Displaying items by tag: Travel

By guest blogger Robert Baldwin.

I was fortunate to make my second trip to China recently. For this trip, I had been invited to conduct a New Year’s Concert at Wuhan University where recent University of Utah School of Music graduate DMA graduate, Bo Wu has just started a new position as Director of Orchestras. Wuhan University is a major University in China, academically quite similar to the University of Utah. It’s a beautiful campus and a top ten university in China, set on a mountainside between the East Lake and the Yangtze River. It is also in the middle of a bustling metropolis of 10.6 million people.

Other than the fact that I don’t speak Mandarin, much of the trip seemed like my normal days at the U; 2-rehearsal-days with-2-different-orchestras. In addition to the orchestra at Wuhan University, I was also invited to conduct the Wuhan Conservatory Orchestra in rehearsal. The Conservatory is one of the top music schools in China, yet at orchestra rehearsals you find students and faculty sitting side-by-side, preparing music together. This makes for a unique learning situation, with faculty modelling directly for the students. We had a great time exploring Strauss’s Die Fledermaus Overture, Smetana’s The Moldau and Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake Suite. The orchestra was comparable to our excellent Utah Philharmonia orchestra.

By contrast, the Wuhan University Orchestra was quite a bit like our University of Utah Campus Symphony, made up of mostly non-music majors. Wuhan University does not have a music major, per se, but students either play as specialists (those on scholarship), or as “hobby students.” We had a wide range of music to prepare in just 4 rehearsals: Tchaikovsky, Bizet, Verdi, Strauss, Jr. and Sr., and a Chinese song with soloist, chorus and orchestra that I sight read at the first rehearsal. That last one was certainly a new experience. But like the warm taro root tea I also experienced for the first time that day, it was unexpectedly fulfilling. I’m not sure I’ve ever before experienced a piece where there was a cultural connection to every single musician sitting in the orchestra.

Besides the music, which kept me very busy, I enjoyed a variety of other cultural experiences. Most memorably, I was fortunate to spent 3 hours with a traditional Chinese tea master. He prepared some very rare teas to sample, and was very interested in my opinion and reflections. I was honored that said he learned a new way to describe a tea from his home province due to my description. We talked about tea, history, life, philosophy and spirituality. We understood a common language without the need to understand many of each other’s words. Travel increases appreciation of not only another’s culture – history, customs, food, and arts – but also hammers home the idea that we are all essentially the same, with the same needs and desires despite our cultural constraints and customs.

China also provided many opportunities for resetting my “reality button.” At the dress rehearsal, we discovered that the piano has no wheels. I watched as the orchestra members muscled the instrument into place, then set up their own chairs and stands. All this in a space where it was 35 degrees (Fahrenheit) onstage. Yet no one is complained. It was their reality. Parkas were worn, warm tea was served and we persevered to play an excellent rehearsal. Still the cold inspired me to write a short haiku (wrong culture, I know, but humor me):

China in winter,
Rooms heated only while used.
Cold reality.

The concert on December 31st was a just tad warmer, maybe 45 degrees. But despite the chill, it proved a most memorable night. All 1200 people stayed to ring in the New Year with music. Included in the audience was the entire the upper administrators of the university. Amusingly, the photo session afterwards lasted about 30 minutes. I think I appeared on the Chinese version of Facebook about 1000 times if the request for pictures after the concert was any indication. It was quite different end of a concert in the USA where everybody just goes home. Every member of the orchestra wanted a picture, as did the official “Party rep” (if you catch my drift).

On my last day in Wuhan I was pleased to receive a 3-year honorary appointment to Wuhan University. (Translate “adjunct” as “guest professor”). This means I will be returning to Wuhan in the future for concerts and lectures. More importantly, this was a trip about new possibilities. I also met with the Dean other administrators and faculty of the Arts Education Center at Wuhan University to discuss visits between Wuhan U and the University of Utah, both for students and faculty. I also have an invitation to return for a concert at the Wuhan Conservatory of Music.

