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Music Director’s Ensemble Provides Updated Music for Classic Documentaries


Angel Gil-Ordóñez, Wesleyan orchestra music director, directed Virgil Thomson’s original soundtracks that accompany a newly-released version of The Plow that Broke the Plains and The River.
 
Posted 02/01/07
Wesleyan Orchestra Music Director Angel Gil-Ordóñez addresses the impact of humanity on the environment and chronicles the settlement of the Great Plains through music on a newly-released DVD.

His Washington D.C.-based orchestra, Post-Classical Ensemble, provides the soundtrack for director Pare Lorentz’s landmark New Deal-Era Classics documentaries The Plow that Broke the Plains (1936) and The River (1938).

The dual-film DVD, released Jan. 30 by classical music label Naxos, features the first modern recordings of Virgil Thomson’s original scores, performed by Gil-Ordóñez ‘s ensemble. Due to a small budget, the original soundtrack was recorded in one session with the poor sound-quality of the 1930s.

“What our effort demonstrates is that the music of Virgil Thomson is extraordinary,” Gil-Ordóñez says. “The documentaries can not be fully appreciated unless the music has the quality that it deserves. We re-recorded soundtrack recuperating parts of the score that were neglected in the original film, whose soundtrack besides was in very bad shape.”

The new restored soundtrack is already nationally-acclaimed.

“The Post-Classical Ensemble’s new recording of Virgil Thomson’s soundtrack and the fascinating supplementary materials all enhance the historic value of this wonderful DVD,” writes Paul Boyer, editor-in chief of the Oxford Companion to United States History.

Both The Plow that Broke the Plains and The River are artful evocations Midwestern America in the 1930s that address the impact of humanity on its environment and the use of the media to communicate political messages.

Between 1933-1937, the U.S. Government, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, enacted the New Deal programs with a hope to help the American public recover from the Great Depression. Under the direction of the Resettlement Administration, the government sponsored several public relations campaigns involving photography, radio and film. The Resettlement Administration paid Lorentz to film both The River and The Plow That Broke the Plains, and Virgil Thomson’s accompanying soundtracks rank among the composer’s greatest work. They set the trend in the 1930s and 1940s for a new style of film music.

The River, which was filmed in 14 states, tells the story of the Tennessee Valley Authority and building dams on the Mississippi River and its tributaries. It was named to the National Film Registry in 1990 and won best documentary at the 1938 Venice Film Festival.

The Plow That Broke the Plains retraced the history of the Great Plains and the abuse of the land that led to the creation of the Dust Bowl. The film, described by historian Neil Lerner as “the most widely publicized attempt by the federal government to communicate to its entire citizenry through a motion picture,” received denunciations as New Deal propaganda and was shunned by the commercial distribution movie system. Despite this impediment, the documentary reached people in over 3,000 theaters nationwide.

In The Plow that Broke the Plains, Thomson augmented the orchestra with saxophones, guitar, banjo, and harmonium, and used cowboy songs to depict the Midwest. Gil-Ordóñez mimicked this style.

Gil-Ordóñez first conducted the Post-Classical Ensemble in a live performance accompanying these two landmark documentaries at the American Film Institute’s “Silverdocs,” an annual documentary film festival in June 2005. With support from the Center for the Arts, Gil-Ordóñez again directed the soundtracks with Wesleyan University Orchestra as a benefit for Katrina’s victims in November 2005.

“We spent almost one month in the studio to add the narration and the sound effects, and look for a perfect balance because I never like my own recordings,” he says, smiling.

Gil-Ordóñez, a native of Spain, says the DVD’s release could not be more timely.

“The documentaries show a part of the history of this country essential to understand the present times,” he explains. “The River is Katrina 80 years ago. Who would have told us that Katrina would happen two months after we recorded the music.”

The DVD, produced with the support of the National Endowment for the Arts and the American Film Institute, is distributed in the United States by Naxos of America and can be purchased online at www.post-classicalensemble.org.

