Continuing the College’s vision of infusing the arts throughout the curriculum, Jennifer Kelly, assistant professor of music and director of choral activities, is leading a yearlong series of arts-related events and activities beginning next fall. The programming is supported in large part by a portion of the grant the College received in 2011 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Grammy-nominated and Latin Grammy-winning composer and pianist Gabriela Lena Frank will serve residencies at Lafayette next fall and spring. Other activities and events supported by the grant will include two performer residencies, commission of major work, an engraved score with permanent dedication page to Lafayette, an integrative arts symposium, formal concerts including the premiere of new work combining students and professional musicians, an integrative website, student art installation, and collaborative lectures. Student artists as well as recipients of the College’s Creative and Performing Arts (CaPA) fellowships also will participate in the activities.
Sponsoring academic departments and groups include music, art, engineering, foreign languages and literatures, Latin American and Caribbean studies, women’s and gender studies, CaPA, The Graduates alumni choir, and Lafayette Cultural Programs.
“Liberal arts colleges such as Lafayette are perfectly suited for a project like this because a liberal arts environment encourages broad thinking,” says Kelly. “Creative thought and process cross all disciplines, and in today’s world, it is essential to teach students how to collaborate, solve problems from multiple angles, and communicate across varied disciplines finding common language ground. All this goes toward achieving the same goal whether it be designing an automobile, troubleshooting software, curing disease, or expressing oneself through art.”
Frank, who was attracted by the interdisciplinary nature of the proposed programming, will compose a commissioned 35-minute major work for choir (Lafayette Concert Choir and Chamber Singers), two vocal soloists, and two pianos, inspired by the poetry of Nicaraguan poet Pablo Antonio Cuadra as he describes a large life at sea similar to Homer’s Odyssey through Nicaraguan folklore. The opportunity to commission an artist of Frank’s stature is usually reserved for larger music schools, making this a unique opportunity for Lafayette students.
Frank also will participate in an interdisciplinary arts symposium, conduct master classes, and visit classes to discuss artistic creation as it relates to gender, race, class, and the practicalities of a thriving artist. Kelly first met Frank while researching composers for her book, In Her Own Words: Conversations with Composers in the United States, which will be published by the University of Illinois Press this summer. The Grammy-nominated Chiara String Quartet also will serve a limited residency, and professional vocalists Andrew Garland and Susanna Eyton-Jones will perform in the premiere concert of Frank’s commissioned piece.
The primary goal of the grant is to infuse arts throughout the curriculum and campus community, something the College has been working toward for some time. The arts at Lafayette help students think bigger and more creatively, important skills regardless of major or career goal. For example, the majority of the 60-plus members of Concert Choir and 17 members of the Chamber Singers are non-music majors. In fact, Kelly says, many of those students are majoring in the sciences and engineering.
“I teach these ensembles that creative thought and process are both valuable and necessary no matter one’s choice of discipline,” she says. “The opportunity for our students to explore these concepts through their work with guest artists of this stature, and the encouragement for our students to broaden their learning and connect creativity with their own disciplines, is invaluable.
“If students find new ways to communicate an idea and express a developed point of view, and if they can experience that through their participation in the arts, well, it makes Lafayette a very exciting place to be.”