Top arts@Lehigh stories of 2014

blog image 2014 year in review
An email I received Monday inspired this post. I was asked to share the top three arts stories at Lehigh University.
Instead of picking the top three arts@Lehigh stories of 2014, I picked the top three stories in categories that represent how I think about the arts when I look around campus: guest artists, arts news, student production, faculty research, and campus arts integration.
Guest Artists – top three:
3. Smokey Robinson at the 2014 Zoellner Arts Center Gala. Mr. Robinson was generous, and in great voice.
2. Nas and Angela Davis for the MLK keynote. Yeah, that was kinda huge, even if Nas wasn’t a “Zoellner” guest artists in the sense that he wasn’t performing. Thanks to Dr. James Peterson for bringing him to Lehigh. There’s nothing like celebrity status to start social justice discussions.
1. Darlene Love – Zoellner’s Artistic Director Deborah Sacarakis really nailed the timing of Darlene Love’s show in Bethlehem the day after her final Late Night with David Letterman performance.
Top three News Stories:
3. Zoellner Administrative Director Andy Cassano led the PA Presenters conference in May 2014. We are fortunate to have a visionary leader not only for our campus arts center, but for Pennsylvania.
2. Deborah Sacarakis was honored by the Lehigh Valley Dance Consortium with the Distinguished Service Award. (April 6, 2014)
1. Andy Cassano responds to Bethlehem City Council/Mayor proposal to raise the Amusement Tax in an op-ed piece to the Morning Call.
Student Production
3. Mustard & Cheese Reefer Madness. The writer, Dan Studney came to the show on Dec 6th !
2. Marching 97 at Yankee Stadium
1. Lisa Glover – Kit Rex
Faculty Research (items picked with performance dates in mind)
3. Erica Hoelsher – Costumes and mask design for the Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium’s production of Eugéne Ionesco’s Rhinoceros
2. Bill Warfield’s CD Release Party at Iridium
1. Steven Sametz with LU Choral Arts at Carnegie Hall
Campus Arts Integration
3. Increasing community school outreach. McKinley Elementary School second graders tour the campus after lunch in Rathbone Dining Hall and seeing Lightwire Theater at Zoellner. That campus engagement led to a week long residency in July with local artist, Doug Royston. In October, the entire Broughal Middle School saw Cirque Alfonse. The PBS39 covered that story here:
Both of these opportunities were the results of campus support; financial support from College of Education and College of Arts & Sciences, staff volunteer campus tour guides, and generous expertise from local artist, Doug Royston and the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley.
2. TIE Mercy Killers & Shostakovich 7th. Mercy Killers is a heart wrenching look at the consequences of America’s health care system. The one-man play was written and performed by Michael Milligan. Experts from Lehigh faculty and administration were on hand to provide reflection and discussion after each show. Story by student Madison Gouveia in Lehigh’s Brown and White. The Lehigh University Philharmonic took an extensive semester long study of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 which was written during the 1943-1944 siege of Leningrad. Books, films and a presentation by Lehigh University Russian language and literature professor Mary Nicholas gave the musicians a deeper understanding of the piece and its relevance to current Russian culture and politics.
1. Hammerschlag Design series. Envisioned by two faculty, Anthony Viscardi and Nick Nikolov, these experience fully embraced the creative potential of the Mountaintop Learning Environment.

Links to Darlene Love

Building excitement around a living legend is on one hand exciting, but on the other, intimidating! There’s so much about Darlene Love to get excited about. For our readers, here is a compilation of links to Darlene Love’s impressive work and some other interesting things collected along the way:

A list of 15 videos of Darlene Love:

Darlene Love’s first performance of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” on David Letterman, 1986

Nice 3:29 video recap of her earlier work:

Articles worth reading:

John Moser of The Morning Call interview and article

Dustin Schoof of The Express Times article Singer Darlene Love says fans will be ‘shocked’ by new solo album

David Letterman Says Goodbye to a Nearly 30-Year-Old Holiday Tradition

Darlene Love on Oscars, Letterman farewell, Springsteen-annointed Album

BvmBRvlIIAA-B6f-1Rolling Stone article on Darlene Love’s new album produced by Stevie Van Sandt

Carmina Amoris (Songs of Love)


Photo by Iris Gross Derke

Celebrating 145 years of singing, the Lehigh Choral Arts fall concert features director Steven Sametz’s choral symphony Carmina Amoris; a dynamic masterwork that sets a collection of medieval poems and love letters to music for orchestra, chorus, tenor and soprano soloists. The concert features sopranos Carmen Pelton and Tami Petty, and Grammy-winning tenor William Burden.

