Opera Benefit Through a Musician’s Eyes

By Madelaine Elam, Humanities senior

It’s not every day that students at a technical institution can say that they went to an opera performance on campus. When I told my friends, they had the most quizzical and skeptical looks on their faces. At the School of Arts and Communication, however, this was an exciting and upscale event.

The preparations for the Opera Benefit had been going on for some months before I became involved. The first week of the Spring 2015 term in the School of Arts and Communication was very busy, to say the least. Dr. Kevin Burke, the Director of Music Programs, was taking calls from people who were calling to buy tickets over the phone. He asked me and my co-worker, Jennifer, to cover the phone for him while he was running a few errands. That was quite possibly the hardest job I have done yet in the office.

The next task that Dr. Burke asked us to help with was decorating the seventh floor conference room of Crawford for the reception. This room probably has the best view of Melbourne on the Florida Tech Campus – you can see for miles!  The School of Arts and Communication (SAC) frequently utilizes this room for Coffee Hours and other meetings and events. We rearranged the tables to seat more people, as well as planned where the decorations would go. A fresh bouquet of flowers always brightens the room and the open windows and doors allow for lots of natural light and fresh air. As we finished up there, Dr. Burke asked for anyone who was working during the Opera on Sunday to be there at 2p.m.

The day of the Opera Benefit concert, I arrived a few minutes after 2:00, and was assigned to greet people at the entrance of the VIP parking lot in front of Crawford. It was a pleasant day to be outdoors, complete with bright sunshine and a light breeze. Another SAC co-worker, Katheryn, was teamed up with me. We greeted the VIP’s, including President and Mrs. Catanese, and directed them to the allotted parking and informed them where the reception was being held. After this, we returned to Gleason to prepare for the concert.

Dr. Burke assigned some of the SAC Work Study and College Roll students to be ushers and greeters. I was placed at the right entrance with Razaz Banoun, a Global Strategic Communication student. Dylan, a Chemistry and Music student, along with Dr. Baika’s daughter, Mary, joined us. By 3:30, people were flooding into the Gleason auditorium. It was exciting to see so many people turn out for this event. Mary and I were guiding people to their assigned seats; the only hiccup I encountered was when an elderly couple was one row out of place, but that was easily and politely fixed.

When the lighting people flickered the lights, the audience quieted down quickly. President Catanese spoke a few words concerning Ms. Salamé and her career as an operatic soprano. When the pianist came out to play the prelude, Razaz and I stood in front of the doors to prevent any late comers from entering and disturbing Ms. Salamé’s performance. Suddenly, the door swings open behind us and a really pretty lady in a black gown strode forward and started singing an aria by George Frideric Handel. I had never seen an entrance like that before in any performance in my musical career.

After she finished the Handel piece, Ms. Salamé climbed the stairs to the stage and continued to sing beautiful classical pieces. While I do not understand any Italian, German, or French, Ms. Salamé was so expressive in her gestures and facial expressions that she conveyed the emotions of the lyrics and music clearly. She performed many different styles of music, but my favorite was the George Gershwin piece “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess. It is a beautiful piece of music and it was beautifully done by Ms. Salamé.

I hope this is not the last operatic performance that Florida Tech will host, but that we might host many different artists performing classical music from around the world. Music is an art, but also a tool that can be used to not only to express a person’s emotions and feelings, but also to tell a tale of time long gone or cultures that are too far to which to travel.

If you have any questions about the Florida Tech Music Programs or any of our events, please contact the School of Arts and Communication for more information!

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