Tag: Lawrence Conservatory of Music

Conservatory named “hidden gem” as faculty find new ways to connect, teach

Lawrence University students, led here by Director of Orchestral Studies Mark Dupere, gathered for an impromptu performance of Mendelssohn’s Elijah just as Winter Term came to an end. Faculty are now finding new ways to enhance music instruction and maintain connections amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

As Lawrence University treads new territory with distance learning for Spring Term, a consulting site for prospective music students has given the school’s Conservatory of Music a major salute.

Music School Central named Lawrence University’s Conservatory of Music one of the best “hidden gem” music schools in the country. The top-10 ranking placed Lawrence at No. 3.

Bill Zuckerman, who oversees musicschoolcentral.com – he previously authored a column on the Conservatory titled, Is This the World’s Most Socially Conscious Music School? – called Lawrence “the definition of excellence in a liberal arts college music school.”

The ranking is music to the ears of Conservatory Dean Brian Pertl as he and his team launch into a Spring Term like none before. As are professors in departments across campus, the Conservatory faculty have taken up the challenge of keeping the community aspect of the Lawrence experience intact while shifting to distance learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

Lawrence professor launches national fundraiser for artists shut down by COVID-19. See details here.

Tears were shed when word first came down that Lawrence, like other colleges and universities across the country, would be quickly transitioning to virtual instruction during the spring, Pertl said. But the conversation among faculty shifted almost immediately to ways in which the learning experience could still be marked with close faculty-student interactions, community building, and opportunities to tap into skills that will be in demand in the music world going forward.

What’s happened over the past four weeks – Spring Term began Monday following Winter Term finals and a two-week spring break – has been nothing short of amazing, Pertl said.

In the horns studio, Assistant Professor of Music Ann Ellsworth has taken her practice of group warm-ups each morning in Music-Drama Center 163 and transformed it into a daily Zoom session with her horn students. And she’s invited prominent horn makers and horn players from around the globe to interact with her students via Zoom masterclasses.

Horn students join Ann Ellsworth (top middle) for daily warm-ups via Zoom.

“So, horn makers from the U.S. and horn players from places like the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and at least one from Germany will be Zooming in to speak to her horn students,” Pertl said. “It’s sort of taking advantage of this opportunity that a lot of these great musicians in the world are stuck at home, too. They are actually eager to interact with students.”

Trombone professor Tim Albright is working on a virtual trombone ensemble project, recording Charles Ives’ Variations on America, arranged by Lawrence alumus Dominic Ellis ’17. Trombone students will be recording their parts remotely, and the music will be stitched together on campus, thus keeping the trombone ensemble alive, just in a different setting.

Assistant Professor of Music Matthew Arau, who is teaching a rehearsal techniques class for music education, is partnering with middle and high school music programs in Malaysia, led by Lawrence alumnus Dan Miles ’10, and Hong Kong. Lawrence students will direct those music students from afar.

A number of student music groups, most notably in the jazz and improvisation area, will be exploring live improvisation in virtual spaces, performing together even though they are spread across the country or around the world.

Students preparing for junior or senior recitals are re-imagining what those recitals might look like. While some remain on campus and will stream recitals from Harper Hall, others are prepping for remote recitals that incorporate elements and skills that might not otherwise have been considered, including turning a recital into an animation-infused music video.

“All of sudden our students, instead of throwing up their hands and being dejected or saying, ‘I can’t,’ they’ve taken up the challenge, and they’re saying, ‘I can, and not only can I, I am going to do something that is going to push my boundaries,’” Pertl said. “They’re redefining what a recital can be.”

Staying flexible and staying connected are front and center as faculty and students venture into these uncharted waters.

“It’s beautiful, creative flexibility,” Pertl said. “We’re working with our students all the time to say, ‘This is what you’re going to need out there in the world, and this is what’s going to be exciting about being a musician in the world today.’ And they are going to be taking all of these forward-thinking practices, and they’re just going to be doing them, which is a sort of neat and beautiful thing.

“Is it ideal? No, it’s not ideal. Nobody wanted this to happen. But can we make the very, very best of this and come away with skills and knowledge that we wouldn’t have otherwise had to acquire, but skills and knowledge that will be beneficial for our students once they leave here?”

Ellsworth said her daily warm-up sessions with horn students might seem like a small thing, but it’s that sort of personal connection that students most feared would be lost.

“I ask everyone to mute themselves and then choose one student for each exercise to unmute so we can all hear that one person,” Ellsworth said of the sessions. “I play a short exercise from our routine and they all repeat it after me. The purpose of the group warm-up for horn is that half of the benefit is getting the mouthpiece off the face in-between exercises; it slows us down, prevents injury while we’re still cold, and sets us up for the rest of the day.

“But it turns out the real purpose for distance group warm-up is the time after our 45 minutes of playing, when I leave the room but leave the meeting running. I tell them they can hang out or not and that I’ll be back in 20 minutes, and I’ll come back and they are still there, hanging out, talking about student stuff. We had a prospective student join one meeting and I left them there to get acquainted because they can’t come to visit the campus. It’s super productive.”

