Xanadu production by SOU Theatre Department

Xanadu: Greek Gods, scrunchies, roller skates

What happens when you combine Mt. Olympus, 80’s outfits, and chalk murals? SOU Theatre presents “Xanadu,” a musical about art, inspiration, and ridiculousness—all on roller skates. The neon-colored-plot follows Sonny (played by Aidan Jenkins), a struggling artist whose inspiration is running low until he meets Kira (played by Corrine Maddox)—or, Kleio, a Greek muse who disguises herself as a human. Throughout the show, Kira gives Sonny more and more reason to believe in himself and his art. Most importantly: to follow his dreams.

“Xanadu” has 12 actors who are on roller skates throughout the entirety of the show. This has been one of SOU’s most difficult shows to pull off due to the athleticism needed while also focusing on music, acting, and choreography. Jenkins and Maddox both have spent hours outside of rehearsals just practicing on the skates.

“We’ve had a few people really bite it,” Maddox says. “The first rehearsal with the skates, I was really shaky. It was intimidating. But, now, I barely have to think about it at all.”

“Musical theatre is already tricky,” says Jenkins. “Roller skating kind of adds a whole other element on top of singing, dancing, and acting. It’s hard.” Both lead actors expressed their gratitude for Mary Ellen McGinnis, the assistant director for the show, who already knew some tricks in roller skating; she assisted in teaching all of the actors how to feel confident and comfortable in skates. From skating workshops to TikTok tutorials, the “Xanadu” actors put in the hours to polish their skills to put on a fantastic, colorful, and ridiculous show.

Lauren Blair, the director of “Xanadu,” insists on everyone helping each other out. During rehearsals, if someone falls, everyone pauses and checks in before moving along. This is one of the things that Jenkins takes to heart.

“I love my cast,” he says. “The community is great and everyone gets along. Lots of inside jokes going on. It’s fun. We’re all goofballs and Lauren just finds it so endearing.”

“I am always laughing,” Maddox says. “It’s such a good time, all the time.”

With roller skating being the top challenge for most of the actors, the music itself for others was the biggest challenge. For Jenkins, the show is mostly in the tenor range in regards to male voices—SOU doesn’t have many tenors in theatre. So, he’s been working with a vocal coach from the music department, learning how to sing higher than he’s used to. Maddox, however, adores the musical aspect of the rehearsal process. Having always had a passion for musical theatre, some of her favorite moments were in the music room with the music director. Both Jenkins and Maddox have worked hard and are confident in their singing and their roller skating.

Both actors are excited for the audience to come see the feel-good show. Opposed to previous productions, “Xanadu” is light-hearted and wacky, packed with music and disco, and will be giving the audience a glimpse into what it was like in the 80’s (and what it’s like when a Greek muse appears out of thin air—on roller skates!). The show opens Thursday, February 15th and runs through Sunday, February 25th with both evening and matinee performances. For a full list of performance dates go to https://oca.sou.edu/events 

Tickets are available online at https://sou.universitytickets.com or in person at the OCA Box Office Monday-Friday from noon-6pm and one hour prior to performances. SOU faculty, staff, and students get two free tickets by emailing boxoffice@sou.edu with show requests. Seating is limited and ON the SOU Main Stage Theatre. Get your tickets while they last. Talk backs after shows on Feb. 22, 23 and 24th with the actors and director will also be offered. For VIP or reserved ADA seating requests, please contact the OCA Box Office at 541-552-6348.

Story by Sierra Jameson, OCA at SOU Staff Writer 

Andrew Gay, director of SOU School of Arts & Communication

Internal candidate hired for SOU director position

(Ashland, Ore.) — Andrew Kenneth Gay, a professor and chair of Communication, Media & Cinema at Southern Oregon University, has been hired as director of SOU’s new School of Arts & Communication – which includes the Oregon Center for the Arts at SOU.

Gay has taken on numerous leadership roles since joining the SOU faculty in 2014, including his current, two-year appointment to the SOU Board of Trustees. In addition to his academic roles, he has served two years as chair of the Faculty Senate and led a recent three-year effort to transform SOU’s general education curriculum.

“I am especially excited to know that our students will benefit from Andrew’s collaborative and interdisciplinary vision for the future,” said Susan Walsh, SOU’s provost and vice president for academic and student affairs, in announcing Gay’s promotion to the campus community.

SOU’s School of Arts & Communication, which was initiated this fall, combines the university’s Theatre, Music and Creative Arts departments with its Communication, Media & Cinema department, among other programs. All share components related to performance, creativity and production, and new opportunities for collaboration are created by placing them under the same school.

All of the university’s 46 undergraduate and 10 graduate-level academic programs have been distributed among four “schools” beginning this fall, rather than the seven “divisions” that previously administered the programs. The shift leads to more efficiency in SOU’s administrative structure, and was a key part of the cost management plan adopted last spring by the Board of Trustees.

Gay will succeed David Humphrey, Ph.D., who created the Oregon Center for the Arts at SOU and led that division for 11 years. Humphrey is retiring at the end of December.

“Ashland and SOU have always been internationally recognized destinations for creativity, storytelling and human connection, and our new School of Arts & Communication continues that tradition with a renewed focus on interdisciplinary collaboration,” Gay said. “I’m thrilled to lead the new school and the Oregon Center for the Arts as we build a hub for creative careers and meaningful expression in our region and work to realize our students’ most ambitious dreams.”

The university’s undergraduate program in Digital Cinema was created under Gay’s leadership in 2019. The program launched an innovative, 12-credit spring immersion course called “The Crew Experience” in 2022, and later that year the program was accepted as a member of the prestigious Green Film School Alliance.

He received the Teaching Excellence Award from the University Film and Video Association (UFVA) in 2022 and earned SOU’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2021.

Gay teaches digital cinema courses in storytelling, screenwriting, directing, producing, production management, film festival programming, career design and development, and short film production. He is the former board president of Film Southern Oregon, previously sat on the board of the Oregon Media Production Association, has been a programmer for the Ashland Independent Film Festival and serves on the Teaching Committee for EDIT Media (Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Teaching Media) and on the board for the University Film & Video Association (UFVA).

