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World Music Center at Illinois to celebrate grand opening
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by L. Brian Stauffer
|Philip Yampolsky is the founding director of the Robert E. Brown Center for World Music at the U. of I. The center's grand opening will be celebrated April 18-20.
Melissa Mitchell, Arts Editor
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — An eclectic mix of live music, a lecture-demonstration on Indian dance, and an academic symposium will signal the official grand opening of the Robert E. Brown Center for World Music at the University of Illinois April 18-20.
Die-hard fans of world music who just can’t wait to get started can attend a workshop on mbira performance, from 10 a.m. to noon on April 17 in 1180 Music Building, 1114 W. Nevada St., Urbana. An mbira is a Zimbabwean percussion instrument fashioned from a wooden board, with staggered metal keys.
The symposium, “Canons in Musical Scholarship and Performance,” begins at 9 a.m. on April 18 and continues through the day on April 19 in 25 Smith Hall, 805 S. Mathews Ave., Urbana. Free and open to the public, it will include presentations by six members of the U. of I. music faculty: Christina Bashford, Jeff Magee (reading a paper by Charles Hamm, an emeritus professor of music at Dartmouth College), Bruno Nettl, Gabriel Solis, Thomas Turino and Philip Yampolsky. Also participating will be Gage Averill, University of Toronto at Mississauga; Salwa El-Shawan Castelo-Branco, Universidade Nova de Lisboa; Tomie Hahn, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Regula Qureshi, University of Alberta; Ted Solís, Arizona State University; and Ruth Stone, Indiana University.
More detailed information about the panelists’ topics is available on the School of Music’s online calendar.
Concerts and other performances are interspersed throughout the extended weekend schedule – on campus and in the local community – and include:
• Free “Traffic Jam” performance by Folklore Urbano, a Colombian folklore/jazz group from New York City.
The performance will begin at 5 p.m. April 18 in the lobby of the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, 500 S. Goodwin Ave., Urbana.
• Concert featuring traditional Shona (Zimbabwean) mbira music by Musekiwa Chingodza and Bud Cohen, at 9 p.m. April 18 at the Iron Post, 120 S. Race St., Urbana.
• Free lecture-demonstration on bharata natyam, a style of South Indian classical dance presented by Aniruddha Knight and Douglas Knight, at 1 p.m. in 25 Smith Hall.
• Concert by the U. of I.’s Balinese gamelans and East/West Ensemble, featuring traditional and contemporary compositions for gamelan plus gamelan/jazz fusions, at 7:30 p.m. April 19 in Krannert Center’s Colwell Playhouse.
• Indian dance performance by Aniruddha Knight and Ensemble, at 3 p.m. in Krannert Center’s Great Hall.
The U. of I.’s world music center, located on the fourth floor of the Levis Faculty Center, was founded after the School of Music received a significant gift from the estate of Robert E. Brown, the ethnomusicologist credited with coining the phrase “world music.” The gift to the U. of I., announced in 2006, included Brown’s extensive collection of instruments from throughout the world. Among them are the pieces that make up several gamelan orchestras, which consist of percussion and string instruments, metallophones, gongs, chimes and drums. The gift also included contents of Brown’s significant library of recordings and books, and paintings and museum-quality artifacts from his private collection.
While the center’s grand-opening performances and academic sessions will provide a public glimpse of the new center’s agenda, Yampolsky – who came to the U. of I. last November as the center’s founding director – said much work is taking place behind the scenes to clarify its mission and shape its future directions.
Yampolsky said he envisions the center as “a service organization that seeks to bring challenging musical experiences to the community – first of all, to students in the School of Music, but also to other faculty, staff and students at the university, and to the community as a whole.”
“The focus will be on performance,” said Yampolsky, an ethnomusicologist who, before coming to the U. of I., worked for seven years as a program officer for arts and culture for the Ford Foundation in Jakarta.
Prior to that, he directed a 10-year project for the Smithsonian Institution that yielded a 20-CD “Music of Indonesia” series.
Already attached to the center is a resident Balinese gamelan ensemble, led by music faculty member I Ketut Gede Asnawa. Under Yampolsky’s direction, the center will augment that program with an academic-performance program in additional world-music genres.
Yampolsky said his plan calls for hosting at least one visiting artist from a different world region each year. The resident artist would teach a seminar on a genre of music, and students in the seminar would practice and perform with a related musical ensemble.
During the 2008-2009 academic year, Yampolsky hopes to inaugurate that aspect of the program by hosting an instructor-performer specializing in African drumming.
“There is already a community interest in Mande drumming, so I want to support that in order to intensify what already exists here,” he said.
Yampolsky hopes to secure funding to offer a “third semester” component to the instruction-performance initiative – a summer study-abroad option for students.
He also plans for the center to host a world-music concert series that would offer one to two public concerts per semester.
Finally, the director said his vision for the center includes developing an outreach component that would honor Robert Brown’s long-time commitment to sparking an interest in world music among children in public schools.
“We can take it directly to kids in the schools, or we can do it by combining music and world music in a concentration for music education students,” Yampolsky said.
In the meantime, Yampolsky is raising awareness about the center – along with funds needed to carry out its mutli-pronged mission.