Stars align at BGSU as College of Music welcomes famed guest artists

American Brass Quintet (Photo by Matt Dine provided)

By DAVID DUPONT

BG Independent News

The Bowling Green State University College of Musical Arts has some special acts in the wings.

Lindsay Gross, the college’s manager of public-community relations, can’t help but show her own enthusiasm for what’s in store for the coming academic year – five internationally acclaimed artists who will share their gifts with the community. And all the events related to these residencies are open to public for free.

John Scofield (Photo by Nicholas Suttle provided)

Why wouldn’t Gross be excited? She’s a jazz bass trombonist, and the first guest in September is the American Brass Quintet, a pioneering ensemble that uses bass trombone, not tuba, as its lowest voice. And closing run of guest artists during Jazz Week in late March will be Maria Schneider, the most esteemed living composer for large jazz ensemble. Schneider has won Grammys not only for her jazz work but also for her arrangement on David Bowie’s song “Sue.” And for her collaboration with soprano Dawn Upshaw, who will visit BGSU a week before she arrives.

Visits scheduled are:

  • American Brass Quintet, residency Sept.20-22, with a concert Sept. 22 at 8 p.m.
  • Jazz guitarist John Scofield, Sept. 30, a master class and concert at 8 p.m. as part of the two-day Orchard Guitar Festival that starts Sept.29.
  • Opera composer Jake Heggie, keynote lecture at 8 p.m. on Oct. 22 and residency Oct. 23-24, as part of the Edwin H. Simmons Creative Mind Series.
  • Vocal superstar Dawn Upshaw, recital March 18 at 8 p.m. and residency March 19-20, as the Helen McMaster Professorship in Vocal and Choral Arts.
  • Maria Schneider, residency from March 28-30, with a concert March 30 of Schneider conducting the Jazz Lab I band performing her compositions.

(All concerts and lectures in Kobacker Hall. More details will be forthcoming on BG Independent News closer to each event.)

Jake Heggie (Photo by Ellen Appel provided)

All the artists will interact with BGSU students, and as much as possible with the community as well. Gross said she is arranging a session with the American Brass to work with high school students on playing chamber music.

The quintet members will also be working with university brass students. The quintet, which has been dedicated to performing new music since its founding on 1960, will also discuss its extensive commissioning of new works with student composers.

In addition to working with music students including vocalists performing his songs, Heggie will talk with students in English and Creative Writing about setting literary works to music. Heggie wrote an opera based on “Moby Dick,” and has set the poetry of Walt Whitman, to music.

Gross said she feels that these artists have something to offer all students.

This constellation of musical stars came together through series that are already in place.

Maria Schneider (Photo by Jimmy & Dena Katz provided)

The American Brass Quintet and Schneider’s visit is being funded by the Dorothy E. and DuWayne Hansen Musical Arts Series, which was established in 1996.

The Creative Minds Series was established in 2014 to “to elevate the importance of the arts in our everyday lives,” according to a university press release at the time.

The Orchard Guitar Festival, funded by BGSU alumni Thomas and Martha Orchard, is in its third year.

On Friday, Sept.29, four guitarists will teach and perform. Stephen Aron, who teaches classical guitar at Oberlin College, Craig Wagner, jazz guitarist from the University of Louisville, and the duo of Fareed Haque and Goran Ivanovic, who play the music of the Balkans, will give master classes during the day and perform in the evening. A guitar jazz jam session will follow.

On Saturday, Sept.30, before Scofield’s master class, an electric guitar ensemble will perform.

Guest artists will also come in under the auspices of other established festivals.

The New Music Festival will be presented Oct. 18-21, just before Heggie’s visit. Guest composers will be Steven Mackey and Sarah Kirkland Snider and the guest ensemble will be Latitude 49. Some events are ticketed.

Dawn Upshaw (Photo by Brooke Irish provided)

The David D. Dubois Piano Competition and Festival, Feb. 16-18, will bring in guest pianist Ursula Oppens and Phillip Moll who will perform music by Mozart in an evening concert Feb. 17 as well as serve as guest judges.

When the College of Musical Arts pulled the plug on the Festival Series in 2015 administrators said they saw the faculty-driven events picking up the slack.

Now looking at what’s on the college’s schedule, which also includes a full slate of faculty recitals, student competitions, operas, and ensemble performances, Gross said, she doesn’t know how the college could fit in shows by more outside performers.

As with the defunct Festival Series, the challenge remains, getting an audience.

She’s hoping the stars are aligned to make that happen.

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