Tag Archive for Music Department

Detroit Native Slobin Pens New Book on the Motor City’s Musical History

Mark Slobin, the Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music, Emeritus, is the author of Motor City Music: A Detroiter Looks Back, published by Oxford University Press (November 2018).

Slobin’s book is the first-ever historical study of music across all genres in any American metropolis.

According to the publisher:

Detroit in the 1940s–60s was not just “the capital of the 20th century” for industry and the war effort, but also for the quantity and extremely high quality of its musicians, from jazz to classical to ethnic.

Slobin, a Detroiter from 1943, begins with a reflection of his early life with his family and others, then weaves through the music traffic of all the sectors of a dynamic and volatile city. Looking first at the crucial role of the public schools in fostering talent, Motor City Music surveys the neighborhoods of older European immigrants and of the later huge waves of black and white southerners who migrated to Detroit to serve the auto and defense industries. Jazz stars, polka band leaders, Jewish violinists, and figures like Lily Tomlin emerge in the spotlight. Shaping institutions, from the Ford Motor Company and the United Auto Workers through radio stations and Motown, all deployed music to bring together a city rent by relentless segregation, policing, and spasms of violence. The voices of Detroit’s poets, writers, and artists round out the chorus.

Slobin grew up with classical and folk music backgrounds. His early work on folk music of Afghanistan shifted to studies of Eastern European Jewish music in Europe and America, film music, and theory of ethnomusicology.

 

Bruce Named Music Ambassador for the City of Middletown

Neely Bruce, left, a professor of music and American studies at Wesleyan University, and Walter Frank, a masters student in piano performance and composition, work on some music Tuesday in Bruce's office from The Sacred Harp. Bruce was named Middletown’s Music Ambassador on Jan. 5, 2019.

Neely Bruce, the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, left, and Walter Frank, a masters student in piano performance and composition, work together on music. (Photo courtesy of The Middletown Press.)

Neely Bruce, the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, was named Music Ambassador for the City of Middletown in 2019. He received the honor during a reception Jan. 10 at the Municipal Building in Middletown, Conn.

Bruce, a composer, pianist, conductor, and scholar of American music, was previously an artist-in-residence at Middlebury College, Bucknell University, the University of Michigan, and at Brooklyn College. He is the chorus director for Connecticut Opera and music director at South Congregational Church in Middletown.

His compositions include three full-length operas; five one-act operas; works for orchestra, chamber orchestra, and wind ensemble; about 300 solo songs; chamber music; electronic music and documentary film scores; and many hours of solo piano music and other keyboard works. Recent major works include Circular 14: The Apotheosis of Aristides, for eight soloists, two choruses, and large orchestra. He is currently engaged in a series of 17 CD-length recitals comprising his complete works for solo piano.

An article in the Jan. 5 edition of The Middletown Press provides accolades for Bruce’s work as a composer and musician including:

“Neely Bruce’s importance in contemporary American music has never been sufficiently recognized…. Bruce’s art ranges from the most difficult and virtuosic contemporary writing to simple tonality, and moves from one idiom to the other effortlessly and convincingly—something hardly anyone can do without sounding forced. Bruce seems equally at home in every style he uses…. This is one of the most significant releases to come my way in quite a while.” — Timothy Taylor, professor of ethnomusicology at UCLA.

Bruce earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa; he received his DMA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This spring, he’s teaching courses on 18th-century counterpoint and music of the 19th century.

Sumarsam Named Honorary Member of the Society for Ethnomusicology

Sumarsam

Sumarsam, pictured standing, at right, was named an honorary member of the Society for Ethnomusicology.

For his contribution to the field of ethnomusicology and music scholarship, Sumarsam, the Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music, was recently named an honorary member of the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM).

The encomium was presented by Wesleyan alumna Maria Mendonca MA ’90, PhD ’02, during the 63rd SEM General Membership Meeting, Nov. 17, in Albuquerque, N.M.

Sumarsam was commended for his scholarship on gamelan and wayang performance traditions, which inspired the SEM membership, explained Gregory Barz, president of the Society for Ethnomusicology.

“Your mentorship of countless students and colleagues, both directly and by example, is held in high esteem, and the ways that you simultaneously embrace and speak to the various subfields among the disciplines of music scholarship is exemplary,” Barz said. “You demonstrate not only a unique career, but one to which we all aspire.”

Sumarsam is the third Wesleyan faculty member to receive this award. The first one is the late David McAllester, professor of music and anthropology, emeritus (2001); the second is Mark Slobin, the Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music, Emeritus (2013).

During the meeting, Sumarsam also attended a number of panels, the Society for Asian Music Business meeting, and the SEM Journal of Editorial Board meeting, in which he is a member.

