Annual CREATE Conference to Showcase Student Art, Research

Eastern Connecticut State University will host its premier academic and artistic conference of the year on April 12. CREATE – Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern – will take place from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. in the Student Center and surrounding venues. An award ceremony with remarks by Eastern President Elsa Núñez will take place at 12:30 p.m. in the Betty R. Tipton Room of the Student Center.

Students present research during the poster session of the 2018 CREATE conference.

Hundreds of student researchers, artists and performers will present their talents at CREATE. Students from all majors will lead oral and poster presentations, participate in panel discussions, showcase music and dance performances, exhibit their art and photography, and present documentary films and more.

Registration will take place at 8 a.m. at the Student Center Café. President Núñez will present two undergraduate awards and two mentor awards to outstanding students and faculty members at the 12:30 p.m. award ceremony.

For more information, visit, where you can view the day’s agenda and download the event’s cell phone app for iPhone and Android.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern’s Music Program to Host 7 April Performances

The Eastern Jazz Ensemble

WILLIMANTIC, CT (03/25/2019) The Music Program at Eastern Connecticut State University will host a variety of performances in April, representing a wide range of genres and style periods. All concerts and recitals will be performed in the Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC) Concert Hall. Admission is free, although donations are gratefully accepted at the door.

On April 5 at 7:30 p.m., Eastern professors Anthony Cornicello and Rick O’Neal, with drummer Venlo Odom will present a night of standard jazz repertoire in an expressive, adventurous and visceral manner. This recital is presented as part of the Music Program’s Faculty Recital Series, which was established to raise scholarship funds for current and incoming Music Program students. All donations received at the door will go directly to supporting these scholarships and awards.

On April 6 at 2:30 p.m., “Sounds of Korea” features traditional and contemporary music and culture from Korea including a Samul percussion ensemble, classical art music and K-pop. Presenters in Korean traditional clothes will provide brief background information for each entry to enhance the audience’s understanding of what they will see and hear on the stage and screen.

On April 11 at 12 p.m., guest ensemble Cuatro Puntos will present a program of Persian classical music for the santoor (a hammered dulcimer-like instrument) and string quartet written by Dr. Reza Vali, as well as a purely classical Persian improvisatory piece on santoor performed by Dr. Dariush Saghafi. Vali is an accomplished composer who is a professor at Carnegie Mellon University; Saghafi is the world’s leading master of the Persian santoor.

On April 14 at 2:30 p.m., there will be a Music Program recital and awards ceremony to honor students for their academic achievements in both performance and musicology. A reception in the lobby will follow the performance.

On April 22 at 7:30 p.m., the Eastern Concert Chorale, conducted by David Belles, will present “Requiem for the Living” by contemporary composer Dan Forrest. This exciting work features choir, soloists and orchestra, and is guaranteed to delight audience members who attend. In addition, senior music major Ryan Michaud will be featured as guest conductor for another of Forrest’s compositions, “St. Patrick’s Hymn” for choir and piano. The concert is free of charge with a suggested $10 donation at the door.

On April 24 at 7:30 p.m., the Eastern Concert Band will present a festive spring program of standards and newer music for wind band.

On April 29 at 7:30 p.m., the Eastern Jazz Ensemble will present an evening of music featuring student soloists. The Eastern Jazz Ensemble is under the direction of Professor Bryce Call. If you miss this concert, the ensemble will also perform alongside Eastern’s Jazz Combo at the Shaboo Stage in Jillson Square on May 11 at 1:00 p.m.

Written by Raven Dillon

Korean Ensemble Delights Audiences Everywhere

People around the world believe music is a universal language that everyone understands. Louis Armstrong, American trumpeter, composer, vocalist and occasional actor, considered to be one of the most influential figures in jazz, said it well—“I know two languages; English and music.” Another observer put it this way—“You don’t need to understand the words of every culture. Music does the talking for us.”

