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On the Road for the Kids

On Friday, September 16th at 6:30 pm, the University Musical Society (UMS) hosts its seventh annual benefit auction/dinner event, On the Road with UMS. Not only is this event an absolute blast, but the cause is near and dear to our hearts: performing arts education and community engagement. This integral portion of the UMS mission enables us to provide teacher workshops, in-class artist visits for schoolchildren, and live daytime performances programmed especially for school field-trips. In the post below, Karen Stutz — UMS volunteer, Advisory Committee Member, and 2011 On the Road Co-Chair — writes about why On the Road matters to her.

Imagine a sub-zero Ann Arbor morning in the dead of winter. Black ice, blustery winds, knee-deep snow. Without a doubt, this is the kind of morning that only a gleeful gaggle of  kids dancing to a live salsa concert can remedy. This exact sight lifted my heart when I worked as a volunteer greeter for a UMS Youth Performance by Baby Loves Salsa last winter.

I’ve volunteered as a Youth Performance greeter for a few years now and one thing is always the same: from the minute the kids step off the bus, they radiate excitement that lasts until the final curtain is drawn. The Baby Loves Salsa concert was no different. Along with their teachers, the children who attended Baby Loves Salsa clapped, sang, and danced in the aisles.

Last year, I also volunteered at the Youth Performance for the Paul Taylor Dance Company. Watching the students’ faces as they soaked up the performance was fascinating. They were rapt with attention as they followed the movement and choreography. The UMS Youth Performance program offers companion classroom curriculum and educational workshops for teachers; by the time the students are on-site at a UMS performance field trip, they are some of our most well-versed and informed patrons. They are ready for challenging, world-class performances. They are learning about cultures from all over the world and about how the performing arts can act as a window to better understand one another and the world at large.

Thousands of students from Southeast Michigan benefit in huge ways from seeing performances right here in Ann Arbor — I support the UMS Education & Community Engagement programs through fundraisers like On the Road because I’d like to keep it that way. Performing arts education matters to me because it matters to the kids.

Why is performing arts Education & Community Engagement important to you?

Tickets to this year’s On the Road event are $100 and must be purchased in advance. Rachelle Lesko at UMS is more than happy to help you with your ticket purchases and answer any questions: 734-764-8489 or Hope to see you there!

UMS’s Arts Roundup: October 1

Many members of the UMS staff keep a watchful eye on local and national media for news about artists on our season, pressing arts issues, and more. Each week, we pull together a list of interesting stories  and share them with you.  Welcome to UMS’s Arts Round-up, a weekly collection of arts news, including national issues, artist updates, local shout-outs, and a link or two just for fun. If you come across something interesting in your own reading, please feel free to share!


  • The orchestral world continues to change as Zarin Mehta steps down as President of the NY Philharmonic.
  • And so does the opera world — Placido Domingo is also reducing his commitments.
  • But James Levine is finally back after months of health issues that curtailed his ability to conduct.
  • Arts jobs count too–NEA chief advocates the legitimacy and worth of creative jobs in the arts during hard economic times.
  • Is opera worth the expense? Alex Ross voices his opinion regarding the Met’s $16 million Wagner opera cycle.


  • Stephen Sondheim at 80: An interview with the man who revolutionized the world of musical theater.
  • Dancer/choreographer Trisha Brown featured at the Whitney Museum of American Art in program of her seminal works.


  • Rosanne Cash brings superb voice and new depth to classic and new country tunes alike during her performance of “The List” at Hill Auditorium on Saturday night [review].
  • Jordi Savall brings music of Spain and Mexico to St. Francis Church [review].


  • Play the piano? Always wanted to try? Now’s your chance! Pull up a seat and try out any of the seven Pianos ‘Round Town, located on the sidewalks of Depot Town and Downtown Ypsilanti.
  • And you can play your own melody for UMS — at intermission of the Mariinsky Orchestra and Takacs Quartet concerts (Oct. 10 and Oct. 14 respectively).
  • A potential sign of hope emerges for struggling arts institutions in Michigan with the Detroit Institute of Arts likely to get $10M from the state.


  • Once again, the hills will be alive with the sound of music, as Oprah reunites the original Sound of Music cast members.
  • Dancers morph into human sculptures around Manhattan as part of the Bodies in Urban Spaces project.

