Month: October 2021

For first-year trombone player, mixing jazz and basketball all part of the game

Mallory Meyer, a first-year music student and basketball player, stands in front of Alexander Gymnasium with her trombone. She will perform Nov. 5 as part of Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend and will debut Nov. 6 with Lawrence’s women’s basketball team. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Karina Herrera ’22

There are many reasons why students choose Lawrence. For Mallory Meyer, a first-year from Battle Ground, Washington, the deciding factor was the opportunity to play in Lawrence’s world-class Conservatory while also competing as a member of the women’s basketball team.

Meyer’s musical instrument of choice is the trombone, and she is currently the only first-year in the award-winning Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble (LUJE), directed by Patty Darling.

“When I found out I was the only first-year in the band, I was surprised, and a little nervous about jumping in with all the amazing players,” Meyer said. “But being surrounded by players like that makes you step up to try to match their level, and, although challenging, it’s been great so far.”

LUJE carries a long-standing reputation of excellence. It has been nationally recognized multiple times in the annual Downbeat awards, among the most prestigious national honors in jazz education.

“We don’t have first-year students in LUJE very often, and Mallory’s outstanding and mature musicianship, spirit, and dedication are greatly admired by everyone in the ensemble,” Darling said.

Read more about LUJE here.

Meyer’s passion for both jazz and basketball will be on full display on the weekend of Nov. 5 and 6. The LUJE will take part in the annual Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend, performing with world-renowned composer Dave Rivello at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5 in Memorial Chapel (open to the Lawrence community only; available to the public virtually). Meanwhile, the women’s basketball team will kick off its season with a Nov. 6 game against Carthage College at 3 p.m. in Alexander Gymnasium (open only to Lawrence students, faculty, and staff).

Meyer, who is pursuing a bachelor of musical arts (B.M.A) degree, began playing the trombone when she was in fifth grade. She played in jazz bands throughout high school while also taking private lessons. She fell in love with playing and knew that she wanted to continue her musical education at a university with a reputable jazz program.

Lawrence fit the bill in every way. When Downbeat held its Student Music Awards last year, it created a new undergraduate category due to the pandemic—Asynchronous Large Jazz Ensemble. Lawrence won the category, marking the 30th time the jazz program has been honored by Downbeat in the last four decades, spanning categories that have included large jazz ensemble, small group, jazz composing, jazz arranging, solo performance, jazz vocal group, and Latin group.

Jazz Weekend, being presented to the public virtually this year due to ongoing pandemic concerns, annually brings in top jazz talents to perform with and alongside Conservatory students and faculty.

Meyer’s talents don’t stop there, of course. She also started playing basketball about the same time she picked up the trombone. The 5-foot-10 forward now plays for the Vikings, and, much like rehearsals, practices have been going well.

“Getting to know everyone and just getting to play with them has been really nice, especially after not playing for a while,” Meyer said.

Juggling rehearsals and performances in the Conservatory along with practices and games in the gym has been challenging. But Meyer said she has taken it all in stride; she grew up having to manage her time between her school work, jazz, and basketball.

For Meyer, the hardest transition is being far from home and her family, but her time spent with LUJE and playing basketball with her teammates has helped to alleviate her homesickness, she said. And although missing her family, she wouldn’t trade the experiences she’s had at Lawrence so far.

“I just like the creative side of it all, being able to create music how I want and having fun on the basketball court with my teammates,” she said.

Ticket information for the Jazz Weekend concerts can be found at Lawrence University Box Office.

Karina Herrera ’22 is a student writer in the Office of Communications.

On Main Hall Green with … Melissa Range: Mixing it up with poetry, history, literature

Portrait on Main Hall Green: Melissa Range (Photo by Danny Damiani)

About the series: On Main Hall Green With … is an opportunity to connect with faculty on things in and out of the classroom. We’re featuring a different Lawrence faculty member each time — same questions, different answers.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Melissa Range, an associate professor of English at Lawrence, is a poet with a love of both creative writing and literature.

Her poetry, which has drawn national honors, is often informed by the teaching she does.

“I am working on a historical poetry collection about the abolitionist movement, so the research I do to prepare for teaching courses on the 19th century is profoundly influencing what I end up writing poems about,” she told Art Lit Lab in a 2018 interview.

In 2015, Range was named one of five national winners in the annual Open Competition sponsored by the National Poetry Series, cited for her second collection of poems, Scriptorium.

Find more On Main Hall Green With … faculty profiles here

A year earlier she was named one of 36 national recipients of a $25,000 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship in Creative Writing.

