Westmont Downtown Schedule: 2021-2022
Making Music in the Age of COVID: Challenges, Opportunities, Risks and Meaning
Michael Shasberger, Westmont’s Adams professor for music and worship, shares stories of musical exploration and perseverance during a pandemic.
“This talk will survey the journey of Westmont’s musicians from the orchestra tour in February 2020 to our planned orchestra tour in May 2022 and all the twists and turns in between,” says Shasberger, who retires in May following an illustrious 17-year career at Westmont.
“For two years, the musical performance experience of the entire world changed, sometimes daily, and it continues to change,” he says. “From our initial fascination with cute COVID-related isolation videos to major advances in the sophistication of home-produced performances, musicians moved and adapted to meet the times. Through it all, answers to how to plan for the future remained, and remain, elusive. Still performers found ways to express their art and dream for the future.”
After the pandemic prevented tours the past two years, the orchestra heads overseas in May for 10 days in Europe. The musicians will land in Munich, then travel to Salzburg, Vienna and Prague, participating in the American Celebration of Music in Austria. “Today we are in a time between, still defining what is possible, wise and necessary. Questions of health, safety, legal rights of copyright owners, growth for student musicians and how to plan effectively remain central to the world of performing arts.”
Shasberger created the annual Westmont Christmas Festival and grew the number of student musicians on campus to about 5 percent of the student body. He has also dramatically grown the number of full-time, tenure-track professors and adjunct faculty at Westmont, which earned accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Music. While he’s delighted to tour one last time, Michael says the logistics have been especially challenging. “Every country requires a different kind of mask,” he says.
"Photography and Poetry: Against My Will"
Randall VanderMey, Westmont professor of English, says that after four decades of resisting photography, he now uses this art form to write and share poetry with a completely new audience.
“We’ll explore my iPhone photographs and complementary poems, composed in a meditative spirit of receptivity, a spirit of the gift,” he says. “My attitude toward photography has radically changed, but so has my attitude toward poetry, my Christian faith and ecology. I’ll show photos that illustrate my journey and techniques and reading poems that often give them a surprising spin.”
VanderMey’s artwork and poetry has appeared in numerous exhibitions throughout the Santa Barbara region. He avoids distorting filters, special apps or lighting in his iPhone photography. “I want the viewer to linger on the image,” he says. “I want the image to astonish or beguile me with multiple possibilities for interpretation.” His poems are designed to complement the image without being descriptive. “The result often moves me to laughter or tears or to moments of philosophical or spiritual discovery, or simply to wise contemplation of the rudeness and magic of life,” he says.
One of his photos and a poem are included in a national traveling show, “Again + Again,” and in a fine art book accompanying it. The show is sponsored by Christians in the Visual Arts.
VanderMey, a graduate of Calvin College, earned a master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Fine Arts and doctorate from the University of Iowa. He began teaching at Westmont in 1990.
"He has published several books, including “Charm School: Five Women of the Odyssey,” “The College Writer: A Guide to Thinking, Writing, and Researching,” and “God Talk: Triteness and Truth in Christian Clichés.” Numerous publications have published his poems and articles, including Christianity and Literature, Mars Hill Review, Ruminate, Books and Culture, Rock & Sling, and Poor Yorick. In recent years he has created half a dozen limited edition books of his photography and poetry to accompany exhibitions of his work. He has also had his dramatic and poetic works produced in collaboration with members of the theater arts and music departments at Westmont College.