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Curtain to Rise on Rich Musical Traditions at Benefit Concert

Event to Showcase UMass Lowell faculty, Raise Funds for Scholarships

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The Chancellor's Celebration of Music -- a concert to benefit student scholarships -- will be held on Friday, Sept. 23 at Durgin Hall.


Media contacts:  Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944 or and Christine Gillette, 978-934-2209 or
LOWELL, Mass. – In performances that will span jazz to classical, pop to global rhythms, UMass Lowell’s music faculty, students, alumni and friends will showcase their virtuosity and dedication to their craft during the Chancellor’s Celebration of Music, a concert for the public and university community.

Spotlighting UMass Lowell’s proud history of music performance and education, “Sounding Out!” will be held on Friday, Sept. 23 at 8 p.m. in Durgin Concert Hall, located at 35 Wilder St. on the university’s South Campus. A pre-concert reception with the artists will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the historic Allen House, 2 Solomont Way, just steps from the concert venue. Event proceeds will benefit music scholarships at the university.

“As they teach and inspire the next generation of musicians, UMass Lowell’s music faculty are an integral part of the city’s cultural scene, yet ‘Sounding Out!’ may be the first time many local concert-goers experience these artists’ considerable and wide-ranging talents,” said Alan Williams, chairman of the Music Department and coordinator of its music business program. “These are the sounds that our students first emulate, then build upon as they form their own musical identities.”

Tickets, which are $15 per person for the concert or $40 per person for both the reception and the concert, are available at Concert tickets will also be sold at the door the night of the event. Free parking convenient to both locations is available in the Wilder Lot on the same street as the concert hall.  

Selections during the performance will underscore the musical diversity and depth of UMass Lowell’s talented faculty. Williams – a 30-year veteran of the music business, singer-songwriter and producer – will lead the event’s lineup with his folk-pop trio Birdsong at Morning, whose music has been described as “both unpretentious and ravishing.” The band will be joined by fellow faculty members and percussionists, along with the Lowell String Quartet, a group of UMass Lowell students and recent alumni.

Members of the Greater Lowell community, particularly parents, may know Music Department faculty member John-Morgan Bush best as the director of the UMass Lowell String Project, which provides music classes and instruction in stringed instruments such as the violin and cello to local schoolchildren. The Chancellor’s Celebration of Music will introduce them to Bush’s talent as an internationally acclaimed classical horn player, as he will lead a performance of Samuel Barber’s “Summer Music for Wind Quartet,” joined by faculty and staff performing on oboe, clarinet, bassoon and flute.   

A frequent collaborator with Lowell’s Angkor Dance Troupe, faculty member Sovann Khon will perform selections of Cambodian traditional folk music on the tro sou, a traditional, two-stringed, bowed instrument. Khon learned to play from elders while he was growing up in refugee camps along the border of Thailand in the shadow of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. Khon directs Vong Pleng Khmer, the university’s Cambodian ensemble and performs at Khmer events throughout New England.  

Shifting gears, electronic music master and faculty member Ramon Castillo – who has composed music that is performed on everything from the accordion to robots – will play the duet “Pink Bats” with Kevin Dacey, a 2014 UMass Lowell music performance graduate and percussion instructor in Newburyport.

Bringing it all home will be Prof. John Shirley – a harmonica virtuoso – who will lead a rocking set of delta and Chicago blues, backed by fellow faculty members on electric guitar, bass and drums. A composer, recording engineer and software designer, Shirley last year released “No So Blue,” an EP that features his eclectic songs and stellar harmonica playing, which is often sonically altered by what he calls “The Blue Dadi,” a software application he created.

The first public institution in the U.S. to offer a music education degree, UMass Lowell today provides students a range of undergraduate and graduate programs in every aspect of the field, from performance and education to business and sound recording technology. Music programs available to K-12 students through the university include the nationally acclaimed New England Youth Wind Ensembles, the UMass Lowell String Project and Youth Orchestra, and the Mary Jo Leahey Symphonic Band Camp.

UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its more than 17,500 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers.