Ford Center Brings LOU Community Together for Holiday Season

Holiday village offers variety of events for all through Dec. 13

The holiday village has returned to the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts again this year for the ninth annual gingerbread house display. The 32 gingerbread structures include houses made by Oxford High students with a 3D printer. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – The Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts is hosting a series of community events, including a holiday concert, storytime readings featuring special guests Mary Haskell and Patty Lewis, and a special visit from Santa Claus through Dec. 13 to celebrate the holidays.

Each year the Ford Center creates a holiday gingerbread village, and this year’s collection is the ninth annual gingerbread house display. This year’s village features some 32 gingerbread structures, including houses made by Oxford High School students with a 3D printer.

The holiday village opened just before the annual holiday concert on Dec. 1. It is free and open to the public, but since the village supports local food banks, visitors are encouraged to bring food items to donate.

Kate Meacham, Ford Center marketing director, said she looks forward to the holiday season each year because the events help give back to the community.

Mike Jones, a Calhoun Academy student, checks out the gingerbread castle built by another group after helping his classmates top off their gingerbread village. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“I love just being in the village and seeing people’s reaction to the houses, especially the children,” Meacham said. “We host many school groups, as well as the story times and the visit from Santa, so we have lots of children visit the village. It’s such a pure reaction, full of the innocence of childhood.”

The holiday village is one of Meacham’s favorite traditions at the Ford Center, and she said it would not be possible without the help of the Oxford-Lafayette Countycommunity.

“(We hope) that it helps bring some holiday cheer to the people who visit, but what I really love about the holiday village is that this is truly a community effort,” Meacham said. “The Ford Center provides the space, some decorations and theatrical lighting, but the real work is done by the people who build the houses. Without them, there would be no village.”

UM alumna Haskell, a successful actress and singer and Miss Mississippi 1977, will read stories to preschoolers and toddlers at the Ford Center’s gingerbread village at 10:30 a.m. Thursday (Dec. 6). The event is free and open to the public.

Santa visits the holiday village from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday (Dec. 8). The event is free, and attendees are advised to bring their own cameras. The Oxford Civic Chorus will perform holiday songs and carols in the Ford Center lobby from 1 to 2 p.m.

Lewis, also a UM alumna, member of the Ford Center advisory board and a member of the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy, will read to elementary school children in the holiday village at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 13. The event is free.

For more information on the Ford Center’s series of holiday events, visit http://fordcenter.org/.

‘Great Russian Nutcracker’ Tour Brings Holiday Spirit to UM

Young dancers from across north Mississippi get chance to perform with Moscow Ballet

Performers in the Moscow Ballet’s ‘Great Russian Nutcracker’ dance during a party scene in the show that is coming to the UM Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts at 7:30 p.m. Friday (Nov. 30). Image courtesy of Moscow Ballet

OXFORD, Miss. – The Moscow Ballet’s “Great Russian Nutcracker” is coming to the University of Mississippi’s Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts at 7:30 p.m. Friday (Nov. 30).

The Moscow Ballet has toured annually with the “Great Russian Nutcracker” since 1993. This year, the show is being performed in more than 100 cities, featuring the Russian Vaganova ballet and 64 local dancers in each city performing across hand-painted sets for a true holiday experience.

Julia Aubrey, Ford Center director and UM associate professor of music, hired local dance teacher Lydia Siniard to teach choreography to 64 young north Mississippi dancers who were selected by Moscow Ballet audition director Yuriy Kuzi to perform with the troupe.

“It is an extraordinary opportunity for these young dancers to appear with a professional ballet company,” Aubrey said. “I know their family and friends will cherish the memory of seeing the children on stage for a magical two hours.”

The selected dancers, who will perform in specific dances throughout the program, were chosen from 109 children who auditioned Sept. 11. The group has practiced every Sunday afternoon since the audition.

