CCPA Social Justice Program Opens Doors for Performing Arts Projects
One of the missing links between refugees and Swedish citizens is performing arts. At least, that’s what Roosevelt music composition student Sean Hussey argues in his latest project.
The recipient of a Performing Social Justice Seed grant offered annually by the Chicago College of Performing Arts (CCPA), Hussey spent two weeks with vocal quartet Åkervinda in residence at the Inter Arts Center in Malmö, Sweden, where he spoke with musicians, refugees and locals about the often-problematic integration of refugees in the Scandinavian nation.
“The [Social Justice Seed Program] could not have been more perfect,” Hussey said. “We needed funding for an idea, and every other funding opportunity required us to have a product. We didn’t have that. Our goal was to figure out what we wanted to do.”
Discoveries made by Hussey during the experience could form the basis for a future book and provide him with countless opportunities to grow the project in the future. This is exactly the kind of outcome CCPA music history professors Thomas Kernan and David Kjar had in mind when they launched the Performing Social Justice Seed Program two years ago.
“We want students to use this program to ask themselves what more they can do as artists besides performing at concerts in the community.”Thomas Kernan, CCPA Faculty Member
“We want students to use this program to ask themselves what more they can do as artists besides performing at concerts in the community,” Kernan said. “We want them to explore what social justice should look like as a performing artist in the 21st century.”
“When musicians and creative types move themselves into other worlds and get to know others, they end up learning more about themselves,” Kjar added.
The two preside over the program that awards grant money, which has ranged from $500 to $3,500 per project. The faculty members mentor awardees in their work, giving them a financial head start in pursuing ideas that bridge performing art with Roosevelt’s mission of social justice.
Recent projects include a critique of gender inequality in the opera world, by Heidi Joosten. CCPA students Ian McGuffin and Cassandra Kaczor worked on the “Dried Tobacco Project,” a musical exploration of the emotional risks within the LGBTQ community.
“What’s been most satisfying about the program is that there’s a community starting to form in which CCPA students are sharing their ideas on how, as performing artists, they can best put social justice into action,” Kjar said. “All those who’ve applied for grants are joining periodically to meet, inspire others and give advice.”
CCPA students can apply for Social Justice Seed grants starting in their second semester. Applicants prepare proposals explaining why their idea relates to social justice, the support they need and plans for the future. A group of CCPA faculty members reviews the proposals, working with students to refine ideas before a project begins.
It is a process that Hussey followed in order to get the grant that took him to Sweden, an eye-opening experience that has led to his growth both as a performing artist and a socially conscious citizen.
“This project has opened doors for new ways of thinking about my future and looking into PhD programs,” Hussey said. “It’s been remarkable to have the guidance of CCPA faculty members, and this wouldn’t be possible without their time and effort.”
CCPA’s Frazes Hill Named Milwaukee Symphony Chorus Director
Cheryl Frazes Hill, associate professor of music education and director of choral activities at Chicago College of Performing Arts (CCPA), was named director of the highly acclaimed Milwaukee Symphony Chorus in May.
“The Milwaukee Symphony Chorus is one of America’s finest orchestral choruses, with a very long and important tradition,” said CCPA Dean Henry Fogel. “For Cheryl to be chosen after a major international search process is a strong demonstration of the quality of her work as a choral leader.”
Trained by the notable founder and first director of the Chicago Symphony Chorus, Margaret Hillis, Frazes Hill has been a noted Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chorus singer and member of its conducting staff for more than 40 years, including more than 20 years assisting current CSO chorus director and conductor Duain Wolfe. She has also spent 15 years leading CCPA’s choral activities.
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime for me to be selected to lead a symphony chorus,” said Frazes Hill, who regularly commutes between Chicago and Milwaukee.
This season, Frazes Hill has led the Milwaukee Symphony Chorus in performances of Bach’s Magnificat; Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms; Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9; as well as Handel’s immensely popular Messiah series, to be held in December.
Meanwhile, Frazes Hill remains engaged with student and alumni singers at Roosevelt. Among this season’s highlights, she prepared CCPA’s choirs for movements from Mozart’s Requiem with the Chicago Sinfonietta, performed at the Naperville, Illinois Wentz Auditorium, and at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall in November.
She also will be working in spring 2018 with CCPA’s choirs, which will perform an evening of music honoring Black History Month joined by the Providence St. Mel High School choir and guest artist Roosevelt A. Credit on Feb. 21, and Honegger’s King David with the CCPA Wind Ensemble on April 3. Both performances will be in Roosevelt’s Ganz Hall.
“I am glad that I still have the opportunity to guide the next generation of singers and music educators,” Frazes Hill said.
She hopes to be able to engage Roosevelt alumni living in the Milwaukee area in Milwaukee Symphony Choir activities, and looks forward to an opportunity for future collaboration between the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and CCPA students.
“It’s something that I have in the back of my mind,” Frazes Hill said. “That would be exciting for our students and I would certainly enjoy it.”
Training Tomorrow’s Arts Leaders
This fall, students in Roosevelt’s Chicago College of Performing Arts (CCPA) will begin seeing a variety of programs, lectures and panel discussions sponsored by an organization with an unfamiliar name: The Center for Arts Leadership.
The brainchild of CCPA Dean Henry Fogel and his staff, the Center for Arts Leadership was created earlier this year with the mission of educating “a new generation of socially conscious artistic leadership.”
“Performing is not the only aspect of the arts that’s important,” Fogel said. “Arts organizations need creative, imaginative leaders to guide them into the future.”
The center’s new director is Roosevelt alumna Allegra Montanari, a 2012 master’s in cello performance graduate who started Sharing Notes, an award-winning nonprofit group of volunteer musicians, including many Roosevelt students and alumni who perform regularly for patients at Chicago-area hospitals.
“In the past, CCPA students have been encouraged to apply the principles of social justice to their work as artists,” but without much guidance about how to do it, according to Montanari. “With the Center for Arts Leadership, we’re taking that next step toward finding ways to engage with the community and providing students with opportunities to take what they’ve learned in the classroom and put it into action.”
Leadership takes many forms, so the new center is taking a multi-pronged approach in helping CCPA students to think more expansively about their potential role as artists and citizens in the larger community.
Among its initiatives, the center is sponsoring guest lectures and panel discussions with professionals who use their arts backgrounds in various creative and original ways. These events are also intended to acquaint students with resources that are available to them through the center, including internships, group activities and grants.