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Southern will host three events in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Monday, April 24, 2017. All events are free and open to the public.

‘Days of Remembrance’

1-2 p.m.: Professor Jason Stanley, Ph.D., Jacob Urowsky Professor of Philosophy, Yale University, will share the largely unknown story of his grandmother Ilse Stanley’s heroic efforts to save more than 400 Jewish prisoners from concentration camps between 1936 and 1938, as well as her efforts to help many others escape from Germany. He will read from his grandmother’s 1957 book, The Unforgotten.
Learn more.

University Choir Concert: ‘We Will Remember….’

7:30-9:30 p.m.: The concert commemorates Holocaust Remembrance Day, and also honors the 100th anniversary of the founding of the New Haven Chapter of the NAACP.  Musical selections include Daniel Hall’s hauntingly beautiful piece for choir and viola, “Reflections from Yad Vashem”; Verdi’s “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves” (Va Pensiero); Leonard Bernstein’s “Somewhere” from West Side Story; American spirituals arranged by Moses Hogan, Sheldon Curry and Thomas Trenney; a musical reflection for trumpet and choir inspired by Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech; and Wilhousky’s famous concert arrangement of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” – Learn more. 

Holocaust Exhibition in Memory of Elie Wiesel

All day: The Holocaust Exhibition showcases books, videos, mementos, and pictures from private collections and Hilton C. Buley Library. – Learn more.

Walter Stutzman, Stutzman scholars
Walter Stutzman, ’09, found his calling in music. Today, with the leadership-level support of the Stutzman Family Foundation, he’s dedicated to helping Southern students discover their sound.

The idea came to light in the midst of tragedy and terror. “I was at the World Trade Center on 9-11 when it was attacked,” says Walter Stutzman, who was working in information technology. “It was that awful day that planted the seed. What if this had been the last day of my life?”

Several years of contemplation followed. “I’m not necessarily an impulsive person,” says Stutzman with a smile. But in 2005, he said goodbye to a successful 30-year career in IT to become a 50-something-year-old music major at Southern.

In some ways, it was a return to his roots. Stutzman began studying piano when he was 8, and has been the cantorial and choir accompanist for Temple Beth Tikvah in Madison, Conn., for more than three decades. But his academic and career pursuits were largely directed elsewhere. Stutzman played in the band at Pomona College in California —  but he majored in mathematics, then earned a graduate degree in linguistics at Yale University and ultimately launched a career in the computer science field.

At Southern, music came first. “It was a phenomenal experience. The Music Department was extremely welcoming, and I learned a tremendous amount,” says Stutzman, who graduated from Southern in 2009 with a perfect 4.0 grade point average and was named one of only 12 Henry Barnard Distinguished Scholars by the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system.

Today, Stutzman is at the head of the classroom, teaching both traditional and online classes as an adjunct faculty member with Southern’s Department of Music and the First Year Experience (FYE) program.

Through his leadership, the Stutzman Family Foundation also has funded numerous initiatives that directly benefit Southern students. “It is a way to say thank you to my alma mater for all they’ve done for me,” he says of the contributions that pay tribute to his late parents, Geraldine and Jacob Stutzman, who established the family foundation to further education.

At Southern, their vision has supported the creation of an electronic music laboratory, in addition to: 1) the Southern Applied Music Program, which provides free weekly voice or instrument lessons for all music majors and minors, 2) underwriting for the University Choir’s biennial performance trips abroad, 3) support for the Drum Line and, most recently, 4) the Stutzman Family Foundation Music Scholarship.

The foundation’s generosity has been transformative, says Craig Hlavac, associate professor and chairman of the Department of Music. “There is no question in my mind, the department would not be operating in the manner we are without the tremendous support we’ve received from the Stutzman Family Foundation, especially considering the fiscal constraints of the state today,” he says.

