43 Strong, Eastern Represents in Georgia at National Conference

With 43 student presenters, Eastern was among the top 20 schools nationwide for NCUR participation, and the only school from New England to make the list.

Forty-three students from Eastern Connecticut State University traveled to Georgia on April 11-13 to present original research at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR). The 2019 conference occurred at Kennesaw State University and featured hundreds of undergraduate students from across the country.

Eastern was among the top 20 schools nationwide for NCUR participation this year – the only school from New England to make the list – and one of the few with a student population of less than 6,000.

Eastern students from a range of majors presented artwork, music performances and oral/poster presentations. Research questions probed topics such as the microbiome of scorpions, the link between casual sex and online dating, pop-culture glamorization of eating disorders, and much more.

Adella Dzitko-Carlson presents “Finding Faith in the 21st Century: The Search for the Sacred in John Luther Adams’ “In the Name of the Earth.”

Music major Esther Jones ’20 commented on the experience of performing a lecture-recital. “This experience at NCUR was a milestone in my life because I didn’t think that I could actually do it when the time finally came around. I thought that I would be trembling so badly that my mind would go blank.”

Jones’ piano performance was titled “‘Theme and Variations on an Egyptian Folksong’ by Gamal Abdel-Rahim.” She added, “This experience helped to boost my confidence and has given me courage to face new challenges.”

“One of my greatest takeaways from this conference is how it pushes you and makes you a better academic,” said Michael Tuttle ’19, who majors in psychology and mathematics.

“Presenting at a conference subjects your research to a higher level of scrutiny, challenging your thoughts and ideas. When audience members ask questions and offer suggestions, it pushes you to think critically and creatively.” Tuttle’s presentation was titled “Overconfidence and Impulsivity of College Students in a Cognitive Reflection Task.”

Theresa Parker presents “Echo Chambers in Social Media: Why do People Seek or Reject Opposing Viewpoints.”

Biology major Chris Shimwell ’20 presented “Molecular Identification of the Scorpion Telson Microbiome.” He said, “Presenting at a national conference is a valuable experience because it allows you to synthesize information into an audio-visual format and present it to others who are highly educated and knowledgeable about your field.”

Jacob Dayton ’19, a biology major who presented two projects – one on the genetic diversity of a migratory bird group and one on the behaviors of strawberry poison-dart frogs – added that the value of presenting at national conferences is threefold.

“One, it provides students with the opportunity to practice communicating their research to a diverse audience. Two, questions and comments from audience members challenge students to defend and/or expand their thinking. And three, it provides the opportunity to publicize Eastern and the quality research that its students are conducting.”

Students also cited being exposed to new research questions during others’ presentations, interacting with peers from across the country, and sharing the NCUR experience with their Eastern friends as highlights of the conference. Psychology Professors Carlos Escoto and James Diller and Biology Professor Patricia Szczys accompanied the Eastern group.

NCUR was established in 1987. From a pool of several thousand applicants, students are accepted into the conference if their research demonstrates a unique contribution to their field of study. NCUR offers undergraduates the opportunity to present their research findings to peers, faculty and staff from colleges and universities across the nation, providing a unique networking and learning opportunity.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern to Present ‘To Damascus’ Immersive Theatre Experience

The Theatre Program at Eastern Connecticut State University will present “To Damascus” from April 23-28. Based on August Strindberg’s seminal trilogy “The Road to Damascus” and adapted/directed by Theatre Professor David Pellegrini, “To Damascus” is an interactive theatre experience that traverses venues throughout the Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC).

The show follows a man on a fascinating and sometimes terrifying spiritual journey. Small groups of viewers will follow the journey and be taken through scenes in multiple settings throughout the FAIC – including the building’s three performance venues, main lobby and select classrooms.

Speaking to the traveling, multi-venue format of the play, Pellegrini explained, “In this adaptation, we attempt not only to actualize the spatial-temporal conditions of the medieval-cycle plays (a medieval format of theatre) – where spectators would visit various ‘stations’ all over town in much the same way as present-day theme parks – but we also extend the palindromic structure to the entire trilogy.”

The “palindromic structure” of the play is such that the protagonist passes through several “stations” on his journey, and then returns to each in reverse order before concluding at his starting point.

The cast and crew of “To Damascus” are students who are enrolled in the capstone course “Experimental Theatre.” The production features theatre majors as actors, designers and technicians, as well as new-media studies students who have created the media content alongside faculty mentor-artists.

“To Damascus” will run at 8 p.m. on April 23, 24, 26 and 27; at 7 p.m. on April 28; and at 11 p.m. for a special late-night performance on April 26. Tickets are free for Eastern students; $5 for other students and groups of 10 or more; $10 for senior citizens; $12 for Eastern faculty, staff, and alumni; and $20 for the public.