He came to SOU in 2014 from the University of Central Florida, where he earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in Film and Digital Media, and his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Film Production. He has a bachelor’s degree in English and Philosophy/Religion from Flagler College.

Gay has also worked as a freelance production coordinator, production manager and assistant director in commercials, reality television and independent film, and for such companies as Red Bull, Discovery and Disney. He has written, directed and produced for both fiction and documentary media.


Jerron Jorgensen, director of Choral Studies at SOU

Invigorating choral arts: bringing lyric theatre to SOU

The immersive realm of music and vocal arts defines the vibrant Music Program at Southern Oregon University, attracting a multitude of students who follow the enriching curriculum and ultimately forge dynamic careers in the performing arts. From powerful choral ensembles to the intimate cadence of solo performances, SOU’s commitment to musical excellence resonates, providing a captivating blend of education and artistic passion.

Jerron Jorgensen, the new director of Choral Studies at SOU, brings a wealth of experience from his tenure at the small liberal arts college Coker University, where he – along with his wife, Christi Mclain – revitalized the vocal arts program into a wholly reimagined experience. Before landing at Coker University, Jerron completed his doctorate in musical arts at the University of Hartford after finishing his masters at Arizona State University. Jerron came to SOU in 2022, filling the vacancy that Paul French left when he retired.

Christi McLain, SOU adjunct faculty memberComing to SOU was an easy choice for Jorgensen – the combination of a small campus, the beauty of the geographic area and the vibrant arts community of the Rogue Valley made this an attractive location to teach vocal music. His musical journey is marked by a diverse range of experiences, encompassing professional roles as a conductor, soloist, chorister, teacher and arranger. He is also the new music director for the Rogue Valley Chorale.

Christi McLain, an adjunct instructor of music at SOU with her roots in Nebraska, discovered her passion for singing at a young age. She fondly recalls watching a performance of Cleopatra and falling in love with the opera form. She has since been dedicated to making this art form accessible to diverse audiences.

Christi and Jerron are creative partners – married with two adopted children – and together, they have brought to SOU Lyric Theatre, a new program and class scheduled for the 2024 winter term, that aims to redefine traditional notions of chamber music and the vocal arts by supporting creativity, accessibility and relevance in the contemporary artistic landscape. Students will learn, produce and perform an intimate retelling of the story of Zelda as a jazz opera with the composer and the libretto coming to SOU as visiting artists. The class and program, as designed by Jerron and Christi, embodies the ethos of an adapting performing arts world that draws inspiration from diverse musical traditions.

“Our main goal is to stay nimble from year to year, allowing our programmatic choices and the unique cohort of students to shape our performances, venues and community engagements,” Jerron says. “The idea is for it to look a little bit different every single year, reflecting the evolving dynamics of our artistic pursuits. We want to promote the works of living American composers in both the voice and choral realms.”

This vision aligns with the way the performing arts is changing in the United States, and Christi and Jerron see the opportunity to expand SOU’s program to meet those changes.

“The vocal arts landscape is undergoing a metamorphosis, with major companies redefining their seasons, diversifying repertoires, and embracing a departure from the traditional canon,” Christi says.

It’s a departure not just in terms of repertoire but a paradigm shift toward living composers, contemporary narratives and a harmonious blend of styles – a fusion that extends beyond the operatic realm. Jazz influences, musical theater nuances and a medley of styles converge to create a rich, dynamic narrative.

Jerron explains that boutique companies have become a groundbreaking force in reshaping the vocal arts landscape. Their emergence signifies a departure from the traditional, prompting a reevaluation of the storytelling standard, demonstrating that impactful narratives can thrive without the need for extravagant expenditures. This signifies a grassroots movement in the realm of chamber music. These small-scale productions offer artistically compelling narratives and music, and present a practical accessibility. The productions are innovative in that they challenge traditional notions of the art form, breaking away from the confines of concert halls and adapting to spaces more accessible to diverse audiences – like bookstores, houses or other experimental locations.

This is the vision of lyric theatre that Jerron and Christi want to bring to students at SOU, and this artistic vision is reflected in the teaching styles they’ve each developed over years of practice.

At the core of Jerron’s teaching philosophy is his commitment to cultivating a safe and inclusive space for students. This safety is about creating an environment where student opinions and identities are respected and celebrated. Jerron aims to affirm student experiences and foster a creative atmosphere. Simultaneously, his role extends to challenging and pushing students, not solely in technical aspects, but in expanding their worldview and understanding their societal impact through the art form they are immersed in.

“It’s about nurturing growth, both artistically and as individuals making meaningful contributions to their communities,” Jerron says.

The guiding principle of Christi’s teaching philosophy is integrity – a commitment to the students, the art form, their voice and the repertoire presented to them. She encourages an environment where bravery and vulnerability thrive, urging students to embrace risks, potential failures and the inherent messiness of artistic exploration. Rather than molding them into replicas of renowned singers, Christi emphasizes the journey of becoming their best selves as singers. The intense focus on details, such as tongue position and jaw release, creates an immersive and fulfilling experience. Amid this intensity, she emphasizes the profound significance of their artistic endeavors, dispelling any notion that their contributions lack importance.

“It’s about helping students recognize the immense value that the vocal arts hold in society and empowering them to find and articulate their unique voice in this powerful art form,” Christi says.

Jerron and Christi – stewards of vocal artistry at SOU – are redefining the academic landscape by acknowledging the evolving reality for singers in today’s world. Their visionary approach imparts technical expertise and also instills an entrepreneurial spirit, guiding students toward the realization that a career in the arts is a nuanced journey, often marked by freelancing and carving one’s own path. This educational model echoes the sentiment that success in the arts is found in the innovative spirit of creating, administering and performing in non-traditional spaces. The students, under the tutelage of Jerron and Christi, will embark on a transformative journey where the intersection of creativity and pragmatism defines their narrative.

