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A Class Act: Assistant Professor of Theater Busy Teaching, Acting, Directing Local and International Productions


Yuriy Kordonskiy, assistant professor of theater, will receive an award in April for directing the performance of The Heart of a Dog, performed at the National Theatre of Bucharest, Romania. Below, at left, is a scene from his Wesleyan production, Crime and Punishment, and at right, a scene from Sorry.
 
Posted 03/01/06
Yuriy Kordonskiy’s stage is not limited to Wesleyan. Kordonskiy is international.

Kordonskiy, is an assistant professor of theater, teaches acting and directing courses and has directed student productions such as M. Bulgakov’s A Cabal of Hypocrites, Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and the Thornton Wilder’s The Long Christmas Dinner in the Center for the Arts.

But Kordonskiy also directs performances and leading workshops at top international theaters. In fact, his recent production, Bulgakov’s The Heart of a Dog, performed at the National Theatre of Bucharest, Romania received three nominations for the Award of Union of Romanian Theatre including The Best Production. The ceremony will take place on April 3.

So, how does he do it?

“I just love what I do, and I want to be working every minute,” he explains.

Internationally, Kordonskiy is somewhat of a celebrity. In fact, he holds “almost rock star status” in Romania, says Jack Carr, chair of the Theater Department and professor of theater.

As a performer and director, Kordonskiy has been involved in productions in nearly two-dozen countries. He has conducted workshops in Russia, Italy, Romania, Germany and Spain. He recently directed Disappearance and House of Bernarda Alba at the Maly Drama Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia; A Diary of a Madman at the West End Theatre, Gloucester, Mass; and Uncle Vanya, Sorry and The Marriage at the Bulandra Theatre, Bucharest, Romania. Uncle Vanya received five nominations for The Union of Romanian Theatres award (the Romanian equivalent of a TONY award) and received The Best Director prize.

Kordonskiy’s productions have won other awards in Romania, and garnered awards in Russia, Italy, Yugoslavia, and Great Britain. As a performer, Kordonskiy received two Golden Masques for the Best Production, the highest Russian theater award.

“Every theater director should be able to do what their actors do, but do it even better,” he says.

Though Kordonskiy is low key about the accolades he’s received, he does keep a production portfolio, thickened with performance photographs, newspaper clippings and flyers from the shows. Among them, features from the Washington Post, the Washington Times, St. Petersburg Theatre Journal, and even a three-page spread in the November 2005 Romanian issue of Elle Magazine. He’s also been featured on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and three shows on National Television in Bucharest, Romania.

The acclaim is even more impressive considering the stage was not Kordonskiy’s first calling. In fact, he has a master’s degree in math and worked as an engineer before turning to professional theater.

“I was walking to work one day and said, ‘My job is boring. I don’t want to do this anymore,’ and I turned around and went home,” he says.

But he did have a plan. During his years at Odessa State University in Ukraine, he participated in theater. His improve theater group, The Club of Cheerful and Witty Ones, competed against other student teams and was aired on a national television. He continued on in repertory theater after getting his master’s in mathematics.

Kordonskiy decided to apply to the State Academy of Theatre Arts in St. Petersburg, Russia. There were thousands of applicants. Kondonskiy was one of only nine students.

He entered the Academy’s “theater boot camp” and danced, acted, sang, directed and even practiced acrobatics six days a week while studying mythology, theory and history of arts, among other theoretical disciplines. He received his master’s in fine art ‘in acting in 1995 and in directing in 1997 under Russian director Lev Dodin.

Kordonskiy was hired as a resident director and actor with the Maly Drama Theatre – Theatre of Europe in St. Petersburg. He produced an original play and took original roles, one of which he played for several years and took him with Maly’s touring company through 20 countries.

In 2001, Kordonskiy moved to the United States and was hired to direct The Marriage, Dangerous Corner, The Little Prince and Antigone in the Classika Theatre in Arlington, Va. He also taught classes as an acting teacher and resident director.

A year later, he came to Wesleyan as an assistant professor of theater and began teaching classes in directing, acting and his self-invented class on the theater of Anton Chekhov, which is cross-listed with the College of Letters and Russian Studies Department. Kordonskiy also advises frosh, tutors senior-year honors projects, and serves as a guest lecturer for the theater history course on Russian theater.

Having a conservatory-trained artist at Wesleyan who brings his rich and intense background to liberal arts context is big advantage to the Theater Department, explains Carr.

“I admire the way he has adapted this conservatory, no compromise, approach to directing and teaching to our diverse, multi-focused students,” Carr says. “The students regard him as possibly the most demanding professor in the department, and at the same time they love working with him.”

Kordonskiy has opted for advanced acting, directing and lighting design classes to merge during class times to create a full production. This collaboration has led to increased enthusiasm by the students.

