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Archive for Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Heard on the Hill: KU symphony conductor gives details of Eutin trip; KU graduate rescued after spending six days on a Utah canyon; Spencer Art Museum official details uses of grant funds

March 16, 2011

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Your daily dose of news, notes and links from around Kansas University.

• Here’s some updated information on the KU musicians’ trip to Eutin, Germany. I first reported last week that a contingent from KU would head back to the city after a successful winter concert.

David Neely, KU symphony orchestra director, filled me in on the details. A contingent of 69 people will travel to Germany this summer for six weeks.

“We’re treating this as a summer institute,” Neely said, adding that if all goes well, a contingent from KU could be invited back to participate in the festival again.

Perhaps most exciting for the students — all their expenses will be paid, by the board of directors for the Eutin's summer music festival. Several sources of public funds will be used, Neely said, including funds from state, regional and local governments in Germany. Ticket sales for the concert will also be used to pay some expenses.

The group Neely and Robert Walzel, the dean of the KU School of Music, but most of the group will be students. A cast of the opera Hansel and Gretel will attend, along with members of the KU symphony orchestra.

The group will perform the opera seven times, and members of the symphony will also be involved in seven performances of the opera Don Giovanni with a German cast.

The students attending the trip would be ones the school knew could handle the “very involved operas,” Neely said.

• I spotted this story from KSHB-TV that details how a KU graduate spent six days on a canyon ledge in Utah after a rappelling accident killed his brother.

David Cicotello, 57, received a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in English from KU was rescued by helicopter on Saturday.

Today, he serves as associate vice provost for admissions and enrollment services at Middle Tennessee State University.

His brother, 70-year-old Louis Cicotello, fell to his death on March 6, and took with him the only rope that the duo had.

• I wrote a bit about the fulfillment of a $1 million Andrew W. Mellon Institute challenge grant for the Spencer Museum of Art earlier this week.

I caught up with Celka Straughn, director of academic programs for the museum, on Tuesday and we talked a little bit more about it. Not only is she in charge of administering the programs made possible by the grant, the funds also pay her salary.

The basic idea is to build collaborations and connections all around the university, she said.

In addition to new exhibits and displays, Straughn said she hoped to bring the museum more to the center of university life.

She gave a few examples of professors who have incorporated the museum into their syllabi. Raquel Alexander, in the School of Business, uses the museum as a real-life example for her tax students, Straughn said. They learn about the business behind art collecting, the value of art and the role of tax laws in operating the museum.

Her graduate students often hold seminars for museum staff to teach them about the more esoteric points of tax law.

Other professors — like pharmacy’s Barbara Woods — use the museum to help students understand a broad range of cultures, and to teach students how to communicate what they’ve seen, Straughn said.

When I went through KU, I remember Phil McKnight, an education professor who taught my Western Civ class, required that all his students visit the Spencer, and I remember getting some good stuff out of the trip. One of my favorite memories from my trip as a student was a “sound sculpture” consisting of vertical metal rods that made a beautiful sound if you ran your hand over the top. Pretty spiffy stuff, and if more KU students are exposed to it, I don’t see how that’s a bad thing.

• Keep sending those tips for Heard on the Hill to ahyland@ljworld.com, even if you have to create an operatic aria to get your message across. In fact, send them to me especially if you have to create an operatic aria to get your message across.

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