“While not everyone may go on to sing at iconic venues like The Met, we want to prepare students for diverse career paths, connecting them with relevant repertoire, composers and librettists,” Christi says.

Their collective goal is to ensure that their students graduate with the skills needed to succeed in various aspects of the performing arts world, from regional companies to graduate schools, contributing to the preservation and evolution of the vocal arts.

Jerron highlights the profound upheavals underway in the performing arts, catalyzed by factors such as shifting demographics and technological advancements, even before the pandemic. COVID-19, however, acted as an accelerant, forcing a reevaluation of longstanding traditions within the performing arts. The classical music and operatic realms, traditionally reliant on older generations for support, are now facing an existential challenge as this model proves unsustainable. Jerron foresees a necessity for widespread adaptation across the country. As attention spans shrink in the era of smartphones and streaming services, the very nature of the art form must evolve to captivate contemporary audiences, presenting a unique set of challenges and opportunities for those invested in its future.

“In our approach, we embrace the entrepreneurial nature of our activities, shaped by the curated repertoire we undertake,” Jerron says. “Unlike the rare, full-time positions with benefits found in large orchestras or renowned opera houses, the reality for most artists, including ourselves, is a freelance existence. This reality prompts the question: ‘How do we navigate, discover, and curate works that can be executed with a modest budget in unconventional settings?’”

Jerron emphasizes that the answer lies in a commitment to self-discovery, innovative programming and the administration of performances that carve out a niche for students.

“Students nowadays are navigating a dynamic landscape in vocal performance,” Jerron says. “It’s about creating your own opportunities, discovering works, and embracing the entrepreneurial aspects of the field. Our program is pioneering this perspective, preparing students for diverse and innovative careers.”

“I’m eager to astonish our students with music that defies their expectations,” Christi adds. “The beauty of lyric theatre resonates deeply within us, and I’m committed to pushing boundaries and surprising our audience. I’m excited to reveal the true awesomeness of lyric theatre to everyone.”

Jerron and Christi have arrived at SOU at a pivotal moment, offering renewed passion and energy to SOU’s Music Program and to students studying music at SOU.

“There’s a sense of immense promise and the feeling that we’re standing at the edge of significant change,” Jerron says. “The university’s direction holds vast possibilities, and it’s exciting to witness the transformation. There’s a collective effort to revamp, reimagine and introspect. Under the guidance of strong leadership, there’s a palpable eagerness among the faculty and students to be part of this renaissance.”

To learn more about SOU’s Music Program, visit SOU Music.

Story by Melissa Matthewson, SOU’s director of development communications

Master of Theatre Studies scenic design class

Master of Theatre Studies program wraps up for far-flung participants

SOU recognized 11 students in the Oregon Center for the Arts’ Master of Theatre Studies graduate program last weekend for completion of their third and final year of coursework.

This year’s MoTs contingent was made up of almost 40 theatre teachers from U.S., Canadian and Korean middle schools, high schools and community colleges. The program, limited to a maximum of 20 new participants each year, is made up of first-, second- and third-year cohorts whose members stay in SOU residence halls and eat at The Hawk dining commons as they participate in the intensive skill-building program on all aspects of theatre production and design.

The 11 third-year students who completed the program this year were Stefanie McConnell of Lewis Center, Ohio; Steven Munoz of Montclair, New Jersey; Carlene O’Connor of Red Hook, New York; Sara Rideout of Portland; Emily Ruiz of Victorville, California; Scott Sackett: Orem, Utah; Kendra Schroeder of Surprise, Arizona; Meli Hickenbottom of Incheon, Yeonsu-gu, South Korea; Denis Houyoux of Woodberry Forest, Virginia; Alex Konen of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin; and Leis Depeche of Rotterdam, New York.

Faculty and staff in SOU’s Theatre Program including Jonathan Spencer, who Zoomed in from Colorado, made congratulatory presentations to the graduates. SOU President Rick Bailey, Provost Sue Walsh and OCA Director David Humphrey also congratulated the graduates. A BBQ dinner followed the ceremony, whidh concluded with the graduates boxing up their projects and preparing to return to their home states armed with intensive skills, knowledge, and goals to improve their high school theatre programs.

Coursework for the MoTs degree is designed specifically for high school theatre teachers, with three summer sessions of 12 credits each and three elective classes of nine credits each which can be taken during pre-summer or post-summer sessions, or online during winter term. The program’s third year wraps up with a thesis project that consists of evidence of students’ work accompanied by a self-evaluation paper that describes their graduate school experience.

The concentrated curriculum includes lecture, discussion and practical hands-on work, with required classes in script analysis, costume, lighting, sound design and production. Stagecraft, scene painting, stage properties, management, drawing, watercolor, stage make up and creative conceptualization are also part of the hands-on experience.

More information about the program is available online.

New degrees in Music Industry and Production

SOU offers new degree in Music Industry and Production for 2022-23

(Ashland, Oregon) The Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University has launched its newest degrees – a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of science in Music Industry & Production Studies (MIPS).

“I am so thrilled to see MIPS take off,” said Derek Keller, Ph.D., assistant professor of music at SOU. “Imagine yourself as an ‘artist in residence,’ composing, producing, performing your own music and preparing for a career in the industry. The MIPS program is an incubator for musical creatives and entrepreneurs who seek an open, welcoming environment to prepare for a career in tomorrow’s music industry.”

The new degree program is a robust one that features course sequences in audio & music production, music theory, aural skills, piano proficiency, music industry, business, and economics. Certificates in Music Industry and Production, and Sound Design – and a micro-credential in Audio and Music Production – are also offered for individuals that do not wish to pursue the full degree.

“MIPS is a unique blend of academics, specialization in music and entrepreneurial development,” Keller said. “I want our graduates to be ready to meet the future with poise, critical thinking and cutting edge audio tools, and to be adaptable with both academic rigor and vocational skills. We also happen to be an AVID learning partner, one of only two in the state!”