There are dozens of other examples of collaboration and creativity taking place across the Conservatory as Spring Term gets rolling, Pertl said, all of which speaks to the ideals that landed Lawrence on the “hidden gems” ranking in the first place.

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

LU music prof at heart of national effort to raise funds for out-of-work artists

Andrew Crooks directs music during a dress rehearsal of The Marriage of Figaro, staged during Winter Term at Lawrence University.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University Assistant Professor of Music Andrew Crooks has helped launch an online fund-raising campaign that has already brought in more than $237,000 to assist musicians and other artists across the United States who are struggling because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Artist Relief Tree (ART) was started earlier this month as music venues began to close and performances and tours were canceled, putting many artists out of work. The web site, www.artistrelieftree.com, received more than 3,500 requests for help in its first four days.

While it started with a goal to raise $10,000, organizers have now reset the target at $1 million.

For artists not in salaried, stable positions, the shutdown of performances on such a massive scale is heartbreaking, Crooks said in an email interview from his native New Zealand, where he is hunkered down to teach remotely during Spring Term.

“It is very painful to bear witness to these stories, both through Artist Relief Tree and via social media, as well as via more personal communications with friends,” he said. “There is extreme anxiety in the arts community, and we wanted to offer a little help, a little hope, and as much sense of community and solidarity as we could possibly muster.”

Crooks, who serves as a vocal coach at Lawrence and was the music director for the Conservatory’s Winter Term production of The Marriage of Figaro, teamed with a handful of other artists from around the country to form ART.

4 ways Lawrentians can pitch in, stay connected amid COVID-19 crisis: Details here.

Numerous notable performers and authors have since jumped on board with endorsements, among them Russell Brand, Brene Brown, Ani DiFranco, Brian Eno, Ben Folds, Rhiannon Giddens, George R.R. Martin, Mike Posner, and Lawrence’s own John Holiday.

The process works like this: An artist in need can request funds, with a requirement to provide some basic documentation about their work. On a first-come-first-served basis for those who qualify, ART will provide a financial assist. Monies began going out on March 18.

This isn’t going to sustain anyone long term. But it’s an effort to help a community that is reeling, to embrace a sense of togetherness among artists, and to raise awareness along with dollars, Crooks said. Many of these artists who were lined up to perform in some of the world’s great opera houses and other performance venues have no fallback. In many cases, no performance, no paycheck.

It was a team of six artists and arts administrators, all tied to the world of opera, who launched the project, Crooks said. He and Morgan Brophy, of Wolf Trap Opera, have served as co-founding-directors. The organizers are all working as volunteers.

“They have poured their hearts and souls and time into this passion project,” Crooks said. “They all care so, so much … about their artistic friends all over the world.”

Back at Lawrence, the efforts are drawing applause across the Conservatory.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our remarkable faculty,” Dean of the Conservatory Brian Pertl said. “This is such a great example of turning compassion into action, which is exactly what we want to model for our students.”

For more details on the project, see www.artistrelieftree.com or visit ART on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/artistrelieftree.

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

Lawrence alumnus brings classic Sam Shepard production to Cloak Theater

Paul McComas ’83 and Megan Corse star in Fool for Love, coming March 13 to Lawrence.

Update: This event has been canceled.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Playwright Paul McComas ’83 is passionate about a good number of things in this world, among them his alma mater and the work of the late writer and actor Sam Shepard.

Those two passions will come together on a Lawrence University stage on Friday, March 13, as McComas brings his adapted production of Shepard’s 1983 Fool for Love to Cloak Theater.

The play, set for 8 p.m. and starring McComas and fellow Chicago actor Megan Corse, begins with a set of “songs of foolish love,” followed by McComas’ 45-minute adaptation of Fool for Love, a sometimes funny, sometimes tragic rollercoaster of love and heartache that was a signature piece in Shepard’s 50-year career as a playwright, actor, director, and author. The play earned Shepard a Pulitzer Prize nomination, and it was later adapted to a feature film by Robert Altman.

To bring the touring production to Lawrence is a particular thrill for McComas, who counts the late Fred Gaines and other Lawrence faculty as mentors who set him on a course of creative exploration that has defined his career in the arts. The production will serve as a fundraiser for the Lawrence Conservatory’s Fred Gaines Student Playwright Series.

“There’s no education like a liberal-arts one,” McComas said of his time at Lawrence. “I see those lessons popping up daily — in every story or script I write, every stage or screen performance I assay, every song or instrumental piece I compose, every film I direct, every class I teach. I see it even in my thought processes and my most strongly held beliefs, namely the empathetic, altruistic, progressive ones.”

It was while at Lawrence that Gaines, the former theater and drama professor, introduced McComas to the work of Shepard. He’s been hooked ever since. He calls Shepard one of the great influences on his own writing and acting.

