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Checkmate! Student-Actors Win in "Chess"

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Chess_students_250.jpgThe rock musical Chess, an IUP Lively Arts production in its last week, is a story of intrigue and political manuevering.

But not among the cast, made up entirely of IUP student actors. In them you'll find just dedication, hard work, talent, and a love of theater. 

What's it like to be a student AND an actor at IUP? We asked Joe York (photo, right), who plays Freddie.

"One thing you can't do is procrastinate," says York. "You have to be on top of your game 24-7 to be able to balance school work and rehearsals and stay healthy. And you need to be willing to give up your social life."

Indeed. The student-actors rehearse at least four hours a day during the week and maybe six hours on the weekends, York says. Preparation usually begins two months before opening night.

York, a senior musical theater major from Rolling Springs, enjoys all kinds of theater, but especially musical theater and opera productions.

He says he's been in "too many IUP theater productions to count." If he had to name a favorite? "Probably Chess. Or White Christmas."

Why does he spend the hours, giving up his free time, for IUP theater?

"I love it. It's my favorite thing. If I didn't have theater, I'm not sure what I'd do."

York will graduate in May and plans to pursue an MFA in musical theater playwriting.

The production is directed by Jeannie-Marie Brown with musical direction by Sarah Mantel

"Chess is a very abstract piece," Brown notes, "requiring a great deal of research prior to even beginning rehearsals.

"The students have worked incredibly hard, negotiating through their own class schedules and rehearsals. They have been present and attentive, and that is why we've been able to realize the vision for this production."

Chess, which features hit songs including One Night in Bangkok, I Know Him So Well and Pity the Child, will close this weekend with shows at 8:00 p.m. Thursday,  Friday, and Satuday. The production is staged on the Waller Hall Mainstage in the IUP Performing Arts Center. Tickets are available at the door.

Thumbnail image for phikappaph_260pxi.jpgPhi Kappa Phi, the oldest, largest, and most selective all-discipline honor society in the nation, honored its IUP chapter as a "Chapter of Excellence" in November.

Now, IUP junior, senior, and graduate students in the top 10 percent of their classes have the chance to join this most excellent chapter.

The honor society recently sent membership invitations to 430 undergraduate students and 557 graduate students, mailing the invitations to the students' home addresses on record with the university.

The IUP chapter will have two initiation ceremonies: March 28 for undergraduate students and April 3 for graduate students. Both ceremonies will be held from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. in the Blue Room, Sutton Hall.

Students may accept the invitation to join by mailing in a form or completing one on the web and should indicate whether they will attend the ceremony -- for undergraduates, the deadline is March 7; for graduate students, March 13.

"We really hope that all invited students respond to this invitation -- it's a wonderful opportunity for students to be part of a national network of scholars," said Professor Dennis Giever, IUP chapter president.

In addition, he notes that "Phi Kappa Phi has more than $700,000 in scholarships and graduate fellowships for its members nationally, and several IUP students have been selected for these awards since IUP's chapter was chartered in 1993."

He asks that faculty encourage invited students to reply. "We know that students get inundated with information and mailings, but this is something that can be of great benefit to them, especially if they have an interest in scholarships or graduate fellowships."

Check your mail. You are already a winner! 

IUP in Spotlight as Host for Kennedy Center Theater Festival

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Lindsey's Oyster, produced by IUPAll is NOT quiet here during the winter break--and IUP could not be more happy and proud.

IUP is hosting the Region II Kennedy Center Theater Festival through Monday, January 16. This means that 1,000 faculty members and students from colleges and universities from the eight-state region are here on campus for workshops, lectures, and performances. This is the second time that IUP has been selected to host the event; we also were the site for the 2010 festival, which featured keynote speaker Bill Pullman.

The keynote presenter for this year's festival is John Cariani. He's been in many television series and popular movies, including Kissing Jessica Stein, and was nominated for a Tony Award (Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical) for his performance in the Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof. He also has an interesting IUP tie: He was one of the stars of Elephant Sighs, the movie written by former IUP theater professor and playwright Ed Simpson.

There are a number of plays open to the community throughout the festival in the Performing Arts Center's Fisher Auditorium, along with four special productions for festival audiences. These plays, offered in the Waller Hall Mainstage Theater, are open to community members as seating permits (available seats will be distributed starting about 10 minutes before the performances).