In addition to the many students who take music courses as electives and as liberal arts requirements, Southern has about 45 music majors and 20 music minors. They’re a hardworking group: one-third of students majoring in music work 21 hours a week or more, according to research conducted by the department. “Couple that with a full-time academic course load, practice time, and rehearsal demands. You see why we need scholarship support,” says Hlavac.

First awarded in the 2016-17 academic year, the Stutzman Family Foundation Music Scholarship answers that need, benefiting music majors with a 3.0 grade point average or higher. Five students currently receive the scholarship, which ranges from $250 to $1,000 per semester, and is renewable up to a total of eight semesters. The recipients — known as Stutzman Scholars — are selected through musical auditions and a review of their musical and academic achievements.

The process is competitive but not restrictive. “We take the access part of our mission very seriously,” says Hlavac. “We can accept students who other universities might not take — not because of a lack of talent — but because they might not have the traditional background or experience of someone majoring in music.”

Stutzman concurs. “We want students to become the musicians they want to be,” he says. For current Stutzman Scholar MaryRose Garych that meant studying the pipe organ and choral conducting. Homeschooled through high school, she transferred to Southern from Norwalk Community College where she earned an associate degree in 2014, graduating summa cum laude. “Attending Southern has reshaped my entire career plan,” says Garych, who began studying piano and singing in choir in her early teens. Like all music majors and minors, she was eligible to receive free lessons through the university’s Applied Music Program, funded by the Stutzman Family Foundation. “Because of the excellent music faculty and their support, I am planning to pursue a master’s degree in choral conducting — something that I would not have dreamed of three years ago,” says Garych, who is working in the field as a part-time cantor and organist.

Fellow Stutzman Scholar Terri Lane was always drawn to music. At the age of 3, she’d sit at her grandmother’s piano, pinging out songs playing in the background. By age 11, she was receiving classical voice training. She also was in the midst of surviving years of horrific child abuse, which continued until age 15 when she left home.

Lane planned to study music in college, a natural progression for a high school honors student. “That’s when the tragedies — everything I had gone through with my family — essentially hit home and prevented me from going. But I always said I would go back,” she says.

In 2013, she made the move, leaving a successful 20-year career in the fields of energy efficiency, sales, and marketing, much of it with United Illuminating. Through it all, she’d never left the music behind. Now a blues-inspired rock recording artist, Lane sang lead and backup on dozens of CDs. She also teaches three music courses at the University of New Haven — and is well on her way to earning her bachelor’s degree in music at Southern.

She says receiving the Stutzman Scholarship was a defining moment. “I was shaking when I got the envelope,” she says. “What the Stutzman family has done is so meaningful. They have built a wonderful legacy through their commitment to the arts and now I can be part of that forever.” Stutzman, who shares his parents’ commitment to education, says such stories offer the ultimate reward.

“The students love his courses because he is very organized, very responsive to students, and very engaging,” says Hlavac of Stutzman, who received Southern’s Outstanding Teaching Award in the adjunct professor category in 2014.

Stutzman credits highly interactive assignments with fostering student engagement. He was invited to present a poster on the topic at the College Music Society’s national conference in October 2016. The presentation showcased Stutzman’s First Year Experience course, “Thinking about Music,” which he has taught for six years. The course culminates in a unique capstone project: after studying protest music, students compose a 75-second protest rap. Students have tackled a variety of topics, including 8 a.m. classes, cafeteria food, gun violence, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Fueled, perhaps, by the presentation, Stutzman says he’s thought a lot about teaching methodology — and he says he knows he’s found his true professional calling. “I mean no offense, but no one teaching the first semester of chemistry is going to learn anything about the subject from their students. But I have this wonderful opportunity to learn from them, and that is incredibly inspiring.”

Vocalizing with some of this year’s Stutzman Scholars

Kristen Casale
A vocalist with an interest in opera, Broadway, jazz, and choral music, Casale helps finance her education by holding down two jobs.

“The Music Department is like a big family. I have developed a relationship with each and every one of my professors. I feel comfortable and learn so much every day because of that fact.”

