Hollins Celebrates Founder’s Day, ‘All-Steinway School’ Designation

foundersHollins University’s official recognition as an “All-Steinway School,” along with performances by Hollins students and faculty and a concert by an internationally acclaimed pianist, highlighted this year’s commemoration of Founder’s Day on February 20.

Founder’s Day celebrates the birth of Charles Lewis Cocke, who served as president of Hollins from 1846 until his death in 1901. Even though Cocke came to Hollins after its establishment in 1842, he is considered the school’s founder because the institution would not have survived without his leadership during financial crises, disease epidemics, the Civil War, and other challenges.

Each year, Founder’s Day begins with members of the senior class processing to the Cocke Family Cemetery, located on the southeast end of campus, and placing a wreath on Mr. Cocke’s grave. The senior class traditionally chooses a member of the campus community to accompany them to the cemetery, and the class of 2014 selected Associate Professor of English Julie Pfeiffer for the honor this year.

That afternoon, the annual Founder’s Day convocation in duPont Chapel showcased the musical talents of a number of Hollins students, including soloists Liz Valvano ’15 (bassoon), Birdie Trotter ’15 (flute), Jessica Newberne ’14 (piano), and Naomi Fukuda ’15 (piano), and the Hollins University Concert Choir.

Professor of Music Judith Cline delivered the Founder’s Day address and talked about Hollins’ ten-year initiative to meet the criteria of Steinway & Sons, the world’s foremost piano maker, to become an ”All-Steinway School.” The status reflects Hollins’ commitment to excellence by providing students, faculty, and guest artists with the best equipment possible for the study and performance of music. Worldwide, just over 160 conservatories, colleges and universities, and other schools of distinction have earned this designation.  Cline, a soprano, paid tribute to the founder of Steinway & Sons, Henry Steinway, with a rendition of Richard Strauss’s “Morgen!”

Associate Professor of English T.J. Anderson III also recognized Hollins’ All-Steinway designation at the convocation, performing his jazz poem, ”Prelude to a Kiss,” in dedication.

During her remarks, Hollins President Nancy Gray announced more celebratory news. The university is launching a new honors program in Fall 2014 that is fully endowed thanks to a $1 million gift from an anonymous donor. She also congratulated the Hollins student team that this month won the 15th annual statewide collegiate Wells Fargo Ethics Bowl. Tom Barron, chair of the Hollins Board of Trustees,  joined Gray in saluting the university’s physical plant staff with a citation recognizing their exceptional work to ensure the campus remained safe and accessible during the recent winter storm that brought 19 inches of snow to the Roanoke Valley.

Two individual members of the campus community were also honored at the convocation. Cline received the Herta Freitag Faculty Legacy Award, presented to a member of the faculty whose recent scholarly and creative accomplishments reflect the extraordinary academic standards set by Freitag, who served as professor of mathematics at Hollins from 1948 to 1971. The Roberta A. Stewart Service Award, granted each Founder’s Day to a Hollins employee who demonstrates long-term service, loyalty to the university, and deep caring for students and colleagues, was presented to Elise Roschen, assistant to the director at the Hollins Riding Center.

Founder’s Day activities concluded that evening with a special concert by pianist Alexander Schimpf, winner of the 2011 Cleveland International Piano Competition. Prior to his performance, Steinway & Sons representatives from New York City and Washington, D.C., officially presented the “All-Steinway School” plaque to Gray, Barron, and Cline (pictured above from left to right). Hollins  joins George Mason University, James Madison University, Radford University, and Episcopal High School in Alexandria as Virginia’s only “All-Steinway Schools.”

Founder’s Day has been commemorated at Hollins since 1898.


Pianist Alexander Schimpf Headlines All-Steinway Founder’s Day Celebration

schimpfA concert featuring German pianist Alexander Schimpf will highlight Hollins University’s official recognition of its “All-Steinway School” designation during Hollins’ annual Founder’s Day celebration on Thursday, February 20.

Schimpf, whom the German daily newspaper Westfälische Nachrichten described as “a charismatic musical artist…a sensitive interpreter with great artistic maturity,” will perform that evening at 7:30 p.m. in duPont Chapel.