Productions have to be selected for festival performances, and the competition is fierce; 80 colleges and universities are eligible to enter a production for selection.

So, IUP is very proud that festival officials selected an IUP production, Lindsey's Oyster, for showcase at the festival. The show will be presented in the Waller Hall Mainstage Theater on Friday, January 13, at 5:00 p.m. This is among the performances for which festival attendees have first priority for seating. Tickets are $10 per person.

This show, in addition to presenting outstanding student talent and excellent direction by IUP's Jason Chimonides, represents IUP's inaugural commitment to the National Theatre Conference's Initiative to Celebrate American Women Playwrights. (Note: This production may contain language and situations to which some audience members may object.) 

Make sure to check out the festival website to find about more about the peformances. An amazing opportunity for outstanding theater, right in our own backyard.

Stamp's World Premiere Represents Tragedy of September 11

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Fine Arts Dr. Jack Stamp 10304D12_260px.jpgJack Stamp, one of IUP's outstanding music professors and the chair of the IUP Department of Music, will bring the world premiere of his "Canticle: Voces Candentes" to IUP on December 8 at 8:00 p.m.

"Voces candentes" means falling voices. According to Dr. Stamp, the composition "represents the feelings of the tragedy of September 11, 2001, including the horror as well as the love." The work was written in commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the September 11 tragedy.

The libretto for the piece is by Anna George Meek, who has had many of her works published in noteworthy journals including the Missouri Review, where she was awarded the Tom McAfee Discovery Prize.

Program coverIn addition to Dr. Stamp as conductor, the presentation will feature Michael Hood, dean of the College of Fine Arts, as the narrator, and the musical talents of the IUP Symphony Orchestra, the IUP Wind Ensemble (conducted by Dr. Stamp), and members of the IUP Chorale and IUP Chorus.

In the first half of the concert, the IUP Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Stanley Chepaitis, will perform works by Franz Joseph Haydn and Igor Stravinsky.

The December 8 performance is certainly not Dr. Stamp's first world premiere. This entry would be several pages long if it included all of his well-known pieces, many of them commissioned by individuals or organizations.

Respected internationally as a composer and conductor, Dr. Stamp is IUP's 2008-2009 University Professor, an honor reserved for our most outstanding teachers, researchers, and scholars. It's a title that the recipients hold for a lifetime.

Dr. Stamp, who came to IUP in 1990, has accomplished a great deal during his tenure here. One of "our own" (he earned his bachelor's degree in Music Education at IUP in 1976), he is also the recipient of the 1995 IUP Distinguished Alumni Award and the 2007 Distinguished Faculty Award for Creative Arts. He also was honored with a citation of excellence from the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association in 1999 and by the American Bandmaster Association in 2000.

Dr. Stamp's talents and reputation led to the presentation of "And The Time Is," a poem by Pennsylvania poet laureate Samuel Hazo, for use in one of Stamp's compositions.

In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he has been an invited performer and conductor both nationally and internationally. He is the director and recording producer of the Keystone Wind Ensemble, a university-alumni group. The group's CDs are amazing and showcase IUP's outstanding faculty and alumni. The group has also been part of international performances and events, including the 2009 International Trumpet Guild conference.

Not only will this concert showcase IUP's talented students and faculty members, it's another chance to celebrate our nation's resilience after the tragedy of September 11.

Thank you, Dr. Stamp, for offering this amazing opportunity to our students and to all of us.

Art in Public

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Art in Oak Grove, full viewStudents in Robert Sweeny's art class are REALLY putting themselves out there.

For their final project, students were asked to take something personal that they do and put it on public display. One group decided to showcase its personal interests right in the Oak Grove.

Nicole Keebaugh, Asia Sanchez, Emily Manno, and Jake Good set up a tent to showcase an interest in camping (Good's interest).

Art in Oak Grove, close upOther students in the group are in the tent doing things that they do in their personal lives. Manno is knitting, Keebaugh is texting, and other students will be "on display" later today.

The students hope to be in the Oak Grove throughout the day today, for as long as weather permits (50 degrees in December definitely makes the project much more comfortable). "It might rain later this afternoon, so we'll have to see," Manno said of the ending time for the project.