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. Inside Higher Ed: “Career Path Intervention–Via a MOOC”

An open online course by Gordon Career Center Director Sharon Belden Castonguay, which helps young people explore their interests and career options, is featured.

2. NPR: “Midterm Election Could Reshape Health Policy”

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. Inside Higher Ed: “Career Path Intervention–Via a MOOC”

An open online course by Gordon Career Center Director Sharon Belden Castonguay, which helps young people explore their interests and career options, is featured.

2. NPR“Midterm Election Could Reshape Health Policy”

Associate Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, explains why Democrats are “laser-focused on health care” this election season. Fowler also recently was quoted on advertising in the midterm elections in The Washington Post and USA Today, and interviewed on NPRMarketplace, and The Takeaway.

3. Religion & Politics“Russia’s Journey from Orthodoxy to Atheism, and Back Again”

Associate Professor of History Victoria Smolkin’s “engaging book is full of striking analysis and counterintuitive insights,” according to this review. The book, A Sacred Space Is Never Empty: A History of Soviet Atheism, was also recently reviewed in Foreign Affairs, while Smolkin, who is also associate professor of Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian Studies, was quoted in The Washington Post.

4. AnthroBites: “Queer Anthropology”

Margot Weiss, associate professor and chair of anthropology, speaks about the study of queer anthropology in this podcast interview. Weiss is also associate professor, feminist, gender and sexuality studies; associate professor of American studies; and coordinator, queer studies.

5. The Hill: “The Memo: Trump Remark Sparks Debate Over Nationalism”

Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought Peter Rutland, who has taught courses on nationalism for 30 years, says it was “surprising” that Trump called himself a nationalist. “The words ‘nationalist’ and ‘nationalism’ are not part of the normal American political vocabulary. It has got very negative connotations.” Rutland is also professor, Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies; professor of government; and director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life.

6. WNYC’s Soundcheck“Composer and Drummer Tyshawn Sorey [MA ’11] Explores Time”

Assistant Professor of Music Tyshawn Sorey performed live, in-studio with his newly formed ensemble that incorporates turntablism, electronics, and spontaneous composition. Sorey is also assistant professor, African American studies.

Recent Alumni News

1. Forbes: This New $100 Million VC Fund Is Looking to Help Crypto Startups Bridge China and Silicon Valley

Alexander Pack ’14 and his new $100 million venture capital fund, Dragonfly Capital Partners, are profiled. With his partner, Bo Feng, Pack will “look to invest in a mix of crypto-first funds, protocols, and applications, as well as tech startups building infrastructure for crypto-driven economies.” The company is also featured in Venturebeat.

2. UMass Med Now: UMMS Alum Raghu Kiran Appasani [’12Addresses UN General Assembly on Global Mental Health

Raghu Kiran Appasani ’12 helped launch the United for Global Mental Health campaign with an event at the United Nations General Assembly cohosted by Appasani, United for Global Health campaign CEO Elisha London, and Cynthia Germanotta of the Born This Way Foundation.

3. XO Necole: “4 Gems ‘Women In Media’ Can Learn From Angela Yee [’97]”

Entrepreneur and radio host Angela Yee ’97 was recently honored by Women In Media during their annual conference. XO Necole celebrates Yee’s “hustle hard” mentality and breaks down 4 “top-notch takeaways” from Yee’s motivational speech.

4. Coronado Eagle & Journal: Documentarian Matt Tyrnauer [’91] To Be Honored With Coronado Film Festival Director Award

Producer/director Matt Tyrnauer ’91 will receive Best Director honors at the Coronado Island Film Festival (Nov. 9-12). His prolific career as a writer and filmmaker is discussed, as is his latest film, Studio 54, which is generating industry-wide Oscar buzz.

5. MariaShriver.com: “Where There Is Anger There Is Hope

Shriver highlights the book by Dr. Helen Riess ’87,The Empathy Effect: 7 Neuroscience-Based Keys for Transforming the Way We Live, Love, Work, Connect Across Differences, as well as The Good Men Project, founded by Tom Matlack ’86, MALS ’87, P’16.

 

 

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. The New York Times Magazine: “Letter of Recommendation: Phyllis Rose’s ‘Parallel Lives'”

Professor of English, Emerita Phyllis Rose’s 1983 book Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages, is featured in the New York Times Magazine. The book, which the reviewer notes she has re-read every few months recently, is a “group biography of several notable Victorians and their marriages,” through which the reader can gain deeper insight into intimate relationships and societal change.

