Students, faculty share love of performance

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Story, photos and video by Kiara Letcher, NewsNetNebraska

It takes a lot to put on a musical show. First there’s the selection of the production and the musicians. Then there’s a flurry of behind-the-scenes action: the building of the set, the lighting, the sound, the makeup, the costumes, the rehearsals.

Finally, comes the performance – and then it’s all torn down the next weekend.

But the students and teachers who work to put on music productions at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln don’t mind. They enjoy creating something magical and sharing it with everyone – even if it’s only for a few days.

The Hixson Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts will produce seven musical theater events this year. This year’s productions included “Light In The Piazza,” “Roméo et Juliette,” and “Twelfth Night,” which are operas, and “The Gift of the Magi,” which is a musical. All of the college’s 350 music majors are required to be in the productions as well as participate in a music ensemble all four years that they are enrolled.

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Kimball Music Hall, where UNL musicals and operas are performed.

Faculty member Alisa Belflower is the point person for UNL’s productions; she works full time putting on the musicals and operas.  The most recent, “Light In The Piazza,” was a musical opera that ran in November. She selected because it challenged her students and because the current students fit so well in the opera’s roles.

Belflower wants to better her students, said UNL music student Arica Coleman, who ticks off the roles she’s had in recent productions.

“I was a fairy in the opera “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in the fall of 2008, an angel in the oratorio “Elijah” in the spring of 2009, a chorus member of the opera “Our Town” in the fall of 2009, and am the understudy for Juliette in the Spring 2011 in the French opera “Roméo et Juliette.”

Coleman appreciates the college’s focus on performance as a learning experience. Fulfilling the ensemble requirement is easy to achieve because the college offers such a variety, including men’s and women’s choirs, University Singers and the Chamber Choirs. And for musicians who don’t sing, the college offers many instrumental groups. Another way that the Music Department makes sure that all of its students have a performing experience is by making music majors audition for all the musicals and operas at the beginning of the year. They then have callbacks for major roles and assemble the cast.

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A ticket from the “Light In The Piazza” opera.

“For young artists, I believe that exploring their talents and learning to refine their gifts is necessary to a fulfilled life,” Belflower said. “Training enables students to come closer to their potential as artists.”

Regardless of college requirements and learning outcomes, both faculty and students say their love of music and their desire to share is the biggest motivator for performing. And it’s important for the good of society.

“For audiences, I believe the perpetuation of music as an art, not merely as an entertainment, is essential to music’s playing a positive role in the evolution of our culture,” Belflower said.

Coleman sees music as a universal language.

“Music has the power to create emotions in people, whether its laughter, tears, chills, or pure joy,” she said. “Music is a part of our everyday lives and almost impossible not to learn at least a little bit.”

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