What’s Abuzz in A Cappella?

While most undergrads can get an earful of a cappella at semester shows in Strong Auditorium and the May Room, news about the plans of each group outside of their seasonal concerts sometimes goes unnoticed. Even with the fall a cappella season coming to a close, all four campus ensembles are still hard at work on fine tuning their harmonies for albums, competitions, and beyond!


After Hours, the University’s co-ed a cappella group, is starting off next semester with some “pitch perfect” plans.  On January 31st, the group will compete in the International Championship for Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA), a judged event that showcases talent from campuses across the nation.  This will be the group’s fourth appearance at the show in the last five years.

Still reeling from the release of their most recent album, Duality, last spring, musical director John Queenan ’17 is excited to see what the future has in store for the group.

Duality features tracks from their award winning 2013 ICCA set. The recording project, which totaled over $15,000, was the culmination of two years of recording, mixing, and audio mastering.  Featuring modern hits from artists such as Justin Timberlake, David Guetta, Kelly Clarkson, and Imagine Dragons, the album also features an original composition from group member Alex Murray ’13.


The Midnight Ramblers recently wrapped up their latest semester show in Strong Auditorium, “The Rambling Dead.” While the zombified Ramblers took the stage for a concert experience they deemed “ever deader,” musical director Tom Downey ’14 hopes to keep the group fully awake and alive for their next project—a professionally recorded album.

This upcoming album will be the 11th in the Ramblers’ discography, which spans back to 1999.  The Ramblers are currently in the process of recording on campus, using the facilities of the Computer Studies Building, and hope to release the album at their upcoming spring concert on April 11th.  The album will feature some of the Rambler’s greatest hits from the past few years, bringing back old favorites that you won’t want to miss out on!

The Ramblers are also gearing up for their annual spring break tour.  With past years taking them to NYC, Nashville, and beyond.  They are excited to find out where their next musical adventure will take them.


The lovely ladies of Vocal Point hope to close out the semester with some holiday cheer through their annual winter show. With cookies, cocoa, and carols, the all-female ensemble will highlight the joy of the holidays despite the stress of the reading period.

Last year, the group sponsored Project EMPOWER, collaborating with a local middle school to provide musical and esteem-building workshops for the Young Women’s College Prep.  Looking to the future, Vocal Point plans to begin work on their next studio album in the spring semester.  Their last album, Daylight Again, was released in 2012.


This semester, the YellowJackets launched Project Forte, a philanthropic initiative aimed at bringing music and medicine together.  As a recipient of the Kauffman Entrepreneurial Year (KEY) Scholarship, Abhishek Sharma ’14 wanted to create opportunities for musicians on campus and in the local community to perform in hospitals and hospice facilities in the Greater Rochester area.

Sharma hopes to create a culture that promotes the use of music therapy in local health institutions. Music has been shown to increase quality of life for patients in medical settings by improving social and emotional well-being.  With Project Forte, the YellowJackets hope that the community is able to “note the difference” that music can make.

Last November, the YellowJackets released their 17th studio album, 50 Shades of Yellow.  Since then, they have also released a digital single, “Say Something,” a heartfelt rendition of A Great New World’s original.  Next year, the Jackets hope to release even more singles, leading up to their next album.

RED Discount Program offers best of Rochester

Even if you haven’t heard of the Rochester Every Day (RED) Program, you’ll definitely recognize the small red stickers that come with every new student ID card. If you didn’t already know, these little stamps can provide you with discounts to some of Rochester’s most popular eateries and shops, all through RED.  With a rebrand in the works, the program hopes to reintroduce itself to the campus population, offering undergraduates the best of what the city of Rochester has to offer.

The Rochester Every Day Program was launched in 2003 by a team of undergraduate students at the U of R.  Since then, the program has come under the management of the Rochester Center for Community Leadership.  The purpose of RED is to provide students with accessibility to local businesses through deals and discounts.  With connections to over 150 different restaurants, boutiques, and entertainment venues, the program offers an opportunity to explore Rochester outside of the campus context.

“We want to be able to connect students to the greater community,” said Phuong Dang, a program manager at the RCCL.  The program, which is free for business to participate in, is partnered with Mt. Hope Diner, The Little Theatre, and the Strong Museum of Play, among many other Rochester staples.

