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Introducing the 2021/22 Season

Watch our 30-second trailer: Looking Forward

“We are all looking forward to returning, to restarting, to reconnecting, and to rejoicing with our audiences and artists once again.” — UMS president Matthew VanBesien.

Explore All Events

or browse our season highlights below

For Our Patrons & Season Ticketholders

Season Tickets will be available online starting Monday, May 17 at 10 am. Learn more or flip through our interactive season brochure.

You are our top priority. UMS is fully committed to the health and safety of our audiences, and will provide all flexibility and accommodation possible in the months ahead.

See Our Safety Protocols for Live Events and FAQ

For the Press

View Full Press Release (PDF)
View Chronological List of Events (PDF)

Season Highlights

Five New Commissions

Kyle Abraham and Jlin

Kyle Abraham and Jlin

UMS is proud to continue its work as a lead commissioner of innovative new works presented in-person or digitally this season. Five projects include:

 

Focus on the Arab World and Its Diaspora

'Night' by Ali Chahrour

Ali Chahrour’s Layl (Night)

Artistic projects will focus on artists, institutions, and ensembles from the Arab World and its diaspora, exploring the depth, complexity, and diversity of perspectives among Arab and Arab-American artists and communities. Events feature:

  • Choreographer and theater maker Ali Chahrour’s Layl (Night) (Sat Feb 12)
  • The National Arab Orchestra with singer Abeer Nehme (Sat Mar 19)
  • A celebratory evening of performances, Sahra, by violinist/composer Mike Khoury, choreographer Leyya Tawil, vocalist/producer/DJ Tammy Lakkis, and Moroccan performance group Kabareh Cheikhats (Sat Apr 9)
  • Mentioned above, Tarek Yamani’s new work for string quartet, premiering digitally with the Spektral Quartet (Wed Oct 27)

 

Creative Partnership with The Philadelphia Orchestra

Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Nathalie Stutzmann

Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Principal Guest Conductor Nathalie Stutzmann

UMS is thrilled to begin a new 21st-century residency in the 2021/22 season, including two live concerts in Hill Auditorium led by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Nathalie Stutzmann, a digital presentation, and engagements with the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance. The Friday night concert features U-M alumna and principal tuba Carol Jantsch in Wynton Marsalis’s Concerto for Tuba, which will have its world premiere in December.

The two organizations are also collaborating on a new semi-staged theatrical concert performance of Fiddler on the Roof, featuring the world premiere live performances of John Williams’s Academy Award-winning 1971 adaptation of the beloved musical score by composer Jerry Bock. The production, which will feature both Broadway stars and U-M Musical Theatre students, will begin in Ann Arbor with the Grand Rapids Symphony and then transfer to Philadelphia, where the Philadelphia Orchestra will perform it at the Kimmel Center.

Learn more on our blog

 

Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower

Parable of the Sower

Parable of the Sower

UMS will present Toshi Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon’s new work, Parable of the Sower, a triumphant, mesmerizing work of rare power and beauty that illuminates deep insights on gender, race, and the future of human civilization. The opera brings together over 30 original anthems drawn from 300 years of Black music to recreate author Octavia E. Butler’s Afrofuturist masterpiece live on stage with 20 singers and musicians.

Learn more on our blog

 

The “Return” of Performances Canceled due the Pandemic

Ballet Folklórico de México de Amalia Hernández

Ballet Folklórico de México de Amalia Hernández

Several events that were originally scheduled and canceled for the end of the 2019/20 season and the entirety of the 2020/21 season will be presented in 2021/22, and more will follow in the coming seasons as tours are rescheduled. Next season’s program includes:

 

Digital Programming

Spektral Quartet

Spektral Quartet, UMS Digital Residency Artists

During the pandemic, UMS’s free digital presentations reached over 75,000 people in 65 countries across six continents. UMS has made a commitment to continue these digital programs, bringing the arts to those who may not be ready or able to return to live performances or whose geographic boundaries may prohibit in-person attendance. Programs will include:

  • JAM3A, a virtual music and arts festival celebrating Arab talent, community, and identity, presented by the Arab American National Museum (Thu-Sun Sep 23-26)
  • Tarek Yamani and the Spektral Quartet (world premiere Wednesday, October 27)
  • Cleo Parker Robinson’s UMS Digital Artist Residency project, a documentary film about the creative process behind The Four Journeys, created by Amalia Viviana Basanta Hernández for Cleo Parker Robinson Dance (dates TBA)
  • Unmasking the Arts: Looking to the Future, a series of conversations between multidisciplinary artist Helga Davis and prominent artistic voices, including Anthony McGill, Wu Han, Yuval Sharon, and Rhiannon Giddens, about the intersection between the arts and contemporary issues in the post-pandemic world, including the role of the arts in the context of social justice, how politics play into evolving cultural values, and more (dates TBA)
  • Davóne Tines and The Philadelphia Orchestra in a suite of arias and poetry on themes of social justice (dates TBA)
  • Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan (dates TBA)

Explore all 2021/22 events

2021/22 Season Preview: The Philadelphia Orchestra Returns

UMS will present our schedule for 2021/22 in-person performances on May 13! Each week until then, we will offer a special sneak peek…


The Philadelphia Orchestra

UMS is proud to announce a new creative partnership with The Philadelphia Orchestra in 2022.