“The Ford Center is dedicated to offering arts opportunities for our local children,” Aubrey said. “Whether it is music, theater or dance performances, I want to provide our young people with a chance to practice their art and express themselves as unique individuals. To see them smiling and excited about their time on the Ford stage is an incredible reward.”

Kate Meacham, Ford Center marketing director, said she is looking forward to the production coming to the community. The two-act ballet of “The Nutcracker” has been presented at the Ford Center in 2004 and 2013, but not by the Moscow Ballet.

The ‘Great Russian Nutcracker’ features a new character from the original storyline, the Dove of Peace. Two dancers balance and leverage with each other to create the white dove with a 20-foot wingspan. The Moscow Ballet brings the show to the UM Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts at 7:30 p.m. Friday (Nov. 30). Image courtesy of Moscow Ballet

“It’s such magical show and holiday tradition,” Meacham said. “I hope the audience takes the sense of magic and wonder that is such a part of ‘The Nutcracker.'”

“The Nutcracker” is a fairy tale story about Masha, a young Russian girl who dreams that her toy nutcracker transforms into a prince to protect her from villains such as the Mouse King.

The “Great Russian Nutcracker” features a new character from the original storyline, the Dove of Peace, and the character is instrumental in one of the production’s many highlights. When the Dove of Peace escorts Masha and the Nutcracker Prince to the Land of Peace and Harmony at the start of Act II, two dancers balance and leverage with each other to create one stunning soaring white dove with a 20-foot wingspan.

A limited number of tickets remain available, so those planning to attend the performance are encouraged to buy tickets soon.

Tickets are $50 for orchestra/parterre and Tier 1 Box-level seating, $45 for mezzanine and Tier 2 Box-level seating, and $40 for balcony seating. A 10 percent discount is offered to UM faculty, staff and retirees. Discounted tickets for UM students are $20 for balcony seats only.

Tickets can be purchased at the UM Box Office at the Ford Center or online at http://fordcenter.org/. Discounted and student tickets are available only at the Box Office with a valid UM ID.

For more information on the performance, visit http://fordcenter.org/event/moscow-ballets-great-russian-nutcracker/.

Broadway’s ‘Jersey Boys’ Comes to the Ford Center

One of the longest running shows in Broadway history set for Nov. 9 performance

The Broadway smash musical ‘Jersey Boys’ comes to the Ford Center on Friday (Nov. 9). Portraying the members of the Four Seasons are (from left) Chris Stevens, Corey Greenan, Jonny Wexler and Tommaso Antic. Photo by Joan Marcus

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts will feature the national touring production of “Jersey Boys” at 7:30 p.m. Friday (Nov. 9).

The musical chronicling the career and successes of the Four Seasons is the 12th-longest running show in Broadway’s history, having been consecutively performed for 12 years from 2005 to 2017. The national tour launched in 2006.

The musical was written by Academy Award-winner Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice and features music by Bob Gaudi, an original member of the Four Seasons, with lyrics by Bob Crewe and choreography by Sergio Trujillo.

The Grammy and Tony Award-winning performance about the New Jersey quartet features 33 songs, including the chart hits “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and “December 1963 (Oh What A Night).”

Kate Meacham, Ford Center marketing director, said she is looking forward to music by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Ford Center officials have been working to bring the show to Oxford for years.

“The Four Seasons made some great music that had a huge impact on their generation,” Meacham said. “I hope (the LOU community) gets to have a good time and learns a little about the history of the era and the enormous cultural shift that was taking place in the 1960s.”

The show is not recommended for children under age 12 because of profanity, smoking, gunshots and strobe lights.

Tickets are $75 for orchestra/parterre and Tier 1 Box-level seating, $69 for mezzanine and Tier 2 Box-level seating and $63 for balcony seating. A 10 percent discount is offered to Ole Miss faculty, staff and retirees at the UM Box office. Student tickets are $35 for balcony seats only.

Tickets can be purchased at the UM Box Office at the Ford Center or online at http://fordcenter.org/. Discounted and student tickets are available only at the Box Office with a valid UM ID.