Rocking the Classroom

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Fine-Arts-Music-Classroom-92811PF139.jpg

If you walked by Cogswell Hall this morning, you might have heard "Louie Louie" ringing through the halls. A lot of "Louie Louie." As in, a full hour of "Louie Louie." After all, it's "Louie Louie" Day in Gen Choral.

"Gen Choral" is what students call Music professor Laura Ferguson's General/Choral Methods class. And although Ferguson admits it has a reputation as "the rock band class," it's actually a class that teaches music education students the "very traditional" skills they need to lead choirs and choruses--along with general musical training to help them work with the many other ensembles they may be asked to lead, including world drums, microphone techniques, steel drumming, and, yes, rock band.

The mix of skills taught in Gen Choral derives from new thinking about what school music programs should provide for students. "There's this real disconnect between the kinds of music we make in schools and the kind of music we find authentically in our culture," notes Ferguson. Instead of making students fit the mold of what we already have--concert band, choir, orchestra--why not fit the mold to them? Why not open the door wider so more students participate in school music programs?

Ferguson is not the only music educator asking these questions. More primary and secondary schools are bringing popular music into their music curricula each year, and there is a growing body of research on the approach. In Britain, an organization called Musical Futures trains teachers to build upon students' "existing passion for music." And in the U.S., Little Kids Rock supports "teaching methods that are rooted in children's knowledge of popular music forms such as rock, rap, blues, hip-hop, and more." (Check out the New York Times's "Fixes" blog for more on Little Kids Rock.)

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But Ferguson believes she is the first person to create a college course for music educators that revolves around these new approaches to teaching music.

A key element of Ferguson's approach to the rock band part of the course is separating music students from the instruments they have spent years learning to play. It's not an easy transition for many, as years of musical training have convinced them that they should not play music at all unless they can play it very well. But not playing the instrument they usually play forces music ed students to be more "like their future students."

Hence "Louie Louie" Day.

Within a single class session, Ferguson's students pick up the electric guitar, electric bass, and sit at a drum kit for the first time. They learn their first three power chords and start playing a recognizable song. For many, it's a completely new way to learn music--and they are surprised to see how quickly beginning music students can start making music that they enjoy.

It's a lesson these future educators will take with them when they graduate. So don't be surprised if you hear "Louie Louie" coming from the choir room at a high school near you.

A Gen Choral Sample

While "Louie Louie" Day isn't open to the public, the Gen Choral concert is. This final class activity is a concert where students direct each other in choir performances and play music on the instruments they started playing only a few weeks earlier.

Below, you can enjoy a now-legendary (among IUP music students) performance from one of those concerts: "Lorraine's Lament," an ode to Lorraine Wilson, professor emeritus and former chair of Music:

Nursing Simulation Lab Makes Music Video Debut

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IUP's Nursing and Allied Health Professions degrees are some of our most rigorous programs, and for good reason--the things that the students learn there ARE a matter of life and death.

The faculty work very hard to create real-life experiences for students, so they are well prepared for work in hospitals and other health care settings. In September 2010, faculty members Lisa Palmer and Julia Greenawalt were successful in receiving amost $300,000 to create a simulation lab, which mirrors the home of a rural patient with a common chronic illness. The lab is designed to help train nurses for home health care especially and includes telehealth monitors used by home health care agencies. Dr. Palmer explained that with the shortage of nurses, more and more patients are being treated in their homes, and this laboratory offers a significant advantage to IUP students who go on to work with home health care agencies.

This new home health care simulation lab adds to the department's current simulation laboratory, established by the department in 2007 and renovated in 2009. This lab includes manikins of all "ages," including an infant, two simulated hospital rooms, and IV and other training devices.

While this laboratory gets very heavy use by students and faculty and will undoubtedly help future nurses save lives, it was the site of a very unusual project this summer.

David Altrogge, a 2006 IUP art studio/graphic design graduate, is making a name for himself as a cofounder and creative director of Vinegar Hill, a full service production company and creative agency based in Indiana. IUP has used his company for projects, and he has used IUP and Indiana places and spaces for several of his productions.

David recently was contracted by Centricity Records to produce a music video for Aaron Shust's My Hope Is in You. The story is about a couple waiting as their daughter is treated in a hospital following an accident. I won't give away the ending, but you might want to have a few tissues handy while you watch it.