The Philadelphia Orchestra’s rich history with UMS dates back more than a century, first performing in Hill Auditorium in 1913 and serving as the orchestra-in-residence for the Ann Arbor May Festival for nearly 50 years from 1936-1984.

We are thrilled to begin a new 21st-century residency in the 2021/22 season, featuring two live concerts in Hill Auditorium, a digital presentation, and a series of master classes and student engagement events with the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

Enjoy a preview of what’s to come before our full concert details are announced on May 13:

Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Nathalie Stutzmann

Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Principal Guest Conductor Nathalie Stutzmann

Two Exciting Programs in Hill Auditorium

Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin and newly appointed Principal Guest Conductor Nathalie Stutzmann (in her UMS debut) will each lead a unique program in Hill Auditorium. Soloists include Concertmaster David Kim and Principal Tuba Carol Jantsch (a proud U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance alumna), who premieres a new concerto by Wynton Marsalis.

Carol Jantsch

U-M SMTD alumna Carol Jantsch

While in Ann Arbor, members of the orchestra will participate in a series of master classes and educational opportunities.

‘Fiddler on the Roof’ in concert

UMS and The Philadelphia Orchestra are collaborating on a new semi-staged theatrical concert performance of Fiddler on the Roof, featuring the world premiere live performances of John Williams’s Academy Award-winning 1971 adaptation of the beloved musical score by composer Jerry Bock. The production, which will feature both Broadway stars and students from the University of Michigan’s celebrated Department of Musical Theatre, will begin in Ann Arbor in February with the Grand Rapids Symphony and then transfer to The Philadelphia Orchestra’s subscription series at the Kimmel Center.

Free Digital Presentation

Bass-baritone Davóne Tines and The Philadelphia Orchestra will perform a suite of arias by John Adams (“Shake the Heavens” from El Niño) and Anthony Davis (Malcolm’s Aria from X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X), as well as a work that he co-wrote with Igee Dieudonné in memory of Breonna Taylor, in a digital program available to UMS audiences. Watch a preview:

 

Discover More on UMS Rewind

Browse through more than 250 programs by the Philadelphia Orchestra in our archives!

In Conversation with Tunde Olaniran

Tunde Olaniran

As part of his UMS Digital Artist Residency, Flint-based musician and activist Tunde Olaniran has embarked on a project that features art-making across disciplines, community collaboration and co-creation, emergent technologies, and video animation.

UMS 21st Century Intern Catherine Moore recently sat down with Tunde to talk about his UMS Live Session, upcoming projects, and collaborations with Yo-Yo Ma.

Read the interview below:


Catherine Moore: We are so excited to present your UMS Live Session, streaming now until Monday, May 10. What could viewers expect to see in this session? 

Tunde Olaniran: I wanted to create a performance that captured how I’m feeling right now as a person and an artist. I usually would be doing a lot of dancing and rolling around feverishly on stage – well, I might be doing a little bit of that – but recently I have been feeling very protective. I haven’t ever performed my new single “We Don’t Want to Hear It,” and I had to decide how I wanted to present this song. It’s a chance for me to think about my voice, and use it in a way that is more intentional.

I wanted to create something that didn’t feel like I was just going through the motions. I don’t feel like jumping all over the place right now. We’ll have movement, but we wondered: What would that look like if that movement was slower and more deliberate?

The piece is centered in subliminal space, creating doorways and traveling through them. My friend is a set designer, and our idea for filming this project was to use cinematography similar to surgical cameras. Our idea was to literally dig inside ourselves and find intimate spaces that can feel warm and comforting, but also feel like you’re trapped. It creates this duality of emotions.

With our sound, we’re trying to create something that sounds darker and more intimate.

This performance is in anticipation of a record you’re releasing in the fall and an exhibition at the Cranbrook Museum of Art in 2022. Describe to us what you’re planning. 

The Cranbrook exhibition is a performance-based installation with six Michigan area artists, and this current Live Session being released through UMS is acting as a sort of teaser for this larger project.

The Exhibition is called Made a Universe. I’m making a short film that melds real-life experiences from me growing up as a black artist in Flint with surrealist horror, giving shape to the subtle brutalities of capitalism and exploring how we as humans respond to oppression.

The six-part episodic narrative will take place over a day and a night. The main character takes this journey where he’s swallowed up by a series of different portals that unlock actual superpowers. These portals are reflective of inner demons, and personal experiences. The main character has this series of strange and surreal challenges that leads to a questioning of whether these powers will be used for or against him. The project takes my obsession with superheroes and comics and melds them together.

Each episode will play out in six distinct visual settings created by Michigan artists that work in sculpture, dance, and video art.

Tunde Olaniran by Landon SpeersTunde Olaniran Photographed by Landon Speers

 

What’s your connection to superpowers and comics? 