For more information about the performance, visit http://fordcenter.org/event/jersey-boys-national-tour/.

Concert Celebrates Life and Music of Leonard Bernstein

Son Alexander Bernstein and guest artists join the UM Chorus for 'Bernstein at 100'

Leonard Bernstein

OXFORD, Miss. – The life and music of the legendary Leonard Bernstein will be celebrated with a concert of his music Tuesday (Nov. 6) at the University of Mississippi’s Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

Alexander Bernstein, the maestro’s son, will be in attendance, joined by guest conductor Dennis Shrock, several soloists, the Bernstein Festival Orchestra and the UM Chorus, directed by Donald Trott.

Leonard Bernstein would have turned 100 years old in 2018, and the Ole Miss concert is part of a global celebration, with thousands of events planned over a two-year period to celebrate this giant composer, conductor, pianist, educator and activist. Organized by the UM Department of Music, the observance also will include two public lectures on Bernstein’s life and work.

“Leonard Bernstein was the flamboyant and charismatic music director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra for 11 years beginning in 1958, after which he was active as guest conductor with most of the leading orchestras in the world,” said Robert Riggs, UM music department chair. “He is perhaps best known now for having composed the music for the Broadway shows ‘On the Town’ and ‘West Side Story.’

“However, he was a prolific composer, and I recommend our concert as a wonderful opportunity to hear several of his other beautiful works.”

“Bernstein at 100: A Musical Celebration,” set for 7:30 p.m., includes several works, including “Chichester Psalms,” which Bernstein composed 1965 for the Chichester Cathedral in Sussex, England. The work is based on texts from Psalms 23, 100, 108 and 131. Written in three movements, it features a full orchestra, a full chorus and a boy soprano, guest soloist Emmanuel Tsao, of Memphis.

The concert also includes selections from two of Bernstein’s best-loved works, “Peter Pan” and “Candide.”

“Peter Pan” was completed in 1950 and opened that same year on Broadway, but the show did not include Bernstein’s full score. In 2000, conductor Alexander Frey created a new production after finding the original full score, which included several never-performed songs, including “Dream with Me,” which will be part of the Ford Center program.

Soprano Stefanie Moore, of Santa Monica, California, will sing Wendy’s role, and Bradley Robinson, UM associate professor of music, will be Captain Hook.

Based on Voltaire’s novella, “Candide” was originally conceived by Lillian Hellman as a play with incidental music. Bernstein’s enthusiasm for the idea of expanding the piece into an operetta persuaded her to rework it as a libretto.

Many lyricists reworked this piece through the years, and it remains a Bernstein fan favorite. For the Ford Center performance, the chorus and orchestra will present “Best of All Possible Worlds” and “Make Our Garden Grow.”

Besides the concert, two related lectures will offer glimpses into Bernstein’s career. They are free and open to the public.

The first, set for 1 p.m. Monday (Nov. 5) in Nutt Auditorium, features guest conductor Shrock discussing “Chichester Psalms.” The second, at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday (Nov. 6) in Nutt Auditorium, features Alexander Bernstein speaking about his father in “Leonard Bernstein and Artful Learning.”

“For our Bernstein celebration, I am thrilled that Alexander Bernstein is able to join us,” said Trott, Ole Miss director of choral activities. “He and his two sisters, Jaime and Nina, have been traveling the globe attending many, many events.

“We are so fortunate to hear about his father from this unique perspective and, in addition, to hear about Bernstein’s educational legacy, as Alexander is the current president of Artful Learning (an interdisciplinary educational model that uses fine arts to strengthen learning in all academic areas).”

Tickets for “Bernstein at 100: A Musical Celebration” are available from the UM Box Office at 662-915-7411 or https://olemissboxoffice.com/. Reserved seats range from $18 to $25 for the general public and $10 for Ole Miss students.