Internationally acclaimed Music Professor Okon Hwang

Eastern’s Samul Jeonsa (Samul Warriors) Korean Ensemble, founded in 2014 and dedicated to performing a traditional Korean music genre known as samulnori, perfectly reflects this notion that music, wherever and however it is created, connects people.

Each semester, Samul Jeonsa, a diverse group of students under the tutelage of internationally acclaimed Music Professor Okon Hwang, go through a collective compositional process of performing highly sophisticated art form that layers  traditional Korean folk music, and creates new rhythms and works as well. In doing so, students learn the history and culture of Korea and much more about their own potential as well.

Left to right, Venlo Odom ’20, majoring in music; Josh Perry ’19, music major; and Ryan Michaud ’19,  music major.

Samul Jeonsa performers include David Annecchiarico ’19, Emily Kennedy ’21, Ryan Michaud ’19, Venlo Odom ’20, Lanitza Padilla ’21, Safiya Palmer ’22, Joshua Perry ’19, Antonia Reynolds’19 and Skye Serra ’21.

“Talented and curious-minded students learn to play four different Korean percussion instruments to create pieces that are firmly rooted in Korean musical tradition, while constantly pushing the limits of what is possible by incorporating contemporary references as well as individual flares,” said Hwang.

Left to right, Lanitza Padilla ’20 music major, and Emily Kennedy, music major.

Hwang said the instruments derive from the Korean words “sa” and “mul” mean “four things” and “nori” means “play.” The four instruments—the buk (a barrel drum) and the janggu (an hourglass-shaped drum) are leather instruments, and the jing (a large gong) and the kkwaenggwari (a small gong) are brass instruments.  Each of these four instruments is said to represent different elements of weather: the buk symbolizes clouds, the janggu rain, the jing wind and the kkwaenggwarri thunder.

Left to right, Skye Serra ’20, music major and Antonia Reynolds ’19, music major.

Despite the Ensemble’s short history, the group has been invited to perform across the state and around the nation, including performances in Pennsylvania and Oklahoma. 

Perry originally got involved with the group to learn and practice percussion skills. Hwang took him to another level. “This Ensemble is great because of its accessibility. Very little previous musical skill or knowledge is required. Dr. Hwang did a fantastic job of introducing me to the genre during the class’s very first session. I quickly became interested in the cultural source materials that formed the genre of Samul Nori, as well as mastering the instruments. There is a great depth to explore when composing and performing. We’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s possible.” 

Left to right David Annecchiarico ’19, music major, and Sky Serra, ’20 majoring in music.

“Participating in Samul has been wonderful,” said Kennedy.  I have expanded my music abilities and

Internationally acclaimed Music Professor Okon Hwang

culturalunderstanding. I’ve grown close to the students in the ensemble and to Dr. Hwang. It is a wonderful space to expressyour musical opinions or ideas.”

A native of Seoul, Korea, Hwang came to the United States to further her study in various graduate schools and pursue her creative/research interests. She performs regularly as a soloist and a chamber musician, and is also a member of the S.O.Y. Piano Trio.

As an ethnomusicologist, Hwang has studied the intersection of Western art music and Korean cultural identity, as well as various aspects of popular music in Korea. She has received numerous research grants, and delivered papers at regional, national and international conferences.

Written by Dwight Bachman

Eastern’s Music Program to Host 2 March Concerts

All March concerts will occur in the Concert Hall of the Fine Arts Instructional Center.

The Music Program at Eastern Connecticut State University will host a variety of performances in March, representing a range of genres and style periods. All concerts and recitals will be performed in the Fine Arts Instructional Center’s (FAIC) Concert Hall. Admission is free – donations are gratefully accepted at the door in support of music student scholarships.

On March 1 at 7:30 p.m., Eastern faculty members Emily Jo Riggs, soprano, and David Ballena, piano, will present “Voices of America.” From the raucous to intimate, the program will explore the range of emotions captured in the words and music of some of America’s greatest poets and composers. This recital is presented as part of the Music Program’s Faculty Recital Series, which was established to raise scholarship funds for current and incoming Music Program students. All donations received at the door will go directly to supporting these scholarships and awards.