Mosah Fernandez-Goodman ‘04, associate director of the annual fund, says being a student under “Yuriy” was one of the best academic experiences he has had at Wesleyan.

“He was extremely well organized, insightful and patient, and his expectations were clear from the beginning of the project and he worked to develop each student’s talent to their highest levels,” Fernandez-Goodman says. “I think working with him is something I will cherish and remember for the rest of my life.”

For Kordonskiy, teaching has become as much a passion as directing and acting.

“I’ve worked with some very creative, interesting students here at Wesleyan and in general, they seem to be very mature,” Kordonskiy says. “They bring a lot of joy to the classroom and when I learn from them, I feel younger.”
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Library Assistant Gets the First Look at New Books


Trevor West, library assistant in acquisitions, orders, receives and accounts for the materials added to Wesleyan’s main library collections
 
Posted 03/01/06
Q: When were you hired at Olin Library as a library assistant in acquisitions?

A: I began on January 31, 2005.

Q: What libraries on campus do you order books for?

A: I place and receive orders for the Art Library, the Science Library, and the Olin Library, including the Scores and Recordings collection, and reference materials for the Special Collections and Archives.

Q: What is the purpose of the library’s Acquisitions Department?

A: Working in direct collaboration with the collection development librarian, the Acquisitions Department orders, receives and accounts for the materials added to Wesleyan’s main library collections.

Q: What are your key responsibilities as a library assistant?

A: My responsibilities include bibliographic record transfer or creation for requested monographs, order record creation, the research of availability and publisher information and monograph gift processing.

Q: If a professor, for example, requests a particular book for the Art Library, what is the process of getting this publication to the library?

A: First I must make sure that there is accurate bibliographic material for the title to be located. This may require some online research. In what country the book has been published and when, whether the particular book is an exhibition catalogue, a dissertation, or a collection of essays, these are a few of many factors that will determine which vendor will receive our purchase order. The order is marked RUSH to ensure a priority shipment. I unbox the shipment when it comes in, verify the contents against the invoice, and locate the purchase order for the item at my computer. I then verify that the book has the proper title and edition requested, mark the professor’s name, e-mail and campus address on a slip placed in the book and send it off to the library cataloguers. Once through the cataloguers, the book is sent to marking and shortly thereafter the professor is notified that his or her request is ready to be charged.

Q: How are acquisitions paid for?

A: There is a substantial budget allotted annually to the Acquisitions Department. A smaller portion of library acquisitions is provided by gifts and donations, often from Wesleyan professors and students.

Q: How do you spend most of your day?

A: Most of my day is spent at the computer, however the best part of my day is spent at the receiving table opening recently boxed shipments of books I’ve ordered.

Q: That must be exciting.

A: There’s a great satisfaction unboxing book shipments at the receiving table. Having the first look at all of the new books is very cool.

Q: Can you mention a few examples of recent acquisitions?

A: Regularly I receive well over a hundred monographs each week, but I’ll name just a few of the most recent ones. I also recommend these books to be enjoyed after I return them! Saga: The Journey of Arno Rafael Minkkinen, Thirty-five years of Photographs; The Best Early Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald; Stanley Kubrick: Drama & Shadows: Photographs 1945-1950; Come on in!: New Poems by Charles Bukowski; Pizarro: Conqueror of the Inca; The Complete Stories of Truman Capote; Hanging Captain Gordon: the Life and Trial of an American Slave Trader.

Q: Is your job here challenging?

A: Yes, I find my job here to be very challenging, but I enjoy it immensely.

Q: Who are the key people you work with in the Acquisitions Department and where are you located in the library?

A: Ed Allen is the Collections Development librarian, JoAnn Dootson is our bookkeeper,
and Margery May is head of Acquisitions.

Q: Where did you attend college?

A: I attended Connecticut College and I have a bachelor’s degree in English with
a concentration in creative writing.

Q: What led you to work in a library acquisitions type field?

A: I worked at the Charles E. Shain Library at Connecticut College during my undergraduate education. I have also worked in the main corporate medical library of a major pharmaceutical company in Manhattan, and in the Mary Cheney Public Library of Manchester, Conn. I’ve always loved libraries, but for me nothing compares to working in a private university environment.

Q: Since you work in a library, I would assume you like reading. Do you?

A: Yes, I love to read. When I’m not working, in class, or reading, I am at work framing art. I worked full-time as a fine-art custom framer’s apprentice in lower Manhattan five years ago and have continued my interest in archival framing with private consulting here in Connecticut.

Q: You’re also enrolled in the Graduate Liberal Studies Program.

A: Being a student, I’m able to continually remind myself how necessary and beneficial my professional duties are to my education.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Recycle Maniacs at Wesleyan


Posted 03/01/06

Wesleyan University is one of 93 colleges and universities nationwide competing in a recycling program through April 8.

