Bulletin Updates

Allegheny’s Instrumental Chamber Ensembles to Perform

Allegheny’s Instrumental Chamber Ensembles will perform their biannual concert in Ford Memorial Chapel on Thursday, Nov. 16, at 7:30 p.m. The concert is free and open to the public.

There are six groups performing: the Woodwind Quartet, Trumpet Ensemble, Flute Ensemble, Saxophone Ensemble, Clarinet Ensemble, and Brass Quintet. Each ensemble works with one of three faculty coaches, either Bronwell Bond, Jennifer Dearden, or Julie Hepler. Bond will serve as conductor of the Flute Ensemble for the performance.

The groups will perform a variety of music from composers such as J.C. Bach and Giuseppe Verdi, to Mozart and the Beatles. Together, they have 29 students involved, and two community members. A few students participate in more than one ensemble.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny Presents First ‘Unusual Combinations’ Piano Competition

Allegheny College will present its first biennial “Unusual Combinations” Piano Competition on Saturday, Nov. 11.

The competition, sponsored by Kawai America Corporation, features top high school student pianists from western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. Two of the judges, Jonathan Kuuskoski and Paola Savvidou of the New Muse Piano Duo, will kick off the competition with a free recital entitled “Music of the Future: 21st Century Piano Music” on Friday, Nov. 10, at 7:30 p.m. in Ford Memorial Chapel.

On Saturday, the final round of the competition is a free recital open to the public at 3 p.m. in Ford Memorial Chapel, featuring the top six to eight performers from preliminary rounds held in the morning. In addition to sponsoring the first prize cash award, Kawai has also loaned a Shigeru Sk-6 piano for use in the competition and the rest of the academic year.

Savvidou previously served as assistant professor of Piano Pedagogy at the University of Michigan, and now as wellness coordinator and global engagement advisor for Michigan’s School of Music, Theater & Dance. Savvidou utilizes Laban Movement Analysis, yoga, and creative movement as part of her teaching strategy to improve alignment as well as deepening expressivity in performance.

Kuuskoski is the interim chair of the Department of Entrepreneurship and Leadership and director of the EXCEL Lab at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance. Prior to his tenure at Michigan, he served as director of Entrepreneurship and Community Programs at the University of Missouri School of Music, where he designed and implemented all aspects of their new Music Entrepreneurship program.

Together, Kuuskoski and Savvidou perform as the New Muse Piano Duo, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The ensemble is dedicated to commissioning and performing newly composed works for four-hands and two pianos, with particular interest in exploring the piano in its fullest capacity as a string, percussion, and keyboard instrument.

“Both exemplify the idea of ‘Unusual Combinations’ in their own careers, which is why I asked them to judge the inaugural competition,” said Douglas Jurs, assistant professor of music and piano, who organized the competition. “They have both coupled diverse interests in combination with music to forge successful careers that encompass performance, teaching, and creative entrepreneurship.”

Kuuskoski will be in residence on Friday to work with Allegheny students interested in pursuing a profession in the creative or performing arts. He will hold an interactive workshop on Friday at 3 p.m. in the Campus Center room 206, called “Shooting for the Moon: Reversing Career Assumptions to Achieve the Impossible.” The presentation explores a step-by-step process for inspiring students to identify one big career goal, reverse assumptions about that goal, and convert what may seem like an “impossible” idea into a realistic, and potentially innovative, pilot project. Students interested in pursuing a profession in the creative or performing arts, as well as students interested in pursuing entrepreneurial endeavors after graduation, are especially encouraged to attend. Refreshments will also be served during the workshop.

On Saturday, Savvidou will hold an additional optional interactive workshop called “Move Your Way Through Stress” from 1 to 2 p.m. in the Wise Center Dance Studio. It is open to competitors, parents, and the Allegheny community. Savvidou recommends participants wear clothes they can move in.

