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The 2023 MAC Gala celebrates the arts and the Jacobs School of Music


Walking into the glow of the stage lights at the Musical Arts Center, the sounds of soft jazz only grew louder, revealing a live band tucked into the corner of a set from “The Merry Widow.” Patrons enjoyed the music with drinks and appetizers all while admiring the dark nightclub set, adorned with flourishes of gold and silver— all creating a magical evening at the MAC Gala.  

The 2023 MAC Gala was held at 5 p.m. Sept. 16 at the Musical Arts Center. The event highlighted not only the Jacobs School of Music, but also their extensive partnerships with the IU Cinema, Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance, the Eskenazi Museum of Art, the Kinsey Institute and the Lilly Library. 

Melissa Dickson, assistant dean for external affairs in the Jacobs School of Music, emphasized the collaborative community that exists within the four block radius that makes up the arts section of campus. 

“We exist in a liberal arts institution,” Dickson said. “What’s most incredible is within a four-block radius — from third Street to seventh Street — exists the densest level of cultural activity on any campus in North America, and arguably the world."

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After being entertained by the jazz triage — composed of Jacobs School of Music jazz studies students — associate professor of music, Michael Shell, introduced a number from the upcoming production of “The Merry Widow,” surprising the patrons by drawing the performers out of the audience, where they had been mingling without detection. 

Before performing a tender love song between the two leads, laughter spread throughout the audience during the high-energy comedic number “Wie die Weiber,” a humorous look at how the married men of the production believe their women can be managed. 

Patrons were escorted from the performance stage back to the main lobby of the MAC, now lavishly decorated for the dinner and later performances. In the glow of the fading sunlight, dean of the Jacobs School of Music, Abra Bush, welcomed the attendees and reflected on the magic Jacobs was able to bring to life through its numerous programs. 

“I constantly feel overwhelmed by how privileged, lucky, and honored we are to have this place, this temple to opera and music and to have such a community of support with us tonight,” Bush said. 

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Professor of music, Simin Ganatra, then introduced the string octet— made up of international and local students both undergraduate and graduate. They proceeded to play the last movement from German composer, Felix Mendelssohn’s octet to much applause. 

Following dinner, professor of music in the ballet department, Sarah Wroth, shared with patrons her admiration for her 65 ballet students in their strength and educational pursuits outside of ballet. Wroth then introduced professor of music in the ballet department, Sasha Janes. Janes’ brand new production of “The Nutcracker” is set to open Nov. 30, and as a teaser, Janes introduced junior Kelly Gleason and sophomore Bryan Gregory to perform the “Arabian Dance.” 

After the remarkably gorgeous performance from the two dancers, Bush took the stage once more to recognize members of the Jacobs School of Music and Bloomington campus who have contributed to the development of education in the form of the Centennial Award. 

Considered the highest honor by the Jacobs School of Music, the honor went to IU alumnus Gary and Kathy Anderson for their continued support of Jacobs students as well as their establishment within the ballet department of the Violette Verdy and Kathy Z. Anderson Chair in Ballet— the first classical ballet chair in the nation. Bush reiterated their shared love for and dedication to the arts, quoting Gary Anderson’s passion for it. 

“It was Gary who said, ‘Science has enhanced the quantity of one’s life,”’ Bush said. “But it is the arts that truly enriches the quality of our time on Earth.”’ 

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After a moving speech by Kathy Anderson, the evening came to a close with a presentation by professor of music, Dominick DiOrio, who introduced his contemporary vocal ensemble, NOTUS. 

With their renditions of “Youth” by Kahan Taraporevala and “Tuttarana” by Reena Esmail, attendees were left in stunned silence by the harmonious performance by NOTUS’ members.  

As patrons exited the MAC, walking into the cool night, the lights of the MAC glowed against a darkened sky, serving as a testament to the strength and longevity of the arts at the Jacobs School of Music. 

CORRECTION: This story was updated to correct a misquoted source. 

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