If you have not yet heard one of Sametz’ compositions, you may be delighted to experience music that is at one time tender, and another time tumultuous. The signers are put through the wringer in articulation. Often times their syllables turn percussive; somewhat more a sound scape than language. One need look to the text to see how Sametz adapts melody to deliver the delicate nuances of love. But just as you’ve been soothed, the realities of being in love come crashing in with frenetic understanding of the frustrations of relationships. What compels Sametz to write on love with such vigorous complexity?

Sametz’ program note explains, “When I first began to look at medieval Latin texts for Carmina amoris, the epigrams, marginalia, and love letters I found by clerics and nuns from the fourth to the thirteenth centuries were a revelation. The beauty and freshness of the language spoke across the centuries.  In matters of love (longing, desire, lamenting, sleepless wondering, making up and quarreling), it appears not much has changed from the so-called “dark ages” to our own well-illumined era.”

Writing about Sametz’ work in the Choral Journal, Douglas Boyer states, “Reflecting the growing debate on gay civil liberties, [this work] speaks to the struggle that has been inherent for the gay population for centuries.”

To attend any of the performance of this work, whether this weekend or next week in New York, one may walk away with a renewed sense of purpose.

The Choral Arts performs Carmina Amoris and I Have Had Singing in Baker Hall, Zoellner Arts Center on Friday, November 14th and Saturday November 15th – both at 8pm, or next week at the historic performance in Carnegie Hall on Friday, November 21 at 7pm in honor of Lehigh’s 150th anniversary. To understand the significance of the Carnegie Hall performance, the Lehigh University Communications Office prepared this video:

For deeper look into Sametz’ composition, please visit his website through which he shares the original Latin texts, English translations, and even sound clips of the work. But don’t let this complete online access to his work replace the moment of sharing the life of the work in live performance. To be surrounded by the natural acoustics of the human voice to ear; presented by musicians of the highest caliber in a concert hall built for exactly this connection, is to experience the best quality of sound and spirit.

We’re number …. what now?

reviewlogoThe Princeton Review has just released the annual list of  “[insert whatever of 58 topics here] college lists. Here are some of the topics where Lehigh ranked in the top 20.

  • Best College Library – Lehigh made # 20
  • Best Science Lab Facilities – Lehigh made # 14
  • Top Party Schools – Lehigh made # 6
  • Little Race/Class Interaction – Lehigh made #10
  • Town-Gown Relations Strained – Lehigh made #3. At least Duke beat us on this one.

For those interested, here is a link to their Lehigh University profile.

The criteria for the rankings:

Based on surveys of 130,000 students (average 343 per campus) at the colleges in the book in 2013-14 and/or the previous two school years. The survey asks students 80 questions about their school’s academics, administration, student body, and themselves. The ranking methodology uses a five-point Likert scale (1-most disagree, 2-disagree, 3-neutral, 4-agree, 5-most agree)  to convert qualitative student assessments (a.k.a, student’s opinions) into quantitative (a.k.a, numbers that offer ranking scale) data for school-to-school comparisons.

No school has ever paid a fee to be profiled in the Princeton Review.

The Princeton Review list is very different from the US World News & Report rankings in which this year, Lehigh was tied with FIVE others schools at #41. According to their website: “The host of intangibles that make up the college experience can’t be measured by a series of data points. But for families concerned with finding the best academic value for their money, the U.S. News Best Colleges rankings provide an excellent starting point for the search.”

Their criteria is a bit more robust: Schools in the National Universities category offer a full range of undergraduate majors, plus master’s and Ph.D. programs, and emphasize faculty research. Topics such as faculty resources (student/ faculty ratio, # of PhDs), student retention, tuition, graduation rate, financial resources, and alumni giving rate are measured. But the topic that gets the most significant weight is the undergraduate academic reputation: opinions of those in a position to judge a school’s undergraduate academic excellence. The academic peer assessment survey allows top academics – presidents, provosts and deans of admissions – to account for intangibles at peer institutions such as faculty dedication to teaching.

