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‘Hercules’ opera presented on BGSU stage

Bowling Green State University Opera Theater presents “Hercules,” adapted from George Frederic Handel’s oratorio, with libretto by Rev. Thomas Broughton and based on the writings of Sophocles and Ovid.

Dr. Ronald Shields, chair of the Department of Theatre and Film and stage director for the production, adapted Handel’s work from a three-act oratorio to a two-act, contemporary opera with choral sections and solos.

Set in a time when the gods spoke through oracles and Amore controlled people’s passions, the opera depicts the final day of Hercules, who has raised an army to retaliate against King Eurytus for refusing him the hand of his daughter as promised. Hercules has moved to Calydon and married King Oeneus’s daughter Dejanira. After accidentally killing the king’s cupbearer, he takes his family to safety in Trachis. Once there, Hercules and his army set upon King Eurytus and the people of Oechalia.

Performances are at 8 p.m. March 30 and 31 in the Donnell Theatre of the Wolfe Center for the Arts. The event is free, but seating is limited. Call the box office at 419-372-2719 for tickets.

BGSU student Benjamin Laur plays Hercules, along with Patrick Conklin as his son, Hyllus, and Laura Reaper as his wife, Dejanira.

The production is a collaboration between the College of Musical Arts and Department of Theatre and Film.

New music dean highlights college’s facets

Since coming to BGSU last July as dean of the College of Musical Arts, Dr. Jeffrey Showell has focused on raising the visibility of the college, which he describes as”pretty much a jewel.”

“It has rather amazing qualities. I know of no other music college in academia that has such a strong undergraduate music education program along with such high performance standards and a doctoral program in contemporary music. The challenge is representing all those and establishing
an identity.”

Already he has achieved a major objective of that goal — arranging with National Public Radio to produce a series of 13 hour-long, nationally syndicated programs highlighting aspects of the college’s inner workings, from the music education program to interviews with faculty to performances. Hosting will be alumna Jennifer Higdon, a Grammy- and Pulitzer-winning composer.

Funding for the series comes from Dorothy and DuWayne Hansen, longtime benefactors of the college. Dorothy is an alumna and DuWayne the former chair of the Department of Music Education.

“The stars were aligned to make this happen,” Showell said. “We couldn’t have done it without WGTE-FM’s Brad Creswell, who is producing the series, and the Wolfe Center for the Arts; before that, there wasn’t a place suitable for recording.”

The recent opera gala demonstrated how good the acoustics in the Donnell Theatre are—something that can’t be predicted until a performing space is complete, he said. And not only the Donnell but the Conrad Choral Rehearsal Room, which expands programming possibilities. “That’s been an unexpected side benefit,” Showell noted.

Showell has experience with opening new performing arts centers. At James Madison University, where he was director of the School of Music, he was deeply involved with all aspects of creating the university’s new center.

BGSU’s reputation for excellence in contemporary music allows the doctoral program to be highly selective, he said. “We get many applications but choose only four each year, so we have 20-25 students in the program at a time. We can be very picky.”

He is looking forward to the MidAmerican Center for Contemporary Music’s next New Music Festival in October, which, under the direction of oboist Jackie Leclair (who is “something of a creative organizing genius,” he said) will incorporate art along with an ecological theme, thus “broadening the festival’s appeal.”

“All these things happen because of someone’s hard work,” Showell says. “My job is to help find the resources to support them all.”

BGSU Men’s Chorus appears on national television

The members of the Bowling Green State University Men’s Chorus had a busy spring break. Not only did they perform in the New York and Massachusetts areas, they capped off the week with not one, but two national television appearances.

The group arrived in New York City on March 7 and made plans to visit the set of “Good Morning America” on March 8. About 30 members got up early and found a spot in the crowd about four rows back from the front.

“We thought, well, we’re here, we might as well get noticed,” said chorus President Benji Cates, a junior majoring in music education from Mansfield. “We started singing some a cappella songs, but the lady who was the ‘crowd wrangler’ for the show didn’t seem fazed at all. But the tourists were all getting their video cameras out and taping us, they thought it was great!”

Cates says they saved one song to sing when newsreader Josh Elliott and weatherman Sam Champion came out to greet the crowd.

