President's Notebook

President's Notebook

My View from South Hill

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Posted by Thomas Rochon at 6:32PM   |  Add a comment
The Chorder Notes sing for Haiti.  Photo by Claudia Pietrzak/The Ithacan.

From Chopin to Beyoncé.  From classical to jazz to rock ‘n’ roll.  Soloists and ensembles.  Music both choral and instrumental.  Last night, February 8, the faculty and staff of Ithaca College played, sang, and even danced a little in support of the people of Haiti.  It is quite possible that Ford Auditorium has never heard such an eclectic variety of musical styles in the course of a single evening.

The concert was free, and donations collected at the door went to Doctors Without Borders (Médecins sans Frontières) for their relief work in Haiti.   A large and enthusiastic audience lapped up every note in this three hour concert, which included 16 acts. 

Music is, of course, the medium by which Ithaca College celebrates, mourns, and communicates with the world.  Professor Charis Dimaras, in a brief comment introducing his playing of Mozart’s Sonata in F Major, said that classical music is the high point of our civilization’s ability to express emotion through music. The IC Jazz Ensemble, which had taken the stage about an hour before Dr. Dimaras, might disagree … but the eclecticism in musical sensibilities was part of the beauty of the concert. 

When an enormous pool of talent coincides with an equally great commitment to a cause, magic can happen.  Of course magic does not happen by itself.  Peter Rothbart, professor in the School of Music, was the organizing force behind IC’s Concert for Haiti.  Professor Rothbart started thinking about the concert shortly after the earthquake struck on January 12.  He couldn’t make a serious start on its organization, however, until after students and faculty gathered again on campus to begin classes on January 25.  Do the math: that means just fifteen days from inception to performance.

When I saw Professor Rothbart before the concert last night, I commented that he looked surprisingly rested for someone who has just put together a 16-act concert in two weeks.  “I used to be a social activist,” Peter replied, “but then my life took a different turn and I became a professor and focused on my teaching career.  Now I get to unite the two!”

As I pointed out in remarks opening the concert, tragedy and community are closely twinned in human life.  When tragedy strikes somewhere in the world, that is when we most strongly become aware of our shared humanity.  We witnessed exactly the same phenomenon in the School of Music last December, when vandals damaged 60 practice pianos. That senseless act of destruction also resulted in a reaffirmation of our values as an open community committed to excellence in all our pursuits. (See my post /president/blog/pianogate_and_its_aftermath/)

The Concert for Haiti added in some small measure to the global outpouring of solidarity and financial support for Haitians who have lost family and homes in the earthquake.  The Concert added beyond measure, though, to our understanding of ourselves as a campus community and of our relationship to international neighbors in need.  

Chopin and Beyoncé would agree.


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