“Like him, I favor work that has one foot each in mainstream psychological family fiction and drama and material and themes that are more out there on the fringe,” McComas said. “I love the tension of that interplay in his work, and I aspire to it in my own.”

Productions of McComas’ Fool for Love have all been fundraisers for various causes since it premiered in 2018. It’s recommended for ages 13 and up. An audience conversation with the actors will follow the performance.

General admission tickets are $15 ($8 for seniors and non-Lawrence students), but free for members of the Lawrence community. For more information, call the box office at 920-832-6749 or visit www.facebook.com/events/696721090860700/.

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

Tight-knit cast ready to open “Figaro,” a comic opera full of messy relationships

A scene from a dress rehearsal of "The Marriage of Figaro."
Erik Nordstrom as Count Almaviva performs with cast mates during a dress rehearsal for The Marriage of Figaro. The cast in Tuesday’s rehearsal will be on stage Thursday and Saturday. The opera, with four performances between Thursday and Sunday, is double cast. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Class dynamics are certainly part of The Marriage of Figaro, the classic opera from the superstar duo of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Lorenzo da Ponte. But Copeland Woodruff, director of Opera Studies at Lawrence University, said he’s more fascinated by another element of the story as his Opera Theatre students prepare to open the production on March 5.

“It’s complex human relationships,” Woodruff said of the storyline that mixes love and betrayal and suspicion in equal doses, all with comedic undertones. “And everyone on stage is making poor choices, often times for selfish reasons to punish someone else.

“I’d really rather tell that story. Certainly, there’s class distinction in it, and you can’t ignore that, and you shouldn’t ignore that, but, for me, there are a lot of other interesting things, human elements that are going on, and they’re complicated.”

The comic opera was written by Mozart, the composer, and da Ponte, the librettist, in the 1780s, but, Woodruff said, if you want to think about it in more modern times, think Rick Springfield’s Jessie’s Girl. You know, coveting your best friend’s girlfriend.

In short, Figaro, Count Almaviva’s longtime friend and personal valet, is set to marry the Countess’ maid, Susanna. But the high and mighty Count is plotting to seduce the servant Susanna, on her wedding night no less. The Countess is on to him and teams with Susanna to catch her husband in all his lecherous ways. Confusion and mischief happen along the way.

Emily Richter ’20, a music performance (voice) major from London, is in the role of the Countess. She said the cast has been eyeing opening night since first receiving the music in June and then prepping that music through fall term.

“We then spent the two weeks of D-Term peeling away the layers of what we’re saying and pushing the boundaries of what is possible with this show,” she said. “Since then we’ve spent 12 hours a week staging and trying to capture the nuance of the show.”

Emma Milton is Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro, to be held in Stansbury Theater.

The Marriage of Figaro will be presented over four days in Stansbury Theater — 7:30 p.m. performances on March 5, 6, and 7 and a 3 p.m. matinee on March 8. The show is for mature audiences. Admission is $15 ($10 for seniors, $8 for non-Lawrence students); free for Lawrence students, faculty, and staff.

It features a cast of 11, plus stage and technical crews, two rehearsal pianists, a student pit orchestra, and a 14-member chorus. It’s a big show, running three hours in length, and it is double cast, making for an imposing undertaking.

“It’s one of the most generous casts I’ve worked with in a long time,” Woodruff said. “They’re just generous with each other as far as sharing the stage space and working with one another.”

For Richter and other seniors in the cast, this is a final bow at Lawrence. She called her castmates “uplifting” and said the bonds being built will last long after the final curtain.

Max Muter is Figaro in Lawrence University’s The Marriage of Figaro.

“To get to be in an opera this massive with people I’ve been singing with now for almost four years is such a special experience,” she said. “Never again will we get to be in a show with people we’ve essentially grown up with for four years. It’s a very special thing, and I think that closeness, vulnerability, and trust shows up on stage.”

For more on Lawrence’s Opera Theatre program, visit here.

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

Familiar power struggles in play as Lawrence’s “Richard III” hits the stage

Chris Follina ’20, as Richard III, rehearses with Alec Welhouse ’23, as the Duke of Buckingham, during a dress rehearsal for “Richard III” in Cloak Theatre. The Lawrence Department of Theatre Arts production runs Feb. 20-22. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Alex Freeman ’23

History has a way of repeating itself.

As a Lawrence theater and English double major who is doing her Senior Experience in conjunction with the Department of Theatre Arts’ production of Richard III, Haley Stevens ’20 hopes audience members remember that famous adage as they watch the action unfold this week on the Cloak Theatre stage.

Written almost 400 years ago, it might not initially be obvious how the themes and content of Richard III could be relevant to a modern audience. But when looking at today’s political climate, some of Richard III’s key plot points—betrayal, power struggles and rumor campaigns, to name a few—may not seem so foreign, she said.

“I want the audience to feel like this is weirdly familiar, like unexpectedly familiar,” Director Timothy X. Troy said, echoing Stevens’ assessment. “It’s not necessarily a happy thought. It happens every day in rehearsal as we’re working our way through scenes. We’re like, man, that just happened last week. … But that’s true of all great literature. Each era finds its way into it. These were people who lived through a tumultuous time. And guess who we are?”