AVID is the software developer of Pro Tools, the industry-standard audio/music production software, as well as Media Composer and Sibelius. Students put their developing knowledge and skills to work in the MIP Lab and the Control Room of the Music Recital Hall at SOU.

“Students produce their own and their colleagues’ music, manage and direct live events, and contribute to our social media outlets,” Keller said. “All of this leads to network building and work experience that is résumé worthy.”

The MIP program is already gaining attention both locally and within the music industry.

“I wish they had this curriculum when I was in school,” said Andy Osborn, Artists & Labels Operations Manager at Bandcamp.com, and a featured guest artist in one of the SOU Music Program’s music industry courses this year.

“It is so terrific that you are offering these new opportunities to students and providing the cutting-edge tools and training they need; I would love to help any way I can,” wrote Ryan Wines, CEO of Marmoset Music, an SOU Alum and member of the SOU Foundation Board.

MIP classes feature regular guest artists and presenters from all sectors of the music industry.

In MUSIX, MIPS’ flagship ensemble, students compose, rehearse, produce and perform their own music. This music is released and accessible through both public/live performance and regular media outlets.  MUSIX has already released two EPs, and will release its first full-length LP in fall 2022.

“Our next release event will be in Lithia Park,” Keller said. “MUSIX recent performances are available on the OCA YouTube page, on Spotify, Pandora, or Bandcamp, or follow MUSIX on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.”

“We want our students to have complete control over their creative work, learn the power of their copyright, create a network of professional colleagues and write, produce, teach, arrange compose for film/video/radio, work in merchandising/retail/promotions/social media, manage performance venues, etc. – the industry is vast,” Keller said. “You can land a successful career in music outside of pursuing rock stardom, or performing cover music.”

The new BA/BS in Music Industry & Production Studies is now available to prospective and current students. SOU features open enrollment with rolling admissions, which means that any student can enroll at any time and begin pursuing their degree path. To apply to SOU go to https://sou.edu/admissions/apply/

To assist students, SOU’s Music Program offers over $160,000 in music scholarships, and many opportunities for work study and student employment. For more information on scholarships go to: https://app.getacceptd.com/oca.

For more detailed information about the new degree programs, contact Keller at kellerd@sou.edu.


Digital Cinema capstone project breaks new ground

Digital Cinema capstone project breaks barriers at SOU

Digital Cinema student Tabitha Wheeler is spearheading a capstone film project unlike anything seen before at SOU. The project is likely to catch the eyes of movie lovers in the Ashland community and beyond, following its successful crowdfunding campaign, backing from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and a passionately committed cast and crew.

Wheeler, a senior at SOU, wrote and is director and head producer of the film, “The Lost Years of Shakespeare.” She developed the script in early 2021, with the story following a woman who finds herself entwined in a mystery surrounding the cryptic death of Shakespeare. The film is set mostly in Ashland, and features landmarks such as the Ashland Springs Hotel and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It features professionally choreographed sword fights, and ties in with real historical events.

Wheeler began her career at SOU as an athlete, playing soccer. Having a long time love for filmmaking, dating back to elementary school, she chose Digital Cinema as her area of study and quickly flourished in the program. She has taken a break from soccer over the past year, and has gone full speed into her capstone project.

She began an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign in March, and met her goal by the middle of April. There was an outcry of support from the Rogue Valley community, and the project quickly caught the attention of the local film community. More than $7,000 was raised through crowdfunding, exceeding Wheeler’s original goal and setting records for Digital Cinema capstone budgets.

The film is currently in production, with plans to wrap up shooting in mid-June and to begin post-production work shortly after. Wheeler and her crew plan to have a finished product by November, and to submit the project to various film festivals. They’ve had multiple location shoots, including trips up to Portland and the Oregon Coast. A shoot inside the OSF’s Elizabethan Theater is planned for this summer.

The capstone for Digital Cinema usually takes the form of a long term film project, with a full, student-run crew. Students typically spend a whole year in pre-production and research before filming even begins. The Digital Cinema capstone is intended to allow students to show their specialized skills, and get experience working on a long-term film project.

SOU News sat down with Tabitha Wheeler in this podcast interview. Listen here and subscribe to SOU News podcast with Nash Bennett on Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts or Spotify.

Story by Nash Bennett, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

Duo combines organ and percussion in SOU concert

Organized Rhythm Duo to combine organ and percussion in SOU concert

The Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University together with the Southern Oregon Chapter of the American Guild of Organists present: “An Afternoon of Organ and Percussion” on Sunday, April 24, at the SOU Music Recital Hall.

Doors open at 2:30 p.m. and the concert hall will begin shaking with the vibrations of pipes and percussion at 3 p.m., featuring the award-winning, and seldom paired combination of organ and percussion known as the Organized Rhythm Duo. This combination of instruments will be the first for the Rogue Valley.

The concert will be offered in-person and live-streamed from the Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University: https://youtu.be/_YzH2A0Ai3o

The Organized Rhythm Duo has dazzled audiences for more than two decades. Founded in 2004, the duo is made up of Britain-born organist Clive Driskill-Smith and Oregonian Joseph Gramley, two top musicians in their fields. Driskill-Smith is wry and reserved – until he lets loose an astonishing array of effects at the organ’s keyboard, and Gramley gracefully complements with dance-like movements across a cadre of more than a dozen percussion instruments.

Together, they captivate audiences with their explosion of energy, sound and musicality, and fill the stage with a lyrical and powerful melding of thunderous and dulcet organ pipes with the arresting and delicate aspects of percussion instruments.

Trumpet and organ: it’s been done before. Flute and organ: it’s been done before. But the “symphonic-orchestral” pairing of organ and percussion remains a rarity, making Organized Rhythm the only full-time duo of its kind anywhere in the world.

The program will open with “Beaming Music,” by innovative 21st century composer Nico Muhly, and the audience will hear dozens of world drums, cymbals, multi-keyboard melodic percussion, orchestral percussion and timpani breaking through the full organ’s sound as satisfyingly as any trumpet; the duo has found balances in which even the soft bars of the marimba meld seamlessly with the organ’s softest registers.