“As soon as they came out we started singing ‘Brothers Sing On.’ They both started gravitating towards us and said we’d be the entertainment for the weather segment. We got pulled onto the blue carpet and stood in formation for about five minutes waiting for our cue to start singing. “

“I didn’t think we’d get on TV — the Marquette University cheerleaders were there, too, and they’re cuter than us. But we stole the show.”

Minutes after their live national debut, Facebook pages and cell phones started lighting up with messages from family and friends.

“It was crazy,” said D.J. Zippay, a junior majoring in vocal music education from Edgerton, and chorus secretary. “I called Professor Cloeter, our director, two seconds before we were on and yelled at him to turn on the TV. While we were singing my phone was just buzzing.”

“Everyone had a ton of Facebook messages,” Cates said. “The University even mentioned us on its Facebook page. We felt really big time.”

“It was pretty awesome,” Zippay said. “I didn’t think we’d get on TV — the Marquette University cheerleaders were there, too, and they’re cuter than us. But we stole the show.”

The national exposure didn’t end there. Cates says a producer for the ABC’s “The Chew” handed them tickets to that day’s show. About 12 members headed to the studio. This time, it was one member’s unusual hairdo that got them noticed, not their singing.

“One of our members has a crazy red afro and Carla Hall, one of the hosts, saw it,” Cates said. “During a break she came up and was playing with it and dancing with him. After the show we went up to her and started singing the same song we sang on GMA. When we were done the executive producer came up and asked if we knew ‘Danny Boy.’”

Call it the luck of the Irish. It turns out “Danny Boy” was part of their tour repertoire. They were asked to stick around for the next show taping, which would be St. Patrick’s Day themed, and sing. The show aired March 16.

“This time we were right up front. We got a signal to stand up and just start singing and it went great.

“It was such an awesome experience to be on national television,” said Cates.

Clarinetist’s legacy lives on at BGSU

Renowned clarinetist and Eastman School of Music professor Stanley Hasty saw greatness in BGSU’s College of Musical Arts. Hasty had presented master classes at Bowling Green in 2001 and 2008, and he chose to leave a collection of materials, music and instruments to Kevin Schempf, his former student who currently is sharing his version of a Hasty education with clarinet students at BGSU.

“Mr. Hasty was aware that our College of Musical Arts and its faculty are known for turning out great graduates and professionals,” Schempf said about Hasty’s connection to BGSU. “He loved to teach, and he knew that teaching our students is what we do best here.”

Hasty was a masterful teacher, and he demanded the very best from his students, Schempf said. “He had a unique gift for making the music understandable and sound beautiful by breaking down the mystery of music into simple principles.“

While Hasty was arguably one of the best clarinet teachers of the 20th century, he also was a man of few words, Schempf recalled. “He didn’t teach us to be like him, but he would first teach us to read and perform music in his way and then help us find a way to make it our own,” he added.

And making music his own is exactly what Schempf has done following his Eastman School of Music education with Professor Hasty. Schempf started his professional career as a member of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra and the United States Coast Guard Band, and he has performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony, the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the Toledo Symphony, the Fort Wayne Philharmonic and the Nashville Chamber Orchestra. He recently performed for two weeks with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and appeared with them at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City… He also has played internationally in Germany, Russia, Sweden, China and Japan, and serves as solo clarinetist with the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble. However much like his Eastman professor, Schempf has discovered his real passion is teaching. He has been teaching clarinet at BGSU for 13 years and loves the opportunity to work with talented young musicians.

It is that strong commitment to teaching that most likely contributed to Schempf and BGSU being gifted the collection. “I am honored to have the collection in my possession,” he said, because admittedly it could have gone to any number of other Hasty protégés who have had acclaimed careers. He believes it was because Hasty knew “BG is one of those schools where faculty and students are part of a melting pot with a significant amount of diversity and a passion for excellence,” Schempf said. Hasty also didn’t want the collection to be about him, so BGSU’s College of Musical Arts, where education is at the core of the curriculum, seemed to be a good fit.

The collection includes one or two boxes of Hasty’s personal scores, three volumes of hand-written orchestral books, the canes and equipment he used to craft clarinet reeds, an untold number of recordings of his and his students, and his prized clarinet. As humble and private as Hasty was, Schempf wants to make sure his greatness is not forgotten. The recordings and scanned copies of the music scores will be shared with the BGSU Music and Sound Recordings Archives in the William T. Jerome Library. Eventually, Schempf will hand off the actual scores and the clarinet to the next generation of great clarinetists whose lives were forever changed because of the impact of his great clarinet professor.

