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By Andrew Zender, Between the Columns

Published December 14, 2009

Gran Wilson, a lecturer in the School of Music, has sung on four continents over three decades, including major roles with the New York City and Australian operas. Noted composer Ned Rorem selected him to perform as a soloist in a 1990 premier with the Boston Symphony. So could a student replace him in a premiere performance this fall at a Baltimore opera house?

Joe Shadday, a first-year graduate student in the Maryland Opera Studio, met the challenge after Wilson suffered a broken rib and a punctured lung in a bike accident between shows of “Cinderella” at Opera Vivente. Shadday sang the big aria from the orchestra pit while Wilson walked the role onstage. Wilson says that he had total confidence in Shadday’s ability to meet the challenge because the Opera Studio prepares its students to command a stage.

Wilson and Shadday talk about their collaboration in a clip on the Clarice Smith Center’s YouTube site.

Students like Shadday can be heard and seen working with professional artists in a host of onstage and backstage roles at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. All three academic units housed at the center—the School of Music, Department of Theatre and Department of Dance—provide students with world-class opportunities to directly connect with professionals, whether they are faculty members or visiting artists.

In November, for example, visiting artists the Kronos Quartet premiered new string quartets by five undergraduate and graduate students. In 2008, each student composed a new work for Kronos. Throughout the year, they participated in individual working sessions with the quartet.

“Students in the school are part of a learning community that includes the unique possibilities of working with distinguished artists and scholars on the faculty,” says Robert Gibson, director of the School of Music, “as well as other internationally recognized artists.”

Also this fall, select dancers from the Department of Dance worked with choreographers Margaret Jenkins and Liu Qi in a lecture-demonstration event at which the two professional choreographers demonstrated the collaborative process they used to create the new work “Other Suns” during Jenkins’ company’s residency in China last year. At the event, students were asked to show movement responses sparked by ideas that form the foundation of the work.

And several Department of Theatre students had a chance to learn manipulation techniques in Bunraku-style puppetry from puppet artist Dan Hurlin and five of his puppeteers, who presented his new work, “Disfarmer,” at the center. They examined ways in which these large Japanese puppets’ movements can be expressive, recognizable and eloquent.

“Opportunities like these are what make the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center one of the best places to study theater,” says student David Olson ‘11.

Read the original article here.

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