I’ve been a casual X-Men fan for a long time. A couple of years ago, I had a conversation before one of my shows where we talked about how the X-Men are queer coded.

I realized, then, that they were less this team of heroes and more this team of freaks who had been ostracized because of something they were born with and could not change. They’re not like Superman or Wonder Woman. They seep acid out of their pores. It’s not attractive – it’s scary. They find their own family and home, and they discover that the very thing that makes them frightening or demonic is what gives them their power.

My favorite thing about the X-Men is that they don’t win all the time. They actually lose a lot.

The past year has transformed the performing arts industry and how artists and audiences approach creating and experiencing art. How has your role or process in creating performance art shifted?

There was a quote that I saw recently that read, “We’re not machines, we’re gardens,” meaning that we have different needs depending on the season and time of day. In planning the UMS Live Session, I had to ask myself what I needed from my own artistry. I realized that I needed to feel totally enveloped in this project. Because this session is referencing the tone of the script for Made a Universe, my work on that project has also changed how we approached the session.

I finished the script for Made a Universe throughout 2020, and of course, living through this pandemic has shifted the tone that I have written with. It’s influenced everything from the way we’ve envisioned filming the short film to the character development of the protagonist. I’ve been home alone by myself for this entire year, so this feeling of isolation and drilling down into the space around you is going to be a theme throughout this entire project.

Tunde Olaniran by Landon SpeersTunde Olaniran Photographed by Landon Speers

 

You came together with Yo-Yo Ma in 2019 for the Flint Day of Action. How has being from Flint influenced you and your artistry? And what was it like to bring an artist like Yo-Yo to your hometown?

When Yo-Yo was planning to come to Flint for the Day of Action, the residency’s planners asked me to participate with him in some way. I was able to drive him around and give him a tour of the city, giving him a sense of the geography and meanings of the landscape within the city. I think he brought some great folks in the community together.

For me, being from Flint has always made me want to contextualize history as much as I can when I work with other people.

Flint’s history, especially when it comes to the Black working and middle class, is really strong. This history has given me an insistence on bringing a class analysis whenever I’m working on a project – it’s in my DNA. If I wasn’t from Flint, I don’t know if that would be how I would operate. I’ve been raised by people who are focused on ensuring that their history is not erased. I can help continue to create community and contribute to the cultural scene.

Yo-Yo sees all the blessings in his life, and he wants everyone to also have blessings in their lives. Throughout his travels, he has grown to see everyone as being part of one human race, and he wants others to see this, as well. He was a great collaborator for this advocacy.

After the Day of Action, you recorded a song with Yo-Yo. What was the inspiration and process behind that recording?

I hit it off with Yo-Yo and hoped that the Day of Action wouldn’t be the last day we would hang out! Later, I was touring in Boston, and I was asked if I wanted to get in the studio with Yo-Yo, and I was like “Um, Yes?!”

I had two weeks to plan the recording. I remember sending voice memos to my recording engineer, and I asked my producer to come from LA to Boston for the day. He created the session for our recording in the airport – you don’t get Yo-Yo for more than three hours, and I wanted to make the most of the session.

Yo-Yo and I talked on the phone about what we wanted to say with the song. I wanted to make sure that he could speak through my lyrics. In our conversation, he said that as he got older and further into his career, he wanted to be able to bring as many people into his space of connection and love as possible. I was fascinated and inspired by his ideas, and it gave me a great idea about the chord progression and shaping the tone.

I was trying to create a humming chant that felt like a meditation. Yo-Yo played over and over the progression. He played for two hours and we recorded all of it – it was so beautiful. As a vocalist, I had never felt an emotional connection like that to an instrument.

Months later, I puzzle-pieced his recordings together with lyrics that spoke to my conversation with Yo-Yo about how fleeting time is. The song is about reflection, and knowing that you’ve done something worthy of the life that you’ve been able to have.

Yo-Yo Ma and Tunde OlaniranYo-Yo Ma and Tunde Olaniran at the Flint Day of Action, 2019

 

You and Yo-Yo are very different artists. What was it like to collaborate with an artist who often works in such a different genre? 

I didn’t grow up singing in any sort of tradition – church, choir, anything. Sometimes these opportunities can be a benefit.

When working outside my usual genre, having a collaborator between me and other artists can help translate my ideas to their traditions so that we can best work together. When I was recording with Yo-Yo, our engineer was amazing at working out string arrangements, which was something I would not have been able to do.

When you’re an indie artist, there’s pressure to do and be everything at once. That’s why I like working with specialists, because they’re able to bring ideas that I would have never been able to come up with, and in turn, I’m able to enrich their practice. We are able to learn from each other, and support each other’s artistry. 

Can you describe your artistic process?

The mixtape is a great example of my process. I wanted to do something that was unrelated to the record I’m recording and was fun and for myself.

For me, the mixtape was a way to connect with people after being alone for most of this year. I started hitting up artists that I admired and people that I’ve always wanted to write for. I started having all these collaborative zoom calls with artists.