With the delivery last summer of seven instruments designed by Steinway & Sons,  the company regarded as the world’s finest piano maker, Hollins  joined George Mason University, James Madison University, Radford University, and Episcopal High School in Alexandria as Virginia’s only “All-Steinway Schools.” Worldwide, just over 150 conservatories, colleges and universities, and other schools of distinction have earned this designation. At least 95 percent of an institution’s instruments must carry the Steinway brand and must be in good condition to qualify for the recognition.

Schimpf rose to prominence by winning a series of impressive competitions, including the 2008 German Music Competition (an achievement no pianist had earned for 14 years), the 2009 International Beethoven Competition in Vienna, and the 2011 Cleveland International Piano Competition, where his final round performance with the renowned Cleveland Orchestra was given a standing ovation and received the Audience Favorite Prize. He has appeared in recital in France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, England, and South America, and made his debut performance at New York’s Carnegie Hall in December 2011. His engagements through 2013 featured appearances as a soloist with the St. Petersburg Marinsky Theatre Orchestra, the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie in Frankfurt, and the Dresden Philharmonic. He gave recital performances at the International Keyboard Festival in New York and the International Chopin Festival in Poland.

Each year, Hollins’ Founder’s Day event celebrates the birth of Charles Lewis Cocke, who served as president of Hollins from 1846 until his death in 1901. Even though Cocke came to Hollins after its establishment in 1842, he is considered the school’s founder because the institution would not have survived without his leadership during financial crises, disease epidemics, the Civil War, and other challenges.

This year’s program on February 20 begins with the Founder’s Day convocation at 4:30 p.m. in duPont Chapel. It will feature performances by the Hollins University Concert Choir, Chamber Singers, music faculty, and students with Steinway pianos. Associate Professor of English T. J. Anderson will present an original jazz poem written for the occasion and Professor of Music Judith Cline will deliver a brief address.


Hollins, Mill Mountain Theatre Host American College Theater Festival

PrintHollins University and Roanoke’s Mill Mountain Theatre will host 900 students and faculty from colleges and universities in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and southwest Virginia at the Region Four festival of the 46th annual Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF), February 4 – 8.

Individual participants and full-scale productions are eligible for awards in a number of disciplines recognizing excellence in the art and craft of theater. Individual awardees and representatives from selected productions will be brought to Washington, D.C., for an expense-paid trip to the national festival, April 14 – 19, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Productions invited to be showcased at the Region Four festival are presented by Appalachian State University, Asbury University, Auburn University – Montgomery, Clayton State University, Georgia Southwestern State University, Hollins, Morehead State University, University of Alabama at Birmingham, University of Mississippi, Savannah College of Art and Design, and Troy University. Ten invited productions were selected from 42 eligible productions from the region. Two additional productions earned slots after receiving recognition during the Short Play Awards at last year’s Region Four festival, including Hollins Theatre’s production of Decision Height by Meredith Dayna Levy ’12, M.F.A. ’15. The drama is the story of six women whose lives are changed when they become Women Air Force Service Pilots during World War II.

Three public performances of Decision Height will be staged on Mill Mountain Theatre’s Trinkle Stage: Friday and Saturday, January 24 – 25, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, January 26, at 2 p.m. Admission is $10. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit hollins.sitevision.com/theatre or call the Hollins Theatre box office at (540) 362-6313.

Launched in 1969, the KCACTF encourages and recognizes the finest and most diverse theatrical productions from colleges and universities nationwide. Through its regional and national festivals, the KCACTF celebrates the achievements of theater programs, individual students, and faculty of colleges and universities throughout the United States.

Eight regional festivals provide opportunities for colleges and universities to showcase their finest work to diverse audiences of theater students and faculty from their regions.

Since its establishment, KCACTF has reached millions of theatergoers and made important contributions to the professional development of countless college and university theater students nationwide.


Hollins University Theatre Wins Four National Awards at this Year’s Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival

PrintHollins Theatre has been recognized with national honors in production, direction, performance, and playwriting by the 46th Annual Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF), sponsored by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Hollins’ production of Decision Height by Meredith Dayna Levy, a 2012 graduate of the university who is now pursuing her Master of Fine Arts degree in the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins, earned four awards, including Outstanding Production of a New Work; Distinguished Director of a New Work (presented to Ernie Zulia, who chairs the Hollins University theatre department); Distinguished Achievement, Performance and Production Ensembles; and the Harold and Mimi Steinberg National Student Playwriting Award for Levy.