“I wish every young American might be exposed to these documentaries, and that some politicians might learn that with imagination and art is how you really make a difference in a society,” he says.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Wesleyan, Community Prepares for Week of Play a Day


Nikhil Melnechuk ’07 and Jessica Posner ’09 are co-producing a week-long theater event based on Suzan-Lori Parks’ “365 Days/365 Plays.” The plays will be shown throughout campus and the Middletown community this month.
Posted 02/01/07
In November 2002, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks committed to writing a play a day for 365 days. Since November 2006, this year of new plays has been debuting across the country as “365 Days/365 Plays.”

Wesleyan is among 52 universities and more than 700 venues taking part in this project, and will perform eight of Parks’ plays Feb. 5-11.

“Wesleyan is making history,” explains co-producer Jessica Posner ’09. “This festival is the largest theater collaboration in U.S. history, and Wesleyan gets to be part of that. It is very exiting.”

According to Posner and co-producer Nikhil Melnechuk ‘07, Wesleyan’s take on 365 Days/365 Plays will use Parks’ plays as a centerpiece for a week-long festival that “attempts to re-contextualize every interaction as theater.”

Wesleyan students will act in the plays, changing roles each time the play is re-performed. Each one of Parks’ plays runs about 10 minutes long, and will be performed seven times a day at seven different venues.

“These plays are about finding connections – either with each other or within yourself,” says Melnechuk 07. “They manage social critique without being didactic because of their absurd humor and circumstances.”

Melnechuk and Posner have devoted more than 40 hours a week for four months preparing for the event. They are encouraging their actors to exercise their creativity so no play is performed the same way twice. The plays do not have sets; actors will rely on costumes and props to help tell the story.

Plays will take place all over the campus, such as in Pi Café, Davenport Campus Center and the Science Library. Olin Library will host and interactive piece titled “365 Tasks.”

The Opening Ceremony, scheduled at 8 p.m., Feb. 5, in the Center for the Arts Theater, will feature a talk by Metzgar and Rugg, and a performance by Gina Ulysse, assistant professor of anthropology and African American Studies. During the week of performances, prominent speakers will be brought to campus including the 365 National Festival producers Bonnie Metzgar and Rebecca Rugg. Lectures, performances and workshops will be offered by distinguished artists such as Joseph Roach, professor of theater and English at Yale University; Christine Mok, a Ph.D candidate at Yale’s School of Drama, and artist-in-residence poet/activist Amiri Baraka, who perform with his septet Blue Ark Feb. 9.

Wesleyan will also present a large scale, town-wide festival that showcases Wesleyan and Middletown life and culture. It will include workshops, performances, lectures, demonstrations and discussions—all free and open to the public. This festival includes “The Write-On Marathon” where Wesleyan students and members of the Middletown community can try their hand at Parks’ project by writing a play a day. Five winning entries will be performed on Feb. 11 at 8 p.m. in the Center for the Arts Cinema. Submissions will be accepted throughout the week (for more information on how to participate, visit www.wesleyan365.com/write.html).

“We want people to see theater as an essential component of everyday life, using the plays by Suzan-Lori Parks as the point of departure,” Posner says.

A gala performance of all the plays will take place at 8 p.m. Feb. 10 in the Patricelli ’92 Theatre with a reception to follow. The plays will be performed by actors Michael Chandler ’08, Jennifer Celestin ‘07, Maya Kazan ‘09, Garrett Larribas ‘07, Jermaine Lewis ‘09 and Carter Smith ‘09. Steven Sapp, founding member of New York City’s acclaimed poetry/theater ensemble UNIVERSES, will be conducting an open theater workshop from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on Feb. 10 and will open the performances at 6 and 8 p.m. with a solo piece.

Festival coordinators raised over $6,000 to put on the week-long event. Sponsors include the Center for African American Studies, Center for the Arts, Theatre Department, Second Stage, Wesleyan Student Assembly, Adelphic Education Fund, Community Development Fund, Feminist Gender and Sexuality Studies, Ethics in Society Program, Office of Affirmative Action, and the fund for Diversity and Academic Advancement.
 
For reservations of information, go to www.wesleyan365.com, e-mail: info@wesleyan365.com or call Jessica Posner at 303-919-5994 or Nikhil Melnechuk 413-230-0740.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

The Wesleyan Connection: Campus Snapshot

ON DEADLINE: From left, Laura Schick ’08, Sophia Kim ’08 and Jason Harris ’09 work on filing prospective student applications and transfer student applications in the Office of Admission Jan. 12. Jan. 1 was the Wesleyan Class of 2011 application deadline.

