Lehigh University art major Katherine Koomar hosts the opening reception of her honors thesis show “Perspective & Form”.  Opening this evening, April 29 at 5:00pm at Jumbar’s Restaurant, 1342 Chelsea Avenue, Bethlehem PA 18018.  Exhibition runs through May 22 at Jumbar’s.
kkoomar_invitation

Symphonie Fantastique – dig deep

This coming Friday and Saturday (April 29 & 30) at 8pm in Baker Hall, Zoellner Arts Center, the LU Philharmonic will perform Berlioz’ masterwork, Symphonie Fantastique along with Verdi’s Overture to La Forza del Destino and Wagner’s Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde.

If you’re a particularly passionate orchestra masterworks enthusiast, here’s a few other goodies worth investigating on Berlioz’ piece:

Philharmonia Orchestra Viola player Sam Burstin explores the story surrounding the creation of Symphonie Fantastique in this listening guide. He also walks through some of the compositional techniques that pull the story through the movements (idée fixes, other symbolism and references) It’s only 5:14 – and worth a look if only for the production ideas. IMHO, some of them are a bit over the top; at least worth an “lol.”

Call Me Maybe

Related to that, Esa-Pekka Salonen from the Philharmonic Orchestra introduces Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, narrative programme music for the modern orchestra. If you listen to this 4:15 clip to the end, you’ll hear a bit about their app which offers interactive scores to follow along as you listen to the pieces, plus other insights into the art form that is orchestral music.

The London Symphony orchestra also produced a listening guide for Symphonie Fantastique.

If you don’t view these videos, there’s one compositional technique worth knowing about before you listen to the concert. It’s rather like understanding some of the finer rules of baseball; or at least having some idea of what you might listen for. The technique is called the idée fixes. In Wagner’s work, it’s called the leitmotif. You have heard this technique if you know the music that associates with Darth Vader in Star Wars, or the shark in Jaws, or the shower scene in Psycho. Music in film does this frequently. And the dies irae tune in the 4th movement? In Berlioz’ time, that tune was a familiar as “Happy Birthday” is to our culture. When we hear “Happy Birthday” we know what it means. The “dies irae” – it means you’re at a funeral.

If you need something with a little less production and more insight into Berlioz’ motivations, Linda Ganus Albulescu shared her program notes that will also be available at the concert. Just click here -> Berlioz program note

Friends With Benefits at the Fun House

On Thursday, April 21st, I went with a friend to see Friends With Benefits, a Lehigh student band, perform at the Fun House. Personally, I have never been to the venue prior to this evening, and my friend has also only been there once throughout his four years here at Lehigh. The main reason why I chose this event was to support our friend Adam, the guitarist/ukulele player in the band.

 

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Fun House’s Schedule, with showcases on Thursdays

Friends With Benefits, a cover band that mainly plays acoustic rendition of hit and classic songs (Taylor Swift, Fetty Wap, Jack Johnson, Ben Folds, etc.) as well as a few originals written by the band. As a group they have performed at various Lehigh competitions like Battle of the Bands, Frattle, Open Mic, etc.

The Thursday time slot was originally booked for Steel City Sunrise, but an accident involving lead singer Mikale rendered the band unable to perform for this night. A few days later, Friends with Benefit member Marc Wiener met Fun House’s owner Lilian at her bar, and their conversation led to the mark of FWB’s first debut to the local community.

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FWB members: Andrew Abend, Rob Weaver, Adam Weiner, Paul Brasavage, Marc Wiener

The show promptly started at 10:30pm, after the band did a quick sound check. Due to the venue setup and the fact that it is a bar, lighting was very minimal throughout the building, and there was no spot light on the performer at all. The crowd consisted of about five to seven local people sitting at the bar, and four Lehigh students sitting right across the band – a relatively low turnout, but not surprisingly considering that it’s still early into the night.

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View of the stage and bar area

Yet within half an hour of playtime, one by one, Lehigh students started showing up to form a large crowd. One thing I noticed is that everyone here is either friends of the band or friend of a friend. This is a perfect example of the symbiotic relationship between Lehigh University and the Bethlehem community that the school resides in. By inviting Friends with Benefit to play at the Fun House, Lilian helped the band boost its reputation and experience, all the while attracting a large customer segment that otherwise may have never stepped foot into the bar.