Benefits for students can range from the ability to use URos, campus currency, at establishments to discounts that span anywhere between 10 and 20% off of a given purchase.  Students can enjoy a BOGO deal on a sub from Amiel’s Restaurant or get a discount on their purchase at Thread, a clothing boutique in the South Wedge.  RED hopes to use these program features to incentivize students and businesses alike to participate in a community exchange.

This fall, the RED Program hopes to rebrand itself through a logo design contest. All submissions should incorporate the discount program’s mission of connecting campus to community. Prizes for winners and finalists include a Samsung Nook and an assortment of gift cards from cosponsoring businesses.

The logo design contest runs until Thursday, November 20th! Questions and submissions regarding the logo design contest should be sent to RedPGM@admin.rochester.edu.

For more information on the RED Program, visit their website and facebook page.

Photo credit: Pekka Nikrus/Flickr

Laptop Orchestra brings creative fusion to the Fringe

If your body was an instrument, what would it sound like? This is one of the questions that David Heid ’13 attempts to answer with the Rochester Laptop Orchestra, an interactive exhibition that blends art and science.  The event, featuring two performances on Thursday, September 18th and Saturday, September 20th, is one of many showcases at this year’s Rochester Fringe Festival.

Inspired by performances at Princeton and Stanford, Heid’s computer-based compositions explore the ways that the digital and electronic sciences can intersect with music.  “This one’s different in the sense that it’s more interactive,” he said. Heid’s exhibition will allow the audience to be a part of the musical experience. The Laptop Orchestra promises to provide a multimodal, interactive experience that showcases the breadth of creativity and innovation that the University of Rochester has to offer.

Heid believes that the project well represents the focus of his studies of music education and electrical and computer engineering.  A former dual degree student at Eastman and the River campus, he is now a second year masters student pursuing a degree in musical acoustics and signal processing.  In many senses, the creation of the Laptop Orchestra is a fusion of Heid’s dual interests and various talents by showcasing the combination of music and engineering.  “Music has never felt academic enough for me,” he admitted. “This is a nice way to blend it in a way that it can be.”

Instead of conventional instruments, the “orchestra” makes use of computers and motion sensing controllers used by undergraduates to generate sound.  One piece involves a dancer from Ballet Performance Group creating sound through movement. Through a Wiimote and gesture recognition technology, dance moves are translated into music.  A similar piece allows a dancer to generate pre-recorded sound bites from the Yellowjackets according to specific steps on electronically wired tap shoes.  Another performance brings in the Plank Road North Elementary Drum Ensemble creating a composition of pre-recorded vocal percussion.

Heid’s event is just as interactive as it is collaborative, which differentiates it from the earlier digital orchestras.  One segment of the performance allows an audience member to control the rhythm of the piece through the use of a hacked Bop-It.  Another allows the audience to decide the progression of a musical landscape as produced by the campus Carillon Society.

One of the more personal pieces involves mapping viruses to music. Using data from translated genomes, Heid created compositions that function as musical representations of HIV and ebola, among other illnesses. Last spring, Heid was quarantined after the measles outbreak, which was an experience that put a strain on his academic momentum as a grad student.  Instead of viewing it as a setback, he used the experience as an opportunity, working with an epidemiologist to create the virus-themed pieces.

While the Laptop Orchestra is in many ways the apex of Heid’s academic career, the show is not entirely about him; the project actually brought in the knowledge and talent of over 40 different students. “I know I’m not an expert in everything, and that’s why I brought these people in,” Heid said. “At Rochester, we do great things in every discipline. With the Laptop Orchestra, we can do those things together.”

Proceeds from ticket sales will go to RocMusic collaborative, which offers classical and instrumental music lessons to children in the downtown Rochester area. Getting a musical start in Pennsylvania through a similar program, he hopes that this early opportunity program can provide children with the same access to the arts.

All in all, Heid hopes that the performances will bring attention to the many possibilities that music has to offer in the modern world. “There’s not a lot in the industry that tries to blend stuff like this; I want to get people thinking.” With the Rochester Laptop Orchestra, he’s sure to do just that.

The Rochester Laptop Orchestra will have two shows on Thursday, September 18th at 6:00PM and Saturday, September 20th at 2:30PM at the TheatreROCS Stage at Xerox Auditorium.

