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A night at the symphony: Arts Dawg date night recap

Ludovic Morlot will guest conduct the UW Symphony on Feb. 28 at Meany Hall.

Ludovic Morlot guest conducted the UW Symphony on Feb. 28 at Meany Hall.

I’m a relative newcomer to Seattle, having moved here seven months ago from a suburban outpost of Portland, Oregon. My earlier memories of the city consisted of little more than Seattle Mariners games, the fish throwers at Pike Place Market, and beignets at Toulouse Petit, so the city still feels like the world’s largest playground as I explore its diverse neighborhoods.

Luckily, Stacey, a lifelong Seattle resident and my date for the most recent Arts Dawg event, was a good sport about my infatuation. Our date started over coffee at Café Solstice on the Ave. I spent much of the hour peppering her with questions and observations about Seattle – so much so, I later asked if I was boring her with my nonstop chatter about the low-key nature of Eastlake and the fun bars in Ballard. “Not at all,” she said. “It’s fun to hear a fresh perspective from an outsider.”

After an hour of Seattle observations and get-to-know you conversation, we walked to Meany Hall for the University Symphony’s recital.

Going into the performance, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Stacey and I agreed that we respect the arts but admitted that we wouldn’t think to attend a symphony performance. My exposure to classical music has been mostly limited to old Looney Tunes cartoons, and Stacey had enough of symphonies after spending much of her childhood as a flautist. “It wouldn’t be at the top of my list,” she said.

The University Symphony led off with Un Sourire by Olivier Messiaen. The piece alternated between soft, string-driven sections that sounded like they could soundtrack a sunset and skittish sections keyed by fast-paced xylophones. It was a shrewd decision to open the set with such a gripping number; it grabbed our attention and kept us on edge throughout the piece. I liked the uneasy feeling that I didn’t know where it was going, but Stacey was more measured in her enthusiasm. “That was so jarring,” she said almost as soon as the final note finished.

The first piece following intermission – and my personal highlight of the evening – was Maurice Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand Alone, starring soloist Ching-Yueh Chen. The soloist dazzled as he played the piano with – you guessed it – only his left hand. I couldn’t stop staring as I wondered how he made such beautiful, intoxicating music … one-handed, no less. Going into the performance, I don’t know what I expected, but seeing a soloist earn a scattered standing ovation with only his left hand certainly wasn’t on the list.

A lesser writer would say that we, ahem, changed our tune afterward or that the performance struck a chord. But the truth is that I was transfixed. It’s one thing to hear classical music in the background of a big-budget action movie or an NFL highlight reel. But it’s another experience entirely to see more than 70 musicians working together, telling stories with the notes, and creating something positively grand. Even Stacey couldn’t help but agree once the performance concluded. “This was a lot of fun,” she said as we walked out of Meany Hall and into the rainy Seattle night.

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Teaching the art of storytelling, online and off

Florangela Davila (photo credit Conrado Tapado)

Florangela Davila (photo credit Conrado Tapado)

Part-time lecturer Florangela Davila spent nearly 20 years in journalism before coming to the UW, but she knows that most of her students won’t wind up as newspaper reporters. Instead, Davila’s students are more likely to express an interest in public relations, event planning, and nonprofit work.

But Davila argues that the art of storytelling knows no professional boundaries, and the importance of telling a good tale is at the heart of her courses, which have covered multimedia storytelling, diversity in reporting, writing for mass communication, and interviewing.

Davila, who teaches in the Department of Communication, brings storytelling experience in a variety of media to every class. She earned her Masters in Science in Journalism from Columbia University in 1992, covered a variety of beats for The Seattle Times between 1994 and 2008, and has freelanced for KPLU, KCTS, and NPR. “What I always stress is how the skills journalists practice – and have practiced – are very applicable to other industries,” she said. “You need to be able to write. You need to be able to fact-check and be credible. You need to know which sources to trust.”

Davila, mindful of the changing times, shows students how to use the latest technologies and trends to tell powerful stories. She encourages her multimedia storytelling students to shoot video, record audio, and take notes with their iPhones, for example. She also works with students to make new technologies like Twitter less overwhelming and more accessible. “I’ve been there, and I’ve done that,” she said. “I think I’m able to sympathize and empathize with my students.”

Davila hopes that her lessons transcend new technologies, though. She preaches the fundamentals of telling a good story – “What is a story? Whose story are you going to tell? What are the facts?” she asks her students – and trains them to keep an open mind as new tools become available. “There’s always technology,” she said. “There are other ways to tell stories.”

But that storytelling acumen won’t come without experience, she said. Wanna-be writers should start a blog, and amateur filmmakers should make videos whenever possible, Davila recommends. Even flyers for campus events or club newsletters demonstrate experience and skill to would-be employers. “There’s nothing stopping you,” she tells students. “You should be creating.”

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Ana Moura brings soulful sound to UW Seattle campus

Ana Moura will bring her soulful brand of fado to the University of Washington on March 2, 2013. (Photo (c) Paulo Segadaes)

Ana Moura will bring her soulful brand of fado to the University of Washington on March 2, 2013. (Photo (c) Paulo Segadaes)

Valentine’s Day candy might be relegated to the clearance rack at Safeway, but feelings of love, loss, and yearning endure. Those themes will take center stage when Portuguese fado singer Ana Moura performs as part of the UW World Series’ World Music & Theatre Series early next month.

The concert is the latest in the Arts Dawg series, which introduces UWAA members to the University’s fine and performing arts offerings. Arts Dawg ticketholders receive discounted admission, a pre-show reception with free wine and appetizers, and a talk with Michelle Witt, executive director of Meany Hall and artistic director of the UW World Series.

Witt, during her discussion, will give an overview of Portuguese fado, a mournful style of music that began in the early 1800s. The genre was born when poor and disenfranchised communities in Portugal gathered to express their despair – not unlike the blues in America. “It’s an incredibly soulful form of vocal expression,” Witt said.

Two hundred years later, Ana Moura is one of the biggest, most compelling names in the genre. Since releasing her debut album in 2004, Moura has gained acclaim for blending the deep-rooted fado traditions with modern influences such as Nina Simone and Billie Holiday.

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In addition to performing around the world, Moura has shared stages with the Rolling Stones and Prince. That pop music influence, along with a broad vocal range, makes Moura a compelling figure in the international music scene, Witt said. “She bridges a very traditional, important art form, but is very connected to the contemporary popular music world.”

Moura’s tales of longing, pain, and regret will still resonate with audiences who don’t speak Portuguese, Witt said. “It’s an incredibly powerful experience.”

If You Go

What: Ana Moura, in concert. UWAA members can sign up as part of the Arts Dawg promotion, which includes a pre-show reception with free wine and appetizers, as well as a talk with UW World Series Artistic Director Michelle Witt.

Where: Meany Hall for the Performing Arts, UW Seattle campus.

When: 8 p.m. March 2; the pre-show reception will start at 7 p.m. in the Meany Hall theater lobby.

Cost: $34-$38; $33 for UWAA members; $32-$36 for UW faculty, staff, and alumni; $20 for students.

Information: Arts Dawg at ArtsUW.

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Basketball legend Bill Walton comes to campus

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Bill Walton, speaking on Feb. 13, 2013, at the University of Washington

Few speakers are more qualified to talk about overcoming obstacles and perseverance than basketball legend Bill Walton. He played an integral part on three of the sport’s most celebrated teams while battling a steady barrage of knee and foot injuries. He later overcame a stutter and established a post-playing career as a color commentator. Most recently, he recovered from a debilitating back injury and returned to both broadcasting and public speaking.

So it’s no surprise that basketball was only one of the myriad topics Walton discussed during his visit to the University of Washington last week.

The event was part of the nine-week Walton on Wheels Tour, which featured the basketball legend speaking at Pac-12 schools by day and broadcasting Pac-12 basketball games by night. He arrived on campus to promote–and call–that night’s game between the Huskies and Oregon Ducks.

Walton had plenty of material to draw from during the event. He first rose to national fame as a member of the legendary UCLA basketball team coached by John Wooden; Walton was part of the UCLA team that won 88 consecutive games. He was then taken as the number one overall draft pick by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1974 NBA Draft and helped lead the franchise to its only NBA title in 1977. Injuries derailed a promising career, but Walton stayed close to the game by becoming a color commentator after retiring.

Walton has since gained acclaim for his positive demeanor, rambling nature, and love of life. It was all on display last week as Walton discussed that evening’s game, his career, his mentors, and the importance of a positive attitude. Here, edited for space and clarity, are a few of Walton’s thoughts:

Walton spoke glowingly about his college coach, John Wooden:

“When you think about what John Wooden taught, he taught us how to think, how to use that library, how to use that smartphone, how to drink deeply from all sources of knowledge. He taught us how to dream, and he taught us how to compete.”

Walton spoke about his heroes, including Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King Jr., and Bill Russell:

“They lived, they played with passion and purpose. Their life was not about stuff. Their life was not about material accumulation and physical gratification. They were the antithesis of selfishness and greed. If you think of all the problems that we have in whatever it is that we’re facing, it all comes back to selfishness and greed.”

Walton used basketball as a metaphor for life:

“Everybody’s involved. In basketball, you only have to wait for the opening tip. And then there are endless possibilities to make a positive contribution. The same way when you guys get out of bed and put your feet on the floor, you gotta know in your mind, ‘Today, I’m gonna do so many fantastic things that, by the time I get back here to this bed, I’m going to be so tired. I’m gonna win some, I’m gonna lose some, but I’m gonna chase it down. I’m going to build my life, and I’m gonna try to make other people’s lives better.’”

Walton also joked about his reputation as a boisterous, scattershot speaker:

“My wife, she always tells me that my mind is like a slot machine, where the wheels are turning all the time. You never know where it’s going to end up.”

Walton closed by calling on those in attendance to make a difference in the world:

“Make a difference. Walk like a giant in the land. This DOES matter. Come on, hold people to higher standards. If you don’t like what you see, say something! What are they gonna say? ‘You’re wrong?’ You’re not wrong for what you think. You’re entitled to your own beliefs. Come on, let’s go! Get in the game of life. Build it! Build more libraries! Chase it down! Write more books! Stand up there, bring our troops home, let’s go.”

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Q&A: Ludovic Morlot, Music Director, Seattle Symphony

Ludovic Morlot will guest conduct the UW Symphony on Feb. 28 at Meany Hall.

Ludovic Morlot will guest conduct the UW Symphony on Feb. 28 at Meany Hall.

Ludovic Morlot has made a big splash in his first few years as music director of the Seattle Symphony, drawing praise for triumphantly leading his ensembles through notoriously difficult works. Later this month, Morlot will lead another orchestra in a challenging piece when he guest-conducts the University Symphony through Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé. Blog Down to Washington caught up with Morlot after rehearsal, and he agreed to answer a few questions about the concert, his thoughts on conducting a student orchestra, and the importance of music in our lives.

Blog Down to Washington: Some of the audience members will be Arts Dawgs pass holders. As part of this series, they’ll be seeing a dance recital, live theater, a museum exhibition—that is, these are people who are interested in the arts, but not necessarily coming from an orchestral music background. Do you have any advice for people who are maybe not as experienced with classical music when they come to this concert?

Ludovic Morlot: I think that if this is the first time they experience live symphony music, they should feel very lucky. One of the things I’m trying to do with the Seattle Symphony is to really create that first opportunity to experience live sound as early as possible in our lives. Once we’ve created that memory, it doesn’t really matter if you like Ravel or Mozart or Pink Floyd, or whatever.

Beyond that, there is the element of experiencing a live performance. Music is a performing art—Classical music is not something you hang on a wall. Each time you start a concert you have to start from scratch. You don’t know if the oboe reed is going to be splitting well that night or if something’s going to go wrong—it has that element of adrenaline that one would identify with any other performing art: dance, theater, even sports, to some extent. So this is what I think would be easy for people coming from different backgrounds to identify with: that experience of live performance. The excitement and the energy that we can create on stage is what I hope people can get out of it. And the sheer beauty of the music, of course.

I know that this concert also features many different soloists from the University, so it’s an exciting night just for that, and there will be great variety, with [a concerto by] Prokofiev and Ravel’s Left Hand Concerto, so my collaboration with the orchestra is only a small part of this big deal.

BDTW: You’ve been in Seattle almost two years now. How do you like it?

LM: Oh, I love it here. It’s just been quite a journey, quite a busy one. I love being able to finally start a collaboration with the UW, and I know that there’s more to come, so I’m really excited. The work we do with the orchestras in the University is a combination of really trying to tell a story, put on a good concert—that’s very important—but it’s also a work in progress. This is what I want to emphasize: the concert is one thing, but beyond that, is establishing as a working relationship over the years. [Ravel’s  Daphnis et Chloé] is complex stuff—the students are not going to go out after three rehearsals and perform Daphnis at the best level you can possibly imagine, but what seems very important is how we can evolve from one week to the next together and how the students can take some information home so that their individual level of playing is transformed—overnight, really.

BDTW: Is that the difference between working with students and professionals?

LM: Well with professionals it’s actually a little bit of the same tune. As a music director, not only do you want to do a great concert, you always envision where you want the orchestra to be five years now. So it’s not different; the only difference is that my relationship with this orchestra here is very new. It may start at a different level, but the focus is the same. I feel privileged and excited about this collaboration.

BDTW: It’s clear you see these collaborations as an important part of your job here in Seattle

LM: Exactly. It’s about creating a memory and an understanding and making sure all these young people sitting in the orchestra know the power of music—the mission for all of us is that it becomes infectious. You know, it doesn’t really matter what level you play, just the fact that it’s part of your life makes a big difference.

 

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The Funkiest Linguist in the Descriptivist School is Coming to Kane Hall

pullum

Looks harmless, doesn’t he? But he’s coming after your grammatical crotchets and linguistic hobgoblins–your lexical bugaboos too! (Photo from www.lel.ed.ac.uk/~gpullum/)

Before embarking on a career in linguistics, Geoffrey K. Pullum could be found gadding about 1960s Germany playing piano for Sonny Stewart and the Dynamos (listed as “Jeff Pullem”) and later for Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band (that’s him rocking the organ in this YouTube video). The stresses of life on the road led him to eventually abandon his musical career and instead pursue “the glamour and excitement of becoming a linguist.”

In the years since, in his classes and as a contributor to the popular linguistics blog Language Log, Pullum has engaged in battle with what he terms “prescriptivist poppycock.”

Read more…

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Coffee Break! 10 Places to Get Coffee around Campus

Mmmmmm. Coffee

Mmmmmm. Coffee

For many college students, coffee is an integral part of school life. As we students cram in last minute papers and stay up late studying for exams, coffee often becomes a necessity. Fortunately for the thousands of students at UW, Seattle is the coffee-drinking capitol of the country.

Over the nearly four years that I have been studying at UW, I have probably drunk hundreds of cups of coffee. Here is a review of 10 coffee shops that I frequent regularly around UW.

1.Orin’s Place, PACCAR Hall

Location: 1st floor of PACCAR Hall, North Campus

Coffee: 6/10
Studying Ability: 5/10
Crowd: Undergraduate and graduate students
Why I come here: Studying in between classes

Review: One of the newer cafes on campus, Orin’s Place was added when PACCAR Hall was refurbished. Orin’s serves Starbucks coffee, unlike many of the other campus coffee shops, which serve Tully’s. The cafe is comprised of a section of PACCAR Hall’s first floor and contains several tables and chairs where many students choose to eat their lunches brought from home. Since the cafe is located right next to a main staircase, it can get extremely noisy during the 10-minute passing periods when students are getting out of their classes.

2. Parnassus Café, Art Building

Location: basement of the Art Building, North Campus

Coffee: 9/10
Studying Ability: 9/10
Crowd: Art students
Why I come here: For studying in between classes, reading, and to drink espresso.

Review: Parnassus is easily my favorite coffee shop on campus. The espresso drinks are always great and the cafe makes the dank basement of the Art building seem quite a bit cozier. Since there aren’t too many outlets, many students like myself choose to bring printed-out readings and study materials.

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In the Spotlight: Ron Smith

Ronald E. Smith [1]Coming out of high school, Ron Smith thought he was destined for a career in journalism. He enrolled at Marquette with visions of becoming a sports writer. But, midway through that first year, Smith dumped a tray of printer ink in a typography class, ruining his clothes in the process. “This isn’t exactly what I expected,” he remembered thinking.

The next day, looking for a new line of study, Smith asked a friend on the bus about his major. The psychology major talked up his program, leading Smith to take an Introduction to Psychology course. “Almost from the first day, I said ‘This is for me.’ I found my passion,” Smith said.

That was 1959. Smith started at the UW a decade later and has remained busy ever since. In the 40 years since, he’s helped UW student-athletes improve performance, worked with professional athletes, and mentored countless students as a Professor of Psychology and the department’s Director of Clinical Training. It’s that dedication that led one student to nominate Smith for a profile in this space.

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