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The size of the crowd, half an hour into the gig

In terms of performance, the band did a really good job with audience engagement by allowing song requests on top of playing upbeat and trendy songs. At one point, lead singer Paul asked the crowd to sing along, and in another instance everyone started standing up to form a dance floor. It was a very authentic live music experience, and I would say that the show succeeded in this aspect.

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The crowd dancing to FWB’s Ben Folds cover

 

One thing that stood out to me, though, was the homogeneity of the crowd. Everyone there that listened to the band was Lehigh students, and the local Bethlehem residents were all sitting at the bar area instead. This makes me wonder what the best way to integrate the two groups together harmoniously is. Another question the event posed is, how will Fun House act to retain the students – a customer segment known for really high churn rates – that showed up tonight? Customer acquisition is a key activity for any business, so will the bar keep inviting Lehigh University artists over to eventually familiarize the venue in the minds of attendants?

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Local bar goers, seemingly less interested in the event happening

Interviewing Students about Spring on Southside

During the festival, I managed to track down fellow Lehigh students and ask them a couple questions about the event and what they thought of the day. These were their responses

 

Name: Briana Papp

When you first heard about the festival: The day of the event from friends

What you thought of the festival: Really nice way to explore South Bethlehem and visit some places I didn’t even know existed

Where did you go that you never have before: Banana Factory

Will you visit more places on the south side after this event: Yes

What do you think needs to be done to get Lehigh students more involved in the Bethlehem community?: Better advertising on campus for the events and activities available in the Bethlehem community

 

Name: Nick Stern

When you first heard about the festival: The day before it occurred

What you thought of the festival: It was a lot of fun and it was really cool walking from place to place and seeing all of South Side. Noticed a lot of places I did not know existed

Where did you go that you never have before: Tally Ho and Banana Factory

Will you visit more places on the south side after this event: Definitely think so

What do you think needs to be done to get Lehigh students more involved in the Bethlehem community?” People always respond to incentives, such as free food and stuff, but also more advertising. A large struggle is getting Greek life to attend, so it should be mandatory and enforced by IFC and Panhell to send a certain number of representatives

 

Name: Elvin Cardona

When you first heard about the festival: I heard about this from a friend.

What you thought of the festival: I thought the festival was fun and lively. I enjoyed the pepper eating contest.

Where did you go that you never have before:  I went to the Social distillery which I never would’ve visited if it was for the festival

 

Kappa Delta’s Shamrock ‘n’ Roll

On Saturday April 9th, I attended the Kappa Delta’s Shamrock rock ‘n’ roll event. While going there was mainly due to the fact that my friend told me to come as it was to support his girlfriend, I was pleasantly surprised by the music when I got there. While far under dressed as it included a silent auction and over caffeinated from going during the middle of a study break, I was relived to see food and here pleasant jazz music from a group playing on stage.

I had no idea about the fact that there was going to be live music even though the name of the event should have given it away. However, I was blown away when I learned that the group playing on stage was the Lehigh Jazz band. From my perspective they seemed to be a totally professional worthy sound, and while not a major jazz fan, still enjoy listening to it on occasion.  While I stood there eating chicken nuggets I had come to eat for the 5-dollar fee I played, I spent most of the time listening to the band and talking to friends. The music seemed to perfectly fit the theme of the event, and while not 100% musically oriented, gave ground for the event to take place over a long time and justified a reason to stay and enjoy yourself.

After the jazz band got off there were two more performances with the first being the a cappella group. While I had heard the group perform before, it was my freshman year, and it was a pleasant surprise to hear updated music and new group members, in addition to far more crowd interaction and enthusiasm while listening to the musical group.

After the groups had all finished I parted my way from the event and went back to studying, but it made me come to the realization that our nagging friends in such groups (me having friends in the a cappella group) to watch them perform should be worth our time more than we think. Often I get asked and rather than not wanting to go to such performances, it is often apathy or lack of time common to the Lehigh college student where these students do not get the respect and admiration for the practice and skill they pose for these performances.