While no one has ever paid to boost school rankings directly, there is a significant amount of resources (time, energy and money) allocated to make sure our reputation reflects our adherence to the educational mission of the school:

“To advance learning through the integration of teaching, research, and service to others.”

(read the full mission statement here)

The Princeton Review (to some) may have about the same credibility as a Buzzfeed Survey. To potential future students or parents of future students, these rankings can be a significant influencer on their school choice or their expectations of their experience before they even get here.

Why do I (an arts administrator at Lehigh) check the Princeton Review lists? Because it’s good to know what might be informing student expectations about their campus experience on all levels of life and learning. Institutional awareness means listening to student opinions as well as finding other research studies that inform our continuous improvement. Yes, there’s always room for improvement.

Why write a blog post about it? Because some of our non-campus readers may hear us talking about this topic in whispered tones over coffee or lunch in the community? Or maybe it’s because it’s a national news item every time the rankings are updated. Some may wonder if it is validation, or a distraction. Either way on this topic, we bob our heads up once a year to size up ourselves against our aspirational and peer institutions. Then we go back to work in service to the students who choose to come to Lehigh.

Now… what can we do to improve our score on strained Town-Gown relations?

YouTube about to change drastically – things you should know

Independent career networking and promotion in the arts via YouTube is going to be changing drastically. Soon. Announced just days ago,

youtube-logo2“YouTube is preparing to radically change the site, adding a subscription service that is intended to help them compete in the streaming music industry. The Google-owned video site has already signed new licensing deals with all of the major labels, but many independents are refusing to take part.” (read more in the Forbes article by Hugh Macintire) and the subsequent post by Ellen Huet (keep sculling under the first article) in which she describes more directly what is happening:

“YouTube is launching a paid subscription streaming music service to compete with Spotify and Pandora later this summer. It will be integrated with the free, ad-supported YouTube users are used to, but with added features available to paying subscribers.”

As an arts administrator, I use YouTube daily for research and for audience development. I’m not exactly sure how this change will impact the tools for the trade. I use YouTube videos to help people get a sense for artists they’ve never heard of; musicians, dancers, spoken word, speeches. I link to videos frequently for relevant content on social media sites. Curating art content would be a huge hit if the independent artists I support are going to have new limits on how we get to know them in a virtual world. I’m wondering what local musicians are thinking.

Before any conversation though, I’m now looking up artists like Dina Hall, Not for Coltrane, Dave Fry (this is not his channel, but a really cool TEDx Talk he gave worth a listen)*, Philadelphia Funk Authority *, Jon Fadem, Large Flowerheads, Dave Doll (And his band Beautiful Distortion), Alisa B Anderson, …

Paul Salerni, Bill Warfield, Steven Sametz, Eugene Albulescu, Michael Jorgensen, and the list can go on to include all the performance faculty, composition students current and alumni…. or even precious videos of Lehigh University’s ensembles.

After that brief research exercise, I found some names listed above have their own channels, others were tagged so that I could easily find videos in which they appear. By golly, if the capacity to gather these sounds in order for their artistry to speak for itself is limited – we’re all going to have to rethink how we touch the music. How will this change our habits, our constant need to have everything available through the keystrokes of our devices? Might we actually see more live music and … PAY FOR IT?!?!?

Some reflection in view of my vinyl record collection is required. Maybe I’ll up my biannual contribution to public radio. Thoughts are running by so furiously – I’m not sure where to end this post. Maybe I’ll just stop typing and turn on some music I actually paid for.

[any and all thoughts and conversation welcome here or in person if you see me at the next Farmer’s Market in Campus Square, before a show at Godfrey Daniels, hanging around the Sun Inn Court Yard, the City Hall Sculpture Garden, Levitt Pavillion at Steelstacks or in the Zoellner lobby] Trust me – this issue is just as compelling as Net Neutrality.

Maybe John Oliver will do an episode on this, too.