MaryRose Garych
Homeschooled through high school, Garych graduated summa cum laude from Norwalk Community College before transferring to Southern. Music drives her college experience. She’s a member of the University Choir and Chamber Singers, and has studied the pipe organ, choral conducting, voice, and piano.

“Because of the excellent music faculty and their support, I am now planning to pursue a master’s degree in choral conducting — something that I would not have dreamed of three years ago.”

Jaromy Green
A transfer student from Kansas, Green says he’s primarily a singer, but also plays the piano and trumpet.

“I have been studying music since I was first able to phonate,” says Green, who has both full- and part-time jobs to help pay for college. His future plans include teaching music at the high school or collegiate level.

Terri Lane
Lane studied classical voice as a youth. Today, she’s a blues rock performing artist, who most recently worked with Harry Connick Jr. She also teaches three courses at the University of New Haven and is enrolled in seven classes at Southern.

“I take comfort every day, even working so hard as a student. I am so proud. Yes, I am losing a lot of sleep. It is aging me a bit. But I am so excited. . . . Every day is a joy.”

Southern Alumni Magazine Spring 2017

Meet Nick Abraham, ’05 — musician, songwriter, and the “music mentor” of reigning “American Idol”-winner Nick Fradiani.

Musician Nick Abraham, ’05, is on the brink. While not quite ready to quit his day job at a local pharmacy, Abraham — the lead guitarist for Connecticut-based band Beach Avenue — is enjoying major success along with band-mates Nick Fradiani (guitar/vocals), Ryan Zipp (drums), Nick Fradiani Sr. (keyboards/vocals), and Jonah Ferrigno (bass).

The band has opened for everyone from STYX, Jefferson Starship, and REO Speedwagon to Third Eye Blind and Bad Rabbits. Twelve million viewers watched Beach Avenue perform on the 2014 edition of “America’s Got Talent.” Even the powers-that-be behind trendy retailer Hollister Co. are fans, featuring the band’s “Feel the Beat” on the in-store playlist, along with hits by megastars Taylor Swift, One Direction, Charlie XCX, and more.

And that’s just the beginning. In May, Beach Avenue’s lead singer Nick Fradiani won season 14 of “American Idol,” with Abraham and Zipp cheering him on every step of the way. Two days after his win, with the show’s full blessing, Fradiani invited the two to help with promotions leading up to the “American Idol Tour.”

The ensuing months were marked by one rock star moment after another. The three performed Fradiani’s hit single “Beautiful Life” in Times Square for VH1. Soon after, the guys traveled to Nashville to film the song’s official video. Later, it was off to Vancouver, Canada, to perform at the FIFA World Cup the day before the U.S. women’s team captured the trophy. A summer update on Beach Avenue’s Facebook page sums it up nicely: “We hopped on 9 flights in 11 days totaling well over 10,000 miles traveled.”

Far from an overnight sensation, Abraham has been a hard-working musician throughout most of life. His early childhood memories include listening to his mother sing and tirelessly banging on the pots and pans she gladly provided. Following in his father’s footsteps, he began playing drums at age 10 and went on to master more instruments — including the guitar, the mandolin, and the glockenspiel.

He joined his first band at 13. Others followed, and while Abraham initially planned to become a music teacher, he gradually realized that he wanted to be a professional musician.

At Southern, he majored in music, playing in numerous university ensembles. He notes that Mark Kuss, professor of music, was particularly inspirational. “He is an incredible pianist and composer. . . . He really inspired me and taught me a lot. I think he understood what I was looking to do with my music — and that really made a big difference.”

Scholarship support was helpful as well. Abraham received the Bellmore Family Scholarship, which benefits students who are majoring in music at Southern. “I was a musician myself,” says Roger Bellmore, who studied communication at Southern, and paid his way through school by playing in a rock band. “The cost of going to school has gone up significantly since I was a student,” Bellmore continues. “We wanted to make it a little easier for a musician, so he or she could focus more on music and classes.” He and wife, Sharon, have two sons, Nick and Charlie, both professional musicians. The latter majored in music at Southern.