  1. Middletown Press: “Middletown Musician Noah Baerman Wins Guilford Performing Arts Fest Artists’ Award”

Noah Baerman, director of the Wesleyan Jazz Ensemble, received the inaugural Guilford Foundation/Guilford Performing Arts Festival Artists’ Award at a ceremony on Sept. 29. The award was created this year to encourage the development of new work by professional Connecticut artists and to provide a vehicle for the debut of original material at the festival.

2. Commentary: “Among the Disbelievers”

Graduate Students, Faculty to Present Studies at Society for Ethnomusicology’s Annual Meeting

Three Wesleyan music graduate students and two faculty were accepted to present at the Society for Ethnomusicology‘s 2018 Annual Meeting Nov. 15–18 in Albuquerque, N.M.

Bianca Iannitti will present a case study on the queer Indian-American DJ, Bianca Maieli, in order to explore the queer female identity within Desi music and virtual spaces.

Gene Lai, MA ’16, will present a study titled “Disdained at Home Embraced by Motherland: The Revitalized Tamil Folk Drumming Ensemble in Singapore.”

And Douglas Kiman will present a study titled “Mapping Klezmer Music in Contemporary Europe: A Case Study of the Jazz’n Klezmer Festival.” He will also be presenting at the Society for American Music in March on the musical identity of a band, the New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars.

In addition, B. “Balu” Balasubrahmaniyan, adjunct associate professor of music, will speak on “Hybridized Instrumentation in Ilayaraja’s Tamil Film Scores: A Quest for Village Identity.” And Kate Galloway, visiting assistant professor of music, will speak on “Stop to Smell the Pixels: A Digital Field Guide to Nonhuman Musicality in Proteus.”

Founded in 1955, the Society for Ethnomusicology is a global, interdisciplinary network of individuals and institutions engaged in the study of music across all cultural contexts and historical periods. The annual meeting will include several presentations, roundtable discussions, a symposium, concerts, an open jam session, and a world music pedagogy workshop and professional development workshop.

Haitian Musicians Lead Drumming Workshop, Performance for Students

Boukman Eksperyans band members toured Wesleyan while visiting campus Sept. 20-21.

On Sept. 20-21, core members of the Grammy-nominated Haitian “roots” band Boukman Eksperyans, along with the band leaders’ son Paul Beaubrun (band leader of Zing Eksperyans), engaged with several groups on campus. Boukman, founded in 1978, is one of Haiti’s best-known bands and performs traditional Vodou rhythms with pop, reggae, and blues.

After learning that the group was touring between Brooklyn, N.Y., and Montreal, Canada, faculty from African American Studies and the Music Department invited and coordinated their visit at Wesleyan.

On Thursday, band members led a workshop for students enrolled in the West African Music and Culture course, taught by John Dankwa, adjunct assistant professor of music. Boukman Eksperyans’ drummer Hans Dominique, known as “Bwa Gris,” taught the students about traditional Haitian drumming and rhythm.

Later that evening, the group performed an acoustic set in Downey Lounge, bringing to Wesleyan their distinctive style that fuses the traditional rhythms of Afro-Haitian religion (known as Vodou) with rock and reggae. Singing in the Haitian Kreyol language, they bring attention to the different ways of knowing and living in the Caribbean. The younger Beaubrun has been bringing the family tradition in new directions, performing as the opening act for Lauren Hill’s latest tour. They are also celebrating the release of Paul Beaubrun’s new album “Ayibobo” on Ropeadope Records.

On Friday, the musicians worked with students from the Music Department’s experimental music and sound design programs to record new tracks in the Music Department’s recording studio.

“Boukman Eksperyans is long known for their political activism critiquing the Haitian class system, American meddling in Haitian affairs, and racism and colorism throughout the world,” said Liza McAlister, professor of religion and professor and chair, African American studies. “Boukman Eksperyans are ambassadors for a better understanding of the Vodou religion; they have served as U.N. Goodwill Ambassadors too. We are thrilled that they were able to visit campus and share their experiences with us.”

A video of the drumming workshop is on Facebook, Photos of the drumming workshop and concert are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake and Chloe de Montgolfier ’22)

Baerman, Stanton Receive Artist Fellowship Awards

Noah Baerman

Nicole Stanton

Two Wesleyan faculty were honored for their artistic excellence by the 2018 Artist Fellowship Program.

Nicole Stanton, associate professor of dance, African American studies, and environmental studies, and Noah Baerman, director of the Wesleyan Jazz Ensemble, each received a $3,000 grant in the program’s Performing Arts category.

The Artist Fellowship Program recognizes individual Connecticut artists in a variety of disciplines and allows these artists the opportunity to pursue new works of art and to achieve specific creative and career goals. The program is highly competitive: for the 2018 round, more than 235 applications were received and reviewed by 48 professional panelists representing a wide array of artistic disciplines.