It’s been a lot of trial and error, and I’ve learned how to be comfortable and get something out of a very sterile format. Designing an artistic process is unique to the person and situation, but safety and comfort are always necessary. “Studio Granny” was my nickname because I’d always bring a bag full of snacks and cough drops and tissues to sessions to make sure that everyone was comfortable in the space that they were working in. People need to feel safe in your space, whether virtual or real.

Before we start creating. I always ask, “Why are we doing this?” because that really shapes the process.

As I create, I try to also ask, “Is the spell working?” Good art is like a spell that’s being cast. For me, that’s “Bodak Yellow” by Cardi B. No matter where that song was played people were entranced by it. It transforms spaces, reality, people.

Tunde OlaniranTunde Olaniran Photographed by Steven Piper

 

What are your post-pandemic dream plans for future performances and collaborations? 

I have no idea what the future will look like as far as performance goes, and I’m trying my best to not cling to any sort of semblance of the past.

With the film I’m currently creating, I’d love for that to open doors to more film-making. I’m currently working on a TV pilot script right now with someone that’s connected to this project, and I’m learning a lot about the pitching process.

I’d also love to be working for other artists and producers more. There are artists on this mixtape that I’d love to be directing their Grammy performance one day.

All I want is to make more music that would connect with other people in whatever way possible. Of course, I want to keep being ambitious with how my music is performed, but that’s my main goal.

 

(This interview was edited for clarity)

Planning for a Safe Return (May Update)

Audience Entering Hill Auditorium

In early March, we shared initial findings from our Southeast Michigan audience research, administered by leading arts researcher WolfBrown and sponsored by CultureSource.

As part of the study, UMS and two dozen arts organizations across Southeast Michigan are surveying audiences every other month for updated insights into what they expect when returning to venues for live performances. In total, more than 300 organizations across the country are participating in this research.

Here is a summary of the latest we’ve learned from participating audience members (as of mid-April 2021):

The Vast Majority of our Audience is Already Vaccinated

As of April 16, 94% of UMS audience members surveyed are at least partially vaccinated (and 69% are fully vaccinated). These rates are consistent with arts attendees across the country who overall have an extremely high rate of vaccination. This is a significant increase since our February survey, as shown below:

April Vaccine Growth

Rates of vaccination are high across age ranges of surveyed UMS audience members:

April Vaccination across Ages B

Masking and Distancing Remain Important Issues

Consistent with our February survey, the three most important health and safety topics to audiences in thinking about a return to live, in-person performances remain:

  • Mask-wearing requirements
  • Distancing requirements & how seating will work
  • Ventilation quality and airflow

When 2021/22 Season Tickets go on sale, please note that seating will work slightly differently this year.

  • Because of the potential for seating capacity restrictions to change, we will assign both subscription and single ticket seats for individual performances no later than one month before each performance, based on the seating section and original order date.
  • Our production and patron services team are developing clear plans and protocols in consultation with public health officials at the University of Michigan, with additional guidance from the State of Michigan.
  • We promise that we will always prioritize health and safety as we move back to in-person events.

Michigan’s April Surge Raised Caution

Given the April COVID-19 surge in Michigan, we are seeing more caution about when UMS audiences expect to return to live performances, with half indicating they will be ready to return in September, and 70% by December.

When UMS’s full 2021/22 Season is announced in May, you will notice that our mainstage, indoor events are not planned to resume until the final weekend of November.

Audiences are Mostly Optimistic

When asked about long-term attendance of arts and cultural activities, 87% of UMS audience members surveyed in April indicated that they expect to attend events at a similar or increased frequency as they did pre-pandemic. This is slightly lower than the 90% recorded in our February survey, before Michigan’s latest case surge.

Audience feedback included from the April survey included:

“I think it will be a matter of making up for the time we all missed during the pandemic. I think people will seize the day more than they used to, which means I would likely go to more exciting events than before.”

“Basically, you don’t know what you have ’til it’s gone, right? The pandemic has made me realize that I want culture and music to be a bigger part of my life. And I want to help arts organizations recover from the financial impact of the pandemic.”

“I am not comfortable attending large events seated next to people that may not have been vaccinated or not honoring physical distancing.”

Digital Access Remains a Priority

More than half of UMS audiences (and more than 75% of UMS donors) have enjoyed digital programming over the past year; and 70% of surveyed audiences feel that digital will play a role in their future arts consumption.

As we approach the 2021/22 season, we want to assure you that our commitment to accessible digital events will continue, again at no cost. We’re planning for a variety of digital experiences: some that will enhance our live events and some that will stand alone in the digital space — with a few surprises along the way.


Remember, your voice is important to us!

If you receive an invitation to participate in an upcoming return to theaters survey from UMS and other presenters, please consider doing so! These surveys are happening across two dozen arts organizations in Southeast Michigan, allowing us to gauge perceptions across the region and helping us plan for what is most important to you as we move forward.

2021/22 Season Preview: A MoodSwing Reunion

UMS will present our schedule for 2021/22 in-person performances on May 13! Each week until then, we will preview a new program.


Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride, and Brian Blade
Redman | Mehldau | McBride | Blade

Celebrated tenor saxophonist and composer Joshua Redman’s 1994 album MoodSwing introduced his first permanent band, an astonishing collection by four precociously talented musicians who would rapidly establish themselves as creative beacons.

