Tag Archives: Center for Fine and Performing Arts

Martha Saunders selected as next president of UWF


Photo courtesy of UWF

By Tom Moore

Staff Writer

In a 9-4 vote, the University of West Florida announced current Provost Martha Saunders as its newly elected president during its final search committee meeting on Thursday, Sept. 15.

The meeting was held at the UWF Center for Fine and Performing Arts mainstage theater, and was also webcast live via WUWF.

The meeting was called to order by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Lewis Bear, Jr. With two board members attending by phone, a quorum was reached and the meeting opened with public comment.

After a half-hour of public comment, it became clear that the race was between Provost Saunders and Senator Don Gaetz.  Frank Ashley and Mike Sherman were not mentioned once in the public discussion.

Marc Churchwell, Chairman of the Military and Veterans Resource Center, said he is in favor of Saunders.  Churchwell said Saunders helped expand services and fund new facilities for our veterans, who make up 25 percent of our student population.

Once the public comments were over, the search committee reviewed the final candidate’s on-campus interviews.

“Each candidate performed exceptionally well and were highly qualified for the position,” committee Chairman Mort O’Sullivan said.  The discussion then went to the “three unranked candidates the search committee would forward to the board.”

Greenwood/Asher and Associates, Inc., search firm made its final evaluation and recommendations moving forward with the selection of a final candidate. After completed, the chairman called for a vote on the amendment, which failed. The board voted to move all four candidates forward to the Board of Trustees for final selection.

The Board of Trustees opened the discussion once again, and several students came forward to speak about the candidates.

Sophomore journalism major Abigail Megginson came forward with a petition entitled “Argos Against Gaetz.”  Megginson managed to get 336 signatures of students who were opposed to Don Gaetz being appointed President.

“Three of the candidates have a PhD., Gaetz does not,” Megginson said. “Three of the candidates have prior university leadership experience, Gaetz does not.  The president of the university should be a ‘hub for higher education’ to meet that position of academic excellence. Candidates need to have at least a PhD.”  Megginson went on to say that the University needs a president who will lead UWF as a small, regional university, not a large central one.

Senior Joseph Jackson said he feels that African Americans, and minority groups in general, are simply disregarded, and said that whomever takes the president’s job should give the minorities back their voice.

Telecommunications student Teremis Boykin said he believes UWF needs a president who really cares about the students.

“I’m just an average guy,” Boykin said. “We understand that money is important, but a true university president should not worry about money. A real president should worry about the needs and concerns of the students.”

Following public comments, the Presidential Search Committee presented its report to the Board of Trustees.

The final votes from the Board of Trustees came in with nine votes for Saunders, four for Gaetz, and no votes for the remaining candidates.

UWF Singers to perform songs of hope and rejoicing for final concert of semester

By Sydney O’Gwynn
Staff Writer

 Many guest artists will join The UWF Singers in the spring concert on April 18. Photo courtesy of uwfsingers.com

Many guest artists will join The UWF Singers in the spring concert on April 18.
Photo courtesy of uwfsingers.com

Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms” will be the focal point of The University of West Florida Singers and Chamber Choir’s spring concert “A Prayer for Peace” at 7:30 p.m. on April 18 at the First Baptist Church of Pensacola.

“The program features a number of songs written in circumstances of oppression or circumstances where there is no hope,” said Peter Steenblik, conductor for the UWF Singers and Chamber Choir. “But they are songs of hope and rejoicing.”

The concert will also include African-American spirituals; John Lennon’s “Imagine”; “Hope for Resolutions” about the South African movement with Nelson Mandela; and an Academy Award winning piece from the 1980s film about feminism, “Working Girl.”

Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms” was written about the Holocaust and are all in Hebrew. Senior UWF Singers President Rebekah Pyle said learning how to sing Hebrew wasn’t as difficult as one might think. “Dr. Steenblik made it really easy,” she said. “We learned it very specifically in a way that would make it successful when we put it back to the music.”

The movements in the piece are dancelike, but also hold raw emotion.

“The concert carries a powerful message,” Steenblik said. “I am so excited about the concert.”