I found the basic rule of thumb in China is figuring out how to navigate edges of the system while remaining within the boundaries. That’s how things got done. I saw much of that from driving in the city to adjusting concert programming. American things are valued greatly, from electronics to pop culture to fast food. Regarding politics, it is not discussed much, but when it is, there indeed is a glance around the room for a surveillance camera. Our current president gets barely a mention except an occasional laugh about his “golden towers.” I actually enjoyed the brief respite from the 24-7 onslaught of U.S. news coverage The people I met love America and want to travel there. They love Disneyland, Marvel movies, KFC, and think you can drive from Los Angeles to Chicago in an afternoon. I loved their enthusiasm for the USA. I am well aware that my biases and questions must have been as obviously surprising to them as theirs were sometimes to me

My work at the University of Utah affords me some great travel opportunities. But make no mistake, I spent most of this trip working. Good work can and does occur anywhere and everywhere (and now, in any temperature for me). This trip, my second to China, and third to Asia in the last 2 years), was equal parts satisfying, challenging, engaging, overwhelming, fun, stimulating, and exhausting. All travel changes us. I am fortunate to be traveling at a relatively easy time in history, and to be able to share both the experience with you while I shared the music with new friends, students and colleagues.

Published in Finer Points Blog

By Michaela Funtanilla

University of Utah, sculpture and intermedia instructor, Kelsey Harrison traveled to the German town of Idar-Oberstien in December to create a public work for the Pfälzer Hof. The Pfälzer Hof is a rescued building in Rhineland-Palatine, Germany. It once served as a hotel and is now set to be an artist residency spot and cultural development project for writers and artists from all over the world.

When the Pfä¬lzer Hof was under construction, timbers were used to hold up the façade. After the renovation and the lumber was removed in 2016, Pfälzer Hof did a call for woodworkers to create an art piece that would live outside the former hotel to remember the importance of its reconstruction.

Harrison applied for the project because she was interested in “temporary and unsanctioned architectural interventions.” The concept of transforming tree trunks that once supported the building and used as a tool into and “object-in-its-own-right” compelled her.

She has explored architecture vernaculars and building methods in previous works, but she was excited to work with material that had an interesting history. It took a whole town to rescue the historic, Pfälzer Hof hotel from demolition. Its town, Idar-Oberstien has a history of wealth with fine jewelry and metal manufacturing, yet its juxtaposed against urban decay.

Harrison’s recent exhibitions like, “New Luxury Art Show in Downtown Salt Lake City,” defer from the wooden creations she was exploring a few years ago. Traveling to Germany called back to the work she was doing in 2016.

“I love working with wood,” Harrison said. “I love when my work can take me on strange adventures and I love the idea of using material with history.”

But she knew this opportunity wouldn’t come without its challenges. Before leaving for Germany, Harrison only had a few sketches and little knowledge of what the space in which she’d be working would be like. She would have to immediately devise her work when she arrived in order to complete the project in the allotted time of three weeks.

“I heard Rhineland is magical and frightening, like deep water can be,” she said. Harrison knew she was going to be more isolated during her residency since she was traveling during the off-season of tourism. Living alone in a small foreign town was both a selling point and foreseeable difficulty.

When she arrived in Idar-Oberstien, she bonded with the owner of the Pfälzer Hof, Eila Goldhahn, whose support and trust ended up being one of Harrison’s favorite parts of the experience.

“Her input and support were very valuable. Even more valuable were the many hours I spent alone in the studio with very little pressure and no parameters,” said Harrison.

Pfä¬lzer Hof had no tools of their own, which required Harrison to only use the tools she brought on the plane. Having no power tools posed as one her biggest challenges, but her traditional methods couldn’t be more appropriate for a town that specializes in craftsmanship.

She impressively executed her piece with chisels, a hand-saw, and a mallet she made on site. After completing her piece, Harrison felt like she was a part of a long tradition. In a local press release, Harrison was observed to use “timber frame joinery as a sculptural language, exaggerating the mechanics of connections to make them legible and poetic.”