DanceFest @ Zoellner Arts Center

On Friday March 25th I attended my first DanceFest in Zoellner Arts Center. Having a close friend on the Lehigh Dance Team, I have had the opportunity to attend other dance performances around campus, however Dance Fest provided a completely different experience. I had made an effort to attend this event in years past and am truly glad that I was able to make it before I graduate this May. Luckily finding a group of friends to attend wasn’t difficult, as everyone wanted to go cheer on (and maybe slightly embarrass with large personalized posters) our sorority sister.

As a senior I am truly grateful that I was able to attend such a wonderful event full of immense talent and an indescribable energy; however I wish these types of events were better marketed to the Lehigh community. Before the event I had no idea that there were so many creative and remarkably talented dance groups on campus. It was inspiring to see so many people that I knew and recognized from classes and around campus showcasing their months of extreme hard work and clear devotion to their respective art form. Unfortunately for me, watching all these groups perform reminded me of how painfully sub par my dancing skills are…

I was also shocked that the headlining dance group, the Desi Hoppers (reigning World of Dance winners) came all the way from India to perform! Their performance was my favorite by far, their routine was like something I’d never seen or even heard of before. Their music mix was a perfect blend of traditional Indian and modern hip-hop (the Indian beats I learned were called “bhangra”) and their dance moves, while more hip-hop intensive, definitely had major hints of common Indian dance moves as well. All in all, their ability to seamlessly connect the two was extremely impressive and a treat to watch. If you’re one of those who wasn’t lucky enough to see this special performance, click here to see their insane World of Dance winning performance->Desi Hoppers World of Dance

Overall, I couldn’t have had a better Dance Fest experience. The timing was perfect for a Friday night (7-10pm) and the Zoellner Arts Venue made it all the more personal. I am so thankful I was able to attend an event as special as this and was able to be immersed in the passionate dance community  I never knew Lehigh had.

-Cady Zawatson, Lehigh University Class of 2016

Thursday Night at SteelStacks: Improv Comedy Power Hour

On Thursday evening, I had the opportunity to attend Improv Comedy Power Hour at SteelStacks. Rather than spending a typical Thursday night at Lehigh attending various house parties on 5th Street, my roommate and I decided to spend the evening out in South Bethlehem. Since Broadway Social offers a great happy hour deal on Thursday evenings, we made the decision to eat there for dinner before the show. Not only do they have happy hour specials on drinks, but Thursday evenings Broadway Social also offers buy one get one free burger specials. For college students on a relatively tight budget, this was a great deal for my roommate and myself. After dinner, since the comedy show did not start until 10pm, we had a little extra time and decided to make a stop at Molly’s Irish Pub and Grill to catch the end of the Philadelphia Flyers vs. Washington Capitals game on television; by making this stop at Molly’s it also broke up the walk and made it seem not as far from Broadway Social to ArtsQuest.

After the game finished around 9:30pm, we headed down to SteelStacks where we arrived a little early for the show. However, rather than having to sit around waiting for the doors to open, we were pleasantly surprised to find that local artists were playing live music in the common area of the building, also known as TD Community Stage. It was simple yet effective, creating a nice ambiance for people to grab a table and sit and enjoy prior to the show.

Despite being a senior at Lehigh and having lived in South Bethlehem for almost four years now, the ArtsQuest and SteelStacks experience is still somewhat foreign to me and I was pleased with the enjoyment of my experience there on Thursday night. Regretfully, this was only the third time I have made my way down to the ArtsQuest campus during my four years at Lehigh. It was earlier this semester, when our entrepreneurship class spent an afternoon at ArtsQuest meeting with Jon Lunger and Ryan Hill that I first learned about their comedy shows. In addition to Improv Comedy Power Hour, they offer Two Laugh Minimum and ManDudeBro, among others. When deciding what comedy show to attend, it really came down to the convenience of time that led to my decision to attend Improv Comedy Power Hour over the others. However, based on how much of a good time I had last night, I am already planning to bring my girlfriend to one of the comedy showings next week. Not only is SteelStacks a great place to go with friends/ roommates, but it also a great place for a date night as well.

