Grammy-nominated composer-pianist Vijay Iyer–“one of the most interesting and vital young pianists in jazz today” (Pitchfork)–along with bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Tyshawn Sorey MA ’11, performed as the Vijay Iyer Trio at Crowell Concert Hall on Saturday, October 11, 2014. Images by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography. Click here to view the full album on flickr.
CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to Dawn Elder, manager of Riffat Sultana, who makes her New England debut with her band Party at Wesleyan on Friday, November 7, 2014 at 8pm in Crowell Concert Hall.
“Riffat Sultana channels the musical wisdom of 500 years and eleven generations of master musicians from India and Pakistan, bringing a spectacular voice and talent to the world stage.” —Banning Eyre, Afropop Worldwide
In 1995, Riffat Sultana became the first woman in her family to sing in public.
Her father, the late Ustad Salamat Ali Khan, is universally recognized as one of the greatest Pakistani classical singers of his generation. Her mother, Razia, comes from a line of highly respected Shiite musicians in India and is herself a talented vocalist. But as a woman, Razia was prohibited from singing in public, with the exception of Sufi ceremonies held in the family home.
Riffat expressed an interest in music early in life, wishing from a young age that she could study classical music like her four brothers. Denied the opportunity to study music formally, she picked up what she could from traditional and popular songs she heard on tapes and on the radio.
Learning songs came easily for Riffat, and soon family friends began to comment on her unusual talent and promising voice. Some even offered to teach her classical music, but her father refused.
But her big break came in 1990, when her father invited her to tour with him in Europe and the United States. Although primarily tasked with tending to the domestic needs of her father and brothers on tour, Riffat was permitted to join them onstage to play the tambura, a traditional string instrument.
Ultimately, Riffat and her brother, Sukhawat Ali Khan, convinced their father to let them move to the United States. Here they found welcoming communities of American-Pakistani musicians who encouraged them to pursue their passion for music. In 1995, Riffat took the stage to sing publicly for the first time.
Riffat’s musical career took off from there. At first, she kept it a secret from her father, but eventually he learned of her growing success, and gave her his blessing to continue performing. He even taught her the classical forms of his unique style of vocalization and music.
That influence is evident in Riffat’s music today. “She has a versatility of taking her vocalization and her improv and fitting it within a western sound, [but also] fitting intimately into a natural folk traditional style,” said her manager, Dawn Elder.
“It’s the warmth that draws me to her music,” said Ms. Elder. “It’s the intimate tonality and the authenticity of her sound. Not a lot of frill, not a lot of fuss—just pure music.”
Riffat Sultana has collaborated with many influential musicians including Quincy Jones and Nile Rodgers. She has shared the stage with Patti Austin, Lionel Loueke, Richard Bona, Michael Franti, and Ben Harper, among others.
“She’s one of the only Pakistani female singers to ever perform with full orchestration,” explained Ms. Elder. “There has not been anyone quite like her, [and] she has certainly opened a door for other women.”
As part of Muslim Women’s Voices at Wesleyan, Riffat Sultana makes her New England debut this Friday, November 7, 2014 at 8pm in Crowell Concert Hall. Performing a wide variety of traditional and modern works from Pakistan and India, Riffat will be accompanied by an all-star ensemble that includes her brother Sukhawat Ali Khan on vocals and harmonium, her husband Richard Michos on guitar, Gurdeep Singh on tabla, dholak, and dhol (double-headed drums), Jay Gandhi on bansuri (bamboo flute), and very special guest Mitch Hyare, an internationally renowned dhol master.
“Her music is unexpected and exciting and really warm,” said Ms. Elder. “She brings you into her backyard. She welcomes you into her home. The stage is her home.”
Hear from Sufi fusion singer Riffat Sultana and Party about her experiences as a Muslim woman artist both in America and abroad in Pakistan and India. Moderated by Lebanese American writer, actress, and teaching artist Leila Buck ’99.