Happy 80th Birthday Paul Taylor!

“I make dances because it briefly frees me from coping with the real world, because it’s possible to build a whole new universe with steps, because I want people to know about themselves, and even because it’s a thrilling relief to see how fast each of my risk-taking dancers can recover after a pratfall.” –Paul Taylor

Paul Taylor at 80

Today marks the 80th birthday of Paul Taylor, artistic director of the Paul Taylor Dance Company.  Mr. Taylor has been dancing and choreographing for over 60 years, enjoying a career that has fundamentally shaped the development of modern dance in America.  In honor of Mr. Taylor’s extensive contributions to both modern dance and dance education, and in celebration of such a landmark birthday, we’ve compiled a history of the previous appearances of the Paul Taylor Dance Company at UMS.

The Paul Taylor Dance Company has made 14 appearances on UMS stages since its debut performance in 1964.  But if you bought tickets to Mr. Taylor’s performance in the 1964 or the 1965 UMS seasons, when Mr. Taylor was still dancing with his own company, you wouldn’t have watched his work from a seat in the Power Center.  Although the idea of building a proscenium stage in Ann Arbor to accommodate performers like the Paul Taylor Dance Company was conceived in 1963, the Power Center wasn’t completed until 1971.  Prior to its completion, UMS actually built a makeshift, portable proscenium arch for use in Rackham and Hill Auditoriums when normal stage orientations in those venues weren’t suitable for certain artists.

Hill Auditorium, as it would have been for Paul Taylor Dance Co. (year unknown)

Mr. Taylor’s first appearances in Ann Arbor were actually a part of the Third and Fourth Annual Chamber Dance Festival, performed in Rackham Auditorium.  As described in the program for the 1966 festival, “In 1962 the University Musical Society inaugurated a ‘Chamber Dance Festival’ with three presentations within three consecutive days, of special dance programs in Rackham Auditorium.  An extended stage, constructed by the University, together with special curtains and lighting provided by the Tobins Lake Studios, made this possible. […] The audiences this year are the largest to attend the annual Dance Festival.  With this kind of encouragement and support the University Musical Society will continue its endeavors in the presentation of the finest dance groups available.”

The top ticket price for the entire series in 1964?  $6.00.  If you were only interested in the Paul Taylor performance, single tickets could be purchased for a top price of $3.50.  Just prior to Mr. Taylor’s debut performance, Igor Stravinsky guest conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra performing his piece “Perséphone” at the 71st May Festival.  1964 was also the year the School of Music moved to facilities on North Campus.

When the Paul Taylor Dance Company returned to Ann Arbor in 1975, one year after Mr. Taylor retired as a performer, the company performed as part of the Fifth Annual Choice Series – this time in the new Power Center.  Started in 1970, the Choice Series included jazz, international music, soloists, and dance performances throughout the UMS season each year.  The Paul Taylor Dance Company performance on March 12, 1975 was just under one year after the 150th Anniversary of the founding of Ann Arbor, celebrated at the previous year’s May Festival.

Mr. Taylor returned to Ann Arbor for two performances in 1979, another important year for both UMS and the city of Ann Arbor.   In 1979 the city of Ann Arbor purchased the Michigan Theater to keep the struggling venue from being converted into a shopping mall, and the 1978/1979 season was the 100th Concert Season at UMS.  The Paul Taylor Dance Company gave two performances in January of 1979, each with completely different repertoire.  The January 27th performance included his work Polaris; the program note for the performance reads, “The choreography for Part II is an exact repeat of Part I.  The only difference is the change of cast, music, and lighting.  An opportunity is offered to observe the multiple effects that music, lighting, and individual interpretations by the performers have on a single dance.”  Mr. Taylor also led two master classes in the U-M Dance Department that year, and returned for additional residencies in 1982, 1984, 1989, and 2004.

UMS is thrilled to bring the Paul Taylor Dance Company back to Ann Arbor this fall and continue to showcase Mr. Taylor’s expertise, artistic achievement, and contributions to modern American dance.  Many friends and colleagues of Paul Taylor have left their birthday greetings on his website.

Happy Birthday, Paul Taylor!