Johns Hopkins Gazette: September 18, 1995

On Culture: Special Events Provide Midweek Culture Break

Mike Field
Staff Writer

     What inspiration did Aaron Copland find to help him compose?
What does Yo Yo Ma think about when he picks up and begins to
play his cello? What is the sound and artistry of traditional
Indian music? Or African American diaspora storytelling? Does God
command faithful Christians to handle poisonous snakes?

     If universities are a collection of inquisitive minds, then
these questions--and others like them--might be expected to
provoke some curiosity on campus. At Hopkins, for 30 years now,
they have.

     Two university organizations--the Office of Special Events
on the Homewood campus and the Medical Institutions Office of
Cultural Affairs on the East Baltimore campus--have been bringing
thinkers, performers, artists, writers, poets and politicians to
the Hopkins community through a variety of programs going as far
back as 1965. Often free, sometimes controversial and almost
never without a strong contingent of interested audience members,
these events are designed to bring the various members of the
university's diverse community together for an hour or more of
something different.

     On the Homewood campus, the Office of Special Events'
popular Wednesday Noon Series offers faculty, staff, students and
community members an opportunity to spend a lunch hour watching a
performance or hearing an author talk about a recent book. Now in
its 25th year, the noon series was established to unite
individuals from different schools and departments in common
intellectual discovery; the series often includes the offbeat,
the challenging and, sometimes, the purely entertaining. All of
the Wednesday Noon Series events are free and open to the public.

     "I try to present things that are different," said Mary
Ellen Robinson, director of the Office of Special Events and
creator of each semester's noon series program. "It's not all
lectures or music; some are pure entertainment. My goal is to
provide something for almost everyone at least once a semester."

     This season's offerings include, among others, a
presentation of the video of the 1994 London International
Advertising Awards, a lecture and presentation of German lieder
and French chansons, an investigation into the current debate
surrounding the orphanage and welfare, and a lecture by the
author of a book about snake handling among religious sects in
southern Appalachia.

     The Office of Special Events advertises each semester's
offering through a mailer that goes out to about 35,000
individuals at Hopkins and in the surrounding communities. In
addition to featuring the Wednesday Noon Series, the brochure
typically lists special concerts and other events sponsored
through Robinson's office. 

     "We are additionally responsible for the endowed lectures on
campus, such as the Kent and the Pouder," Robinson said, "and we
also host occasional performances for which we must charge
admission to help defray costs. This season, for instance, we are
featuring the Empire Brass Quintet, Andrew Roblin and the Pocono
Mountain Men, and the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble." Tickets to
those events range in price from $10 to $22 with discounts
offered to seniors and full-time students.

     At the Medical Institutions, the Office of Cultural Affairs
is celebrating its 18th season with a full slate of lectures,
performances, readings and events. 

     "We were established in 1977 as a pioneer venture to bring
the humanities and the performing arts into the medical school
environment," said Christin Goodell, coordinator of the Office of
Cultural Affairs. "Our role has been expanded to include all
members of the East Baltimore community, not just the medical
school, but our mission remains the same: to bring together
various members of the community and to enable people to get away
from the focus of their jobs to experience performances and to
sit and discuss issues of importance. We provide a much-needed
outlet on this campus. As you might guess, we don't have a
problem over here with people who are not focused."

     The East Baltimore office runs many different programs
ranging from the purely entertaining to the intensely
intellectual. Its humanities series features lectures grouped
around a theme, typically one related to some aspect of health
care. This semester, for instance, the series is titled "Patients
and Fortitude: Authors and Their Illnesses" and includes a
lecture on depression as experienced by family members of the
depressed by Rose Burgunder Styron, wife of author William
Styron. Others in the series--noted author Julian Barnes, faculty
member Paul McHugh and writer Paul West--will look at various
aspects of health and the writer.

     The Midday Performance Series--a consistently popular
program among faculty, students, staff and patients alike--brings
music, performance and other entertainment to the hospital's Hurd
Hall for free hourlong events at noon on many Tuesdays during the
semester. "We try to bring a great deal of diversity to the
programming," Goodell said. "Within the one-hour recital format
we have scheduled classical music, mime, jazz, theatrical
interludes, monologues, dialogues, discussions--all sorts of
events that would be of interest to our audience." This
semester's programs include the classical guitar of Stephen
Turley, the comedic illusion of Robert K. Strong and the choral
music of holiday carols sung beneath the hospital dome.

     The conversation series, begun when the office was
established in 1977, was designed to bring nationally and 
internationally renowned individuals to the medical school campus
to talk about what they do. In the past 18 years the series has
brought composer Aaron Copland to talk about creating music,
virtuosos Isaac Stern and Yo Yo Ma to talk about performance and
many others--including U.S. senators, college presidents,
historians, poets, directors and editors--to talk about what they
do. This season, former governor and longtime mayor William
Donald Schaefer will take the pulse of the city, and science
writer Laurie Garrett will talk about newly emergent diseases in
two evening events.

     Many of the events in past years have been videotaped, and
edited lending copies are made available through the Welch,
Eisenhower and Enoch Pratt public libraries. In addition, the
office maintains a running narrative, in notebook form, of each
season's events and some of the highlights to come out of its

     "The Office of Cultural Affairs has been a national pioneer
in pulling together the arts and sciences in a medical context,"
Goodell said. "Many other medical institutions have copied our
lead in this area. I think what makes this program particularly
successful is that we recognized early on we needed to be
cross-institutional and focus on providing events that have broad
appeal among all our constituencies. That is still what we try to

     Information about the Wednesday Noon Series or other
cultural events at the Homewood campus can be obtained by calling
the Office of Special Events at (410) 516-7157. Information about
the Midday Performances or other cultural events on the East
Baltimore campus can be obtained by calling the Office of
Cultural Affairs at (410) 955-3363.

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