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Cornish Looks Beautiful At 100

Cornish College of the Arts celebrated 100 years in Seattle on Friday, November 14, 2014, with a Centennial Gala at the Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St. The sold-out event attracted a record number of alumni, past and present trustees, and Seattle notables.

Graduate Mary Lambert headlined the entertainment in the grand gold-and-white theater that originally was built in the silent movie heyday. Overlooking the formally attired crowd, all black tie and ball gowns in normally laidback Seattle, Lambert remarked, “You look so beautiful out there. Like the Titanic. But we’re going to be OK.” 

Currently on tour supporting her new record, “Heart On My Sleeve,” Lambert and her band sang an expanded version of the hook she wrote for Macklemore’s “Same Love” called “She Keeps Me Warm,” followed by “Body Love,” and “Red Lipstick.” After graduating in 2011 with a Bachelors in Music from Cornish, Lambert was  nominated for a Grammy and signed to Capitol Records.

In honor of Cornish’s 100th anniversary, long-time supporters James and Sherry Raisbeck, joined by Carl and Renée Behnke, started the “Raise the Paddle” with each couple pledging of $100,000. Additional donations, including sponsorships and matching funds brought the final evening total to $850,000. The net proceeds of the Gala will fund student scholarships.

Founder Nellie Cornish started her school on November 14, 1914, in Seattle, WA. Today the college’s campus includes facilities in the three neighborhoods: a 1921 historic landmark on Capitol Hill, multiple buildings in the South Lake Union neighborhood that serves as a home to Seattle tech giants such as Amazon.com, and the Cornish Playhouse at the Seattle Center.

“Throughout  its history, Cornish has been defined by innovation, risk-taking, and creativity,” said Cornish College of the Arts President Nancy J. Uscher during her opening remarks. “What is profoundly exciting in 2014 is that Cornish is expanding the thinking about the role of the artist in contemporary society. And we are leading the arts higher education community in this transformative work.”

Before and during a supper catered by Tom Douglas Catering, guests also were entertainedby animation performance artist Miwa Matreyek, and several student performances. Actor and Cornish faculty member Timothy McCuen Piggee acted as the host for the evening. Speakers included Dr. Nancy J. Uscher,Chair of the Board Virginia Anderson, and a special surprise guest, Seattle’s Mayor Ed Murray.

In honor of Cornish's Centennial, Murray proclaimed November 14, 2014, as Cornish College of the Arts Day in Seattle. A similar announcement was sent to the Gala by Governor Jay Inslee in recognition of Cornish’s contributions to Washington State. Letters of congratulations were received from Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and King County Executive Dow Constantine.

More About Centennial Sponsors:

The Cornish Centennial Gala set new records due in part to the following sponsors:  Amazon, Boeing, Bon Appetit, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Foster Pepper, KeyBank, Maybelle Clark Macdonald Fund, Merriman, The Rainier Group, Seattle Theatre Group, The Vance Corporation, and Weinstein A+U.

The  Centennial Gala kicked off a year-long Centennial Celebration for the College that will be marked by a series of events throughout the year. The Honorary Committee for the Centennial Celebration includes: Eve and Chap Alvord (Co-Chairs), Ida Cole, Dave Dederer, Joshua and Pam Green, Sherry and James Raisbeck, Scott Redman and Shawn Anderson, Norm and Constance Rice, Jon Shirley, David Skinner and Catherine Eaton Skinner, Julie Speidel, Severt Thurston, Howard S. Wright and Katherine Janeway, Virginia Wyman, The Honorable Ed Murray, Major of Seattle, Jim Kelly of 4Culture, Randy Engstrom from the Office of Arts & Culture, David Armstrong from The 5th Avenue Theatre, Jim Baker of Pilchuck Glass School, Kurt Beattie from ACT Theatre, Peter Boal from Pacific Northwest Ballet, Stefano Catalani from Bellevue Arts Museum, Lane Czaplinski from On the Boards, Luis Croquer from The Henry Gallery, Leonard Garfield of MOHAI, Robert Hunt of Village Theatre, Josh LaBelle from Seattle Theatre Group, and Aidan Lang from Seattle Opera.

