First artists-in-residence of the year show liberal talent
by Mary Kate Skehan ‘12
October 14, 2011
The Galax Quartet and contralto Karen Clark performing in Rubendall Recital Hall on Oct. 8. “The performers were thrilled to have such a high-level venue for their work,” says music professor Amy Wlodarski. Photo by Taylor Thompson '14.
As the inaugural artists of the music department’s new residency series, the Galax Quartet modeled their own influential take on the liberal arts during their recent whirlwind visit.
In the past, Dickinson’s artists-in-residence have been contracted for two to three years. This year, the department has opted for three separate week-long residencies, explains Amy Wlodarski, associate professor of music and residency coordinator.
“We thought the new model would allow our students greater contact with a wider variety of performers, which would in turn support our entire curriculum rather than just segments of it,” Wlodarski says.“The goal of these residencies is to bring as many students as possible into meaningful contact with the artists, primarily through class discussions, tutorials and lessons.”
The quartet’s schedule included meeting with four classes, coaching the choir and orchestra on Baroque-era techniques, demonstrating performance practice for the string studio, working with members of the theater & dance department to stage a public performance and conducting a private violin lesson with a Dickinson student. The capstone of their visit was a public concert, English and American Consort Songs, in the newly renovated Rubendall Recital Hall on Oct. 8.
Stephen Reale ’14, a music-composition major, met the quartet when they attended his History of Music class. “In between [performance] pieces, each member took the time to explain what his or her instrument was like in the Baroque time period and how it is emulated today,” he says.
Reale and his fellow music-composition majors also had lunch with Roy Wheldon, the quartet’s viola de gamba player and a composer, and Chan Ka Nin, a composer who visited with the quartet. “It was fascinating to hear their two creative processes as well as who their influences are,” Reale recounts.
The ensemble also attended two poetry classes taught by Assistant Professor of English Siobhan Phillips. In addition to their work with Baroque music, Galax performs musical interpretations of American poet Gary Snyder’s work. “I was hoping that our sessions with the quartet would help to illuminate the Gary Snyder poems that the music uses,” says Phillips, “It’s easy to forget about the origins of ‘lyric,’ but verse and song are closely linked. … My classes got a lot out of the sessions and concert.”
The music department invites artists who can make such connections across the disciplines, says Wlodrarski. “Galax was an ideal example of how these cross-departmental opportunities can happen.”
The next artist-in-residency, the ensemble Third Coast Percussion, will work with two first-year seminars studying the music of John Cage. “[The group is] even planning some flash-mob events, as another means to reach the broader campus population,” Wlodarski reports. “Groups like these embody how we conceive of music as a liberal-arts medium—one with natural extensions to other disciplines and departments.”