If you've ever visited Johnson Hall (home to the department), and the "hospital" in the video looks sort of familiar to you--well, that's because it is. IUP's Nursing and Allied Health Professions Department's simulation lab is the hospital, and the hospital lobby is the lobby of the Nursing department in Johnson. The video features several IUP Nursing graduates, including Megan Wallwork (doing chest compressions), Janelle McCombie, and Kristi Altrogge. The Bennets, of Indiana, are the grieving parents.

While IUP is proud of David's work, we are also proud to know that the simulation lab did exactly what it was supposed to do, albeit in a fairly unorthodox setting: It offered a very real hospital environment, with a realistic patient and believable injuries. A win-win for all involved.

Chad Hurley's New Delicious Venture

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chadhurley.jpgYouTube cofounder and IUP alumnus Chad Hurley is jumping into a new venture by purchasing Delicious, the link sharing and organization tool, from Yahoo. As an off and on Delicious user, I'm excited by the prospect, because Hurley and his colleague Steve Chen seem to understand how so many of us are overwhelmed by the all good stuff we might want to keep track of on the web. The New York Times tells the story better than I can.

I first discovered this nugget of information when a few of my Facebook friends subscribed to Hurley's Facebook page. When I visited, I was delighted to find his profile picture was one Keith Boyer, our university photographer, shot for IUP Magazine. (The photo appears in the print edition, not the online edition.) Hurley earned a BFA at IUP in 1999. Through a gift, he named the arena in the Kovalchick Complex in honor of his track coach, Ed Fry, a retired professor.

Good News "for a Change"

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What They Said screen shot

I truly do enjoy my job, and I am very appreciative of the folks who go out of their way to tell me that they are happy with the media coverage I've arranged. One of my favorite things is when folks e-mail me or stop me out walking around campus with story ideas. Alumni, especially, are very loyal to IUP, and they like to see their university represented fairly for the accomplishments of its students, faculty, and graduates. So, I try not to take it personally when I hear, "Let's get some good news out there about IUP for a change." I know they care deeply about IUP and its reputation and are just trying to help.

For the past several years, I've been maintaining a log of media hits on the What They Said web page. I think it's a nice record of IUP in the news, and I hope that people (hint, hint: This means YOU, blog reader) visit it often.

But I've not really done an "official" count of media hits for several years, so, last year, I was asked to  count and measure the number of "good news" stories about IUP out there with circulation information. Here's what we found:

There were 435 positive stories about IUP from January 2010 to January 2011 in 46 different media outlets locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.

This does NOT include the hundreds of stories featured on our local radio station OR any stories on athletics. ... I imagine the number would probably triple if I counted sports reports and features.

Anyway, these media hits ranged from places like Religion Dispatch (with a circulation of 2.3 million), the New York Times (circulation 740,007), and the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune (circulation 534,750) to 29 hits in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (circulation 393,071), 22 hits in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (circulation 319,987), and 310 stories in the Indiana Gazette (circulation 16,000). Using what researchers call the "industry multiplier" (how many people actually read or hear news reports), this means that good news at IUP "for a change" reached 76,474,622 people. Yes, 76.5 million people.

Of course, we don't catch every media hit, so this is just what I've been able to document. I think it's a pretty impressive number.

That's the good news. But be assured, I'm working to get that 76.5 million up past 100 million for 2011-2012,...so story tips and ideas are always welcome!

Binai Exhibit: Twentieth Century Retrospective

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binaiLaSoif_412.jpgPaul Binai's work is bold--in color and in thought--and sometimes haunting. The fifty-year retrospective of his work--and glimpse of the twentieth century--is worth a trip to the University Museum. The exhibit served as a backdrop to the University Museum's Gala fundraiser, Eine Kleine Kit Kat Klub, held last weekend in the Blue Room. The Pittsburgh-Post Gazette covered the event.

There is no admission fee to the University Museum, which is located on the first floor of Sutton Hall. Hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 2:00 to 6:30 p.m., Thursday from noon to 7:30 p.m., and Saturday from noon to 4:00 p.m. The Binai exhibit runs through December 3. If you go, be sure to pick up a copy of the exhibit catalog. Binai's biography itself is fascinating and provides perspective to some of what you'll see hanging in the gallery.

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