Eastman Musicians Win $100,000 to Launch Creative Collision Project

By Emily Wozniak

ROCHESTER, NY – Sound ExChange, an ensemble of Eastman musicians, has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation to partner with professors from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), Microsoft Studios, and the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (RPYO) to produce Sound ExChange: Interactive Classical Visions Project. Emily Wozniak, Sound ExChange’s Executive Director and founder says, “This grant provides an amazing opportunity for a transformational collaboration between the worlds of live music and technology.”

Described by the Rochester Business Journal as a group that “turns the classical music concert on its head,” Sound ExChange is devoted to designing transformative concert experiences. Through experimentation with the way music is created and presented, the group deepens the connection between performers, audiences, and music. Sound ExChange has a history of piloting innovative collaborations, such as “Anomaly: BIODANCE, Sound ExChange, and W. Michelle Harris” for the 2013 Rochester Fringe Festival. In reviews of the show, the Democrat and Chronicle described Anomaly as a “true sensorial experience,” and Matt DeTurck of CITY Newspaper wrote, “I am going to attempt—and fail—to adequately describe the merits of the astonishing “Anomaly”… It was so lovely to behold that I found myself dreading its inevitable conclusion.” Audience response was overwhelmingly positive with sold-out shows.

Sound ExChange, in collaboration with professors from RIT, applied for the Farash Foundation’s Cultural Creative Collision grant in August through a fiscal sponsor, the Rochester Oratorio Society.  In response to the foundations request for a creative collision—the innovation that results when different perspectives, talents, and abilities come together—the collaborating partners developed a project proposal to integrate technology into the concert experience. Sound ExChange: Interactive Classical Visions Project (ICVP) will utilize digital technology to promote audience participation by creating ways for performers and audiences to interact and connect with live music. ICVP will encourage the audience to use mobile devices, social networks, and immersive technology to enhance the concert experience. Additionally, the project will have a home online through Sound ExChange’s website, which will allow the ICVP to grow and develop with each live performance. The grant will fund the creation of new technology that will be used in an eight-concert series, which will premiere in Rochester.

Building upon its mission to transform the concert experience, Sound ExChange became intrigued by the idea of finding a meaningful way to integrate modern technology into live performances and applied for the creative collision grant to pilot ICVP. The project will involve a close collaboration between Sound ExChange and professors from RIT. Additionally, Microsoft Studios and the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra will be directly involved in the creation and implementation of the project. Collaborating partners from RIT include Susan Lakin, Joe Geigel, and Katie Verrant. Lakin is currently an Associate Professor and Program Chair of Advertising Photography at RIT; Geigel is an Associate Professor of Computer Science with expertise in Computer Graphics, Multimedia, and Interactive Systems; and Verrant is a student in the New Media Design and Imaging Program in the School of Design. Microsoft Studios will offer technical expertise as well as access to new advances in technology.  The RPYO, along with other educational institutions, will be involved in the educational component of the project. Through ICVP, young musicians and students will engage in classical music in creative ways and will be exposed to elements of entrepreneurship and innovation as they directly relate to classical music and art.

Sound ExChange: Interactive Classical Visions Project will be developed and premiered throughout the duration of the funding period of the grant: January 2014 to January 2016.

Follow and learn more about the ICVP collaborating partners:

www.soundexchangeproject.com (Sound ExChange)

http://www.susanlakin.com/Artist.asp?ArtistID=24403&Akey=L6DFL793 (Susan Lakin)

http://www.cs.rit.edu/~jmg/ (Joe Geigel)

http://www.kverrantdesigns.com (Katie Verrant)

For more information contact Emily Wozniak: ewozniak@soundexchangeproject.com or (314) 973-6479

Eating Globally and Locally – at Danforth

By Melissa Greco Lopes
Univ. Communications

During Global Local Dinner, students at the University of Rochester sampled Sambusak pitas, Aloo Dum spiced potato stew, and pulled pork tostada, three very different dishes with one main ingredient. Each entrée was made to showcase food purchased from local farmers and producers. The dinner, which is a capstone event during the University’s Local Foods Week, was held on Tuesday, Nov. 12, in Danforth Dining Center.