Range, who has been on the English faculty at Lawrence since 2014, has a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from the University of Tennessee, a master’s in creative writing from Old Dominion University, a master of theological studies from Candler School of Theology at Emory University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Missouri.

We caught up with Range to talk about interests in and out of the classroom.

IN THE CLASSROOM

Inside info: What’s one thing you want every student coming into your classes to know about you?

Expect the unexpected. My favorite thing about teaching is mixing it up and having the freedom to be creative. Maybe one day you’ll come into a literature class and we’ll start digging through digitized 19th century newspapers and relating advertisements for women’s hats to the poems we’re studying. Maybe one day my Emily Dickinson or Frederick Douglass finger puppets will show up. While I am deadly serious about the power of literature—I one hundred percent believe reading poems, novels, plays, and essays can make us better, more just, more empathetic people—I also have a wacky sense of humor. It will show up in the activities we do, especially in creative writing classes. You might end up writing a poem from the point of view of a spoon who wants to join a roller derby team or a snowman who just stole a car, or maybe trying to make metaphors about whatever junk I just pulled out of a cupboard in Briggs 315. (These are real and not hypothetical examples.)

Getting energized: What work have you done or will you be doing at Lawrence that gets you the most excited?

There’ve been a lot of exciting moments. Definitely teaching Native Guard in First-Year Studies; Trethewey’s one of my favorites (I teach her other books, too!). I am currently rethinking the way I teach poetry workshops and trying lots of new things in my creative writing class, so that’s fun. I really love teaching 19th century literature, especially my course on Emily Dickinson. She’s my favorite poet, and her life and art (not to mention her century) are so complex, intense, maddening, and wild. I have been so proud of how students have jumped into her poetry both times I’ve taught this class.

Going places: Is there an example of somewhere your career has taken you (either a physical space or something more intellectual, emotional or spiritual) that took you by surprise?

My career as a professor is itself a surprise. I grew up a first-generation student in a small town in southern Appalachia, and there was no expectation from anyone that I would go to college at all, let alone do anything like becoming a professor. My path to becoming a professor was quite meandering. There were all kinds of stops—and all kinds of odd jobs—along the way. I didn’t decide I even wanted to go into academia until I was in my mid-thirties; I got my job here at LU when I was 41. So, I’m living proof that you don’t have to have everything figured out the second you graduate.

But, to be Lawrence-specific, I never thought I’d be getting up in front of an entire class of first-years and giving a lecture on Native Guard. Somehow, I’ve done it six times now! And I still love that book just as much as the first time I picked it up.

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

This or that: If you weren’t teaching for a living, what would you be doing?  

I have many ideas—opening a sandwich shop is at the top of the list. Several of my colleagues say they are in—don’t be surprised if one day there are professors slinging sammies on College Ave. Karaoke DJ? It would also be cool to open my own thrift shop. I think I’d also be great at hawking squashes at the farmers’ market. I’ve had so many odd jobs already in my life! What’s a few more?

But of course, there is actually only one other job. That’s the job I already have, which is being a poet. It just doesn’t often pay actual money.

Right at home: Whether for work, relaxation or reflection, what’s your favorite spot on campus?

I love the Wriston Galleries. There’s always something provocative to see. Wriston is also my venue of choice for poets who come to Lawrence as part of the Mia Paul Poetry Series. My poetry classes also often give readings in Wriston—so it’s got a lot of great memories for me.

One book, one recording, one film: Name one of each that speaks to your soul? Or you would recommend to a friend? Or both?

I love the poetry collection Peach State, by Adrienne Su, which came out earlier this year—it’s about food, family, place, and identity, she’s one of the best rhymers out there, and it’s funny. I’m also rereading the novel Middlemarch, by George Eliot, and my jaw is dropping every other page at her sentences and her insights. I could be here all day just talking about books. Same with records—I used to work at a record store and I have way too many I love. Lately I’ve been really into revisiting Anita Baker’s album Rapture from . . . I dunno, 1986? 87? Perfect then and perfect now! And also listening to Outkast’s Aquemeni from 1998. Such perfect rhymes! Y’all see I love rhyme, right? I actually don’t watch a lot of movies or TV, but I do have a soft spot for extremely silly comedies. One I love is What We Do in the Shadows, a vampire show that is a) not scary; and b) truly ridiculous. Also not gonna lie, even though I am not an especially good baker, sometimes the Great British Bake-Off is the only way to end a busy week.

