“I can’t begin to describe how that experience feels to someone in college,” Gillotti said. “It was an incredible honor.”
Other students who performed were Michael Wertz, Ryan Howell, Annie Ursu, Corey Shawley, and Nathaniel Mack and graduate students George Joyce and Matthew Morse. Music professor Kevin Eisensmith, a 1978 IUP graduate, assembled the students, faculty members, and local musicians who played with Peters’s conductor and drummer.
Gillotti, who also excels at trumpet, had a month to work on the violin music for the Peters performance, though the orchestra rehearsed in full only twice before the show.
“There were never any intimidating moments,” she said. “The better the player that you play with, the more you grow. It put me in a real professional situation.”
Peters was the headliner for the inaugural season of Ovations!, the performing artist series under the umbrella of the Lively Arts at IUP. While the series is often recognized for what it offers the external community—access to great shows close to home—it also benefits many students, like Gillotti, through direct interaction with the performers and discounted tickets to see these high-caliber productions.
Joe York, who graduated from IUP in May with a degree in Interdisciplinary Fine Arts/Musical Theater, met Peters during a small reception that included a few other Music and Theater students and Florence Lattimer Helwig, benefactor of the Helwig Distinguished Artist Endowment, which brought Peters to IUP.
York presented Helwig with a dozen red roses as a thank-you from the students for the opportunities that came with Peters’s visit to campus.
“While I was at IUP, it was a blast being a part of that arts community—the Lively Arts and Theater by the Grove,” York said. “What I liked best is the idea that we, as students, could at any time see high-quality shows.”
York doesn’t just watch stage shows—he writes them. While in college, he wrote four musicals and one 10-minute play, all of which were performed at IUP.
“Originally, I wanted to be a performer, but, once I wrote my first musical, I knew I wanted to keep doing that,” he said. “IUP helped me figure that out.”
Unlike York and Gillotti, Jasmine Amos is not a Fine Arts major; the Respiratory Care student just loves to sing. That’s what inspired her to join Voices of Joy, a popular gospel choir on campus.
The group was invited to perform with Celtic fiddler Eileen Ivers and her band, Immigrant Soul, for an “Irish Christmas” through the Lively Arts in December.
“It was a great experience,” Amos said. “I was actually shocked we were asked to sing with them. With Voices of Joy, I’ve performed in Fisher Auditorium before, but not anything like that—with such professional performers. I’d love to do it again.”
The Lively Arts program also offers events that enrich cultural perspectives. One example is the weeklong visit in October by Tibetan monks who created a sand mandala—a picture made with thousands of grains of sand as an abstract representation of the universe.
IUP senior Ayaka Sawabe spent two to three hours each day helping with the event. “The mandala was amazing,” said Sawabe, a Religious Studies and Sociology double major. “It made me become more interested in Buddhism arts.”
Hank Knerr, director of the Lively Arts at IUP, said he appreciates the support the program receives from the Student Cooperative Association, alumni, the community, and a variety of campus partners. That funding goes toward reduced ticket prices for students and toward workshops and other outreach activities that accompany every act that comes to campus.
“With just ticket prices, we couldn’t afford to offer these things to enrich students’ lives,” Knerr said. “It’s not just for Fine Arts students, but the entire campus and the community.”