Arts Faculty Sharpen Their Skills During the Summer

Posted: September 24, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Catherine Ferraro and Leah Kerkman Fogarty

Mason’s College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) is home to many talented and accomplished artists, actors and musicians who represent some of the top professionals in their fields.

As CVPA faculty members, they use their knowledge and experience to give students the best instruction possible. When not teaching at Mason, they perform and showcase their talents throughout the world, especially over the summer.

Patricia Miller
Patricia Miller

As a successful and internationally known mezzo-soprano, Patricia Miller, University professor of music and director of vocal studies in the Music Department, was invited to join the musical and artistic faculty at the Amalfi Coast Music and Arts Festival in Vietri-sul-Mar, Italy, from July 13 to 26. Six Mason students also attended the festival.

Sharing her expertise with students from around the world, Miller taught voice lessons, mentored soloists and worked with conductors and a guest orchestra from Eastern Europe.

In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Italian composer, Giacomo Puccini, Miller prepared students for concerts, recitals and performances of the Puccini operas “Gianni Schicchi” and “Suor Angelica.”

“The experience of teaching in Italy this summer was wonderful because of the high level of students from around the world and the opportunity for exchange with other international artists and educators,” says Miller.

“Italy is an inspiring place to perform and to teach because it is so rich in operatic history and performance tradition.”

After leaving Italy, Miller traveled to Berlin, where she trained for two weeks with other colleagues and private coaches for upcoming performances.

Tom Ashcraft
Tom Ashcraft

Another CVPA professor also spent a portion of the summer teaching under the Tuscan sun. Tom Ashcraft, associate professor and the coordinator of sculpture for the Department of Art and Visual Technology (AVT), taught classes at University of Georgia’s Studies Abroad Program in Cortona, Italy.

This is the fifth time Ashcraft has participated in the program, his third as a professor. He taught bronze casting, stone carving and a course called Sculptural Practices over the summer term, which welcomed 84 students — including one of his undergraduate students from Mason — from numerous universities.

Cortona, the city where the program runs its year-round, 4.5-acre facility,is a site of ancient Etruscan culture.

“The city is so rich in history,” says Ashcraft. “And the program really is a complete package — they teach all of the visual arts, plus landscape architecture and art history.”

Susan Shields
Susan Shields

Susan Shields, associate professor in the Dance Department specializing in ballet and modern dance, spent her summer choreographing a piece for Salt Lake City’s Ballet West. Her piece was titled “Grand Synthesis,” and it premiered on May 28 for Ballet West’s Innovations program.

For the performance, Shields created an abstract work with a cast of 20 dancers representing two groups – potential and the manifestation of potential.

After hours of research, Shields chose a lively musical piece by British composer Graham Fitkin to bring the dance together and evoke a feeling of calmness and satisfaction from the audience.

With free reign from the artistic director to develop her piece, Shields not only had to determine the steps of the dance, but also met with lighting professionals, costume designers and other skilled individuals to create the entire concept of her dance.

The rest of Shields’ summer was spent conducting musical research for a ballet she is setting at Harvard in October and another work she is restaging for Mason’s Arts, by George!

“When I choreograph a piece, the bulk of the creative process is finding the right music. I spend hours and hours listening to different composers,” says Shields. “Once I’ve chosen the music, coming up with the steps of the dance is the easy part.”

Ed Gero
Ed Gero

Reprising his 1999 role, theater department faculty member Edward Gero played the title character in the Roundhouse Theater’s production of “Nixon’s Nixon.” The play, which ran from late May through June at the playhouse’s Bethesda, Md., location, is a fictionalized account of a meeting between Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger set the night before Nixon’s impeachment.

Gero played the same role almost a decade earlier in the theater’s original production of the play. Both times, the play set box office records for the Roundhouse, says Gero.

The Washington Post wrote of his performance in writer Russell Lees’s play, “Edward Gero nails the fallen president’s awkward poses and famously foul mouth in the Round House revival.”

Helen Frederick
Helen Frederick

In May, Helen Frederick, professor and coordinator of printmaking in AVT, traveled to Japan for “Kyoto Hanga 2008,” also known as the “International Print Exhibition, USA and Japan.”

As part of the exhibition, Frederick selected prints and wrote an essay for the catalog. The traveling exhibit was featured in museums around Japan, including Tokyo, Kyoto and Tokushima. Frederick also gave a lecture at the Kyoto City Fine Arts Museum titled “American Printmaking Milestones: Diversity, Collaboration and Entrepreneurship” on May 28.

Susan Goldman
Susan Goldman

Adjunct professor Susan Goldman also participated in the exhibition and gave a gallery talk on May 29.

Frederick previously presented lectures and art demonstrations in Japan in 1981 and 1983, when she was visiting the papermaking villages of Kurotani and Echizen.

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