For the cast and crew of Shakespeare’s Richard III, the past five weeks of rehearsal are finally coming to fruition. Set to open on Thursday night, Richard III will be performed in Cloak Theatre at 8 p.m. Feb. 20–22, with an additional 3 p.m. matinee Feb. 22.

With an abridged script that has condensed the original four-hour play into 90 minutes of action, the production, subtitled “I am Myself, Alone,” tackles the challenge of analyzing the choices individuals make, both in a historical context and today.

Carly Beyer ’22, as Queen Elizabeth, rehearses with Ben Carlick ’20, as Dorset, during a dress rehearsal for “Richard III” in Cloak Theatre.

The production tells the story of Richard III, an English nobleman who will do virtually anything to ensure his rise to the throne following a 30-year civil war—no matter the cost. In order to condense the play to 90 minutes, an effort spearheaded by Olivia Gregorich ’17 and Troy, the team had to choose one primary thematic point of view to depict in depth. Settling on the concept of human agency and the factors that restrict it, this production explores the challenging idea of how individuals can make the best decisions for themselves when their options are inherently limited.

Although this concept can easily be understood by a modern audience, placing it in its proper historical context adds an additional level of depth to the production. This historical understanding was enhanced in 2012, when the body of the real Richard III was discovered and exhumed.

As part of the first generation of productions of Richard III since then, the production team has been able to rediscover the play and utilize information about Richard III that previously could not have been confirmed. Having this new knowledge allows the team to explore the production in a new light.

First, it is now confirmed that Richard III truly had a disability, which had previously only been rumored. Christopher Follina ’20, the actor who plays Richard and a theater and religious studies double major doing this production for his Senior Experience, also has a disability, which allows for a more influential and nuanced interpretation of Richard’s character, according to Troy.

Written only a few generations following the real events that occur in the play, original Elizabethan audiences would have been able to recognize the character of Richmond as their queen’s grandfather and would likely have had grandparents who fought in the civil war.

“It’s kind of the equivalent of watching a play around Vietnam or World War II,” Stevens said. “It’s something that happens even now when we’re generations removed from great conflict and then a play portrays it in order to bring back the understanding of what other people, your ancestors, could have gone through.”

Chris Follina plays Richard III in Lawrence’s production of “Richard III.”

Although this weekend’s audience will not have the same close connection to the characters and events of the play as the Elizabethan audience, Troy and Stevens both believe the universal themes and patterns depicted in Richard III can be transferred across time and found in every period of history—including this one. The specific players and timelines may change, but the fundamental story remains the same.

“When you do the show, you keep the story alive,” said Alec Welhouse ’23, the actor playing the Duke of Buckingham. “You don’t let the story die. If we weren’t doing this show, I don’t think anyone at Lawrence would be talking about King Richard or anyone like that. But since we’re doing it, it sparks that interest again. It gets people interested in Shakespearean times and makes you want to learn more about it.”

Alex Freeman ’23 is a student writer in the Communications office.

Student commissions music for senior recital in honor of Pakistani grandmother

Rehanna Rexroat '20 plays the violin during a recent rehearsal session in Shattuck Hall.
Rehanna Rexroat ’20 practices in Lawrence’s Shattuck Hall in preparation for her senior recital on Feb. 8. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

The senior violin recital for Rehanna Rexroat ’20, set for Saturday in Harper Hall, will be more than just the summit of her academic career at Lawrence — one that boasts majors in violin performance, instrumental music education, and choral/general music education. It also will bring attendees into a space of remembrance and celebration of culture.

With funding from a grant to assist Lawrence students in their Senior Experience, Rexroat was able to commission Aakash Mittal, a renowned Indian American saxophonist and composer, to compose a piece for her recital in honor of her Pakistani grandmother.

The piece, aptly titled Origins, is a duet for violin and harp for Rexroat and Leila Ramagopal Pertl, an instructor in music education in the Conservatory of Music.

For months, the two had been searching for a piece that properly payed homage to Rexroat’s culture by blending Indian and Western classical music. With no luck, they called on the assistance of Brian Pertl, dean of the Conservatory. He reached out to Mittal, who he counts as a friend, to see if he had a piece he’d recommend. He did not. So, Mittal wrote one.

 “It’s really about honoring ancestors in a general, global sense,” Rexroat said of Origins.

The rest of the pieces in Rexroat’s recital deal similarly with these themes of culture and memory. Their composers, some of whom are ethnomusicologists, celebrate their own cultures or the cultures of other groups in the music. She dedicated one in honor of her grandmother on her mother’s side; another to her childhood best friend who recently died.

“I really liked that theme,” Rexroat said of the music selections. “But I took it a step further because I wanted my culture to be part of that.”

Rexroat was in contact with Mittal throughout the process of composing Origins. He was inspired by stories she sent him that her grandmother had told her. He adopted themes from those stories into the piece.

