments were welcome in this course exploring how to improvise using bebop language. Among the activities, students studied solo transcriptions of musicians like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Clifford Brown, and applied improvisational concepts. 

 

 

With an ever and constant changing world, I make my best efforts to keep our students current with contemporary musical forms and genres.

Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies José Encarnación shares that, “the music, it is always about the music and the musicians of that time period. Their wisdom, understanding, imagination, creativity, commitment and contributions to the music inspires me to introduce it to students. With an ever and constant changing world, I make my best efforts to keep our students current with contemporary musical forms and genres,” continues Encarnación. “I like for my students to listen and understand the tradition of this important American art form called ‘jazz’ and the many transformations it took on along its history. In my teachings, I encourage my students to listen, learn and develop respect for the past so they may add their contribution, knowledge and new light embodying the richness of the past and freshness of the new.”

Introduction to R and Excel for Data Analysis

Careful data analysis has become central to decision-making in areas from politics to sports to medicine. This D-Term course introduced students to collecting, cleaning and manipulating messy, real-world data with powerful programs R and Excel.

Professor Arnold Shober stands in front of a graph in a classroom.
Arnold Shober explains how to manage and analyze data to students in his D-Term class.

For any of the natural and social sciences, quantitative data analysis is a core skill,” explains Associate Professor of Government Arnold Shober.  “It is like reading a book–but for most of us it is more like reading a book in a language we’re just learning.  And just like learning a new language, we make lots of mistakes.  The D-Term course lets my students make those mistakes in a low-stakes, focused environment.  Then, when it really counts, on their own projects, they can focus on their analyses and not the mechanics.  They can write paragraphs–not spell words.”

Happiness: Meditation and Science

Constance Kassor and students meditating at a table.
Professor Constance Kassor and students participate in a guided meditation exercise.

This course took a liberal arts approach to meditation, tackling the question “What is happiness and how is it achieved?” by engaging with ideas of Buddhist philosophy of mind and investigating the ways in which they are being studied and employed by psychologists, neuroscientists and cognitive scientists. This D-Term offering is also an extension of Lawrence’s commitment to student wellness and the whole student.

My hope is that students will come away from this course with tools to help them better deal with stress at Lawrence and beyond.

“This course stemmed from my research and teaching interests in Buddhist thought and meditation,” explains Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Constance Kassor. “Not only did we read about suffering and happiness from both Buddhist and scientific perspectives, but we also spent time engaging in the different meditative practices that we studied. Students were also required to commit to 10-30 minutes of meditation outside of class every day and report on their experiences. My hope is that students will come away from this course with tools to help them better deal with stress at Lawrence and beyond.”

Plague, War, and Fire: Disasters and the Making of London

Three students pose on top of St. Paul's Cathedra with the London skyline in the background.
Students participating in the D-Term London study course stand atop St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Between 1642 and 1666 London experienced war, plague and fire. This December, Lawrentians traveled to London to examine these catastrophes and explore how the city’s responses shaped the future of not merely London, but other cities across the globe. Students visited museums and historical sites and considered how London responded to crisis, commemorated it and confronted it again when German bombs fell during the twentieth century.

“London is such an incredibly rich landscape on which to study history,” notes Frederick, whose D-Term class grew out of an earlier course he taught at Lawrence’s London Centre in 2016. “During these two weeks we were in constant contact with the deep history of this fascinating city, from walking past walls erected by the Romans, to having a lecture from an archeologist about the 14th-century plague skeleton he had laid before us, to exploring the rooms from which Churchill defended the defense of England during the Blitz. I can teach students a great deal about history in the classroom, but there is something to being in the place where it happened that just can’t be replaced.”

(Frederick also adds a dispatch about the updated London Centre: “We got a tour of the new London Center. It’s awesome!”)

Adobe Creative Suite

Associate Professor of Art Benjamin Rinehart developed a workshop setting to introduce students to the Adobe Creative Suite programs, which include Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator. “Students, staff and faculty are eager to become proficient in the Adobe Creative Suite programs,” observes Rinehart. “This course is valuable for any field of study and has many applications beyond being an artist or designer.”

Student at computer editing image in Photoshop.
A student explores Photoshop during D-Term.

From creating art to presenting data, knowledge of design principles and programs gives Lawrentians another tool to enhance their own work and offer a broad array of talents to prospective employers. The class is project-centered, allowing each student to explore the multifaceted and contemporary nature of each program. In just a couple of short weeks, students are exposed to methods in image construction, graphic design, typography and more. Students also visited the Lawrence University Office of Communications to speak with designers and see how these programs are used to advance an organization’s materials and mission.