Support  for the Centennial Celebration year is made possible by the following sponsors: Bernstein Global Wealth Management, City Arts, Hermanson, Peterson Sullivan, Sellen, Vulcan, Willis of Seattle, and the Cornish Residence Hall Partners, which includes Capstone Development Partners, Ankrom Moisan, Cochran, Coughlin Porter Lundeen, Holaday-Parks, Howard S. Wright, and Raymond Northwest.

Pictured: Student volunteers at the Centennial Gala, photo by Mark Bocek


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Baker Named Interim Music Chair

Tom Baker, DMA, officially assumes his new position as interim chair of the Music Department on January 1, 2015, but his appointment already is creating buzz and excitement with local music media and professionals familiar with his work. According to Provost Moira Scott Payne, music study at Cornish will benefit from Baker’s previous experience as a faculty member as well as his lengthy professional resume.

“I am delighted to welcome Tom to this position,” said Scott Payne. “The department, and indeed the whole college, will benefit from his contributions. We look forward to a bright future under his capable direction.” 

Baker is ready for the challenge. “I am very excited to step into this position at what is an exceptional time here at Cornish College of the Arts,” he said. “I look forward to working through this period of great change in collaboration with the students, my faculty colleagues and our dedicated administration. The future seems open to a multitude of possibilities.”

Dr. Baker takes the place of Kent Devereaux ’84 who is leaving the Music Department and his alma mater for the presidency of the New Hampshire Institute of Art (NHIA). Baker has been a faculty member in the department since 2011.  He has been teaching composition, music theory, electronic music, and inter-arts at the College. Baker received his doctorate in composition in 1996 (Doctor of Musical Arts) from the University of Washington. He also holds a master’s degree in classical guitar performance from Arizona State University and a bachelor’s degree from Boise State University. Before coming to Cornish, he taught composition and music theory for thirteen years at the University of Washington.

Baker has been active as a composer, performer, and music producer in the new-music scene since arriving in Seattle in 1994. He is the artistic director of the Seattle Composers’ Salon, co-founder of the Seattle EXperimental Opera (SEXO), and an advisory board member of the Washington Composers’ Forum.

Baker’s works have been performed throughout the United States and Canada, and in Europe. His two most recent chamber operas, The Gospel of the Red-Hot Stars (2006) and Hunger: The Journey of Tamsen Donner (2008), were both premiered by the Seattle EXperimental Opera and are available on the Present Sounds label. Baker is also active as a performer, specializing in fretless guitar and live electronics. His group, Triptet, released their third album, Figure in the Carpet, on Engine Records in 2012.


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Hang Ups Draws Crowd of Poster Lovers

Robynne Raye declared that Hang Ups: Cornish Poster Show was a great success. "We had more than 200 people present at the event, with many student coming in from area schools including Seattle Central College, the University of Washington, and Shoreline Community College," said Raye, a Cornish faculty member and the co-founder of design studio Modern Dog.

The show was held at the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center where designers Art Chantry, Frida Clements, Jesse Le Doux, Derek Vander Griend, Shawn Wolfe, Dan Shafer, and Raye led a lively discussion on the state of the art.

Attendees viewed the student work and the judges awarded eight prizes. Runner-ups each received $50 and Best of Show was awarded a cash prize of $500. (All prize money was donated by Modern Dog Design Co.). In addition. the eight posters that placed during the show were invited to be in the permanent archives of Cornish College of the Arts by Cornish archive librarian Bridget Nowlin.

"I would like to congratulate my entire class for the additional planning, branding, marketing, and installation design that went beyond the class requirements," said Raye. "Their efforts made came together to form a memorable presentation."