Learn about Lawrence’s Chandler Senior Experience here.

“I wanted my culture to be part of that,” Rehanna Rexroat said of commissioning a piece of music for her senior recital. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Rexroat’s grandmother was a devout Muslim, so the piece is set to scales used in devotional Sufi music, but one of the movements takes its name from a psalm to commemorate Rexroat’s own Christian beliefs.

Though the recital is very personal to her, Rexroat hopes the music — Origins in particular — also will encourage listeners to get in touch with their own cultural stories.

“The way Leila and I will be presenting it, we’re going to invite others to think about their ancestors,” she said.

Rexroat, a native of Mount Vernon, Iowa, who started playing the violin at age 4, noted that Saturday’s recital is almost exactly 18 years since she first picked up the instrument. But this educational apex, she said, is only the starting point of a longer musical journey.

“I think violin is always going to be a passion of mine,” she said. “It’s been in my life for as long as I can remember. Wherever I go I will try to find someone I can continue to study with.”

Rexroat’s recital will be at 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8, in Harper Hall. It is open to the public.

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

Frisell and friends bring Harmony to Memorial Chapel for Jazz Series concert

Harmony includes, from left, Luke Bergman, Bill Frisell, Hank Roberts, and Petra Haden.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The third concert in Lawrence University’s 2019-20 Jazz Series arrives Friday, and it promises to be a good one.

Not only will the legendary guitarist Bill Frisell be on stage at Memorial Chapel, but he’ll have some pretty notable players with him in a newly formed group called Harmony.

The 8 p.m. Feb. 7 concert features Frisell, Petra Haden, Hank Roberts, and Luke Bergman, the musicians who came together to record the Blue Note album Harmony, released in October. They have now taken Harmony on tour.

Frisell is a Grammy-winning guitarist and composer, his work rooted in jazz but also incorporating plenty of blues and popular American music traditions. He’s collaborated with the likes of John Zorn’s Naked City, Joey Baron, and the Paul Motian Trio, among others, in an impressive writing, recording and performing career that has spanned more than three decades.

“The way he moves complex harmonic voicings and linear phrases on the guitar with seamless sophistication is unparalleled,” Jose Encarnacion, assistant professor of music and director of jazz studies in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music, said when the show was announced. “I personally love everything about his music, especially his collaborations with John Zorn and the Paul Motian’s group.”

Haden, meanwhile, provides the bulk of Harmony’s vocals, wrapped around Frisell originals and some American folk classics.

Andy Ellis wrote about Harmony in early January on the Premier Guitar site, offering a glimpse of what you’ll see and hear at the Chapel on Friday.

“When I first heard Harmony, I’d hit a rough patch and my normal diet of grooving music wasn’t cutting it,” Ellis writes. “From the opening strains of the first track, Everywhere, I felt as if I’d stepped through the looking glass into an alternative sonic universe, one both melancholic and divine. Ah, just what I needed.

“At the center of this strange brew is Petra Haden, whose beautiful, sometimes ethereal voice casts a spell across the entire album, which consists of Frisell originals, standards, and folk songs. Whether it’s Billy Strayhorn’s Lush Life or On the Street Where You Live by Lerner and Loewe, the quartet — which includes cellist Hank Roberts and guitarist Luke Bergman, both of whom also sing — puts a fresh twist on jazz-leaning vocal ensembles. And were he still alive, I can imagine Pete Seeger wiping away a tear after hearing his Where Have All the Flowers Gone? rendered so poignantly. Throughout Harmony, Frisell’s guitar rings like a bell, and his rich voicings recall jazz piano genius Bill Evans. Moody sounds for tumultuous times.”

Tickets for Friday’s concert are $25-$30 for adults, $20-$25 for seniors, and free for students. The Lawrence box office can be reached at 920-832-6749.

Up next: The fourth and final concert in this year’s Jazz Series comes on May 1, when the Tigran Hamasyan Trio takes to the Memorial Chapel stage. A native of Armenia, Hamasyan is described as a jazz-meets-rock pianist with a potent blend of jazz improvisation and rich folkloric sounds. Here’s more on the full Jazz Series and Artist Series.

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

Former Lawrence piano professor Ted Rehl dies; taught for 34 years in Conservatory

Portrait of Theodore Rehl at the piano.
Theodore Rehl

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Theodore (Ted) Lloyd Rehl, a mainstay in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music for more than three decades and an inspiration to generations of piano students, died Jan. 11 in Sarasota, Florida.

Rehl retired from Lawrence University in 1992 after 34 years on the faculty, many as chairman of the Piano Department, then relocated with his wife, Fran, to their retirement home in Florida.

While at Lawrence, Rehl was an active performer of solo and chamber music, a member of the Duncan Rehl Piano Duo, and a favorite accompanist. He also performed regularly with the Fox Valley Symphony. Upon his retirement in 1992, he was awarded an honorary degree of Master of Arts.

