CSUF Symphony Orchestra and Rob Kapilow


For over 20 years, Rob Kapilow has brought the joy and wonder of classical music – and unraveled some of its mysteries – to audiences of all ages and backgrounds. Characterized by his unique ability to create an “aha” moment for his audiences and collaborators, whatever their level of musical sophistication or naiveté, Kapilow’s work brings music into people’s lives: opening new ears to musical experiences and helping people to listen actively rather than just hear. As the Boston Globe said, “It’s a cheering thought that this kind of missionary enterprise did not pass from this earth with Leonard Bernstein. Rob Kapilow is awfully good at what he does. We need him.”

Kapilow’s “What Makes It Great?” (WMIG) made its auspicious debut on NPR’s Performance Today over 20 years ago, and with its accessible ten-minute format it quickly attracted a wide base of fans and followers. Snowballing in popularity, it developed into a full-length concert evening and was soon snapped up by presenters looking to build new audiences. What Makes It Great?® has sold out regular subscription series in places as diverse as Kansas City, MO, Cerritos, CA, as well as at New York’s Lincoln Center, the Celebrity Series of Boston, and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC and the National Gallery of Canada.

Since Spring 2013, our School of Music’s University Symphony Orchestra has worked with Kapilow in his “What Makes It Great?” program to present Ludwig von Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with violinist, Bella Hristova, Franz Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony No. 8, and Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 “From the New World.” This Wednesday, they join him for the fourth time for George Gershwin’s “American in Paris.”

Unlike normal orchestral concerts, the “What Makes It Great?” program focuses on one piece. The first part of the presentation features Kapilow breaking the piece down for the audience using examples from the score with the orchestra playing and his own compositions answering his question “What if the composer wrote it this way?” “He does a great job of breaking down pieces to the smallest motives so that the audience can understand and connect with the music,” explains senior cello performance major, Emily Balderrama, “He also will involve the audience by having them sing with him or clap a rhythm.” The second part of the program features a full run through of the piece with a question and answer session with the audience that both Kapilow and the orchestra members answer. Unlike any other orchestra concert at CSUF, the orchestra is trained to be flexible to try whatever Kapilow asks them to do.

The unique experience of the concert/presentation allows for a broad audience of children and adults seeking enrichment in classical music. Emily Balderrama explains that “Kapilow does a great job breaking the fourth wall and welcoming everyone to learn and participate in the world of classical music. It’s great for the performers as well since we learn more and look at our pieces in a new light.” Many of our students use Kapilow’s teaching style and model for their own presentations on music!

For more information on our School of Music’s Symphony Orchestra with Rob Kapilow, check out the link here!


Clayes 10th Anniversary Community Open House


Last year, the School of Music held its 50th Anniversary with their Dedication Celebration which featured performances by the Symphonic Chorus and University Symphony Orchestra with Titan alumna, Deborah Voigt. Since 2006, the Joseph A.W. Clayes III Performing Arts Center has been the beacon for training the next generation to mold the arts landscape. In it’s 10th year, Dean Dale A. Merrill and the College of the Arts invite students, alumni, supporters and community members to come “behind the scenes” and discover what makes the Clayes Performing Arts Center an amazing resource for arts students and audience members.  Step into a variety of performance and rehearsal spaces where students will be showcasing their talents, join a backstage tour that highlights students’ work in our Scenic and Costume Shops, an art exhibition, refreshments and more!

Save the date for Sunday, November 6, 2016 from 2 PM – 6PM. A special Jazz performance will be held in Meng Concert Hall at 4pm and will feature the School of Music’s Jazz Orchestra students alongside with guest artist, Doc Severinsen, and other invited guests.

Here are more events happening during our open house!:


Scene from Pride & Prejudice
James D. Young Theatre
2:15pm, 2:45pm, 3:15pm

Scene from Drowsy Chaperone
Jerry Samuelson Musical Theatre Room
2:30pm & 3:00pm

A Conversation with Emeriti Chair of Theatre & Dance Susan Hallman
A conversation about the history of the Clayes Performing Arts Center, from A to Z.William J. McGarvey Family Dance Studio
3:15pm – 3:45pm

Dance Presentation featuring dance students from the Department of Theatre & Dance
Selections from Fall Dance Theatre
William J. McGarvey Family Dance Studio
2:15pm, 2:45pm

Cello Performance featuring students from the School of Music
Kathryn T. McCarty Grand Foyer
2:00pm – 3:30pm

“A View From Above” Canopy Tour
Guests will see what 5 tons of tuning looks like (aka “The Acoustic Canopy” that hangs in Meng Hall) from the unique perspective of the choir loft behind the stage.
Vaughncille Joseph Meng Hall (Upper Level entrance)
2:15pm – 3:00pm

Sound Design: An Evolution from Studio to Stage
A look into the process of creating and designing theatre production cues which begin in a recording studio and are completed on stage.
Douglas R. Young, Terry Forrest Young, and Megan Forrest Young Audio Studio
2:00pm – 3:45pm

