Performing Arts brings artists to further cultural education at NMU

josh.snyder

At first listen, a band like Les Yeux Noirs may seem like a traditional Eastern European inspired band, with rolling guitars and soulful singing. But seemingly out of nowhere, a Reggae beat comes into play, accompanied by a persistent French-influenced Jazz rhythm that drives the song. Yet even with such a varied style, it all meshes together into one amazing sound that takes you around the world in a matter of minutes.

And for NMU students, it’s only through the International Performing Arts Series (IPAS) that one can experience the world’s cultures in such an entertaining way.

Formed in the ’80s by former Art Museum director Wayne Francis, the Performing Arts Series has worked to bring artists to NMU that represent a wide range of musical styles. According to Dan Truckey, director of the Beaumier U.P. Heritage Center, the series initially brought up not just international acts, but American ones as well. However, in 2006, the group narrowed its focus to just international acts.

Since then the selection of artists has been extremely varied.

“We try to be pretty diverse in our choices,” Truckey said. “We try to cover a very eclectic ground.”

The artists are chosen by a committee, which consists of both faculty and students. Typically, booking a band depends on what culture the committee wishes to represent, and if that band is available to perform.

According to Truckey, it can sometimes be difficult to book bands at a university that’s located as far north as NMU. But the group will be getting some help from the Arts Midwest World Fest, a program that brings international acts to tour the United States. Marquette was designated as a stop on the Fest’s tour, which goes into effect this year and lasts until 2011. The designation ensures that two acts will play in Marquette each year, and that the bands will stay for at least five days, which will not only include a performance, but workshops as well. Truckey said it’s this aspect of bringing international acts up that he enjoys most.

“It’s really unique to have this opportunity for them to interact with the community and students,” Truckey said. “I think one of the great things that this does is allow students to experience a culture that they might not have exposure to.”

This exposure to different cultures is one that Pauline Kiltinen, president of the Finn Grand Fest Committee 2005, also thinks is important. According to Kiltinen, the Finn Grand Fest 2005, which was held in Marquette, helped the group raise funds which they have since used to help bring other international acts to Marquette, such as Frigg, who performed as part of IPAS during the Fall 2008 semester. Currently, the group is co-sponsoring the performances put on by IPAS this academic year.

Kiltinen said exploring the world’s cultures through art is not only important but easy to do.

“I think that the performing arts have such an attraction to people, no matter what their background or ethnicity is,” Kiltinen said. “Music is one of those things that everyone understands. You don’t need to know the (Finnish) language to understand the music Finnish artists play.”

Kiltinen encouraged students to check out IPAS, remembering a time when she saw a group of African drummers, and how that moment stuck with her.

“You have a connection now, you have a link with the country where the music is coming from,” she said.

For more information on the artists who will be performing through the International Performing Arts this semester, visit www.nmu.edu/performingarts. For students who would like to see a particular world style represented here at NMU, suggestions can be sent to [email protected]