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Czech mates convene at Grand Valley

  • Bruno Nettl and Michael Beckerman

Posted on April 13, 2010

The music, dance, theater and food of Czech and Slovak lands will be explored at the first conference of its kind being hosted by Grand Valley State University.

The Czech and Slovak Music & Arts Conference will begin on Friday, April 23, at 9 a.m. in the Performing Arts Center, on the Allendale Campus. Seven sessions will be held through Sunday, April 25. All events are free and open to the public. On Friday and Saturday, optional lunches can be purchased by reserving in advance. They will feature Czech dishes prepared by Grand Valley's executive chef Paul Mixa and musical entertainment by students and conference presenters.

Lisa Feurzeig and Marlen Vavríková, from the Department of Music, came up with the idea for the conference. Feurzeig teaches music history and literature and world music, and Vavríková teaches oboe and music history, and has taught chamber music and oboe at the AMEROPA international festival in Prague.

"We chose Czech and Slovak music as a conference topic because there is a rich musical history that is still unfamiliar to most people outside Central Europe," said Feurzeig.  "The presenters will speak about topics ranging from the Renaissance to the latest musical creations from that region, and about both classical and folk music traditions, so it promises to be a varied program." Speakers coming from as far away as Austria and New Zealand will comment on Czech traditions as they have influenced music in those nations.

Following morning sessions on Friday, the first keynote address, "Four Stories About Music in the Czech Lands: A Meditation on Culture Contact," will be presented at 11 a.m. by Bruno Nettl, professor emeritus from the University of Illinois. Nettl, who was born in Prague, has taught and written extensively on the theory and method of ethnomusicology. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and currently holds a Mellon Foundation Emeritus Fellowship for studies in the history of ethnomusicology - the subject of a retrospective and prospective collection of essays to be published in September 2010 and titled "Nettl's Elephant: On the History of Ethnomusicology," (University of Illinois Press).

The second keynote address, "Michna Up and Down," will be presented on Saturday at 11 a.m., by Michael Beckerman, currently the Caroll and Milton Petrie Professor and Chair of Music at New York University. Beckerman has written several books on Czech topics, has appeared numerous times on PBS' Live from Lincoln Center, and has lectured throughout North America, Europe and Asia. A recipient of the Janácek Medal from the Czech Ministry of Culture, he is also a laureate of the Czech Music Council and has twice received the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for his work on Dvorák.

As part of the conference, a performance of Jaroslav Jezek's Violin Concerto, featuring a violin soloist Vítezslav Cernoch with the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, will be conducted by Barry Martin, at 8 p.m. Friday evening at the Louis Armstrong Theatre in the Performing Arts Center.

Faculty and guest artists will present a special concert featuring works by Karel Husa, Jan Václav Vorísek, Josef Suk, Jindrich Feld, and Antonín Reicha on Saturday, from 8-10 p.m. in the Cook-DeWitt Center.

The conference wraps up on Sunday, with a recital featuring Laurie Lashbrook (voice), University of Akron; with Timothy Cheek (piano), University of Michigan; Bohuslava Jelínková (dance), Flint School of Performing Arts; and Erik Entwistle (solo piano), Longy School of Music.

For more information, please call Lisa Feurzeig or Marlen Vavríková in the Department of Music at (616) 331-3484, or visit, for the complete schedule and registration.


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