On March 3 at 3 p.m., the Willimantic Orchestra will present their Winter Concert, featuring the Academic Festival Overture by German composer Johannes Brahms and Symphony No. 96 “The Miracle” by Austrian composer Joseph Haydn. Claude Debussy’s “Danses sacrée et profane,” written for the chromatic harp and string orchestra will feature Megan Sesma on the harp.

Eastern Music Program to Hold 7 December Performances

The Percussion Ensemble at a prior performance in the Concert Hall.

WILLIMANTIC, CT (11/28/2018) The Music Program at Eastern Connecticut State University will host seven programs in early December to enrich the cultural life of the campus and local community. Events will range from holiday concerts to family friendly productions, and will be held in the Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC) Concert Hall. Admission for all concerts is free; donations are gratefully accepted at the door.

On Dec. 1 at 2:30, Eastern Opera Workshop and Chamber Singers will collaborate to host “Songs of Hope” in recognition of World AIDS Day.

On Dec. 2 at 2:30 p.m., Eastern’s percussion ensembles will collaborate in concert. The Percussion Ensemble, Chamber Percussion Group and World Percussion Ensemble will provide a diverse program of works from Western and non-Western traditions.

On Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m., Eastern Jazz Ensemble and 3 O’clock Band will present a wonderful evening of jazz. The concert will feature musical arrangements of contemporary popular music as well as classics from the ’30s and ’40s.

On Dec. 4 at 7:30 p.m., Eastern music students will present a concert of chamber repertoire from the Baroque period. The concert will include performances by both instrumentalists and singers enrolled in Chamber Music Repertoire.

On Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m., join the Eastern Concert Band in a celebration of the “Sounds of the Season.” Selections such as “Carol of the Bells,” “A Christmas Festival” and “Rhapsody for Hanukkah” will get audience members in the holiday spirit.

On Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m., faculty members Chris Howard (clarinet) and David Ballena (piano) will present an evening of favorites from the clarinet and piano repertoire as part of the Faculty Recital Series. The evening will feature works by Johannes Brahms.

On Dec. 9 at 2:30 p.m., a talented cast of Eastern students, alumni and faculty will collaborate to present “Amahl and the Night Visitors.” This 50-minute opera tells the story of the Magi from the point of view of a young boy, Amahl, and his widowed mother. Eastern’s fully staged and costumed production of this holiday classic captures the child-like excitement and mystery of the season and is great for children and families. Donations of new and unwrapped toys and games will be accepted at the door and donated to a local toy drive.

Written by Jolene Potter

November Music Events in Review

The Nov. 19 performance featured several vocal and instrumental ensembles.

The Music Program at Eastern Connecticut State University sponsored several performances during the month of November, ranging from faculty recitals to guest ensembles. All performances occurred in the Concert Hall and other venues within the Fine Arts Instructional Center.

S.O.Y. Piano Trio at “Night Reflections.”

The Faculty Recital Series presented “Night Reflection: S.O.Y. Piano Trio Multi-Media Concert” on Nov. 2. Collaborating with Eastern theatre and visual arts faculty members, the trio (violinist Seulye Park, pianist Okon Hwang and cellist YunYang Lin) presented compositions inspired by, and evocative of, Ernest Bloch, Reynaldo Hahn, Astor Piazzolla and Gaspar Cassado.

The Faculty Recital Series continued on Nov. 3 with a performance by Eastern woodwind faculty. Faculty members Amanda Baker (flute), Christopher Howard (clarinet), Joshua Thomas (saxophones) and David Ballena (piano) presented an evening of music by American composers, including Simeon Bellison, Neil Thornock, Robert Muczynski and Arthur Kreiger.