Reyson Punzalan ’07, in foreground, and Ellen Davis ’07 alphabetize frosh applications. Punzalan worked more than 35 hours filing applications during the week.

Jenna Juwono ’09, in foreground, works on filing Freeman Scholar applications, while Dmitri Lieders ’07 works on applicant data entry. The Office of Admission received more than 7,000 applications this year. (Photos by Olivia Bartlett)

New Dean of Sciences has Full Slate


David Bodznick, the new dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics, researches neuron signals in skate brains when he’s not busy with administrative duties.
Posted 01/22/07
When David Bodznick took on the role as dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics in July 2006, he became, in essence, a part-time mediator. In his new position, the professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, works as the liaison between the Wesleyan’s science and mathematics faculty and the administration.

“For example, I have the chance to present the needs and aspirations of the Division III faculty to the rest of the administration,” Bodznick explains from his office in Shanklin, “and the responsibility of presenting the wider perspective and long range planning goals of the Administration back to the faculty.”

Bodznick was nominated to the four-year position by former Natural Sciences and Mathematics Dean Joseph Bruno, who is the current vice president for Academic Affairs and provost, and professor of chemistry. Bruno’s nomination came after hearing input from colleagues. They cited Bodznick’s expertise and experience working as the director of Graduate Studies and chairing the Biology Department.

The position encompasses the departments of Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Math and Computer Science, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Physics and Psychology, and the Neuroscience and Behavior Program.

“What really attracted me to the dean position was that it involves a lot of problem solving,” he says. “I enjoy trying to find the best solution that works most effectively toward the goal that needs to be met.”

Bodznick has already set short and long term goals for himself.

For one, he wants to continue where Bruno left off, raising awareness and the visibility of the sciences at Wesleyan to the larger Wesleyan community and to the outside world. He looks for ways to support the continued successes of the science and math faculty in both teaching and research, and he encourages them to share their research with their students and the media.

He mentions the outstanding research on stem-cells and neuron replacement that are part of the recent Connecticut Stem Cell Initiative as a great example of the important work going on throughout the sciences at Wesleyan.

Bodznick’s own research is on neuron signaling in the brains of vertebrates including marine fishes. In fact, every summer, Bodznick and his students move their lab equipment to the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. There, the group is among 300 neurobiologists from all over the world working on research.

As dean, Bodznick will also work with the Science Advisory Council, which comprises several Wesleyan alumni and Board of Trustee members, to find ways to increase outside funding for undergraduate and graduate science programs. He hopes to increase the applicant pool for science majors and offer additional courses for non-science majors.

“Too many Wesleyan students graduate without taking science courses, despite the fact that now, more than ever before, science literacy is a critical part of a liberal arts education,” Bodznick says. “We need to continue offering a large number of attractive, palatable classes for non-science majors so they’ll want to include science courses in their curriculum.”

The dean’s heaviest workload falls on the new science center’s planning. This facility will house three departments and will likely replace Hall-Atwater, which has exceeded its useful lifespan. Bodznick, Wesleyan’s own facilities experts and a building committee of faculty, students and trustees, are meeting with architects. They are discussing the new building’s feasibility options from the size and location to program planning, and a renovation of Shanklin. Groundbreaking is expected by the end of 2009.

The at-home handyman says the new science center is one project he’s very excited about.

“To work on this from the beginning to end and see the ground breaking will be a major accomplishment,” he says. “There’s a lot to be decided and a lot of problem solving to do.”

With his plate full of administrative duties, Bodznick has to devote less time to teaching, however it hasn’t affected his research or interaction with Wesleyan students. He offers to present lectures in other classes, attends biology and neuroscience graduate student meetings and meets regularly with his four lab students. Next year, he expects new undergraduates to join his research group, and he looks forward to teaching them the methods of the lab.

“Ask anyone and they’ll tell you the best thing about working at Wesleyan is the students,” Bodznick says. “I’d never want to lose contact with the students, so I do what I can to interact with them, even when I’m not teaching as much.”
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Family Health Fair Set for Employees, Families


The Anderson Fitness Center will be open for tours during the 2007 Family Health Fair Feb. 3.
Posted 01/22/07
Yoga, skin analysis, blood pressure screenings and massages are all part of the 2007 Family Health Fair for Wesleyan’s faculty, staff and their families.

