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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. This is similar to how android casino apps works.

    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.