The Pensacola Children’s Chorus also will join The UWF Singers and Chamber Choir. UWF faculty members also will be involved, including the chair of the Department of Music, soprano Sheila Dunn; voice instructor Hanan Tarabay, mezzo-soprano; and visiting artist Corey McKern, baritone. Other featured musicians are Nicholas DeMeo, tenor; the Pensacola West Percussion Ensemble; Christopher Powell, organ; and Bolton Ellenberg, piano.

“This is a huge collaboration effort,” Pyle said.

Pyle said that, while the “Chichester Psalms” was written as a commentary on war, she said she believes the piece could also be a commentary on humankind’s struggle against evil. She also said that without the percussion, the piece would not be as successful. “The percussion adds such a huge element to the piece,” she said.

This will be the final concert for the seniors in the choirs, including Pyle.

“I’m really glad that this is the stuff we’re singing for my last concert as a UWF student,” she said. “The last three years have flown by, and we’ve gotten to sing some incredible music, but I think that this concert — the entirety of it — is my favorite.”

“I hope it’s a concert they can be proud of,” Steenblik said. “Things we learned in August are being displayed next week. I hope it’s one that will display the best of what we all can do.”

Pyle said she is excited not only to perform the concert, but for the concert to be heard.

“People are going to come and they are not going to walk away unmoved by the performance,” she said. “It’s impossible; even if you come in with your mind and heart completely closed, it will be opened and you will be moved by what you hear.”

The concert is free and open to the public. For more information about the concert or the Department of Music, visit the website.

TAGGED exhibition opens for its spring 2016 season

By Sydney O’Gwynn
Staff Writer


Junior art major Corey Frey won Best in Show with his piece, “Quiddity,” a painting of a baby girl, modeled after his daughter.
Photo by Sydney O’Gwynn.

Junior studio art major Corey Frey took home the Best in Show award at the opening reception of the TAGGED Student Art and Design Exhibition on Thursday night.

The exhibition was open from 5 to 7 p.m. at The Art Gallery (TAG) in the Center for Fine and Performing Arts. Five juried awards were given out: two honorable mentions, two runners-up and a Best in Show award. There was also a People’s Choice award decided by the viewers at the opening reception.

The TAGGED exhibit is “an opportunity for students to compete in a juried competition, much like they will do once they graduate,” said Nick Croghan, director of TAG.

Croghan said there were more than 120 student submissions, and 13 members of the University of West Florida’s faculty narrowed the selection down to 45 pieces of artwork. Then, Croghan said, he brought someone outside of UWF to select the winners. This year’s guest judge was Raven Holloway, executive director of the Pensacola Museum of Art.

Holloway said there were several factors that went into the selection process.

“Obviously, the quality of the work, but also the creativity and imagination,” Holloway said.

She praised Frey’s winning piece.

“The painterly qualities of that piece were just outstanding,” Holloway said.

While the two runners up and the Best in Show winner received cash prizes from UWF, Holloway and the PMA awarded one-year memberships to the two students who received honorable mentions.

Frey’s winning piece, “Quiddity,” is an oil painting on wood panel. The painting is of a baby girl, modeled after his daughter.

“I’m exploring the relationship between visual imagery and the narrative that paint provides as a substance,” Frey said. “So I’m exploring whatever the subject matter may be, but I’m also really interested in what paint can do and the process of painting.”

Frey said it is nice to be in these shows because the artist sees the support in their work from others.

“For one, it’s just a confidence boost,” he said. “I think any student can just be excited that their work is being appreciated and just hearing that support is a huge deal and it keeps you going.”

Senior art major Jane Hatcher, who usually can be found taking pictures and videos at various art events, stepped out from behind the camera to accept the People’s Choice award.

“It’s a big honor because people are actually voting on your artwork,” she said about winning the award. “I love it.”

Hatcher said she had the materials for her work, which shows a tree stump with vines leading up to an upside-down chair, in her possession for the past four years. Her fascination with mushrooms inspired the outdoor theme in her piece. “It’s kind of bringing outside in,” she said.

The annual TAGGED event has been held for more than a decade. It is an all-student show, which associate professor Valarie George said is extremely important for both the students and the community.

“It’s important for a million reasons,” she said. “[Students] have to have some experience in applying for shows, being selected, being rejected; going through the motions of that process.”

Croghan agreed with George, citing art as a form of communication.

