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Hill documentary wins Emmy

Poster for the Hill documentary.The University Musical Society has won a Michigan Emmy Award for Best Historical Documentary with their documentary A Space for Music, A Seat for Everyone: 100 Years of UMS Performances in Hill Auditorium.

The documentary tells the story of UMS and its 100-year history of performances at the beloved Hill. But to Sophia Kruz, ’11, who produced, edited, and co-wrote the film, the most convincing aspect of the film is how audiences and artists alike have a personal connection to the hall.

It has certainly hosted fantastic artists. In 1919, Charles Sink, then UMS president, started the tradition by luring Caruso to Ann Arbor. The precedent was set: “If a great artist is out there, just get him,” said Ken Fischer, current UMS president. Leonard Bernstein and Eugene Ormandy conducted here. Sergei Rachmaninoff and Jascha Heifetz played here. And UMS continues to attract the best today.

The documentary, which begins by taking us into Hill for part of a concert by the Mariinsky Orchestra of St. Petersburg, is about more than UMS and Hill. It’s also the history of a city. From Ann Arbor’s founding in 1824, when concerts were held in churches and homes, through the present, music defines the city’s residents and their times. Music helped Ann Arbor through two world wars and the turbulent 1960s. Footage of Ann Arbor history serves as backdrop while the music — classical only at first, then jazz, World, pop, folk, modern — keeps playing.

Kruz, who began on the project in the fall of 2011, talked to the artists UMS brought to Hill that season-a variety of talents that included Broadway star Audra MacDonald and violinist Joshua Bell-and picked the brains of others to identify Hill patrons and experts who could share stories. She also gathered material from U-M’s Bentley Historical Library, the Ann Arbor District Library, and the Ann Arbor News.

It wasn’t hard to find fascinating stories; the challenge was sifting through the material and deciding what to use. Everyone agreed the film would not tell the story of every lecture or event at Hill, just those presented by UMS. And it would not be the complete story of UMS, which has brought some remarkable theater to the Power Center, for instance. It would be about UMS at Hill. “We’ve got a story to tell about how we animated the hall,” said Fischer.


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