Through our class discussion with Jon Lunger and Ryan Hill earlier this semester, we had the opportunity to discuss some of the details of the SteelStacks business model and their operations. It became clear that they have found it to be difficult to attract Lehigh students to the point that it is not worth their money to try and get students to attend their various shows and events. While my roommate and I found it to be no problem at all, and actually somewhat enjoyable walking the Southside of Bethlehem on a warm night like Thursday was, the reality is that the majority of college students are lazy. With that concept in mind, I believe that ArtsQuest would find a lot more success in attracting Lehigh Students if they offered a shuttle service from campus (i.e. Taylor Gym) to ArtsQuest. There is no doubt that there is demand on campus for alternative late-night activities other than partying and this is a great option that is severely underutilized in my opinion.

As it relates to the show itself, I had some good laughs and found the cast to be weird, hysterical, witty and thoroughly entertaining all at the same time. I have been to several comedy shows, but never been to an improv show before. It really is amazing how quickly these comics can think on their feet and come up with hilarious plot lines on the spot. The show was split into two, thirty-minute segments each performed by resident comedy teams made up of six or seven people. Tickets were just $5, which I felt was very inexpensive for an hour-long show. The stand up comedy shows that I have been to back at home in California were in the $15-30 range, so I was pleased with the affordability of the show. Despite only costing just $5, I was disappointed with the level of attendance for the show. In a relatively small theatre, the entire audience only filled up two rows. I was even more shocked after the introduction, when I realized the entire first row was made up of the cast of the two comedy teams performing. It made the audience feel empty when the first row became vacated once the show began as the comics took the stage, leaving the audience to comprise of only the second row. It is possible to attribute the lack of attendance to the fact that it was 10pm on a Thursday night, but regardless I am curious to attend another comedy show and compare the experiences, not just from an attendance perspective, but also from an overall comedy experience as well.

Zoellner Arts Comedy Show

I went to see Roy Wood Jr. and Jordan Keppler at the Zoellner arts center on 4/8/16. I did not know about this event until approximately 10 minutes before it started; my roommate mentioned that he was going and invited me to tag along.

The show itself was moderately funny. The duo consisted of a caucasian and african american. The jokes they told were focused on college life, addressing things like diets, homework, course load, textbook pricing, roomate-masturbation-scheduling and more. I had no real expectations going in, so I was pleasantly surprised by how close to home some of their jokes were. The two take their roots in the observational comedy tradition of Jerry Sienfield, and (with a greater deal of subtlety) the anecdotal comedy of Chris Rock and Russel Peters.

I did not engage in any other activities as part of the experience. There was no dress code to my knowledge, and I had already eaten dinner before finding out about the event. However, I did get a chance to meet them back stage for a brief period of time, but the line to talk to them was so long I would have missed my ride home if I had stayed.

I don’t think knowing more about the event beforehand would have improved it in any way. I did not have any expectations, but I also did not have any responsibilities. I did not have to drive or park the car, nor did I even have to buy my own ticket. It was entirely serendipitous that I attended this event and I did, in fact, laugh out loud on several occasions.

Gem on The Ocean, The Full Experience

At 5:30, I walked out of Fairchild Martindale Library and into a wonderful weekend. My classes and afternoon meetings were finished. A sense of relief flooded my body, as I allowed myself to mentally and physically release a week’s worth of challenging exams, tense interviews, and sleepless nights. A slight pounding in my head gnawed at me as a reminder of my exhaustion, but I chose to believe it was nothing more than euphoria pulsing through my veins. After all, I had an exciting evening ahead of me and sleep could certainly wait.

For one night, I would try something different. To say that I rarely indulge in Lehigh’s art scene is a gross understatement. During my freshman year, I attended a production of student run plays in Zoelner’s Diamond Theatre. During my sophomore year, I witnessed nothing more than a holiday choir concert at the Packard Memorial Church. Both events served as an eye-opening exposé of student talent and the experiences transcended my expectations of Lehigh’s art scene. Yet, as a second semester sophomore, my praise of Lehigh’s student talent is merely a hypocritical afterthought, because I have done the bare minimum to support it.

