Six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald to headline the 15th annual Modfest at Vassar College, January 26-February 5, 2017

This year’s Modfest, Vassar College’s annual exploration of 20th and 21st century arts, will be headlined by Tony Award winning singer and actor Audra McDonald.

Modfest will run January 26-February 5 and will feature music, exhibitions, dance and spoken word. All events are free and open to the public.

PLEASE NOTE: The Audra McDonald event on February 5 is sold out.

The culminating event, “An Afternoon with Audra McDonald,” will take place on Sunday, February 5, 3:00pm. The internationally renowned singer and Broadway superstar will perform at Skinner Hall. Following her performance, a moderated talk discussing her work both on and offstage will be led by Mia Mask, Professor of Film on the Mary Riepma Ross ’32 Chair.  McDonald has won a record six Tony Awards (most recently for her portrayal of Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill), two Grammy awards, and an Emmy Award. Among her numerous honors, McDonald was also recently recognized for her contribution to the fields of arts and humanities by receiving the National Medal of Arts, presented by President Barack Obama in September 2016. Reservations for the February 5 event will open on January 16; tickets are free, but online reservations are required (see listing below for details).

Modfest 2017 is centered around the theme “Raising Voices.” Vassar students and faculty will be joined by guest artists in various fields of creative accomplishment, including,  Decoda, the first Affiliate Chamber Ensemble of Carnegie Hall (January 28), and visual artist Ann Daly (February 2).

This year Modfest will also honor the retirements of both Adene and Richard Wilson, co-founders of Modfest.  Adene (Dee) Wilson, a Vassar alumna who served as director of Modfest, saw the festival through fourteen seasons of outstanding events. “We celebrate their legacy by continuing this important festival and programming a concert in their names. The Music Department is indebted to Dee and Richard for their tireless work in championing contemporary music,” says Christine Howlett, Co-Director of this year’s Modfest and Chair of the Music Department.

Two exhibitions, Engage: The Artist’s Voice and The World After January 20, 2017, will anchor the series. “These exhibitions reflect the perspectives of faculty, students, and staff across campus in response to recent events,” says Tom Pacio, Modfest Co-Director and Interdisciplinary Arts Coordinator. “Modfest offers an opportunity to showcase the artistic voices of the Vassar College community which honors the spirit of the festival Richard and Dee Wilson created and also highlights the more current need for a greater reach of the arts on our campus and in the community.”


Under the auspices of the Music Department at Vassar College, Adene and Richard Wilson co-founded Modfest in 2003 to explore and celebrate the arts of the 20th and 21st centuries. Adene (Dee) Wilson '69, Modfest’s director for the last fourteen seasons, was responsible for bringing some of the finest composers and musicians to speak and perform in Skinner Hall of Music. Composers-in-residence have included Pulitzer-prize winners Yehudi Wyner, Steve Reich, and David del Tredici.  Leading contemporary ensembles have also been featured including the Jack Quartet, Decoda, Attacca Quartet, the Mannes Trio, and many others. A primary strength of Dee Wilson’s conception of Modfest has been its engagement with the arts across the college, involving students and faculty of the Art, Dance, Drama, English, Film, Music, and language departments in creative projects and performances.  


Ongoing Exhibits

Engage! The Artist's Voice
January 26-February 5, 2017
An exhibit of historical and contemporary printed works of protest, vision, and social engagement by artists for the greater good. The exhibition features works from 1945 to now, highlighting national and global issues such as World War II to the Civil Rights Movement, from Environmental Sustainability to Economic Equality. The bold and powerful collection of works should incite dialogue around our contemporary climate, asking each of us how we might...SPEAK UP.
Curated by Rick Jones, Earth Science.
Old Bookstore, College Center

The World After January 20, 2017: Works by Contemporary Artists and Poets
February 2 - 16, 2017
Opening Reception on Thursday, February 2, 2017 5-7 pm
Poetry, political cartoons, documentary photography, drawings, paintings, and more that address, reflect, and comment on what the first 100 days of the Trump presidency might mean. Artists and poets include Gerardo Castro, Monica d. Church, Michaela Coplen VC'18, Judith Nichols, Peter Steiner, Virginia Lavado, Sam Vernon, and others.
The Palmer Gallery, College Center

Thursday, January 26, 7:00pm

Modfest 2017 Opening Night Concert & Reception
Join us for an exciting and moving opening night for Modfest 2017. At 7pm, begin your journey in the Vassar Chapel, from there a short walk will find you in the Main Library, and finally the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. Along the way enjoy performances by the Vassar College Women’s Chorus and string quartet presenting “How to Survive Winter” by American composer Jocelyn Hagen and poetry by Julia Klatt Singer, musical offerings featuring students from various groups and our chamber music ensembles as well as members of the Vassar College Choir. The evening ends with a preview of the new exhibit, “The Art of Devastation: Medals and Posters of the Great War” and an opening night reception.
Chapel, Thompson Library, Jade Room in Taylor Hall, Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center

Friday, January 27, 7:00pm
Raising Healing Voices
With a focus on creative healing, a panel of guests with varied experiences will discuss how they use music, therapy, and narratives in their work. Christine Radman, an accomplished opera singer, health attorney, and speech pathologist whose private practice focuses on, "the diagnosis and treatment of vocal problems experienced by professional voice users" will be joined by clinical social worker, Shanna Richey, and Vassar College student, Joseph DeGrand ‘17. The panel will be moderated by Vassar’s own Michael Jones, a former music therapist who currently serves as the Assistant Director for Alumnae/i Outreach and Partnerships in the Office of Career Development.