Recognizable classics such as Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” Bizet’s “Aragonaise” (from Carmen), and Canfield’s “Pictures at a Klee Exhibition,” will round out the program which will conclude with a lively foot-stomping rendition of Copland’s “Hoe-Down.”

The inspiration to bring the Organized Rhythm Duo to the Rogue Valley for this unique musical experience, was conceived by Margaret Evans, Dean of the Southern Oregon Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, and SOU’s professor emerita, who teaches organ at SOU. Evans partnered with Terry Longshore, professor of music and director of Percussion Studies at SOU. Organized Rhythm Duo is represented by Phillip Truckenbrod Concert Artists.

For information on the Organized Rhythm Duo, the artists and their music, click here.

Tickets are $10 general admission, $5 for seniors, and free to SOU faculty, staff, students, and alumni. The OCA Box Office will open at 2:00pm – one hour before the performance for last-minute ticket sales. Tickets can also be purchased online here or by calling (541) 552-6348 or emailing boxoffice@sou.edu.

About the performers:

Joseph Gramley has had an extensive, award-winning solo and chamber music career, has taught percussion at multiple universities, collaborates and plays with major symphony orchestras, has two solo recordings, and has released eight albums. He was the associate artistic director of the Silkroad Ensemble from 2014-2017. During Gramley’s tenure, the ensemble won the 2017 GRAMMY award for “best world music” album, was nominated for “best music film” and recorded the music for Ken Burns’ documentary, “Vietnam,” for PBS.

Gramley’s versatility as a percussionist has found him performing alongside a broad cross section of artists, including Yo-Yo Ma, Elton John, Michael Stern, Renee Fleming, Wu Man, Glen Velez, and Keiko Abe. Gramley’s two solo recordings, “American Deconstruction” and “Global Percussion,” represent definitive, milestone works in the modern multi-percussion canon. He is currently a professor of music in percussion at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.

Born in 1970, Gramley grew up in Oregon and was named a presidential scholar in the arts in 1988. He did his undergraduate work at the University of Michigan, and earned his master’s degree from Juilliard and directed its Summer Percussion Seminar for 17 years. Festival experience includes Tanglewood, Salzburg Mozarteum, Spoleto Festival, Hong Kong, Guangzhou and 15 summers at the Marlboro Music Festival.

Clive Driskill-Smith has been named “a star of a new generation” and critics have praised his “blazing technique” and “unbelievable virtuosity” and describe his performances as “intensely moving” and “truly breathtaking.” He began early as a pianist and bassoon player and later at age 15 began playing organ.

Driskill-Smith is currently the organist and choirmaster at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Fort Worth, Texas – a post that he combines with an international concert career. He has performed at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., Melbourne Town Hall, Westminster Abbey, The Grand Philharmonic Hall in Perm (Russia) and the National Performing Arts Center in Taipei. He has played at prominent festivals and conventions, and continues to work with acclaimed conductors.

His performances have been broadcast on the BBC (UK), NHK (Japan), Pipedreams (USA), and on radio and television throughout the world. His CDs have received critical acclaim and he has recorded albums with Peter Gabriel on Virgin Records, and with Howard Goodall on EMI Classics.

Story by Kim Andresen, Oregon Center for the Arts at SOU

The SOU Woodwind Ensemble will present “Circusmuzeik”

SOU woodwinds to perform “Circusmuziek” featuring whimsical, colorful melodies

The SOU Woodwind Ensemble will present “Circusmuziek” at the Southern Oregon University Music Recital Hall on Monday, April 25. The concert, presented by the Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University, will begin at 7:30 p.m., in-person with a simultaneous live stream on the Oregon Center for the Arts YouTube Channel.

The program will feature contemporary chamber music by the mixed ensemble “Quintet for 7 Reeds,” the clarinet ensemble “Panic in the Practice Room,” and the saxophone quartet “SAXISTENTIAL QUARTET.”

The concert will begin with “Tanguera” from “QuinteTango” by Mariano Mores, arranged by Silvia Coricelli, and “Circusmuziek” by Ton Ter Doest – the concert’s namesake – performed by the Quintet for 7 Reeds. The quintet is made up of oboe, clarinet, saxophone, bass clarinet and bassoon, and will feature SOU alum and current oboe instructor Lorin Groshong, SOU woodwind faculty Rhett Bender, undergraduate music student Jack Boulter and graduate students Randy Nguyen and Travis Muñoz.

The program will also include a performance of “A Real Slow Drag” from “Treemonisha,” written by Scott Joplin and performed by SOU music faculty members Bernadette Keller, Alexander Tutunov and Bender.

Following “Treemonisha” will be “Bagatelle for Clarinets” by Clare Grundman, and selections from “Suite for Clarinets” by T. Stewart Smith, performed by Panic in the Practice Room, which will include undergraduate music students Jack Boulter, Martin Bichinsky, Jackie Lu and Orion Danforth, and graduate student Randy Nguyen.

The concert will conclude with SAXISTENTIAL QUARTET – made up of undergraduate music students Amanda Esser, Jack Kovaleski and Reese Lanier, and graduate student Randy Nguyen – performing “Merry-Go-Round of Life” by Joe Hisaishii and Yudo Yamada, and “Ulla in Africa” by Heiner Wiberny.

A patron commented at a previous concert in February, that “it was the best student wind concert I have heard in 23 years of attending concerts in the SOU Recital Hall.”

About the composers:

“Circusmuiziek” by Dutch composer Ton Ter Doest is composed specifically for the reed quintet. Featuring seven short vignettes that combine the unique sounds of each reed instrument, Doest creates beautiful images in the minds of the audience.

Scott Joplin, the “King of Ragtime,” wrote two operas that were never performed in his lifetime. The score for Joplin’s first opera, “A Guest of Honor,” was lost in 1903, but “Treemonisha” was rediscovered in the 1970s and has since been performed to great acclaim.

Clare Grundman composed scores for film, television, radio and several Broadway productions. He is most known for his compositions and arrangements for symphonic bands, with many of his compositions inspired by folk music from around the world.

Heiner Wiberny is a German jazz saxophonist and flutist. Wiberny first studied romance studies, geography and school music in Cologne, and composition with Bernd Alois Zimmermann and Pavel Blatný.

Joe Hisaishii is best known for his work with animator Hayao Miyazaki, composing music for many of his films. “Merry-Go-Round of Life” was specifically composed for Miyazaki’s film “Howl’s Moving Castle,” with all of the imaginative wonder of the romantic fairy tale.

This will be the last concert the SOU Woodwind Ensembles perform this term. Tickets can be purchased at the OCA Box Office by calling (541) 552-6348 or emailing boxoffice@sou.edu. The OCA Box Office is open Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. General admission tickets are $10, and $5 for seniors and SOU alumni. SOU faculty, staff, students and members of OLLI receive two free tickets each. OLLI and SOU community members must call or email the OCA Box Office, as purchases cannot be made online. General public tickets can be purchased online at https://sou.universitytickets.com. For more information or to learn about upcoming events please visit oca.sou.edu.

Story by Gray Blair, box office staff for OCA at SOU

Oregon Center for the Arts spring performances

Oregon Center for the Arts at SOU offers variety of spring performances

The Oregon Center for the Arts at SOU is offering a variety of musical, theatrical and dance performances in the coming weeks – both in-person and live-streamed. Free tickets are available for all SOU students and employees.

FREE Dance Workshop: Saturday, April 2nd at Noon
Dance Workshop (tap, salsa, hip hop, and more!)

Session One: Tap for All – Noon – 1:30pm
SOU Adjunct Faculty Instructor: Suzanne Seiber

Session Two: Contemporary/Salsa/Hip Hop 1:30-3pm
Theatre Building/ROOM: THR 137
Guest instructor: Melissa De Corrado

Sessions are first come, first served. Limited space. 

About the workshops: Sponsored by the Oregon Center for the Arts at SOU, these free dance workshops will feature tap, contemporary dance, salsa and hip hop. The workshop will feature a tap session from Noon-1:30pm taught by SOU Adjunct Faculty and Dance Performance instructor Suzanne Seiber. In the second session, guest artist Melissa De Corrado will teach contemporary dance, salsa, and hip hop from 1:30-3pm. Both sessions are in the Theatre Building, Room 137. For more information contact Suzanne Seiber at seibers@sou.edu

SOU Percussion Ensembles perform RECONSTRUCTION Tuesday, April 5th at 7:30PM SOU Recital Hall
Livestream: https://youtu.be/2E3TiRSpLqQ

The program will open with John Cage’s 1939 composition, First Construction, and close with the 10th Anniversary performance of Bryan Jeffs’ first work for Percussion Ensemble, “A Maroon Hog’s Rebel Frog.” Jeffs’ composition is the first of a trilogy of pieces he has written and premiered for percussion ensemble. His work evokes a sense of lighthearted playfulness balanced with complexity and technical demand. Left Edge Percussion, directed by SOU music professor, Dr. Terry Longshore, is SOU’s graduate level percussion group in residence at the Oregon Center for the Arts at SOU. The group regularly collaborates with artists of various media and are featured at festivals and events worldwide. The SOU Percussion Ensemble, directed by 2007 SOU Alum and Faculty member Bryan Jeffs is made up of SOU music program students who perform on campus and across the Rogue Valley at a variety of community events.

FRIDAY MUSIC SHOWCASE: Free Music Every Friday in the SOU Music Recital Hall from 12:30-1:20PM. 

Friday Music Showcase is a weekly MUS 165 course that is required for all music majors during their time at SOU but is an opportunity for the SOU Community and the general public to attend performances. The showcase is performance and lecture based and features guest artists, student performances, live music and engaging lectures during the academic terms. It is also a performance opportunity for junior recitals, faculty recitals, and pre-recital performances.

CMC Vienna Piano Trio: Friday, April 8th at 7:30PM, SOU Music Recital Hall
Not offered through the OCA Box Office.

Long established as one of the world’s leading chamber ensembles, and perennially fresh in its artistry, the Vienna Piano Trio was founded in 1988 by the Viennese pianist Stefan Mendl. His partners are the Californian violinist David McCarroll, a member of the trio since 2015, and the Austrian cellist Clemens Hagen, who joined in 2018. Together, the players embody the ensemble’s continuing commitment to bridging the traditions and practice of Europe and America. This philosophy stems from the trio’s early years and its mentoring by such ensembles as the Trio di Trieste, Haydn-Trio Wien, Beaux Arts Trio, and the Guarneri and LaSalle quartets, and by the violinists Isaac Stern and Jaime Laredo.

For tickets and more information contact Jody Schmidt, Executive Director at (541) 552-6154, email  Director@ChamberMusicConcerts.org or purchase your tickets online at: https://www.chambermusicconcerts.org/

SOU Music Student Recitals: April 9th-30th
No tickets needed. Open to the public – all in the SOU Music Recital Hall at 7:30pm/dates below:

Morgan List, Senior Recital, piano Saturday 4/9; program: Bach, Grieg, Milhaud, Scaramouche. Livestream: https://youtu.be/csdRi2BsYnA

Tiana Wong, Graduate Recital, piano Tuesday, 4/12program: Beethoven, Vine, Grieg; Livestream: https://youtu.be/ICeKynFpTPI

Joseph Wong, Graduate Recital, piano Wednesday, 4/13program: Beethoven, Rachmaninoff; Livestream: https://youtu.be/3GCpbzcFd9Q

Isaiah Spratt, Graduate Recital, piano Saturday, 4/30program: Debussy, Prokofiev, Shostakovich; Livestream: https://youtu.be/47NBOvw_Hbw

April CVA Gallery Opening, and Schneider Museum of Art Opening & Exhibits

SMA: The Presence of Nature: April 8th-May 21st; Open Tuesdays – Saturdays 10am-4pm