“You can talk about aesthetic issues, political issues, gender issues,” Croghan said. “Whatever platform you think is important, you can use this as a venue for expression.”

Hatcher also said student shows are important because it is an exposure opportunity for students as well as a way for the community to see the next generation.

“We’re upcoming artists; this is what we want to do for the rest of our lives,” Hatcher said. “When the community sees that, it encourages us.”

The 2016 TAGGED exhibition runs through March 12. TAG is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays. For information on the Department of Art, including TAGGED and other upcoming events, visit their website.

UWF Singers, PCC Ensemble combine for winter concert

By Sydney O’Gwynn

Staff Writer

UWF Singers

Despite the stormy weather, the University of West Florida’s Singers and Chamber Choir didn’t disappoint with the concert “Praises!” on Monday, Feb. 15, in the Music Hall in the Center for Fine and Performing Arts.

Three different choirs performed: both the Singers and the more advanced Chamber Choir, formally called the Madrigals, directed by Peter Steenblik; and Pensacola Christian College’s Chamber Ensemble, directed by Cleusia Goncalves. This was the first time the groups have performed together.

“It was definitely a unique concert,” senior voice major Rebekah Pyle said. “We hadn’t done anything like that before; it was fun.”

All three choirs had a chance to perform individually, but the last song, “Saints Bound for Heaven,” saw the Singers and PCC’s Chamber Ensemble performing together. Between the two choirs there were approximately 100 singers on stage.

“It was fantastic,” junior piano major Nyasha Brice said. “I haven’t been on a stage with that many singers in a long time.”

Steenblik said there has been tremendous growth in the choir, doubling since he started. He also praised them on the execution of their opening song, “Lux Arumque” by Eric Whitacre, which he described as a “difficult” piece.

“They’ve grown so much,” Steenblik said. “To have done that piece after only five weeks of rehearsal is absolutely remarkable. I’m very proud of what they’re doing.”

Pyle is the Singers’ president, and said that, despite the lack of seniors, these individual students have come together to form a choir.

“Everybody is passionate about putting on a good performance,” Pyle said. “It’s a fun group to be a part of.”

Brice said she sees something special in this group of singers.

“In this semester in Singers there is a lot of drive to want to be better,” Brice said. “We have a group that’s willing to work for it.”

Steenblik got his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from The University of Utah. He performed with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for four years and taught high school music for 10 years in Salt Lake City before going back for his doctorate from the University of North Texas. This is his first year directing the choirs, and he is already making his mark by adding choir officers and section leaders.

“By appointing officers, there’s a sense of buy-in from the students,” Steenblik said. “It’s their choir.”

Brice also said she feels the togetherness brought by the new leadership roles.

“It gives us more accountability over our group,” Brice said. “It’s not his group, it’s our choir. We work together.”

Pyle also said that the new director gives the choir a fresh feeling.

“It was cool because he had all this experience but he was also just out of school,” she said. “So he knows what it’s like to be in school and have all the stresses of school. He is very much on our side.”

In April, the Singers will be collaborating with the Pensacola’s Children Chorus in its spring concert “A Prayer for Peace.” The concert will be at First Baptist Church of Pensacola and will center on the “Chichester Psalms” by Leonard Bernstein. Steenblik said this concert was a “stepping stone” for the spring concert, which he called an “insanely collaborative concert.”

A video of the full “Praises” concert will be available on the UWF Singers website between Feb. 22-March 7. Archives performances may be found here as well.

For more information on the Department of Music, visit the website at uwf.edu/music.

UWF Chamber Music choir performs first of three concerts at Old Christ Ch

By Sydney O’Gwynn

Staff Writer


Old Christ Church, located in downtown Pensacola in historic Seville Square, hosts the Chamber music concerts.
Photo courtesy of UWF.edu.


You could still hear the ring of the final note as it hung in the air, but the crowd was already on its feet. The performers wore proud smiles as they gazed into the crowd. But no smile was wider than the one on the face of their instructor, Hedi Salanki-Rubardt.

“I am so proud of the kids,” said Salanki-Rubardt, director of the University of West Florida’s Chamber Music Series at Old Christ Church in Pensacola. “I cannot tell you how happy they make me every time I see them blossoming and performing so beautifully.”