After years of individual triumphs, Redman reunites the original group — pianist Brad Mehldau, who won the 2020 Grammy for “Best Jazz Instrumental Album,” bassist Christian McBride, and drummer Brian Blade — for an unforgettable performance of brand new material alongside signature work that showcases Redman’s “musical breadth, emotional depth and intellectual savvy.” (Chicago Tribune)

We’re delighted to bring this celebrated quartet — originally scheduled to perform in October 2020 – back to the Hill Auditorium stage.

Date and time for A MoodSwing Reunion will become available when the full 2021/22 season is on announced on May 13.


About the Artists

Joshua Redman

Joshua Redman is one of the most acclaimed and charismatic jazz artists to have emerged in the decade of the 1990s. Born in Berkeley, California, he is the son of legendary saxophonist Dewey Redman and dancer Renee Shedroff. At an early age, he was exposed to a variety of music and began playing clarinet at age nine before switching to what became his primary instrument, the tenor saxophone, one year later.

In 1991 Redman graduated from Harvard College summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, with a B.A. in Social Studies. He had already been accepted by Yale Law School, but deferred entrance for what he believed was only going to be one year. In November of that year, five months after moving to New York, Redman was named the winner of the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition.

His second recording, MoodSwing, was released in 1994, introducing his first permanent band, which included three other young musicians who have gone on to become some of the most important and influential artists in modern jazz.

Redman has performed on UMS stages 4 times, appearing with Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Joshua Redman Quartet, SF JAZZ Collective, and The Bad Plus Joshua Redman.

Brad Mehldau

Grammy Award-winning jazz pianist Brad Mehldau has recorded and performed extensively since the early 1990s, with his trio, and as a solo pianist. His performances convey a wide range of expression. There is often an intellectual rigor to the continuous process of abstraction that may take place on a given tune, and a certain density of information. That could be followed by a stripped-down, emotionally direct ballad. Mehldau favors juxtaposing extremes. He has attracted a sizeable following over the years, one that has grown to expect a singular, intense experience in his performance.

In addition to his trio and solo projects, Mehldau has collaborated with a number of influential jazz musicians, including with Joshua Redman, with Pat Metheny, Charlie Haden, and Lee Konitz, and has recorded as a sideman with the likes of Michael Brecker, Wayne Shorter, John Scofield, and Charles Lloyd. For more than a decade, he has collaborated with several musicians and peers whom he respects greatly, including guitarists Peter Bernstein and Kurt Rosenwinkel and tenor saxophonist Mark Turner.

Mehldau’s trio has been presented 3 times by UMS, in 2001, 2005, and 2008.

Christian McBride

Raised in Philadelphia, a city steeped in soul, McBride moved to New York in 1989 to pursue classical studies at the Juilliard School. There he was promptly recruited to the road by saxophonist Bobby Watson. In 2000, McBride formed of what would become his longest-running project, the Christian McBride Band (CMB). Praised by writer Alan Leeds as “one of the most intoxicating, least predictable bands on the scene today,” the CMB—saxophonist Ron Blake, keyboardist Geoffrey Keezer, and drummer Terreon Gully—have been collectively evolving McBride’s all-inclusive, forward-thinking outlook on music through their incendiary live shows.

Currently, McBride hosts and produces The Lowdown: Conversations With Christian on SiriusXM satellite radio and National Public Radio’s Jazz Night in America, a weekly radio show and multimedia collaboration between WBGO, NPR, and Jazz at Lincoln Center, showcasing outstanding live jazz from across the country.

McBride has performed on UMS stages 4 times, most recently with Chick Corea and Brian Blade in 2019.

Brian Blade

A native of Shreveport, Louisiana, Brian Blade established himself as a versatile, accomplished drummer early in his career, appearing on albums by the likes of Joshua Redman, Kenny Garrett, and Bob Dylan. Blade released his first album, Brian Blade Fellowship, at the age of 27 in 1998 and followed two years later with Perceptual, both on Blue Note.

Always an in-demand sideman and collaborator, Blade continued to find work with a varied bevy of artists, including Joni Mitchell, Bill Frisell, Wayne Shorter, Norah Jones, Daniel Lanois, and Emmylou Harris. Ten years after releasing his first album as the Brian Blade Fellowship, Blade returned with Season of Changes in 2008. A year later he released the Americana-influenced Mama Rosa, his debut as a singer/songwriter.

Blade has performed on UMS stages 4 times, most recently with Chick Corea and Christian McBride in 2019.

Twyla Tharp to Receive U-M Honorary Degree

Twyla Tharp

©Richard Avedon Courtesy of the Richard Avedon Foundation

Five leaders in the areas of information technology, engineering, human rights, and the arts have been recommended to receive honorary degrees at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor campus’ 2021 Spring Commencement, including Twyla Tharp, the Tony- and Emmy award-winning choreographer and dancer.

Tharp will also speak at the Rackham Graduate Exercises on Friday, April 30 at 7 pm.

