Chicago Human Rhythm Project Hosts 2nd Int'l Forum of China Musical Dev

By: Dec. 06, 2011

The Art Department of the Ministry of Culture of the People's Republic of China and the China Society for Musical Studies have invited three Chicago leaders in the fields of musical theater and dance to participate in the 2nd International Forum of China Musical Development and the 5th Symposium of Musical Teaching and Creation to be held December 2-6, 2011, at the Beijing Contemporary Music Academy.

The Chicago leaders to present at the forum and symposium are John Sparks, workshop director of Midwest New Musicals at Light Opera Works and artistic director of the Academy of New Musicals in Los Angeles, Philip Seward, senior lecturer at Columbia College Chicago and the head of the Music Lab at and Lane Alexander, the co-founder and director of Chicago Human Rhythm Project. The invitation was extended through Chicago Human Rhythm Project, since Lane Alexander has been a Senior Advisor at the Beijing Contemporary Music Academy for the past four years.

As part of the forum and symposium, Messrs. Alexander, Seward and Sparks will present papers, offer performance-demonstrations and conduct classes in the art and craft of creating, developing and presenting musical theater works. Their pedagogy will focus on the study of the American Musical Theater and its influences worldwide; the creation and marketing of an original Chinese musical form; the capacity for teaching the craft, components and methods of musical theater to Chinese students. Their work will be collected for publication after the December convocation.

Midwest New Musicals is an ongoing forum where lyricists, composers and book writers create and discuss their work. Since 2009, Midwest New Musicals has been a resident arm of Light Opera Works, Chicago's specialists in operetta and musical theater. With the Midwest New Musicals, Light Opera Works is able to expand its programming and service to the field by providing an outlet for writers and for new works of musical theater. Midwest New Musicals is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, The ASCAP Foundation and The Dramatist Guild Fund.

Light Opera Works is a professional not-for-profit theater founded in 1980. The company's mission is to produce and present musical theater from a variety of world traditions, to engage the community through educational and outreach programs, and to train artists in musical theater. All productions are presented in English, with foreign works done in carefully edited modern translations. Maximum scholarship is employed to preserve the original vocal and orchestral material as well as the spirit of the original text whenever possible. Audiences have come to know that at Light Opera Works they will experience repertoire often unavailable on the stages of commercial theaters and opera houses, in modern productions with professional artists and full orchestra.


Lane Alexander, Chicago Human Rhythm Project's co-founder and director, is an expert on Morton Gould's Tap Dance Concerto, which he has performed at Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops and at the London Philharmonic, the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, the Illinois Philharmonic and the Chicago Sinfonietta. In 1990 with Kelly Michaels, Lane co-founded the Chicago Human Rhythm Project which became the first dedicated presenter of American tap and contemporary percussive arts in the United States. Lane founded a new ensemble, BAM!, which represented the United States at the 5th Anniversary Beijing Contemporary Dance Festival. Lane has been recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts' American Masterpieces program through the Illinois Arts Council, the Chicago Tribune as a "Chicagoan of the Year," the Ruth Page Award, the Chicago Dance and Music Alliance for Outstanding Solo Performance, and a Chicago Dancemakers Forum Award. In 2009, Lane received a 10-year appointment to the Beijing Contemporary Music Academy as a Senior Advisor and regularly teaches and performs in cities worldwide. Lane teaches at the Tap Studio in Chicago and has served on the faculties of the Lou Conte Dance Studio, Northwestern University, the Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Center, the Joel Hall Dance Studio, Columbia College, Stephen's College and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Philip Seward is a senior lecturer at Columbia College Chicago, and heads the Music Lab at with the Academy for New Music Theatre in Los Angeles. His musicals, Hans Brinker, Nobody Likes Retsina, Sincerely Yours, Juan Peron's Hand, and Shades have had multiple city productions. Les Dames á piano was a finalist for the Richard Rodgers Award and was presented in Chicago, Dallas, New York City, and Edinburgh, Scotland. High Fidelity was produced in the Chicago Humanities Festival and in Merkin Hall in New York City. Spreading The News was commissioned by North Park University. The Rose Prologues, a collection of short operas, premiered in Scotland. He has composed three operas for the young: Stone Soup, A Noteworthy Tale and African Stories, commissioned by Lyric Opera of Chicago. He wrote Blessing for the Lira Ensemble of Chicago to celebrate the 25th papal anniversary, which premiered live on Classical Radio WFMT and Sonnet which premiered in Chicago's Orchestra Hall. He created a musical Psalm 8, commissioned by the Lyric Opera Chapters Executive Board in memory of Ardis Krainik.

John Sparks is the artistic director for the Academy for New Musical Theatre in Los Angeles where he has taught since 1981. In 1987, he founded the musical theater writers workshop at the former Theatre Building Chicago, where he served as artistic director from 1999 to 2009. John is also a board member and guest instructor with Mercury Musical Developments in London.He has written many musicals that have been produced in Los Angeles, Chicago and on the east coast, including: Babes In Barns, Hans Brinker, Cashel Byron, The Arresting Dilemma of Mister K, and On The Brink. He has received awards such as the After Dark Award for Best Score and several commissions from Theatre Building Chicago and the Frederick Loewe Trust, awarded by the National Alliance for Musical Theatre. John studied with the late Lehman Engel, renowned musical director and founder of the BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop and with Broadway and Hollywood director Michael Gordon.


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