UConn Musician Instrumental in Grammy Win

In December 2014, when the U.S. and Cuba announced that they would restore diplomatic relations, UConn string bass instructor Gregg August heard the news not stateside but on the island itself. He was in Havana recording the album “Cuba: The Conversation Continues,” as bassist for Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra. One of the tracks he played on that album was “The Afro Latin Jazz Suite,” an energetic four-part work that would go on to earn O’Farrill a 2016 Grammy Award for instrumental composition.

August, who has been traveling to Cuba for the past 15 years to play jazz, vividly remembers the night the news was announced. “Nothing will compare to having experienced first-hand what was happening,” he says. “It was an amazing thing.”

Growing up in Schenectady, N.Y., August was surrounded by music. His father, who played piano, and his mother enjoyed listening to jazz and rhythmic music. He played drums in high school and his music teachers were his father’s sister, who taught piano, and her husband, who taught bass, the instrument he would eventually turn to in college.

“They always had music on in the house,” he recalls. “My parents were listening to all kinds of music, especially jazz and R&B: Cannonball Adderly (with Nancy Wilson), Bill Evans, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Sergio Mendez. There were even classical records, like Glenn Gould playing Bach. I remember getting Earth Wind and Fire and Stevie Wonder records for Christmas. I didn’t hear Latin music as a kid, but I think I developed a certain sensibility for it through listening to Chick Corea’s music; his music always has that Spanish thing, those kinds of rhythms.”

He says he experienced a “natural gravitation” to Latin music because of his background in percussion and bass, the core of a band’s rhythm section.

August received his bachelor’s in bass at The Eastman School of Music, earned his master’s from The Juilliard School before spending time as principal bass with La Orquesta Ciutat de Barcelona in Spain and freelancing as a jazz bassist in Paris. He says he returned to New York City because he knew he had to be there in order to grow as a jazz musician, and he missed the opportunity to play a wide variety of music. Over the years he has performed with percussionist Ray Barretto, The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, The Brooklyn Philharmonic, saxophonist Ornette Coleman, American Composer’s Orchestra and saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera, among others, before becoming a member of the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, which plays Sunday nights at Birdland in New York.

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School of Fine Arts Welcomes Class of 2020 at Open House

The UConn School of Fine Arts welcomed the incoming class of freshmen to campus on Saturday, April 9th during the University’s campus-wide Open House. After welcoming them that morning to the Fine Arts complex, the Dean’s Reception followed later that afternoon at the Benton Museum. Faculty, staff, current students, future students and alumni were all in attendance.

Enjoy the gallery below and welcome the Class of 2020!

Intuition, Measuring, Math Underlie Artist’s Work

Installation artist Jong Oh takes a minimalist approach to his work, building structures by suspending Plexiglass and painted string in the air.

As is his practice, before creating his exhibition “Sotto Voce” in the Contemporary Art Galleries, Oh waited for the uniquely configured space to speak to him.

Artist Jong Oh says he wants visitors to sense the ‘Sotto Voce’ exhibit with their bodies, take their time, go closer, and walk around inside. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)
Artist Jong Oh says he wants visitors to sense the ‘Sotto Voce’ exhibit with their bodies, take their time, go closer, and walk around inside. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

“I come to the gallery or studio and stay there for a few days looking at the space. I listen to the space,” the New York-based Korean artist says. “I don’t have any plans when I get to the space. The space has to allow me to do something. The process is intuitive, but it’s also a lot of measuring and math. Some people think when they see my work that it’s all planned and I know everything before I start, but actually it’s very intuitive.”

Oh spent his childhood in Grand Canaria, Spain. He earned a bachelor’s degree in sculpture from Hongik University in Seoul and an FMA from the School of Visual Art in New York City, where he now lives. He has had solo exhibitions in Austria, Germany, and Mexico.

For Oh’s exhibition in Storrs, the gallery walls are painted white and, as is typical of his work, he uses thread, Plexiglass, and some found objects to create illusions that can change in appearance as a visitor walks through the gallery. He describes his work as “line sculpture.”

To read the entire article, visit UConn Today!

“Sotto Voce: Installations by Jong Oh” will continue through May 6 at the Contemporary Art Galleries in the Department of Art & Art History Building, 830 Bolton Road, Storrs. For more information go to the CAG website.

Protesting Inequalities in the Art World

When a group of women artists first put on gorilla masks to protest gender and racial inequalities in the art world, their use of humor on advertising handouts and posters called attention to the paucity of works by female artists in gallery and museum exhibitions.