Abraham notes that the scholarship met the Bellmore family’s objectives.

“The scholarship was huge in two ways,” he says. “First, in the financial sense, it was a big help. But it also was a big motivation. You feel like you have some support. . . . It’s an inspiration. It says ‘Okay, you are doing well, and you should continue down your path.’”

That path eventually led Abraham — then a Southern student — to successfully audition for a band that included drummer Ryan Zipp. When their lead vocalist left, Fradiani joined on and Beach Avenue was born, named after the Milford, Conn., street where the group got its start.

With only a few practice sessions under their belts, Beach Avenue went on to win Mohegan Sun’s Battle of the Bands in 2011, besting those who had been playing together for years. “Our prize winnings allowed us to put together a CD,” says Abraham.

An invitation to compete on “America’s Got Talent” in 2014 thrust the band into the national spotlight. The group played original music — typically not a winning formula for the show — and still made it through two rounds before being eliminated. “Howie Mandel wasn’t into it,” Abraham says with a smile. Fortunately, others were. “We were upset at the time. But when everything aired on TV, we had this huge response. . . . The song we played charted on ITunes. Social media exploded. So we were thrilled,” Abraham says.

Soon after, Fradiani auditioned for and was ultimately crowned the winner of “American Idol.” “We were really proud and happy for him. He’s our best friend about to win this incredible tournament,” says Abraham of watching the competition.

Fradiani, in turn, was quick to share the stage. Leading up to the show’s final weeks, the remaining competitors each had a homecoming parade and concert, and Beach Avenue was invited to play for the 10,000-plus fans gathered on the Guilford Green in Connecticut.

More surprises followed, with “American Idol” flying Abraham and Zipp out to watch the finale in person. There, Abraham was brought on stage so that Fradiani could introduce him to the world as his music mentor. Both Nicks were presented with cars from Ford. “I felt like I was on a game show. You don’t think things like that happen,” says Abraham, all smiles, shaking his head incredulously. “But they do.”

See Nick’s band page: Beachavenuemusic.com.

Southern Alumni Magazine, Winter 15
Read more in the latest issue of Southern Alumni Magazine.

After hours of rehearsal over two days with guest conductor Simon Carrington and two other choirs, the Southern choir finally held its first performance Wednesday evening.

Simon Carrington directs SCSU choir in Athens, Greece.

“The choir was superb,” said Southern President Mary Papazian. “I know how hard they have been working, and it paid off. They sang with great emotion. Their love of music and joy of song came through loud and clear. It was a thrill.”

The 52-member Southern choir was joined by the University of Alberta (Canada) Madrigal Singers, and the East Lansing (Michigan) St. Thomas Aquinas Parish Choir. They sang three pieces: Missa Brevis, Moonlight Music, and Aesop’ s Fables. The Southern choir by itself also performed a traditional Greek folk song, The Kalanta of the New Year (St. Basil’s Day); “Lullaby” from Three Nocturnes; Go Tell it On the Mountain; and I Believe. The haunting lyrics from the last piece were found etched into a basement wall in Auschwitz after the holocaust.

I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining.
I believe in love even when I don’t feel it.
I believe in God even when He is silent.

Choir director Terese Gemme complimented the group on all their hard work. “When we sing we give our gift to the audience. Tonight we sang with love.”

“Working with Simon was such an amazing experience,” said choir member Rosalie Coriolan, ’14. “I am so very grateful for this incredible opportunity.”

Top: Southern choir director Terese Gemme addresses the audience.
Above: Guest director Simon Carrington leads the Southern choir.

 

Tuesday dawned sunny and warm, perfect for a trip to the ancient city of Corinth. We boarded our motor coaches at the hotel entrance for the hour-long ride, guided by our Athens-based historian, Yannis, who provided colorful commentary on everything from the number of taxis in Athens (16,000) to the four pillars of the Greek economy (shipping, agriculture, industry, and tourism).