Broadway Rendition of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ Coming to Oxford

The Yellow Brick Road leads to the Ford Center on Sunday

Nicholas Pearson performs the role of the cowardly lion in the national tour of ’The Wizard of Oz’ that will be at the University of Mississippi’s Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, Oct. 21, at 7:30 p.m. Photo courtesy of Denise Trupe

OXFORD, Miss. – The national tour of “The Wizard of Oz” stops off at the University of Mississippi’s Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts for one performance at 7:30 p.m. Sunday (Oct. 21).

The musical, based on the most recent Broadway production, is a celebration of the 1939 film, and audiences will find all the characters and songs they love, with a few surprises.

Nicholas Pearson, who performs the role of the Cowardly Lion in this production, is celebrating his one-year anniversary as a cast member. Even though he has been with this touring production since October 2017, Pearson said he continues to enjoy feeling the energy of each audience as the show travels across the country.

“(‘The Wizard of Oz’) is so iconic,” Pearson said. “I have always wanted to be a part of it and the fact that I get to play the Cowardly Lion now is just kind of the cherry on top of the sundae.”

Pearson said he hopes those who come to see the musical on Sunday, even if they have seen the film or stage production before, will leave the Ford Center with the show’s positive message.

“Everyone always thinks that the main idea in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is that there’s no place like home, (but) it’s a place where you’re never too much of one thing or another, you’re never too little of one thing or another, (but) you’re perfect just the way you are.”

Kate Meacham, Ford Center marketing director, said she looks forward to the sets and classic songs from “The Wizard of Oz.”

“This is a great opportunity for people on campus and in the community to see a Broadway production without having to go to Memphis or Birmingham,” Meacham said. “We want them to enjoy the experience of seeing this classic adventure live.”

Tickets are $75 for orchestra/parterre and Tier 1 box-level seating, $69 for mezzanine and Tier 2 box-level seating, and $63 for balcony seating. A 10 percent discount is offered to Ole Miss faculty, staff and retirees. Student tickets are $35 for balcony seats only.

Tickets can be purchased at the UM Box Office at the Ford Center or online at http://fordcenter.org/. Discounted and student tickets are available only at the UM Box Office with a valid Ole Miss ID.

For more information on “The Wizard of Oz,” visit http://fordcenter.org/event/the-wizard-of-oz-national-tour/.

St. Lawrence String Quartet to Perform at Ford Center

Concert is sponsored by the UM Artist Series

The St. Lawrence String Quartet ensemble has developed a reputation for its exuberant performances and is described as showing ‘not only virtuosity, intelligence and imagination, but also extraordinary passion.’ Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts will host a concert by the St. Lawrence String Quartet at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 16.

The chamber music ensemble, which originated in Canada and has served as the ensemble-in-residence at Stanford University since 1998, has developed a reputation for its exuberant performances that The New York Times described as showing “not only virtuosity, intelligence and imagination, but also extraordinary passion.”

At the 2002 Grammy Awards, the ensemble received nominations for “Best Chamber Music Performance” and “Best Classical Contemporary Composition” with their renditions of works by Osvaldo Golijov.

“Last year, I researched the accomplishments of the St. Lawrence String Quartet and presented the idea of bringing them to the Ford Center to the Department of Music and the Artist Series Committee,” said Julia Aubrey, Ford Center director. “Both groups were enthusiastic about the opportunity to see and hear this stellar ensemble on our campus this fall.

“It will be a wonderful performance that I believe will impress our university and Oxford communities.”

Members of the St. Lawrence String Quartet are two violinists, Owen Dalby and Geoff Nuttall, violist Lesley Robertson and cellist Cristopher Costanza.

Tickets for the performance are $20 for balcony seats, $25 for mezzanine and $30 for orchestra. Student tickets are $10 with a valid Ole Miss ID, and are available for all sections. Additionally, a 20 percent discount is offered at the box office for all Ole Miss faculty, staff and retirees.

For more information on the performance, along with other upcoming shows at the Ford Center, visit http://www.fordcenter.org or call 662-915-2787. 