Harrison completed her sculpture on Jan. 2. The finished piece is three sculptures and appropriately titled, Pillars of the Façade. The sculptures will be placed on the private land in front of the façade of the building to remind residents how the Pfälzer Hof was rescued and given new life.

Published in Finer Points Blog

By Adam Griffiths. 

Addison Marlor, second-year U graduate student in vocal performance, had the opportunity to participate as a performer with the Merola Opera Program in San Francisco over the summer. Merola is known for jump-starting careers for young singers, coaches, and directors, by giving them unique performance opportunities and exposure. The Merola program kept Addison quite busy as he and his colleagues participated in almost daily coachings and lessons, multiple performances with the orchestra, a variety of classes, masterclasses, and mock-auditions. This is in addition to putting on fully staged large operas. “This year I had the pleasure of singing the role of Satyavan in Gustav Holst’s ‘Savitri’ for the triple-bill, a night of three one-act operas,” Addison said. “I also was delighted to sing on the main stage of the San Francisco opera for the Merola Grand Finale, which is the last performance of the summer and features all of the Merola participants, or ‘Merolini’, as they are lovingly called.”

The Merola Opera Program understands the financial burden placed on young musicians, and graciously allows young artists to participate free of charge, with housing and a living stipend provided. This is made possible by generous donors of the program. This is a rare occurrence, as most summer young artist programs charge a hefty fee to even participate. Addison said, “I was delighted to find out very soon into my time in San Francisco that there are many avid supporters of opera who become invested in you and your career as they welcome you into the family that Merola has created over the years.” Addison’s voice teachers in his undergraduate and graduate studies, Dr. Tyler Nelson and Dr. Robert Breault respectively, both participated in the Merola Program in years past, and Addison felt privileged to be able to follow in their footsteps.

Addison was one of many current U of U voice majors who performed in programs around the world. Adam Griffiths and Cody Carlson, along with recent graduates Ivana Martinic, Garrett Medlock, and Hilary Koolhoven, participated in the 11 and ½ week program Ohio Light Opera, where they produced seven fully staged operettas and older musical theater works, and sang in over 45 performances each. Jared Lesa attended the intensive three-week Institute for Young Dramatic Voices in Nevada, run by Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick, where he received training through lessons, coachings, acting direction, and body movement instruction. Keanu Aiono-Netzler participated in the SOARS program (Scenes, Opera, Art Song, Recording Session) at the Bay View Music Festival in Michigan. Dana Wirth travelled to Northern Italy to be a part of the Music Academy International, as part of the Trentino Musical Festival, where she performed in two fully-staged operas. Becca Clarke travelled to Bavaria, Germany to participate in the International Performing Arts Institute, where they held masterclasses, dance and acting classes, and produced a Lieder and Opera Scenes concert. David Sauer and recent graduate Genevieve Gannon both played leading roles (Rodolfo in La Bohéme and Zerlina in Don Giovanni) at La Musica Lirica in Italy, directed by the U’s Dr. Robert Breault. Young artist programs are very competitive and it is impressive that there were so many U of U singers that were selected. Programs like these are crucial training experience and exposure to aid singers in starting their professional performing careers. The singers were also happy to represent the University of Utah and know that their experiences will help bring attention and prestige to the U’s vocal program.

Published in Finer Points Blog

By Guest Writer: Rachel Luebbert

An ever-pressing heat swirls in the air, while Reaggeton music seeps out of windows like curling smoke, and the people fill the streets—talking, moving, dancing. These are the streets of Panama City: never silent, never still, always caught in relentless movement

Over Spring Break, nine School of Dance undergraduates, two graduates, and Assistant Professor, Jennifer Weber and Assistant Librarian, Lorelei Rutledge traveled to Panama to engage in a movement exchange program. During this trip, each student taught a dance or creative movement class while also, collectively taking various dance classes and learning about the role of dance in community engagement and advocacy.

