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UGA Performing Arts Center offers experiential learning programs for students


ATHENS, Ga. —  When the University of Georgia Performing Arts Center (PAC) opened in 1996, educational outreach was a major part of its mission, along with bringing world-class performances to Athens. Since that time, the PAC has offered a variety of education programs for thousands of students throughout the state of Georgia, and the week of Jan. 31-Feb. 7, 2020, saw an unprecedented level of experiential learning activities with 16 different events serving over 1600 students across multiple disciplines.

“I am so pleased that we were able to coordinate such an expansive outreach program. These educational residencies with our visiting artists have been a year-and-a-half in the planning, and I can honestly say it was worth the effort,” said Jeffrey Martin, director of the Performing Arts Center. “It’s gratifying to see how we have been able to impact young people in the community and share the joy of live performance with them, and also to enhance the educational experience for our own students here at UGA. These experiences allow UGA students focusing on performing arts disciplines to work closely with professional artists who are currently performing their work at the highest levels throughout the world. The long-lasting value of this type of mentoring has a powerful impact.”

The multi-disciplinary educational programs encompassed music, dance, theater, puppetry arts and African-American history and were offered in conjunction with the residencies of the Ailey II dance company, the Curtis Symphony Orchestra and Australia’s Last Great Hunt theater company.

UGA Presents, the presenting arm of the Performing Arts Center, brought Ailey II to Athens for a Jan. 31 performance in the Fine Arts Theatre. While the company was in town, the dancers worked with students from the UGA Department of Dance, the UGA Institute for African American Studies, East Athens Educational Dance Center and Dance FX. The ensemble also presented a program on the Performances for Young People series, the PAC’s education series created specifically for children in grades two through 12.

The Curtis Symphony Orchestra from the Curtis Institute of Music, one of the world’s premier conservatories, was on campus for a Feb. 3 concert in Hodgson Hall. During the orchestra’s thee-day residency, conductor Osmo Vänskä, who also serves as music director of the Minnesota Orchestra, guest pianist Jonathan Biss and Curtis composition faculty member David Ludwig worked with students in the Hugh Hodgson School of Music. The Curtis Orchestra also presented a Performance for Young People concert for Clarke County and area students.

“The conducting masterclass with maestro Vänskä was an invaluable experience not just for the conductors but for the ensemble players. He shared his energy and passion for the music and at the end, he was very impressed about the potential that the school of music has,” said Jean Gómez, a third-year doctoral student in conducting.

Ahui, a second-year doctoral student from Mongolia, China, participated in the piano master class. “It was an honor to have a masterclass with the internationally acclaimed pianist Johnathan Biss. His artistry and passion for performing is extremely inspiring for a music student like me. His professionalism and kindness is what we students aspire to in the future,” she said.

The Last Great Hunt theater company staged its production of “New Owner,” which combines live action, animation and puppetry, in the Performing Arts Center’s Ramsey Concert Hall on Feb. 7. While in residence at UGA, the company presented a puppetry workshop for students from the Dept. of Theatre and Film Studies as well as presenting three Performances for Young People for Clarke County and area schools.

The Performing Arts Center’s education and outreach initiatives are supported by The Performing Arts Center Arts Education Partners Fund, AthFest Educates and Pinnacle Bank. Additional support was provided by the University of Georgia Parents Leadership Council, Willson Center for Humanities and Arts, the Christine and Thomas Pavlak Performing Arts Center Endowment, Eagle Granite Company, The Owen Nelson Saveland Fund, Jane Huang and Philipp Torres, and Jim and Carol Warnes.

Photo: Members of Ailey II worked with UGA Dance Dept. students during an educational residency.