On the way were groves of olive, cypress, and pine trees; mountains disappearing in the mist; car dealers and auto parts stores; oil refineries; and highway signs in a mix of English and Greek. We passed a number of small, ornate roadside shrines, marking the sites of car accidents. Friends and relatives construct these as a thank you to the saints for sparing the lives of those involved in the accidents.

Corinth, Greece

Located on the isthmus that connects mainland Greece with the Peloponnese, and surrounded by natural springs, Corinth was the biggest city in ancient Greece. Ancient Corinth became a center of early Christianity, following visits by Paul the Apostle, a Christian leader who is credited with several chapters in the new testament. The ruins, a few miles from modern-day Corinth, were first excavated in 1892 by the Greek Archaeological Service, and are dominated by the remaining pillars of the Temple of Apollo.

On the way back to Athens, we stopped for lunch and a visit to the Corinth Canal. Constructed in 1893, the canal shortened the trip between Greece and Italy. Now popular among “bungy” jumpers, the canal is four miles long by 70 feet wide, with a height of about 300 feet, and rock walls that are nearly vertical. Several bridges span the canal, offering a breathtaking view.

The Corinth Canal, Greece

Top: President Papazian and several choir members at the Corinth ruins;
the remaining pillars of the Temple of Apollo; the Corinth Canal; at the Corinth ruins.

After two days of travel, the Southern choir still managed to muster enough steam to attend the first of three scheduled rehearsals upon arrival in Athens on Monday night.

The trip began with a flight from New York to Zurich, Switzerland. Due to a heavy blanket of fog, we sat in the Zurich airport drinking $7.50 cups of coffee. Our arrival in Athens was a bit behind schedule. But the greeting from our tour guides, Alex and Tassos, and the transfer to the hotel, could not have been smoother.

Images from Athens, Greece, including the lobby of the Titania Hotel.

We arrived in two state-of-the-art motor coaches, where porters unloaded our luggage. On the way Alex gave us a brief descriptive tour of the area. Our hotel, the Titania, is in the heart of the city, among parliament buildings, museums, foreign embassies, and ministries. Even in the dark it was still easy to admire the neoclassical style of the buildings.

Although Athens is considered the cradle of western civilization, today it is a thoroughly modern city. In 2014, Athens had an estimated population of 3.75 million in the metropolitan area.. There is even an IKEA!

Tuesday: a visit to the Corinth Canal, more rehearsal, and dinner at a rooftop restaurant with views of the Acropolis.

Pictured above: The Titania hotel lobby and surrounding neighborhood.

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Southern’s globe-trotting University Choir, led by Director Terese Gemme, travels to Greece this Sunday, thanks to the vision and support of Walter Stutzman and the Stutzman Foundation.

The choir has previously traveled to Ireland, England, and Spain, working with internationally-known guest conductors such as Simon Carrington and Craig Hella Johnson. This year’s 53-strong choir will be made up of current students, SCSU alumni, and longtime community members, and will once again be working with Simon Carrington. Also traveling with the group through Jan. 4 will be students from the Honors College class “The History of Athens.”

By arrangement with host company KIconcerts, our choir will be performing in several venues around Athens, including, by special invitation from the city, a Gala New Year’s concert at Syntagma Square. On Jan. 2, the choir will perform as part of a special holiday program at the Piraeus Municipal Hall, a classic architectural gem.

In addition to a busy rehearsal and concert schedule in Athens, the choir will travel to the islands of Hydra and Aegina, Delphi, and Corinth. This exciting trip will once again enhance the students’ musical education and global awareness, while providing them with a life-changing experience.

“Being able to perform great music with new friends from around the world in historic venues is awe-inspiring, and these trips, with their combination of musical inspiration, cultural exploration, personal discovery, and community-building experiences have been life-changing events for everyone,’ Terese Gemme said. “As an educator and as a musician, I can’t think of any more worthwhile endeavor.”

