Tag: Brian Pertl

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

Senior Daniel Miller Awarded $25,000 Watson Fellowship for Exploration of Natural Soundscapes and High-tech Music

Daniel Miller forged a fascination with the connection between art and the natural world at a very young age.

Inspired by a recording of the children’s story “Mr. Bach Comes to Call,” which dramatized the famed composer’s life and described how the space probe Voyager 1 carried Bach’s music as well as sounds of planet Earth on its deep-space mission, a five-year-old Miller took take his first steps as a composer by imitating the shapes of music notation.

Daniel Miller ’13

“Even as a child, it was an exciting idea that these few pieces of music, along with sounds of the planet itself, were chosen to represent the best of humanity,” said Miller.

Eighteen years later, Miller is an accomplished composition and music theory major at Lawrence University, specializing in computer music and its potential to incorporate the power of natural soundscapes.

Beginning in August, he will spend a year traversing the globe as a 2013 Watson Fellow, seeking out communities of fellow computer-music composers who are working outside the traditional boundaries of classical art music.

A senior from Redmond, Wash., Miller was one of 40 undergraduates nationally awarded a $25,000 fellowship from the Rhode Island-based Thomas J. Watson Foundation for a wanderjahr of independent travel and exploration outside the United States on a topic of the student’s choosing.

His proposal —“Experiencing Nature Through Computer Music”— was selected from 148 finalists representing students from 40 of the nation’s premier private liberal arts colleges and universities. More than 700 students applied for this year’s Watson Fellowship.

“I want to experience some of the most moving natural settings in the world along with the communities and artists who work closely with the environment,” said Miller, who was home schooled by his parents.  “During my Watson year, I want to explore the unusual synthesis of the ancient and the high-tech, the natural and the synthesized in the form of modern computer music.”

First Stop — Japan

To that end, Miller will travel to Japan, Australia, Ecuador and Iceland, immersing himself in the local communities of composers and performers working with computer-assisted concert music to learn how nature and local ecological concerns have influenced them as artists.

“I also want to visit unique environments in each of those countries and explore how I, as a classically trained composer, can channel the experience of nature into my music,” said Miller, who has written about 30 pieces of music to date, including four chamber pieces that were performed by members of the Seattle Symphony and another that was accepted and performed at the 2012 national conference of the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States.

In Japan (Aug.-Oct.), Miller would find himself in one of Asia’s oldest computer music communities.

“I’m eager to see how computer music developed in a place where art and technology frequently draw on ancient and traditional themes,” said Miller, a member of Lawrence musical improvisational group IGLU. “I’ll also hike into the Hida Mountains to reflect on the influence nature has had on Japanese music.”

Miller will spend November through January in Australia, meeting several noted composers and recording sounds of Tasmania’s endemic wildlife, including sub-sea fauna off Australia’s southern coast.

The next three months ending in April will take Miller to Quito, Ecuador. Having visited neighboring Colombia during his sophomore year, Miller is eager to return to the Andean region.

Daniel Miller is the 69th Lawrence senior to be awarded a Watson Fellowship in the program’s 44-year history.

“My project would not be complete without experiencing how computer music has developed in South America,” said Miller, who spent a transformative year studying abroad in 2010-11 at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam in The Netherlands.

He closes his journey in Iceland, which, famous for artists such as Björk and the groups Sigur Rós and múm, is experiencing a musical and computer-music renaissance. He will time his visit to coincide with the Reykjavik Arts Festival as well as the breakup of ice in the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon.

“I plan to hike out into Vatnajökull National Park and camp by the water and record the dramatic sounds of glacial calving.”

A Life-Changing Experience

Brian Pertl, dean of the conservatory of music and Lawrence’s campus liaison to the Watson Foundation said Miller’s Watson year will “most definitely be a life-changing experience ” for him.

“Daniel has created a most unusual and exciting Watson proposal which explores how high-tech electronic music composers interact with, and are inspired, by their natural surroundings,” said Pertl, a 1986 Watson Fellowship winner himself. “This proposal perfectly combines Daniel’s own dual loves of nature and electronic composition. Let the adventure begin.”