Savvidou and Kuuskoski will be joined as competition jurors on Saturday by Allegheny’s Alec Chien, the third judge. Certainly no stranger to Meadville audiences, Chien first came to prominence upon winning the gold medal at the 1986 Gina Bachauer Competition, beginning an intercontinental career. After years of traveling for concerts across the world, he came to Allegheny to teach as artist-in-residence and professor of music. Retiring in 2016, Chien  continues to be active as a performer, teacher, and Meadville community advocate.

Competitors will perform at least two contrasting pieces memorized from two different composers, lasting from between six and 12 minutes. There are two rounds, the preliminary round in the morning, and the final round a recital in the late afternoon that will be live-streamed online. There are over $10,000 in prizes and scholarships offered, including a $1,000 First Prize, and several Allegheny Music Department Scholarships.

The competitors also have the option of entering to win the Unusual Combinations Prize by either writing a short essay or presenting a visual, which show how music and another personal passion intersect in the student’s life. Faculty from Allegheny will judge the entries.

The Unusual Combinations Prize and competition finalists will be announced at 2 p.m. Saturday, prior to the final round of performances at 3 p.m.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny Jazz Band to Perform Annual Concert

The Allegheny College Jazz Band will perform their annual fall concert on Sunday, Nov. 12 at 3:15 p.m. in the lobby of the college’s Henderson Campus Center. The concert is free and open to the public.

The program repertoire includes, “The Way You Look Tonight,” “I Dreamed a Dream,” “The Chicken,” “The Way We Were,” “Big Swing Face,” “Groovin’ Hard,” “How Deep is the Ocean,” “Spinning Wheel,” and “Cheesecake.”

Instrumental soloists and a vocal soloist will be showcased.

Prior to the Jazz Band performance, the Mallet Ensemble will perform, beginning at 2:30 p.m.. Performance repertoire includes “Rainbows,” “Evening Prayer,” “Little Fugue in G Minor,” and “The William Tell Overture.”

Both performing ensembles are under the direction of Stephen F. Corsi.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny College Jazz Band Annual Concert & Mallet Ensemble Performance

The Allegheny College Jazz Band will perform their annual fall concert on Sunday, November 12, 2017 at 3:15 p.m. in the lobby of the college’s Campus Center. Instrumental soloists and a vocal soloist will be showcased. Prior to the concert, the Mallet Ensemble will perform at 2:30 p.m.

Both ensembles are under the direction of Stephen F. Corsi. The concert is free and open to the public.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Leaving Home

29 May 2017

Stella on Lake Tekapo

Queenstown was the perfect conclusion to our wonderful adventure. The drive itself was phenomenal – we took the longer route, to drive through the Southern Alps and get to see sights such as Lake Tekapo and the lovely stone church by its shore. By the time we’d gotten to Queenstown it was dark, so when the sun rose the next morning we weren’t prepared for the incredible beauty surrounding us. The town is nestled along Lake Wakatipu, surrounded on all sides by the Southern Alps, with the buildings picturesque and staggered so that every window has a spectacular view of the waterfront. We began early with a jet boat ride around the lake, and it was early and cold enough that in some areas clouds still lingered on top of the water, creating a dreamlike atmosphere with the sun shining through. Following that we found a delicious coffee/gelato/chocolate shop – Patagonia Chocolates – before riding gondolas up to one of the mountaintops. The day was clear, sunny and crisp, and looking out from the mountain over the city, the lake, and the surrounding Southern Alps was spectacular, but then we were all able to ride the luge track which followed the side of the mountain. It was hard to focus on the driving – the view was too distracting! Following that we ate lunch overlooking the Cliffside, and were able to watch parasailers glide down across the town.