LOU Symphony Treats Second-Graders to ‘Peter and the Wolf’

Show helps introduce children to orchestra while complementing other subjects

Second-grade students from Lafayette County and Oxford schools experience their own private concert as the LOU Symphony Orchestra presents Prokofiev’s ‘Peter and the Wolf’ at the UM Ford Center. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Second-grade students from Lafayette County and Oxford schools experienced their own private symphony concert Monday (Oct. 1) when the LOU Symphony Orchestra presented Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” at the University of Mississippi’s Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

“We had a ball with the students,” said orchestra director Selim Giray, a UM assistant professor of music. “Prokofiev intended this music to tell a story and to show off the qualities of various instruments, which makes it a wonderful piece to enjoy with young students.”

Music teachers Natalie Lewellen, from Oxford Elementary School, and Rayanne Adams, at Lafayette Elementary School, prepared students for the concert ahead of time.

Students at LES have been learning about composers and instruments, and even made their own instruments to play in the Lafayette homecoming parade. Oxford students discussed the story of “Peter and the Wolf” and its characters’ instruments, and reviewed good audience etiquette.

The concert supported other subjects in the curriculum besides music.

“In our English language arts collaborative classroom, second-graders have been learning about folk tales and how there are life lessons to be learned from reading this literature,” said Sandy Brown, second-grade chair at LES.

“Peter and the Wolf” supports both the music and language arts curricula by demonstrating how music can tell a story – in this case, a traditional folk tale like those the students have been studying in class.

Alex Urbina (right), a UM graduate student and section leader in the LOU Symphony Orchestra, lets Oxford second-graders get a close-up view of his playing during a special presentation of ‘Peter and the Wolf’ at the Ford Center. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“An educational concert such as ‘Peter and the Wolf’ builds skills in many subject areas,” Lewellen said. “Sergei Prokofiev, a musical composer from Russia, introduces the instruments of the orchestra to children by using literature for children in a fun and interesting way, and so directly relates to subjects such as math, literature and history.”

Guest conductor Mark Laycock and narrator Bradley Robinson also got a kick out of the students’ reactions.

“I always enjoy being part of the symphony’s student concerts,” said Robinson, UM associate professor of music, who joked around with students before the concert and fielded questions about the instruments.

“The kids today were well-prepared and engaged; they were asking smart questions about what they saw on stage, and many were even conducting from their seats during the performance.”

While some students loved Peter best for vanquishing the evil wolf, others took a different view of the show’s bad boy.

“My favorite character was the wolf,” said Kaylee Malloy, a student in Simsie Shaw’s second-grade class at OES. “I sometimes like the bad people in the story because they’re more interesting.”

Classmate Bryars Pittman agreed: “I liked the cat because it was a little bit sneaky.”

The LOU Symphony Orchestra includes Ole Miss students and faculty, and community members. Its next outing is a holiday concert slated for Dec. 1.

Celebrating the Arts Sets Big Goal for Ford Center

Campaign launches to build endowment for performing arts

The Ford Center has cloisonne friendship balls for sale as part of the Celebrating the Arts campaign, which runs through May 18. Photo by Kirsten Faulkner

OXFORD, Miss. – Adding $1.5 million in endowment for the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Mississippi is the goal of the Celebrating the Arts campaign, which will increase the total endowment to $3 million.

Mississippi native and UM alumnus Gerald McRaney serves as the celebrity spokesperson.

“It’s important to support the arts, as opposed to supporting simple entertainment, because simple entertainment quite often will fund itself,” said McRaney, who majored in theatre arts at Ole Miss. “But all too often, the arts – like fine, old books in public libraries – won’t be supported on their own.

“They need us to keep them alive, and they are an essential part of our culture. … Without the arts, without those reminders, we’re lost. We’re a rudderless ship at sea with no direction home.

“The arts in Mississippi have a long, long history, and I don’t want to see that history overlooked, and I don’t want to see it end. I want us to continue to make history, not just appreciate it.”