As for Miller, he sees possibilities that go far beyond his first tentative forays in computer music.

“It’s not just about recreating a particular sound but creating an environment in the concert hall that gives the listener the experience they would feel in the natural landscape,” said Miller, recipient of Lawrence’s James Ming Scholarship in Composition in 2012. “By exploring how culture and environment shape the lives and music of composers around the world, I know I’ll learn more about how my own life experiences can contribute to who I become as a composer and as a person.”

Miller is the 69th Lawrence student awarded a Watson Fellowship since the program’s inception in 1969. It was established by the children of Thomas J. Watson, Sr., the founder of International Business Machines Corp., and his wife, Jeannette, to honor their parents’ long-standing interest in education and world affairs.

Watson Fellows are selected on the basis of the nominee’s character, academic record, leadership potential, willingness to delve into another culture and the personal significance of the project proposal. Since its founding, nearly 2,700 fellowships have been awarded.

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 2013 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries. Follow Lawrence on Facebook.

Lawrence Launching New Summer Internship Program for Conservatory of Music Students

Providing a musical complement to Lawrence University’s successful LU-R1 student science research initiative, the president’s office, in conjunction with the conservatory of music, is launching a new summer internship program specifically for conservatory students.

Known as “Conservatory² —  Grow Your Music Career Exponentially,” the program will begin this summer with eight internship opportunities designed to encourage student thinking about how a music degree can lead to success in a variety of career fields after graduation.

Brian Pertl

“This groundbreaking program will provide opportunities that will expand our students’ musical lives, and in some cases, open our students’ minds to completely new career pathways in music,” said Brian Pertl, dean of the conservatory.

Conservatory² is designed to jump start “life after Lawrence NOW!” by providing a summer experience that both complements and accelerates each student’s education while offering substantial career experience and networking opportunities.

Conservatory students participating in the program will be selected though a competitive application process, placed in prearranged internships and awarded a university grant to assist with their expenses.

Inspired by a $25,000 gift from the Olga Herberg Administrative Trust to support arts programming and guided by student concerns raised last year regarding the college’s new 10-year strategic plan, Lawrence President Jill Beck used the gift to create Conservatory².

President Beck

“Student feedback on the recent Strategic Plan asked that Lawrence expand LU-R1 opportunities into areas beyond the sciences,” said Beck.  “Katelin Richter has worked with me this year as presidential intern to do just that: to take the LU-R1 model and replicate it in the conservatory for the benefit of music majors. In future years, I hope that this expansion will include the social sciences and humanities, if student and faculty demand is there. In the meantime, the summer internship opportunities that Katelin has created will add greatly to students’ experience, learning, and ability to bridge from college to career or graduate school.”

The eight available internship positions for the summer of 2012 include an array of prominent employers and alumni at organizations both in the United States and abroad:

Saxophonist Javier Arau ’98 of the New York Jazz Academy offers a summer-long internship at New York’s fastest growing music school.  Arau will integrate the student intern directly into his administration and engage them in strategic planning for his expanding organization.  The student will gain exposure to summer jazz workshops and have the possibility of assistant teaching.

The Deep Listening Institute in Kingston, N.Y., under the supervision of composer Pauline Oliveros and other DLI staff, offers an internship opportunity tailored to the student’s specific interests in deep listening philosophy.  The internship could include: assembling a book of Oliveros’ pieces, archiving recordings, managing the website, doing computer programming, writing grants, assisting with the Adaptive Use Musical Instruments Program for people with disabilities, developing a networking system for DLI-certified instructors, as well as gaining exposure to Oliveros’ summer intensive Deep Listening Workshops. DLI’s office has a performance and recording studio, which could provide a venue for the student’s work.

Olivera Music Entertainment is a full-service entertainment and talent booking agency that provides professional music entertainment production in the Washington D.C. area. The student will work with co-owner Connie Trok Olivera ’82, who has used her music education degree to produce and perform entertainment for prominent guests, including President Obama. The internship will provide start-to-finish production experience, as well as special projects, such as developing a marketing strategy to target younger demographics and selecting and arranging repertoire per client requests.