The chamber music class performed its first concert of the year on Wednesday, Feb. 3, which consisted of eight pieces. The song selection was mostly fun, love-based songs, but there were some serious pieces. One was the concert’s opening piece, Bach’s “Sonata in E minor” performed by Ramel Price on the violin, Marcus Baker on the double bass and Nyasha Brice on the harpsichord.

Salanki-Rubardt created the class 13 seasons ago and said that even she can’t believe how much the class has grown. She said she sees students develop into professional musicians throughout the course of the semester.

“It’s a unique class,” she said. “I don’t think anywhere else you can find chamber music in a class setting.”

The class offers a wide variety of musical genres, including Baroque, contemporary and jazz. The class meets once a week, Wednesdays from 11 a.m. until 12:50 p.m., in the Music Hall in the Center for Fine and Performing Arts.

“It’s a beautiful performing facility, and it’s nice for the students to listen to each other,” Salanki-Rubardt said.

The class is designed for students to have experience performing outside of their school as well as turn them into what Salanki-Rubardt calls “all-around” musicians.

She also said those class periods are dedicated mostly to students performing their pieces and fellow students giving critiques.

“They learn how to coach, they learn how to be kind when they are coaching and critiquing each other, because that is so important,” Salanki-Rubardt said. “I think we learn the most by listening to each other and critiquing each other in class. If you are a performer, you are a teacher.”

Students put on three concerts every semester at Old Christ Church downtown in Seville Square. They only have three or four class periods per concert to practice their music.

“It is absolutely amazing how quickly they learn the pieces,” Salanki-Rubardt said. “This is fast, fast training.”

Salanki-Rubardt said the level at which the students are performing is very high, to prepare them for life after they graduate.

“In professional life, you don’t always have the luxury of preparing for weeks or a month,” she said.

Piano performance major Nyasha Brice is a seasoned veteran of the chamber music class. Despite the class only being required for two semesters, Brice has been enrolled in the class for her entire UWF tenure, minus one semester.

“Being in chamber not only forces you to prepare, but it forces you to constantly be in performance mode,” Brice said. “I don’t think I would have been able to do stuff like the Steinway showcase or my recital had I not had the experience of being on stage so often.”

Brice also said the class helps combat a performer’s nerves and that the students in the class work together to put on the concerts.

“It’s our group collaboration,” she said. “It’s our work.”

Sheila Dunn, chair of the Department of Music at UWF, said that Salanki-Rubardt holds her students at a high level and is also dedicated to them.

“She is, without question, one of the most passionate teachers of music I’ve ever known,” Dunn said. “She does it all with joy.”

Dunn also said she sees the class as an engagement opportunity for the university and the community.

“We have regulars that always attend and then we have new people,” she said. “Then they’re hooked.”

The community support is evident as the concert saw a full house, despite the rainy weather.

“There is something very special about giving this to the community, and we have wonderful followers who are there every concert,” Salanki-Rubardt said.

The Chamber Music Series has a profound effect on anyone who attends the concerts, as well as on the students performing in them.

“We get to find our own voice on our instruments through this class in different ways that we don’t get to do in our lessons,” Brice said.

For a list of future performances by the chamber music class, visit the Department of Music website.


UWF’s Steinway celebration remains in key, a decade later

By Kenny Detwyler

Contributing Writer

 Nyasha Brice performing "Prelude No.1 in B flat major", by George Gershwin. Photo by Kenny Detwyler.

Nyasha Brice performing “Prelude No.1 in B flat major”, by George Gershwin.
Photo by Kenny Detwyler.

On Saturday evening, the halls of the Center for Fine and Performing Arts at the University of West Florida echoed with the sounds of talented musicians paying tribute to the most iconic instrument in music, the piano. This year marks a decade since Warren and Helen Wentworth donated 18 Steinway Pianos to the UWF Department of Music, thus granting UWF the prestigious distinction of being an “All-Steinway School” by Steinway & Sons.

The Steinway is often regarded as the most distinguished piano brand in the world. Recording artist Billy Joel once said, “I have long admired Steinway pianos for their qualities of tone, clarity, pitch consistency, touch responsiveness, and superior craftsmanship.” Pianist Martha Argerich even argued that “sometimes a Steinway plays better that the pianist, and it is then a marvelous surprise” The Steinway is also the exclusive performance instrument of famous artists, such as Harry Connick Jr. and Randy Newman.