Now in its eighth year, Local Foods Week spreads awareness of Rochester’s initiatives to support local produce and provide sustainable food options. Over the last decade, the University has made a concerted effort to bolster its commitment by expanding its partnerships with vendors and producers. Today, nearly 40 percent of everything sold in the University’s dining facilities is sourced, manufactured, or packaged from more than 40 vendors across New York State. University partners range from Upstate Farms Cooperative in West Seneca to the Baker Street Bread Company on Park Avenue.

While Local Foods Week typically spotlights autumn entrées, this year chefs Keith Rosengren and Chris Cameron planned a menu that also celebrated International Education Week, which promotes ways students can internationalize their educational experiences. The result: Chinese chicken lettuce wraps using bibb lettuce from Bolton Farms, French cauliflower au gratin, and Belgium pumpkin waffles with local fruit compote, among other dishes.

Representatives from the Pierogie Guy showcased Polish deconstructed Galumpkis stew with cheddar potato pierogies and the owners of Le Petit Poutine food truck brought their Canadian specialty to the grill. Additionally, 3 Square Kitchen, a local foods distributor, and Buffalo-based Rich’s Products were on hand to speak with students about their products.

The Global Local dinner also featured tinikling dancers from the Filipino American Students’ Association and a performance by members of the Korean Percussion Group, among other entertainment.

Video courtesy of Dawn Wendt and photo courtesy of Blake Silberberg.

Scare Fair Brings Students to Library’s Hallowed Halls

By Alayna Callanan ’14
University Communications

Yesterday afternoon the 2013 Scare Fair was held in Rush Rhees Library, attracting dozens of students to the Library’s hallowed stacks, some for the first time.

Named one of the top 10 most epic college Halloween celebrations by HerCampus, the Scare Fair is an annual event held to encourage students to enter and use the stacks. Art Librarian Stephanie Frontz said when the event originated many years ago, the current librarians heard that students were scared to go into the stacks. Part of the day’s event was a scavenger hunt that requires students to enter many of University of Rochester’s nine libraries on campus. Students were rewarded with new knowledge, candy, and a stunning view from the top of the Rush Rhees tower.

For the first time in Scare Fair history, the elevator original to the building of the Library in 1930 broke down halfway through the event. Clearly there was a ghost at work, trying to prevent students from seeing the best view on campus! Students who missed the opportunity to take the Tower Tours yesterday had their name and email taken for a rain check on the event.

Other events included performances by Sihir Bellydance, Genesee Story Tellers, Hon Korean Percussion, Mariachi Meliora, and D’Motions.  There was a great turnout for the costumes contest with students, faculty, and children alike. A fourteenth century fool flipped around host Dean Paul Burgett, while another student dropped to the floor after being killed by her inorganic chemistry exam. Luckily the Plague Doctor, Sanjay Dharawat ’14, was there to save lives! But only saving 40 or 60%, the percentage saved is left to your imagination.

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Sagefest 6 Pits Superhero Scientists Against Art Avengers

Spelling bees. Volleyball games. Raft races. Costume contests. No, it’s not an elementary school field day, it’s Sagefest 6. And in 2013, these activities were designed to continue the long-standing, much discussed rivalry between art and science.

On the afternoon of April 19, students from engineering and science departments (Team Science) went up against art students (Team Art) in a battle of wits, athleticism, and creativity. When the dust (or sand) settled on the volleyball court, and the last word had been spelled correctly, Team Science had racked up an impressive 141 points and Team Art lagged behind with only 95 points. As Sagefest organizer Derek Crowe ’10 said, “Team Art Lost. L-7 Style.”

Despite the fierce competition, by all accounts, the day was a success. “The weather was wonderful. We had a terrific showing and the entirety of the chocolate milk was drunk in less than 30 minutes,” said Crowe. “Costumed people were silly, yelled, ran up a hill with a boat, and threw bowling balls at unsuspecting Frisbee players.”

And so, the epic battle was won. Proof of Team Science’s victory, a motorized, rotating brain sculpture, will be on display in the biomedical engineering department office until next year, when Team Art will have a second chance to glory.

At Sagefest, the annual event organized by the Sage Art Center, printmaking students were also on hand screen-printing original designs on T-shirts and WRUR provided musical entertainment.

Crowe provides a full recap, along with photos, here: http://sageartcenter.com/2013/05/01/sagefest-a-success-artists-give-away-art/.

