To all our dear friends!
Notre Dame Day is October 26-27, 2020. That’s the day our University’s many programs reach out for support, especially financial support. There are hundreds of worthy programs here on campus, and you can read all about them at notredameday.nd.edu (click on “Make a Gift,” then Search or “View All”). But let me tell you about just one: the Department of Music.
Here in the Department of Music, one of our biggest programs every year is our annual OperaND. Most of our students who arrive at Notre Dame have never had the opportunity to be in an opera, or even to attend an opera. OperaND gives them that chance. Our most accomplished voice students get to star in singing roles; other students get to sing in the chorus. But OperaND provides all kinds of experiences for students with other talents: Student instrumentalists get to play in the opera orchestra. Student conductors gain valuable experience by conducting rehearsals. Student actors can play non-singing parts or gain experience directing. Student designers can design costumes. Student engineers can design and build sets, or learn how to handle theatrical lighting. Business students can help our Producer with ticket sales, publicity and advertising. All operas raise important historical, social, or cultural issues, which can become fodder for tie-ins with all sorts of academic classes and courses in foreign languages.
An opera, in short, is an incredible educational experience. But opera is also the most complicated art form there is, with more moving parts than any other medium. To put on even one opera requires the cooperative efforts of over 100 people, over many hours of rehearsals, to prepare all the music, the acting, the lighting, the sets and costumes, audio and video technology, advertising and promotion, and so on. As you might have guessed, all this means that opera is also the most expensive art form there is.
But after we’ve done all that work, opera is a lot of fun. If you attended our last one, Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance in April 2019, you know what I’m talking about! Regrettably, we had to cancel our 2020 opera when the campus shut down because of the pandemic. As we look toward the spring semester of 2021, with no end to the pandemic in sight, OperaND faces more challenges, and more complex challenges, than ever before. To put on a memorable educational experience this year, we’re having to come up with new solutions for safety that have never yet been seen or heard of. Many of them involve new and creative applications of video and audio technology, which adds whole new dimensions of time and expense to our efforts. As one student put it, “It’s all experimental theater now.”
We are lucky, of course, that OperaND has always enjoyed your generous support. But as the program grows, so do our needs. And with all the new challenges we are facing, our opera budget faces challenges as well. Any way you can help make OperaND the superlative experience for our students that it should be, you’ll be making possible an adventure they will never forget, whether they go into music professionally or not.
Another area we would like to expand is called Early Music, which includes all varieties of music that were performed before the year 1750. We are fortunate that Notre Dame possesses several pipe organs and harpsichords, but there were many other instruments people played in those days that we don’t have: sackbuts, crumhorns, theorbos, shawms, raketts, hurdy-gurdies, and many more. You’ve probably never heard of most of these instruments, and neither have our students. But it would be great if we had the money to buy some so our students could learn to play them.
Of course, some of our Department of Music performing groups have their own donation links on notredameday.nd.edu. They include our Symphony Orchestra and our two elite choirs, the Chorale and the Glee Club. Your donations could help these groups with national and international tours as well as their other expenses. Then there’s The Notre Dame University Band, the oldest university marching band in the country at almost two centuries old. You hear them at every football game, and they travel all over the world, but they do a lot more than that: they also host all of our student woodwind and brass ensembles, and our jazz program to boot. Classical Music Club is a relatively new organization of our most committed students. They sponsor activities, host guest performers, play in local nursing homes, and do lots of other things.
Last but not least is our sister program, Sacred Music, which is not part of the Music Department. Sacred Music hosts one of the most international graduate programs at Notre Dame, and they’re the home of the beloved Notre Dame Children’s Choir.
No matter what kind of music you like, making it is always a social activity. Music is great for bringing people together, but that means we suffer more than most programs in these times of social distancing. How do you sing or play a wind instrument when you have to wear a mask? We wrestle with such questions every day. We’d love to have you attend our performances, but we can’t invite you as long as travel and crowds pose so much risk. The one way you can still support us, by making a hearty donation on Notre Dame Day, will help us make it through these lean times, and come back stronger than ever as soon as we possibly can!
Yours in Notre Dame,
Interim Chair, Department of Music
Professor of Musicology and Ethnomusicology
Michael P. Grace II Chair of Medieval Studies
To all our dear friends!