 

As part of RecycleMania 2006, Wesleyan aims to collect the largest amount of recyclables, the least amount of trash, and have the highest recycling rate over a 10 week period. A RecycleMania trophy will be presented to the winning school.

 

Schools participating in RecycleMania 2006 represent 33 states, 880,000 students and more than 275,000 faculty and staff. Eight of 11 campuses in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), including Wesleyan, are RecycleManiacs.

 

Bill Nelligan, associate director of Environmental Health and Safety works with Dainty Rubbish Service of Middletown to determine the totals in each collection category. Dainty collects and removes trash and recyclables from campus. Nelligan reports measurements on a weekly basis, via RecycleMania’s Web site, www.recyclemaniacs.org, which also has more information on the project.

 

RecycleMania is endorsed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WasteWise program, the National Recycling Coalition’s College and University Recycling Council and the National Wildlife Federation’s Campus Ecology Program.

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

Board of Trustees Approves Tuition, Fee Increases


In 2006-07, room rates for students will increase.
Posted 03/01/06
On Feb. 25, the Wesleyan Board of Trustees set tuition, room and board rates for the 2006-2007 academic year. Tuition and fees will increase 5 percent to $34,844. Room rates will increase 8 percent, bringing the base double room rate to $5,808, and the base 12-meal dining plan rate will increase 5 percent to $3,732.

The increase in the room rate reflects the escalating cost of utilities in the residence facilities. Wesleyan is also continuing a program to renovate residence halls to improve safety and security. This summer will see completion of the installation of proximity access locks on all undergraduate residence hall facilities accommodating more than 20 students. Tamper-resistant ground-floor windows in the Foss Hill residences and improved fire alarm and sprinkler systems will be installed; lounges will also be renovated.

Additionally, in response to requests from students and parents, senior houses and apartments will be furnished; $200 will be added to the room rate for these units for this purpose. This change was endorsed by the Undergraduate Residential Life Committee, which includes representatives from the Wesleyan Student Assembly, Physical Plant and Residential Life.

Maintaining Wesleyan’s commitment to providing access to students from all backgrounds remains one of the university’s highest priorities. Wesleyan provides financial aid awards that meet 100 percent of demonstrated need. Awards typically include loans, campus employment and grants. In 2005-06, 44 percent of students received grant awards averaging $24,756; scholarships for all four classes totaled $29.3 million.

Wesleyan continues to manage its finances strategically and prudently. The university administration has been efficient in this endeavor, having one of the lowest ratios of administrative costs to educational expense among our peers. While Wesleyan continues to identify new efficiencies, the university administration has been mindful to do so in a way that does not compromise support of the primary academic mission of the university. Wesleyan remains committed to strong financial discipline while providing a first-rate liberal arts and science education that prepares its students to be leaders in a global society.

 
By Justin Harmon, director of University Communications

Outreach Program Gives Local Students a Taste of East Asian Culture


Pictured at top, right, Yashan Zhou ’09 and Mo Sarakun ’07 teach seventh graders from Woodrow Wilson Junior High School how to make their own sushi rolls.

Pictured at left, Ada Fung ’06 teaches the students how to paint cherry blossoms on rice paper.

Pictured below, Alex Weber ’06 teaches martial arts and the history of the shaolin.

Posted 03/01/06
Seventh-grader Liam Wolfram had tried sushi at Japanese restaurants, but he’s never attempted to make his own. Last month, Liam did just that as he and 25 of his classmates from Woodrow Wilson Middle School in Middletown experienced a taste of East Asian Culture at Wesleyan by preparing their own sushi rolls.

“It only took about a minute to make, and it’s really good,” Liam says, chomping off a bite of his seaweed wrap, teeming with tuna, cucumber and carrot. “The rice sticks to the top of your mouth, though.”

Sushi making, rice-paper painting and martial arts were all taught during the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies Outreach Program. Now in its 19th year, the program was designed to reach students in the community by providing a range of hands-on activities that introduce them to various aspects of East Asian cultures.

The student-run program is offered Friday mornings throughout the academic year and reaches about 300 students each year. Wesleyan students plan and run the activity workshops for each visiting class.

“What do you know about Japan?” asks the program’s co-coordinator Mo Sarakun ’07.

“It’s made up of islands,” one student answers.

“They have a lot of noodles there,” another replies.

Sarakun, a China native who studies Japanese culture at Wesleyan, taught the sushi session and talked to the students about Japan. Afterwards, the seventh graders moved to another room to learn about painting on rice paper.

Program co-coordinator Ada Fung ’06 taught painting techniques and the students participated and went back to school with their own paintings of cherry blossoms.

Fung, who has worked as a coordinator for three years, says she enjoys working with area children because of their eagerness to learn something new.