Throughout the afternoon…

  • Guided backstage tours will depart from McCarty Grand Foyer and will feature stops in the Lois M. Brockett Costume Shop and the Lee & Nicholas Begovich Scenic Laboratory
  • Exhibition of art by students in the Department of Visual Arts in the Millie and Dale Hallberg Theatre
  • Doors will open for the concert at 3:45 pm – general admission seating

CSUF College of the Arts: Dance


Photo from 2016 Spring Dance – Photo by Edwin Lockwood

Although modern dance is comprised of many styles and genres, a look at three eponymous schools of movement and technique developed during the first half of the 20th century can provide insight into the heart of its expression: Graham, Horton, and Limón. Graham, named for the often touted “mother of modern dance, ”Martha Graham, is based on “contract and release, ”where dancers use different parts of the body in opposition to create dramatic tension and convey emotion. Lester Horton developed his technique concurrent with Graham, but 3,000 miles west of the epicenter of modern dance, New York City, in California. This physical and creative distance allowed him to freely incorporate folkloric elements from around the world into his style, which approaches dance as an unrestricted expression of movement. Jóse Limón, also a contemporary of Graham and Horton, based his principles of dance on “fall and recovery” where dancers use the floor as a launch pad from which to rise, fall, and rise again, creating gravity defying and theatrical gestures.

Prof. Debra Noble teaching CSUF Dance Students

The dance program at Cal State Fullerton is fortunate to have each these significant innovators of dance represented in three of its core faculty: Lisa Draskovich-Long (Graham-based), Debra Noble (Limón), and Alvin Rangel (Horton). The depth and breadth of their professional experience enriches the educational training of their students and contributes to the artistic clarity of the dance program. Each of these faculty members has their own extensive professional background with which to draw from: Rangel has danced professionally in companies from his native Puerto Rico to Mexico to numerous companies across the United States. He also performs with his company, In-Version Project, and was awarded Best Dancer by the Austin Critic’s Table for the 2011/2012 season; Noble, a highly regarded dancer whose choreography has been lauded by Dance Magazine and National Public Radio (among others) has 30-years in the field as a dancer and choreographer. She directed her own dance company, In Forward Motion, for 10 years and choreographed work in the video for musician Dave Matthews’ Grammy® nominated song, Crash; Draskovich-Long danced professionally for over a decade with Dallas Black Dance Theatre, and studied with the legendary David Hochoy, former rehearsal director for Martha Graham and now artistic director of the Martha Graham Dance Company. She has also choreographed several Off-Broadway productions and locally at Rogue Machine Theater in Los Angeles. In interviewing all three professors of dance, one point was consistently –and independently –brought up in each conversation: that the dance faculty at Cal State Fullerton has a unified, student-centered vision based on a passion for the art form, dance technique, and academic rigor. For Alvin Rangel, the goal is to effectively teach historic repertory in order for students to physically and intellectually articulate the tenets of modern dance. This also holds true for Lisa Draskovich-Long. She notes that training in modern dance takes time explaining, “Martha Graham once said that it takes ten years to make a dancer” She also adds that many of the students “start from zero”in terms of modern technique. Since many of them come from competition-based dance studios where modern dance is not taught, they learn these foundations during their time in the program. Another strength of the program comes from its rigor, which is due in part to Debra Noble. Like Rangel and Draskovich-Long, Noble advocates for a strong basis in the language of dance. For her, this basis provides a framework from which students will eventually build their own aesthetic vocabulary, adding that in order to inform your craft, it is essential to stay open to all ideas. Having come from the “dance meccas” of Chicago and New York, her extensive artistic and administrative background enabled her to see the needs of the program with what she calls “a different eye” when she was hired in 2000. She was instrumental in creating assessment-based criteria with an emphasis on training, advisement, and exposure to professional practices.  Part of this exposure includes guest artists who teach rigorous workshops, many of whom are internationally recognized. This can lead to professional opportunities after graduation, and many alums have gone on to accept full-time dance contracts right out of school. Rangel often hears from these alums, who thank him and the faculty for having such high expectations of them during their time in the program, a work ethic they have applied as professional dancers, choreographers, and instructors in the field. Noble points out that the comprehensive nature of the faculty is unique among universities. While many dance programs tend to be comprised of faculty with very similar training, the styles of dance represented by faculty at Cal State Fullerton range from ballet to modern.

Photo from 2016 Spring Dance – Photo by Ben Licera

Draskovich-Long, Noble, and Rangel bring round out this program with their vast depth of experience and knowledge. Through them, the next generation of dancers stands ready to share their gift, inspire, and innovate, much like Martha Graham, Lester Horton, and Jóse Limón did before them.