“Music Still Speaks” was a choral concert that featured two guest ensembles as well as Eastern Concert Chorale (depicted here).

Eastern Concert Chorale and Chamber Singers hosted a choral concert titled “Music Still Speaks” on Nov. 4. Joined by Choir Matrix Women’s Ensemble and Consonare Youth Chorus, the concert featured performances by each ensemble and a final selection performed by all four choirs.

The Charter Oak Brass Band celebrated their 30th anniversary season on Nov. 10 with a concert featuring highly anticipated new works. The band is a 28-piece musical ensemble whose distinctive sound comes from its all-brass instrumentation.

Eastern hosted the Willimantic Philharmonic Orchestra on Nov. 11. The orchestra is a non-profit community orchestra dedicated to the performance of symphonic orchestral music.

Night’s Blackbird worked with Eastern music students in the Concert Hall.

The Nov. 19 performance featured several vocal and instrumental ensembles.

The Music Program presented guest ensemble Night’s Blackbird on Nov. 16. Night’s Blackbird is an early-music ensemble based out of Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania. Members of the ensemble also worked with Eastern voice students on the interpretation and presentation of several lute ayres.

November performances concluded on Nov. 19 with a major performance by the Concert Chorale, Chamber Singers and Eastern Wind Ensemble. The concert also featured the work of several student conductors.

Eastern Hosts Concert to ‘Remember and Reflect’ Sandy Hook

Written by Raven Dillon

WILLIMANTIC, CT (11/13/2018) On Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m. in the Fine Arts Instructional Center Concert Hall, the Music Program at Eastern Connecticut State University will host a concert titled “Remembrance and Reflection.” The concert is dedicated to Victoria Soto’s memory and the other victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting in December 2012. Soto graduated from Eastern in 2008. All donations at the door will go to the Victoria Soto Scholarship fund.

The Eastern Concert Chorale and Chamber Singers, conducted by David Belles and accompanied by Eric Ouellette on the piano, will perform alongside the Eastern Wind Ensemble, which will be conducted by Kelly Watkins.

The concert will explore themes of birth, life and ultimate peace, showcased through pieces such as “In the Bleak Midwinter,” a Christmas carol based on a poem by Christine Rossetti, a 17th century poet. “We Shall Walk Through the Valley in Peace” will also be featured as a reflection on the peace and resting place through the ultimate sacrifice of giving one’s life.

“Into the Silent Land,” composed by Steve Danyew, will also make its regional premiere at this concert. Danyew, who grew up less than a mile from Sandy Hook Elementary School, was moved to create a piece of remembrance for the victims and their families.

On this piece, Danyew writes, “Through the simple idea of remembering-not forgetting that this happened, not forgetting these children, not forgetting the grief that their families must feel-I realized this is when I wanted and needed to communicate through music.”


Eastern Celebrates Veterans Day 100 Years after WWI

Speakers at this year’s ceremony included, left to right: VP of Student Affairs Walter Diaz, VET Center Coordinator Rebekah Avery, Brigadier General Ralph Hedenberg, Father Laurence LaPointe and President Elsa Núñez.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Connecticut State University held its annual Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 9 in the Student Center. Two days before the 100th anniversary of the close of World War I (Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1918), the ceremony featured remarks by Eastern dignitaries as well as distinguished guest Brigadier General Ralph Hedenberg.

The Natchaug River Young Marines.

Following the Presentation of Colors by the Natchaug River Young Marines and the national anthem by Eastern’s Chamber Singers vocal ensemble, Father Laurence LaPointe of the Campus Ministry shared his reflections.

“There are none of us left who remember that day 100 years ago,” he said of the first Armistice Day. “The horrors of WWI, the horrible loss of life, 37 million people died… Because of the valor of those who died, the sacrifice that nations make to give up their young is why we cherish those who come home.

“As they grow old,” he said of combat veterans, “they often are reluctant to tell their stories. We must never forget the devastation of war.”

