CVPA Professor Performs at International Music Festival

Posted: January 23, 2003 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Cheryl Nalbach

For two weeks last September, Patricia Miller, professor of music and Artist in Residence in the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA), exchanged music and culture with musicians from around the world at the International Music Festival in Kiev, Ukraine.

The International Music Festival, now in its 13th year, invites leading artists from all over the world to perform. Miller joined artists from Korea, Japan, South Africa, Norway, France, Germany, Ukraine, South America, Canada, and the United States. Thirty-two performances were given during the nine-day event. Founded by the late composer and professor Ivan Karabits, the festival was instituted as a means of exchanging musical and cultural ideas from around the globe.

During the festival, Miller, an internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano, gave three performances and presented a master class. Her first performance was with the Kiev Philharmonic Orchestra in historic Kiev Philharmonic Hall–the “Carnegie Hall of Kiev.” Under Ukrainian conductor Roman Koffmann, Miller sang a program of American music titled “Musical Conversation Between the United States and Ukraine.” The selections she performed included Old American Songs by Aaron Copland; the final movement of Leonard Bernstein’s MASS; and Spiritual Suite, a collection of four spirituals for mezzo-soprano and orchestra arranged by Evelyn Simpson Currenton. Miller dedicated the performance to the victims and families of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

Patricia Miller Photo
Patricia Miller performs at the International Music Festival

Her performance the following night was an unexpected highlight of her trip. Miller was personally invited to appear as a special guest artist with singers from the Kiev National Opera at the Kiev Opera Gala, where she sang the Negro Spirituals. The gala paid tribute to the late tenor Anatoly Solovianenko, the first Ukrainian to sing at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. “The Ukrainian people hold such high esteem for their opera singers,” said Miller. “It was an honor to be invited to sing with these incredible musicians. The people who attended [these] concerts, many of them young Ukrainians, expressed such a love for music. They do not take it for granted. For many of them, music is a privilege.”

Miller’s third performance was a solo recital sung before a standing-room-only crowd in the recital hall at the prestigious Tchaikovsky National Conservatory of Music. She was accompanied by internationally known pianist Yuri Kot. The musical program she chose highlighted Negro spirituals and American music by 20th century African American female composers, and also included classical works by Handel, Brahms, Strauss, Schubert, and Debussy. In addition, she spoke to the audience about African American poetry and its impact on American music of our time. “It was thrilling to be able to bring new music to the audience and share in our cultural diversity and heritage,” says Miller.

In addition to performing, Miller presented a master class for students at the Tchaikovsky National Conservatory of Music, where five Ukrainian opera students performed. “Most students who performed or audited the class are training to be opera singers, and many of them are hungry for refinement of stylistic elements,” she said. Miller coached them on German lieder in the styles of Schubert and Schumann, and Italian arias in the Italian bel canto style of singing, a vocal style that many young Ukrainian singers are particularly interested in. She also spoke to the students about becoming a professional opera singer, as many of the students were interested to learn how American opera singers rise from the collegiate level to the professional ranks.

Miller said the most meaningful aspect of the experience was signing the Negro spirituals. “The spirituals reminded them of their own history and the struggles they faced trying to establish independence from Russia. There was a very human element that exuded from the music; an element that reminded us that human struggle transcends cultural boundaries. The music connected us.”

Miller said she returned to George Mason with a renewed commitment to being an arts teacher. “Too often we think of great art as coming from somewhere else,” says William Reeder, dean of CVPA. “What Professor Miller has done is the opposite. Through her voice, she has taken George Mason abroad. In return, she brings home discoveries and friendships from distant lands, which will endure and open pathways for others to follow. We are very proud of her and grateful for her accomplishments.”

Miller has already been invited back to Kiev to perform at next year’s festival. For more information on Miller, visit her web site.

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