“Curiosity and open-mindedness are the two most important things a student can bring when they come to participate in the program because they’ll get a lot more out of it,” she says. “It’s a crash course in East Asian culture, but if we can plant the seed, just inspire and encourage them to keep learning about other cultures and countries, I think we will have achieved our purpose.”

The Outreach Program’s coordinators tailor each session to the incoming class’s age level, ranging from preschool through high school. Visiting classes average about 25 students in size, and are split into three smaller groups which rotate among the activity sessions. This way, each student has the opportunity to participate in three different activities.

Other sessions offered include Writing and Language, Food in East Asia, Martial Arts, Japanese Tea Ceremony, East Asian Music, Traditional Clothing, Kamishibai Story-telling and Origami. Po-wei Weng, a graduate student in the Music Department, also has taught segments on Peking Opera, introducing the music, techniques, gongs and symbols.

The sessions may include visits in the Freeman Center’s Japanese-style tatami room and garden, a kitchen to prepare Chinese and Japanese meals, and a gallery with changing exhibitions of East Asian art.

Wesleyan students benefit from teaching the sessions, explains Stephen Angle, chair of the East Asian Studies Program, director of the Freeman Center for East Asian Studies and associate professor of East Asian Studies and philosophy.

“The Outreach Program gives our own Wesleyan students the opportunity to practice communicating their understanding of East Asian culture to others,” Angle says. “At the same time, our students are serving a younger generation of students in the community surrounding Wesleyan.”

This is the second year Kim Fentress, a teacher at Woodrow Wilson school, brought her geography students to the Wesleyan program.

“We’re just beginning to study East Asian culture, and the program here at Wesleyan really ties in with that we’re learning,” Fentress says. “It’s wonderful we have Wesleyan right here in Middletown.”

For more information on the Outreach Program, contact program coordinator Shirley Lawrence at 860-685-2330 or e-mail slawrence@wesleyan.edu, or Ada Fung at afung@wesleyan.edu.

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

The Wesleyan Connection: Campus Snapshot

CHINESE PAINTING: Pictured at left, center, artist Zhang Hong, from the Art and Industrial Design College at Beijing Institute of Technology, teaches Chinese ink painting during a demonstration-workshop Feb. 2 at the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies.

Hong presented a slide-show and history on the art form, and introduced the 20 participants to the tools and techniques of traditional Chinese painting. (Photos by Olivia Bartlett)

Brown Leaving Provost Position, Will Continue Teaching, Research


Posted 02/16/06

Judith Brown, vice president for academic affairs and provost, will step down from her position June 30. She will spend a year on sabbatical, and return to Wesleyan as a professor of history in 2008.

 

Brown was recruited six years ago to help Wesleyan achieve its highest academic aspirations as a liberal arts university. 

 

“Judith brought extraordinary intelligence and commitment to what is surely one of the most difficult jobs in university administration,” says President Doug Bennet. “I speak for the trustees and all of us in thanking her for her leadership and celebrating her plan to return to scholarship here at Wesleyan.”

 

Brown, who has not has a sabbatical since 1992, has worked in academic administration for 11 years. She made her announcement during a faculty meeting Feb. 14.

 

“I am ready for a change and for a change of pace,” she says. “I would like to take a break, to resume some intellectual projects I have neglected, to explore new intellectual horizons, and above all, to take more time to be with and travel with my family, especially with my husband, Shannon, while we are still able to enjoy a healthy, energetic, and active life.”

 

Bennet will appoint another faculty member as interim vice president for academic affairs and will actively consider nominations.

 

“It is of the greatest importance that we sustain the momentum and direction to which Judith has contributed so much, and meet the objectives in the strategic plan,” Bennet says.

Wesleyan’s Basketball Team Encourages Green Street Students to Aim High


Pictured left to right, 9-year-old Monica gets homework help from Wesleyan basketball players Gabe Gonzalez-Kreisberg ’09, Jared Ashe ’07 and Nick Pelletier ’08 during the Green Street Arts Center After School Program. Below, Gonzalez-Kreisberg, who helped launch an ongoing tutoring volunteer initiative goes over a book report with 7-year-old J.J. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Posted 02/16/06

Students involved in Middletown’s Green Street Arts Center After School Program look up to Wesleyan University’s basketball team in more ways than one.

“They always tell me that I’m so tall!” exclaims Gabe Gonzalez-Kreisberg, a 6-ft. 8-inch tall Wesleyan freshman, recalling how students he helps tutor at the center, like 7-year-old J.J., describe him.

Gonzalez-Kreisberg recently helped launch an ongoing tutoring volunteer initiative at Green Street Arts Center with Wesleyan University’s basketball players.

The idea first occurred to Gonzalez-Kreisberg after Wesleyan basketball coach Gerry McDowell encouraged his team to volunteer in the Middletown area during their winter break from classes.