Baerman and Stanton are among 39 artists in the state of Connecticut awarded Artist Fellowship Grants.

Stanton will use her Artist Fellowship to work on a movement-based performance tentatively called “The Welcome Table.”

“I’m interested in using the lens of food—its preparation, its cultivation, and the ways in which people, families, and communities consume and dispose of it—as a way of telling black women’s stories,” she explained. “I want to explore the ways questions of food justice, social justice, and environmental justice all interweave in women’s lives.”

Stanton already presented a version of the piece at the We Create Festival: Celebrating Women in the Arts in Boston in April (pictured), and she’s working towards a campus showing for the fall semester.

Baerman will use his award to seed the development and recording of a recent body of work in response to the loss of Claire Randall ’12, who was murdered in December 2016. Randall was Baerman’s student and subsequently became a collaborator both in music and in the work of Resonant Motion, Inc. (RMI), a nonprofit Baerman directs that addresses the intersection of music and positive change.

“After Claire was murdered, I began composing to process both my own grief and that of others bereaved by the loss, many of them also former students of mine at Wesleyan,” Baerman said. “The music was diverse enough stylistically that I couldn’t initially see how it might eventually come together, nor was that a short-term priority. Now I intend to take space to develop this music and eventually compile it into an album that embraces this eclecticism and the emotional rawness of the subject matter.”

The album will, in turn, serve as a benefit for Claire’s Continuum, an initiative that RMI is developing to commission new collaborations on music and interdisciplinary work that addresses social causes.

Pianist/Composer Baerman Directs the Wesleyan Jazz Ensemble

Noah Baerman

Noah Baerman teaches the Wesleyan Jazz Ensemble.

In this issue, we speak to Noah Baerman, director of the Wesleyan Jazz Ensemble.  Baerman is a teacher, jazz pianist, composer, and author. He is also founder and artistic director of the nonprofit Resonant Motion, Inc. (RMI).

Q: You’ve directed the Jazz Ensemble at Wesleyan for 11 years. Was there an ensemble before you?

A: Wesleyan’s history of jazz is intense, and perhaps its most significant architect was the great Bill Barron, which I’ve always found kind of cosmic given that his “little” brother Kenny (now 74 and an NEA Jazz Master) was my own mentor. The group I direct runs parallel to the Jazz Orchestra, directed for years by my colleague Jay Hoggard. The Jazz Ensemble was previously directed by several different musicians, including current faculty Pheeroan akLaff and Tony Lombardozzi, as well as the legendary Ed Blackwell.

Q: Do students need to audition for the class? What are the requirements? How many musicians do you accept?

A: It is an audition-based group—there is some diversity of skills and experience, but it is not the setting for those with no prior jazz training. We generally have 6–7 musicians (occasionally more), and in true Wesleyan fashion the instrumentation varies widely from each semester to the next, which is fine since a) I write my own arrangements and b) I want to work with the most serious and motivated students, not necessarily those who just happen to play certain instruments.

Q: What is unique about performing jazz as opposed to classical music? What about it appeals to you? When did you realize that you wanted to be a jazz musician?

Ukrainian Social Reform, Current Events Discussed through Panel, Concert

During "This Side of the Curtain: Ukrainian Resistance in Uncertain Times," held Feb. 20 in Memorial Chapel, speakers, musicians and dancers expressed current events in Ukraine, social reform, non-violent resistance, civic engagement, and social-environmental health through a panel discussion, keynote address and concert performance. 

During “This Side of the Curtain: Ukrainian Resistance in Uncertain Times,” held Feb. 20 in Memorial Chapel, speakers, musicians and dancers from Wesleyan and the local community — discussed current events in Ukraine, social reform, non-violent resistance, civic engagement, and social-environmental health through a panel discussion, keynote address and concert performance.

Bogin ’18, Monson ’18 Participate In Creative Residency at Goodspeed

Tekla Monson '18 and Molly Bogin '18 are the first Wesleyan students to take part in a pilot program between the university and the Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed Musicals.

Molly Bogin ’18 (left) and Tekla Monson ’18 (right) are the first Wesleyan students to take part in a pilot program between the university and the Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed Musicals.

Molly Bogin ’18 and Tekla Monson ’18 represented Wesleyan in the university’s inaugural program with the Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam, Connecticut, last month. The students joined 36 established and emerging composers and lyricists to participate in the two-week creative residency—the only one of its kind solely dedicated to the creation of new musicals. Kathleen Conlin, Theater Department chair, and Ellen Nerenberg, dean of the arts and humanities, initiated Wesleyan’s involvement with the program.