 

Twyla Tharp at UMS

UMS has presented The Twyla Tharp Dance Company twice. The company performed in Power Center in 1996 and 2002.

Before launching her own company, Tharp also appeared as a dancer with the Paul Taylor Dance Company in their first UMS appearance in 1964.

The Twyla Tharp Dance Company

About Twyla Tharp (from The University Record)

A world-renowned choreographer and dancer, Tharp has thrilled audiences for more than five decades with her electrifying compositions that combine ballet and modern dance with jazz, rock, and other genres of music. She has created more than 160 works, including 129 dances, 12 television specials, six Hollywood movies, four full-length ballets, four Broadway shows, and two figure skating routines.

Tharp began playing piano at age 4. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1963 from Barnard College and launched her own dance company, Twyla Tharp Dance, in 1965.

Tharp choreographed the early ballet-modern dance crossovers “Deuce Coupe” for the Joffrey Ballet and “Push Comes to Shove” for the American Ballet Theatre. Her television credits include choreographing “Sue’s Leg” and co-producing and directing “Making Television Dance.” She won two Emmy Awards and the Directors Guild of America Award for the television special “Baryshnikov by Tharp.”

Tharp has created dances for many leading companies, including the ABT, Australian Ballet, Martha Graham Dance Company, New York City Ballet, and Paris Opera Ballet. Her film credits for choreography include “Hair,” “Ragtime,” “Amadeus,” “White Nights” and “I’ll Do Anything.”

Tharp debuted on Broadway with “When We Were Very Young,” followed by “The Catherine Wheel” and “Singin’ In The Rain. Her musical “Movin’ Out,”, set to the music and lyrics of Billy Joel, won a Tony Award for Best Choreography. In addition, she choreographed “The Times They Are A-Changin’” to Bob Dylan’s music and lyrics, and “Come Fly Away” to favorite Frank Sinatra songs.

Tharp has authored four books, including her autobiography, “Push Comes to Shove,” and “Keep It Moving, Lessons for the Rest of Your Life.”

She is the recipient of a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. Tharp received a National Medal of Arts in 2004 and was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2008. The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery featured her in its critically acclaimed “Dancing the Dream” exhibition in 2013-14.

2021/22 Season Preview: Parable of the Sower

Parable of the Sower

“All that you touch you change. All that you change changes you. The only lasting truth is change.” — Octavia E. Butler

Based on Octavia E. Butler’s novel of the same name, Parable of the Sower is a triumphant, mesmerizing work of rare power and beauty that illuminates deep insights on gender, race, and the future of human civilization.

This opera brings together over 30 original anthems drawn from 200 years of Black music to recreate Butler’s Afrofuturist masterpiece live on stage. With music and lyrics composed by Toshi Reagon, whom Vibe Magazine called “one helluva rock’n’roller-coaster ride,” and Bernice Johnson Reagon, the iconic singer, scholar, activist, and founder of Sweet Honey In The Rock, this compelling work gives life to Butler’s acclaimed post-apocalyptic science fiction novel of the same name. This genre-defying work is filled with hope and human connection and features a powerhouse ensemble of 20 singers and musicians.

About Octavia E. Butler and the ‘Parable’ Series

Octavia E. Butler was a renowned African American author who received a MacArthur “Genius” Grant and PEN West Lifetime Achievement Award for her body of work. Born in Pasadena in 1947, she was raised by her mother and her grandmother. She was the author of several award-winning novels including Parable of the Sower (1993), which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and Parable of the Talents (1995), winner of the Nebula Award for the best science fiction novel published that year. She was acclaimed for her lean prose, strong protagonists, and social observations in stories that range from the distant past to the far future. (octaviabutler.com)

Listen to an archival broadcast with Octavia E. Butler in NPR’s recent feature:


Both novels are available for purchase through Literati Bookstore.

About the Artists

Toshi Reagon

Toshi Reagon is a one-woman celebration of all that’s dynamic, progressive, and uplifting in American music. Since first taking to the stage at age 17, this versatile singer-songwriter-guitarist has moved audiences of all kinds with her big-hearted, hold-nothing-back approach to rock, blues, R&B, country, folk, spirituals and funk.

toshireagon.com

Bernice Johnson Reagon

For more than a half-century,  Bernice Johnson Reagon has been a major cultural voice for freedom and justice; she sings, teaches, and speaks out against racism and organized inequities of all kinds. Reagon’s life and work supports the concept of community-based culture with an enlarged capacity for mutual respect: for self, for those who move among us who seem to be different than us, for our home, and for the environment — including the planet that sustains life as we know it.

bernicejohnsonreagon.com

2021/22 Season Preview: EDEN with Joyce DiDonato and Il Pomo d’Oro

UMS will present our schedule for 2021/22 in-person performances on May 13! Each week until then, we will preview a new program.

This Earth Day, UMS proudly announces a visionary co-commission on themes of nature and the environment starring Joyce DiDonato.

Following her recital performance of Schubert’s Winterreise with pianist Yannick Nézet-Séguin and as part of her UMS Digital Artist Residency during the 2020/21 season, mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato turns her creative vision and artistry to her next great passion: EDEN.

