For the Love of Music: The University’s Musical Identity
*The following is an excerpt from the fall 2011 issue of Ignite, the University’s academic journal. To view the full article, visit scranton.edu/ignite.
Performance Music at The University of Scranton is an exemplar for the collegiate musical community. At a school that has no music major, more than 350 students, staff, faculty and alumni participate in the program each year. It brings together composers and professional musicians with students to collaborate in a unique partnership. The program also brings world-class jazz and classical artists to Scranton to work with students and perform for the greater community. In addition to all this, it is home to The Nelhybel Collection of musical compositions.
The Concert Hall
The Houlihan-McLean Center is a University architectural treasure and central to the cultural, social and educational life of the institution’s community. A church that was converted into a concert hall in 1987, the 700-seat former sanctuary has superlative acoustics and houses a rebuilt Steinway-B grand piano and a 101-year-old Austin Opus 301 Symphonic Organ. The lower floor, which has been converted into practice rooms and the main rehearsal hall, is the soul of the building, and all that happens in the concert hall begins here.
The leitmotif of Performance Music at Scranton is to:
- Provide students with performance experiences in vocal and instrumental ensembles
- Encourage students to acquire higher levels of skill and knowledge in music
- Provide opportunities to observe, listen to, interact and perform with outstanding guest artists
- Enrich the cultural, spiritual and intellectual life of the University and the local community
Programming is diverse in nature: the repertoire is representative of a variety of musical styles, genres, periods and cultures.
Since 1984, Performance Music has provided its students and the community with a truly unique event: the World Premiere Composition Series. Director Cheryl Y. Boga commissions original compositions for concert choir and concert band by world-celebrated composers (such as Robert Kapilow H’09, Wycliffe Gordon H’06 and Ted Nash). The composers come to Scranton to conduct the final rehearsals and first public performances of their works. The magic of this collaboration rests in the students’ experience, as they learn directly from the composer about a composition’s performance.
At the center of Performance Music is Boga, a 30-year University veteran who has built Performance Music into the quality program that serves so many. She plans and executes nearly 40 performances in an academic year, directs all Performance Music ensembles, contacts guest artists, and serves on University committees. Boga’s dedication permeates her programming and her students’ attitudes.
The University is home to The Nelhybel Collection, which consists of more than 600 of internationally renowned composer Vaclav Nelhybel’s works. The legendary composer, conductor, teacher and lecturer was the inaugural composer/conductor for the World Premiere Concert Series in 1984, remaining musically involved at Scranton throughout the rest of his life.
In 2006, Wycliffe Gordon presented perhaps the most unique commencement speech in the University’s history in that he performed rather than spoke. “My commencement speech was spoken in the language I speak the best. Cheryl’s program makes it possible for students to continue to speak a language that they love,” he said. In the Houlihan-McLean Center, the University and general communities have the opportunity to be immersed in the language of music.