Gonzalez-Kreisberg remembered an e-mail he received from Wesleyan’s community service office calling for tutors at Green Street’s After School Program. He then mentioned the program to Coach McDowell and the entire team immediately agreed to help.

As a result, in shifts of four players per day, the basketball team began to regularly tutor Middletown children enrolled in the program. Even now, with spring semester underway, a handful of players continue to tutor in their free time.

“Many athletes have a sense that things should be given to them, and I wanted our team to know that they should give something back to the community,” says McDowell. “Our team is a solid group of guys, who all care about one another on and off the court and this is important for them to do as a team.”

“I love math and I always encourage the kids to stay with it and to have fun,” says Jared Ashe, the Wesleyan basketball team captain and a junior Economics major from Stamford, Conn. “In sports, great coaching motivates you to play your best. I want to motivate the kids with their homework in the same way.”

When they arrive at the Green Street Arts Center, the students, who range in age from seven to 14, eat a snack and socialize a bit with friends. Then the students who are not enrolled in arts classes go to the homework room where several tutors, including the basketball players, are stationed to assist them.

After helping students finish their homework, which can be in a variety of subjects including math and reading, the players often talk with the kids and sometimes play board games with them.

Ashe, who has always enjoyed tutoring his peers even back in high school, says the board games help to motivate the students to follow through and finish up their homework.

Thirteen year-old Elijah always wants to finish his homework, he says, because that means Gonzalez-Kreisberg will tell him a story afterwards.

“One time, Gabe told me how he touched the court at an Orlando Magic game!” shouts Elijah.

During every tutoring session, Wesleyan’s basketball players agree that the students always seem to get excited about their schoolwork.

“I think one reason why is that we’re such a close group of guys that are all genuinely happy to help out,” says Ashe.

Gonzalez-Kreisberg says another reason why is because he and his teammates act as mentors for the students.

“Because we play a sport and because these students are impressed by the NBA, it allows us to connect directly to them,” says Gonzalez-Kreisberg.

“We try to always stress to them that we are just people who happen to play basketball and that we’re strong in our academics first, then in athletics,” he says.

Despite heavy academic and athletic schedules, both Ashe and Gonzalez-Kreisberg, and other players, like sophomore Nick Pelletier from Amherst, New Hampshire, are committed to continue tutoring at Green Street. Even Coach McDowell has committed to spend some time tutoring at the Center before the year is out.

“Having the team volunteer during Winter break was a tremendous help as we are often left with no student volunteers until classes resume in late January,” says Ricardo Morris, Director of the Green Street Arts Center. “It was also especially nice to have so many male volunteers. I hope the basketball team and other males will consider volunteering at Green Street more often.”

“This is such a positive experience for us as individuals and as a team,” says Ashe. “Hopefully it will continue long after we have all graduated from Wesleyan.”

For more information about how to become a Green Street Arts Center volunteer, please contact volunteer coordinator Lauren Tinkoff at ltinkoff@wesleyan.edu or visit www.greenstreetartscenter.org.

 
By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations

Grant will Support Lecture Series on Ethics, Politics, Society


Posted 02/16/06
Wesleyan received a $200,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support an ongoing lecture series titled Ethics, Politics and Society. The award was given in honor of Douglas Bennet’s 10 years as president of Wesleyan University.

“Wesleyan’s history of diversity, openness, and activism provides an environment that embraces the opportunity for scholarly discourse around issues of ethics, politics and society,” Bennet wrote in the endowment proposal. “As a liberal arts college, we have a responsibility to produce graduates who are able to think and act strategically within an ethical and moral framework. A permanent lecture fund, which does not have to compete each year for scarce financial resources, will go far in helping us achieve this goal.”

The grant, awarded in December 2005, will allow Wesleyan to bring prominent speakers to campus who will engage faculty and students in intellectual discussions of critical and sensitive ethical, political and social issues.

The lecture fund will serve multiple university objectives. It will stimulate intellectual life on campus by introducing new perspectives and experiences to current issues; promote positive and civil political discourse; lay a foundation for lifelong participation as concerned and engaged citizens; and complement efforts already underway to incorporate ethical reasoning in the curriculum.

Expenditures from the Mellon-funded program, estimated at $10,000 a year, will be used for an honorarium, travel expenses and associated costs for the speaker to give a public lecture, attend a class and/or meet informally with faculty and students for one or two days.

“As on many college campuses, Wesleyan recognizes that recent national events, as well as ongoing political and social unrest in several parts of the world, have altered how students view society as well as how they discuss their views,” Bennet says. “As students and later as graduates of Wesleyan, they will be faced with moral and ethical choices. This will be true, he says, in whatever courses of study or careers our students choose to pursue, from business to scientific research to politics to art.”

Wesleyan is already stressing ethical reasoning in the curriculum. Wesleyan has hired new faculty positions in ethics and encourages faculty to designate courses that stress ethical reasoning.