The awards recognize individuals from across the United States for their achievements during the eight KCACTF regional festivals that were held January 7 through March 1 of this year. Hollins and Roanoke’s Mill Mountain Theatre co-hosted the Region IV KCACTF in February.

The awards were officially presented during the closing ceremony of the KCACTF national festival on Saturday, April 19, at the Kennedy Center.

“We are thrilled to be recognized by the Kennedy Center as a university that is not only creating outstanding theatre productions, but providing the training that allows students to do outstanding work,” said Zulia.

Hollins Theatre has received 14 Kennedy Center awards in the past 14 months, including two playwriting awards presented to Laura King, a candidate for the Master of Fine Arts degree in playwriting at Hollins, at the Region IV KCACTF last month, and five national Kennedy Center awards given last year to Hollins’ production of Natasha Trethewey’s Bellocq’s Ophelia.

The KCACTF encourages and celebrates the finest and most diverse theatrical productions from colleges and universities nationwide. The eight regional festivals and national festival provide an opportunity for college and university theatre departments to present their work, especially new or student-written work, and to receive outside assessment. Since its establishment in 1969, KCACTF has reached millions of theatregoers and made important contributions to the professional development of countless college and university theatre students nationwide.

 


M.F.A. in Dance Student Wins AAUW Career Development Grant

lewisLeila Anglin Lewis, a student in Hollins University’s Master of Fine Arts program in dance, has been awarded a Career Development Grant by the American Association of University Women (AAUW).

AAUW presents Career Development Grants annually as a way to help empower women in furthering their careers.

“We’re so proud to continue this wonderful legacy and to salute this new class of fellows and grantees,” said Gloria Blackwell, AAUW vice president of fellowships, grants, and global programs. “They now join the ranks of Nobel Prize winners, celebrated authors, social entrepreneurs, and prominent scholars who have used AAUW funding to advance equality for women and girls.”

Lewis, who resides in Greensboro, North Carolina, is an arts administrator, dance artist, and community advocate. Her vision is to create a life-affirming community wholeness center that houses an arts ecosystem and a family centered birthing center. In addition to pursuing her M.F.A. in dance at Hollins, Lewis is studying to become a certified professional midwife.

Lewis will use her AAUW Career Development Grant to research a paper focusing on the contextualization of the movement-based works of literary artists Zora Neale Hurston and Ntozake Shange. The grant will also support work on her thesis, which will draw parallels between the history of Samba, a Brazilian music and dance form, and the phases of womanhood according to the womb.

AAUW is one of the world’s leading supporters of graduate women’s education, having awarded nearly $100 million in fellowships, grants, and awards to more than 12,000 women from more than 130 countries since 1888.


Art Professor Jennifer Anderson Launches Taubman Museum’s New Mural Wall Program

andersonAssociate Professor of Art Jennifer Anderson is inaugurating a new mural wall program at Roanoke’s Taubman Museum of Art with the creation of her work, Resolute Understandings of Fragile Things.

The piece will be on display May 31 – September 6 on the patio mural wall across from Norah’s Café in the museum and along Norfolk Avenue.

For the mural project, Anderson will hand cut intricate stencils that will be printed on the retaining wall outside Norah’s. Using elements around the museum as inspiration, the mural will present the tenacious relationship between the natural and man-made environment as the mural itself functions as a “wall paper” with a pattern similar to those found in the formal dining rooms of Victorian homes.

Anderson is collaborating with students from Hollins and Ferrum College, who will contribute their own elements to the mural and assist with its installation.

Jennifer D. Anderson: Resolute Understandings of Fragile Things will be created as part of the programming for the Taubman Museum of Art’s annual Sidewalk Art Show. Anderson and the students from Hollins and Ferrum will add the final elements to the mural on May 31, the day of the show.

The Taubman Museum of Art is located at 110 Salem Avenue, SE, in downtown Roanoke.


Hollins Theatre Honored for Producing Women Playwrights

ICWPHollins Theatre is one of 67 theatre companies from nine countries cited by the International Centre for Women Playwrights (ICWP) for producing the work of women playwrights.