Watch Joyce’s message about the new project (60 seconds):

Exploring the majesty, might, and mystery of Nature through both arresting and evocative music and theatrical effects, Joyce takes us on an emotional journey to reconnect to the power and fragility of Nature, exploring our place within the kaleidoscopic, wondrous world around us.

Joined by the original instrument ensemble Il Pomo d’Oro and Maxim Emelyanychev, as well as the French stage director Marie Lambert, Joyce will perform a wide-ranging program cycling from Handel to Ives, Gluck to Mahler, inviting the audience to consider their own place in the world…and perhaps to even change it.

Date and time for EDEN will become available when the full 2021/22 season is announced in May.

About the Artists

Joyce DiDonato

A multiple Grammy-winner, mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato is a transformative presence in the arts whose healing approach to music has taken her beyond the world’s great opera stages to educational institutions, refugee camps, and maximum-security prisons. She has appeared on UMS concerts three times in the past several years, including in the lead role in Handel’s Ariodante, with pianist Yannick Nézet-Séguin in Schubert’s Winterreise, and again with Nézet-Séguin and his Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal in November 2019. She is an exclusive recording artist with Erato-Warner Classics.

joycedidonato.com

Il Pomo d’Oro

The ensemble il Pomo d’Oro was founded in 2012. It is characterized by an authentic, dynamic interpretation of operas and instrumental works from the Baroque and Classical period. The musicians are all well-known specialists and are among the best in the field of historical performance practice. The ensemble so far worked with the conductors Riccardo Minasi, Maxim Emelyanychev, Stefano Montanari, George Petrou, Enrico Onofri Francesco Corti and Antonello Manacorda. Concertmaster Zefira Valova leads the orchestra in various projects. Since 2016 Maxim Emelyanychev has been its chief conductor, and since 2019 Francesco Corti is principal guest conductor.

ilpomodoro.org

Marie Lambert

French director Marie Lambert as born in France and grew up in Paris and England. She studied literature in Paris and Bologna and directing at La Scala, Milan. Lambert has worked for dozens of opera houses throughout her career, including the Royal Opera House, Glyndebourne Festival, and Welsh National Opera in the UK, La Scala and the Maggio Musicale in Italy, as well as the major companies in Barcelona, Paris, Vienna, Brussels, Chicago, San Francisco, Brussels, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, and many other music capitals around the world.


Joyce DiDonato’s recent collaborative albums with Il Pomo d’Oro include In War & Peace — Harmony through Music (2016) and Handel: Agrippina (2020).

Listen on:

Apple Music logo  Spotify logo

Volunteer Appreciation Week

UMS Volunteer Appreciation

National Volunteer Week (Sunday, April 18 through Saturday, April 24, 2021) is an opportunity to recognize the impact of volunteer service.

We want to recognize and thank all of the volunteers who lend their time, talent, and voices to UMS. We’ve interviewed a few of our volunteers to offer their experiences with UMS and highlight how they have stayed involved with the arts during the pandemic.

 


 

Elena SnyderElena Snyder

Chair of UMS Ambassadors

How did you get involved with UMS? What drew you to volunteering? 

I had a friend that had been involved and she suggested I look into it. The people were so nice and welcoming and there were diverse tasks to be involved in so I decided to join without hesitation. 

I love music and appreciate all forms. I decided I wanted more exposure to the arts and it has been a lovely way to keep me busy and yet enjoying the activities I have been craving. I am a retired educator and this was a good way to meet new people in the community and help UMS at the same time.

What have you done to stay active with UMS throughout the pandemic? 

After 6 years of involvement, last July I became the Chair of our UMS Ambassador Committee of volunteers. I have planned meetings and met with people on Zoom. Obviously not quite as enriching as performances however it has given me something to focus on. We are trying to keep our current volunteers informed about free digital activities and opportunities to be exposed to more artistic forms of performances. We really would welcome anyone who is interested in joining us! 

What is your favorite UMS memory? 

My favorite UMS memory is so difficult to nail down. I have been on the stage at Hill Auditorium for a reception of donors and backstage at Power Center during a dance performance to help a performer’s child. I love the concerts I have seen with all the famous orchestras from around the world. My heart is full of gratitude when I see our local K-12 students attend our School Day Performances! Seeing Yo-Yo Ma was a huge thrill for me as well. Thank you UMS for the opportunity to serve.

Ax Kavakos Ma


 

Penny RyderPenny Ryder

UMS Usher

How did you get involved with UMS? What drew you to volunteering?

I wanted to volunteer years ago but was too busy with work.  After retiring I signed up.  I love all kinds of music and have become more interested in music I was not familiar with due to this opportunity to attend concerts.

What is your favorite UMS memory?

I do not have a favorite.  Since I am a people person, the perk for me is the regular patrons who come through my “Door 2” at both Hill and Rackham assignments.  Concert environments provide people with very a vibrant mood.   In addition, I so enjoy when young children come through my door.  If time provides, I engage them about their “playing” instrument.  They always get a huge smile with this recognition of their interest.  I look forward to having live concerts here again soon, I hope.