I would visit my brother in Washington DC and marvel at the cultural haven of arts and history available to him and other students at American University. To an extent, I was jealous of his enriched student experience, which contrasted the work hard, play hard mentality that envelops Lehigh’s student culture. Despite my longing for something different, I never attempted to find Lehigh’s cultural core, but tonight was an opportunity for change. For the sake of this reflection and my creative appetite, I bought tickets to see Gem on the Ocean.

I walked down South New Street, across the East Fourth intersection, and into Full of Crepes, where I met my girlfriend for an early evening dinner. Crepes in hand, we continued our stroll down the street and enjoyed dinner before the show on the Greenway. Neither of us knew anything about Gem on the Ocean and despite our curiosity, we decided to save the details for later. My only exposure to August Wilson was during an IB literature course in high school, where my classmates and I reenacted scenes from The Piano Lesson. Based on my reading, I knew that Wilson is known for conveying the comic and tragic aspects of the African American experience. I was excited to see how Lehigh students would capture and portray his unique style.

Our seating was ideal; we were far enough to suspend disbelief and capture the entire scene, but close enough to appreciate the set design and crafted facial expressions of the performers. Like a Monet painting, we wanted to stand back and witness each scene as a cohesive image. The student performances were incredible, far surpassing my expectations for this controversial work of art. The play itself gave way to a thought provoking message about morality and equal opportunity. Beyond the quality of the show, the cultural importance of Wilson’s work has hopefully inspired a new perspective and awareness among our student body.

To further engage in the experience, I ventured behind the scenes to learn about the production process and all of the hard work that made for a memorable performance. I initially decided to attend Gem on the Ocean because one of my brothers coordinated the stage management and set design for the production. After seeing the play, I spoke with him about the experience and I learned so much more about the process behind the performance. The picture below is a bird’s eye perspective from the rafters above the diamond theatre stage. From this vantage point, Alex spent many hours supervising rehearsals every Wednesday. Listening to him speak about the intricacies of the production was akin to standing two inches away from Monet’s Water Lily Pond and observing the patterns of each brushstroke. With a newfound appreciation of the artistic journey and the final destination, I can say with certainty that I will be returning to the Diamond Theatre as soon as I can.

Reflection

Piano Lessons at Lehigh University

When I was younger I use to play the flute. While I no longer remember all of the fingering and my flute has been in the back of my closet for a few years now, I never forgot how playing the flute would release all of my stress and angst. Music has a way of doing that. It allows you to express your feelings without saying any words, and sometimes it can be an even better way of communicating.

As a second semester senior, I decided this semester to take on a goal that I have had my entire life – I decided to learn how to play the piano. Lehigh offers piano lessons for credits, but I had a full schedule, so I decided to simply sign up for lessons. My decision to do so has been one of the best decisions I have made here at Lehigh.

I walked into my lesson for the first time not knowing what to expect. I knew how to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and that was about it. My instructor, Helen Bleedle, made me feel comfortable from the start, continually encouraging me even though when I tried to play my left and right hand together one hand would freeze and the other would play something completely different than what was written on the music in front of me. Even though at times I felt like I was a small child who couldn’t figure out how to type on a computer, Helen never let me give up. She taught me how to communicate to the world with my fingers and a piano, as opposed to in school where I learn how to communicate with a pencil and paper and my voice. From this experience I have learned how important it is to be able to express yourself in all different mediums. Music is a language that everyone can understand, no matter where you come from. Helen taught me how to have a conversation with anyone through teaching me how to play the piano.

Usually when I went to my piano lesson I was running from class. I would be stressed and usually a little sweaty thanks to the hills of Lehigh. Each time by the end of my 45-minute lesson I felt completely refreshed and ready to take on my life again. If anyone at Lehigh is dealing with stress issues, I would highly recommend taking up an instrument and participating in these classes. For 45 minutes during the lesson, and whenever you are practicing, you enter a new world of wonder where nothing outside of the room you are in matters. You can create whatever type of world you want. These lessons have opened up my eyes to the wonders of music and I am excited to learn even more about the art. I can honestly say that I want to continue my study of piano even after I leave Lehigh, and who knows I may even pick up another instrument one day.

I am grateful to now be a part of the music community and excited to share what I have learned with my peers and the world.