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

On Main Hall Green With … Kathy Privatt: The joy of collaboration on and off stage

Portrait on Main Hall Green: Kathy Privatt (Photo by Danny Damiani)

About the series: On Main Hall Green With … is an opportunity to connect with faculty on things in and out of the classroom. We’re featuring a different Lawrence faculty member each time — same questions, different answers.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Kathy Privatt and the stage have gone hand in hand for more than two decades of teaching at Lawrence University.

The James G. Ethel M. Barber Professor of Theatre and Drama and associate professor of theater arts has taught in Lawrence’s theater department since 1999. A faculty leader across campus, she currently serves as chair of the Theatre Arts Department and is the university’s faculty athletic representative.

Through those 22 years of teaching, she has annually directed theater students through main stage productions, one-act plays, and a bevy of other theater experiences. When teaching went remote during the COVID-19 pandemic, she deftly transitioned her students into producing radio dramas via Zoom.

She has held the Barber Professorship since 2008. It was originally established in 1985 by Ethel Barber, a 1934 graduate of Milwaukee-Downer College, and recognizes her lifelong interest in and support of the performing arts and higher education.

Privatt earned her bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in theatre and speech at Central Missouri State University and her Ph.D. in theatre from the University of Nebraska.

We caught up with her to talk about her interests in and out of the classroom.

IN THE CLASSROOM

Inside info: What’s one thing you want every student coming into your classes to know about you?

Collaboration drives my work, and I really do expect the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts. When I’m directing a production, the collaborative process may seem obvious, but it’s how I think about teaching, too. Coming to class means we’re all agreeing to show up together, and while I certainly have a plan, I also expect to learn from each student, and for students to learn from each other so that we’re all learning from each other and together.

Getting energized: What work have you done or will you be doing at Lawrence that gets you the most excited? 

Right now, a set of three one-acts that I’ll be directing Winter Term because it’s a joyful collaboration. It all started with student Lexi Praxl’s independent study on contemporary French theatre. As she was collaborating with the reference librarians, she discovered what seemed to be a project to commission new short plays, inspired by the plays of Molière. We reached out to professor Eilene Hoft-March for translation help, and that led to a plan to have a student translator (Claire Chamberlin) create English versions. Now I’m starting production meetings with the designers for two new plays inspired by Molière, and one play by Molière, who was, himself, inspired by the Italian Commedia dell’arte. We’ll be performing these in the year of Molière’s 400th birthday. Oh, and did I mention that I also get to work with other colleagues for pronunciation help in a variety of languages? And this production will be Lexi’s Senior Experience? Collaborating is like going to a really good buffet, and every time you put something on your plate it creates interesting flavors with the food that is already there. It’s delicious, and just a bit intoxicating.

Going places: Is there an example of somewhere your career has taken you (either a physical space or something more intellectual, emotional or spiritual) that took you by surprise?

Thanks to former Provost Dave Burrows, I am a certified Alexander Movement Technique (AT) teacher. I love sharing that work, whether through the classes I teach, in workshops, or in individual lessons. What I didn’t expect was to find myself sitting in church, making connections with the metaphors of the Christian faith and ways that AT guides us to experience ourselves in the world – and it feels so organic to me. Those connections have launched me on a project I call Embodying Your Faith, and I’m continuing to build on the collection of workshop sessions I’ve created. Most recently, I finished a set called Belonging that lives on the Spiritual and Religious Life YouTube page.

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

This or that: If you weren’t teaching for a living, what would you be doing?  

I think I’d be a physical therapist. They’re really effective body-detectives, AND relieve pain.

Right at home: Whether for work, relaxation or reflection, what’s your favorite spot on campus?

My office. I’m a bit of a “nester,” so I’ve filled it with mementos, even toys, that either remind me of someone or some event I’m connected to.

One book, one recording, one film: Name one of each that speaks to your soul? Or you would recommend to a friend? Or both?

Book: Love Wins by Rob Bell. Not a fluffy little examination, and even controversial for some, but to me, this book makes a really compelling case that God love us all, no matter what – period.

Recording: Poncho Sanchez’ Latin Spirit. My husband and I first heard Sanchez at a Jazz Series concert, and I hope I never forget how much sheer joy I felt watching those musicians as the music poured out of them. We bought the CD, and are lucky it still plays because I’ve lost count of the times we’ve put it on to dance a little salsa in the kitchen.

Film: That’s easy, The Princess Bride. I adore fairytales, and this one contains “love, true love” that isn’t afraid to sacrifice for one’s love . . . and the grandpa-reading-a-book frame makes me a little teary-eyed every time. So good.

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