* internet searching always gives me a few distractions that lead down unexpected rabbit holes. But they also trigger other ideas and connections. Like, the TEDxTalk I’m dreaming about – and the fact that the Philly Funk Authority is playing in the Sculpture Garden 6-8pm on Friday.

A profound sadness amidst the celebration of music.


Want to know about a Bethlehem music champion that left us too soon?

Originally posted on Godfrey Daniels!:

by Dave Fry

How does one define Space? It has no boundaries, to begin with.


We lost our immediate personification of Space when we lost our own Mike Space this week, who passed in his sleep in his new home in the Caribbean.  He was recreating another chapter in his active and creative life with his soul mate Judi Space, off on the island paradise of Vieques.



When Mike and Judi moved up to the Lehigh Valley from Philly, he brought with him his love of folk music, art, good food and general large living, along with his hands-on skills as a mechanic. And it was his love of getting under the hood that made him invaluable as he began his career as a folk-music promoter, sound man, and radio DJ.

Personally, he was the right man for the big job of Artistic Director at Godfrey’s when he…

View original 389 more words

The Arts Scene in Bethlehem, is All About Family

Last Wednesday, I had a chance to sneak into the Ice House for a quick peek on a legendary event. I was only able to stay for one song (dang over-commitment habit), but I saw enough to be in awe of this community.

The event was a benefit concert for one of Bethlehem’s most amazing musicians and great human being; Dave Fry. Lots of folks from the arts community were there – almost just about everyone. I saw so many familiar faces, and a ton of folks I know were there because of their love of the man of the night. You see, Dave Fry needs help. He’s got some ridiculous medical bills and some of his closest friends decided it was time to help the guy who helps so many.

Dave has lots of friends. Lots of good friends. Here’s just a couple:

photo by Hub Wilson

photo by Hub Wilson

<– From left to right, that’s Terry Mutchler, John Gorka, David Bromberg, and Dave Fry. Even getting Hub’s picture for this post is a sign of love and support for Dave. All I had to do was ask – Hub delivered. Same as getting into the balcony to take a quick shot of the crowd before the concert started. All I had to do was ask – and respectfully do what I said I would do – write this post.

photo by Silagh White

photo by Silagh White

Here’s a couple [hundred, maybe 260, give or take if I’m talking to the Fire Marshall] more of Dave’s friends. —————- >

It was an incredible evening of love. The music was great. Dave’s stories were funny (even new). And we got to hear some amazing music from John Gorka, David Bromberg, Ansel Barnum and Dave.

As I was collecting thoughts for this post, just reading Dave’s Facebook Page is like a great big hug; not gushy, over the top narcissism. Dave works his butt off, plays his heart out, and never has a bad word to say about anyone. He gives his all no matter if he’s playing to a crowd of grown ups, or hundreds of kids in a school assembly.

If you’ve seen a school assembly, you know how hard it can be to keep 200+ grade schoolers engaged. You want to know tough audiences? Kids can be brutal. But never with Dave. Why? Because he loves them. He knows they love his music. The kids know he loves them, too. It’s pretty obvious just by watching them dance to his music.

I’m proud to say we have both of his kids’ CDs, “I Like Peanut Butter” (1998) and “Shake It” (2001). True story; for my kids’ 4th birthday, we hired Dave to play a little concert at the Lehigh University Child Care. I just couldn’t take another hour at Chuck E Cheese (Can you say Dante’s Inferno?). It was so cool to have the kids wiggling around, dancing, singing, being silly (*gratuitous historical image at the bottom of post). When it was over, we packed up and went to our favorite pizza parlor. Singing Dave’s songs all the way to our hot and cheesy pie.

Why do I burden the reader with a tale of family? Because Dave became part of ours at that birthday party. My kids now go to Holy Infancy School, just down the street from Godfrey Daniels. Dave goes to this school often. We might even hear some stuff from the school on his next album – which, BTW, was funded by Linney Fowler before she died. How cool is it that she saw enough community good in Dave’s work, that she helped him cover the studio recording and production costs. Putting together an album of music is a leap of faith. Linney had faith in Dave Fry. And I have faith that this community will come through for Dave, too.