“As a teacher, you have been an example to faculty and students alike,” then President Richard Warch said of Rehl at the 1992 Commencement ceremony. “Throughout your career, you have sought not only to extend your considerable capacities as a performer, but also to broaden your knowledge of repertoire, technique, and pedagogy, and that pursuit has taken you to the musical capitals of the world to further study. That you have earned your laurels as a master teacher is attested by the succession of students — affectionately self-styled ‘Rehl’s Raiders’ — who have proceeded through your studio.”

When he retired, Rehl was the university’s last faculty link to the old Conservatory in Peabody Hall. That wasn’t lost on his colleagues, as Warch noted at Commencement: “You may have grayed early, but you have remained young, perhaps because, as one of your colleagues has said of you, ‘He has loved what he has done and done what he has loved.’”

Rehl’s family said he vowed to stop playing the piano when he retired. That lasted for 18 years. But in 2010, he and Fran bought a Steinway Model M and donated it to Plymouth Harbor, their retirement community.

“Ted was so inspired by the sound of this piano that he once again started practicing daily, and since then has given 19 recitals, the last on Dec. 6, 2019,” his family said in message released upon his death.

He was preceded in death by Fran, his wife of 63 years. He is survived by two children and four grandchildren.

Donations in Rehl’s memory may be made to the Plymouth Harbor Improvement of the Arts Fund.

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

Lawrence students “Pop the Bubble” to bring together campus, community artists

A Lawrence student plays guitar during a Pop the Bubble event at The Draw in Appleton.
Lawrence students performed at The Draw in mid-October as part of a Pop the Bubble event. (Photos by Sebastian Evans ’21)

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

If you’ve ever talked to Lawrentians about their relationship with the Appleton community, you’ve probably heard a reference to the “Lawrence bubble.” In the Lawrence University lexicon, the term refers to campus as its own world in which some students may feel a disconnect from the surrounding community.

Emily Austin ’20 challenged this sentiment by starting Pop the Bubble.

Twice a month, this student-run program puts together an evening of various artistic performances by Lawrence students at The Draw, a multipurpose venue located along Lawe Street just a short walk south of campus. Each event centers around a theme chosen to spur conversation and build relationships between students and community members.

“Creating that open space and communication is the main goal of this project,” Austin said. “I think we often get stuck in the bubble, yet we have so much to learn from the community and they have so much to learn from us.”

Austin, a double major in music performance (voice) and English, was inspired to pop the bubble last spring when she took American Roots Music, a Conservatory of Music course co-taught by Grammy-nominated musician Cory Chisel and Dean of the Conservatory Brian Pertl. Students in the class bonded through writing and performing their own American roots music.

It was the students’ final performance at The Draw that inspired Pop the Bubble. Organizers at the venue invited the Lawrentians back to perform any time they wanted for free. A new door into the Appleton community was opened, and Austin jumped at the opportunity.

“I thought, ‘This is so cool, we have to do this,’” Austin said. “It would be an opportunity to bridge the gap between Appleton community artists and Lawrence University artists. It would also give musicians on campus a space to perform and feel comfortable outside of the Con and campus spaces.”

Two visitors look over artwork on display at The Draw during a recent Pop the Bubble event.
Pop the Bubble events are a mix of music, art, spoken word, and more.

The first Pop the Bubble show resembled an open mic night where Lawrence students performed for a local audience. The shows have since developed to focus on a theme that unites performers and audience, Lawrentians and community members alike. The most recent show, Stories of Home, asked all to share their personal experiences and memories from home. Performances included spoken word, music and film. Audience members wrote and drew their stories from home on Post-it notes that were collected at the end of the night; just one of the ways Pop the Bubble works to collaborate and connect with the people of Appleton.

The Pop the Bubble team has grown to include student artists of many disciplines, including a dancer, a visual artist, and creative writers. And it’s not just students who are interested. Community members, especially local artists, have reached out to the Pop the Bubble team expressing a desire to work with Lawrence students.

“The community we’ve found here has been so welcoming and excited about the project,” Austin said. “There’s a desire to get our students out and working and making those connections.

“I think if the Appleton community knew about what we were doing on this campus, especially in the Con and in the arts, there would be a little bit more acceptance of each other. It would become a way to share those ideas and collaborate on a human level.”

Two participants fill out Post-it Notes as part of a "Stories From Home" theme at a recent Pop the Bubble event.
Participants at a Pop the Bubble event at The Draw in October use Post-it notes to share stories, part of a “Stories of Home” theme.

Singer-songwriter and theatre major Caro Granner ’20 has been on the Pop the Bubble team since the beginning.

“When I came in, I felt this really warm, inviting energy,” Granner said of the Stories of Home event during fall term. “People were able to come together and enjoy each other’s company and create some really cool stuff together. To feel that welcoming, joyful energy at the end of a long week was really rewarding for me.”

Austin and Granner hope to increase student involvement with Pop the Bubble and expand their efforts, including doing fundraising for local nonprofits and arts groups.

Pop the Bubble will schedule its next event in winter term.