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Undergrad Juggles Physics, Astronomy, And … Rings

By Melissa Greco Lopes
Univ. Communications

As a Take 5 scholar at the University of Rochester, Adam Lanman augmented his education in physics and astronomy with the study of equilibristics and manipulation. While these may sound like terms heard in a science lab, they’re actually the nomenclature of a different venue: the circus stage. And, thanks to Take 5, a program that allowed Lanman to spend a fifth year at Rochester tuition free conducting an independent study with the Department of Dance and Movement, he was able to immerse himself in the art of circus performance. His work culminated on Saturday, April 27, during No Elephants Allowed, a performance of skills and tricks he acquired during his year-long study.

A four-year member of the University’s Strong Jugglers, Lanman parlayed his interest in juggling into a research project that sent him to Bristol, UK for fall 2012. There, he studied with Circomedia, a school that specializes in four areas of circus performance: physical theater, partner acrobatics and tumbling, aerial skills including the trapeze, ropes, and silks, and equilibristics and manipulation, which includes juggling and balancing on unicycles and stilts. During his three months at Circomedia, he trained extensively to prepare his body for the twists, turns, and balancing moves required of a circus performer. After five weeks on basic skills, he focused on juggling, equilibristics, and manipulation.

For Lanman, the connection between circus performance and dance was obvious. “There’s a movement in contemporary circus performance that has shifted from the spectacle and awe you might see in Barnum & Bailey to a more aesthetic, artistic appeal that has similar goals to dance,” says Lanman, noting the rise in popularity of shows like Cirque du Soleil. When he returned to Rochester for the spring semester, he enrolled in courses that taught choreography, improvisation, and playwriting.

During Lanman’s performance on Saturday, he showcased a variety of juggling tricks, including a two-stage pirouette, in which he tossed three objects into the air, spun once, caught two of the objects, spun again, and caught the third. He also performed acrobatics and dance routines and showed off some newly acquired clowning skills.

A native of White Plains, N.Y., Lanman will finish his Take 5 year this May, and head to Brown University to pursue a doctoral degree in physics.

MelioRAAS! For Dance Team, It Doesn’t Get Better Than First Place!

By Erica Messner
Univ. Communications

For Rochester Raas, the University’s traditional Indian dance team, victory in their final competition of the year brought more than glory. Raas’ first place finish at Nasha 2013 was crowned by a shiny gold trophy and $1,250 in prize money.

Hosted by the American India Foundation of Purdue University, Nasha 2013 was a brand-new competition featuring Bollywood/Fusion and Garba/Raas divisions, and offering a sizeable cash prize for the top finishers. Rochester Raas beat out teams from Northwestern, Tufts, and UNC to take first place in the Garba/Raas division. To see Rochester’s winning set from Nasha 2013, check out this video posted by Raas:

Though their competitive season is over, the group will continue to perform in the community and prepare for next year.

The active members of Rochester Raas include: Minti Patel ‘13, Maryann Hong ‘13, Maral Arjomandi ‘13, Ki Cheng ‘13, Paul Vergara ‘13, Phil Cohen ‘14, Lauren Sava ‘14, Sydney Robinson ‘14, Rohini Rege ‘14, Priyanka Patel ‘15, Shakira Banhan ‘15, Marika Azoff ‘15, Shiv Patel ‘15, Sameer Shamsie ‘15, Sam Benham ‘15, Taylor Sargent ‘15, Sukanya Roy ‘16, Kim Rouse ‘16.

Optics “Focuses” Efforts to Defeat Physics in Photon Cup

Members of the Optics Department focused their efforts on the soccer field to defeat members of the Physics Department in the third annual Photon Cup.

A match between Optics and Physics, the Photon Cup features undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty from each department in a friendly rivalry to name the best department of the year.

And, while Physics might have thought their knowledge of buckminster fullerenes would lead them to the win, the control of this particular soccer “buckyball” proved too much. Perhaps it was one group of atoms they couldn’t control with much “coherence.”

Optics triumphed over the department 4-3, coming back from a 3-0 half-time deficit. After some tactical adjustments at halftime, Optics went into an “excited state” and was able to control the run of play in the second half.

By all accounts Steve Gillmer of Optics was athlete of the match, scoring twice. One goal was a brilliant 30-yard half-volley.

Physics has yet to hoist the Cup with Optics winning the past 2 years and the first contest ending in a draw.

Watch Highlights from the 2012 Photon Cup