Posters on display as part of the Guerrilla Girls exhibition at the Benton Museum. (Amy Jorgensen/UConn Photo)
Posters on display as part of the Guerrilla Girls exhibition at the Benton Museum. (Amy Jorgensen/UConn Photo)
Taking the names of dead women artists in order to be anonymous, and wearing the masks to protect themselves against possible retaliation, they called themselves the Guerrilla Girls. More than three decades later, they say there is still work to be done. “When we started in 1985, you could hear curators and gallery people saying that women and artists of color were not making art that is part of the contemporary dialogue,” says Frida Kahlo, one of the founders of Guerilla Girls. “No one would say that now.” Kahlo’s namesake is the 20th century surrealist Mexican painter known for her self-portraits and as the subject of the 2002 Salma Hayek film “Frida.”Thirty-nine off-beat “guerrilla-advertising” posters, advertising, and other works are part of the “Guerrilla Girls: Art, Activism, and the ‘F’ Word” in the center gallery of the William Benton Museum of Art through May 22. The exhibition is drawn from the 89-pieceGuerrilla Girls Portfolio Compleat (1985-2012) recently acquired by the museum.

Among the works in the exhibition is a 1989 billboard poster that addressed concerns at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The poster depicts a nude woman wearing a gorilla mask lying on a couch with a headline asking: “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum? Less than 5 percent of the artists in the Modern Art sections are women, but 85 percent of the nudes are female.”

To read the entire article, visit UConn Today!

“Guerrilla Girls: Art, Activism, and the ‘F’ Word” continues through May 22 at the William Benton Museum of Art, 245 Glenbrook Road, Storrs. For more information, go to the Benton Museum’s website.

Puppet Production Explores 1911 Factory Fire

As a youngster growing up in Romania, Ana Crăciun-Lambru ’16 MFA put strings on her dolls, turning them into marionettes and performing in her bedroom. She would go on to earn a degree in puppetry from The National University of Arts in Bucharest. While working as a freelance puppeteer, she found information about a Fulbright Scholarship opportunity and the Puppet Arts program at UConn.

From left, MFA puppeteers Kalob Martinez, Ana Crăciun-Lambru, and Gavin Cummins present a triple bill for the MFA Puppet Arts Festival onstage at the Studio Theatre March 24-April 3. (Gerry Goodstein Photo)
From left, MFA puppeteers Kalob Martinez, Ana Crăciun-Lambru, and Gavin Cummins present a triple bill for the MFA Puppet Arts Festival onstage at the Studio Theatre March 24-April 3. (Gerry Goodstein Photo)

Crăciun-Lambru’s new puppet production, “Dust,” is part of the Connecticut Repertory Theatre celebration of 50 years of Puppet Arts at UConn during The MFA Puppet Arts Festival, March 24 to April 3 at the Studio Theatre.

The three original one-act plays at CRT range in topic and style. “Dust” is inspired by the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City and incorporates shadow and object puppetry. “Ok, I Love You, Bye” by Gavin Cummins ’16 MFA is a one-person play using various styles of shadow puppetry. “El Beto” by Kalob Martinez ’16 MFA molds Macbeth into a story of lust and blood set in the midst of the Mexican Drug cartel.

A fourth original production, “ECHO” by Christopher Mullens ’16 MFA, will take place at the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry in conjunction with the CRT shows. ECHO is a multi-media immersive spectacle combining puppets, digital projection and original music in the re-telling of a classic Greek myth.

To read the entire article, visit UConn Today!

The CRT production of the MFA Puppet Arts Festival will be performed March 24 to April 3 at the Studio Theatre, 802 Bolton Road, Storrs. “ECHO” will be performed in conjunction with the Festival at the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, One Royce Circle, Storrs. For more information on the MFA Festival, go to and for “ECHO” to There will be an additional free presentation of Krista Weltner’s MFA stop motion film project at 5 p.m. in the Studio Theatre on March 26 and April 1, 2, and 3.

Journey to Freedom: Celebrating Ukrainian Composers

For UConn’s Solomiya Ivakhiv, recording a CD of Ukrainian classical music wasn’t just a professional endeavor, it was personal.

Solomiya Ivakhiv, left, assistant professor of violin and viola, and pianist Angelina Gadeliya. (Photo by Stephanie Brauer, Ukrainian Institute of America, NYC)
Solomiya Ivakhiv, left, assistant professor of violin and viola, and pianist Angelina Gadeliya. (Photo by Stephanie Brauer, Ukrainian Institute of America, NYC)

This past July, the Ukrainian-born assistant professor of violin and viola Ivakhiv and her colleague, Juilliard-trained pianist Angelina Gadeliya, began recording pieces by eight Ukrainian composers for a CD titled “Ukraine: Journey to Freedom, A Century of Classical Music for Violin and Piano.” The work chronicles different styles of classical music, such as post-modern and neo-folklorist, from 20th and 21st‑century composers who emerged and thrived professionally, despite the obstacles they faced in Soviet Ukraine.

