And the beat goes on
And the beat goes on

Since the 1960s UIC’s Associate Professor Emeritus in Theatre William Raffeld has taught his students about the “beat” of a scene or sequence of scenes — described in the fall 2004 issue of the University’s magazine as “a unit of action that consists of four sections: what a character wants; why the character wants it; the actions the character takes to get it; and the obstacles that get in the way.”

This fall, as the Departments of Theatre and Music celebrate 70 years of pioneering work at UIC, it’s clear that the College’s performing arts students continue to benefit from Raffeld and his command of the beat. Although the University’s theatre and music performances date back to 1946, Raffeld’s arrival at the Navy Pier Campus coincided with the formal theatre program’s establishment in 1963, followed by the move to the Circle Campus in 1965, just in time for the artistic cauldron of the later decade. Read through the archival material from those early years and the story of UIC faculty establishing its theatre and music programs, and you’ll invariably encounter descriptions of barebones operations (just $600 per semester was allocated to the theatre program) that its participants recall not only fondly, but with dogged loyalty to its superior benefits, as it required the students to collaborate and improvise, at every turn.

Thus described, the beat also serves as a way of thinking about the history of performing arts education at UIC: students and faculty with high aspirations born out of a passion to make music and theatre, pushing through the early challenges of budgets and migrating performance spaces, and the ongoing story of choosing collaboration and generous creativity over personal grandeur. Out of necessity and integrity came the invention of an ensemble ethic that still drives performing arts at the University today.

Now in its fourth year as the School of Theatre & Music within the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts, the school is welcoming a record number of performing arts students of diverse backgrounds, with recently added degrees in music business; theatre and performance; and theatre design, production, and technology.

The school has also added an international exchange program with Eolia Conservatory of Dramatic Arts in Barcelona, Spain, and faculty are bringing their professional networks to bear on their students’ lives through internships, practicums, and artistic exchanges.

Another exciting development at the School is the appointment of the Director of the Orchestra, Louis Bergonzi, as Head of Music. During his most recent tenure, as Professor and Daniel J. Perrino Chair in Music Education at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Bergonzi specialized in conducting and string education. Previously, he was on the Music Education faculty at the Eastman School of Music, serving there as Director of the Rochester-Eastman Urban String Project, a multifaceted program for preparing studio and group string teachers for work in urban settings. He has been a guest conductor for all-state and regional honors youth orchestras throughout the world and served as co-director of Establishing Identity: LGBTQ Studies & Music Education I–III, symposia designed to energize the discussion of how LGBTQ issues operate within music education.

As both an educator and a performing artist, Bergonzi says he is excited and honored about his new appointment: “With students, alumni, and members of the faculty and administration, I look forward to imagining how the Department of Music at UIC can best respond to the needs and talents of our students, contribute to the progressive mission of the University, and reflect the astounding vitality of Chicago’s diverse musical communities.”

Image: Band concert in Circle Forum. 086 UA 90-999.2270, Photograph Subject File, UIC Archives, University of Illinois at Chicago Library