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

19 superlatives: As 2019 closes, we celebrate a year of Lawrence brilliance

Patty Darling leads the Lawrence Studio Orchestra during Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend at Memorial Chapel..
Patty Darling leads the Lawrence Studio Orchestra during Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend at Memorial Chapel. The success of the jazz program provides the foundation for a new Bachelor of Musical Arts degree introduced at Lawrence in 2019. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

We’ve had a lot of fun on the Lawrence news wire during 2019, getting to know students and faculty, catching up with alumni, and showcasing the innovative work being done in classrooms, performance spaces, and athletic venues across campus.

As we bid adieu to the year and prepare to welcome 2020, we’ve pulled together some of our favorite moments of the past 12 months, superlative style. (Also look in the coming days for favorite alumni moments and our top 10 most-read stories.)

Let’s start with the superlatives — 19 strong, with story links — in no particular order:

1 … Most boastful moments of the year

Main Hall is reflected during the first snow fall of the season.
Lawrence University reflected nicely in 2019. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Rankings continue to put Lawrence in elite national company. In the Princeton Review’s “Best Value Schools,” Lawrence came in at No. 4 in the category of best schools for making an impact. It also put Lawrence on its list of the best 385 colleges in the country. Only about 13% of eligible four-year schools make that list. With five recent graduates teaching abroad on Fulbright awards, Lawrence landed on a prestigious list of U.S. colleges and universities that produced the most Fulbright students. And Lawrence landed at No. 26 in Forbes’ 2019 edition of the Grateful Graduates Index, which follows the money in terms of alumni giving at private, not-for-profit colleges.

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2 … Most emphatic reminder of bonds between Lawrence, Appleton

The bonds between Lawrence and the Appleton community are deep and important. A Report to the Community in April highlighted a study that shows Lawrence’s annual impact on Appleton and the greater Fox Cities totals nearly $70.3 million — from employee earnings, goods and services, construction projects, off-campus spending and visitor spending. It also showed contributions to the community go well beyond economics, highlighting ongoing cultural and charitable relationships, including work on Mile of Music.

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3 … Most likely weekend to be filled with sleeplessness

Group photo of trivia masters in advance of 2019 Great Midwest Trivia Contest.
Miranda Salazar ’19 (center) led the Great Midwest Trivia Contest team.

When we talk about traditions that continue to engage and amuse, it’s hard to beat Lawrence’s Great Midwest Trivia Contest. For the 54th edition, we gave you 37 reasons to love trivia weekend, the 37 being a nod to the very specific start time of 37 seconds past 10 p.m., the kickoff to 50 hours of madness that is annually a highlight of winter term.

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4 … Brightest lights of Lawrentian generosity

There are many such examples. It’s tough to narrow it down. But we highlighted a few that were particularly notable in 2019, from the Be the Light campaign (continuing after being launched in late 2018), to an endowed position to teach the psychology of collaboration, to a record-setting Giving Day. There is much to be thankful for.

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5 … Newest degree on the block

Daniel Green '20 records during a session in Houston on the Presto tour.
Daniel Green ’20 was part of the Presto! tour to Houston. (Photo by Garrett Katerzynske)

The unveiling of a new degree program is no small thing. The Bachelor of Musical Arts (B.M.A.) degree was introduced this year, opening the Conservatory of Music to a more expansive group of student musicians. With a foundation in jazz and contemporary improvisation, the degree is built to accommodate a wider range of music making. The possibilities are many, and the excitement is palpable.

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6 … Favorite hometown connection on a Presto! tour

Voice professor John Holiday returned to Houston as part of the Lawrence Conservatory’s annual Presto! tour, a spring outing that embraces both performance and community outreach. For Holiday, doing so in his hometown made it all the more special and presented opportunities to share his love of Lawrence with prospective students. For the Conservatory, it was one more opportunity to showcase its mantra of music with a mission.

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7 … Strongest embrace of a Wisconsin winter

A view from above shows the ice rink in the Appleton yard of Chuck and Lesley McKee.
Chuck and Lesley McKee ’68 share their ice rink. (Photo by Garrett Katerzynske)

Have you seen the ice rink that is the annual handiwork of Chuck McKee ’68? It’s a sight to behold. He and his wife, Lesley McKee ’68, have deep bonds with Lawrence that continue to this day. They live a couple blocks north of campus. Each winter for the past 25 years, Chuck, a retired doctor and Lawrence Hall of Fame football player, has turned their yard into an elaborate skating rink, drawing a bevy of friends and acquaintances for pickup hockey games (and from time to time Lawrence hockey players looking for ice time). They’ve also been known to throw a party or two on the ice, one of which landed their rink in the pages of Better Homes & Gardens magazine.

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8 … Most eye-opening testimonial to Lawrence’s strength in STEM

A report from the Council for Independent Colleges put Lawrence in some pretty notable company regarding the number of students earning degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields on their way to successful completion of doctoral degrees. In a national ranking that measures the percentage of a school’s STEM graduates from 2007 to 2016 who eventually earned a Ph.D., Lawrence comes in at No. 17, sandwiched between Harvard at 16 and Princeton at 18.  