“As a child, I grew up in the Soviet Union and experienced firsthand what this dark and painful period of world history can mean for artists,” says Ivakhiv. “With this project, we try to expose the personal journey of the featured composers, and offer them the opportunity to ‘speak’ in a way that wasn’t possible for them before.”

Ivakhiv and Gadeliya also hope to expose listeners to the sophisticated musical history from their homeland, and to raise awareness about Ukrainian culture in general. There has been increased recent interest in the region as a result of Russian military intervention in Ukraine, which began in February 2014.

Each of the composers featured on the album, which is largely comprised of previously unrecorded pieces spanning the period 1919-2014, faced many obstacles in order to maintain their personal, artistic voices during times of harsh communist oppression. Forced to compose music that glorified the Soviet government above all, the artists chronicled in Ivakhiv’s recording were denied the freedom to openly express their creative identities, and clashed with government officials as a result.

To read the entire article, visit UConn Today!

Ukraine: Journey to Freedom” was released internationally last month, and is also available on iTunes and Amazon. Ivakhiv will be performing some of the music from the CD at a solo recital at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts on March 21. For more information, go to the Jorgensen website.

Singer-songwriter Trio Use Voices to Get the Vote Out

When musicians plan a national tour, the usual impetus is to promote a new recording and reconnect with fans. But when Grammy winner Patty Griffin invited Sara Watkins and Anais Mitchell to join her on a national tour it was with a different objective in mind – to promote discussion about voter engagement during a presidential election year.

“The Use Your Voice Tour 2016,” which has partnered with the League of Women Voters, stops at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, March 5, as part of a 38-city tour. The performance will be preceded at 5 p.m. by a panel discussion, “Amplifying the Voices on the Ground,” focusing on issues for communities that are traditionally marginalized.

Watkins, who first came to prominence as a founding member of the progressive bluegrass group Nickel Creek, says she and Mitchell were quick to accept Griffin’s invitation to join forces to promote voter education.

“It’s something Patty’s been very vocal and passionate about for some time,” Watkins said over the phone from South Carolina, as the tour worked its way up the East Coast. “As a group we don’t have a combined album to promote, which is the normal reason to tour. The League of Women Voters has been a common cause for the three of us. … We’re not preaching politics to people. We’re trying to bring awareness to the importance of being involved in your community.”

Molly Rockett ’15 (CLAS), a recent UConn honors graduate in political science and former intern for both U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney ’78 JD and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, will introduce the performers and discuss the League of Women Voters voter engagement effort.

To read the entire article, visit UConn Today!

“The Use Your Voice Tour 2016” takes place on Saturday at 8 p.m. at Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts, 2132 Hillside Road, Storrs. For more information go to the Jorgensen website.

Springfield Symphony Orchestra Offers World Premiere Of Piano Concerto

A world premiere is a big deal.

When you think about it, symphony orchestras play a fairly limited repertoire, largely consisting of symphonies and concertos by Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Schumann, Mendelssohn, and other masters active in the 18th and19th centuries. Occasionally, when time and money permit, a new composition is added to that canon of chestnuts.

Commissioning and premiering a brand new work augments, extends, and hopefully enhances the repertoire. It invites an audience sated with standards to experience notes never before heard in this combination, and to climb aboard a composer’s mind, taking an emotional journey no one has ever taken, to a destination no one has ever visited.

Springfield Symphony Orchestra concertgoers have this rare opportunity on March 12 at 7:30 p.m. in Symphony Hall, as Maestro Kevin Rhodes, the SSO and piano soloist Jeffrey Biegel, a favorite guest of Springfield audiences, present the world premiere of composer Kenneth Fuchs’s Piano Concerto (“Spiritualist”), After Three Paintings by Helen Frankenthaler.

Fuchs, professor of composition at the University of Connecticut, has written music for orchestra, band, chorus, and various chamber ensembles. The London Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of JoAnn Falletta, has recorded four discs of Fuchs’s music for Naxos American Classics. The first disc, released in 2005, was nominated for two Grammy Awards. The second, containing music for horn, was released in 2008. The third, recorded in London’s historic Abbey Road Studios, was released in 2012, and was included in the 2012 Grammy Award nominations. The fourth, also recorded at Abbey Road in 2013, features baritone Roderick Williams in a program of vocal music.

To read the entire article, visit Mass Live!

Tickets for the March 12 performance priced from $22-$65 may be obtained online at or by calling the box office at 733-2291. Classical Conversations, an informal half-hour discussion of the evening’s music beginning at 6:30 p.m., will be led by John Montanari, (NEPR, retired). The concert is sponsored by Falcetti Music, with media sponsor, News Radio 560 WHYN.