Written by Chris Galli

As the performing arts in Reno return to in-person shows, the School of the Arts at the University of Nevada, Reno, will feature some of the best artists and performers in the industry during the upcoming academic year.

As a board member for the College of Liberal Arts, I’m happy to announce that the Performing Arts Series will celebrate 61 years of live performances with its 2021-2022 season. To get the inside scoop, I chatted with five of the University of Nevada, Reno leaders about what we can expect from the performing arts in Reno, including:

Keep reading to learn more about how they and the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Nevada, Reno, are transforming the performing arts in Reno and are inviting the community to join in on the fun.

University Experts Talk About The Importance Of Performing Arts In Reno

Creating Safe Spaces At The College Of Liberal Arts

As the performing arts in Reno return to in-person performances, Debra shared some of the university’s precautions to keep everyone safe and involved this year.

What are some of the precautions you’re taking to keep students, faculty, staff members, and audiences safe this year?

We deeply care about the safety of our students, faculty, staff, and community members. Since the pandemic started, we have followed Governor Sisolak’s directives and Washoe County Health District guidelines. We’re also following the renewed mandate for everyone to wear a mask inside any Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) building, regardless of their vaccination status. This mandate does not apply to fully vaccinated performers or musicians while actively performing on an NSHE stage. Additionally, musicians must use bell covers on specific wind instruments to reduce the number of aerosol particles in the air.

As we plan for the spring 2022 semester, the Nevada State Board of Health recently approved COVID-19 vaccine requirements for NSHE students. While we wait on more information about implementing this policy, we’re hopeful that this will provide more opportunities for the performing arts in Reno.

What are some of your strategies for improving diversity, equity, and inclusion at the College of Liberal Arts and the performing arts in Reno?

We’re constantly looking for ways to invite more representation of diverse groups on our campus. We put enormous effort into increasing diversity and inclusion with our students, faculty and staff members, and the performing arts community. If you attend our events this year, we hope you see how much variety we bring to campus. For example, the Reno Jazz Festival will embody equity this year. We’ve taken the Keychange pledge to ensure that at least 50% of the artists we hire for the festival are women and gender minorities. In addition, we’ve pledged to present at least 50% of artists from historically underrepresented communities.

We hope to inspire future artists and performers with our commitment to expanding creative and cultural horizons.

Intersectionality is important to us, and we approach it from many different perspectives. That’s why our Gender, Race, and Identity (GRI) department is expanding into three different specializations, including women’s studies, ethnic studies, and comparative studies. GRI also offers nine minors and an interdisciplinary master’s degree.

Dmitri Atapine Describes Music As The Universal Language

As the chair of music and a world-renowned cellist, Dmitri Atapine shares what it’s like to walk halls filled with music again. COVID-19 dramatically impacted the way large ensembles practiced and performed last year. But as Dmitri explains it, the performing arts in Reno are returning more robustly than ever before.

What can we expect to see from the Wolf Pack marching band this year and some of the other musical ensembles?

First of all, we’re so excited to be together in person this year. Creating and performing music is meant to be a group activity. As I walk through the university halls, I can already tell how happy students and staff members are to have a sense of normalcy back again.

After sitting in the stands last year, the Wolf Pack Marching Band plans to participate and, most importantly, march at every football game. They’re kicking off the semester with a tribute to Motown and will also march at the Nevada Day Parade this year.

All of our musical ensembles faced tremendous challenges due to COVID-19 last year. With capacity restrictions and social distancing mandates, there were only 10 people allowed per room, and some of our larger ensembles consisted of more than 100 people. We tried to be creative and took more of an educational approach.

Students learned more about the art of conducting and the history of symphony orchestras. But as I said before, we were missing the sound of music in our halls.

What advice do you have for students that are interested in performing internationally?