The free event takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 3 in the Freeman Athletic Center. It is sponsored by the Employee Benefits Office.

“All of us could use a little inspiration now and then when it comes to staying healthy and fit,” explains Pat Melley, director of Employee Benefits. “The Wesleyan Health Fair provides the opportunity for all of us to start or continue building healthy lives. It will be fun and informative for people of all ages to learn about fitness and well-being.”

Events of note include balance and rowing demonstrations; glucose, body-mass index, blood pressure and cholesterol screenings; a “How to Get Reliable Medical Information on the Web” presentation; and information on children’s health, skin analysis, nutrition, fire safety and more.

In addition, the Anderson Fitness Center will be open and tours will be offered. Demonstrations will be presented on how to use the athletic facility’s equipment. Attendees may go to open swimming, ice skating or squash.

The first 100 employees will receive a free T-shirt. Participants can also enter their name in a raffle. Prizes include a $60 gift certificate at Yoga at Middletown; bike helmets and tune ups from Pedal Power; a $40 gift certificate for Broad Street Books; a $25 gift certificate for It’s Only Natural Market; a golf basket from The Hartford Insurance Company; and a $50 cash certificate from WesCard.

Lisa Currie, director of the Health Education Program, says the health fair will highlight the various ways that the university and community organizations can support employees in being healthier individuals and families. This ultimately contributes to a healthier university, she says.

“There is great truth in the old adage, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’” Currie says. “Research has shown that employees who participate in prevention-oriented wellness programs in the workplace are more productive and enjoy their jobs more. Given how much of our lives we spend at work, it makes sense to make the most of it, especially given the great facilities and programs Wesleyan offers. “

Face painting will be offered for children. Parking is available in Q Lot behind the Freeman Athletic Center. Participants are encouraged to enter through the back lobby.

Some sessions will have limited space and will be filled on a first-come, first served basis. Some vendors will have items for sale.

For more information, e-mail benefits@wesleyan.edu or call 860-685-4889.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

New Directors Head Human Resources Department


Pat Melley, left, and Julia Hicks have been promoted to directors of Human Resources.
Posted 01/22/07
Julia Hicks and Pat Melley have been appointed to the position of director of human resources for Wesleyan University.

A national search for the head of Wesleyan’s Human Resources organization has been underway for the past few months, during which Hicks and Melley came forward to propose their partnership to lead the human resources department.

“I believe each has the credentials and leadership qualities we need and that together they have the experience to advance all aspects of our service to the campus community,” says John Meerts, vice president for Finance and Administration.

Hicks joined Wesleyan in May 2004 as associate director of human resources and was promoted to senior associate director in 2006. She has over 25 years experience in all areas of human resources and has held progressively responsible human resources positions with major organizations in Connecticut and New York. Hicks will be responsible for compensation, performance management, employee and labor relations, recruitment and staffing.

Melley was hired as director of employee benefits in July 2006. She will continue to be responsible for all employee benefits and now will oversee the payroll department. Melley has over 20 years of experience in employee benefits, payroll and human resources. In addition to a background in brokerage and reinsurance, she has been responsible for designing, implementing and leading the human resources departments of two companies.

Both Hicks and Melley have the skills and qualifications required to successfully lead human resources as we move forward with new initiatives, Meerts says. Although each will have specific points of focus as outlined above, employees may feel free to contact either of them for assistance. Ultimately, both are responsible for the performance of the Human Resources Department.

“Please join me in congratulating both Pat and Julia on their new appointments and wishing them continued success,” Meerts says. “I also want to thank the search committee for their hard work and Dan Michaud for having lead the Human Resources Department while the search was underway.”
 

By Justin Harmon, director of Public Affairs. Photo by Olivia Drake.

Civil Rights Activist to Speak on Martin Luther King, Jr.


Posted 01/22/07
Wesleyan will celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. with a keynote by the poet, author and civil rights activist Sonia Sanchez, pictured at left, from 4:15 to 5:30 p.m. Jan. 30 in the Memorial Chapel.