Oberlin Conservatory has partnered with Lawrence to offer internships in two of its summer programs: the Oberlin Baroque Performance Institute and Oberlin in Italy. The Baroque Institute internship combines experience in festival administration with full participation in the annual festival. Oberlin in Italy offers two exciting performance opportunities for qualified students in two of three areas: vocal performance, stage direction or rehearsal accompanying in the beautiful city of Arezzo, Italy.

Beth Snodgrass ’93 will oversee the Carnegie Hall Community Programs internship in New York City. The position will provide general assistance and administrative support for the Community Programs team in Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute, the education and community arm of one of the leading music presenters in the world. The intern will work with a dedicated staff to help prepare for the 2012-2013 season which will include more than 100 events across three different programs – the Neighborhood Concert Series, the McGraw-Hill Companies CarnegieKids and Musical Connections. These programs provide free, quality music programming featuring first-class musicians from all over the world. The intern will contribute to a team focused on providing quality community engagement events through exceptional artistic programming, production, artist professional development, strategic marketing and rigorous program assessment.

Beit Yehuda Guest House Amphitheatre in Israel offers a student internship managing the hotel’s offerings of plays and concerts. Nestled among the foothills of Givat Massuah, the facility is a short drive from Jerusalem’s city center.

“This program is a perfect complement to our course offering in entrepreneurship and our Lawrence Scholars in Arts and Entertainment program, which brings successful alumni back to Lawrence to work with and inspire our students,” said Pertl.  “Now Conservatory² will allow our students to leave campus, and through their hard work, inspire our alumni.  We are starting with eight fantastic internships, and there is a potential to grow the program substantially. I look forward to watching  Conservatory² become a signature program for our conservatory.”

For additional information on eligibility and application requirements, grant allotments and how to apply, visit www.lawrence.edu/conservatory/squared/ or follow Conservatory² on Facebook.  Deadline for applications is February 15, 2012.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a world-class conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. Ranked among America’s best colleges, it was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,445 students from 44 states and 35 countries. For more information visit www.lawrence.edu or follow us on Facebook.

The Role of Collaboration in Innovation Focus of Lawrence University Convocation

The importance of collaborations in innovation and problem solving will be the focus of a Lawrence University convocation.

Professor of Theatre Arts Tim Troy

Timothy X. Troy, professor of theatre arts and J. Thomas and Julie Esch Hurvis Professor of Theatre and Drama at Lawrence, presents “Unexpected Collaborators: The Geniuses Among Us” Tuesday, April 5 at 11:10 a.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. Troy also will conduct a question-and-answer session at 2 p.m. in the Warch Campus Center cinema. Both events are free and open to the public.

Troy was selected for the 2010-11 convocation series as the second recipient of Lawrence’s Faculty Convocation Award. Chosen by President Jill Beck from nominations collected by the Committee on Public Occasions, recipients for the award are selected for the high quality of their professional work.

While innovation is often considered the result of brilliant people making major discoveries, closer examination reveals “the geniuses among us” work closely with colleagues to solve pressing problems and lead us into the future. Troy will examine some of the “rules” he’s learned for productive collaboration in his career working with playwrights, composers, actors, design teams and technicians.

His address will feature two poems: “The Geniuses Among Us,” by Marilyn Taylor and “Sometime During Eternity” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, which will be delivered with Dean of the Conservatory Brian Pertl, Professor of Music Dane Richeson and Associate Professor of Music Mark Urness.

A 1985 graduate of Lawrence, Troy first returned to his alma mater in 1989, serving as a lecturer in theatre and drama for three years. He went on to work with the Milwaukee Repertory Theater Education Department and taught at Augustana College and the College of DuPage before returning to Lawrence a second time on a tenure-track appointment in 1997.

During his career, he has directed more than 100 plays, musicals and operas for both university and professional theatres and has written four plays, including 2010’s “Radio and Juliet.” He was a featured contributor to the 2006 Academy Award-winning documentary “A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin” and directs Lawrence’s “Theatre of the Air” radio drama program. He was recognized with Lawrence’s Freshman Studies Teaching Award in 2004.