CSUF Theatre: Italian American Reconciliation

Photo by Jordan Kubat

Cal State Fullerton’s production of John Patrick Shanley’s Italian American Reconciliation is directed by Professor Maria Cominis and runs October 7-30, 2016 in the Hallberg Theatre on campus. Italian American Reconciliation is a tale about Huey, a man who is safely divorced from his shrewish first wife (who shot his dog), but he feels he cannot regain his “manhood” until he woos and wins her one more time. This lighthearted romantic comedy by the author of the critically acclaimed movie, Moonstruck, is hailed as “lovely” and “bathed in moonlit madness” by The New York Post.


Award-winning John Patrick Shanley has written over twenty-three plays and ten films. He grew up in a working class family in the Bronx, attended college and failed his first year at New York University. He joined the United States Marines and later enrolled once again at New York University—this time graduating as valedictorian. Perhaps, he is best known for, Doubt: A Parable, which earned a Drama Desk Award, Pulitzer Prize, Tony Award, Drama Critics’ Circle Award and more, and his film Moonstruck, which received three Academy Awards and a Golden Globe Nomination.

Professional actor, author and director Maria Cominis earned an MFA from the University of California, Irvine. She is the author of Rehearsing in the Zone, A Practical Guide to Rehearsing Without a Director. As an actor, Maria played the recurring role, Mona Clark on ABC’s Desperate Housewives and is a member of Neo Ensemble Theatre in Los Angeles where she both acts and directs.

The cast of Italian American Reconciliation includes Rey Pulice as Aldo Scalicki,
Arash N. Fakhrabadi as Huey Maximillian Bonfigliano, Sarah Ellsworth as Teresa, Summer Ruley as Janice and Rose Genevieve Rodriguez as Aunt May.

Scenic Design is by Ana Martinez, Lighting/Sound Design is by Benjamin Hawkins, Costume Design is by Spencer Purdy and Hair/Makeup Design is by Katherine Riddell.

Italian American Reconciliation plays at 8pm on October 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, 29 and at 2pm on October 9, 15, 16, 22, 23, 29, 30. General admission tickets are $14 ($12 with advance Titan Discount purchase for students, seniors or with a CSUF ID). All tickets are $14 at the door. Tickets are available by calling (657) 278-3371, 11am-5pm, Monday through Friday and online here!

CSUF Dance at Jacob’s Pillow

Photo by Jena Wijtman

This past summer, CSUF Dance Majors, Jonathan Kim, Andrew Corpuz, Kevin Lopez and Chris Jensen were selected to represent the CSUF College of the Arts Dance Program at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance in Becket, Massachusetts for Inside/Out American College Dance National Gala Highlights Concert on August 25. The COTA Dance Program was one of four programs out of over 500 in the United States that were chosen to perform at the festival.

“The Pillow” is the country’s only National Historic Landmark that draws people from all over the world to the longest-running international dance festival through the School at Jacob’s Pillow. The school is recognized as one of the most prestigious professional dance schools in the nation and offers hundreds of performances and workshops each season. Professor of Dance and Program Director, Debra Noble, notes the immense honor for both the dancers and the dance program to be selected. “It reflects highly on our dance program and the training that our students are receiving.”

Our students’ experience was highlighted in the September News of the American College Dance Association:

Photo by Priscilla Alvarez

“Humbled is the only word that comes to my mind whenever I am asked to express my short- lived experience at Jacob’s Pillow. Having the privilege of being a part of the first [ACDA performance at the Pillow] was something that pushed me in every way as a dancer. The experience granted me a taste of just how glorious this craft can truly be. The four universities were really able to have the whole VIP experience, with a private tour of the grounds and exclusive look into the Pillow’s own archives which is a gem within an already Historic National Landmark. Mr. Shawn would be so proud of what the farm he bought has become. The Inside/Out, with its free admission, feels just like a summer picnic with friends watching the art of dance. Within the trees, its backdrop of the mountains, the Pillow creates the most ego-free, inclusive environment that I have ever experienced. All that Jacob’s Pillow has shared with us left me full of love for the dance world.” – Kevin Lopez

“Dancing at Jacob’s Pillow was simply one of the most amazing opportunities I have ever encountered.  Just thinking about all the people who have come and gone through Jacobs Pillow and we had the chance make our mark in such a special place. Thank you.” – Chris Jensen


Photo by John Evans

“It was an honor to be a part of the historic collaboration between the American College Dance Association and Jacob’s Pillow. Performing on the Inside/Out stage was a surreal, humbling, and rewarding experience that intensified our passion to pursue dance. [The four performers in the dance] each started late, and being a male dancer has brought its own baggage in our respective journeys. The piece August has allowed us to explore masculinity, community, and resilience through movement. Sharing this work with Jacob’s Pillow has been nothing short of dream, a dream worth fighting for.” – Jonathan Kim

“The Pillow was a perfect place to see [the dancers] off and out to our separate paths. It was a breath-taking experience. Thank you.” – Andrew Corpuz

Many thanks for the American College Dance Association and Jacob’s Pillow for the opportunity you provided for our students!