To honor donors to the Celebrating the Arts campaign, the Ford Center has unveiled plans for a large bronze tree sculpture commissioned from Sanford Werfel Studio and hand-carved by artist Richard Teller. The sculpture will be a permanent installation in the theater lobby.

Major initial gifts already include those from the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation, of Jackson; Mary and Sam Haskell, of Oxford; and Nancye Starnes, of Charleston, South Carolina, with their names to be displayed on the tree trunks. Dr. Ralph Vance and his wife, Douglas, as well as Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and his wife, Sharon, also have made major gifts, bringing the early total for campaign efforts to more than $220,000.

Calling the 15-year-old Ford Center a world-class arts and entertainment venue for the state and region, Vitter said providing cultural arts experiences is a key component of the university’s mission to prepare well-rounded students and provide opportunities to the greater community.

“As a flagship institution, we’re committed to growing the capacity of our extraordinary arts and cultural resources and programs,” Vitter said. “The arts keep everything vibrant and relevant; the arts provide an enduring legacy that offers insight into ourselves, as well as cultures of other times and places.

UM alumnus Gerald McRaney is the celebrity spokesperson for the Celebrating the Arts campaign. Submitted photo

“Friends of the Ford Center have provided amazing ideas and are investing their time and energy to move the Ford Center forward. With continued support of alumni and friends, I am confident that we will have a successful campaign.”

The campaign will conclude May 18, 2019 at the Ford Center’s inaugural Friendship Ball. McRaney and his wife, actress Delta Burke, are expected to perform A.R. Gurney’s “Love Letters,” a two-character piece in the form of a staged reading of the 50-year correspondence between East Coast bluebloods Melissa Gardner and Andrew Makepeace Ladd III.

Those interested in contributing to the campaign can choose from several levels of support with names engraved on different parts of the tree sculpture. The middle trunk represents the Muse of Music and features Gertrude C. Ford rising from the roots with her violin, while the other two trunks hold figures representing the Muses of Drama and Dance.

Nestled among the trees are various sized boughs – representing gifts of $20,000, $25,000 or $30,000 – and on the ground ensuring future trees, golden acorns for gifts of $10,000. In the engraver’s brass gold are also 750 donor recognition leaves, for gifts of $1,000. When a gift is made, the Ford Center will send the donor a form with instructions for personalizing the bough, acorn or leaf.

Most performing arts centers rely upon private contributions from individuals, foundations, corporations and businesses to sustain operations and programming, and the Gertrude C. Ford Center is no different.

University resources can cover salaries and a nominal budget, and other resources come from the Ford Foundation, Friends of the Ford Center and other alumni and friends. These additional resources cover the costs of special appearances or series, as well as programming, advertising and other costs associated with running the facility.

The shows each season are major costs, as large-scale musicals can cost up to $70,000 to bring to campus, Ford Center Director Julia Aubrey said.

“We want to offer the biggest and the best that our facility can present, and this takes support beyond ticket sales,” she said. “The building is now 15 years old, and to maintain its beauty and functionality, we have to continually repair, replace and upgrade. Our technology also must be updated to keep competitive with today’s expectations.”

Investing time, energy and resources in the Ford Center is a worthy endeavor, said Ole Miss alumna and Ford Center volunteer Susan Meredith, of Oxford.

“The Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts is a magical place,” Meredith said. “Where else can live music make your heart soar? Where else can dance make you gasp in amazement? Where else can the spoken word bring tears of sorrow or joy to your soul?

“And we have this amazing facility right here in our own backyard!”

Ford Center Director Julia Aubrey joins UM alumni and friends recently to launch the Celebrating the Arts campaign, which intends to add $1.5 million to the center’s endowment, elevating it to $3 million. A bronze tree sculpture has been commissioned to recognize donors to the campaign. Photo by Robert Jordan

Among highlights of the center’s 2018-19 season are national tours of the “Wizard of Oz” (Oct. 21) and “Jersey Boys” (Nov. 9), as well as “Ferri-Cornejo-Levingston: An Evening of Dance and Music” (Sept. 20), St. Lawrence String Quartet (Oct. 16), Warren Wolf Quartet (Nov. 13), Moscow Ballet’s “Great Russian Nutcracker” (Nov. 30), ensemble 4.1 (Jan. 21), “We Shall Overcome – A Celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.” (Feb. 12), “In the Mood, a 1940s Musical Revue” (Feb. 16), Cirque Éloize Saloon: A Musical Acrobatic Adventure (Feb. 26), Billy Hart and the Academy (Feb. 26) and Junie B. Jones (March 30).

“I believe the arts reflect the heart of a culture and society,” Aubrey said. “We seek out paintings, sculpture and music from the past to learn what people were thinking or feeling – what was important to a previous generation.

“The performing arts that are presented in the Ford Center invite an audience to share someone else’s story for a brief period of time. Whether that story is told through music, drama or dance, we have a chance to share that visceral or intellectual experience. You leave laughing, thoughtful or both, and that makes one a more empathetic human being.”

To make a gift to the Celebrating the Arts campaign, send a check made out to the University of Mississippi Foundation, with the Ford Center campaign noted in the check’s memo line, to 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655 or online at http://www.fordcenter.org/celebrate. More information also is available on the site, and Vitter’s comments from the campaign launch dinner can be found at http://chancellor.olemiss.edu/celebrating-the-arts-campaign-launch-dinner/

The Ford Center also has cloisonne friendship balls available for $50 at its ticket office, with the design featuring the center and Oxford. For more information, contact Kate Meacham, Ford Center marketing director, at kmeacham@olemiss.edu or 662-915-6502.

Ford Center Set for Thursday Jazz Concert

The Hot Sardines bring mix of classics and original numbers

The Hot Sardines are set to bring live jazz to the Ford Center for a 7:30 p.m. show Thursday. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts will host The Hot Sardines for an evening of jazz on Thursday (Sept. 13).

The band offers a traditional jazz music experience, playing original songs and covers. The group’s most recent album, “French Fries & Champagne,” held a No. 1 spot on iTunes’ Jazz Chart in the United States and internationally.

Kate Meacham, Ford Center marketing director, said she looks forward to the 7:30 p.m. performance.

“They seem to have a lot of energy,” Meacham said. “They are great musicians, but from what I have seen (they) are also great performers. It would be a great introduction to jazz for someone who has never seen a jazz performance before.”

The Hot Sardines was formed by bandleader Evan Palazzo and lead singer Elizabeth Bougerol in 2007. Within the past two years, the eight-member group has performed at the Newport Jazz Festival and the Montreal Jazz Festival and sold out multiple New York City venues.

Tickets are $30 for orchestra/parterre and Tier 1 Box-level seating, $25 for mezzanine and Tier 2 box-level seating, and $20 for balcony seating. A 20 percent discount is available for UM faculty, staff and retirees. Ole Miss student tickets are $10.

Tickets can be purchased at the Ole Miss Box Office at the Ford Center or online at http://fordcenter.org. Discounted and student tickets are available only at the Box Office with a valid ID.

For more information on The Hot Sardines, visit http://fordcenter.org/event/the-hot-sardines/.

Celebrated Dancers, Acclaimed Pianist Return to Ford Center

International artists to perform Sept. 20 at UM Honors Convocation

Alessandra Ferri (left) and Herman Cornejo dance during their previous appearance with Bruce Levingston at the Ford Center. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Legendary dancer Alessandra Ferri and Herman Cornejo, star principal of American Ballet Theater, return to the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts for the Fall Convocation of the University of Mississippi’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

They will be joined by longtime friend and musical partner Bruce Levingston, acclaimed concert pianist and holder of the prestigious Fant Chair and Chancellor’s Honors College Artist-in-Residence at the university. The performance will reunite three renowned artists for an evening of dance and music.

The performance, open to the public, is set for 7:30 p.m. Sept. 20. Tickets, priced from $25 to $35, can be purchased at the Ole Miss Box Office. Box office hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday.

