Erin Curtis-Dierks

KU's Partnership for the Arts program introduces 'West Side Story' lecture series

Tue, 09/20/2011
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LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas School of Music and Reach Out Kansas, Inc., are pleased to present the 2011-12 Kansas Partnership for the Arts, a series featuring numerous performances by renowned faculty, students and international guest artists. Included in this program is “The Creation of West Side Story,” a series of lectures with performances by KU’s own Paul Laird and music students that take place throughout the state of Kansas.

KU musicologist Paul Laird has published extensively on Bernstein and his shows, including two books and several articles. Laird also has taught many courses on Broadway musicals for KU Continuing Education. He will begin “The Creation of West Side Story” with a lively, 25-minute lecture on how the creators decided that their modern version of Romeo and Juliet would be set in modern Manhattan amidst gang violence between white and Puerto Rican gangs; how dance became a crucial part of the storytelling; Bernstein’s use of various types of Latin American music in his score; and detailed looks at the creation of some of the scenes or songs, with consideration of how the material changed during the show’s developmental period.

“The collaborative, creative act of writing a piece of musical theater is often a mystery to members of the audience. Our presentations will consider such matters for ‘West Side Story’ (1957), one of the most important shows in the history of the American musical theater,” said Laird.

The remainder of the program will include performances of songs from “West Side Story” by soprano Ashley Benes, tenor Joseph Carr, and pianist Stanton Nelson, all students at the University of Kansas School of Music. Professor Julia Broxholm, associate professor of voice at KU, is coaching the ensemble. Laird will briefly place each song in context of the show’s creation and plot, and then some excerpts of earlier versions of the songs will be presented. Selections will include “Something’s Coming,” “Maria,” “Tonight,” “One Hand, One Heart,” “I Feel Pretty,” “Somewhere,” “I Have a Love,” and others.

“To help show how ‘West Side Story’ fits into the remainder of Bernstein’s output, we will include an excerpt from a deleted portion of the ‘Prologue’ that became part of Chichester Psalms (1965), showing how Bernstein added Hebrew text from Psalm 2 to this music,” said Laird. “The presentation will allow the audience a glimpse inside the artist’s workshop, illuminating the creative process and its non-linear, intuitive nature.”

The following dates and locations have been set for this series. Information about additional dates will become available at

• Hays Public Library - Sunday, Oct. 23, 2 p.m., Hays
• Council Grove First Methodist Church - Friday, Oct. 28, 7 p.m., Council Grove
• Tabor College Chapel - Thursday, Nov. 10, 7 p.m., Hillsboro

Participant Biographies

Paul Laird is professor of musicology at the University of Kansas, where he has taught since 1994. He holds a PhD in music from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research interests include the Spanish and Latin American villancico, Leonard Bernstein, the Broadway musical, and early string instruments. He is the author of Towards a History of the Spanish Villancico (Harmonie Park Press, 1997), Leonard Bernstein: A Guide to Research (Routledge, 2002), The Baroque Cello Revival: An Oral History (Scarecrow Press, 2004), Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms (Pendragon Press, 2010), and Wicked: A Musical Biography (Scarecrow Press, 2011). Laird is co-editor of the The Cambridge Companion to the Musical (Cambridge University Press, 2002; 2nd edition, 2008). With William A. Everett, Laird wrote The Historical Dictionary of the Broadway Musical (Scarecrow, 2007). Laird's articles and reviews have appeared in many dictionaries, journals, and other sources, and he has presented papers and lectures at numerous conferences and universities in the United States and Europe. Laird directs the Instrumental Collegium Musicum and is active as a Baroque cellist, performing with the Spencer Consort. In August 2002, he won a University of Kansas W. T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence. He is in demand as a speaker on Broadway and classical music through the University of Kansas Osher Institute for Lifelong Learning.

Soprano Julia Broxholm is associate professor of voice at KU. Her singing career spans opera to Broadway, oratorio to vocal chamber music, and recitalist to recording artist. In recent years she has devoted herself to teaching with spectacular results. Her former students are leading players on stages on Broadway, in Las Vegas, in national touring companies, and in Europe. Her operatic roles have included Alice Ford in Verdi's Falstaff, the title role in Floyd's Susannah, Susanna in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, Norina in Donizetti's Don Pasquale and Musetta in Puccini's La Boheme. She also has appeared in numerous musical theatre roles, most recently in a production of Follies with Donna McKechnie. In the area of vocal chamber music she was a founding member of SATB, a vocal quartet specializing in vocal chamber music of the 19th and 20th centuries. SATB has performed widely and made two recordings. As a recitalist Prof. Broxholm is well known for her performances of vocal literature by American composers of the 20th and 21st centuries. With pianist Martin Katz and clarinetist Fred Ormand, she has recorded the major literature for soprano, clarinet, and piano. Dr. Broxholm received a D.M.A in vocal performance from the University of Michigan, where she was lauded for setting a new standard of excellence for performing musicians in the areas of research and performance.

Soprano Ashley Benes, from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, is pursuing a MM in opera in the studio of Professor Broxholm. Her recent roles include Rose Maybud in Ruddigore, Deep Blue in Deep Blue and The Dew Fairy and the Sandman in Hansel und Gretel. While earning her Master of Music in Voice at the Eastman School of Music, she was seen as Claire Holmes in Eastman Opera Theatre’s production of Secret Garden and as Zerlina in the 2010 Eastman Opera Gala. As an undergraduate at the University of Kansas, Ashley was seen in productions of La Traviata, Dido and Aeneas, The Tales of Hoffmann, Dialogues of the Carmelites, Cosi fan tutte and The Marriage of Figaro. Ashley spent the summers of 2007 and 2008 with Light Opera Oklahoma, appearing in productions of Pirates of Penzance, Candide, Into the Woods, Trial by Jury, Sweeney Todd, The Music Man, and Naughty Marietta.

As a child, Joseph Carr was actively involved in both music and theatre, taking part in the summer theatre and music ensembles around his community. As his love of the stage grew throughout school, Joe decided to continue to pursue performing in college. The inspiration drawn from the local fine arts programs really made a difference in the direction he chose. Joe has been featured in such shows as Anything Goes, The Thirteen Clocks, and the student directed Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog in the Kansas University Theatre. As well, Joe has been seen in the choruses of The Rake’s Progress and Ruddigore in the KU Opera Theatre. He hopes to continue performing after graduation. Joe is a native of Lawrence, Kansas and is currently studying theatre/voice performance and music education at the University of Kansas.

First prize winner of the 2010 Fort Hays Young Artist Competition, pianist Stanton Nelson holds other top awards in competitions and festivals around the state of Kansas. Last year Stanton received the top prize of the SAI Scholarship Competition in Kansas City and placed first in the 2008 Robert M. Spire Solo Piano Competition. He has also been honored to attend the Amalfi Coast Festival and the Vianden International Collaborative Festival, studying under such pedagogues as John Perry and Logan Skelton. A resident of Long Island, KS, Stanton has been studying piano for nine years and is currently pursuing a piano performance degree under Jack Winerock at the University of Kansas. His past teachers have included Scott McBride Smith, Jennifer Ruder, Tali Morgulis, and Irena Ravitskaya.

The Kansas Partnership for the Arts is generously sponsored by Reach Out Kansas, Inc.; Smithyman & Zakoura, Chartered, of Overland Park; and The Zakoura Family Fund.

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