Claire Burbridge
Sky Hopinka
Kurtis Hough
Naeemeh Naeemaei
Vanessa Renwick
Olga Volchkova

CVA: The Best of the Best High School Exhibits and SOU Student Exhibits: April 4th-29th

Best of the Best, Meyer Memorial, Boise Cascade, Chairs
Shelby Hammond, I Can Spread My Toes Wider Than You, Jeld-Wen
Kaya Doolaege, Do You Like Me Now, Thorndike
Cheri Ball, NO SIGNPOSTS, Retzlaff

Opening Reception: April 15th, 5-7PM
CVA Gallery Hours: Monday – Sunday, 8AM-10PM
Organized Rhythm: Percussion/Organ Concert on Sunday, April 24th at 3PM, SOU Music Recital Hall
Livestream: https://youtu.be/_YzH2A0Ai3o

The Oregon Center for the Arts at SOU together with the Southern Oregon Chapter of the American Guild of Organists presents: “An Evening of Organ and Percussion” featuring the Organized Rhythm Duo. This combination of instruments (percussion and organ) is not heard very often, and this will be the first for the Rogue Valley.

SOU Chamber Ensembles present CIRCUSMUZIEK: Monday, April 25th at 7:30PM, SOU Music Recital Hall; Livestream: https://youtu.be/zRJpiKMUGjw

The SOU woodwind – reed and double reed – ensembles will present their spring concert titled  “Circusmuziek.” This will be a concert of contemporary chamber ensemble music saxophone quartet, clarinet ensemble, and a quintet of reed instruments: oboe, clarinet, saxophone, bass clarinet and bassoon. The title was inspired by the work of the same name by Dutch composer Ton ter Doest. It will be performed by Quintet for 7 Reeds. Also on the program will be the SAXISTENTIAL QUARTET performing Merry-Go-Round of Life by Japanese composers Joe Hisaishii and Yudo Yamada. Additional music will be performed by clarinet ensemble Panic in the Practice Room.

SOU Music presents: TAMBUCO: Percussion Tuesday, April 26th at 7:30PM, SOU Music Recital Hall;
Livestream: https://youtu.be/VubCB8hJoxg

OCA presents: The Tambuco Percussion Ensemble – from Mexico City will perform in the SOU Music Recital Hall. Four time GRAMMY Nominees, this Mexican Percussion Quartet includes  Ricardo Gallardo, Alfredo Bringas, Raúl Tudón, Miguel González. The group was founded in 1993 by four distinguished Mexican musicians and is ranked among the finest and most innovative in the world.

Oregon Fringe Festival: April 27th-May 1st various locations in the Ashland Community

Each spring, the Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University produces the Oregon Fringe Festival, a multi-day event celebrating outrageous creativity in the arts. Featuring over 35 different artists, this year’s festival will include everything from over 20 live performances, to over 10 online performances, in addition to over 20 opportunities to interact with creative work both live and online that is not scheduled as a performance.

On Wednesday, April 27, at 7:00 p.m. the Oregon Fringe Festival will host an Opening Celebration to officially kick off the festival in the CVA Gallery Courtyard – in front of the Art Building on the SOU Campus! Come dressed in your quirkiest attire inspired by the Fringe to meet artists and producers while enjoying an evening of treats and refreshments, visual art exhibitions, Honorarium Recipient Awards from Festival Director, Paige Gerhard, a unique Fringe Gauntlet experience, and more… Following the Opening Celebration will be an Opening Performance featuring a stellar rock concert by MUSIX, a premiere pop music ensemble associated with Music Industry & Production at Southern Oregon University. Click here for a complete schedule of event for OFF: https://oregonfringefestival.org/festival-schedule

Chamber Music Concerts presents: The Jerusalem Quartet Friday, April 29th at 7:30PM; 

Chamber Music Concerts presents: The Jerusalem Quartet Saturday, April 30th at 3:00PM;
Not offered through the OCA Box Office.

Since the Jerusalem Quartet’s founding in 1993 and subsequent 1996 debut, the four Israeli musicians have embarked on a journey of growth and maturation which has resulted in a wide repertoire and stunning depth of expression, carrying on the string quartet tradition in a unique manner. The ensemble has found its core in a warm, full, human sound and an egalitarian balance between high and low voices. This approach allows the quartet to maintain a healthy relationship between individual expression and a transparent and respectful presentation of the composer’s work. The Jerusalem Quartet is a regular and beloved guest on the world’s great concert stages, including regular visits to the U.S., London’s Wigmore hall, Tonhalle Zürich, Munich Herkulessaal, Theatre des Champs-Elysées, as well as special guest performances at the Auditorium du Louvre Paris and the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg. For tickets and more information contact Jody Schmidt, Executive Director at (541) 552-6154, email  Director@ChamberMusicConcerts.org or purchase your tickets online at: https://www.chambermusicconcerts.org/

FREE Bollywood Workshop: Saturday, April 30th at 11AM
Theatre Building/ROOM:THR 137

Sign up by emailing Neeta Singh at neeta@neetanaturals.com
Guest Instructor: Neeta Singh, CEO Neeta Naturals Ayurveda Wellness
Spots available first come, first served. Limited space.
About the Workshop: This workshop (open to the SOU Community) will be a unique opportunity to get to know and learn the basics of a traditional Bollywood dance style, which we all have seen so many times in the movies. Participants will spend the first-half of the workshop learning Bhangra, the high energy folk dance originating from the north Indian state of Punjab. During the other half of the workshop, Neeta will introduce you to the exotic world of Bollywood, India’s largest film industry based out of Mumbai. You will learn the basics of both dances, as well as build a choreography for each dance form that will have you smiling throughout the class and workshop.

About the Artist: Neeta Singh performs year-round concerts, wedding receptions, private parties, fundraisers, corporate events, social/public events, and festivals. She also provides private lessons and training for special events.