Professor Sanchez’s works are often passionate poems or works of prose that touch on social issues of modern and past times. Many of her poems are blunt, passionate and painfully truthful. She addresses the history of African-Americans from slave times to modern oppression. From Malcolm X she also learned how to present her poetry and always sustain the attention of the audience.

Sanchez refers to the influence of Martin Luther King, Jr. She met King in 1957 during a stop on his book tour. In an interview with a Seattle newspaper, Sanchez reflected on Dr. King’s work and recalled her reaction to his death. A more in-depth biography can be found at: http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/276.

“We are excited to have such a prominent poet and civil rights activist at Wesleyan for this important celebration,” says Rick Culliton, dean of Campus Programs and member of the MLK Jr. Celebration Planning Committee. “Professor Sanchez’s poetry speaks to the legacy of Dr. King in so many ways and we are honored to welcome her to campus to help us remember Dr. King and his many accomplishments.”

The Martin Luther King, Jr. commemoration received funding from the Office of the Dean of the College, the President’s Office, and the Office of Affirmative Action, with planning and support from a committee of staff, students and faculty.

The MLK Jr. Celebration Planning Committee consists of Ruby-Beth Buitekant ’09; Kevin Butler, dean of Student Services; Rick Culliton, dean of Campus Programs; Nicole Chabot, Student Activities program coordinator; Diana Dozier, associate director of Affirmative Action; Persephone Hall, assistant director of Human Resources; Julius Hampton, ’09; Frank Kuan, director of Community Relations; Cathy Crimmins-Lechowicz, director of Community Service and Volunteerism; Tim Shiner, director of Student Activities and Leadership Development; Gina Ulysse, assistant professor of African American studies and anthropology.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

An Evening With Bill Cosby Raises $2.5M for Scholarships


Bill Cosby mingles with Midge and Doug Bennet during a gala benefit in New York Jan. 17.(Photo by Bill Burkhart)
Posted 01/22/07
Bill Cosby donated his talents to a gala benefit performance at the Pierre Hotel in New York City Jan. 17, raising $2.5 million for Wesleyan scholarships from the more than 400 individuals in attendance. Cosby, father of Erica ’87, is widely known for his personal commitment to education and his generous support of educational causes.

Cosby spoke warmly of the efforts by Wesleyan alumni to support financial aid and said, “Mrs. Cosby and I believe that the price of education in the United States of America shouldn’t be unattainable.”

He delivered a comedic monologue that had the value of education as a central theme. Following the performance, Vice President for University Relations Barbara-Jan Wilson announced that a four-year Wesleyan scholarship had been named in Cosby’s honor.

Cosby received a Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Wesleyan in 1987.

Men’s Ice Hockey Takes Europe by Storm


At top, The men’s ice hockey team played the HC Valvenosta in Laces, Italy over Christmas break while touring Europe and playing several games. At right, members of the team take in the sights in Innsbruck, Austria.

Below, Wesleyan plays the Caldaro Under-26 squad in Caldaro, Italy. (Photos contributed by Chris Potter)

Posted 01/22/07
During the winter holiday break, the men’s ice hockey team toured Germany, Austria and Italy, competing against four local club teams, and winning all the games while beating opponents by a combined score of 30-1.

“I’m afraid the competition there wasn’t quite up to level we expected,” said fourth-year head coach Chris Potter. “But it still gave us a chance to skate, practice a few new things and improve our game overall.”

The planning for the trip began almost two years ago. Wesleyan teams are permitted foreign travel once every four years. Following the 2004-05 season, Coach Potter and his upperclassmen began discussing options. “We talked about the Czech Republic and Scandinavia, but in the end this trip won out,” Coach Potter explained.

Using numerous fund-raising techniques to help cover the $1,900 cost per individual, the team accumulated enough money to bring a contingent of 36 people, including all 32 players, the three coaches and the head athletic trainer. They were joined by 30 family members, bringing the total for the trip to 66.

The three-country trip began in began in Munich, Germany, a city that left an impression on at least one player.

“I thought our three days in Munich were the best,” said forward J.J. Evans ’09. “It seemed so European and I thought the bratwurst was spectacular. Even though I got a kiss from an Italian girl on New Year’s Eve when we were in Bolzano, I’m still going with Munich.”