Conservatory Hits High Notes with an Awards-Filled November

By Savvas Sfairopoulos ‘19

A scene from the opera "Le comte Ory"The Lawrence University Conservatory of Music clinched an impressive list of awards this November, with major wins at opera and voice competitions. Lawrence University placed first in Division 4 of the National Opera Association’s Best Opera Production 2017-2018 for their production of The Count Ory. The French comedic opera by Rossini was staged in March under the instruction of Director of Opera Studies Copeland Woodruff. Opera studies also had a strong showing in the musical theater division of the Collegiate Opera Scenes Competition, making it to the finals. In addition to the impressive group performances, Jack Murphy ’21 of Neenah, Wis., and Nysios Poulakos ’21 of Iowa City, Iowa, will be competing at the NOA National Conference in Salt Lake City in the January in the musical theatre division, performing a scene from Duncan Sheik and Steven Slater’s Spring Awakening.

In more exciting news for Lawrence opera, Anna Mosoriak ’19 of Highland, Ind., won a Metropolitan Opera National Council Encouragement Award. The MET Opera National Council is the most prestigious competition in the United States for young singers; the Encouragement Award is presented to singers who, though they do not advance to the next round of the competition, show promising talent.

The list of accomplishments for the Conservatory continues, with 10 Lawrentians earning accolades in a huge showing at the annual Wisconsin Chapter of the National Association of Teachers and Singing (NATS) competition held Nov. 3-4 at UW-Whitewater.

Kyree Allen ’22, Washington, D.C.: First place men’s first-year college classical division.

Clover Austin-Muehleck ’19, San Francisco, Calif.: First place women’s fourth-year college classical division.

Emily Austin ’21, Washington, D.C.: First place women’s third-year college classical division.

Nick Fahrenkrug ’20, Davenport, Iowa: First place men’s third-year college classical division; this is Nick’s third straight NATS title.

Alex Iglinski ’19, Muskego, Wis.: Second place men’s third and fourth-year musical theatre division.

Hannah Jones ’22, Houston, Texas: First place women’s first-year college classical division.

Baron Lam ’21, Galesburg, Ill.: Second place men’s second-year college classical division.

Emma Milton ’21, Muskego, Wis.: Second place women’s second-year college classical division.

Jack Murphy ’21: First place men’s first and second-year musical theater division and first place men’s second-year college classical division.

Sarah Scofield ’21, West Lafayette, Ind.: First place women’s second-year college classical division.

The NATS competition features 28 separate divisions grouped by gender and level. Depending upon the category, competitors are required to sing two, three or four classical pieces from different time periods with at least one selection sung in a foreign language. This year’s showing builds on Lawrence’s winning tradition at NATS; Lawrence singers have regularly taken first-place honors in a competition that draws hundreds of singers from around the state.

Lawrence University Presents 38th Annual Jazz Weekend

Lawrence University will present the 38th annual Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend with live performances from the Regina Carter Quartet on Friday, November 2 and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra on Saturday, November 3. Both concerts will take place at 7:30 pm in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. Tickets are free for all students with a valid student ID, and range from $20 – $30 for seniors and adults. Tickets are available for purchase from the Lawrence University Box Office in person, online or by calling 920-832-6749.

Headshot of Regina Carter
Jazz Violinist Regina Carter

Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend brings professional jazz artists to the Lawrence campus for a non-competitive jazz education festival. Over the course of the weekend hundreds of middle and high school students from around the Midwest work with Lawrence faculty and jazz educators from across the country. The weekend culminates in the Friday and Saturday evening concerts given by internationally acclaimed jazz musicians.

The concert on Friday, November 2 will feature Regina Carter, a Sony Masterworks recording artist and the foremost jazz violinist of her generation. Her quest for beauty combined with her passion for excellence did not escape the attention of the MacArthur Foundation, who awarded Regina their prestigious fellowship “genius grant.” Carter’s recent release, Ella: Accentuate the Positive and touring program, Simply Ella, mark the 100th birthday of musical legend Ella Fitzgerald. Carter will perform Simply Ella live at Lawrence with her quartet.

Vanguard Jazz Orchestra
Vanguard Jazz Orchestra

The concert on Saturday, November 3 showcases the multiple-Grammy winning 16 piece Vanguard Jazz Orchestra which features some of the world’s finest musicians. Co-founded by legendary trumpeter Thad Jones and drummer Mel Lewis, after more than 50 years the ensemble still plays virtually every Monday night at the renowned Village Vanguard Jazz club, New York City’s most famous basement. The beautiful and unique arrangements of Thad Jones enchanted audiences worldwide. The mixture of the music from diverse backgrounds created their innovative sound and the band was quickly recognized as a world-class big band. The ensemble cultivated its rich history while commissioning new music that made them the prototype of innovative big band music.

For more information about these events or the Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend, contact Jillian Johnson at 920-832-6773

Copeland Woodruff wins national opera directing award, two LU productions also earn top honors

Copeland Woodruff
Copeland Woodruff

In baseball parlance, Lawrence University has swept a prestigious doubleheader in the annual American Prize Performing Arts competition.

