By Jennifer Pencek
As George Trudeau and his colleagues prepare for the third year of the Classical Music Project, the Center for the Performing Arts director says he hopes the project will continue beyond its original timeframe.
“I am thinking of the 2013–2014 season as the third year, not certainly the final year for the project,” Trudeau says. “The interest and momentum has built continuously among our partners and with involved faculty, students, community members, and the artists who have been involved. I am optimistic that we’ll find a way to keep this project going past the 2013-14 season. Stay tuned.”
The project, supported by a $470,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation plus an additional $317,000 from Penn State partners, provides opportunities to engage students, faculty, and the community with classical music artists and programs.
The second season, which ended in April 2013, featured eight diverse artistic groups and a bevy of related engagement activities. The highlights were many. Toronto’s Opera Atelier performed its critically acclaimed adaptation of Mozart’s The Magic Flute accompanied by the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. Tafelmusik also performed its sensuous multimedia production House of Dreams. St. Lawrence String Quartet and Brentano String Quartet each performed the second concerts in their three-season complete Beethoven string quartet cycle. Pianist Christopher O’Riley and cellist Matt Haimovitz teamed for an innovative mix of classical and popular music in a concert titled Shuffle.Play.Listen.
In addition, Marshall Pynkoski and Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg, Opera Atelier co-artistic directors, spent a week in residency interacting with students and others at University Park. O’Riley and Haimovitz participated in several days of engagement activities at University Park and a day of performing and outreach at Penn State Altoona.
Trudeau leads the project while Marica Tacconi, Penn State professor of musicology, provides faculty leadership for the curriculum and academic components.
The second season included the introduction of an interdisciplinary lecture series and a film series, supported by Penn State’s Institute for the Arts and Humanities, at The State Theatre in downtown State College.
“We are working to expand our reach even further,” Tacconi says. “We will continue to bring to campus renowned artists and music scholars who will engage with our students and community in meaningful ways. People can expect to hear great music, performed by wonderful musicians, and to gain a fuller understanding of the historical and cultural context in which that music existed.”
A key goal is to attract students to classical music.
“One of our primary aims has been to debunk the notion that classical music is something for the elite or that it is too esoteric or complicated to understand,” Tacconi says. “Toward that goal, we have brought some of the musicians to the students in non-conventional settings, such as student dorms and at meetings of student-run organizations. This is something we will continue to work on.”
Jennifer Sawhill, a second-year graduate student in art history, learned about the project a few weeks before Pynkoski visited her Baroque art seminar in February 2013.
“I believe it is a very worthwhile endeavor for the cultural enrichment of the university,” she says. “I enjoyed Marshall’s visit to my class, and his presentation on the performance gesture, its connection historically with the visual arts and of course with music, introduced me to some new ideas about how those art forms interact.”
Kristina Wilson, another second-year graduate student in art history, also heard Pynkoski’s talk.
“Having access to speakers from these groups helps to explain why productions are performed the way they are,” she says. “We learn about historical performances, but modern performances are obviously different. Having access to guest speakers who explain how their groups interpret sources, what they know about the history of their productions, what continuities there are, and what they chose to do differently helps us understand both the historical and modern context of the performance.”
Along with students, the project impacts members of the organizing team. Erica Kryst, administrative support coordinator, joined the effort in November 2012.
“There is a great team of people dedicated to making it a success, and I love all of the collaboration and really unique ideas that come out of our work together,” she says. “I think the highlight of the project, though, is getting to spend so much time with the artists once they are on campus. I escort them to all of their residency activities, and I feel really privileged to have the opportunity to see the artists in their roles as educators. Also, I think I’m pretty lucky that some days my job is to listen to a live string quartet all day.”