Purchase tickets online at http://easternct.showare.com/todamascus/. Contact the box office at (860) 465-5123 or theatreboxoffice@easternct.edu.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Music Students Shine at New England Intercollegiate Band Festival

Left to right: Adella Dzitko-Carlson, Emily Miclon, Michael Lauretti, Hannah Avena and Emily Kennedy pose for a photo in Eastern’s Concert Hall.

Five instrumentalists from Eastern Connecticut State University recently performed among the best undergraduate musicians in the Northeast. A clarinetist, a flautist, a percussionist and two trombonists represented Eastern’s Music Program in an “honors band” at the 2019 New England Intercollegiate Band Festival on March 29-30 at Gordon College in Massachusetts.

The honors band consisted of approximately 75 young musicians who auditioned from colleges and universities across the region. This year’s guest conductor was T. Andre Feagin of Colorado State University.

The five Eastern students included trombonists Michael Lauretti ’19 (Bristol) and Hannah Avena ’20 (West Hartford), flautist Emily Kennedy ’20 (Coventry), percussionist Emily Miclon ’19 (Enfield) and clarinetist Adella Dzitko-Carlson ’19 (Woodbury). Dzitko-Carlson was also selected as one of only three winners of the festival’s solo competition.

The students rehearsed for 12 hours over two days in preparation for the March 30 evening concert. “Throughout rehearsal, we never fully ran any of our pieces,” said Miclon, a percussionist of six years. “The first time we ran the pieces in entirety was during the concert, which really enhanced the authenticity of the experience.”

The 2019 New England Intercollegiate Band, directed by T. Andre Feagin, performed at Gordon College on March 30.

Conductor Feagin, assistant director of bands at Colorado State, emphasized the importance of conveying emotion during performance. “There was so much intention, focus and energy,” added Miclon.

The first half of the concert featured performances by the three winners of the soloist competition. “Being selected as one of the winners was an exciting performance opportunity,” said Dzitko-Carlson, a clarinetist of 12 years who was also the principal clarinet in the overall band. She performed the first movement of Carl Maria von Weber’s “Clarinet Concerto No. 2” for her solo.

“Adella’s playing has developed tremendously in every facet,” said her clarinet teacher Chris Howard, citing her musicianship, technical prowess and knowledge of the repertoire. “This was her third year performing in this ensemble — first playing in the section, then playing as the band’s principal clarinetist, and now as a featured soloist. What a testament to her progress!”

Jeff Calissi, music professor and percussion director at Eastern, commented on the dedication of the students. “Each of our five students who performed at the Intercollegiate Band Festival have spent numerous hours practicing their instruments and honing their craft as musicians.”

“Since becoming an Eastern student, my playing has greatly matured, both technically and expressively,” said Avena, who is mentored by trombonist Wes Mayhew. “Not only am I concerned with playing the correct notes, but I have gained an increasing amount of knowledge of the theory and history of music. I am now able to better understand the context of what I’m playing.”

Each of the students praised the one-on-one attention they receive from their music professors. “Without the faculty I really would not be the player I am today,” said Lauretti, a trombonist of seven years who’s also mentored by Professor Mayhew. “From technical exercises to working on tone and making the music we play sound musical, everything they teach has made a huge impact on my playing ability.”

Kennedy, a flute player since fifth grade, echoed: “All of our faculty are amazing in their different instruments. I’ve developed greatly in my musicality due to my teacher Amanda Baker.”

Eastern’s undergraduate instrumentalists pose for a photo with music faculty Kelly Watkins (white shirt) and Chris Howard (right) at the festival.

“I could not be happier that I chose to study music at Eastern,” added Avena. “The Music Program is rather small — all of the faculty members know who I am, which is a special feeling. This has led to greater opportunity, as I’ve had many chances to perform. At a larger university, these opportunities may have been reserved for upperclassmen,” she continued. “Instead of a competitive environment, Eastern is very supportive; everyone wants each other to succeed.”

“When I started at Eastern, I only had very basic skills,” said Miclon, who was recently accepted at the University of Missouri to pursue a master’s degree in percussion performance on a full tuition waiver and assistantship. “We have great percussion equipment at Eastern, and many diverse opportunities and ensembles.”

“Emily’s musical abilities have extended beyond campus and demonstrate the beginnings of what will be a fruitful career in percussion,” said Calissi of her graduate school acceptance. “We see the growth of our students’ musicianship as a reflection of the myriad opportunities we provide to those who wishes to participate.”

This was the third year Eastern students have participated in the New England Intercollegiate Band. Auditions were coordinated by Kelly Watkins, director of Eastern’s Concert Band.

“We are extremely proud of the work of these students,” concluded Emily Riggs, voice professor and chair of the Music Program. “We’re grateful to the many faculty members who have mentored their development and are thrilled that these students have earned the opportunity to represent Eastern at this regional festival.”

