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Connections: The University of Rochester and the Community

Arts & Culture

“For the Enrichment of Community Life” are the words carved into the stone fašade of the Eastman Theatre. Their prominence reflects the ongoing partnership in arts and culture between the University and the local community.

The Rochester cultural scene is lively, and the University is proud to have a part in it. Operas, concerts, art exhibitions, literary events, recitals—these are just a few of the University contributions to a city where the arts have long had a special place.

Arts & Culture : Connected

And performances are just the beginning. The University offers many opportunities for community members to become students of the arts. The Memorial Art Gallery and the Eastman School of Music are community treasures, available to all.

Together the University, area residents, and local organizations have created a cultural and artistic energy that makes Rochester an exciting place to be.

A City of Music

The Eastman School of Music has for eight decades enhanced the lives of Rochesterians with education and entertainment. Each year the Eastman School offers more than 800 world-class orchestral, wind ensemble, chamber music, jazz, and opera performances, many of them free. Guest composers and artists visit each year, and many present master classes and talks that are open to the public. These visits are often the result of partnerships with other institutions and groups in the community.

The Sibley Music Library is the largest university-affiliated music library in the United States. It holds nearly three-quarters of a million items, with vast resources for performance and research. But it is not a place for specialists only. Since its founding in 1904 the library has been open “for the use of all music-lovers in Rochester.”

The Eastman School’s crown jewel, the Eastman Theatre, is Rochester’s preeminent performance space, home to the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, and a venue for many events sponsored by other community organizations. The recently announced $20 million project to renovate the theater—funded in part by an $8 million grant from the State of New York—will only enhance this Rochester landmark.

When the Eastman School opened its doors in 1921, it housed the largest and most extensive organ collection in the nation. In keeping with this heritage, the Eastman School has embarked on a long-range plan, the Eastman Rochester Organ Initiative, that will help to make Rochester a global center for organ performance, research, building, and preservation. The Eastman School has begun to assemble a collection of new and historic organs unparalleled in North America. This collection will offer access to organs of diverse styles and traditions to talented young musicians from around the world. Tourists, scholars, and music lovers will be drawn to Rochester to hear these extraordinary instruments.

organ at Sacred Heart Cathedral

Eastman Rochester Organ Initiative

At Rochester’s Sacred Heart Cathedral during the 2006 Eastman Rochester Organ Initiative Festival, keynote speaker David Boe discussed master organ builder John Brombaugh, who built the organ at Sacred Heart. The Eastman Rochester Organ Initiative aims to make Rochester a global center for organ performance, research, building, and preservation.

The Eastman School will place two European-style organs in downtown Rochester. A historic Italian Baroque organ—the only full-size Italian Baroque organ in North America—was installed in the Memorial Art Gallery in 2005. A new instrument closely modeled after a Lithuanian organ from 1776 will be constructed and installed in Christ Church by 2008, in cooperation with the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester. The installation of these organs, together with the planned renovation of the historic E.M. Skinner organ at the Eastman School’s Kilbourn Hall, will offer unique musical experiences to the people of Rochester.

The lifeblood of the Eastman School is the study and performance of music—an endeavor in which Rochesterians participate through the Eastman Community Music School. It offers the Rochester community the highest-quality private and classroom instruction. Opportunities for musical learning and exploration include applied lessons on all instruments and voice; a full array of theory, composition, and history courses; and numerous musical groups, from chamber music to full ensembles. The Eastman Community Music School serves approximately 1,300 students—students who range in age from less than one year to more than 90.

The Eastman Community Music School is home to the acclaimed Early Childhood program, as well as the first New Horizons Band, Orchestra, and Chorus program, an ensemble program for adults. Since its inception at Eastman, the New Horizons program has spread all over the world.

Pathways to Music

Eastman student plays clarinet with school children

Music for All

Eastman School of Music student Jason Kenneth Schafer introduces schoolchildren to the joys of the clarinet at a Music for All performance. Founded in 1995, Music for All takes classical music and musicians out of the concert hall and into the community. Performances occur in settings throughout the Rochester area, including senior homes, public libraries, schools, and shelters for the homeless and battered women.

The University is committed to making these rich resources available to Rochesterians regardless of means. Many students in the Rochester City School District have the potential, interest, and motivation to pursue advanced musical studies, but some do not have the means. Since 1997 Eastman Pathways—a collaborative partnership between the Rochester City School District and the Eastman School—has offered quality music education to promising city youth.

The Pathways program provides generous scholarship aid to pursue music studies at Eastman; it also offers students mentoring and advising. Up to 75 students participate in the program each year. “The Pathways program has enriched my desire and ability to love music,” says one student. “My musical education grows with every class,” adds another.