In addition to a bachelor’s degree from Lawrence, Troy earned a master of fine arts degree in theatre arts/directing from the University of Iowa.

Grammy Winner Bobby McFerrin to Perform “Migrations” at Lawrence Feb. 19

Ten-time Grammy winner Bobby McFerrin joins the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble, Studio Orchestra and Hybrid Ensemble at 8 p.m., February 19, for the sold-out U.S. premiere of “Migrations: One World, Many Musics.”

Composed by Lawrence’s own Fred Sturm, Kimberly Clark Professor of Music and director of jazz studies, “Migrations” was commissioned in 2007 by McFerrin and the NDR Big Band in Hamburg, Germany. The work is a “musical plea for world unity” that illustrates both the distinct and shared characteristics of indigenous music from 18 countries on six continents.

Collaborating with a former Lawrence student, Brian Pertl ’86, an ethnomusicologist and, at the time, the manager of Microsoft’s Media Acquisitions Group, Sturm researched more than 2,000 recordings from around the globe. Sturm transcribed, arranged, orchestrated and “recomposed” about two-dozen indigenous recordings to create the magical two-hour concert showcasing McFerrin.

“The music we selected for ‘Migrations’ is centuries old,” Sturm said. “It’s pure, innocent, beautiful and powerful. Though the character and styles are as varied as the world’s people who created this music, there is a prevalent common linkage between the selections. Bobby’s improvisations and interpretations of the material I’ve scored are intended to illustrate the musical unity of the world’s people.”

With a four-octave vocal range and a wide array of vocal techniques, McFerrin is one of the natural wonders of the world. Famous for his 1989 hit “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” he is an ardent spokesman for music education. His collaborations with other artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Chick Corea, and Herbie Hancock have established him as an ambassador of both the jazz and classical music worlds.

The concert will also feature Pertl, now the dean of the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music, playing the didjeridu and jaw harp, and Dane Richeson, professor of music at Lawrence, on drums and percussion.

Sturm will host a pre-concert lecture at 7 p.m. in Stansbury Theatre, Music Drama Center, 420 E. College Ave, west of Lawrence Memorial Chapel. The concert is sold out, however, the public is invited to enter a contest to win one of 10 pairs of tickets for this special performance beginning Wednesday, February 10.

Microsoft Executive Named Dean of Lawrence University’s Conservatory of Music

APPLETON, WIS. — Lawrence University has announced the appointment of Brian Pertl as dean of its conservatory of music. As the chief academic and administrative officer of the conservatory, Pertl will be responsible for the educational mission, curricular planning and development for the bachelor of music program, budget planning, recruitment and retention of faculty and faculty-administration relations. He will join the Lawrence administration July 1.

Pertl comes to Lawrence from Microsoft Corporation, where he has been the media acquisitions manager since 1998, overseeing a team of 40 employees, contractors and vendors and managing a $5 million budget. He first joined Microsoft in 1992 as an ethnomusicologist to select, caption and license music for the company’s Encarta World Atlas product.

In addition to his management duties at Microsoft, Pertl serves as a state music scholar for the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street traveling exhibit “New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music.” He also has been a lecturer for Washington state’s “Inquiring Mind Lecture Series” for the past 16 years, delivering more than 300 talks on a wide variety of subjects at venues throughout the state.

“Brian is not only a passionate scholar of music but a strong advocate of the liberal arts and of the importance of interactions across disciplines,” said Lawrence President Jill Beck in announcing Pertl’s appointment. “His creativity, vision and leadership will help enhance the position of Lawrence as a nationally prominent institution in the fields of music and music education.”

A native of Salt Lake City, Pertl, 45, is a 1986 graduate of Lawrence, where he earned a bachelor of music degree in performance and a bachelor of arts degree in English. He also holds a master’s degree in ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University and has completed extensive additional coursework and research toward a doctorate degree in ethnomusicology at the University of Washington.