How do we remember? Let us count the ways
Jamie Sherman Blinder
By Savannah Lee Coco
ANN ARBOR—The University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance and Grammy Award-winning baritone Thomas Hampson’s Hampsong Foundation have formed a new partnership to strengthen the work of both organizations in song research, vocal performance, and education at all levels.
The collaboration, called the Classic Song Research Initiative, was made possible through funding from an anonymous donor and the SMTD.
“The School of Music, Theatre & Dance is thrilled to partner with Thomas Hampson and the Hampsong Foundation,” said Dean David Gier. “Thomas has come to campus several times and these interactions have been enriching for our voice students, and several of our faculty members have conducted research with the Hampsong Foundation.
“This new collaboration will strengthen previous work, allowing both organizations to amplify the preservation, study and practice of song more broadly and in new contexts.”
The Classic Song Research Initiative is the formalization and expansion of many collaborations between Hampson and U-M. Since 2014, Hampson and faculty members have collaborated on performances, such as the “Poets and Patriotism” concert at the Library of Congress, and research for the Hampsong Foundation’s Song of America project.
In February, Hampson also visited the school to teach a master class to voice students, as well as a session for K-12 students at the School at Marygrove, the U-M School of Education’s “cradle to career” program with the Detroit Public School System.
“My collaborations with U-M since 2014, both personally and through the Hampsong Foundation, have been incredibly rewarding experiences and have created a strong foundation for this partnership,” Hampson said.
“U-M is the perfect environment to develop the existing multifaceted projects of the Hampsong Foundation with the strength of the university as a research institution and music school, and allow the three prongs of this partnership—performance, research and education—to flourish and provide invaluable experiential learning opportunities to all involved.”
The partnership will expand existing projects between the two organizations and pave the way for new ones. As part of the agreement, Hampson will continue to lead master classes and other training for voice students.
Research initiatives will also be explored and developed between U-M faculty and the Hampsong Foundation such as projects from SMTD professor Louise Toppin’s class “African American Art Song,” a course that has already contributed scholarly work to the Song of America project. Faculty members and the foundation are also working on a research project through U-M’s Humanities Collaboratory.
“The Department of Voice is very excited about the partnership with Thomas Hampson and the Hampsong Foundation,” said Scott Piper, associate professor of music and chair of the Department of Voice. “Thomas’ stellar career, with multifaceted success in performance, scholarship and advocacy for the vocal arts naturally converges with the professional and academic achievements of our faculty.
“Likewise, the Hampsong Foundation’s impressive collection of projects, resources, and archived events promises to further fuel the creativity, artistry and imagination of our voice students.”
The Classic Song Research Initiative’s first formal collaboration is a series of weekly Facebook Live conversations called The Art of Democracy, hosted by Hampson and Mark Clague, associate dean of undergraduate academic affairs and associate professor of musicology at SMTD.
“The Art of Democracy will incorporate a range of research and performance projects exploring the role of song and all the arts in American political life,” Clague said. “For example, we will interrogate the role of the arts as part of the problem, and as part of the solution, to the pestilence of inequality.”
“The project’s fundamental argument is that art is a vital tool in the dialogue of ideals—for sharing, understanding, debating, negotiating and changing one’s mind—that is at the core of any society striving to form a more perfect union.”
The Art of Democracy takes place throughout the month of June and culminates with an online concert July 4.
Jamie Sherman Blinder
Jamie Sherman Blinder