Earlier this month, Muslim Women’s Voices at Wesleyan was featured on WNPR’s Where We Live with Center for the Arts Director Pamela Tatge joining Dr. Feryal Salem, Assistant Professor of Islamic Scriptures and Law, Co-Director of the Islamic Chaplaincy Program, and Director of the Imam and Muslim Community Leadership Certificate Program at the Hartford Seminary, and Sufi fusion singer Riffat Sultana (who will perform at Wesleyan on Friday, November 7, 2014 at 8pm). Click here to listen to the broadcast.
A number of exciting Muslim Women’s Voices at Wesleyan events are on the horizon. On Friday, October 24, 2014 at 8pm in the Memorial Chapel, Associate Professor of Dance Katja Kolcio presents the premiere performance of the multimedia work To Not Forget Crimea: Uncertain Quiet of Indigenous Crimean Tatars, a response to recent political changes in Crimea. Featuring live music and dance in collaboration with New York Crimean Tatar Ensemble Musical Director Nariman Asanov and Yevshan Ukrainian Vocal Ensemble Conductor Alexander Kuzma, the work explores issues of historical memory, cultural narrative, and the quest for human rights, as they relate to the history of Tatars, native inhabitants of Crimea, and their complex relationships with Ukraine and Russia. A free panel discussion, “Indigenous Ukrainian Perspectives of Crimea Post Russian-Invasion, will take place before the performance, on Friday, October 24, 2014 from 6pm to 7:30pm in Fayerweather Beckham Hall.
Next week, on Wednesday, October 29, 2014 at 7pm in CFA Hall, Lebanese American writer, actress, and teaching artist Leila Buck ’99 explores family, memory, and politics in her free solo performance Hkeelee (Talk to Me).
Ms. Buck will also give a free workshop performance (Friday, April 17 and Saturday, April 18, 2015 at 8pm), where she will present a work-in-progress showing of a collaborative theatrical work commissioned by the Center for the Arts as part of Muslim Women’s Voices at Wesleyan.
In the meantime, we hope you will join us for all of these upcoming talks and performances.
CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to Benjamin Zucker ’15about the Vijay Iyer Trio, who perform on Saturday, October 11, 2014 at 8pm in Crowell Concert Hall.
This Saturday, Grammy Award-nominated composer-pianist Vijay Iyer takes the stage in Crowell Concert Hall, along with bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Tyshawn Sorey MA ’11, for what promises to be a landmark performance in the history of jazz at Wesleyan.
A 2013 MacArthur Fellow, Mr. Iyer has been named “one of the world’s most inventive new-generation jazz pianists” (Guardian), “an American treasure” (Minnesota Public Radio), and “one of the best in the world at what he does” (Pitchfork).
What Mr. Iyer does is complex and multifaceted, innovative and cutting edge. “He’s doing a lot,” comments Wesleyan Music major Benjamin Zucker ’15. “He is literally and figuratively all over the world.”
Mr. Zucker describes Mr. Iyer’s music as “intricate, rhythms against rhythms, and repeating figures that layer over each other.”
A polymath with a background in math and science, as well as the humanities and the arts, Mr. Iyer received an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in the cognitive science of music from University of California, Berkeley.
“He was studying the cognitive perception of music at U.C. Berkeley at the same time that he was playing in an active jazz scene in San Francisco and Oakland,” says Mr. Zucker. “He is someone who has thought a lot about what music can do and how we can get it to do what it does.”
In addition to his background in math and science, Mr. Iyer’s identity as a South Asian American informs his music. “There is a tradition of Asian American jazz, especially in the Bay Area,” explains Mr. Zucker. “But Vijay is at the forefront of a new wave of multicultural jazz and improvisation.”
A prolific composer, Mr. Iyer has released an astonishing eighteen albums over the years. His first album with the Vijay Iyer Trio, Historicity, came out in 2009 and quickly became one of the most influential and acclaimed albums in contemporary jazz.
