The 10th anniversary of both the Bower School of Music and its Faculty and Guest Artist Series will kick off Thursday, Sept. 10 with performances by two of Bower’s founding professors — pianist Michael Baron, D.M.A. and vocalist Jeanie Darnell, D.M.A.
“We’ve been performing together for nine years,” Darnell said.
The two musicians have performed together not only on campus but across the United States and internationally.
“A relationship with a collaborative pianist like him is like a marriage. We can choose to edify each other or tear each other down,” Darnell said.
Darnell said she is happy they “choose to edify each other.”
Baron is in charge of selecting performers for the concert series, but he takes suggestions from faculty and sometimes selects performers that FGCU faculty members have a connection to.
For example, Chinese baritone vocalist Zheng Zhou, who will be performing in January, once stayed with the family of FGCU employee Judith Cassidy as an exchange student.
While Baron selects and contacts the performers for the series as a whole, Darnell was in charge of selecting songs to perform at the first concert.
“One of my great loves is American music,” Darnell said. In creating the “A Feast of American Songs” program, Darnell picked songs from modern and 20th century American composers, some of which she has a personal connection to.
For example, the “Sunflowers” song cycle by Lori Laitman uses the text of Mary Oliver poems as lyrics.
“The text is about growing older,” Darnell said. “My mother had Alzheimer’s for 11 years, and I know how difficult it was and how it changed all of us.”
While three of the songs on the nine-piece program are what Darnell calls “art songs,” which are based on poems, the program also contains two pieces from Aaron Copland’s “Old American Songs,” two duets, and two spirituals arranged by Moses Hogan and Mark Hayes.
“Spirituals are so important to American music because they are the first true American songs,” Darnell said. “They are influenced from African rhythms, but they are different from the European masters.”
Joanna Hoch, the event coordinator from Bower School of Music and the Arts, says “We have a really fun and varied season coming up,” Hoch said. “I love the fact that we started with two professors that have been here since the beginning of the program.”
Hoch said the concert series is important for music students to “get the chance to see what their professors do,” Hoch said.
Darnell thinks the concert series is not only important for music students, but for faculty who perform.
“It’s good for us because when we perform for our students, we remember the emotional energy and the physical energy performing demands. And our students see a lot of each other performing, but they don’t always see mature performers.”
Hoch is not anticipating the first concert to sell out because many of Bower’s patrons are snowbirds who will not be in Fort Myers until later in the year.
However, she recommends that people interested in attending the concert buy tickets online now because the 210-person capacity U. Tobe Recital Hall has come close to selling out in the past.
Tickets are available on the Bower School of Music page of the FGCU website and at the door for $7 for students and $10 for faculty, staff and community members.
Darnell and Hoch both said that the cost of these concert tickets is very inexpensive for the quality of the concerts.
“It’s a really good deal to be able to come to a concert for $10 or $7,” Darnell said. “You can’t even get a movie ticket for that. And our performers perform all over the world.”
“Everyone has a story to tell,” Darnell said. “Maybe you like what they have to say, maybe you don’t, but at least for a moment you stepped into someone else’s shoes. Art is a big step toward a more peaceful coexistence.”