The university also has established a faculty workshop to help them integrate ethics in their courses. This year, students can chose from among 88 courses with an ethics designation.

“Wesleyan has a responsibility to prepare students to think clearly about current issues, to make informed choices and resolve conflict between diverse viewpoints,” Bennet says.

University Organist Pulls Out All the Stops


Ronald Ebrecht, university organist, plays Wesleyan’s concert organ, which he designed for the Memorial Chapel. Below, the organ pipes are installed in the chapel. (Photos by Bill Burkhart)
 
Posted 02/16/06
Q: When did you become the Wesleyan organist and visiting instructor in music?

A: I came to Wesleyan in 1988.

Q: How did you begin playing the organ and where?

A: I started as a young child, maybe around the age of 10. I loved the organ like kids love fire trucks.

Q: Did you have an interest in piano that led to the organ?

A: I didn’t want anything to do with the piano. It wasn’t loud enough.

Q: You studied at the Schola Cantorum in Paris, Yale University, and Southern Methodist University, Dallas. Were you always studying the organ? What types of music in specific?

A: In addition to organ, I also studied harpsichord at all three institutions. This does not mean that I was only interested in Baroque music. In organ concerts, I play a wide range of repertoire. My research, writing and editions are of late 19th and early 20th century French music.

Q: In 1990, you founded the Young Organ Virtuosi Weekend, a biennial festival that celebrates the talents of emerging concert organists. What is the purpose of this event?

A: The festival’s purpose is to be a non-contest. That is, there are too many organ-playing contests and too few concert opportunities for the laureates. It is much more pleasant to direct than a contest would be because the visitors get to enjoy the company of each other and to interact collegially with our students. The audience is a mix of students and local organ aficionados.

Q: What is the Midnight Organ Romp?

A: The not-to-be-missed event of the first week of May is themed, but different each year. It is about costumes and craziness. I share this concert with any students who are interested, which makes them more exciting for everyone.

Q: Are you still the dean of the American Guild of Organists Waterbury Chapter? How many organists are in the chapter and in the state of Connecticut?

A: We have 84 in the Waterbury Chapter. There are five other Connecticut chapters and about 3,000 members in the country. We think about 10 percent of organists belong to the guild.

Q: Why should students interested in music study the organ? What types of careers can they go into with this type of skill and background?

A: Playing the organ is the world’s best-paying part-time employment. Students with keyboard ability who study organ have every conceivable major. They often use the organ to support graduate study and supplement their income later in life. There are relatively fewer opportunities for full-time employment.

Q: During the 2002-03 renovations of the Memorial Chapel, you designed the new concert organ, a Holtkamp opus 2085. This is Wesleyan’s fourth organ. What makes the Holtkamp unique?

A: I designed the organ to be adaptable to current and future compositional needs. It has a very broad tonal palette both in terms of color and volume. Whatever the mathematical result is for 60 combinations, which must be several thousand, is the limit of possible sounds.

Q: Do the music students get to use this organ, or what do they practice on?

A: The beginners are intimidated to practice upstairs in public, so they often use my studio organ for the first semester’s practice and then use the big organ when they feel more confident.

Q: As a visiting instructor in music, you’ve taught Choral Singing, Pipe Organ: Theory and Practice and Individual and Group Tutorials for Undergraduates. What are some of the courses you currently teach

A: I am trying to finish my new book, and only teaching organ and one harpsichordist these days. Usually, I direct some senior projects but not this semester.

Q: What is your new book about?

A: Aristide Cavaille-Coll. He’s the greatest organ-builder of all time. I am writing my new book about his project to build the largest organ in the world at Saint Peter’s in Rome. I’ve also written about American music, Black organ music, Messiaen and other composers.

Q: You’re editor of Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986) The Last Impressionist, which features seven articles on Duruflé’s life and work. What is your personal interest in this French organist?

A: I knew the composer and his wife and her sister, also a musician, quite well. I met them at age 18 and learned French to be able to speak with them. I studied with them and play his complete organ works. I have also conducted his complete choral works, and most of the orchestral and chamber music. I know all the other scholars who had written about them, so invited everyone to join together for the book for his centennial in 2002. I never imagined it would be acquired by libraries on every continent as the first biography of this important composer.

Q: In addition to music, what are your interests?

A: I am an avid flower gardener. I live to cook and entertain, and generally enjoy life. I also would like to make a fad of wearing dress shirts with bowties.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Grant Supports Professor’s Research on DNA, RNA Structure and Dynamics


David Beveridge, pictured at right, the University Professor of the Sciences and Mathematics and professor of chemistry studies molecular dynamics of biological molecules and systems with postdoctoral fellow Bethany Kormos and research associate Surjit Dixit.

Posted 02/16/06

By simulating complex protein and polynucleotide structures on a supercomputer, a Wesleyan professor has been able to study one the fundamental events that lead to gene expression in biological systems.