“The trio is a very cohesive whole,” comments Mr. Zucker. “It really is a full give-and-take with everyone providing their own contribution to the overall rhythm.”
Mr. Iyer and the Vijay Iyer Trio speak to the ever-changing and dynamic nature of jazz music. According to Jazzwise Magazine, “The Vijay Iyer Trio has the potential to alter the scope, ambition and language of jazz piano forever.”
Mr. Zucker will give a pre-concert talk at 7:15pm this Saturday, October 11, 2014, prior to the performance at 8pm in Crowell Concert Hall.
This year, we invite you to join us as we welcome the world to Wesleyan. Artists working in contemporary or traditional forms from 18 different countries will be performing or exhibiting at the CFA over the next nine months.
A centerpiece of this year’s program is Muslim Women’s Voices at Wesleyan, which begins in September. Each of the performers to be featured is Muslim or of Muslim heritage, has a distinct set of personal experiences, and is embedded in a particular place, society, and cultural tradition. It is our way of inviting audiences to celebrate the complexity of Muslim women today, while at the same time exploring the historical and cultural context from which these women have emerged. We are also inviting audiences to participate in the creative process as we give birth to a new play by Leila Buck ’99, based on stories of Muslim and Muslim-American women in our region.
We are also bringing one of the United States’ most innovative theater companies working at the intersection of text and technology, The Builders Association, for two performances in October. Their amazing production Sontag: Reborn is a portrait of the younger years of one of America’s most iconic intellectuals, Susan Sontag. In November, the Theater and Music Departments join forces to mount the Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights, directed by Theater’s Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento with music direction by Nadya Potemkina, director of the Wesleyan University Orchestra. The musical was the thesis production of Lin-Manuel Miranda, a Theater major who graduated in ’02, who went on to win the Tony for “Best Original Score.” The book was written by Quiara Alegría Hudes, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, who will be a visiting faculty member at Wesleyan this year. It is sure to be an extraordinary production. And throughout the fall, the epic-scale, haunting landscape paintings of Professor of Art Tula Telfair will be on view in Zilkha Gallery. We invite you to enter into the imaginary worlds that Telfair creates in twelve large-scale paintings that are simultaneously awe-inspiring and intimate.
We launched our new website over the summer, and we hope you’ll visit and return often to find out about all of the faculty, student, and visiting artist events and exhibitions this year. We hope you will look to us as a place of enlightenment and enjoyment in the coming months.
As winter sets in, the Center for the Arts heats up with many events and experiences designed to inspire, entertain, provoke and delight. We are welcoming two groups who, like the CFA, are also celebrating their 40th anniversary. The first is Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s premier dance companies that will perform the New England premiere of Times Bones, an enthralling work that features music by Paul Dresher and poetry by Michael Palmer. Jenkins is one of this country’s master choreographers with an astonishing body of work and we are delighted to be bringing her company to Connecticut. We are also bringing members of Sweet Honey in the Rock to Wesleyan. For four decades, this Grammy Award-winning all female African American a cappella group has brought joy to audiences around the world. Three members of Sweet Honey will be teaching workshops that will culminate in a showing on April 17. This is an extraordinary opportunity for both singers and non-singers to enter into their creation and performance practice. Other highlights of the spring include the first major solo exhibition in the U.S. by Paris-based American artist Evan Roth, whose work lives at the intersection of viral media and art, graffiti and technology. You’ll also have the opportunity to hear Ukranian Vadym Kholodenko, winner of the prestigious Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, play a program that includes Frédéric Chopin, Johannes Brahms, and Nikolai Medtner. Wesleyan’s Music Department will host the 28th conference of the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States, which will feature a series of concerts where you can immerse yourself in new music by American composers. And Associate Professor of Dance Nicole Stanton will premiere the work Threshold Sites: Feast, which explores how we experience and enact our own corporeality, and how that impacts the way we experience our communities and our environments. At the end of the semester, you’ll have the chance to see the culminating works created by Wesleyan students, and be able to put your finger on the pulse of the current generation of art makers. Highlights include a production of Slawomir Mrozek’s Vatzlav, directed by Lily Whitsitt ’06; thesis performances in music and dance; and three weeks of thesis exhibitions by studio art majors. We have a rich and expansive spring planned for you. Please join us as often as you can.
CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 discusses the Juice Vocal Ensemble, who make their Connecticut debut onSaturday, November 9, 2013 at 8pm in Crowell Concert Hall. There will be a free sing along with Juice Vocal Ensemble on Friday, November 8, 2013 at 4:15pm in the Daltry Room (Music Rehearsal Hall 003) .
Are you in an a cappella group on campus? Do you sing in a band or a choir or maybe just in the shower? Did you dream of growing up to be a rock star? Maybe you still do. Whoever you are, if you love to sing, come join Juice Vocal Ensemble this Friday, November 8, 2013 at 4:15pm in the Daltry Room (Music Rehearsal Hall 003), 60 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown for a free sing-a-long.
Juice Vocal Ensemble is an experimental a cappella trio out of London. Featuring sopranos Anna Snow and Sarah Dacey, and alto Kerry Andrew, the group mixes contemporary classical with folk, jazz, pop, electronica, and world music. Their debut album Songspin (2011) won an Independent Music Award for “Best Contemporary Classical Album” in May 2012.
Juice comes to Wesleyan as part of their first U.S. tour since an appearance at the South by Southwest Festival in March 2011. Following the sing-a-long on Friday afternoon, they will perform in Crowell Concert Hall this Saturday, November 9, 2013 at 8pm. Their set will include original arrangements of British folk songs and pop music by Guns N’ Roses, Erasure, Mariah Carey, and Flatt and Scruggs; as well as compelling classical works by U.K. composers including Gabriel Prokofiev; six U.S. premieres, including one work written by Anna Snow; and the world premiere of “Ferrara Redux” by New York-based composer and Wesleyan alumnus Toby Twining MA ’06
Additionally, there will be a pre-concert talk at 7:15pm on Saturday by Wesleyan University John Spencer Camp Professor of Music Neely Bruce.
Pamela Tatge, Director of the Center for the Arts, discusses the four new trees planted in honor of the CFA’s 40th anniversary, to be dedicated at the concert by Amy Crawford + STORM and mamarazzi on Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 8pm in Crowell Concert Hall.
If you’ve ever taken a stroll through the Center for the Arts courtyard before a performance, or sat out on the lawn for an outdoor concert, you know how important the trees are to the architecture of the CFA. Architect Kevin Roche designed the buildings around the trees back in the early seventies, making sure that the building equipment would have as little impact on them as possible. Over the past forty years, many of the trees have died from extreme weather conditions and disease. In honor of the CFA’s 40th anniversary, the University has planted four new trees including one right outside the window of my office on the second floor of the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery. Here’s a picture of them planting it earlier this month.
This beautiful red maple replaces a willow tree we lost during Hurricane Irene. It’s wonderful to come into work every day and see that little tree blowing in the breeze, knowing that one day it will grow to be every bit as majestic as its older brothers and sisters in the complex.
There is also a new paper bark maple between Art Studio South and the Music Studios, a beech tree near the World Music Hall’s north stairwell, and another paper bark maple between the Skull and Serpent building and Music Studios.
Please join us for the 40th Anniversary Celebration Concert of music alumni this Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 8pm when the trees will be dedicated, or just come by and take a stroll and welcome them to the CFA!
