Taking A First Look At The Arts First Weekend

Jones Receives Medal

“Why not? It’s Tommy Lee Jones,” said Jack Megan, director of the Office for the Arts at Harvard, when asked why Academy-Award-winning actor Tommy Lee Jones ’69 will receive the 2012 Harvard Arts Medal. On Thursday, the Arts First festival will kick off with a ceremony in which University President Drew G. Faust will present Jones with the award. The medal, Megan said, is meant to call attention to an alumnus or alumna who has done extraordinary work in the arts and who inspires Harvard students to imagine a life in the arts. “Tommy Lee Jones hits on all these levels,” Megan said.

Jones will discuss his work in conversation with fellow actor John Lithgow ’67. A former English concentrator and Dunster resident, Jones acted in student theater productions and played for the varsity football team while at Harvard. In past years, he has helped advise the University on its arts policies.

Student Composers’ Works

Some collaborations are more than the sum of their parts. On Friday at the Lowell House Library, seven student composers will present their original compositions that will be played by student musicians.

The Student Composer Concert, presented by the Harvard Composers Association, includes the work of three composers enrolled in the Harvard/New England Conservatory of Music (NEC) Five-Year B.A./M.M Joint Program. “The caliber of the concert is really high,” says Danielle G. Rabinowitz ’14, board member of the Harvard Composers Associaton and student composer whose work will be featured in the concert.

The Harvard Composers Association promotes the presence of 20th- and 21st-century music concerts and supports the work of young composers on campus. “[The event] is a collaboration between artists who are writing and performing, and that is so rare,” says Rabinowitz. “It makes a powerful statement for what we can do on this campus without any outside influence.”

Swords Drawn in Ring of Steel

Amid the usual instrumental music and vocal harmonies, this year’s Arts First festival will also feature the clangs of metal against metal. Ring of Steel, Harvard’s very own theatrical stage-fighting group, will showcase its carefully choreographed drills and fights for all to see. The group is led by Athena E. Eyster, a graduate student in the Deparment of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

“[Ring of Steel] blurs the line between martial arts and acting,” said Jason LaRue ’12, a member of the group. “We’re actually reacting to what our opponent is doing” on stage.

Ring of Steel will perform on Saturday on the Harvard Yard stage and the Science Center lawn. The group will invite audience participation, and LaRue looks forward to seeing spectators try out the art form. “If anybody…wants to participate, we’ll probably have some practice swords lying around they can pick up.”

Harvard’s Music Festival

For those who missed Coachella or can’t wait for the Newport Folk Festival or Outside Lands, the Arts First festival will feature 11 artists in its own BandFest. The festival, held on Sunday outside the Holyoke Center, will include performances by students and affiliated musicians in styles ranging from folk-rock to dubstep.

Leah Reis-Dennis ’13 sings for The Nostalgics, a Motown soul band performing in BandFest, and said she looks forward to increasing her band’s exposure as well as promoting live music on campus. “It is a cool opportunity for a lot of live bands to play for each other, to play not only for the Harvard community but also the Cambridge community,” she said. “You have people who are coming to see you—friends and family—and then you have random people walking by Harvard Square who wonder why there is a random Motown band playing outside Au Bon Pain.”

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