David Beveridge, University Professor of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics, professor of chemistry, has spent the past 20 years studying various aspects of the structures, molecular motions and binding properties of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) and RNA (ribonucleic acid) using theoretical methods. DNA and RNA are informational macromolecules that control the composition of proteins necessary to life structures and processes.

Beveridge recently received a $241,950 Academic Research Enhancement Award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to continue his project “Theoretical and Molecular Dynamics Simulation Studies of U1A-RNA Binding and Specificity.” U1A is an important human protein that interacts with RNA.

“Biological processes involved in gene expression are all controlled by protein-DNA and protein- RNA interactions,” Beveridge explains. “We study the nature of these interactions at the molecular level, and how the molecules involved recognize each other with such high fidelity.”

An understanding of how RNA-protein complexes form and are stabilized is important for understanding the splicing out of stretches of DNA.

Molecular dynamics simulations in this project were motivated by questions posed in experiments performed by Anne Baranger, associate professor of chemistry; and they have been collaborating on protein RNA projects for several years. Bethany Kormos, who is supported by a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellowship, and Surjit Dixit, senior research associate, are key coworkers on this project and “really do the work,” Beveridge says.

“David has been a fantastic colleague to collaborate with because he is particularly talented at developing projects that aim to investigate and understand fundamental important problems in his field,” Baranger explains. “It has been valuable to me as an experimentalist to work with a person who has developed theoretical methods to answer questions that are difficult to achieve experimentally.”

To progress in his research, Beveridge and his colleagues study the factors contributing to the stability of RNA-protein complexes with a particular emphasis on “dynamical structure,” the nature and significance of molecular motions involved in the complex formation.

Molecular simulations of this type are quite computationally intensive. The Beveridge group carries out their calculations with high performance computers at the National Center for Supercomputer Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois. The communication between Wesleyan and NCSA to run simulations involves over the Internet.

The results of a simulation are returned to laboratories at Wesleyan over the Internet and are analyzed locally for these properties using advanced computer graphics work stations.

“Remote access to national supercomputer facilities enables cutting edge research in this field from even a small university vantage point, makes it possible simulate model systems quite close to those involved in experiments,” Beveridge says. “We can computer model systems closer to laboratory conditions than I ever dreamed of 40 years ago.”

Beveridge grew up in the “Sputnik Era” and found the launching of the Soviet space satellite as an incentive to study science. He received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio in 1959 and his Ph.D in physical chemistry from the University of Cincinnati in 1965. Under a postdoctoral fellowship from the National Institutes of Health, he studied molecular quantum mechanics at the Centre de Mécanique Ondulatoire Appliquée in Paris, and continued his postdoctoral studies in quantum chemistry at Carnegie-Mellon University with Professor J.A. Pople, a Nobel laureate.

In addition to research and teaching, Beveridge serves as Wesleyan’s co-director with Ishita Mukerji of the NIH-supported graduate training program and the undergraduate certificate in molecular biophysics.

“David is certainly one of the department’s most successful scientists,” says Mukerji, chair of the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department and associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry. “He has brought much recognition to the department and to the Molecular Biophysics program.”

Beveridge has served Wesleyan as Dean of Natural Science and Mathematics for seven years and currently holds the title of University Professor of the Natural Science and Mathematics.

Beveridge has overseen a number of undergraduate research projects at Wesleyan, and has mentored both bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D students in their dissertation research. Recent master’s graduates include Duk Blakaj ‘99, now a medical doctor/Ph.D student at Einstein Medical School, and Laura Vickers ’05, who is currently a medical doctor student at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Matthew Young ’92, who initially worked with Beveridge as an undergraduate and continued on to get a Ph.D, has just been appointed to the faculty of the University of Michigan’s Medical School as an assistant professor of biological chemistry and bioinformatics. Five former research students now hold positions as college or university professors – “my greatest achievement,”  Beveridge says.

By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor


Professor Looks for Similarities in Science, Art

Six years ago, David Beveridge began combining teaching and personal interests in the visual arts with scholarship.

Along with Mariah Klaneski ’04, he developed two classes, Science and Modernism and more recently, Science and Art. In Science and Art, interested students, even those with no particular science background, learn basic concepts in class and in the associated laboratory make paper and fresco, synthesize their own pigments using chemical reactions, make paint of various types, and use all their own materials to make original works of art.

“An ultimate experience in learning by doing,” Beveridge says.

Beveridge’s teaching at Wesleyan now ranges from topics in physical chemistry applied to biological systems to general education courses. His currently active courses at Wesleyan in addition to those mentioned above are Molecular Biophysics, and Macromolecular Modeling and Simulation.