For team captain Will Bennett ’07 Innsbruck, Austria was a favorite. He also said the location of the team’s final contest against the Caldaro (Italy) Under-26 squad, an 8-0 Wesleyan win, was amazing.

“This rink was dropped right into the countryside,” Bennett said. “It made you wonder how they managed to build it where they did.”

Soon after returning, the Cardinals managed to get their skates back on for their regular-scheduled home games on January 5 and 6. Wesleyan won both to extend its current unbeaten streak to five games and hold a 5-3-2 overall record. It is the first time the team has held a winning record after 10 games since 1988-89.

“I’m seeing the team starting to gel,” said Coach Potter. “I think the trip was valuable and I made some interesting rooming assignments to help the players get more comfortable with each other. I’m hoping the whole thing will pay off as the season progresses.”
 

By Brian Katten, sports information director

Associate Professor Judges Biomedical Conference for Minorities


Ishita Mukerji, chair and associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, uses a UV resonance Raman spectrometer in her research at Wesleyan. Mukerji recently attended a conference in California, judging presentations on biomedical sciences.
Posted 01/22/07
Encouraging underrepresented minority students to pursue advanced training in the biomedical and behavioral sciences was the purpose of a recent conference in Anaheim, Calif. And the chair of Wesleyan’s Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department was there to help guide these students down that path.

Ishita Mukerji, chair and associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, was among 220 scientists around the country who attended the 2006 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS), held Nov. 8-11.

The scientists volunteered their time and energy in judging the 1,048 poster presentations and 72 oral presentations.

“The number of minority students in biomedical research is very small,” Mukerji explains. “I and my colleagues are committed to improving diversity in the sciences and this is a great opportunity to meet and interact with minority students. We would like to have more under-represented students at all levels in the sciences at Wesleyan and this is one way to interact with minority students and potentially recruit them to come to Wesleyan University.”

Now in its seventh year, ABRCMS is the largest professional conference for biomedical and behavioral students. Over 2,500 people attended the 2006 conference including 1,633 students, 421 faculty and program directors and 418 exhibitors. ABRCMS is supported by a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and managed by the American Society for Microbiology.

By volunteering as a judge, Mukerji served in one of the most important roles at the conference, explains Ronica Rodela, spokesperson for the ABRCMS.

“The judge’s role in providing constructive feedback to student presenters positively enhances the professional development and advancement of students in their scientific research,” Rodela says.

These presentations were given by undergraduate, graduate, post-baccalaureate students as well as postdoctoral scientists in nine sub-disciplines in the biomedical and behavioral sciences. The top 120 undergraduates received monetary awards of $250 for their outstanding research.

Mukerji says some of the research she judged was comparable to the research being done by Wesleyan undergraduates. On the other hand, there is a wide range of science presented at the conference, and some of the students are coming from two-year institutions that don’t have a lot of resources for doing science.

“The judging process is an interactive one in which I usually talk to the students about their research project, their scientific interests and what their future plans are,” Mukerji explains. “Many of them are very enthusiastic about their projects and that makes the judging a lot of fun. On the whole I find it to be a very rewarding experience.”

Mukerji is currently the chairperson of the Minority Affairs Committee for the Biophysical Society. For their annual meeting in March, she has arranged a panel discussion on “Recruitment, Retention and Mentoring of Under-represented Students.” Featured panelists will be representatives from MentorNet and Venture Scholars. Both of these organizations are committed to increasing diversity at all levels in the sciences.

For more information on the conference, visit www.abrcms.org. The 2007 ABRCMS is scheduled for Nov. 7-10 in Austin, Texas.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Press and Marking Coordinator Fills the Seats at CFA Performances


Adam Kubota, press and marketing coordinator for the Center for the Arts helps more than 275 shows a year get publicity at Wesleyan and with the local media.
 
Posted 01/17/07
Q: When did you first come to Wesleyan, and when were you officially full-time for the Center for the Arts?

A: I started as interim CFA press and marketing coordinator at Wesleyan in November of 2005, filling in for Lex Leifheit while she was the interim assistant director of the Green Street Arts Center. Lex finished her assignment in February, leaving me to look for a new job. Fortunately for both of us, she was hired as the permanent assistant director of Green Street in September of 2006 and I was able to apply for her previous position.