Vice President of Student Affairs Walter Diaz shifted the focus of the ceremony to Eastern’s campus. “Today we celebrate the vets who live, work and study on this campus. We enjoy a true democracy because of their sacrifice.

“Reflect on this past Tuesday, Nov. 6, voting day,” he continued. “You were able to vote – Democrat, Republican, independent and any other party – because of this democracy.”

President Elsa Núñez called attention to Eastern’s distinction as one of the “Best Colleges for Veterans” in the North by U.S. News and World Report.

“We have nearly 150 active-duty military and veterans enrolled at Eastern this semester,” she said. “The VETS Center, under the leadership of veteran Rebekah Avery ’94, not only offers a unique space on campus, but also the expertise to help veterans access the services and support they’ve earned and deserve.

“To me, our military represents the great diversity of America itself, and reflects how we are evolving as a nation and as a people,” continued Núñez, referring to Pew Research Center data that shows 40 percent of active-duty military personnel in 2015 were made up of ethnic minority groups. “They all took the same oath: ‘To support and defend the Constitution of the United States; to bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and to obey the orders of the president of the United States.'”

Conducted by Music Professor David Belles, the Eastern Chamber Singers sang the national anthem as wells the hymn “We Shall Walk through the Valley in Peace.”

Brigadier General Hedenberg delivered the ceremony’s keynote address. A decorated veteran himself, Hedenberg is currently director of the joint staff of Joint Force Headquarters, Connecticut Army National Guard.

“There are approximately 190 militaries around the world, but we are the only one that takes an oath to an ideal – the Constitution – not to a monarch,” he said.

“Our understanding of Veterans Day has evolved over the years. Armistice Day 100 years ago was a day of remembrance for those who died in WWI. That was meant to be the ‘war to end all wars,’ but we’ve fought many since.

“After WWII, our veterans came home as heroes,” he continued. “The holiday became more festive; a celebration of success. The day commemorated both World Wars.

“Then came the Korean War, which some call the forgotten war; that’s unfair, as those soldiers fought hard as any. The Vietnam War was one of social unrest and protest, but those soldiers fought hard nonetheless.”

Speaking to the United States’ other conflicts, Hedenberg said that as a people we’ve learned to separate the politics of war from its participants. “People aren’t ‘in’ the army,” he said. “They ‘are’ the army. They represent themselves as well as those who came before them, and those who will come after.”

In closing the event, Avery, coordinator of the VETS Center, called attention to Willimantic’s new Veterans Coffeehouse. Starting Nov. 28, the coffeehouse will occur every Wednesday from 9-11 a.m. at the Salvation Army at 316 Pleasant Street, Willimantic. The Veterans Coffeehouse is open to all veterans to meet, socialize and discuss benefits and services.

‘Cabaret’ Swings Eastern Theatregoers back to Nazi Germany

Written by Michael Rouleau

The first theatrical production of the fall 2018 semester at Eastern Connecticut State University was “Cabaret,” the Tony Award-winning musical set on the eve of Nazi-controlled Germany. With six performances between Oct. 18 and 28, theatregoers were dazzled by a stage set in the seedy Kit Kat Klub in early-1930s Germany, a time rife with political tensions that ultimately brought Adolf Hitler to power.

The Kit Kat Klub is a promiscuous nightclub whose patrons seem happily oblivious to the shifting culture and crumbling society outside. Cliff Bradshaw (Harold Gagne ’20) is an American writer seeking inspiration. He finds his way into the ‘klub’ and becomes enamored with one of the dancers, Sally Bowles (Zoe Czerenda ’19). Cliff is quick to notice the rising Nazi movement, but Sally and her Kit Kat patrons would rather not think about politics.

Eastern’s rendition of “Cabaret” was directed by Eastern alumna and adjunct faculty member Nichola Johnson ’05. In her director’s notes, Johnson describes 1932 Berlin as a city in chaos, with economic hardships that severely stratified the country since the end of World War I.