Copeland Woodruff, director of opera studies and associate professor of music at Lawrence, has been named the 2018 recipient of the American Prize’s Charles Nelson Reilly Prize for stage direction. Selected from among 15 national semifinalists, he was honored for his work on Lawrence’s 2017 production of Philip Glass’ “Hydrogen Jukebox.”

American Prize hailed Copeland as “a champion of improvisation, musical and physical, in the operatic medium as a tool for education, creation and performance.”

Additionally, Lawrence’s opera productions “The Beggar’s Opera” and “Hydrogen Jukebox” shared first-place honors for the American Prize in Opera Performance in the college/university division.

Lawrence’s two productions were chosen from among 15 reviewed operas. Lawrence was competing against several institutions with graduate programs, including Yale University, University of Wisconsin-Madison. and Oklahoma State University.

Scene from the opera "The Beggar's Opera"
Lawrence’s 2016 production of “The Beggar’s Opera” tied for first-place honors with the college’s production of “Hydrogen Jukebox” in the American Prize in Opera Performance in the college/university division

In announcing Lawrence as this year’s performance winner, American Prize said “Recent productions have garnered national attention because of their well-crafted and dedicated musical and dramatic performances.”

Copeland said being honored as the first recipient of the newly-named Charles Nelson Reilly Prize was “daunting.”

“I admired Reilly as a child and met him in the early 1990s while I was on staff at Santa Fe Opera,” recalled Woodruff. “His acting classes were packed and like nothing I had ever seen before. To be mentioned with a man who lived his amazing life proudly and among many of the world’s great talents, is a blessing I never anticipated, but am over-the-moon about.”

Copeland credits Brian Pertl, dean of the Lawrence Conservatory of Music, who hired him in 2014 as the university’s first director of opera studies, for offering him “the chance to dream.”

“The Charles Nelson Reilly Award recognizes Copeland’s outstanding achievements as an artist, director, and educator. I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this singular honor.”
— Brian Pertl, dean of the Lawrence Conservatory of Music

“Lawrence has been the epitome of environments to teach, learn, develop craft and struggle to tell difficult, funny, frightening, loving, messy human stories on stage,” said Woodruff.  “I have been a very lucky man to do what I love for a living and feel luckiest being able to work with unbelievably generous colleagues and students whom I also see as colleagues. Lawrence is fertile soil with dedicated gardeners. I’m humbled and inspired each day.”

Pertl called winning the American Prize for two separate opera productions “a rare and momentous occasion.”

“It speaks to the incredible strength of the Lawrence Opera program, our outstanding students and especially our world-class faculty,” said Pertl. “From the moment Copeland Woodruff walked through the doors of our conservatory, we all knew that he was a creative visionary who would build an opera studies program that would give our students the opportunity to receive not only exceptional opera training but also the opportunity to create art at the highest level.

“The Charles Nelson Reilly Award recognizes Copeland’s outstanding achievements as an artist, director and educator,” Pertl added. “I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this singular honor.”

Woodruff’s Reilly Prize honors the memory of Charles Nelson Reilly, the Tony Award-winning actor for his 1962 portrayal of Bud Frump in the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” Broadway stage director, acclaimed opera director and acting teacher.

Woodruff joined the Lawrence faculty after spending six years as co-director of opera activities at the University of Memphis, where he earned four first-place National Opera Association Best Opera Production Awards. In addition to directing Lawrence’s annual main stage opera production, Woodruff has launched a series of “micro-operas” that examine socially relevant issues and are performed at non-traditional locales.

Lawrence’s production of Philip Glass’ “Hydrogen Jukebox” shared top honors for this year’s American Prize in Opera Performance, college/university division, along with Lawrence’s production of “The Beggar’s Opera.” in Opera Performance in the college/university division.

The American Prize honors are only the latest accolades for Woodruff. His 2016 mainstage production of “The Beggar’s Opera” was awarded first-place honors by the National Opera Association while his 2015 production of “The Tender Land” earned second-place honors in the NOA’s Best Opera Production competition. “The Beggar’s Opera” also was named “Best of Local Productions” from among 164 productions in both local and professional categories by WFRV-TV arts critic Warren Gerds.

Other awards during Copeland’s tenure include first-place honors for seven students in the 2015 Collegiate Opera Scenes competition held at the NOA’s national convention in Indianapolis, Ind., and his first two micro-operas — “Expressions of Acceptance” and “Straight from the Hip,” which addressed issues of gun presence/gun awareness in the community — earned third-place recognition in the NOA competition, competing against standard opera performances.

Founded in 2009 and based in Danbury, Conn., the American Prize is a series of non-profit national competitions in the performing arts providing cash awards, professional adjudication and regional, national and international recognition for the best recorded performances by ensembles and individuals each year in the United States at the professional, college/university, church, community and secondary school levels.

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.”  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.