ASU School of Music’s production of Bernstein’s ‘Mass’ wins first place in the National Opera Association competition

December 4, 2019

“Evocative, imaginative, engaging.” “Exquisitely controlled chaos.” “… from the mesmerizing opening scene, I was completely drawn in and it gave me HOPE.”

The Arizona State University School of Music’s production of Bernstein’s “Mass: A Theater Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers” received endless praise from reviewers for the 2018-19 National Opera Association Opera Production Competition, and the production placed first in Collegiate Division VIII. Bernstein Mass cast Cast of Bernstein's 'Mass.' Download Full Image

The school put on the production as part of its 2018-19 season to mark the centennial of the legendary American composer's birth. More than 300 people came together from across the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts to participate in the monumental collaboration.

Brian DeMaris, associate professor and artistic director of ASU Music Theatre and Opera in the School of Music, said he had always been intrigued by Bernstein's "Mass," knowing it to be one of those pieces that can only be understood through experience.

“As soon as I came to ASU in 2015 I knew the School of Music was a place that was positioned to be able to accomplish the piece,” said DeMaris, production manager for "Mass." "With terrific ensembles, a faculty that worked together well, one of the nation’s top orchestral programs, an in-house musical theater and opera program with students skilled in both, and the resources of dance, media and other disciplines in the Herberger Institute’s School of Film, Dance and Theatre, I knew we had the ability to produce and perform it.”

He said Bernstein's 100th anniversary was a perfect opportunity to perform the awe-inspiring production.

Over the course of two years, DeMaris, along with Associate Professor Jeffery Meyer, director of ASU orchestras, and Professor David Schildkret, director of choral activities, discussed the idea and began bringing in potential collaborators.

DeMaris said a commonality among all the collaborators — from music to dance, design and the students — was that, though they did not know what they were getting into, they all realized just how special it was.

“The work is a deeply malleable landscape that can be filled in so many different ways, and we were in a unique position to bring a tremendous amount of creativity and talent to that landscape and really make it a contemporary statement on today’s fractured and contentious world,” Meyer said. “The work gave us the opportunity to feature so much of what makes ASU a tremendous artistic force and breathe new life into this masterpiece of Bernstein’s output.”

Meyer said that without a doubt the most challenging aspect of the production was marshalling the mind-boggling number of unique, diverse and disparate performing forces.

“It was a challenge and a thrill unlike I have ever experienced,” he said.

As the music director, Meyer was the center of gravity for the more than 300 performers, which included singers, soloists, instrumentalists, dancers, a marching band, a rock band, a jazz band and the Phoenix Boys Choir, all working across vast spaces in different mediums.

“This experience is one of the most meaningful artistic ventures I've ever been a part of and I am very grateful for the recognition, so well deserved by all 300-plus individuals involved,” DeMaris said.

The ASU production of Bernstein’s “Mass,” including bringing in guest artist Jubilant Sykes, was made possible by funding from the ASU School of Music and a Mellon Foundation Grant through the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

Ancillary events included community dialogues and panel discussions curated by Schildkret in collaboration with Barrett, The Honors College, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Center for Jewish Studies and the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics.

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music


Psychology professor named editor of new journal that covers human-technology interactions

December 4, 2019

There is now a device for almost everything, like smartwatches that ensure you never miss a text message and thermostats capable of learning how warm you like your living room.

Given the prevalent use of technology, the American Psychological Association launched a new journal — Technology, Mind and Behavior — that will publish interdisciplinary research on human-technology interactions and how technology affects individual and group behavior. Arizona State University’s Danielle McNamara will serve as the first editor. professor sitting in office Arizona State University’s Danielle McNamara will serve as the first editor of the new APA journal, Technology, Mind, and Behavior. Photo by Robert Ewing Download Full Image

“I’m really excited about Technology, Mind and Behavior because I’ve spent my career investigating how technology can reveal mind and behavior, as well as how technology can enhance it,” said McNamara, a professor of psychology. “I do consider myself a psychologist at heart, but my research extends beyond psychology, and is at the intersection of linguistics, computer science, education and technologies. The scope of this journal really captures me as a person.”

McNamara, who was named an American Educational Research Association Fellow in 2018, leads the Science of Learning and Educational Technology (SoLET) lab at ASU. The SoLET lab works to change behavior to improve education by creating freely accessible tools that are designed to improve reading comprehension in developing nations. The SoLET lab has also developed iSTART and Writing Pal, two interactive teaching games for high school students to improve their reading and writing skills.

McNamara also recently traveled to Kazan, Russia, to teach master classes on game-based learning and reading comprehension. McNamara holds degrees in linguistics, clinical psychology, cognitive psychology and also worked in France for five years teaching English. Her vast experience in these different realms positions her perfectly to be the lead editor on such an expansive journal.  

Technology, Mind and Behavior will be published online only and will be both open access and open source, which means the published research studies will be accessible by anyone. McNamara hopes that this journal will become the gold standard in open-access and open-source publishing and emphasizes the importance of transparency, availability and replicability.

McNamara began accepting submissions in October 2019, and the first articles will be published as they become available, most likely during the first quarter of 2020.

Robert Ewing

Marketing and Communications Manager, Department of Psychology