I believe that you must be passionate about your craft—whatever it is—to succeed. So, whether you’re an artist, musician, or painter, you need to concentrate on perfecting your skills. You should also be approachable and willing to seek new opportunities. Whenever I received an offer to play music throughout my career, I always tried to respond with “Yes. I can do that” because you never know where a new experience can lead you in life.

Music is the universal language. You don’t need to speak the same language to sit in a wind quintet and create a masterpiece.

Ann Archbold Talks About Tech and Student Opportunities

Chair of theatre and dance and lighting extraordinaire Ann Archbold shares how the performing arts in Reno have evolved over the years. With more than 600 events under her belt, Ann is dedicated to her craft and helps prepare students for the future.

How has technology transformed the performing arts and, more specifically, lighting design throughout your career?

Technology has had a profound impact on the performing arts in Reno and the rest of the world. When I first started, our options for lighting design were very minimal. A designer could turn a light on or off and make it dim, but it would have to be one color. With the invention of LED technology and rotating lights, there are now an unlimited amount of color choices, positions, and patterns to use on stage. It used to take 20 hours to put together a production, and now, it can take more than 100 hours because technology has expanded our capacity to create imagery.

It’s incredible to see where film technology has brought us and our ability to create motion pictures. However, when audiences watch live theatre performances, they have many high expectations because they know what’s possible. But what’s possible on film isn’t always possible during live performances. What happens on stage happens on stage. That’s the challenging and fun part about it.

Sound has also evolved exponentially over the years. The fixed microphone used to be on every stage, and now, we primarily use hidden microphones. So, technology has exponentially changed the experience from both the audience and designer standpoint. It has made us much more reliant on computerized systems. With STEAM education opportunities in Reno and at the university, we can translate and expand the human experience to the stage, which has been revolutionary for storytelling.

How does the theatre and dance department prepare students for performing arts or graduate school career opportunities?

By exposing students to different production opportunities, we help them build solid foundations for pursuing careers in the performing arts or moving on to graduate school. We also try to provide students with opportunities outside of the performing arts because they might change careers down the road.

So, whether it’s practical skills such as carpentry and metalworking or collaborative skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving, students can leave here feeling prepared for anything. I believe that providing this type of learning environment can provide a myriad of possibilities.

Raising Consciousness Around The Performing Arts In Reno

Vivian Zavataro has a broader approach to art history and has traveled the world working for museums, galleries, and exhibitions. As the Director and Chief Curator of the John and Geraldine Lilley Museum of Art, Vivian facilitates interaction between contemporary art and the public. With diversity, inclusion, and creativity at the center of her practice, she dedicates her time to improving the future for the betterment of people.

What role do you hope contemporary art can facilitate conversations about the future and the current social climate?

Art, in general, has always been a great tool to facilitate conversations and bring new perspectives to light. Contemporary art helps extend those conversations and apply them to the world around us.

One of our current exhibits, EN MEDIO, is an excellent example of this. It raises consciousness about issues related to crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and aims to change the conversation from a political frame to a humanitarian one. The programming associated with this exhibit also features collaborations with different departments on campus and other local organizations, including the Nevada Museum of Art and the Northern Nevada International Center. I highly recommend visiting it. Admission is always free to everyone.

How has the digital world changed the art community? (i.e., virtual learning, virtual galleries, teleworking)

The digital world has improved the art world significantly, especially for the John and Geraldine Lilley Museum of Art. We had an online presence before, but when COVID-19 happened, we moved most of our content online, which inevitably helped us grow. You can now visit our website to view current and past exhibits and also explore our permanent collection. All of our digital efforts made the museum more accessible and enabled staff to use our collection as a resource for teaching. As a graduate student, I remember I had to contact museums via email to view exhibit images, specific objects, or other details about a particular show. So, I am incredibly excited about these aspects of transitioning virtually.

Program Manager Shoshana Zeldner Stresses The Important Of Community Involvement

Program Manager in the School of the Arts at the College of Liberal Arts, Shoshana Zeldner, has an exciting lineup of events for the community to enjoy together this year. She shares how COVID-19 affected the performing arts in Reno and why she’s excited to return to in-person programming.

How has COVID-19 impacted the community’s involvement with the performing arts?

On a fundamental level, the performing arts rely on the community’s involvement, and when the pandemic first started, those two things couldn’t coincide. One of our biggest challenges was and still is, trying to stand out online. We had to learn how to go virtual and figure out what it meant for each program.

With all this in mind, we offered some intimate conversations as part of our live online performances. Audience members could ask the artists questions, and it made them feel like they were a part of the event. It also added another level of accessibility that we didn’t have before. People from across the globe could watch a School of the Arts event, which created a real sense of community. That’s why we plan on maintaining our online presence so that people have that option whenever possible. We’re also taking advantage of opportunities to perform outside for the community to experience the performing arts in Reno in a safe and meaningful way.

What do you want the public to know about events at the university this year?

I want everyone to know how excited we are to be back to in-person events and performances. With safety as our top priority, we’re putting a significant amount of effort into our events this year.

From the performers to the audio engineers to our office staff, we share an enormous amount of enthusiasm and gratitude for what’s to come, and I hope audience members feel our excitement.

Upcoming Events For The Performing Arts In Reno

What events are you most excited about in the upcoming academic year?

Debra says: I have season tickets to the Performing Arts Series. So, I’m excited about them all but, I’ve always been a huge theater and dance fan. I’m also looking forward to Sweet Honey In The Rock because they’re one of my favorite acapella groups. I also plan on attending a few of the football games this year, and I’m thrilled to see the Wolf Pack Marching Band march again. Furthermore, Dmitri Atapine is a phenomenal cellist. I can’t wait to see him and his wife, Adela Hyeyeon Park, perform on stage.

Dmitri says: I’m very excited about our large ensembles returning to a state of normalcy. We are resuming our chamber music series, Apex Concerts, and I’m particularly looking forward to the event in Nightingale Concert Hall on Dec. 9. This event will present the complete Brandenburg Concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach performed by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. With opera performances to student and staff recitals, there are too many exciting events to list.

Ann says:  This fall semester will offer a great variety of experiences and opportunities to enjoy the performing arts in Reno. We’re performing a new play never produced before called A Shero’s Journey or What Anacaona and Yemayá Taught Me by Guadalís Del Carmen. We will also perform Little Women The Broadway Musical and two dance concerts. I’m probably most excited for our students to get the chance to appear on stage with several notable artists at the Pioneer Center through the Martha Graham Dance Company.

Vivian says: In correlation to the EN MEDIO exhibit, this Wednesday, Sept 15th, at 6 p.m., there will be an exciting event featuring two guest speakers, Dr. Sayak Valencia and Xandra Ibarra. They will be discussing topics on gore capitalism, performance studies, and immigration issues. On Sept 17th at 6 p.m., the museum will collaborate with the Northern Nevada International Center on an event titled Immigrants Get The Job Done, highlighting immigrant contributions in Northern Nevada. You’ll also want to check out Guillermo Galindo coming to Reno to perform at The Lilley on November 5th and his talk earlier the same day at the Art-Bite Series at the Nevada Museum of Art.

Shoshana says:  I’m excited more about the meaningful interactions that we can have in-person and for the magic that happens when we’re together as a community. I believe that every event at the School of the Arts will be inspirational and unique. I’m looking forward to watching Ririe- Woodbury Dance Company, an internationally recognized contemporary dance company that will perform a premiere of a work by Keerati Jinakunwiphat, Dance Magazine’s 2021 25 to Watch, who is shaping the dance world of tomorrow, as well as Pupil Suite, created by sought after choreographer and creator Andrea Miller, of GALLIM. Then, there’s Sweet Honey In The Rock and the Reno Jazz Festival, which will feature diverse and extraordinary performances from incredibly talented artists like Miguel Zenón and Michael Mayo.

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