BGSU Student Christine Amon, MM ’12, Finalist in 2012 Lenya Competition





12 Finalists Selected; Rebecca Luker, Rob Berman & Theodore S. Chapin Will Judge


BGSU Graduate Student Christine Amon, MM in Vocal Performance ’12, is Finalist

Twelve exceptionally talented young singer-actors have made it through two rounds of auditions for the 2012 Lotte Lenya Competition and will compete for top prizes of $15,000, $10,000 and $7,500 in the finals, to be held on April 21, 2012, at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. Three-time Tony Award nominee Rebecca Luker, Broadway and Encores! music director Rob Berman, and Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization President and American Theater Wing Chairman of the Board Theodore S. Chapin will serve as judges.

Held annually by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, the Lotte Lenya Competition is an international theater singing contest that recognizes talented young singer-actors, ages 19-30, who are dramatically and musically convincing in a wide range of repertoire, and emphasizes the acting of songs within a dramatic context.

Finalists were selected from a group of twenty-nine semi-finalists after auditions in New York on March 9-10, 2012. Contestants were required to prepare four selections: an aria from the opera or operetta repertoire; two songs from the American musical theater repertoire (one from the pre-1968 “Golden Age” and one from 1968 or later); and a theatrical selection by Kurt Weill. Tony Award winner Victoria Clark and Vicki Shaghoian of the Yale School of Drama faculty served as coach-adjudicators, evaluating and working with each of the contestants.

The 2012 finalists are: Christine Amon, mezzo-soprano (Bowling Green, Ohio); Natalie Ballenger, soprano (Santa Cruz, Calif.); Douglas Carpenter, baritone (Woodbridge, Conn.); Maria Failla, soprano (Scarsdale, N.Y.); Matthew Grills, tenor (Rochester, N.Y.); Justin Hopkins, bass-baritone (Philadelphia); Briana Elyse Hunter, soprano (New York); Megan Marino, mezzo-soprano (Malvern, Penn.); Cecelia Tickton, mezzo-soprano (Roosevelt, N.J.); Mollie Vogt-Welch, soprano/belt (New York); Jacob Keith Watson, tenor (Wynne, Ark.); and Nicky Wuchinger, bari-tenor (Berlin, Germany).
The twelve finalists will perform their entire programs for the judges on April 21 between 11 am and 3 pm. At 8 pm, the competition will culminate in an evening concert featuring all of the finalists, followed by the announcement of the winners. Both the daytime finals and evening concert are free and open to the public, and will take place in Kilbourn Hall at the Eastman School of Music, 26 Gibbs Street, Rochester, New York.
The Kurt Weill Foundation will award special prizes in addition to the top prizes, and has already presented an Emerging Talent Award to Robert Ariza, tenor, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the Grace Keagy Award for Outstanding Vocal Promise to Kate Tombaugh, mezzo-soprano, of Streator, Illinois.

Previous Lenya Competition winners perform regularly in major theaters, opera houses, and concert halls around the globe. This season alone, their credits include performances on Broadway (Kyle Barisich, Morgan James, Zachary James), in national tours (Richard Todd Adams, Cooper Grodin), and at the Metropolitan Opera (Paul Corona), Covent Garden (Noah Stewart), Carnegie Hall (Amy Justman, Lauren Worsham), Arena Stage (Justin Lee Miller), Centerstage (Erik Liberman), Los Angeles Opera (Liam Bonner, Jonathan Michie), San Francisco Opera (Lucas Meachem), Lyric Opera of Chicago (Elaine Alvarez, Rodell Rosel), Florida Grand Opera (Margaret Gawrysiak, Jonathan Michie), and Oper Frankfurt (Elaine Alvarez, Elizabeth Reiter).

About the Kurt Weill Foundation
The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, Inc. ( is dedicated to promoting understanding of the life and works of composer Kurt Weill (1900-1950) and preserving the legacies of Weill and his wife, actress-singer Lotte Lenya (1898-1981). The Foundation administers the Weill-Lenya Research Center, a Grant Program, the Kurt Weill Book Prize and the Lotte Lenya Competition (, and publishes the Kurt Weill Edition and the Kurt Weill Newsletter.