Lake Wakatipu

Then came the time for our final concert. We all anticipated devolving into tears at the end, but we somehow still gave the best concert of our entire trip. We sang in a small, gorgeous stone church, and the combination of high emotions, perfect architecture, and joy from that day’s adventure was just so to allow us to put on an incredible performance. Then it came time for the “Nunc Dimittis” – the song written by Morten J. Luvaas for the original Allegheny Singers, which has since been sung after every Allegheny Choir concert. To say the least, the song has a very special place in all of our hearts. Before we could start, however, the pastor of the church stood up to give us wonderfully touching and praising words, which unfortunately just got us all that much closer to tears. Professor Niblock had us sing a short and lighthearted song after that, only to try and calm us before diving into the emotional conclusion to our concert – our last performance in New Zealand, and the last Allegheny Choir performance for those who graduated. It went about as well as expected – the singing was still lovely, though with much additional vibrato from trying to hold back the sobs (somewhat unsuccessfully). But when it ended, though we were all in tears, every face was smiling and full of joy and love.

Now, sitting in the San Francisco airport back on US soil, though I already desperately miss New Zealand, I cannot get over the feeling of peace, of happiness, and satisfaction that those two incredible weeks gave me. That place has a kind of magic to it that has become embedded in each one of the chamber choir members, and that won’t leave us for the rest of our lives. We have made memories and connections that will last forever, and I cannot truly express how thankful each of us are for the gift that New Zealand was. All I can say at this point is I’ll be back – New Zealand holds my heart.

New Zealand in Photograph

I am sure that we are all familiar with the saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” And I have come to the conclusion of presenting our experience thus far in a medium of only photographs taken during this trip with brief descriptions. My intent is that this exhibit will offer you, the viewer, the opportunity to revel in this fantastic voyage through our actual lenses as if you were right here with us. Please enjoy.

Māori Gathering House in Rotorua
Students propose a toast to Dr. Niblock in honor of their first night in Auckland and New Zealand for the Chamber Choir’s world tour.
Louis looks out onto the Sea at Devonport, Auckland
One of the sea caves near Cathedral Cove in Whitianga.
Sunset over the bay in Whitianga.
Samantha gazes in impressed wonderment from the SkyTower in Auckland.
The ladies in front of Hotties at Hot Water Beach in Whitianga.
Dr. “Chief” Jeff Webb accepts the palm peace offering from the Māori at a Hangi meal event in Rotorua.
Boats on the beach off the bay of Shakespeare Point, Whitianga.
Dr. Niblock leads rehearsal at the first venue in Auckland.
Sunset in Whitianga from Gyrocopter.
Sun up at midday in the bay of Cathderal Cove in Whitianga.
Chamber Choir students enjoy a day out on the water in Whitianga.
Louis on the pier in Whitianga’s bay post-boat trip.
Ashley, Letti, Megan, and Ben enjoy a pint and mussels in Auckland.
Beach from the top of Shakespeare Point, Whitianga.
Dr. Niblock stands next to an endangered Kauri tree on the north island of New Zealand.
Emma poses in front of the Methodist curch in Auckland where the Chamber Choir had its first workshop with Dr. Grylls of the University of Auckland – 6th cousin of television survivalist star Theodore “Bear” Grylls.
(Left to right) Emma, Johanna, Morgan, Letti, Samantha, and Stella pose with a dredging wheel in Davenport, Auckland.
Audrey, Stella, and Letti pose on the beach in Whitianga.
John revels in the spraying water of the Pacific Ocean.
Lauren surveys the beauty of Whitianga’s paradise.
Morgan admires the beach where the Chronicles of Narnia was filmed near Cathedral Cove.
The tide coming in over the rocks in Whitianga as the sun sets – also known as Heaven on Earth, where I will be moving to whilst living on a boat.
(Left to right) Stella, Audrey, Dr. Niblock, Megan, Ben, and Brennan all smile for the camera on the ferry in Whitianga.
(Left to right) Ben, Spencer, Kyle, and Louis dig a natural hot tub in the sands of Hot Water Beach: where water is naturally heated by an active fault line in the area.
Chamber Choir students and professors enjoy the warmth of a natural hot tub soak at Hot Water Beach in Whitianga.
Louis experiences the Universe in a new capacity, basking in the setting sun over the sea in Whitianga, while the waves engulf his legs in their tidal embrace.
Dr. Niblock finds his peace with the Universe on a boat tour of Whitianga’s stunning and expansive coastlines.