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9 … Best use of a camera in a garden setting

A goat chews weeds in the SLUG garden.
Students brought goats to the SLUG garden for weed control. (Photo by Liz Boutelle)

There’s nothing like a midsummer arrival of goats to liven up one of the quietest stretches of the campus calendar. When the students tending to the SLUG garden garnered a sustainability grant to bring in 10 goats to do some weeding, well, we turned a GoPro camera into our very own Goat Cam. The goat initiative was just one of numerous sustainability projects on campus, and played a part in Lawrence’s upgraded sustainability rating.

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10 … Most madness-filled athletics flashback

In the college basketball world, March Madness shouldn’t ever be taken for granted. Fifteen years ago, the Lawrence men’s team went where no Vikings had gone before, winning an NCAA tournament game (and then some) for the first time in the program’s 101 years. We revisited the magical run to the NCAA D-III Elite Eight on the 15th anniversary, catching up with that 2003-04 team that had Lawrence dancing like never before.

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11 … Biggest artful addition to campus

Native students pose in front of the indigenous education mural on the side of the Buchanen Kiewit Wellness Center.
Native students highlight indigenous education. (Photo by Liz Boutelle)

When Matika Wilbur of Project 562 came to campus to share a journey that has taken her to tribal lands across the country (and beyond), she was looking to redirect the narrative on indigenous people. In addition to a convocation address on her work with photography and art installations, she led Native students in the creation of a gorgeous mural on the side of the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center.

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12 … Most toast-worthy Lawrence tradition

A lot was happening back in 1969. Among the changes at Lawrence was the transition of the Viking Room from an alcohol-free student hangout to a full-fledged campus bar. The popular spot in the lower level of Memorial Hall marked its 50th anniversary as a bar.

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13 … Funkiest alumni celebration of Lawrence roots

Porky's Groove Machine performs in downtown Appleton.
Porky’s Groove Machine keeps it quirky. (Photo by Ken Cobb)

We love it when Lawrence alumni stay connected, return to campus, and share their passion for this place that helped shape them in their adult lives. If it gets a little quirky, so be it. Members of Porky’s Groove Machine, a funk band that started at Lawrence and is now based in Minneapolis, wear their quirkiness like badges of honor. The Porky’s crew — seven Lawrentians strong — returns often, and we are forever thankful.

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14 … Best use of a swimming pool in a non-traditional way

The opera presented at Lawrence in late March was probably a bit different than any you’ve experienced before. For starters, the musicians — and some instruments — were in the water. Held in the pool at the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center, the opera included violins and cellos and keyboards and fancy attire — and water. Lots and lots of water. We chatted with the creative artists behind Breathe.

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15 … Newsiest inspirations in the sciences

Megan Pickett poses in front of physics equations on a white board.
Megan Pickett tapped into Nobel inspirations. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

When the Nobel Prizes were announced this fall, there were some scientists and economists at Lawrence nodding in agreement. Research being done by faculty members Megan Pickett, Allison Fleshman, Dylan Fitz, and Hillary Caruthers — and their students — is closely tied to or inspired by the work of Nobel winners in chemistry, physics, and economics. A book that is part of Freshman Studies also got Nobel attention.

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16 … Most savvy change in study abroad opportunities

Lawrence students continue to thrive with study abroad opportunities. A change in how financial aid is tied to studying abroad has eased the path for some students, resulting in an uptick in numbers over the past year. Students continue to share how the experiences abroad have enriched their lives and their college experience.

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17 … Newest on-stage effort to embrace inclusivity

American Sign Language (ASL) and Pidgin Signed English (PSE) are used during a Lawrence Opera Theatre Ensemble performance of "Mass."
Lawrence Opera Theatre utilizes sign language in “Mass.” (Photo by Ken Cobb)

When Lawrence reimagined Leonard Bernstein’s Mass in early 2019, it came with a significant twist that drew in a slice of the population that often feels left out. The production by Lawrence’s Opera Theatre Ensemble, led by Copeland Woodruff, incorporated a Deaf character played by a professional Deaf actor. The students in the production spent considerable time learning American Sign Language (ASL) and Pidgin Signed English (PSE), used throughout the live performances.

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18 … Rockiest tradition that endures

The Rock has been part of Lawrence since the class of 1895 first hauled the big boulder to campus and carved their signature into it 124 years ago. While the traditions and squabbles that have been part of that history haven’t always been embraced by school administrators, that history was finally recognized with signage that went up this summer. With it came this rock-solid history lesson.

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19 … Most buzz-worthy research on campus

Biology professor Israel Del Toro ramped up Lawrence’s efforts in bee advocacy, securing a bee-friendly campus designation via the Bee City USA initiative. His research work includes assists from students and outreach to the Fox Cities community.

Bonus: We’ve connected with a lot of fascinating alumni over the past year. Here are eight who caught our attention.

Lawrence’s top 10 most-read stories of 2019

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