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Music school launches ‘Salon Series’

Jake Johnson
Jake Johnson

Oklahoma City University’s Bass School of Music is starting a series of presentations that harken back to an 18th-century tradition of pairing music aesthetics with other topics in the realm of the humanities.

The inaugural OCU Salon Series will open at 1 p.m. March 25 with “Music + Environmental Activism,” as musicologist Christa Bentley and music student Nathan May connect current environmental activism with musical practices of the 1970s. The series will continue April 1 with musicologist Jake Johnson and vocalists Autumn West and Jeremy Small presenting a lecture-performance of the 1966 television musical “Evening Primrose” titled “Sondheim + the Posthuman”; and concludes on April 22 with a salon titled “Chopin + Journeying,” where pianist Heejin Jang will perform and speak about Chopin’s preludes within a context of romanticism, longing and exploration. All sessions are free to the public and will be held in the Bass Music Center’s atrium.

Johnson, OCU professor of musicology, initiated the series as a “platform for our community to demonstrate the many possibilities when ideas meet performance.”

Johnson said he was inspired to create the Salon Series after seeing similar programs at other universities, notably Sonnets and Sonatas hosted by UCLA at the Hammer Museum.

“The idea is to model thoughtful musicianship for our colleagues, students and the rest of the community by showcasing our faculty's ability to bridge performance and scholarship,” Johnson said.

The sessions can take many forms, like a lecture/recital, or a scholarly presentation incorporating a live performance. The program format is entirely up to the presenters’ creative urges. They will usually last about an hour, opening with a presentation and performance before a Q&A session with the audience.

The venue itself is an intentional choice, as the Bass Music Center atrium has an airy, naturally lit setting that can promote an enlightening discussion.

“We’re exploring other venues off campus to take this approach out to the community for future seasons,” Johnson said. “The Bass atrium is an ideal setting to get the series started.”