From Students to Teachers

One of the most rewarding things we have had the pleasure of doing on this trip is working with young singers who are eager and excited to grow in music. We’ve been working on our own pieces for this tour for quite some time now, about two years from some songs, and every rehearsal is geard towards not only learning the pieces, but being better musicians each time we sing them.

What is so wonderful about working with these kids is that we now get to teach the things Professor Niblock has taught us over the past couple of years to these talented young singers who are just as excited about music as we are.

In Whitianga we worked with two groups of students who shared their music with us. The first group sang a popular song called “Demons” by Imagine Dragons. We taught them about singing with tall vowels and enunciated consonants. We then got to share with them our own demon song, “Daemon Irrepit Collidus,” to which one of the students in the workshop told us we were “singing ninjas.”

The second, younger group shared with us their song “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver. As none of these kids have ever been to West Virginia, we got to share what West Virginia and the United States is like, and we worked with them on how to tell a story with their songs and what it is like to sing about home. Our example of songs from home were our beautiful Alma Mater and “Coffee Grows on White Oak Trees,” a play party song that references the practice of boiling acorns from white oak trees as a coffee substitute during the American Civil War when coffee was too difficult to come by. We talked with the kids about what these songs mean, and showed them that the way we sing the words helps tells the story. A young boy eager to help us tell the story of “Coffee Grows on White Oak Trees,” informed us us, “you don’t grow coffee, you make it!”

After the workshop, we had a little extra time to sit with the kids and learn about their interests and let them ask questions about singing or about America.

Beyond the wonderful bonding experience our choir gets to have with other student choirs through these workshops, we’re also learning a great deal about music from a different perspective. Hearing the sound of a choir is much different coming from the audience, and different still coming from a teaching point of view, so we started listening to the music in an entirely new fashion. We got to hear for ourselves what a difference diction or changing our vowels can make, a distinction that is harder to hear from inside the choir. This perspective will ultimately make us better musicians and gave us a deeper understanding as to why Professor Niblock gives us certain singing instructions.

We have another school visit tomorrow morning in Christchurch, and I can’t wait to meet more inspiring kids who are excited to sing.

The Maori Stronghold

I sit here in the small airport at Rotorua.  The cafe is well-priced, the cappuccino greater than Starbucks quality.  This regional airport is not unlike Erie’s.  The only difference–which is reasonably jarring–is that there is no security.

Our tour is about to depart for the South Island, also known as Middle-Earth.  But in doing so we must bid adieu to the kind city of Rotorua, New Zealand’s geothermal capital.  It feels as if we are about to return to earth after a junket on Venus.  The city is speckled with vents constantly releasing sulfurous steam.  Sure, it was unpleasant to smell, and I may never eat an egg again, but it felt as if we were transported back in time.

You could easily imagine the first Maori tribes discovering the area, confounded by the ethereal mist as were we.  We were fortunate enough to witness two Maori cultural presentations, both of which elucidated the islands they call “Aoteoroa.”  Appropriately for us, each time vocal music was highlighted, serving to bridge the wide gap of the Pacific and bring their culture close to our American hearts.

Beyond geysers and  ceremonies, we had the privilege of singing with a high school choir at a small Anglican church.  One of their songs featured a Karanga, which a microtonal Maori chant invoking ancestral and natural spirits to come welcome guests of the tribe.  It soared straight through the diatonic choral background and moved every man, woman, and child towards its attention.

Middle-Earth awaits us next.  If it can live up to Rotorua, we are surely in for a treat.


23 May, Whitianga to Rotorura

The comment I hear most thus far is “I keep saying this is the greatest thing I’ve ever done/seen, and every day it’s something new,” which just about sums up the general feeling at this point. Every part of every day is some new wonder, some new adventure, some new breathtaking view, and each moment feels like the greatest moment of your life. We’ve done such a variety of activities and each is absolutely mind-blowing in a different way. The feeling of bliss, of awe, is spread throughout the entire choir, and only grows with each new experience and interaction with the wonderful community of people here.