Beveridge has more than a passing interest in the visual arts and has taken “a dozen or so” drawing, painting and photography courses offered by Wesleyan’s Graduate Liberal Studies Program and elsewhere. He is curious about the parallels between the arts and the sciences.

“Both are very experimental in a sense, but make use of images in very different ways,” Beveridge explains. “It is interesting to investigate the extent to which viewer response to art follows natural laws analogous to those of science, and where the similarities and differences in creative process occur between scientists and artists.”

Being at Wesleyan has given Beveridge the chance to be involved in a wide range of academic initiatives, both within the sciences and in other areas of the university.

“I’m pretty much a compulsive learner, and Wesleyan accommodates my natural instinct to be a ‘perpetual student,'” he says.

Neuroscience and Behavior Alumni Present Research, Offer Advice


Pictured left to right, front row: Gloster Aaron, assistant professor of biology; John Seamon, professor of psychology; Janice Naegele, associate professor of biology; John Dekker, candidate, department of neurobiology, Harvard Medical School; Megan Carey, postdoctoral fellow, neurobiology department, Harvard Medical School; Allan Berlind, professor of biology, emeritus; Joshua Gooley, postdoctoral fellow, Division of Sleep Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital; David Bodznick, professor of biology; Harry Sinnamon, professor of psychology; John Kirn, chair, neuroscience and behavior program and associate professor, biology; Back row: Sam Sober, postdoctoral fellow, Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience, UCSF and Mauricio Delgado, assistant professor, department of psychology, Rutgers University.

Posted 02/16/06
The Neuroscience and Behavior Symposium was held at Wesleyan University on Feb. 11.

Organized by John Kirn, associate professor of biology, neuroscience and behavior (NS&B) and Chair of Wesleyan’s Neuroscience & Behavior Program, the symposium was designed to allow current Wesleyan undergraduates to discuss the major and research with established alumni of the Neuroscience & Behavior Department. Nearly 60 people attended the symposium, which was followed by lunch and an informal panel discussion.

“I think that current students like to hear first hand about the experiences of others who are a few steps further along in their career paths,” says Kirn, who hoped to also attract to the symposium Wesleyan students who don’t conduct research, and who have limited interactions with graduate students.

“All of our current majors doing research interact with our own graduate students and I think this is a very important mentoring process – yet another reason why we are lucky to have a Ph.D. program,” he says.

Kirn also says the conference was a great opportunity for current students to learn how the speakers structured their own educations at Wesleyan and to find out what their lives are like now.

Current Wesleyan students, like Emily Gallivan and Jessica Ghofrani, both Sophomore NS&B majors, were happy with the small, intimate symposium setting and found the presentations interesting.

Junior NS&B major Tarek Sami agrees.

“I liked hearing about the history of the department and this was a great opportunity to meet alumni and current faculty in the department,” he says.

One of the symposium’s featured speakers was alumna Megan Carey ‘96, now a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School. Carey also received a master’s from Wesleyan University’s NS&B department in 1997. She presented a talk on her Ph.D, thesis which she earned from the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), titled “Visual instructive signals for motor learning.”

Carey’s work suggests a mechanism for how sensory signals represented in specific brain areas can lead to changes in neuronal activities that trigger learned behaviors, such as riding a bike or playing tennis. Carey studied the repeated eye movements of monkeys in order to gather her information.

Another alumni, Sam Sober ‘98, discussed his Ph.D. dissertation research, titled “Sensory Integration During Motor Planning.”

Sober, who also received his Ph.D. from UCSF, is now a postdoctoral fellow at UCSF’s Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience. He spoke about his Ph.D., which involved analyzing the movements that human subjects made when reaching towards targets in a virtual reality environment.

Sober used virtual reality to alter visual imagery, by shifting an image of the subjects arm away from its true location.

“This led to people making reaching errors,” explains Sober. “We analyzed these errors and found that the brain is very adaptable in how it combines visual information with proprioceptive (the felt sense of posture) information.”

Sober says that although his studies focused on healthy individuals, a basic understanding of how the brain integrates different sources of information could help us understand disorders resulting from strokes and traumatic brain injuries.

Sober, who earned a Luce Fellowship, took a year off after graduating from Wesleyan to study acupuncture in Korea. He told the audience that taking a year off between finishing undergraduate studies and beginning graduatestudies or medical school was a good way to stem potential burn out.

Other presentations included “Entrainment of the Circadian Timing System,” by Joshua Gooley ’00; “Reward-related processing in the human striatum,” by Mauricio Delgado ’97 and “Single Channel Analysis of Mammalian HCN Gating,” by John Dekker ’98, ’99.

“These speakers, who once did research in our labs, are now doing excellent work and we wanted to recognize them for their achievements,” says Kirn. “Based on suggestions of some students, we’d like to host something like this again with alumni who aren’t in academic positions – with a theme like ‘Just what can I do with this NS&B degree anyway?’”

 
By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations