Rutgers-Camden's Mallery Concert Series Offers Free Weekly Performances
When I think of what I know about Rutgers University-Camden, several things come to mind.
I remember attending the excellent Writers’ Conference a couple of times. I have many friends who went to law school at Rutgers. I also know that the university prides itself on its nursing and business programs. But Fine Arts? Music?? Maybe not so much.
That is something I discussed recently with Dr. Joseph C. Schiavo, Associate Dean, Faculty of Arts & Sciences.
“The arts, especially music, is a somewhat hidden secret at Rutgers,” Schiavo said. “I have had people tell me that they didn’t know we had such a rich music program here.”
So, Schiavo makes sure to spread the word. “I participate whenever there’s an open house at the university” he continues, “and I make sure to do my think-about-Rutgers-Camden- spiel.”
It’s here that Schiavo brags just a little. “We have top-notch educators and artists in the department,” he said, “that are doing great work.”
Schiavo is also the Artistic Director of the Mallery Concert Series, which offers free weekly afternoon performances in the Fine Arts Building on the Camden campus.
The concert series, now in its 29th season, is another wonderful way to let people know about the university’s diverse offerings.
The Series – then known as the Distinguished Artist Series –was started in 1986 by Dr. W. Davis Jerome, then Chair of the Music Department and Director of the Honors Program. Because Dr. Jerome wanted the concerts to have a more intimate feel, he chose the New Music Room (built in 1984), instead of the main stage of the “big” theater or the Fine Arts Building’s black box.
Then, in 1987, the New Music Room was dedicated to Dorothy Mallery, who was grand organist emeritus for the Order of the Eastern Star of New Jersey. The Order also established an endowed scholarship for academic excellence in music that same year.
In 2008, Schiavo took it over. “These concerts were a campus mainstay,” he said, “and they were something I’d personally enjoyed. It was important to me to carry on Dr. Jerome’s legacy.”
The series started small, Schiavo told me, with five or so concerts a year, and then grew from there. “Now we have a concert every week in both the fall and spring semesters.”
When I scanned the programs for this season’s concerts, I was impressed by the variety of performers, styles and musical selections. In the October 7 concert, for example, pianist and Steinway Artist Meral Guneyman played compositions by Cole Porter, George Gershwin and Billy Strayhorn, among others. The next week, a concert by vibraphonist Warren Chiasson and Trio featured music by Hoagie Carmichael, Duke Ellington, Antonia Carlos Jobim and Henry Mancini, to name a few. And, later in October, Kinga Augustyn presented a solo violin concert called “Baroque Versus Contemporary.”
I asked Schiavo how the artists for the series are selected. “I initially referred to the roster that Dr. Jerome used,” Schiavo said, “and my goal had been to use that rotation while seeking out new performers.”
“Now, I rarely have to search,” he said. “Artists get in touch with me.”
Sometimes it is a musician who is working on a new repertoire and wants to try it out on a small audience.
And it is not unusual at all for the artists to do more than just perform.
“The artists love to talk about what they’re playing,” said Schiavo. “And, for composers, this can be an opportunity to share information about her or his work and the creative process.” This format makes the concerts quite informative for audience members, and for the Artistic Director, too.
“Presenting these concerts is a way to keep me in touch with new musicians,” Schiavo said.
The series is definitely popular with students. But Schiavo points out that these free concerts are open to the public and also draw a broader audience.
“We have many senior citizens and others from outside the university community that regularly attend,” Schiavo said. “The room is always full.”
Schiavo summed it up this way: “We are proud to be able to present regional, national and international musical performers here.” “These performances are a source of learning for the students,” he said, “and they are also great cultural events.”
The remainder of the fall season includes:
Wednesday, November 4 Heather Fetrow, soprano Mila Henry, piano
Wednesday, November 11 Stanley Fink, piano Michelle Lie, violin
Wednesday, November 18 Debra Lew Harder, piano
Wednesday, December 2 Candace Chien, piano Nicholas Pappone, violin Hyung Suk Bae, Cello