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Fine Arts | Music | Theatre | VCD

Expressions Archive: January 2013

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Oliver!, the beloved musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist

It’s a Fine Life

Oliver!, the beloved musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist runs from Feb. 8 – 17, 2013, at the Arts United Center and audiences are in for a delightful new “twist” when Julie Jahn uses some exciting sign-language techniques to interpret the final performance on Sunday, February 17.

Jahn, who is the sign language interpreter for the Department of Theatre, received specialized training over the summer specifically geared toward delivering more exciting and complete musical interpretation during a weeklong workshop in August, 2012, at Bringing the Stage to Life (BSL) in Nashville, Tenn.

During the BSL workshop, 23 sign-language interpreters from around the country learned enhanced techniques to more effectively interpret Broadway musicals and music concerts like those performed at the Grand Ol’ Opry. Jahn is excited to try some of these new techniques with the musical Oliver!

The concept behind the BSL training is that you become the character you are signing.  That means changing your facial expressions and physical movement for each character as the story moves forward. It also can mean donning country western attire if you are interpreting singers on the Opry stage, for example. Properly interpreted, the deaf should be able know who you are and not just what you are saying with your hands.

Classes were offered in acting, costuming, character make-up and understanding the complexities of different performance stages and major concert venues. “The interpreter needs to interpret ‘who’ is on stage and not ‘what’ is on stage,” explained Jahn. “Simply by costuming the interpreter for example, you create a more seamless presentation between the song and what you are doing in the eyes of the deaf.  They want to see the music.”

It will be Jahn’s task to give voice to a cast of characters that ranges from the innocent Oliver to the villainous Bill Sykes to the scheming Fagin. It also will be her task to bring Lionel Bart’s beloved melodies into sight. So how does one prepare to interpret for such a big production? “I read the play three to five times, I listen to the music dozens of times and then I go see a rehearsal so that I know how the show is blocked. I have to learn the lyrics completely and I need to be prepared for those times when a characters' back might be turned to me,” explained Jahn. “I also reflect the characters personalities as I deliver their lines. It can be very challenging.”

In the fall, Jahn interpreted The Women of Lockerbie for the IPFW Department of Theatre. “When the characters were yelling or crying it was my job to bring those inflections into my work,” said Jahn. “It can be exhausting, but it’s always really satisfying to me. I try my best to melt in with the cast and become part of what they are doing. Interpreting needs to be a parallel thing, not a tennis match.”

Jahn began interpreting 33 years ago and started interpreting theatrical productions for IPFW 12 years ago. Her work with IPFW has grown over the years and she has served as a personal interpreter for numerous deaf students at IPFW.  In addition to her work as an interpreter, Jahn teaches workshops and helps others to learn sign language. 

Performances for Oliver! are at the Arts United Center from Feb. 8 – 17, 2013.  For more information on tickets call the ArtsTix Community Box Office at 260-42-24226 or visit

Swikar photo of swan

Patel Lauded by Wall Street Journal

VCD graduate and current associate faculty Swikar Patel was celebrated as having one of the Best Photographs of the Year 2012 by the Wall Street Jourrnal (WSJ). The image of the swan was captured on a Fort Wayne creek in early October. The WSJ editors pick the best photos of the year organized by category, date and location. These photos represent the key moments and defining images of the year.

seven-foot Steinway “prepared” piano


On Feb. 13, 2013, when guest artist Kate Boyd sits down at 7:30 p.m. to perform at the seven-foot Steinway "prepared" piano in Rhinehart Recital Hall, she will perform some of the most avant-garde, manipulated music most of us ever have heard coming from this time-honored instrument. She will be playing Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano by contemporary composer John Cage (1912-1992).

So, what in the world is a “prepared” piano? Very simply, a “prepared” piano is a piano that has had its sound modified by the insertion of small foreign objects between the strings of the instruments, such as screws, nuts, bolts, weather stripping, pieces of felt, paper, wood and rubber. The concept was created and used by Cage and is strictly a contemporary convention.  George Crumb (b. 1929) expanded on Cage's idea by using other techniques to modify the piano sound such as muting a string with the finger or by placing a metal chain over the strings.

Although this is a contemporary technique, piano builders have been working to manipulate the sounds coming from their pianos for centuries, mainly by modifying the sound of the piano through its pedals. The left pedal in the modern piano (called “una corda,” or “one string”) modifies the sound of the piano by not only making it softer but also mellower. Some 19th-century pianos had seven pedals, each creating a different effect. This included the insertion (activated by the pedal) of parchment paper or cloth between the hammers and the strings. Some of these pianos even had bells (again, activated by a pedal), which enabled the performer to “accompany” him/herself when playing marches and other suitable compositions.

To find out more about Boyd’s upcoming performance visit

Decker Wiess Exhibit at Alma Mater

Decker and Weiss Exhibit at Alma Mater

There is a stunning new exhibition at the IPFW Visual Arts Gallery featuring Department of Fine Arts adjunct faculty Patricia Weiss and Derek Decker. Derek Decker and Patricia Weiss: Ceramics and Painting continues through Feb. 10, 2013.

These two superb artists share much in common. Decker and Weiss are artists who both received their B.F.A. from IPFW. Both deeply appreciated the variety of mediums they learned to use in their undergraduate program and credit IPFW’s B.F.A. program for helping them establish a direction for their work. Both artists explore aspects of contemporary life through the representations of common objects in still life: Decker in 3D, as a sculptor using ceramic slip casting, and Weiss in 2D, painting in oil.

While many artists struggle to find relevance, Weiss and Decker have zeroed in on universal themes. Their work is thought provoking, yet innocent. “I have my own feelings behind each piece, thoughts about what the mess left behind by manufacturing and consumerism is doing to the environment,” said Decker. “But, I don’t to try to influence people  how to think, I just want them to be aware.”

