March 29, 2007
Vol. 26 No. 13

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    New professional concerts director prepares to tap into University’s knowledge to lure new audiences

    Josh Schonwald
    News Office

    Shauna Quill

    She has worked with some of the world’s best-known vocalists, including the legendary tenor Luciano Pavarotti. She has produced concerts for some of the country’s most prestigious classical music festivals and venues, including the Aspen Music Festival and New York’s Lincoln Center. Now, Shauna Quill is hoping to broaden the musical repertoire on campus and lure new audiences to University of Chicago Presents concerts.

    “It’s really a dream job for me,” said Quill. “My whole career I’ve been longing to curate a series.” She added, “It’s an incredible chance to explore and develop a new vision.”

    An experienced arts administrator and music presenter, Quill began her duties as Executive Director of the University of Chicago Presents, the Department of Music’s Professional Concert Series, on Thursday, Feb. 1. But her formal introduction will come at a reception the evening of Saturday, April 7, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, where a double-bill concert will pair the innovative jazz of the Dave Douglas Quintet and the University’s renowned contemporary chamber players, Contempo. The reception for Quill will follow the performances.

    “We’re very excited to have Shauna,” said Robert Kendrick, Chair and Professor of Music and the College, who noted Quill’s wide range of experience in musical genres and ensembles. “She’s worked in everything from baroque opera to contemporary music, and she has a lot of experience in chamber music, which is one of our strengths.”

    Quill, who succeeds Marna Seltzer as Director, brings a broad range of knowledge of the classical music world to Chicago. A trained flutist, Quill started her career in arts management with Herbert Breslin of Herbert H. Breslin Inc. in New York City. Quill worked with Breslin for three years, representing both instrumental and vocal artists such as Luciano Pavarotti, Angela Gheorghiu and Hildegard Behrens.

    Following her work in management, Quill moved to the presentation side of the business, working at the acclaimed Aspen Music Festival and School for four years. There, she not only helped program and manage summer festival concerts, operas and recitals, but also developed mini-festivals of themed programs and created programs in which visiting composers interacted with students. These efforts won Quill a Chamber Music America ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming in 2002.

    After her stint in Colorado, Quill served as artistic administrator for the La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest. She also has worked as a consultant, developed classical DVDs for EuroArts, Berlin, and with conductor James Conlon created a foundation devoted to those composers persecuted, executed or killed by Nazism from 1933 to 1945. She is currently working as a project manager for Lincoln Center managing concerts scheduled for February and May 2008.

    The University of Chicago Presents has a rich history of presenting groundbreaking performances, including the Chicago debuts of violinist Isaac Stern, guitarist Andrés Segovia and the Julliard String Quartet. The nationally renowned series has more recently presented such young virtuosos as violinist Hilary Hahn, soprano Cecilia Bartoli and cellist Truls Mork. “As high as 60 percent of the concerts we present every season are Chicago debuts,” Quill said.

    Quill’s record of presenting young performers won her high marks with Kendrick. “She’s had a lot of experience working with young musicians and student performers,” said Kendrick. “Finding young musicians on the brink of success is always one of our top goals.”

    In addition to working with young musicians, Quill said she hopes to create programming that appeals to the University’s diverse community. “One of the unique things about this position is the University’s resources and the chance to tap into this wealth of knowledge to enhance the experience.” For instance, Quill recently had a conversation with a faculty member in Psychiatry about the 19th-century composer Robert Schumann, who had suffered periods of depression as well as highly productive years of composing, before being institutionalized prior to his death in 1856. Immediately, she said, it spawned an idea. “A pre-concert analysis of Schumann?”

    Another way she plans to reach students and faculty is through concerts like the April double-bill featuring the Dave Douglas Quintet and Contempo, which is led by Shulamit Ran, the Andrew MacLeish Distinguished Service Professor in Music and the College. The idea, Quill explained, is that these two groups appeal to different audiences. “The concert-goers will have a chance to hear music they don’t ordinarily hear,” she said, “and perhaps they’ll like it and develop a new interest. It’s a way to develop new audiences.”

    Quill succeeds Seltzer, who departed after eight years as Director of the University of Chicago Presents. “Marna left a great legacy,” said Kendrick, “She really developed a lot with Contempo and helped make contemporary music one of our strengths.”

    Currently, Quill is programming the 2008 and 2009 seasons, in which two concerts will pay homage to famed composers. In 2008, the series will celebrate French composer Olivier Messiaen on the 100th anniversary of his birth, while the 2009 season will feature the music of Joseph Haydn, celebrating the 200th anniversary of his death. The University of Chicago Presents has just announced the 2007 and 2008 season.

    The University of Chicago Presents offers the following concert series: Chamber Music, Howard Mayer Brown International Early Music, Artists-in-Residence (the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Pacifica Quartet), as well as Special Events concerts, including the Annual Regents Park Discovery Concert.

    For more information on the Saturday, April 7 double-bill concert, which begins at 7:30 p.m., please visit the Contempo Web site: http://contempo.uchicago.edu/. Further information on upcoming concerts can be found at http://chicagopresents.uchicago.edu/.