The University Record, April 17, 1995

Philips Presentations aim to get audiences involved in concerts

By Sage Arron

Have you ever wondered about why or where or when a particular musical score was written, or what inspired an especially marvelous piece of choreography?

The University Musical Society (UMS), has joined forces with the Philips Display Components Co., led by Iva Wilson, to answer such questions through the varied forum of Philips Educational Presentations (PEP).

The presentations provide the audience and interested community members with opportunities to explore various issues related to UMS events. They normally feature a speaker prior to a performance but, according to Helen Siedel, UMS education coordinator, participatory dance and other kinds of interactive workshops also have been successful.

"We like to provide diversity," Siedel says. This diversity ranges from the presentation given by respected theater costume designer Edith Bookstein to psychologists and musicians who come to explain in greater detail what people are about to see and hear. "We have a large number of presentations featuring the artists themselves," Siedel adds.

"One of the important functions of the presentations is to give people a point of entry into something new," says Adam Glaser, UMS director of marketing and promotion. "These presentations will give people a chance to learn a little more about the composers and why they wrote what they did."

Begun during the 1987-88 season, more than 100 PEPs are given each year between September and May.

Initially, the presentations were called "pre-concert lectures," but the term "educational presentations" was substituted as the program expanded and diversified. UMS Executive Director Kenneth E. Fischer felt the term "lecture" was too narrow, inadequately addressing the many different ways in which people communicate.

"I wanted people to see our events within their larger context," Fischer says. "We're a community where people are curious about things, they want to know 'Why?' and they want to know something about the artist. They want information so that they can have a better informed experience."

Significant support from the Philips Display Components Co. prompted adding the company's name to the presentation's title, ensuring consistent programming. According to Fischer, the UMS views its relationship with Philips as a partnership, and Wilson, who also is a member of the UMS board of directors, shares Fischer's commitment to education and audience development.

"We use a lot of faculty from the University," Fischer notes. "We also use people from the community, and local and visiting artists. We reward our presenters for their time and efforts with tickets to performances."

Ultimately, PEPs aim not only to ensure that audience members enjoy the events they attend as fully as possible, but also create stronger bonds with the arts in general.

"Some people might think of a preconcert series as something that's only enhancing the concert, but these presentations are much more than that," Glaser asserts. "They engage the community and get them involved in the concerts."

"Some people are coming to hear things they may never heard before or works by composers they may not be familiar with. These presentations help make people feel a lot more comfortable with the music ahead of time."

Most PEPs are given in the Michigan League's Koessler Library so that those who wish to attend will not feel confused by constantly changing locations, but presentations requiring special equipment or space may be held elsewhere. For more information about the UMS and PEPs, call 764-2538.