Music in the Larger World

I’m a firm believer in the intersections of music with social and artistic history as well as with science and technology.  To that end, I have organized campus-wide symposiums and held annual studio recitals in collaboration with departments in the college.
Following is a partial list of some of what I’ve organized at Lawrence that puts playing the piano into larger context:

Cross disciplinary campus-wide events

  • Seeking Refuge, Nov. 2018. This was a 4 day event on the current refugee crisis.  It was comprised of movies, a photography exhibit in the student center, an art exhibit in our museum, a Main Hall Forum featuring an economist and a philosopher, a presentation to Trustees, and a culminating evening event with guest speakers from Doctors without Borders, the ACLU, the Milwaukee-Sentinel, and a local refugee organization.  The  evening ended with an hour-long concert by students and faculty comprised of music composed by and about refugees.  Hundreds of university students and community members were in attendance, and the notable success of the concert led to a call for further musical collaboration on future campus-wide guest appearances. 
  • Paris in the Belle Epoque: Music, Art and Politics Entwined, Feb. 2018. This was a forum featuring faculty from History, Art History, French, and Music.  It followed the recent publication of my book, Debussy’s Paris: Piano Portraits of the Belle Epoque and centered on discussion of the intersections among art, literature, social history and music in fin-de-siècle Paris.
  • Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Jan. 2013. This was a week-long series of events, including talks, a campus-wide read, art exhibits, a concert, and an exploration of Lawrence’s own civil war history.
  • Austrian Jews: Exile and the Holocaust.  May 2012. This is the most ambitious event I’ve staged at Lawrence.  We brought in 3 women from New York to speak about their different experiences leaving Vienna (one who made it out early on, another who lost her family but was part of the kinder transport, and a 3rd who joined the French Resistance).  A fourth speaker, from the Appleton area, discussed his experience in the labor camps.   We also presented movies, historical summaries, dramatic readings, dance, an art exhibition in the art museum, student displays in the Union, and two ambitious concerts featuring, among other works, Paul Schoenfield’s Camp Songs and excerpts from Ullman’s Der Kaiser von Atlantis.

Recent interdisciplinary recitals given by my piano studio

  • 2019, Fairy Tales: The Meeting of Childhood and Music. This program brought my piano students together with faculty and students from the Russian and French departments as we learned about evolving views of childhood and the music inspired by fairy tales from both nations. Students from the Russian department presented skits and slides to accompany our performances.
  • 2018, Water and Time: Contemplating environmental change through music, art and geology.  In 2018,  we spent a weekend at Lake Michigan working with geologists and sculptors and preparing repertoire dealing with water, climate, and the passage of time. We then presented a concert where musical selections alternated with commentary from geologists, and slides of the beach sculptures that had been constructed by art students at our Lake Michigan retreat were projected.
  • 2017, Music of 1917—One Hundred Years After.  This was a program in commemoration of WWI.  Each student spoke about the historical implications of the music s/he was performing before playing. 
  • 2016, Music and the Spoken Word.  This program was made up of music inspired by the written word.  We spent a full weekend as well as subsequent rehearsals with theater professors; each student worked on presenting the readings that would precede their performance and as a group we discussed the intersections between acting and musical performance. The resulting musical performances were heavily influenced by the work on speaking, and the audience too was struck by the relationships between spoken text and music.

Conservatory–wide events
The piano department as a whole has presented interdisciplinary events in commemoration of various centennials.

  • Debussy’s celebration included dance, film, art, and history presentations.
  • Chopin’s centennial included a lecture and slides on Polish history. 

Student projects
I have encouraged my students to devise projects bringing together their performance degrees with interests outside of music.

  • A student doing a double degree in religious studies and music performed a program of religiously influenced music, and wrote detailed program notes about the attendant theology of composers ranging from Bach to Charles Ives.
  • A student conceived a project on the Commedia dell’arte and received summer funding for a summer trip to European museums including the Louvre, with its paintings by Watteau, and the La Scala Museum in Milan, with its numerous Commedia figures.  Her project culminated in a recital program of solo and vocal music calling on the Commedia by composers including Debussy, Milhaud, and Schumann.
  • A student received funding to research fairy tales as portrayed in music.  He performed music by Medtner, Schumann, Janacek, and Del Tredici, toured various fairy tale sites in Germany during the summer and narrated our studio recital.
  • A student interested in art and music conceived a project on futurist art and music.  She plans to perform music by Antheil and Albright and trace  the history of futurist art in Italian museums.