All together with TUTTI

The 2015 Tutti Festival was a week filled with creativity and collaboration among guest artists, a wide range of composers, Denison students, and faculty members from all of the college’s fine arts disciplines.

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For one incandescent week, the TUTTI Festival brought composers, performers, artists and appreciative audiences together in a creative surge that rippled across the campus.

It began last summer with an international call for new musical scores, sent by Ching-chu Hu, professor of music and TUTTI festival coordinator. “TUTTI is a great way for students to hear what is being made now by living composers,” Hu explains.

Hundreds of entries poured in for TUTTI 2015, at least 200 of which were targeted to be performed by Denison’s Vail Ensemble-in-Residence, ETHEL. One by one, the members of that string quartet narrowed their choices to seven pieces. “It was a rigorous process,” Hu recalls, “but they listened to every single thing that was submitted.” He and other fine arts faculty did a lot of listening, too, selecting music for seven unique concerts that highlighted the talents of student performers and ensembles, as well as visiting artists.

“It’s great to see the liberal arts in action in places like the TUTTI festival, where Denisonians & guests from so many different fields can come together & create something new.”

Although TUTTI, which arises from the Italian and musical phrase for “all,” was conceived primarily a music festival, it has mushroomed to include the creative potential of artistic collaboration across genres. In 2015, the event unfolded into a much broader interdisciplinary engagement with studio art, theatre, dance and poetry.

The first evening, performance artist Miwa Matreyek’s extraordinary work with projections and silhouettes was followed by a poetry reading by Professor David Baker, whose piece, “Scavenger Loop,” inspired an original composition by the River Song Quintet.

“David Baker and the River Song Quintet created an immersive experience where the music lent extra emotion and substance to Baker’s words, which were mellifluous and thoughtful in and of themselves,” says McLane Sellars ’16. “The music helped the audience to enter into the world of the poetry and explore its subtle affective nuances.”

Students from Professor Ron Abram’s advanced printmaking classes chose pieces of original music from the festival and responded to them using print media, which were then shown (with headphones, so viewers could partake in the musical inspiration) in Mulberry House.

Professor Sandy Mathern-Smith describes her contribution to the festival as “a choreographic site-based work for eight dancers.” One of those eight dancers, Jessica Merrills ’15, explains what “site-based” means: “We danced on three levels of Bryant, finishing on the lowest level, which was covered in sand, in keeping with the beach theme of Suite to Sea.”

Although they had performed the piece last fall, Merrills found it even more meaningful this time. “The experience of dancing with live musicians of TUTTI’s caliber fed my performance and my connection to the music,” she says, “which made the movements of the dance feel even richer than our first performance.”

Guest composer Mary Ellen Childs worked one-on-one with music students in workshops and symposiums. Artist/designer/teacher and alumna Mad Mohre ’08 visited from Michigan to install an intriguing interactive piece in the Bryant Arts Center titled “In And Around C,” in which ETHEL performed music according to the positions of audience members on a large-scale musical score.

The Available Light Theatre Company hosted an open rehearsal of a newly created production, and the theatre department presented a run of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.” One evening on Slayter’s third floor, a TEDx DenisonU event addressed the theme of “Creative Destruction,” with an appearance by New York Times best-selling author and alumna Ann Hagedorn ’71.

With so many creative projects going on at once, excitement caught on across campus. “It’s great to see the liberal arts in action in places like the TUTTI festival,” reflects Tori Newman ’15, “where Denisonians and guests from so many different fields can come together and create something new.”

June 12, 2015