In honor of the Wentworth’s generous gift, the Department of Music holds a yearly concert to celebrate the Steinway piano. The concert featured an array of UWF students, faculty, alumni, and local pianists. The show featured the compositions of a few of history’s greatest musicians such as George Gershwin, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Liszt, Piotr Tchaikovsky, J.S. Bach, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Johannes Brahms.

The concert was performed to a packed audience, which enjoyed seeing the Steinway in action. “It was very nice, I enjoyed listening to the different recitals. It was very relaxing and engaging,” Ebony Cornish, a graduate student,  said.

Amazing performers took the stage including the director of UWF’s piano and chamber music programs, Hedi Salanki. “Ever since the wonderful gift, we’ve built up the program and gotten stronger and stronger,” Salanki said.

Other performers included: junior Nyahsa Brice, senior Daniel Kern, freshman Lydia Harris, senior James Matthews, junior Meridith Stemen and assistant professor Blake Riley.

One of the shows stand-out moments came from three young performers, all of whom are students at Hedi Salanki’s private studio. The young students resonated extremely well with the audience, as they performed complicated compositions on the same stage as students of the performing arts here at UWF. “They’ve all worked so hard, they were able to perform for a large audience which is something a lot of 15-year-olds can’t do. They performed music that is not your average pop song,” performer Nyasha Brice said. “They have all made amazing progress, I am training them to be pianists, so this is a natural part of what they do,” Salanki said.

Also taking the stage was former UWF student, Bolton Ellenberg. Bolton has been performing at UWF since the first Steinway celebration 10 years ago. “I think he gave a brilliant performance, it all came together well, and it was fantastic.” Bolton’s brother, Easton Ellenberg said. It appeared that the audience shared similar sentiments, as Bolton received a spectacular standing ovation following both of his performances.

Even with all of the talented performers who took the stage, the real star of the evening was no doubt the Steinway Piano, which sat center stage. The piano means a great deal to the performers, and the Wentworth’s gift is still greatly appreciated a decade later. “The piano is a medium for me to turn my soul into notes and share it with people,” Bryce said. “As a performer it’s important to get interaction with the audience when you communicate emotions,” Samantha Negron, a junior, said after watching the show.

“When words stop, that’s when music starts. For me the Piano is extremely versatile, there’s so much you can say with it,” special guest performer Bolton Ellenberg said. “I can channel things that cannot be put into words”

For a complete schedule of the CFPA’s upcoming performances visit: http://uwf.edu/cfpa/

A Christmas Carol returns for its 9th annual showing at CFPA

Iqueena Hollis

Staff Writer

“A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas” returns for its ninth season on campus at the Center for Fine and Performing Arts (CFPA) this week.

Performances of the famous play, written by Charles Dickens and adapted by Charles Wilson, began this past weekend and also will be held next weekend in building 82 in the Mainstage Theater. The next performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

This adaption has been performed at Houston’s Alley Theatre, Hartford Stage and at the Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. Dozens of members of the UWF and surrounding community came out to support the theater students in their last offering of the semester.

This musical is set in London in the 1840s, and throughout the course of the play, the main character, Scrooge, learns to appreciate others and develops a deeper sense of kindness and compassion.

“This version was a bit different from the others I have seen each fall since freshman year,” said Carlisa Ward, a senior majoring in psychology at UWF who attends all theater performances held at the CFPA. “I enjoyed all of the performances, but this one might be the best yet. Why didn’t they do this sooner?”

With the stress of finals, and the bittersweet arrival of graduation for some, students say going to see the play is a great way to wind down the semester and step into the Christmas spirit.

“‘A Christmas Carol’ was my first time seeing a play here at UWF,” said Amanda Langehennig, a freshman at Pensacola State College. “The message of the play was great for this season; it reminds everyone to enjoy what they have and be nice to others.”

Ticket prices for all CFPA plays are: adults: $16; senior citizens/active military: $12; UWF faculty/staff and non UWF students: $10; children: $5; and UWF students: free. Tickets can be purchased online, at the CFPA box office or at the University Commons Service Desk.

For questions about performances and the theater department, contact Jerre Brisky, director of the Center for Fine and Performing Arts, at 474-6057.