Judges Choice Awards
Art Chantry: Mica Gaxiola-Flynn (2D or not 2D)
Frida Clements: Renee Legaux (Keaton Henson)
Jesse LeDoux: Haley Luden (No More Meat)
Derek Vander Griend: Zach Davis (Japanese Experimental Film Festival)
Shawn Wolfe: Kat Curtis (Pay it Forward)

Second Runner-up: Noelle Hoffman (Floss)

First Runner-up: Robert Baxter (The Black Keys)

Best of Show: Alex Wallace (Ingmar Bergman)


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Clues to Music Development Found In Bird Song

“We need to be careful not to just project sound structures we are familiar with on to animal songs,” said Emily Doolittle, an assistant professor of music at Cornish who worked on the study about the possible relationship between bird song and human musical scales.  “But if we avoid looking at pitch relationships entirely, than we are missing out an an important way to understand the songs.”

In new research recently published, faculty members from Cornish College of the Arts, Seattle, WA, Philipps University of Marburg, Germany, and University of Vienna, Austria, demonstrated that the bird songs share certain traits with human music.

This research is the first to demonstrate note selection from the harmonic series occurs in the “song” of a non-human animal. The study, published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA (PNAS), is particularly relevant to the ongoing nature/nurture debate about whether musical traits, such pitch relationships, are biologically or culturally driven.

Doolittle and her colleagues found a North American songbird, the hermit thrush, uses notes that are generally related by simple integer proportions similar to that found in human music and that hermit thrushes probably select the pitches they sing. To arrive at this conclusion, Doolittle and Tecumseh Fitch of the University of Vienna analyzed high-quality recordings of the songs of 14 male hermit thrushes. Bruno Gingras, University of Vienna, and Dominik Endres, Philipps University of Marburg, then used two different statistical methods to demonstrate that the notes of the hermit thrush song were related to an overtone series.

Further research is needed to explain why hermit thrushes choose to sing pitches whose relationship follows the harmonic series. One possibility, mentioned by the researchers, is that female hermit thrushes may evaluate a male’s singing accuracy by its ability to follow the overtone series. Another possibility is that, like humans, hermit thrushes find it easier to remember or process pitches that follow the overtone series.

“A number of my compositions are inspired by bird or other animal songs, in various different ways,” said Doolittle. “I’m fascinated by the fact that bird and other animal songs are created by other living beings that are making choices about what they sing, but with minds so different than our own. Writing music based on animal song is, for me, a way of trying to understand the world from a perspective completely different than my own.”

This research, along with other work along the same lines, can help scientists and musicians better understand the relationship of nature as well as nurture when it comes to creating music.


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Ferguson Piece Leads CDT Fall Concert Lineup

Mystery of Iniquity, Iyun Ashani Harrison’s offering for the Cornish Dance Theater Fall Concert, does not look back: the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, is today’s news. The events set in motion by the shooting of a young, weaponless African-American man by a police officer are not just fresh in our collective memory, they are searing. Harrison writes: “The piece is created in solidarity with the national outcry against police brutality.” Mystery of Iniquity, which is premiering at the concert, was a collaboration of Harrison’s and the group of sophomore’s dancing the piece.

For the first time, the concert took place at the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center, a theater built for the 1962 World's Fair.

Cornish Dance Theater (CDT) is the performing ensemble of the Dance Department at Cornish College of the Arts.  The CDT Fall 2014 Concert featured choreography by Harrison and faculty and guest choreographers José Limón, Vivian Little, Amy O’Neal ‘99, and Michele Miller.

Appearing along with the premiere of Mystery of Iniquity, were: Opus Provoco, choreographed by Vivian Little; No Excuses (2010), choreographed by Amy O’Neal ‘99 with rehearsal assistant Alice Gosti; Suite from A Choreographic Offering, choreographed by José Limón with staging and direction by Brenna Monroe-Cook; and I AM the Bully, choreographed by Michele Miller in collaboration with Catapult Dance.