Northern gets cultured

Chelsea Birdsall

As a part of a new initiative to expose students to classical music, the Siril endowment allocated to the music department is sponsoring a visiting artist series and several showings of operas and ballets, including the upcoming Valentine’s Day showing of “Le Nozze di Figaro,” or “The Marriage of Figaro.”re-MusicDirector

Robert Engelhart, head of the music department, is doing his part to carry out the wishes of the anonymous donors who had a vision of increasing cultural knowledge at NMU.

“These folks had really powerful memories of when they were in college and they themselves took the equivalent of Music In Society where they went to school,” Engelhart said. “It made a lifelong impression on them and led them into a rich experience with all this music curiosity. This generated their will to pass it on to the students.”

The endowment covers two different areas of music education. The first leg of the plan is a series of films shown on campus ranging from popular ballets like “Swan Lake” to renowned operas such as “The Marriage of Figaro,” which is one of the top five operas in Western culture according to Engelhart. When they first started the program, they had roughly 75 people show up. Their latest show saw over 200 in the audience.

The first film of the semester will be “The Marriage of Figaro” by Mozart. It will be played at 5 p.m. on Feb. 14 in the Jamrich auditorium. The showing is free for students and $15 for adults. The second will be “Romeo and Juliet” on April 10.

This part of the project stems from a recent development of opera and ballet houses, like the Royal Opera in London, recording the shows in their latest season. The projection and audio system in the new Jamrich auditorium is more than able to accommodate these broadcasts. Engelhart said the quality of the equipment virtually places you in the experience. Though he worries students are “suspicious” of classical music, Englehart said this is the best way to help the emergence of the music.

“Students are immersed in music continuously, but it’s of a certain style more familiar to them,” Engelhart said. “These other styles are so rich and so rooted in culture and history.”

The second section is a residency in which a group or individual will visit campus. In March, NMU is hosting the Acropolis Reed Quartet, an award-winning group of five young adults who play old and new music on woodwind instruments.

The group is set to arrive March 7 and will spend the week playing impromptu sessions around campus as well as visiting classes to play and teach students about the history of the music and the era it’s from. On Friday, March 11, the group will play a free concert for students only followed by a Saturday concert that will be open to the public.

The project is still in its formative stages, but Engelhart said the eventual hope is to create a template in which his successors will be able to keep the events running. As of now, the endowment is not a set amount and is very flexible. After the donors approve of the plan, the money is used to cover hall rentals and travel expenses for the visiting artists. Engelhart said the music department is thankful for the generous donation to sponsor such an important experience for the students.

Engelhart said he strongly encourages students to come out and enjoy all future activity sponsored by this endowment because it’s a priceless opportunity.

“There’s no time in your life where you will have access to such high quality experiences at no cost,” Engelhart said. “Take advantage of it. It does require an investment of time, but all great things do.”