Mast Winter 2003
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Bicentennial bulletin

It's time to start planning your part in Ohio University's bicentennial celebration. Here are some opportunities to consider:

  • The Kennedy Museum of Art plans an alumni art show for June 10-Sept. 12, 2004. The show will feature sculpture, prints, painting, photography, interdisciplinary work and other media. Ohio University graduates can have their work considered for the show by sending up to 12 slides, a videotape or CD of the work along with supporting materials to Director James Wyman, Kennedy Museum of Art, Lin Hall, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio 45701. Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for the return of entry materials. The deadline for entries is Oct. 31, 2003.

  • The Feb. 18, 2004, Founders Day celebration will feature a number of events, including the world premiere of composer Mark Phillips' specially commissioned musical piece.

  • A play focusing on John Newton Templeton, who in 1828 became Ohio University's first and the nation's fourth African-American to graduate from college, will be part of the School of Theater's 2003-04 Mainstage Season. It is being written by Professor of Theater Charles Smith, an award-winning playwright and head of the University's playwriting program.

Share your memories

We want you to be a part of bringing the bicentennial to the pages of Ohio Today.

  • Tell us -- in 100 words or less -- what you love about Ohio University.
  • Do you have an Ohio University story or event in living color? Or perhaps in black and white? If you have home video from your college days, send us a VHS recording for a special Web presentation we hope to compile. Tapes can't be returned, so please send a copy.
  • We have many ideas of our own, but we're still open to yours. If you've got suggestions for how Ohio Today can commemorate the bicentennial, let us know.

Send items to wall@ohio.edu or Ohio Today, University Communications and Marketing, Scott Quad 102, Athens, Ohio 45701-2979. If you have questions, contact the editors at (740) 593-2200.

Making music history by Corinne Colbert

When President Robert Glidden decided to commission a piece of music for Ohio University's bicentennial, he set high standards. He wanted a substantial piece of music, by a University composer, that would mark the occasion but also be independent of it so it could be performed for years to come.

Professor of Music Mark Phillips

Professor of Music Mark Phillips has been commissioned to create a musical composition that marks Ohio University's bicentennial in 2004.

Photo by Rick Fatica

And he knew just the man for the job: Mark Phillips, professor of composition and electronic music, an award-winning composer whose work has been performed by some of the world's greatest orchestras and musicians.

"Mark will write a piece of substance that also will be accessible to listeners," Glidden predicts. "I'm hoping the piece will be one that will receive performances in other venues in future years, with the inscription that it was composed on commission for the Ohio University bicentennial."

Phillips, though, was a bit perplexed. The president's June 2001 charge was to create a composition that would interpret the University's history and celebrate its bicentennial but that wouldn't be tied specifically to either -- directions that at first seemed antithetical.

It took Phillips nearly 15 months to decide how to resolve the problem. He began by immersing himself in the University's development: poring through archives, reading various histories and talking with Betty Hollow, editor of a soon-to-be-released commemorative book featuring personal memories of alumni, faculty and staff.

"Establishing a balance," Phillips says, "was the first issue for me as an artist."

Through his research, he developed an outline for a 30-minute multimedia piece incorporating live and electronic music, dance, projected images, lighting, sets and costumes. The movements will be framed by video projections depicting key themes in the University's history and the impact major national and international events had on the institution. The movements themselves will expand on those themes musically.

"The framing devices will be very concrete, featuring actual images," Phillips says. "The movements will be more abstract and could be interpreted in a number of ways."

Interpreting the music will be a job for Lisa Ford Moulton, associate professor of dance, who will choreograph the presentation. This will mark the pair's third collaboration. In 1999, Phillips invited Moulton to choreograph and perform a dance for his composition, "My Aunt Gives Me a Clarinet Lesson." A year later, Moulton asked Phillips to alter and arrange selections from the Sammy Kaye Orchestra for a School of Dance concert.

"Mark values my opinion, and we have a lot of good communication," Moulton says. "He always gave me free rein artistically."

The two work similarly, spending nearly as much time thinking about a piece as they do with the more concrete aspects of creating it.

"Thinking and planning are a big component of a work," Phillips says. "I have to get my hands around the parameters of a piece and how it's going to develop."

Phillips started the actual writing in November 2002; rehearsals should begin this fall, although Phillips doesn't expect to have the entire piece completed until January 2004, just a month before the composition will have its world premiere at the Feb. 18 Founders Day celebration.

"There will be a big push this year," Phillips says. "I've told people not to expect much else from me between now and then."

People have been expecting a lot from Phillips since 1982, when he won the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers' Raymond Hubbell Award to Young Composers as a doctoral student at Indiana University. Two years later, he joined the faculty at Ohio University and soon was amassing many more awards, including Standard Awards from ASCAP every year since 1988. He's also earned University recognition as an artist and teacher, including four awards from the provost's office recognizing outstanding teaching and two Baker Fund Awards. In 1999, Glidden named Phillips a Presidential Research Scholar, a five-year appointment.

That's not bad for a guy who recalls being "dragged off to piano lessons as a kid" and who didn't really commit to music as a career until he was almost out of high school. The turning point came when Phillips, who played trombone, was invited to participate in an all-state honors band. For the first time, he found himself surrounded by musicians whose abilities matched or exceeded his own.

He entered West Virginia University in 1970 as a music major in performance but increasingly became interested in composition. Like many musicians in the late 1960s and early '70s, he dabbled in writing and performing his own folk songs. But friends began asking him to arrange music for them, and Phillips started thinking about how music is written and why composers make certain choices.

He still wasn't sure about composition, though, even as he began graduate studies at Indiana. Phillips credits Fred Fox, his teacher and mentor at Indiana, for encouraging him to stick with writing.

"I've never looked back since," he says.

Now, of course, he's doing nothing but looking back - at Ohio University's history. This time, though, the job is to put the past to music with an eye toward posterity.

That's exactly what Glidden had in mind. A former music faculty member at Indiana University and dean of the music schools at Bowling Green and Florida State, Glidden has a personal motivation for commissioning the piece.

"Music lasts," he says.

Corinne Colbert, BSJ '87 and MA '93, is a freelance writer living in Amesville, Ohio.

 

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