Charles Aschbrenner’s Gift of Music Forever

The late Dr. Charles Aschbrenner, long-time professor of music at Hope, has left a lasting impression upon the college beyond his 53 years of teaching piano. Aschbrenner’s personal grand piano — a Steinway over 100 years old — now resides in the college’s presidential home, a gift he bequeathed to Hope upon his death in September, 2016.To celebrate its arrival to its new and permanent location, members of the Hope music department performed a dedication concert in the President House in Aschbrenner’s honor last week. The piano, both figuratively and literally, was the centerpiece of the event in the formal living room of the house. At 6-foot-11-inches, it is the second largest piano Steinway builds. Made of tiger, or flame, mahogany, the instrument took a year to construct and was completed in 1914. It first belonged to Aschbrenner’s mother from whom he received his first piano lessons.

Violinist Craioveanu with Pianist Le. Photo by Greg Olgers

Pianist Dr. Andrew Le accompanied both violinist Mihai Craioveanu and flutist Dr. Gabe Southard at the installation concert. Le also performed two solo works written by Claude DeBussy, an Aschbrenner favorite. “Charles loved DeBussy, and anything French actually,” Le said before he performed. “This is for Charles.”

Flutist Southard with Pianist Le. Photo by Greg Olgers.

Aschbrenner joined the Hope faculty in 1963 after receiving his master of music degree from Yale University. He further studied with renowned teachers Nadia Boulanger in France and Adele Marcus in New York City. But piano was not his only instrument. Aschbrenner also studied oboe with Ray Stills of the Chicago Symphony.

“An instrument is an extension of the musician. Sometimes we choose them and sometimes they cross our paths. This piano is very much an extension of Charles,” said Le. “It’s very generous. It’s warm and it’s delightful.”

“An instrument is an extension of the musician….This piano is very much an extension of Charles. It’s very generous. It’s warm and it’s delightful.”

While the warm and delightful Aschbrenner piano had a meaningful introduction to the president’s home — President Dennis Voskuil called the event one of the highlights of his time at Hope — it also has special significance for the new presidential residents moving in this summer. Sarah Dieter ’02 Scogin, wife of Hope’s next president Matthew A Scogin ’02, was a music performance major at Hope (as well as a computer science major).

Charles Aschbrenner was her mentor.

Listen to the Aschbrenner piano played by Dr. Andrew Le!

Bruce McCombs Exhibit in Final Days

The Bruce McCombs exhibit currently in the DePree Art Center and Gallery is your opportunity to feel as though you are walking through campus while indoors and in one place. Multiple realistic watercolor artwork of Hope buildings and scene-scapes by the long-time Hope professor are on display until Friday, November 9.  McCombs’ profound artistic talent and his unexpected perspectives gives viewers angles of Hope’s campus they may have never considered before. His mesmerizing use of light, reflections and shadows will also capture your imagination as it first did his.

Stop by the gallery soon to catch the college in art form.

The De Pree Art Center and Gallery is located at 275 Columbia Ave., between 10th and 13th streets.  The gallery is open Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

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Art by Bruce McCombs
Art by Bruce McCombs
Art by Bruce McComb
Art by Bruce McCombs
Art by Bruce McCombs
Art by Bruce McCombs

Precision and Heart: Beijing Guitar Duo

The acoustic guitar world is a demanding world. Precision is key, but heart is essential. A technically precise performance is expected, but if that is all you hear, you leave the concert impressed but unmoved. But when a performance combines technical skill with passion, you can walk away with a slightly altered worldview. Of course, this is the result of any great art which takes you into another realm and sends you back with a new way of seeing your world.

It can also be a solitary world for the guitarist, practicing for hours alone in preparation for those few hours in front of an audience. But for guitarists Meng Su and Yameng Wang, who make up the Beijing Guitar Duo performing here at Hope this Friday, those hours alone are supplemented by hours of working together. A solo guitar concert is a chance to watch an artist single handily fill the void, but a duo guitar concert is similar to watching a pas de deux in ballet. There are moments of individual soaring, but the guitarists are continually working around and with one another.

Wang and Su obviously love this guitar dance. Both come from the coastal city of Qingdao in China, and they each found early individual success. Before Su left high school, she had already won several international guitar competitions. Wang was the youngest winner ever of the Tokyo International Guitar Competition — when she was 12. Eventually, they both ended up in the U.S. studying in Baltimore with the legendary Manuel Barrueco. But despite their individual success, they continue to work together.

In addition to recording a CD with Barrueco himself, the duo’s other recordings have found great success. Their debut CD,  Maracaípe, received a Latin-GRAMMY nomination for the title piece, written specifically for them by Sergio Assad (who performed at Hope College with his brother in 1998). As a duo they have performed throughout Europe, Asia, and North America. This past season alone took them to countries such as Germany, Russia, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Poland, China, Panama, and the United States.

Watch and listen to the Beijing Duo!

But for our audience, you only need to drive to the Jack H. Miller Center on the Hope College campus to be part of the Beijing Guitar Duo’s world. As with any performance, you get the chance to see the world with new vision.

EVENT INFORMATION

Beijing Guitar Duo
Friday, Oct. 12 at 7:30 p.m.
John and Dede Recital Howard at the Jack H. Miller Center
Tickets are available online, at the Hope Ticket office in the Anderson-Werkman building (100 East 8th St.), or at the door on Friday.

Hope Alum Wins at ArtPrize

We kick off this new blog, The Arts at Hope, with fantastic news! Last Friday night in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Hope alumna Megan Constance Altieri ’13 was named a winner in ArtPrize, the West Michigan-based international art competition recognized as one of the world’s largest annual public art events. Altieri’s piece, Sonder, won the $12,500 Installation Public Vote Award.

Installed on the grounds of the Grand Rapids Public Art Museum, Sonder “illustrates the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as our own,” reads the description of the work on the ArtPrize website. “In our awareness of even a single other person, we begin to grasp the magnitude of the 7.6 billion coexisting realities all as specific and important as one another. Over the past two years, Altieri has gathered fragments of overheard conversations and hand-stamped them on articles of clothing matching those of the speaker.”

Sonder is moving for its empathy as it offers viewers a greater awareness of lives lived outside their own. The public engagement with the piece was also touching; at any one time, dozens and dozens of curious people engaged with the work, taking in and talking about its significance.

“Megan was one of those students I’ll never forget. She was constantly in the studio and devoted herself fully to her art, yet also had the best sense of humor,” recalls Dr. Heidi Kraus, associate professor of art and art history and director of the DePree Art Gallery. “You could always expect to see Megan laughing, but the seriousness with which she approached her work was never in question. The department is so proud of her—although we certainly aren’t surprised by her success. She was and remains a bright light in our program here at Hope.”

When she’s not winning an ArtPrize, Altieri — who also was a four-year women’s soccer player for Hope — is an art teacher at Wellspring Preparatory High School in Grand Rapids.

Watch Altieri talk about Sonder‘s creation and relevance.

Congratulations, Megan Constance Altieri! Your alma mater is happy for and proud of you!