Day 4 we left early in the morning to drive to Whitianga – about a 3-hour drive around a bay area, through jungle-like, prehistoric-looking wilderness. Upon arrival, we had lunch and a rehearsal with the Mercury Bay Community Choir for our concert that evening. The concert itself was truly the best performance we’d ever put on as a choir. The audience was incredibly receptive – audibly and sometimes physically reacting to our pieces – which meant we sung them better than we ever had before, putting our whole collective soul into the music. Then we retreated to our host families – mine was with Lesley and Phill, who had known Professor Niblock from his earlier visits, and were so welcoming and kind to us.

Day 5 was the first big sightseeing day. Whitianga itself is gorgeous, located right on a bay, but exploring outside the city we were able to see such incredible sights hidden from the main roads. We woke early and went to see the Hot Beach, an area along the coastline where people bring shovels and dig in the sand, which causes hot steaming water to swell up and create natural hot tubs. The water was scalding, but we mixed it with the cold ocean water to balance it out. After that, Phill took the choir out in separate boat tours along the coast, where we were able to see Shakespeare Cliff, Lonely Bay, and Cathedral Cove (if you’ve seen “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian”, the beginning scene in Narnia was filmed there). The water was the clearest turquoise blue I’d ever seen, and the rock cliffs were stunningly white.

Once everyone had gotten a chance to go out, we all drove to go meet a local artist who combines his concepts with music, and explore around his home and the beach by him. We watched the sun set over the ocean, and all felt that now-familiar, all-encompassing bliss and peace sweep over us. That feeling only grew when we returned back to Whitianga, and the choir members and their host families all came to Lesley and Phill’s home for a potluck, which soon turned into a group singalong. I’d never felt such a feeling of family and love from people who had been complete strangers just the day before. Niblock truly did welcome us to his family here, and we could all see just what that meant to him, and understand why he returned so frequently.

Day 6 began with working with 4th and 5th graders from Whitianga’s school district, giving them constructive pointers and then performing a few songs for them. The students were much more receptive and engaged than we were expecting, and at the end they had us all sign autographs for them, insisting we’d soon be famous. We left there for a 3 hour hike up to Shakespeare’s Cliff, down to Lonely Bay, and across a couple of the mountains where the original Maori defensive position was. At the top of Shakespeare’s Cliff, we gathered and sang “Hine e Hine”, a traditional Maori song. The piece that we’d been singing for a year now suddenly had an entirely different energy and meaning to it – looking out across the bay at the cliffs and the islands with the sun shining on us, we felt the roots of the song, the inspiration for it, the connection with the island and the people and its history.

From Shakespeare’s Cliff we trekked down to Lonely Bay to see the beach cove, and then began hiking up across one of the mountains. This was my absolute favorite part of the day – seeing thee incredible scenery and looking out across Whitianga, but also getting to follow the small side trails and climb on the rocks and trees in the jungle, eyes wide with childlike wonder and joy. It was the most picturesque and lush playground I’d ever climbed through. After the hike we were dropped at our respective host families, entirely exhausted from the past few days, and spent the night having a last meal and packing to leave early the next day.

I cannot truly say how spectacular this trip has been thus far, and we are only halfway through. Each day brings some new wonderment, and elevates our joy and our sense of family as a choir. We don’t mind how much time we spend together, we don’t mind losing sleep to see the sights, we’re all so caught up in the beauty and the magic that is New Zealand. Many of us have mentioned that we don’t want to leave, that we truly would love to live here, and that’s a testament to just how welcoming and loving the people have been – it’s not the views that make Whitianga feel like a home, it’s the people. We don’t want to just be travelers, pass through and leave again, we want to be a part of the community, get to know the families and the histories even better. We came to New Zealand full of excitement and a thirst for adventure, and New Zealand took us in with open arms.