The Rosenwald Film Theater, Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film

Saturday January 28, 8:00pm

First Honorary Adene and Richard Wilson Concert

To celebrate Dee Wilson’s inspired direction of Modfest and professor emeritus Richard Wilson’s 50 remarkable years of teaching and making music at service to Vassar College, the Music Department is honored to host its first annual “Adene and Richard Wilson Concert.” This concert features music by Vassar composers including Sylvia Songs and the Jitterbug Waltz by Susan Botti, Duo Variations for double bass and harp by Jonathan Chenette, Annea Lockwood’s I Give You Back, and Richard Wilson’s Dithyramb for Oboe and Clarinet and Gnomics for Flute, Oboe, and Clarinet. Performers include the first Affiliate Chamber Ensemble of Carnegie Hall, Decoda, and guests including Sooyun Kim, flute, Stewart Breczinski, oboe, Moran Katz, clarinet, Anna Elashvili, violin, Siwoo Kim, violin, Yves Dharmaraj, cello, and Brian Ellingsen, bass. Vassar faculty members include Susan Botti, soprano, Ashley Jackson, harp, and Mary Nessinger, mezzo-soprano.

Skinner Hall of Music

Sunday January 29, 3:00pm

Tom Sauer, piano

Featuring Haydn’s Sonata in C Major, Beethoven’s Sonata in C minor, Op. 111, selections from Hans Abrahamsen’s Études, and Stephen Harke’s Sonata.

Skinner Hall of Music

Wednesday February 1, 3:30pm

Music, Words, and Images  

A tradition since 2010, students of the Music, English, and Art Departments come together to present poetry, photography, and chamber music, featuring compositions by David Alpher, Jacques Ibert, and Derecskei Andras.  

Villard Room, Main Building.

Thursday February 2, 7:00pm  

Connecting Voices

Artist Ann Daly will discuss her ongoing collaboration with Spanish musician Álvaro Marcos. Marcos has been instrumental in connecting Daly with the Madrid punk scene which experienced an explosive shift following Franco’s Death in 1975. The pair will be speaking about the nature of their creative collaboration and the many successes and challenges that come from solidarity building with strangers. This talk will be moderated by Professor of Music Justin Patch and Professor of Political Science Katherine Hite, who is collaborating with the artistic duo in her upcoming seminar, “The Politics of Memory.”

Afterwards, workshop members will be invited to find their own collaborative partners for the semester to think about solidarity and collaboration at Vassar. Thinking to campus, community, national, and transnational conflict and movements–we hope this evening will provide insight on how creative activism can look at Vassar.

Old Bookstore, College Center

Friday, February 3, 7:00pm

Dance Performance: Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre

Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre performs works selected from the current repertory, created by faculty members, Steve Rooks, Kathy Wildberger, and Abby Saxon, as well as guest choreographer David Dorfman. The evening will also feature student choreography. For reservations write to or call the Dance office at (845) 437-5541.

Frances Daly Fergusson Dance Theater, Kenyon Hall

Saturday, February 4, 7:00pm

Concert: Vassar College Orchestra and Madrigal Singers

The Vassar College Orchestra performs “A Child’s London” by Professor Emeritus Richard Wilson. The Madrigal Singers perform settings of “Ubi caritas” by Duruflé, Mealor, and Gjeilo, “There are some men” by Philip Glass with text by Leonard Cohen, and Ysaye Barnwell’s “Wanting Memories. Conducted by Eduardo Navega and Drew Minter.

Skinner Hall of Music

Saturday, February 4, 8:30pm

Cabaret Night

Students from the Music Department perform classics from the American Songbook. An intimate exploration of songs by the Gershwins, Ellington, Porter, Sondheim, Berlin, Bolcom, Ahrens and Flaherty, Stephen Schwartz, and more. David Alpher, piano and Jennie Litt, director.

Skinner Hall of Music

Sunday, February 5, 3:00pm

Raising Voices: An Afternoon with Audra McDonald  

Audra McDonald, soprano, Mia Mask, Professor of Film on the Mary Riepman Ross ‘32 Chair

Broadway superstar Audra McDonald visits Vassar for an afternoon of music and reflection. The versatile National Medal of Arts winner is one of the country's most decorated performers, and her vast talent, insight, wit, and outspokenness about the human condition make her a beloved figure to a wide audience. Ms. McDonald will perform some of her favorite works with music director, Andy Einhorn, and later sit down with faculty member, Mia Mask, for a conversation on some of her most passionate causes.

Please note: this is a reserved seating program. Online reservations are required. Visit the Music Department website for additional information and a link to to reserve; reservations will be open on January 16, 2017. Limit four seats per reservation.

Skinner Hall of Music

Vassar College strives to make its events, performances, and facilities accessible to all. Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations at Vassar should contact the Office of Campus Activities at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space and/or assistance may not be available.

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Posted by Office of Communications Thursday, December 8, 2016