“Ferri and Cornejo are two of the most amazing and gifted artists on the planet,” Levingston said. “They each bring a depth of communication and artistry to the stage that is extraordinarily rare. It is a distinct honor and joy to perform with them here once more.”

Ferri, one of the world’s most celebrated dancers, holds the rare title of prima ballerina assoluta. She was recently awarded the coveted Olivier Award for a second time in London.

Cornejo, an Argentinian ballet star who, at 16, was the youngest winner of Moscow International Ballet Competition, is a virtuoso dancer in the American Ballet Theatre.

Levingston, who recently performed a sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall, has been hailed by The New Yorker as “a force for new music” and The New York Times for his “mastery of colors and nuance.”

Ferri, Cornejo and Levingston will present a night of choreographed works, and Levingston will perform the music of Chopin, Debussy, Glass, Mozart, Rachmaninoff and Satie. Levingston also will be joined by other musicians from Ole Miss to create a musical ambiance that will highlight these illustrious dancers’ magical art.

The three performers have performed to critical acclaim throughout the world. One critic wrote of their New York City premiere performance together: “The combination of these three great artists is more than the sum of its parts. The Ferri-Cornejo partnership is as full of rapture and poetry as that legendary pairing of Fonteyn and Nureyev.

“For his part, pianist Bruce Levingston was the perfect third to bring in and elevate this into a true concert and dance performance. Levingston’s playing was sublime throughout.”

Ferri, Cornejo and Levingston will perform works together that have been created especially for them by such distinguished choreographers as Russell Maliphant and Wayne McGregor. Cornejo also will perform a tango that he choreographed, and Levingston will play a number of solo works from his most recent recording.

“We are excited and humbled to welcome back to our university Italy’s famed prima ballerina assoluta, Alessandra Ferri, and the great dancer Herman Cornejo, who will perform with our own renowned Honors College Artist-in-Residence, Bruce Levingston,” said Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, Honors College dean.

“These splendid artists will engage our students and the Oxford community with their graceful dance and music. Their performance three years ago was breathtaking and kicked off their world tour to famed venues. I expect their return will be a historic performance that will be the talk of the town for years to come.”

Ferri, born in Milan, trained at the school of the Teatro alla Scala opera house and attended the Royal Ballet School in London. Winner of the prestigious Prix de Lausanne in 1980, she joined the Royal Ballet that year and was soon made a principal dancer with the company.

In 1985, she was invited by Mikhail Baryshnikov to join American Ballet Theatre, where she danced as a principal until 2007. She has received numerous international awards, including the Sir Lawrence Oliver Award, the Dance Magazine Award and the Benois de la Danse Prix. She was presented the Cavaliere della Republica Honoris by Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, then-president of the Italian Republic, and holds the title of prima ballerina assoluta.

“We are so pleased to return to Mississippi and the beautiful town of Oxford,” Ferri said. “Performing with Bruce Levingston and Herman Cornejo is always a very special and moving occasion, and we look forward to once again sharing our art with the wonderful audience at the University of Mississippi’s Ford Center.”

Cornejo, a native of Argentina, began his training at Teatro Colon’s Instituto Superior de Arte in Buenos Aires and continued his studies at the School of American Ballet in New York. He performed as a guest artist with numerous ballet companies around the world and in 1997 won the Gold Medal at the VIII International Dance Competition in Moscow.

He joined the American Ballet Theater in 1999 and was promoted to principal dancer in 2003. Considered among the world’s greatest dancers, he has received many awards and distinctions, including the Benois del la Danse Prize and Dancer of the Year by The New York Times.

“Mississippi gave birth to our first magical trio performance,” Cornejo said. “I am so happy to return there and share this magic again with Bruce Levingston and Alessandra Ferri.”

For tickets or more information about the performance, call the Ford Center Box Office at 662-915-7411 or visit http://fordcenter.org/event/ferri-cornejo-levingston-an-evening-of-dance-and-music/.