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Lively Arts: Putting Stars in Students’ Eyes

By Marilyn Kukula
Appeared in the
Summer 2012 Issue of IUP Magazine under the Front Door section as “Lively Arts: Entertainment and Opportunity”

About 6,800 students were involved in the Lively Arts 2011-2012 season. They participated in productions, saw shows on discount tickets, attended workshops—and even performed on stage with some of the biggest names in entertainment.

Nicole Gillotti sat on the stage, holding her violin, amazed that she was about to perform with a Broadway legend. The sophomore Music Education major would never have guessed when she entered IUP that she would share the stage with Bernadette Peters, yet Gillotti and seven other students were part of Peters’s orchestra for her performance in May in Fisher Auditorium.

When Bernadette Peters performed in Fisher Auditorium in May, she was backed by an orchestra that included a number of IUP students and faculty members 508

When Bernadette Peters performed in Fisher Auditorium in May, she was backed by an orchestra that included a number of IUP students and faculty members

“I can’t begin to describe how that experience feels to someone in college,” Gillotti said. “It was an incredible honor.”

Other students who performed were Michael Wertz, Ryan Howell, Annie Ursu, Corey Shawley, and Nathaniel Mack and graduate students George Joyce and Matthew Morse. Music professor Kevin Eisensmith, a 1978 IUP graduate, assembled the students, faculty members, and local musicians who played with Peters’s conductor and drummer.

Gillotti, who also excels at trumpet, had a month to work on the violin music for the Peters performance, though the orchestra rehearsed in full only twice before the show.

“There were never any intimidating moments,” she said. “The better the player that you play with, the more you grow. It put me in a real professional situation.”

Peters was the headliner for the inaugural season of Ovations!, the performing artist series under the umbrella of the Lively Arts at IUP. While the series is often recognized for what it offers the external community—access to great shows close to home—it also benefits many students, like Gillotti, through direct interaction with the performers and discounted tickets to see these high-caliber productions.

Joe York, who graduated from IUP in May with a degree in Interdisciplinary Fine Arts/Musical Theater, met Peters during a small reception that included a few other Music and Theater students and Florence Lattimer Helwig, benefactor of the Helwig Distinguished Artist Endowment, which brought Peters to IUP.

York presented Helwig with a dozen red roses as a thank-you from the students for the opportunities that came with Peters’s visit to campus.

“While I was at IUP, it was a blast being a part of that arts community—the Lively Arts and Theater by the Grove,” York said. “What I liked best is the idea that we, as students, could at any time see high-quality shows.”

York doesn’t just watch stage shows—he writes them. While in college, he wrote four musicals and one 10-minute play, all of which were performed at IUP.

“Originally, I wanted to be a performer, but, once I wrote my first musical, I knew I wanted to keep doing that,” he said. “IUP helped me figure that out.”

Unlike York and Gillotti, Jasmine Amos is not a Fine Arts major; the Respiratory Care student just loves to sing. That’s what inspired her to join Voices of Joy, a popular gospel choir on campus.

The group was invited to perform with Celtic fiddler Eileen Ivers and her band, Immigrant Soul, for an “Irish Christmas” through the Lively Arts in December.

“It was a great experience,” Amos said. “I was actually shocked we were asked to sing with them. With Voices of Joy, I’ve performed in Fisher Auditorium before, but not anything like that—with such professional performers. I’d love to do it again.”

The Lively Arts program also offers events that enrich cultural perspectives. One example is the weeklong visit in October by Tibetan monks who created a sand mandala—a picture made with thousands of grains of sand as an abstract representation of the universe.

IUP senior Ayaka Sawabe spent two to three hours each day helping with the event. “The mandala was amazing,” said Sawabe, a Religious Studies and Sociology double major. “It made me become more interested in Buddhism arts.”

Hank Knerr, director of the Lively Arts at IUP, said he appreciates the support the program receives from the Student Cooperative Association, alumni, the community, and a variety of campus partners. That funding goes toward reduced ticket prices for students and toward workshops and other outreach activities that accompany every act that comes to campus.

“With just ticket prices, we couldn’t afford to offer these things to enrich students’ lives,” Knerr said. “It’s not just for Fine Arts students, but the entire campus and the community.”

More from the Summer 2012 Issue of IUP Magazine

Ready for the Challenge

Ready for the Challenge

what does IUP's future look like? IUP President Mike Driscoll arrives eager to start the discussion.

Tennis Slams a Winner with Change of Direction Year

Tennis Slams a Winner with Change of Direction Year

A historic 29th national ranking says success in any language.


Message from the President

Michael Driscoll sends his greetings to IUP alumni, faculty and staff members, students, and friends.

Web Exclusives

Sharing IUP's Stories

Memorable moments in the 2011-2012 academic year, in a video recap.

Unboxing the Memories

Some of the more unusual memorabilia that alumni have lovingly donated to IUP.

Namedroppers | Achievements | Mentors

Photo Gallery | In Brief

Small Business Development Center: Big Results

About 700 companies have benefited from the smarts of the SBDC team.

Humanities and Social Sciences to Get High-Tech New Home

Plans for new building look to the collaborative, digital future.

Distinguished Alumni Awards 2012

This year's recipients are movers and shakers in professions from magazine journalism to the National Guard.

By the Numbers

Local fourth-graders learned about Creole music from Cedric Watson and Desiree Champagne of Cedric Watson et Bijou Creole in conjunction with the group’s IUP performance in February

Local fourth-graders learned about Creole music from Cedric Watson and Desiree Champagne of Cedric Watson et Bijou Creole in conjunction with the group’s IUP performance in February

The following statistics, provided by the Lively Arts at IUP, are from the 2011-12 Ovations! series:

13: Performances in the Ovations! series
6,886: Students directly involved with the productions, ranging from being part of the performance to attending the performance
15,254: Attendance for all performances and related activities
$10-$18: Ticket prices for students
$15-$35: Regular ticket prices

2012-13 Ovations! Lineup

  • SingAlong Sound of Music, September 23
  • Live at Birdland with Tommy Igoe, October 9
  • Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, October 23
  • New Directions Veterans Choir, November 13
  • Shrek the Musical,
    December 10
  • Around the World in 80 Days, Walnut Street Theatre,
    February 12
  • John Blake Jr. Quartet,
    February 21
  • Renée Fleming,
    March 2
  • Daedalus Quartet,
    March 13
  • Cimarron,
    April 4
  • Hair: The American Tribal
    Love-Rock Musical,
    April 14
  • Temptation of the Muses,
    Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company and the Ahn Trio,
    April 25

Dates and events are subject to change. Find more information at Lively Arts.