Q: Explain your role as the press and marketing coordinator for the CFA.

A: At its most basic, my job is to fill the seats for the events that we put on. It’s mostly about raising awareness and engaging people through a variety of methods by pitching stories to the press, increasing distribution of our brochure and email newsletter. As for promotion, we try to reach people from all over Connecticut and the region, members of the Middletown community including Wesleyan faculty and staff, but most importantly, Wesleyan students.

Q: What are the biggest challenges you face in your job?

A: The biggest challenge is staying organized. The CFA has a hand in producing over 275 events a year. It is my job to see that they are all, in some way, brought to the attention of the public. Thankfully, I get a lot of support from my co-workers in making sure it all happens smoothly.

Q: How did you familiarize yourself with the job?

A: Lex has been and continues to be a great resource to me in my job—she definitely helped to show me the ropes. Since I am also responsible for publicizing Green Street events, we are constantly in contact. And obviously, my experience as interim marketing coordinator in 2005 has helped me in being the permanent marketing coordinator.

Q: Who are the key people you interact with on a daily basis?

A: CFA Director Pam Tatge; Art Director John Elmore; Associate Director for Programming and Events Barbara Ally; Events Coordinator Jeff Chen; Box Office Manager Kristen Olson; Financial Analyst/Gallery Coordinator Camille Parente; the Green Street Arts Center staff and the CFA student workers.

Q: What activities consume most of your time while in the office?

A: I spend a significant amount of time writing press releases, e-mails and listings on the computer, as well as attending meetings. Truthfully, I wish that I could get out more often and interact with the Wesleyan Community—it’s something to shoot for as I settle into my job and streamline things a bit more.

Q: What are your own interests in the arts and do you attend any CFA-sponsored events?

A: As a bassist who performs in a variety of styles including, jazz, classical and contemporary music, I am always performing or going to concerts. Considering this fact, working at the CFA is a dream job. I try to go to our events as much possible. It’s really gratifying to see the fruits of our labor in a well-attended performance.

Q: Are there any exciting, worth-mentioning events coming up in the next couple months we should be aware of?

A: Yes, the Joe Goode Performance group is coming Feb. 2-3. Like me, they are from the San Francisco area and their company of virtuosic dancers tackles such issues as gay marriage and the AIDS crisis.

Singer-songwriter Paul Brady, who has penned hit songs for the likes of Bonnie Raitt and Joe Cocker, is appearing for the Crowell Concert Series Feb. 16.

My pick-of-the-semester is jazz pianist Cedar Walton on April 27. Cedar is a real living legend—his resume reads like the history of jazz!

Q: Where are you from initially and how did you end up in the area?

A: I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, in a small town on the Peninsula called Belmont. I moved to Connecticut about four years ago to study with double bassist Robert Black, who is known for his work with the Bang On a Can All-Stars, and do graduate work at the Hartt School of Performing Arts.

Q: Where were you working before Wesleyan?

A: My first job in arts marketing was at Real Art Ways, a great alternative art space in Hartford. Over last summer, I worked for the International Festival of Arts & Ideas in New Haven.

Q: Where are your degrees from and what were your majors?

A: I have a bachelor’s of arts in music from the University of California, Santa Cruz, where our mascot is the Banana Slug! I also received my master’s of music in double bass performance from the Hartt School at the University of Hartford.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: Most nights and weekends, I am busy performing music. I do a lot of gigs with my band in addition to working as freelancer. I play bass—both the upright and the electric. As I mentioned before, I perform in many styles but I am most at home with improvised music like jazz and contemporary music.

As for hobbies, I like fishing, Frisbee golf, running, playing basketball and seeing exhibitions of contemporary art. I am excited to say that I am taking a vacation to Peru in March—the plan is to hike from Cuzco to see the ruins of Macchu Picchu.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?

A: At this point, I’ve been on the job for just a few months and I’d really like to meet more people who work on campus. It helps me a great deal to know what other people’s roles on campus are. So, if you are interested in any of the things that I do, please send me a quick e-mail.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Associate Director of Athletics Makes Time for All Sports


Richard Whitmore, associate director of Athletics, oversees the scheduling of all 15 Wesleyan athletic facilities, including the Wesleyan Natatorium.
 