For community members who do not come to the Eastman School, music comes to them. Each year the Music for All program sends more than 40 chamber music groups into the community. They perform some 90 concerts each year for audiences of preschoolers, senior citizens, and those in between. Eastman is the only school of music to make such an extensive outreach program an integral part of its chamber music curriculum. Through Music for All, each year more than 2,000 people in the greater Rochester community are able to enjoy live music.

A Community Museum

“A means alike of pleasure and of education for all the citizens of Rochester.” So decreed Emily Sibley Watson in donating the original Memorial Art Gallery to the University of Rochester. A century later, the gallery still places the highest priority on education, with a wide-ranging program that serves more than 16,000 area schoolchildren—many enjoying their first museum experience. “There’s an unmistakable energy in the air during a school visit,” says Susan Daiss, director of education. “These students discover that learning takes place outside the classroom—and what fun it can be.”

Family Days bring children and their families to the gallery, too, for celebrations of such annual events as Hispanic Heritage Month, Asian Pacific Heritage Month, and Kwanzaa. Thanks to corporate support, admission is free or greatly reduced.

The Memorial Art Gallery is one of the few university-affiliated art museums that is also a museum for the community. It is recognized as one of the finest regional art museums in the nation. The collection spans 5,000 years, from the ancient world to the 21st century, and includes masterworks by such artists as Monet, Cézanne, Matisse, Homer, and O’Keeffe. Highlights include the recently reinstalled American galleries, an interactive exhibit featuring a rare pair of ancient Egyptian coffins, and a newly acquired suite of 16th-century German armor.

Last year ended with two major traveling exhibitions—My America: Art from The Jewish Museum Collection, 1900–1955 and Georgia O’Keeffe: Color and Conservation. O’Keeffe, in its only Northeast venue, attracted 50,000 people—25 percent of whom came from outside the Rochester region—making it one of the most popular shows in gallery history.

art instructor helps student with sculpture

Creative Workshop

Creative Workshop instructor Kate Wharton helps a student try her hand at sculpture. The Creative Workshop at the Memorial Art Gallery is one of the oldest and largest museum art schools in the country. It offers programs for everyone from preschoolers to adults during four annual sessions.

Eighty Years Young

One morning in 1927, Memorial Art Gallery director Gertrude Herdle passed out crayons and paper to children at a Saturday story hour. Little did she know that over the next eight decades, her modest experiment would grow into one of the oldest—and with 3,500 students, one of the largest—museum art schools in the country.

Today, the Creative Workshop is a community resource offering year-round classes for preschool and school-age children, teens, and adults. In addition to studio courses for all skill levels, the curriculum includes art history surveys and Art Day School, a popular “creativity camp” for artists ages 7 to 13. Now in its 12th year, ADS allows participants to spend school breaks exploring topics as diverse as printmaking, polymer clay, and puppets.

Another success story is a longstanding collaboration with the Rochester City School District. Each year, 75 to 80 talented elementary and secondary students are nominated by teachers for scholarships funded by the Gallery Council. For many, it is an opportunity they would not otherwise have, says Deborah Harloff, director of the arts for the Rochester City School District. “The visual arts convey knowledge and meaning not learned through other subjects.”

New in 2007, the Creative Workshop welcomed staff from ScienceStart!, an early childhood curriculum developed at the Warner School of Education, and preschool educators from four Catholic schools. With support from a federal Early Reading First grant, teacher Warren Mianecke explored connections among art, language, and science. “Warren could have come to River Campus,” says Warner’s director of professional development, Martha Mock, “but it was much more valuable having hands-on experiences at the workshop, seeing art made by kids, and learning about gallery resources.”

“The workshop’s success rests on two unique assets,” says director Lawrence Merrill. “First is our faculty of more than 60 artist-teachers who foster the skills, understanding and camaraderie that are the workshop’s hallmarks. The other—the textbook for our classes—is the museum and its collections.”

Literary Stars

The University’s contributions to cultural life in Rochester do not end with the Memorial Art Gallery and the Eastman School of Music. From plays and exhibits to concerts and lectures, the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering also sponsors many public events.

One example is the Plutzik Reading Series, which has enriched the cultural life of the University and the Rochester community since 1962. The series is made possible through the generosity of the Plutzik family and is administered by the Department of English. Established to honor the work of Hyam Plutzik, a distinguished poet and Deane Professor of Poetry and Rhetoric at the University, the series has brought many nationally and internationally renowned literary artists to Rochester. The readings have always been open to the public free of charge.

Over the past four decades, the Plutzik Reading Series has provided the local venue for more than 250 writers, including novelists Salman Rushdie, winner of the Booker Prize, and J.M. Coetzee, recipient of the Nobel Prize; Pulitzer Prize-winning poets Anthony Hecht, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Galway Kinnell; former U.S. Poets Laureate Rita Dove and Robert Pinsky; science fiction novelist Samuel R. Delany; and Rochester-based poets like Daniel Donaghy, Thom Ward, and James Longenbach.