And KIconcerts President Oliver Scofield added: “SCSU is a choir that does more than sing for the sake of singing; through performance SCSU engages its students with the larger world as ambassadors of peace, bridges between cultures and custodians of better futures for humanity.”

Faculty explore possible string ensemble for Spring 2016

The Music Department is seeking students who are experienced and interested in playing the violin, viola, cello, or double bass in a dynamic and fun string ensemble. Thanks to the generous support of the Stutzman Family Foundation, the group will be conducted by Dr. Viara Sergueeva-Albonetti – an internationally-acclaimed violinist and clinician. Selected students will rehearse for approximately 90 minutes each week and will receive (1) credit. Rehearsals will begin in the Spring 2016 semester.

For more information or to schedule an audition, please contact Dr. Albonetti at SergueevaaV1@SouthernCT.edu.

    Students who are learning music theory are eager to write their songs immediately, but first they have to learn how writing music works, say Music Professor Mark Kuss and Jesse Raccio, an adjunct faculty member in the Music Department. Kuss and Raccio, who both teach music theory, wanted to come up with a way to teach the subject so that students could grasp it quickly. An app made sense, they say: students expect to download an app and just be able to use it intuitively. With his background as a computer programmer, Raccio teamed up with Kuss to develop ScaleNet, a “mobile music theory learning environment.” They launched their new tool on Google Play in October, and within the first 1-1/2 weeks it was eighth from the top of the music theory listings. By Oct. 30, it was sixth from the top, and as of Jan. 4, it was the third most downloaded music theory app in the Google Play store, after being launched only 2-1/2 months earlier.

    Raccio and Kuss first developed ScaleNet 1.0 for Android, then introduced a version for Apple’s iPads and iPhones. They say that this is only the first version of ScaleNet, and that a desktop version and online versions will be developed down the road. Version 1.1 should be available soon, and includes an expanded sample library as well as two new clefs.

    ScaleNet, they say, is a music theory training device that incorporates the idea of connectivity in its visual elements. The Google Play store says the app employs “network modeling to help clarify how many of the basic concepts in music are connected by simple, interrelated patterns. ScaleNet’s melody-game incorporates a large library of diverse melodic phrases which provide a constantly changing ‘real world’ note-ID environment. The skill sets developed through the use of ScaleNet are applicable to Traditional, Popular, EDM, Hip-Hop, Jazz, and Classical music.”

    Kuss explains that music theory has been taught for centuries with a model called the circle of fifths. “In almost three centuries, it has never been adjusted,” he says, adding that ScaleNet is the same model but with more connectivity. It allows students to create chord progressions, and the relationship between majors and minors is more clear than in the traditional circle of fifths model.

    ScaleNet also has an ear training component, as well as a gaming component, which Kuss and Raccio point out is a familiar environment for most students. “It’s timed, it has a keypad (like texting), and it shows how you did at the end,” much like gaming, says Raccio. The professors say that ScaleNet offers a different way of teaching this material, based on the kind of decision-making that is found in gaming. Kuss adds that they have encountered “absolutely no resistance” from students in using the tool in their classes. “Students took right to it and actually helped us refine the beta version.”

    Using ScaleNet to learn music theory is about having technology presented in a way that’s intuitive and familiar and accessible, say Kuss and Raccio. Students have choices about the kinds of music they can make, which helps them feel successful. And the app works both for students who know nothing about reading music and students who are able to sight read.

    Both Raccio and Kuss now use ScaleNet in their classes, and they can provide devices to students who don’t have them. “We are finding ways to be inclusive rather than exclusive,” they say. “We want to make things easier and more accessible.” Even for those users whom they refer to as “pre-digital divide people” — those who didn’t grow up with technology — Raccio and Kuss have provided a help section in the app, with text instructions. “These folks tend to want more instructions,” they say, although they point out that the app’s navigation is very stripped down and intuitive.

    A short video showing how ScaleNet works is available on YouTube.