Posted 01/17/07
On any given day, there are 29 athletic teams, 10 intramural sports, several sport-related clubs or Wesleyan employees all vying for a rink, court, pool or field to use for practice or play.

It is the job of Richard Whitmore, associate director of Athletics, to schedule Wesleyan’s athletic facilities with those who need them. And when occupied, he insures the venue is safe, secure and teams are equipped properly.

“Half of my job is working with people to schedule the facilities, but I also spend a lot of time coordinating the games and making sure everyone has everything they need prior to their game, meet or match,” Whitmore says. “There’s always something new happening, and that makes working in this field very exciting.”

Whitmore meets with at least a dozen Wesleyan coaches every day, and interacts with numerous students who drop by, e-mail or call in facility requests. He attends most home-games, of every sport, to make sure the athletes have everything they require for the event. Preparing the fields with proper markings, fencing and seating also is completed under his supervision.

“Being able to watch a little bit of every home game is a great benefit to this position,” Whitmore says.

Whitmore came to Wesleyan in 1999 as the athletic facility manager. He later took on the role of managing the 1,500-seat Spurrier-Snyder Rink, which is occupied 18 hours a day between October and March. Nowadays, he oversees all 15 facilities, including the Macomber Boathouse, Rosenbaum Squash Center, the John Wood Memorial Tennis Courts, Bacon Field House and the new Smith Field for field hockey, soccer and lacrosse.

“Wesleyan is extremely fortunate to have Richard as a member of the Department of Physical Education administrative staff,” says John Biddiscombe, director of Athletics and chair of the Physical Education Department. “He has an outstanding background as a Ivy League student athlete, a successful college head coach and athletic administrator. Also, his user friendly management style is appreciated by the students, faculty and staff and the smooth operation of the athletic facilities is a direct result of his efforts.”

Whitmore also helped with the planning of the Freeman Athletic Center addition. Prior to its opening in January 2005, he’d have to manage the athletic affairs in the old Fayerweather Gymnasium and the former Alumni Athletic Building.

“It’s so great to have everything under one roof now,” Whitmore explains. “It not only makes managing these facilities much easier, but it’s good for our student athletes and spectators alike. Now we can have a hockey game, an indoor track meet and swim meet all going on at the same time, in the same building, and this gives visitors a real sense of what our athletic program is all about.”

In addition, Whitmore says the new athletic center offers facilities equivalent or better than other liberal arts colleges in the area.

It’s not only Wesleyan coaches and athletes who seek space in the Freeman Athletic Center. University Relations has requested rooms during graduation. Middlesex Youth Hockey has its base of operations out of the Spurrier-Snyder Rink, and area high schools use the Andersen Track for their competitions.

Whitmore, along with Kate Mullen, head coach of women’s basketball, and Kirsten Carlson, administrative assistant, use the campus-wide program Scheduler-Plus to keep track of spaces being used at certain times.

“It can be challenging to stay on top of things, but somehow we manage to do so,” Whitmore says.

Whitmore, a native of Waterville, Maine, is a former basketball, baseball and football player himself. His father, Dick Whitmore, has coached Colby College’s men’s basketball team for 38 years, and served as athletic director from 1986-2003.

Richard Whitmore attended Brown University, graduating with a Bachelor’s of Arts in American civilization in 1990. During his junior year, he tore a ligament in his knee during the basketball season, ending his career. Nevertheless, a teammate wrote the NBA, requesting that Whitmore be considered as a candidate for the draft under the provisions of the Hardship Rule.

“No one else from an Ivy League school had made it into the NBA draft as a Hardship candidate before,” Whitmore says, smiling. “I sure got a lot of local press from that one.”

Like his father, he decided to take a coaching career path starting at Daniel Webster College as a basketball and baseball coach. He also worked as a sports information director. In 1996, he moved to Kenyon College in Ohio, also to coach basketball and baseball.

“Coaching was a fun part of my life, and I enjoyed working with the students one-on-one, but I also enjoy the administrative side of sports,” Whitmore says. “I am glad to be doing what I do now.”
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor