Thursday, February 25, 2010

Culture Up - Terrapins: Support the Arts on Campus

Culture Up – Terrapins: Support the Arts on Campus
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
February 25, 2010

A sold out house watched Greivis Vasquez lead our Terps overcome a 15 point deficit to knock off the Clemson Tigers last night. I didn’t have a ticket, so I watched from home. Win or lose isn’t the point here, although one could hardly tell that to this campus alumnus and Terrapin Club member doing his best Gary Williams impression yelling at the TV while we were temporarily taking it in the shorts.

Conversely, there was not a sold out house when Rebecca Dreyman led her team Monday evening. There was no basketball conflict that night. In fact a mere 245 seats were occupied out of a possible 1170 – just under 21 percent. Imagine if only 21 percent of Comcast were filled for a game – 3,770 folks – more than that turn out during semester break when Longwood comes to Maryland for a beating.

While not wondering who Vasquez is, the question remains, who is Rebecca Dreyman? She is concertmaster and sits First Violin with your UM Repertoire Orchestra. She no doubt practices just about every day as does Vasquez. As he works canning three-pointers that rain down and dishing the ball to Sean Mosley and Eric Hayes for another assist, Dreyman practices the Mozart, Borodin and Beethoven I enjoyed Monday at the Dekelboum Concert Hall.

Two different kinds of teams and audiences, but with similar goals – perform as well as possible in front of crowds expecting to be entertained. Vasquez will probably take his game to the next level – the NBA. Dreyman could do similarly upon graduation – employed by a professional orchestra. Meanwhile, it is on campus before their classmates and outside supporters that these two team leaders hone their crafts.

While the majority are familiar with the men’s basketball team and the accolades earned, taking their 20-7 record closer to the Big Dance, what of the UM Repertoire Orchestra? The orchestra does not enjoy write-ups in The Diamondback and certainly not in The Washington Post. Their concerts are not found on radio stations from northern Virginia to Baltimore and beyond. They toil in virtual obscurity.

At the very least, The Diamondback should promote Clarice Smith Center activities in an upcoming events listing. While no mention of the Monday concert could be found in the Monday Diamondback, there was mention of a $30 Kennedy Center concert on page six, and a half-page movie review. Send a reporter across campus to write a review giving your classmates some well-deserved publicity.

To be fair, the orchestra doesn’t bring in the money of the basketball team’s caliber, but I suspect Music Director John Devlin doesn’t see a paycheck the likes of which Coach Williams enjoys – and works hard for. This is not to disparage the hoops team – I am a Terrapin Club member.

But I am also a patron of the arts wishing I had a facility as grand as the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center to enjoy while a College Park undergraduate during the 1980s. This is a phenomenal center and every student should take advantage of it. Go see a concert – student tickets are affordable – Monday’s concert was free. Busy studying? Bring books – it’s a relaxing atmosphere and classical music is good for the brain.

The Clarice Smith PAC has several theaters/concert halls able to hold various size audiences with a lobby bar for snacks and beverages before the performance and during intermission. There is also a music library, classrooms and practice facilities for the musicians and singers.

The student performers work very hard at perfecting their talents. I particularly liked how orchestra members visited friends in the audience during the intermission for a more or less halftime review.

One more selling point worth making is the education factor conductor John Devlin brought to the podium Monday. Prior to raising the baton on Beethoven’s Symphony #7, he presented explanations of what the audience would to hear with aural codas, something rarely considered by most orchestras.

Culture up, Terrapins! Go support the arts. You’ll thank me later. More importantly, your friends performing will thank you sooner.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and political consultant living in Alexandria, VA. A graduate of the University of Maryland in 1988, he is a member of the Alumni Association and the Terrapin Club.

[This column appeared in The Diamondback – the student newspaper at the University of Maryland.]

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