For many, performing at the School of Music can be a daunting task. But for the school’s faculty, it’s just fun.
On March 8, select members of the faculty will perform the music of American composer Burt Bacharach for the Musical Feast, a fundraiser to help raise scholarship money for music students. The School of Music has partnered with the Friends of the School of Music organization to put the event together.
Jazz professor Bert Ligon was in charge of choosing the music as well as selecting the other faculty members who will join him on stage. Ligon had thought about doing a Bacharach tribute for a while, and after hearing a rumor that Bacharach himself was in town, he chose eight songs that he felt best summarized the composer's legendary career.
“I’ve done a couple of things like this before, where I go out there and try to find that grey area in between, like I’ve done some things where we do a jazz performance but we’ve included the classical string quartet,” Ligon said.
Even though Bacharach himself will not be attending, his daughter Raleigh, a student at USC, will be there.
Ligon thinks the reason these kinds of performances work so well is because the faculty doesn’t feel pressure to perform or pressure from students who may be counting on the money they raise to attend or stay in school the thing. Indeed, he stresses that the faculty would be performing even there wasn’t a reason to.
“If we were doing it because we thought it was important, that would be a terrible motive. We do it because we like to play and like to sing and like to perform,” Ligon said.
One of the faculty singers performing alongside Ligon will be Janet Hopkins, a mezzo-soprano who has performed with The Met, at Carnegie Hall and at the opening ceremony during the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. Hopkins, who is a classically trained singer, will be out of her comfort zone during the performance when she sings pop music, but she says singing differently is more liberating than her usual musical background.
“In classical it feels like precision is so important and when you sing pop music, you can bend notes, you can be a lot freer with the rhythms, so there’s a lot more freedom that’s allotted to us as singers,” Hopkins said. "So it's kind of fun to do it."
Hopkins says faculty usually does individual performances, so it’s special when they get the chance to be on stage together. Hopkins relishes the chance to work with someone like Ligon, who she doesn’t normally get to partner with.
“It’s especially great to work with Bert because he’s jazz ... so it’s really cool to be able to cross that line,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins says fundraisers like this almost act like a recruiting tool for people who are interested in attending the School of Music. The money raised for scholarships adds to the joy of performing and helps keep Hopkins' faith in the future of the arts.
“It also gives us validation that people believe in the arts and what we’re doing by them helping to support the next generation of artists,” Hopkins said.
To Hopkins, performing with the School of Music doesn’t compare to the stress she felt while performing at The Met or Carnegie Hall, but that means she can just enjoy herself more.
“This takes a lot of pressure off and it’s just fun ... Sometimes we forget that we chose this career because we love it, so it just puts the love back in it,” Hopkins said.