For more information or for tickets to any of the above events contact the OCA Box Office M-F from 3-6pm at 541-552-6348, email boxoffice@sou.edu, or come visit us in person to get your tickets. All April-June events are listed at https://oca.sou.edu The OCA Box Office is located between the Music and Theatre buildings at 491 S. Mountain Avenue next to Jefferson Public Radio. E-ticketing available over the phone – avoid long lines and concert delays, and get your free tickets early before the concert day – thank you! 

SOU percussion groups to play in New York

On repeat: prominent NYC music festival features SOU percussion ensembles

Southern Oregon University’s percussion ensembles received a special invitation two years ago to perform at the Bang on a Can “LONG PLAY” music festival – a three-day NYC event each year that draws hundreds of percussive artists from around the world. With instruments nearly packed and ready to go, SOU’s contingency had to wait while the world paused for the pandemic.

The invitation was extended again this year and with renewed fervor, SOU’s percussion faculty – Terry Longshore, Bryan Jeffs and Reed Bentley – will venture to NYC with percussion students and perform during the festival, April 29 through May 1.

SOU will be the only university participating in the May Day festival, and students will share the stage with a cadre of some of the biggest names, composers and musicians, in the world of percussion – an impressive “who’s who” of new music. A total of 11 percussion students, three faculty members and two SOU alumni will participate during the festival, which features 50-plus percussive artists and 60-plus concerts across eight pioneering music venues in Brooklyn. Performances will be held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), Roulette, Public Records, Littlefield, Mark Morris Dance Center, The Center for Fiction, outdoor events at The Plaza at 300 Ashland and more.

Longshore’s longstanding connections with festival producers prompted the recent invitations and opportunities for SOU students. He has been involved in the weekend festival since the early 1990’s and performed twice during his own master’s program. He has also made connections with composers and other percussionists through his own professional music career and has participated in the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival at MASS MoCA.

Bang on a Can was founded in 1987 by lauded contemporary composers Julia Wolfe, David Lang and Michael Gordon. Lang and Wolfe have each been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music. Gordon is the composer of “Natural History,” which premiered with a 2016 performance at Crater Lake by the Britt Festival Orchestra with Steiger Butte Drum, members of the SOU Percussion Ensemble and various SOU music faculty and students.

“Right now – this minute – is an amazing time to love music,” Wolfe, Lang and Gordon said in a statement about this year’s festival. “Musicians and listeners from every corner of the music world are pushing beyond their boundaries, questioning their roots, searching and stretching for the new. There’s so much audacity and so much courage. We want to show you all of it.

“With the creation of LONG PLAY, we are presenting more kinds of musicians, playing more kinds of music, bending more kinds of minds. LONG PLAY expands and enlarges our scope and our reach, and puts more new faces on stage than ever before. It’s a lot of music!”

The theme of this year’s festival is “An Explosion of Mind-Bending Music of the Moment.” Some of the headliner/highlighted groups: Bang on a Can All-Stars, Kris David/Dave Holland, Matmos, Michael Pisaro, Pan in Motion, Sun Ra Arkestra and Vijay Iyer.

Left Edge Percussion, directed by Longshore, is SOU’s graduate-level percussion group in residence at SOU’s Oregon Center for the Arts. The group regularly collaborates with artists of various media, and are featured at festivals and events worldwide.

The SOU Percussion Ensemble, directed by SOU alumnus and faculty member Bryan Jeffs, is made up of SOU music program students who perform on campus and across the Rogue Valley at a variety of community events. Several students who were slated for the 2020 festival will now get the chance to participate.

“I was so disappointed the festival was cancelled in 2020,” said Jared Rountree, a junior music major and member of the SOU Percussion Ensemble. “But when we were invited again to this year’s festival, I was overwhelmed and excited. I am so ready to get out there and perform again in front of a big audience – I feel like I’m getting my life back through music.”

“We will perform along a star-studded cast of performers and composers at the festival, and this is truly an incredible opportunity for our students and alumni,” Longshore said.

And speaking of alumni, two of Longshore’s first music students – Joseph Perez ‘07 and Rebecca Merusi ‘06 – will meet up and perform with SOU during the festival.

“The piece ‘ricefall’ is composed for 16 players and we only had 14,” Longshore said. “So I reached out to a couple of percussion alumni that live near Brooklyn, to see if they would join us.”

“I didn’t even hesitate to say yes, when Terry called and asked if I would perform,” Merusi said. “I started as a percussion ensemble at SOU before Terry arrived at SOU. Now, to be joining them in a performance 20 years later, is absolutely epic.

“SOU is very much a center for the arts, and I am unbelievably proud of my experience and legacy there, and enthusiastic about everything that continues to develop.”

Merusi is connected with the Eastman School of Music, plays with a local philharmonic ensemble, and is an executive team leader for Target Corporation.

Both SOU groups will perform one piece during the festival. Left Edge Percussion will perform “Strange and Sacred Noise” by composer and Pulitzer Prize for Music awardee John Luther Adams, at 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 30. Adams uses his music to describe the natural world, how nature changes us and how we change it, impacting the health of our planet.

The SOU Percussion Ensemble will perform at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 29, a piece called “ricefall” by Michael Pisaro, director of the Composition and Experimental Sound program at the California Institute of the Arts. The ensemble in this piece will create a sonic environment, visual and intensely quiet and dramatic, and use rice falling like a gentle rain, from the hands of the performers, onto a variety of objects and surfaces.

The festival won’t be livestreamed, but tickets are available at: www.longplayfestival.org, and range from $95 to $350.

SOU’s percussion groups will also perform on campus – both ensembles will perform Re-Construction at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 5, in the SOU Music Recital Hall; the SOU Percussion Ensemble will perform “ricefall” at 7:30 p.m. on May 26 in the SOU Music Recital Hall; and Left Edge Percussion will perform “Strange and Sacred Noise” on June 3 at the CVA First Friday Gallery Opening in the courtyard in front the SOU Art Building.

Story by Kim Andresen, Oregon Center for the Arts at SOU