Your opera program has a collaboration with the improvisation students, which is unlike anything at any other music school. In these programs, students perform works that are about social relevance: issues like gun control, diversity.
What was the inspiration for this program?
I’m glad you asked about this, because it is an off-shoot of our award winning opera program.
Our Micro Operas initiative tackles socially relevant issues while nurturing our student’s creative artistry. The idea came from a collaboration between professors in the opera, improvisation, and dance departments.
The first micro-opera stemmed from a main stage opera performance of Aaron Copland’s The Tender Land. This opera is about an insular community that reacts to a stranger that appears.
After the performance, we passed out surveys that asked “Has there ever been a time you felt unwanted? Have you ever felt like a stranger? What did this feel like?
What CAN we do as a society to be more welcoming and inclusive?”
We had stacks of amazing responses from community members…
The following fall, students in the opera studies, improvisation, and dance departments got together and used the surveys as the impetus to create brand new chamber operas!
It became about dealing with alienation…
So how do you make art on this theme?
This is a great question.
Each of thirteen groups of students had to struggle through the frustrating, difficult, inspiring process of collaboratively creating a completely new work of art.
The performances were fantastic, but the process of experiencing this collaborative cauldron of creativity was invaluable for our students.
We performed the 13 operas simultaneously in all of the non-traditional performance spaces of Appleton’s Performing Arts Center. Students were performing in the foyers, balconies, elevators, lobbies, and even bathrooms!
Audiences filed in through the stage(!) and into the reimagined performance spaces!
We also had another purpose…
We want to redefine the stereotypes that the public might have concerning opera.
It’s not necessarily Brunhilde with the horns, the breast plate, all of that…
We want to show that opera can be something very accessible, something you can experience up close…
Something you can engage with in unique and personal ways.
What kind of student is Lawrence a good fit for?
Lawrence is a good fit for many types of students.
If I were to categorize who comes here and really thrives…
It’s the student who wants an extremely high-level of music education but doesn’t want to give up their exploration in the intellectual, academic realm.
The blend of conservatory with a liberal arts college allows students to do both.
Over half of our incoming freshman class each year pursues a double degree. They are getting a Bachelor’s in music, and a Bachelor’s in another field, such as English, Biology, or Anthropology.
The students who are not coming to pursue a 5-year double degree are still incredibly interested in expanding their mind and increasing their intellectual capacity.
Even our performance majors, who are spending the most time in the practice rooms honing their craft, are also taking writing courses, language courses, and pursuing study-abroad opportunities.
We believe that increasing intellectual capacity is a vital part of reaching one’s full musical potential.
Exceptional musical training combined with outstanding academic training is the ideal preparation for a world in which today’s musician needs to be musically excellent as well as smart, creative, well-spoken, and innovative.
The intellectually curious, passionate musician who wants both rigorous music training and intellectual engagement is our ideal Lawrence student.
On the next page, we talk about the benefits of an undergraduate-only institution…