The Mondavi Center has received another grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation — a $400,000 award, spread over three years, through 2017. The new grant will support several innovative performances — and the way in which those performances will be presented — as well as residencies by American orchestras, and Mondavi-hosted festivals.
The Mellon grant “will give us the opportunity to deepen our work to engage audience members with classical music by supporting nontraditional and less formal concert formats, by collaborating with UC Davis artists and faculty to create multifaceted music festivals, and by creating major artist residencies that bring community members and artists in closer contact,” said Don Roth, the Mondavi Center’s executive director.
“Two areas of this work that are particularly promising: continuing to bring classical music artists in residence out into our community and on our campus — the artists themselves are our biggest asset in making ‘converts’ for classical music,” Roth added. “And doing more to break down the formality of classical music presentations, such as we will be doing in our Visions programs.”
The Visions concert series presents programs that involve classical, contemporary and world music in the Vanderhoef Studio Theatre, including pianist Lara Downes and cellist Zuill Bailey, presenting a program of 20th century American music by Leonard Bernstein, Samuel Barber, Lukas Foss and Aaron Copland on Dec. 12-13; the intrepid modern music ensemble known as So Percussion, Jan. 30-31; Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq, performing during a screening of the 1922 documentary “Nanook of the North” on March 13-14; and bass-baritone Philippe Sly and guitarist John Charles Britton, performing arrangements of Schubert songs on May 16-17.
A portion of the grant money will fund construction of a digital set for the Visions series, with projectable surfaces around the stage, where audience members will find “the kind of information you might find in a playbill, projected on the set,” according to Jeremy Ganter, the Mondavi Center’s associate executive director.
“It gets people away from having their nose in the playbill during what is supposed to be a listening experience. We want the audience to relax, and take it in.
“We did a test run of this inadvertently when New York Polyphony performed at Mondavi (in November 2013),” Ganter continued. “We didn’t have playbills available, so the members of the group spoke before each piece they performed, and it worked really well.”
The Mellon grant also will support festival events relating to Tagaq’s visit, in partnership with the university’s Native American studies program, and relating to So Percussion’s visit, which will be part of the Words and Music Festival, including a residency by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Melinda Wagner, in partnership with the UC Davis music department.
Another portion of the grant money will support a pair of yet-to-be-finalized Mondavi Center residencies by American orchestras, along the lines of the St. Louis Symphony’s spring 2013 visit, which included a popular “Egghead Walk,” with performances of short original pieces by UCD composers at each of the late Robert Arneson Egghead sculptures on campus.
There also was a side-by-side rehearsal pairing musicians from the UCD Symphony Orchestra with their counterparts from the St. Louis Symphony under the baton of St. Louis conductor David Robertson, rehearsing Igor Stravinsky’s landmark “Rite of Spring.” The program concluded with a formal concert by the St. Louis Symphony in the Mondavi Center’s Jackson Hall.
The grant also will support the Mondavi Center’s quarterly “study sessions,” held around finals week, during which tables, chairs, power strips (for students using computers) and Wi-Fi are provided in the Mondavi Center’s lobby, along with free coffee.
In addition, the grant will support the Mondavi Center’s artist engagement program, which organizes pre-concert talks and related events.
The new $400,000 Mellon Foundation grant is essentially an extension of the first such grant to the Mondavi Center. That was a $580,000 award made in 2011, which supported similar programs here between 2011 and 2014.
— Reach Jeff Hudson at email@example.com or 530-747-8055.