School Day Performance


 

Jagienka TimekJagienka Timek

Co-President of the UMS Student Committee

How did you get involved with UMS? What drew you to volunteering? 

I found out about UMS from an email I received after going to one of the performances (2001: A Space Odyssey with the DSO!) my freshman year, 2018. I loved the rich nature of the performing arts in Ann Arbor, and I really wanted to channel my excitement in a volunteer role and spread the news about the amazing array of performances put on by UMS. I’ve also met amazing people volunteering through the Student Committee! It broadened my perspective not only on audience demographics but the intellectual diversity of students at this university who all share the same passion for art. 

What have you done to stay active with UMS throughout the pandemic? 

I have led the Student Committee as Co-President for the past year, and we have faced new and exciting challenges in marketing digital performances this year. My main goal was to foster a community among committee members to maintain people’s excitement about the arts while keeping attendance numbers consistent. We branched out into social media more this semester, so that was very new!

What is your favorite UMS memory? 

One of my favorite performances (which I did not think I would enjoy!) was Teac Damsa’s Swan Lake in fall of 2019. It was the most bizarre and experimental theater piece I have ever seen. It began with a man barking like a dog in his underwear and ended with the stage covered in feathers. But it moved me. It was completely out of my comfort zone, and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to attend through the Student Committee because I would not have pushed myself to go otherwise!!

Teaċ Daṁsa


 

Juli Pinsak

Juli Pinsak

UMS Usher

How did you get involved with UMS? What drew you to volunteering? 

Back in the late 1990s, some co-workers joined the UMS usher team, and I joined them.

We had a good Aisle on the Main Floor and a kind Aisle Head. They all moved on, started families, and I continued to usher. I spread out to other organizations. There is a great mindset with the ushers – the love of performances, helping patrons, and seeing amazing shows! I have met many lovely patrons, and become friends with fellow ushers.

What have you done to stay active with UMS throughout the pandemic? 

During the downtime, I am taking advantage of streaming shows thru UMS, and other websites. It’s not as exciting as a live show, but still fun!

What is your favorite UMS memory? 

A recent performance by Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason in December 2019 at Rackham was especially delightful. It was nice to see the next generations embracing and playing classical music.

Isata and Sheku Kanneh-Mason

2021/22 Season Preview: HOME

UMS will present our schedule for 2021/22 in-person performances on May 13! Each week until then, we will preview a new program.

HOME

HOME is a really special way to end next season, especially given what our living spaces have come to mean over the past year.”

— Mary Roeder, UMS Programming Manager

Geoff Sobelle’s HOME premiered in 2017 at the Philadelphia FringeArts Festival and has received national and international acclaim. UMS staff first experienced the work in-person at the 2018 Edinburgh International Festival, and programmed its Ann Arbor debut for the end of our 2019/20 season. While our final two months of performances had to be put on hold due to the pandemic, we are thrilled to present HOME in the 2021/22 season.

What makes a house a home? In a little less than two hours on the Power Center stage, you’ll find the answer to that question both literally and metaphorically.

It starts with an empty stage, and with the speed of time-lapse photography, absurdist theater artist Geoff Sobelle builds an entire house, then shows what it means to make a house a home. The seven performers embody generations of characters who have inhabited the house throughout its lifecycle, using remarkable feats of stagecraft to capture all of the drama of everyday life. This breathtaking spectacle of physical theater — illusion, choreography, storytelling, and live music  — is a house party like no other; witty and insightful, it is a life-affirming meditation about our relationship with our living spaces and the relentless passage of time.

Dates and times for HOME will become available when the full 2021/22 season is announced in May.

Artist’s Statement

I work in collaborative theater-making, because I believe that the really good stuff doesn’t come from the writer’s room — it comes from the space. It comes from designers and performers leaning into one another to create theatrical moments beyond language that we could only have found by tuning into one another, staying present, and encountering something artful right then and there. It comes from listening.

In creating a work for theater, I identify a theme or philosophical point of entry into which I want to pour myself; in this case, the concept of “home,” and then I try to couple a theatrical form that will unearth some poetic potential latent in the theme. In this new work, I aim to work in two disciplines. The first is technical: working with illusion and inventive set design to build and age a house onstage before your eyes. The second is intimate: I will work with unprepared audience members as performers. They will respond to instruction that will be given them in a variety of ways: through writing, headphones, and the guidance of other performers. We will see their daily rituals, and hear their own reflections of houses they’ve lived: a “live documentary.”

The creative process began by working with my sister, a noted academic who is an expert on the literature of houses and the poetics of architecture. We looked at the psychological and mythic spaces of houses and examined images and themes that we wanted to explore for the whole process. We then began the devising process, which has included designers and builders as well as performers.

This collaborative process allows space for my collaborators to follow what is interesting to them. The work will allow space for the audience to dream — to fill the work with their own lives and memories, thus enacting the experience of living in and creating a home. As always, I do not know what the end result will be! Other than it usually ends up quite different from where I begin.

— Geoff Sobelle

geoffsobelle.com

 

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