Written by Michael Rouleau

Annual CREATE Conference to Showcase Student Art, Research


WILLIMANTIC, CT (04/08/2019) 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.

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 http://www.easternct.edu/create/, where you can view the day’s agenda and download the event’s cell phone app for iPhone and Android.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Orchestra of Voices ‘Chanticleer’ to Perform at Eastern Chamber Choir Festival

Eastern Chamber Singers at Eastern Connecticut State University will present the inaugural 2019 Chamber Choir Festival with guest clinicians Chanticleer on April 9 in the Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC). The festival will feature two concerts: Chanticleer at 12:30 p.m. and a joint performance with the Eastern Chamber Choir and four visiting choirs at 3 p.m.

Chanticleer will work with visiting guest chamber choirs in a workshop format during the morning, followed by a free concert presented by Chanticleer at 12:30 p.m. in the FAIC Concert Hall. The concert is free and open to the public.

Praised by the San Francisco Chronicle for its “tonal luxuriance and crisply etched clarity,” Chanticleer is known around the world as “an orchestra of voices” for its seamless blend of twelve male voices ranging from soprano to bass and its original interpretations of vocal literature, from Renaissance to jazz and popular genres, as well as contemporary composition.

Later than day, Eastern Chamber Singers will join guest chamber choirs from Glastonbury High School, Guilford High School, Plainfield High School and Stonington High School for a combined closing concert at 3:00 p.m. in the Concert Hall, presenting the materials covered during the morning workshops. This 3:00 p.m. concert combines all choirs for a grand finale featuring all 150 singers.

Written by David Belles

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 http://www.easternct.edu/create/, 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

Eastern Theatre to Present ‘Africa to America’ on March 24

The Theatre Program at Eastern Connecticut State University will present two performances of “Africa to America: Perspective, Pride, and Power” on March 24 at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in the Proscenium Theatre of the Fine Arts Instructional Center.

Directed by Eastern Theatre Professor DeRon Williams and written by Wendy Coleman, chairwoman of theatre arts at Alabama State University, the performance chronicles the history, heritage and legacy of African Americans through oration, music and dance.

This rich and powerful experience depicts the struggles, determination and triumphs of African ancestors and descendants who survived the voyage from Africa to America. The audience will see representations of some of the most notable icons of the civil rights movement, including Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Davis, Rosa Parks and the first African-American president and first lady, Barack and Michelle Obama.

The March 24 performance will feature original poetry and choreography by Eastern students. A post-show discussion with Coleman and Williams will follow the 4 p.m. performance.

Tickets are free; however, guests are encouraged to reserve tickets in advance by visiting http://easternct.showare.com/africatoamerica/. Walk-ins will be accepted as tickets remain available.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Theatre Presents ‘The Wolves’ with All-Female Cast

The Theatre Program at Eastern Connecticut State University presented “The Wolves” as its first production of the spring 2019 semester. Running from Feb. 27-March 3 in the DelMonte Studio Theatre, “The Wolves” is a coming-of-age story that takes place on the turf of a local indoor soccer field.

The play was performed by an all-female cast, directed by Theatre Professor Kristen Morgan and written by award-winning playwright Sarah DeLappe.

The Wolves are a highly competitive indoor soccer team composed of nine teenage girls. Each scene depicts the girls on the artificial turf warming up before their weekend game. The play spans a variety of themes pertinent to modern society, told candidly from the perspectives of nine passionate young women growing up in America.

“Anyone who identifies as female can tell you that growing up in America can feel like one batter after the other,” said Morgan, pointing out the unique pressures women feel about body image, sexuality and social obedience. “Athletics can mean freedom for girls and women. When you’re on the field, everything else may fall away… there are moments of overwhelming strength, as if you could do anything, like you are free.”

The girls who make up the Wolves are at a turning point in their lives; they’ve grown up playing together and know all about each other’s bodies and personality quirks, but adulthood is beckoning. Into their fragile mix comes a new player, drivers license’s, college scouts, weekend ski trips and other challenges.

As the girls stretch, run drills and kick the soccer ball among each other, their conversations explore abortion, immigration, eating disorders, sexual assault and other difficult topics.

Contrary to most theatrical productions, “The Wolves” features an all-female cast. “This is an important play for today’s world because it shows teenage girls in a different light than how you typically see them,” said Sara Lafrance ’19, who played #25. “They’re not portrayed as boy-crazy, catty or overemotional. They’re portrayed as intelligent, athletic, strong, funny young women. It shows how teenage girls can work through conflict and maintain a strong bond.”

“I think this play gives a semblance of what it means to be a young woman in high school with strengths and weaknesses and fears of the future,” said Onyae Randall ’19, who played #2. “The play can be re-evaluated and reimagined so many times because of the playwright’s use of nuance. It’s the type of story where you learn something new each time you see it. This is the kind of work we all need to expose ourselves to.”

Written by Michael Rouleau

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