Brianna Lopez (second year, modern MFA) explained that this trip taught her the importance of being proven wrong, “Before we left I had this idea of going to orphanages without resources and teaching really sad children that I would need to motivate and empower. However, I was immediately proven wrong. At every school the children were happily living their important lives and so eager to move and dance.” Lopez taught improvisation to students aged 10-18 at Aldea Infantiles SOS, a protective home for children in Panama City. Lopez’s class was investigatory including different partner activities that explored the body that culminated in a showing of these duets.  What emerged was the collective creating and sharing of dance that developed from such a beautifully natural and honest place.

Later at Escuela San Jose de Malambo, a primarily, all-girls orphanage, Gloria Morin (senior, modern BFA) taught a creative movement class to children ages 5-9. Morin led the students through exploratory activities, theatre games, and a group combination that was performed on the final day. Morin explained, “As I was preparing, I wrote many phrases down in Spanish so that I would know the vocabulary, but I still expected to be very dependent on a translator. However, when it came to finally teaching, I found that I could teach most of the class without outside assistance.” Like Morin’s success with teaching in Spanish, Jennifer Weber explained that every student that embarked on this trip had a moment where they overcame an obstacle and had a transformative experience.

Webber taught two classes at Gramo Danse, a professional dance and aerial company in Panama City. During the second day, Webber facilitated improvisational duets between U students and Panamanian dancers, “I watched as raw conversations and trust emerged between two bodies who did not speak the same verbal language.” Nicholas Daulton (junior, modern BFA) reflected, “During this class I felt deeply connected through my body to another human being. This is what life is about—connecting and being.” This connection to humans and the change possible through movement is accessible everywhere: in Panama, in Utah, and in any community filled with moving bodies.


Published in Finer Points Blog

By Guest Writer: Rachel Luebbert

The lifespan of a student is quick and fleeting. Within a few short years, a student soaks in a breadth of knowledge and is then released into the free air of the professional world. This transition is exciting and can provoke many questions regarding the navigation of the professional world.

In a partnership with Career Services, the College of Fine Arts and the Department of Film and Media Arts, ten animation students explored these very questions during spring break. With help from students leaders Taylor Mott and Daniel Stergios, Career Coach Eric Bloomquist and Academic Advisor Jennifer McLaurin, the Animation Career Trek traveled to Los Angeles where students gained insights to the Animation Industry. Career Treks are trips hosted by Career Services that surround talking to current employees about their professional experiences. This is the first Animation Career Trek and the first to travel outside of the Utah.

The trip lasted four days and was a diverse compilation of visits to large and small studios as well as intimate Q & A sessions with animation professionals. On the first day, students took a tour of DreamWorks Animation Studios and heard from the CEO of Eric Miller Animation Studios. David Sainz described their tour of 6-Point Harness, a smaller animation studio: “During our visit they gave us a detailed breakdown of what the pipe line looks like to fully create an animated film—from starting a project to the final product. This is something I could never really imagine until this tour.” At a networking dinner later in the trip, the students talked to individuals in all different roles of animation; from an intern to a production coordinator to a storyboard artist, each individual offered a unique perspective on the path to enter the film industry. Sainz explained, “During this dinner, I talked to Alejandro Melendez who works as a creative executive at Film 45. He gave me suggestions to stand out in such a competitive industry.” Students heard firsthand the importance of building their network.

The last day of the trip included a tour of Warner Brothers where students met with Carlos Sanchez, a sound producer, Emmy winner, and an alumni from the U’s Film and Media Arts program. Emma Eastman, a junior, commented, “After all of these tours, I could really imagine what my life would be like in this industry.” But the conversation doesn’t stop here. If you are an animation student, check out the Animation Crew every Wednesday night from 5:30-7 pm. This new student group on campus was founded as a place for animation students to collaborate, get feedback, and network with peers.

Senior, Lorena Mendoza wants other students to know, “Don’t be discouraged when you realize the challenges to work in the animation industry. If you are working hard and are passionate about what you’re doing, you’ll end up where you are supposed to be.” Every emerging artist will embark on a trek to establish footing in their respective industry. It may take hard work and strong networking, but there are opportunities ready for you.







Emerging Leader Rachel Luebbert


Published in Finer Points Blog