‘Honored, thrilled, and grateful’: Five SOMD faculty receive grants to award work on equity and inclusion

By Kristen Hudgins

Five University of Oregon School of Music and Dance (SOMD) faculty members have received grants for their work focused on equity and inclusion.  

Pius Cheung 

Associate Professor of Percussion, Pius Cheung, will use his CEI Guest Artist and Scholar Grant funds to invite four artists to the Northwest Percussion Festival in April.  

The artists include award-winning marimbist Eriko Daimo, world-renowned composer Dai Fujikura, percussionist, composer, and educator Gene Koshinski, and percussionist and composer Casey Cangelosi.  

All four will participate in the opening night concert on Friday, April 14. They will perform the world premiere of DaiDai by Dai Fujikura, featuring Eriko Daimo with a marimba solo, accompanied by Kosinski, Cangelosi, and Pius Cheung.  

“My deepest thanks to our wonderful colleagues on the CEI committee and the best boss ever, Dean Sabrina Madison-Cannon!” Cheung said. “This award means a lot to us and has helped us realize a project we have been dreaming of for a long time.” 

The artists will also participate in masterclasses throughout the festival, which was founded by the late Charles Dowd, Professor Emeritus of Percussion. The festival brings together a dozen schools in the Northwest, as well as guest artists and groups from all over. UO SOMD is one of the leading percussion programs in the Northwest. 

Arnaud Ghillebaert 

Funds from the CEI Guest Artist and Scholar Grant are also bringing Grammy Award-winning baritone, Kenneth Overton, to campus. Instructor of Viola, Arnaud Ghillebaert, invited Overton, who will perform “Invocation: a prayer for peace” with the Elsewhere Ensemble on March 3 and March 5.  

“Invocation” is a setting of prayers, poems, and writings from different religions, cultures, and beliefs which explore religious and philosophical diversity on the sensitive subjects of peace, violence, and faith in the world’s current state of affairs. 

Overton’s opulent and symphonious voice has sent him around the globe, making him one of the most sought-after opera singers of his generation. Overton won a 2020 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance in the title role of Richard Danielpour’s “The Passion of Yeshua,” commissioned by Oregon Bach Festival.  

As a longtime champion of Black composers, Overton has worked to lift the voices of many Black colleagues through his series, “Black Opera,” and as co-producer of the upcoming film of the same name. 

“Receiving this funding from the CEI is an incredible gift!” Ghillebaert said. “Combined with other funds that were very generously granted, it allows “Invocation” to be born in its final form. It has allowed us to bring a remarkable singer and artist to Eugene, and it has allowed me and my colleagues to work closely and exchange with Kenneth, which is incredibly valuable to us as both musicians and teachers.” 

Overton will also lead a masterclass and offer a public lecture on March 6. 

Wonkak Kim 

CEI Mini Grant funds will be used to produce video recordings of three works by Korean and Korean-American female composers. Associate Professor of Clarinet, Wonkak Kim, commissioned the project. 

The works include Arcade for Clarinet and Piano by Juri Seo, Green Light, Red Light by Eunseon Yu, and Open Letters by Joanne Na. The recordings will feature immersive multimedia, including animation and graphics to visualize specific images from Korean culture referenced in the works.  

“I am truly honored and thrilled to receive this award,” Kim said. “Despite the incredibly large and diverse pool of Korean musicians, their worldwide representation is rather small beyond piano and string areas. As a Korean clarinetist, it has been my dream to expand available works for clarinet and piano by Korean and Korean-American composers. Now that I have commissioned dozens of fascinating works for clarinet by these composers, I hope to reach as many people as I can by creating high-quality video performances. I hope this will inspire others to explore some phenomenally original and creative music and add them to the standard repertoire.” 

The recordings will serve to introduce these composers to a wider audience and generate enthusiasm for a larger recording project of fifteen new works for clarinet and piano by eight Korean and Korean-American female composers. Many of them have been premiered and performed on the most prestigious international stages. A recital tour is forthcoming, and a CD will be recorded in March. 

Hannah Thomas 

Assistant Professor of Dance, Hannah Thomas, will use her CEI Guest Artist and Scholar Grant funds to invite professional dancer, teacher, and choreographer Quilan “Cue” Arnold to the University of Oregon Dance Department’s Student Dance Collective (SDC) this spring. Arnold will choreograph a dance for SDC and facilitate a guest workshop offered to all students studying dance. 

Arnold, who describes himself as “a movement artist who uses his God-given gifts to create systems that advocate for the liberation of all people,” joins dance programs in their mission to prepare students for a diversifying professional dance world by providing workshops that derive from the African-American canon.  

He studies street/club dance forms to explore how Afro-Usonians, who are U.S. citizens derived from enslaved Africans, have held on to joy and creativity amidst oppressive traumas. Within his teaching, he will guide UO students through kinesthetic system, “Searching for a True Move,” which is inspired by street/club dance philosophy to offer soulful techniques that can improve our collective humanity.  

“On behalf of the SDC, I am incredibly grateful to CEI for this gift to bring Quilan “Cue” Arnold as a guest in our SOMD community,” Thomas said. “I believe Arnold’s professional dance company experience and unique approach to moving will elevate our students and be a rich addition to our inaugural annual concert.” 

Juan Eduardo Wolf 

Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology at the University of Chicago, Jessica Swanston Baker, is also coming to Eugene thanks to funds from the CEI Guest Artist and Scholar Grant. Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology, Juan Eduardo Wolf, invited her to participate in a roundtable discussion.  

The roundtable with UO Associate Professor of Anthropology, Ana-Maurine Lara, will explore how cultural perspectives on time from two different regions in the Caribbean affect concepts of race, gender, and sexuality.  

Baker is an ethnomusicologist who specializes in contemporary popular music in the Caribbean. She explores how people perceive and discuss speed and time, particularly in relation to Caribbean music and culture. Her current ethnographic book project, The Aesthetics of Speed: Music and the Modern in St. Kitts and Nevis, examines the relationship between tempo perception and gendered and raced legacies of colonization. 

Ana-Maurine Lara is a Dominican-American lesbian novelist, award-winning poet, performance artist, and Black feminist scholar. Her work focuses on questions of Black and Indigenous people and freedom. 

“An important part of equity and inclusion is to listen honestly to voices and ideas that have historically not been valued by the institutions that we are a part of,” Wolf said. “This grant facilitates an exchange of ideas and perspectives between scholars who both personally identify and engage with multiple Caribbean communities that we need to listen to. I am so grateful to have that opportunity.” 

These grants were made possible through SOMD’s Committee for Equity and Inclusion (CEI) and totaled approximately $10,000.