“With German citizens hungry, out of work and hopelessly dreaming of a better future, a rising extremist movement calls for hatred of the ‘other,’ the ‘other’ including Jews, African immigrants and gay people,” writes Johnson. “The rising populace is schooled to believe in a gloriously revived Germany, a Germany that returns to the purity of its roots.”

Further describing the cultural context of early-1930s Germany, Johnson mentions the rising condemnation of artists and intellectuals, misogyny and ethnic intolerance. “It is deeply disturbing,” she writes, “that almost a century later, we are locked in the same struggles for acceptance and human rights, newly made acute by waves of populism taking hold all over the world.”

“I’m grateful to have had the honor to participate in such a culturally relevant show,” said Edward Lorsin ’21, who played Max, the owner of the Kit Kat Klub. “The themes within this decades-old musical highlight societal struggles that people continue to deal with today.”

Showcased in the Proscenium Theatre of Eastern’s Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC), the set for “Cabaret” featured an elevated platform from which a band of contracted musicians played jazz and swing music. On either side of the platform were stairs leading down to the stage, which served as swanky staircases for the Kit Kat girls to dance on.

Staying true to the form of theatre that is “cabaret,” the play featured a flamboyant emcee (Jacob Buckley ’21) and risqué musical numbers and choreography, including an act where the ensemble dressed and danced in drag.

“The choreography was so different from what I’m used to,” said Hannah Avena ’21, who played a Kit Kat girl named Helga. “We had to make contorted shapes with our bodies. To act in a play from a different time period – the way the people dressed and conveyed themselves – was fascinating to me.”

“Cabaret” was originally a book by Joe Masteroff, based on the play “I Am a Camera” by John Van Druten, which was adapted from the novel “Goodbye to Berlin” by Christopher Isherwood.

“Most of the characters are based on real people,” explained Hannah Zammarieh ’20, the play’s dramaturg. Cliff Bradshaw, for instance, is based on Christopher Isherwood himself, who lived in Berlin from 1929-1933 for the purpose of writing a novel: “Goodbye to Berlin.”

“While there are no exact dates for the timeline of the show, based on the time that Isherwood was in Berlin, it can be assumed that the action of the musical takes place during the time when Adolf Hitler was just coming into power,” said Zammarieh. By 1934, one year after Isherwood’s departure from Germany, Hitler had named himself fuehrer (leader) of Germany.

Musical direction for “Cabaret” was provided by Anthony Pandolfe. In addition to an extensive musical career as a freelancer who has performed in such prestigious locations as the Vatican, Pandolfe is director-of-bands at Edwin O. Smith High School in Mansfield. Director Johnson also served as choreographer. In addition to being a lecturer at Eastern, she is the founder of The Complex Performing and Creative Arts Centre in Putnam, CT.

Eastern to Present ‘Music Still Speaks’ Choral Concert

The Eastern Concert Chorale and Chamber Singers at Eastern Connecticut State University will present “Music Still Speaks” on Nov. 4 at 2:30 p.m. in the Concert Hall of the Fine Arts Instructional Center. In addition to the two Eastern ensembles, the choral concert will feature performances by Choir Matrix Women’s Ensemble and Consonare Youth Chorus, as well as dancers from the local dance school Thread City Classical Dance.

The Consonare Choral Community is a new community-based program created to explore and cultivate a sense of consonance and community through singing together in Mansfield and surrounding areas. The community has a number of programs intended to nurture all levels of singers and allow all to participate in choral opportunities regardless of financial constraints. Choirs sponsored by Consonare include Choir Matrix Women’s Ensemble, conducted by Sarah Kaufold, and Consonare Youth Chorus, conducted by Kate Smallidge.

“Music Still Speaks” will feature choral works with compelling texts – many by living composers – to encourage and empower silenced voices to speak and sing. The concert will close with a performance featuring all four choirs.

Written by Michael Rouleau