School of Music students headed to Kimmel Center for performances

January 13, 2009

University Park, Pa. — When Christi Canner came to Penn State to study horn performance three years ago, she never imagined she would get to perform on some of the East Coast's more prestigious venues while still a student. That's exactly what she has done, however. Canner has been among a select group of Penn State School of Music musicians to perform at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh and Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in events produced jointly by the Penn State School of Music and Penn State Alumni Association.

Canner again will be on stage, to perform with some of Penn State's top auditioned music groups on Tuesday, Feb. 17, at Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia. The concert is the third annual President's Concert, hosted by Graham Spanier, and this year will feature the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Concert Choir, Philharmonic Orchestra, and Centre Dimensions, a 20-piece jazz ensemble.

"As a musician, it's very different experience to play in a professional venue. It's amazing to play in a hall with acoustical properties tailored to musical groups rather than auditoriums meant for lectures or meetings. You hear yourself and say, 'I didn't know I could sound like that!' You also feel as though you are sharing the stage with some of the greatest instrumentalists, vocalists and conductors in history. There has been so much music made on these stages and we get to be a part of that," Canner said.

"Of course it is a thrill for students to perform in great halls like the Kimmel, Kennedy Center and Heinz Hall," said Sue Haug, director of the School of Music. "Just walking on stage can be thrilling. Having an opportunity to perform in a hall where one can really hear oneself and others is magical. But having this concert be sponsored by President Spanier with support of the Alumni Association and our college says something to students about the importance that others place on the arts and in supporting the development and achievements of music students. That also is very meaningful."

Canner performed as a member of Penn State's Symphonic Wind Ensemble at Heinz Hall in 2007, her freshman year. Last spring, she played horn in a wind nonet and also accompanied Essence of Joy in that group's performance during the second annual President's Concert.

At this year's concert, Canner will perform with both the Symphonic Wind Ensemble and Philharmonic Orchestra. "I love these trips," Canner said. "I get to travel with friends to these great cities, make music with them, experience a little part of the cities, and perform for large, appreciative audiences. I love the fact that we get to share music with people who might never otherwise have come to a Penn State concert. Also, I feel like it's a foretaste of a possible future career path; playing in these venues gives me a preview into life as a symphony musician," she said.

"It's increasingly important for the University to provide exposure for its School of Music in urban venues, and the opportunity this concertizing provides our student musicians is profoundly significant in their education," said Roger Williams, executive director of the Penn State Alumni Association. "This is our third President's Concert, and if the experience gleaned at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh and the Kennedy Center in Washington is any indication, we will create a memorable evening for all involved."

According to Haug, "I sometimes hear the School of Music called a 'hidden jewel.' I can assure you that the music faculty are eager to have the quality of our programs and students NOT be hidden. The School of Music has really matured and we feel it is very important to showcase that development to alumni as well as faculty, staff and administrators."

Haug is pleased to be able to work with the Alumni Association each year for the event. "We could not do this concert as successfully without our partnership with the Alumni Association, and we are very grateful to have a continuing partnership. Having the support of the Alumni Association in getting the word out to alumni has allowed the School of Music to focus on the concert itself. Their ability to fill the house with a supportive alumni audience helps to make the President's Concerts the success they have been."

Williams is equally happy to be working with the School of Music. "The Penn State Alumni Association is especially pleased to be partnering with the Penn State School of Music and the Office of the President to showcase the extraordinary talent of our student musicians and faculty. It's equally gratifying to present this concert in so prestigious a performing arts venue as the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, a city with an extraordinary heritage in the arts and sciences as well as the largest metro concentration of Penn State alumni -- 75,000 or approximately 16 percent of our total alumni worldwide," he said.

School of Music faculty also appreciate the experience these concerts offer their students. "What a thrill it was for Eleanor and me to hear our students play their hearts out in a 'real' concert hall last night," said Dan Armstrong, professor of music/percussion, after the Heinz Hall concert in 2007. "I feel as if I've really heard my students for the first time.… I greatly appreciate the cooperation amongst you that was necessary to bring this off. There are definitely places where this just wouldn't happen. This is one of the best things about being here."

Alumni also enjoy the concerts. After last year's performance at the Kennedy Center, Dean Barbara Korner received an e-mail from William Neil, a 1966 alumnus and 2009 College of Arts and Architecture Alumni Award recipient. Neil wrote, "I'm not aware of any other college or university in this country which showcases its musical talent in this way, and especially for our local alums in the audience, it was an opportunity to reunite with each other and hear a fabulous performance. I'm sure the students enjoyed the experience as well." Neil, who also is a guest artist at the Kimmel Center and an organist and harpsichordist with the National Symphony Orchestra, will be the featured guest artist at this year's President's Concert.

"The concert was an excellent idea for drawing alumni closer to their alma mater," wrote alumnus Don Hartzell after the Kennedy Center concert in 2008. "It definitely accomplished its purpose."

The interaction with alumni is important to the student performers as well. "Usually, the alumni make it a point to congratulate the performers after the concerts. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of many of the alumni to attend these concerts and support their alma mater," Canner said. "I hope that seeing us perform makes the alumni proud that they were once a part of this in some way. These experiences are rewarding because I get to perform great music with great people for an appreciative audience. Who could ask for more?"

The 8 p.m. concert will showcase approximately 200 students from four of the School of Music's auditioned performing ensembles. "Our Philadelphia-area alumni are particularly enthusiastic about coming out to University-sponsored cultural events, so we expect a very large turnout," Williams said.

Before the concert, Penn Staters can meet with fellow alumni at a reception at the Cadence Restaurant, located within the Kimmel Center. The reception, hosted by the Penn State Alumni Association, will feature hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Admission to the concert and reception is $35 for Alumni Association members and $45 for non-members. R.S.V.P. by Feb. 10 at http://www.alumni.psu.edu/events online or call 800-548-LION (5466), option 4.

For those who are unable to attend the pre-concert reception, tickets for the concert only are $10 general admission and are available at http://www.kimmelcenter.org online, at the Kimmel Center Box Office or through Ticket Philadelphia at (215) 893-1999.

  • Christy Canner performed in the first two President's Concerts, and will perform again this year at the Kimmel Center.

    IMAGE: Annemarie Mountz
Last Updated November 18, 2010