Dave’s health is “doing fine,” (his words) but there’s still those nagging medical bills. If you have a little bit to give, here’s how you can help out the guy who is nothing but pure joy in this community. Here is how you can make a still make a donation.

Mail your check (payable to Dave Fry) to Godfrey’s address, 7 E Fourth St, Bethlehem 18015.
If you have a PayPal account, send contributions directly to Dave’s PayPal account, via his email address

If you need a little motivation to pull out your wallet, or check your bank account, enjoy this video of John Gorka’s song, composed just for the occasion:

March 21, 2007 - photo by S White

Gratuitous Historical Image
March 21, 2007 – photo by S White

Are You a Princess?


Have you ever wished you had time to read the book before you found out an international renowned author was coming to campus? Do you wish for time to read the work of an author, reflect on  ideas, perhaps even engage intellectual dialogue with an academic colleague?

Well you have the power in your own ruby slippers to make this happen. Click your heels three times and join the Women’s Center for a book discussion in preparation for Peggy Orenstein‘s upcoming visit to Lehigh, part of Zoellner Arts Center’s 2013-2014 Season.

We will read and discuss Orenstein’s popular book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture.

Chapters 1-6:
Tuesday, June 11 at 8am-9am or Wednesday, June 12 at 3pm-4pm
Discussion led by Brooke DeSipio, assistant director of the Women’s Center

Chapters 7-10:
Tuesday, June 18 at 8am-9am or Wednesday, June 19 at 12pm-1pm
Discussion led by Rita Jones, director of the Women’s Center

Please rsvp with Traci Mindler ( or phone 610-758-6484) by 5pm TODAY (May 22) to reserve your complimentary copy of the book and to note which dates you will attend. You will receive a follow-up email after you rsvp.


plaque Last night, the Arts@Lehigh blog won the “Art” category title of  the My Choice Voice – Best of the Lehigh Valley Blog contest. I’m thrilled that our readers and friends gave the support by their votes. The significance of this award is in a few areas:

1. Blogging isn’t something you need permission to do. You just do it. If there is something important that needs to be said, shared or discussed, you don’t have to wait for someone else to say it, share it, or start the discussion. Blogs are a readily available tool that anyone can do. In addition to writing blogs, feel free to expand your understanding of the universe by reading other blogs. Last night was another reminder of the breadth and depth of local bloggers. I have come to know many of these people through their blogs; a few of them I would call good friends. Only one other person on the list of bloggers last night works at Lehigh. He is such a supportive friend in Arts@Lehigh’s communications efforts. Thanks, Prof. Twitter.

2. The arts are all around us. While “arts” might not be the identity many of us boldly wear on our sleeves, the instrument that is displaying these words, the chair you may be sitting on while you are reading this sentence, or if you happen to glance away from the screen – you will see something that is informed by art. Art is not merely entertainment. It is discovery and communication. To be able to write about art, to share information about art, or to simply be artful – is why we blog about it. As Alec Baldwin said, “Art is all around me. So maybe I should introduce myself.”

3. The Lehigh Valley is full of creative, passionate and dedicated people who also support many things. Last night, all of the people at the event shared the “blogger” identity; but also have multiple talents and dreams. While some may just want people to “lighten up and find fun in your own back yard,” others are dedicated to sharing their passion for vegan cooking, Lehigh Valley sports, or the humor they see in their daily lives.

I’d like to thank again, the Morning Call for their support of local blogging. I also need to personally thank all of the readers who voted in the contest. Here’s a slide show of images taken by the Morning Call. See the entire album here.

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Department of Theatre- Graduating Seniors

Lehigh University’s Department of Theatre wishes these graduating students hearty congratulations and well wishes! They have been highly active in multiple productions, both on stage and behind the scenes. We thank them for their contributions to the arts at Lehigh University, and look forward to seeing them again. They have delighted, inspired and shared their passions. We are truly moved by their dedication. Some of them may still be here for a fifth year – we support and thank them all!

Connor Marr

Casey Dutt

Brittany Geeta Johnson

Jon Hoffman

Luke Ingram

Andrew William Chupa

Rebecca Osborne

Erin Jenkins

Wonú Owo

Lorentz Aberg

Esperanza Pacheco

Lauren Christman

Emily Koehler

Sam Hodges