The ICWP has presented Hollins its 50/50 Applause Award, which spotlights theatres that produce 50% or more women playwrights in their season of shows. Theatres in Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Italy, and the United States are among the honorees for 2014.

The award continues Hollins Theatre’s impressive run of national and international recognition. Over the past 20 months, the program has received 14 awards from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, including honors in production, direction, performance, and playwriting for Decision Height. The drama was written by Meredith Dayna Levy, a 2012 graduate of the university who is now pursuing her Master of Fine Arts degree in the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins. Two playwriting awards were also presented this spring to Laura King, a candidate for the Master of Fine Arts degree in playwriting at Hollins, and five national Kennedy Center awards were given last year to Hollins’ production of Natasha Trethewey’s Bellocq’s Ophelia.

Founded in 1988, ICWP’s mission is to support women playwrights worldwide and bring attention to their work.


Film Written by M.F.A. Grad to be Broadcast Nationally

hopeSusie’s Hope, a movie written and produced by Dan A.R. Kelly M.F.A. ’14, will air on the UP television network August 3.

The film, directed by Jerry Rees (The Brave Little Toaster), stars Emmanuelle Vaugier (40 Days and 40 Nights), Burgess Jenkins (Remember the Titans), and Andrea Powell (Ender’s Game). It’s about the inspirational relationship between a pit bull attack survivor, Donna Lawrence, and Susie, an abused pit bull-mix puppy, who learn to heal and forgive together. The movie is based on the real-life story of Lawrence and a severely abused puppy left for dead that she found in a Greensboro, North Carolina, park.

With the help of the Guilford County Animal Shelter, Susie survived her near-death experience and was adopted by Lawrence. Susie’s ordeal eventually led to the passing of Susie’s Law, which allows stricter punishment for animal abusers in North Carolina.

Susie, who is this year’s Therapy Dog Finalist in the American Humane Association’s Hero Dog Awards, portrays herself in the film.

On August 12, Green Apple Entertainment will release Susie’s Hope on DVD nationwide. The film has been given the Dove Family Seal of Approval.

Kelly received his M.F.A. in screenwriting and film studies at Hollins’ commencement exercises in May. He is a member of the Writer’s Guild of America.

 


Art Professor Jennifer Anderson Is Among the “40 Under 40: Professors Who Inspire”

andersonNerdScholar, a financial literacy website for students that empowers them to make smart financial choices, has selected Assistant Professor of Art Jennifer Anderson for its inaugural list of “40 Under 40: Professors Who Inspire.”

According to the website, “These 40 inspirational professors were nominated based on their ability to captivate and engage students in the classroom, desire to interact with students outside of class, and collaborate on research projects. Nominations were collected through student and faculty recommendations, articles such as The Princeton Review’s Best Professors list, and other pieces highlighting universities with outstanding professors, supplemented by crowd-sourced review sites such as RateMyProfessors and CourseRank.”

Anderson, who will receive tenure and promotion to associate professor on July 1, is one of three professors from colleges and universities in Virginia to make the list (the College of William and Mary and Virginia Tech are also represented).

Anderson’s profile and the complete list of honorees can be found here.


Mary-Carmen Webb ’15 Experiences “the Most Freeing Feeling I’ve Ever Had” through Hollins Dance

webbDuring a sometimes challenging transition from dancer to choreographer, Mary-Carmen Webb ’15 understandably might have been skeptical if someone had predicted her work would someday be showcased at a renowned regional dance festival. Nevertheless, Webb would go on to create an original piece, I met you in a kitchen, which was selected for the Gala Performance at the American College Dance Festival (ACDF) 2014 Mid-Atlantic Conference. The event was held in March at the George Mason University School of Dance in Fairfax.

“When I started choreographing, I had a lot of conflict with myself,” the Hollins junior from Roanoke recalls. “‘Will people like this? Is this pleasing? Will it be received well?’ I wrestled with that for a long time until I figured out that in order for me to be able to choreograph, I really have to be inside myself and accept how I move is not necessarily how other people see me moving. What people think of me is not how I really am, what I can really do.”