“All of my pieces carry a little part of me, in my exploration of surface texture and finish and in the content,” Decker explained. “The objects themselves are things that I have had a lot of contact with. I used to work with concrete and the jackhammer is something I used a lot.”

Decker was thinking about the difficulty of that job when he heard about the 99% movement. “I was thinking about that and about the movement of paper by bankers and what they were getting away with, in juxtaposition to the difficulties faced by the other 99% of the people.”  

Decker’s work is a version of 3D photo-realism. To get a realistic finish on clay that looks like a weathered piece of iron isn’t easy. Decker uses whatever materials he thinks will give him a believable surface finish. “I use some glazes, a little enamel paint, some sanding, whatever it takes,” said Decker.

Patricia Weiss uses images of home and hospitality to speak about the deeper parts of life.  She paints the bigger issues through the little things common to each of us. Weiss’s work hints at just how devastating a tempest in a teapot can be and tells us at the same time not to let things get to us so much.

Weiss likes to comb through resale shops looking for cups to use in still life that have interesting handles. “I like that they are so much like us,” said Weiss, “Functioning so differently and so much the same.”

“I don’t set out to present a prescribed theme,” Weiss explained. “ I just start setting up and working, pulling the things together that seem to be speaking to me at the time, then, as I work, the meaning of the piece starts to rise to the surface.”

Weiss is extremely careful in her mixing of forms and colors. “Color theory is one of the things I studied in my M.F.A. program,” said Weiss. “The use of color is important if you want to create a particular kind of atmosphere in a painting. I try to be careful not to overwhelm the viewer. Even if I’m presenting something a bit dark I toss in something light to try to counter balance the weight of that darkness.”

Weiss receive her M.F.A. in painting from the Art Institute of Boston, Boston, Mass., in 2008. Decker received his M.F.A. in Ceramics from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, in 2012. Both have returned to IPFW to teach. Weiss teaches 2D design and drawing. Decker teaches slip casting.

Hope Arthur and Her Orchestra

Students In The Fringe

The first annual Fort Wayne Fringe Festival will feature two IPFW Department of Music students when it debuts this weekend at Wunderkammer Company located at 3402 Fairfield Avenue in the former Casa D’Angelo location. Singer/songwriter and pianist Hope Arthur will debut music from her upcoming album when she and her orchestra take the stage. An eclectic mix of classical piano, quirky accordion and sounds of the orchestra set her music apart. Arthur is a senior Music and an Outside Field major at IPFW. 

A member of the IPFW guitar ensemble, Kurt Roembke’s studies focus on music technology at IPFW.  He will perform an original piece entitled Hunting Mushrooms at the Fort Wayne Fringe Festival.  The piece originally started as an homage to John Cage’s score for Jackson MacLow’s play The Marrying Maiden.  This unspoken word performance relies on rearranging and manipulating recorded sound.  Tickets are only $5 for each performance.  More information can be found at

Hope Arthur and Her Orchestra

  • Thursday, Jan. 31 at 10 p.m.
  • Sunday, Feb. 3 at 8:15 p.m. 

Hunting Mushrooms by Kurt Roembke

  • Saturday, Feb. 2 at 3:15 p.m.
  • Sunday, Feb. 3 at 3:15 p.m.

Brushing Up Brush Up

Brushing Up Brush Up

The Brush Up Your Shakespeare tour is absolutely free to area high schools and this year offers an exciting workshop option that teachers can take advantage of when they book the performance at their school.

Prize-Winning Piano Students

Prize-Winning Piano Student

The Fort Wayne Philharmonic Youth Symphony Orchestra announced Caleb Stuckey as the winner of their recent concerto audition held Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. Stuckey performed Edvard Grieg’s Concerto in A Minor and will perform it again April 28, 2013, with the Youth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by David Cooke.

Stuckey, who is homeschooled and takes private music instruction from Dr. Hamilton Tescarollo through the IPFW Community Arts Academy (CAA), also was the third place winner in the Junior Division (ages 13-15) of the first annual Gene Marcus Piano Competition.  He was one of 12 prize winners from the competition held in the Rhinhart Recital Hall at the IPFW campus on June 17, 2012. 

Stuckey’s performance with the Youth Symphony Orchestra will be April 28, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. in the Auer Performance Hall.  Tickets will be available at the door and are $5 for adults and free for children ages 18 and under.

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Alumni Successes

Music education major Amy Schwarz presented a research poster entitled “Classical Connections” at the Indiana Music Educators Association (IMEA) professional development conference on Jan. 19, 2013, at the Grand Wayne Center in Fort Wayne. Schwarz’ research grew out of her Chapman Scholars senior project during Fall 2012 in which she arranged recitals by IPFW student musicians in area retirement communities. After each recital the audience members filled out surveys indicating their level of enjoyment of the music, as well as information about their early musical training and experience. While the research did not show a significant connection between early music education and enjoyment of the music, there was a connection between concert attendance as young people and current interest in concert attendance.

Assistant Professor Jeff Casazza is the recipient of a 2013 Purdue Research Foundation Summer Faculty Grant in the amount of $8,000 for his continued theatrical research work in Europe. This summer Casazza will be working on his research project entitled “Prosperina/Persephone Variations: Exploring the Voice Using Classical Texts.”

Parker artwork

The recent design work of Taryn Parker (’11 VCD) has been causing a sensation in Denver.  Her brand design for the recent Denver Broncos’ NFL Playoffs was featured city-wide on buses, light rails, benches and kiosks. Parker was a student of VCD associate faculty Kryste Wallen and  is employed by the Denver Broncos Football Club as a graphic design assistant. Next Level.