• September 6 – December 8, 2013: The Alumni Show II exhibition in Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, featuring painting, sculpture, drawing, installation art, video art, performance, and films
• September 12 & 13, 2013: Stripped/Dressed featuring Rise and the Connecticut premiere of Carrugi by Doug Varone and Dancers
• September 13, 2013; November 16, 2013; and February 15, 2014: Dine/Dance/Discover, a new event designed to bring audiences closer to the work on stage before and after all three 2013–2014 Breaking Ground Dance Series performances
• September 27 & 28, 2013: the Connecticut premiere of Who’s Hungryby Dan Froot and Dan Hurlin
• September 29, 2013: the first of twelve recitals featuring the complete piano works of Wesleyan John Spencer Camp Professor of Music Neely Bruce, including two world premieres
• October 9–13, 2013: the 37th annual Navaratri Festival, including the Connecticut debut of dancer Aparna Ramaswamy
• October 15, 2013: the New England debut of Netherlands-based pianist Reinier van Houdt
• October 25, 2013: Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré, the “Hendrix of the Sahara”
• November 9, 2013: the Connecticut debut of London-based a cappella trio Juice Vocal Ensemble
• November 11, 2013: Blood, Muscle, Bone, a performative “teach-in” by choreographers Liz Lerman and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar
• November 13–16, 2013: Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull directed by Wesleyan Associate Professor of Theater Yuri Kordonsky
• November 15 & 16, 2013: the Connecticut premiere of the dance work Pavement by Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion
• January 30 & 31, 2014: the New England premiere of the theater work HOME/SICK by The Assembly
• February 1, 2014: the Connecticut debut of the Ignacio Berroa Trio
• February 14, 2014: the first concert in New England by Ukrainian pianist Vadym Kholodenko after winning the Gold Medal in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition
• February 14 & 15, 2014: the New England premiere of Times Bones by San Francisco’s Margaret Jenkins Dance Company
• March 8 & 9, 2014: the 15th annual DanceMasters Weekend, featuring a Showcase Performance by three dance companies, and twelve Master Classes over two days
• March 27—29, 2014: the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States conference, to be held in New England for the first time since 1998
Tickets for the 2013-2014 season at the Center for the Arts go on sale on Monday, July 1, 2013. Tickets will be available online at http://www.wesleyan.edu/boxoffice; and starting at Noon by phone at (860) 685-3355, or in person at the Wesleyan University Box Office, located in the Usdan University Center, 45 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown.
Programs, artists, and dates are subject to change without notice.
Be the first to discover who will be performing at Wesleyan! During the 2013-2014 season, Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts will be celebrating their 40th anniversary (the CFA opened in September 1973). On February 14, 2014, the 39th annual Crowell Concert Series presented by Center for the Arts and the Music Department will feature a concert by the Gold Medalist of this year’s Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, which begins this upcoming weekend. You can watch the entire Van Cliburn competition online for free, and be the first to discover who will be performing an evening of classical and Romantic music at Wesleyan on Valentine’s Day 2014!
The sensational victory by pianist Van Cliburn (1934-2013) at the first Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow in 1958 heralded a new confidence in the quality of American music-making, as well as a new era in cultural relations between East and West.
The 14th edition of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, which has been dedicated to the discovery of the world’s finest pianists every four years since 1962, starts this Friday, May 24, and concludes on Sunday, June 9, 2013, at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, Texas.
All performances will be streamed live in their entirety starting at 11am this Friday, and will also be available on demand at www.cliburn.org. Watch 30 pianists from Australia, Chile, China, France, Italy, Japan, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States compete for the coveted Cliburn medals, more than $175,000 in prizes and awards, and three years of commission-free career management.
Enjoy over 110 hours of live broadcasts of performances, interview segments, and awards ceremonies over 17 days, along with symposia, competitor profiles, special tributes to Van Cliburn, and other behind-the-scenes glimpses and featurettes on the competition.
Make comments and submit questions to the Cliburn team and webcast host, pianist Jade Simmons; and vote for your favorite competitors (the winner of this vote will receive an Audience Award to be given during the Final Awards ceremony on June 9.)