Before she went to college, Webb already had a decade of experience as a ballet dancer. But during rehearsals for a performance with the Roanoke Ballet Theatre, she worked with four dancers from Hollins who, she says, opened her eyes to new possibilities.

“I had always taken ballet and I was trying to find a different movement style I would enjoy. When I met them, it was exactly what I wanted and it piqued my interest a lot.” One of the dancers urged her to apply to Hollins; it ultimately became her first choice among the colleges and universities she was exploring.

“Hollins Dance is unlike anything else I have experienced. I took classes at other colleges and found them to be very competitive. [At Hollins] it’s like a family, they’re very welcoming. They all want to see you make it. They really encourage you to be the best you can be and take responsibility for your own education. It’s nice not to have someone pushing you and telling you where you should go. They have confidence in you.”

Webb says got the idea for I met you in a kitchen from reading about “viewing the dancing body as an x-ray. I then made up a few gestures for a transparent body.” The piece subsequently evolved into three sections with three dancers where “the first half of it, I had different gestures where it seemed we had our own form of communication and were inside of a different world, but it was something you could tell we had always been used to. The second half was really about dislocating that body from its original language, its history, and where it had been before.

“The piece as a whole is very bittersweet and has a sense of mortality to it. It’s also about relationships because that always finds its way into my work somehow.”

Webb guided kitchen through several informal performances last fall to get feedback from faculty and students. Associate Professor of Dance Jeffery Bullock and Instructor of Dance HeJin Jang then chose it to be shown at the annual Fall Dance Works in December, and later recommended it for the 2014 ACDF regional conference, even though officially, the piece didn’t have an ending.

“The ACDF contract required that we rehearse three hours every week just so they could see we were continuing to work on it,” Webb says. “It was really helpful for me because I don’t have very long rehearsals. Having to do three hours was like, ‘My gosh, what are we going to do?’ I split it up over two, sometimes three days, and I would actually have 30 to 45 minutes to myself in the studio before I would ask the girls [Caitlyn Lewis ‘17 and Molly McCambridge ‘14] to come in and rehearse. That helped me push myself to find the endpoint for that dance.”

At the ACDF regional conference, Webb, Lewis, and McCambridge danced first before a panel of adjudicators, who would select the works that would be featured at the Gala Performance. “Each night they have a feedback session where they talk about what they saw, what they think needs work, what they liked. It was very exciting, but the newness of it was kind of nerve wracking,” Webb explains. “When we were backstage right before we were about to go on to perform, I was like, ‘You know what, girls? Even if we mess up, it’s okay. I’m just really happy we are here.’ I wasn’t even thinking about the Gala – ‘I’m probably not going to get chosen, but I’m going to use the opportunity I have to perform to empower my work.’”

That philosophy would serve Webb and her fellow dancers well. Technical problems impacted the audio of the two recorded songs that are essential to the piece, and the end of the dance had to be performed in silence. Undaunted, they continued their routine.

“I was so proud to have those girls dancing with me. I wouldn’t have wanted anybody else. They essentially said, ‘We’re not going to have any music, it’s not going to be the full effect, but we’re just going to work it.’ And they danced their little hearts out.

“I was scared to go to feedback because I thought they were going to tear apart the fact that all my music cues were messed up. But, they didn’t say anything about them. One of the adjudicators said, ‘I liked how you faded in the music and then it faded out again.’ That wasn’t supposed to happen!”

The adjudicators went on to say many other great things about kitchen and selected it for the Gala Performance the next evening.

“I told the girls, ‘I’m just so happy we get to perform this again and perform it in the way it should be performed,’” Webb says. “For me, it was probably the most freeing feeling I’ve ever had, being able to perform again in front of an audience and knowing there was something in my work the adjudicators wanted to see again.”

Webb is continuing to take her work into some wonderfully unexpected places.

“The piece I’m working on right now is actually for my biology class, ‘Plants and People.’ We were assigned a research paper relating plants to something that interests us, and I figured, ‘Oh, I might as well do it to dance.’ The professor agreed, so I’m going to create a dance, film it, and present it in class. It’s probably the most I’ve researched one of my ideas, so I’m reading a lot about the human body as a biological being.

“I’m inspired by different things. But, I think it’s because I’m so visual that I’m often inspired by things I see versus an idea in my head.”