Ideas that change lives
Welcome to Seattle Pacific University’s new Arts and Humanities newsletter, Exhibit. Through each issue we will highlight what happens across our programs and across our campus, with stories from faculty, students, and alumni. In all of our programs, students encounter words, images, and ideas that change their lives — and are but glimpsed in these pages. A few examples of what the Division of Arts and Humanities offers are film studies, literature, museum studies, Asian studies, philosophy, communication, creative writing, music, and photography. In all of what we do there is beauty and truth exhibited in many ways. I am proud and humbled by the accomplishments of each person highlighted here. I hope you, too, will be inspired by their discoveries.
— Debra Sequeira
Dean of Arts and Humanities
Joe Miller, ’13
New Film Studies major provides firm foundation in making/analyzing films
Joe Miller’s self-designed major in film, photography, and marketing paid off. Now a film producer at Aether Pictures in Los Angeles, he stood only four years ago in cap and gown to receive his diploma from Seattle Pacific University.
“Follow your dreams,” says Miller, whose 2010 documentary “From the Eyes of Hope” won the Jury Award at the National Film Festival for Talented Youth. The powerful stories of young people living in the Israeli and Palestinian sections of Bethlehem made the conflict “over there” more personal and alive to both Miller and his audiences.
Now busy developing 20 film projects ranging from true stories to science fiction, Miller is bullish on the new Film Studies major debuting at Seattle Pacific this fall. “If you have a passion for making films, watching them, writing them, shooting and editing them, or a mix of everything, then consider this major,” he says. Though L.A. “is not an easy place to build a life,” most like Miller are there to tell stories. “Hold on to that goal,” he says, “and never stop telling stories.”
Professors Roger Feldman and Todd Rendleman co-direct the Film Studies major. Though they come at the program from very different backgrounds, they share the optimistic view that today’s students already make movies, and some of them are quite adept at writing and videography.
Feldman, a teacher of visual communications and an award-winning sculptor who exhibits nationally and internationally, wants prospective Film Studies students to keep in mind the many nonprofit organizations headquartered in Seattle. Increasingly, they are in need of visual representation, and several SPU students have interned or taken jobs with them in video production. Miller interned with World Vision.
Other students find jobs and internships at for-profit firms in Seattle’s thriving film-making and post-production community (see the Music Tech story below).
Rendleman, author of Rule of Thumb: Ebert at the Movies (Continuum, 2012), teaches the history, criticism, and analysis of film. “I love introducing students to movies they’ve never seen!” he says. “When I was a freshman at the University of Illinois, one of the first classes that deepened my affection for movies was “Intro to Film.” To this day, I teach movies that I discovered in that class.”
As well, Rendleman directs the annual SPU Film Festival, including selecting and publicizing the films, and securing panelists for post-film discussions.
The art of movie analysis, combined with a deeper understanding of cinematography, lighting, editing, staging, and the myriad of other technical aspects that contribute to fine film, is not lost on Miller. “As a producer with my own company, my degree couldn’t be more relevant.”
Miller started Aether Pictures with a friend he had met while at the Los Angeles Film Studies Center, a program of the Council of Christian Colleges & Universities. Taking LAFSC courses is a 15-credit requirement of the Film Studies major.
A year ago the friends received investment seed money and launched the business. Each of their movie projects is at a different stage, but one film has received funding and could be in production within the year.
“Film Studies is a good fit for us,” says Provost Jeff Van Duzer. “Not only is there interest from students who are rapidly becoming more adept at videography and storytelling, but SPU is strategically located in a city with a growing reputation not only as a center of film and television production, but also as a rich source of movie-making talent.”
Music Tech program gives students competitive edge
Seattle is increasingly known as a hotbed of production for video game scores and Hollywood movie scores. Music for the game “World of Warcraft” and the new film Mirror, Mirror starring Julia Roberts, plus parts of the soundtrack for the Academy Award-winning film The Revenant, and many dozens more — were all produced within sight of the Space Needle.
“We connect to the professional music community,” says Ron Haight, a 1979 Seattle Pacific graduate and director of the music technology program at SPU. “A student with a passion for music who wants to make his or her music more accessible, open a studio, lay down tracks for the band they’re in, or become a sound engineer can find the means to do it all right here.” One SPU student works with London Bridge Studio, famed recording facility for top rock and grunge bands.
Music tech students at SPU have access through the program’s professional contacts and internships to work with the best in the industry. David Sabbe, owner of Seattle Music Inc., has worked on many movies, including the Die Hard franchise. He came to campus recently and spoke to students about the realities of the real world and doing good through music and film. Seattle Music Inc. music recordings often include SPU session musicians.
Music tech students have received top training from SPU faculty members who are industry professionals. They include Instructor of Music Technology Caleb Couch, owner of FreshMadeMedia, a studio providing music, editing, and audio-post services for commercial clients such as UPS and Smashburger.
“What sets us apart from a lot of music tech programs is our emphasis on excellence in musicianship,” says Haight. His students graduate with a major in music and an emphasis in music technology, not the other way around. “They must be practicing musicians with a high level of scholarship. Then it’s possible for them to work in a broader variety of career positions, including composing, conducting, record producing, and video directing.” The tech program currently attracts 20–25 students, with room for growth.
“Music and the arts comprise the most powerful way of expressing ourselves,” notes Haight. “Here, we teach to industry standards. We have good acceptance in the community and hear back how helpful and aware of needs our students are. They know how to serve in this world while realizing their dreams.”
Engaging the Pacific Rim: Asian Studies
With its strategic position on the Pacific Rim, Seattle has geographical access to Asia, which accounts for one-third of the world’s population. To take better advantage of this gateway location, SPU will begin offering an Asian Studies major and minor in Autumn Quarter 2016.
The interdisciplinary program meets two University goals outlined in its strategic plan: Develop distinctive academic programs leveraging SPU’s position on the Pacific Rim, and expand opportunities for students to engage in programming that promotes intercultural perspectives and relationships.
The major’s core requirements include 21 credits of history courses focused on Asia and 15 credits of intermediate Asian language courses. Students with no previous Asian language skills may need to take an additional 15 credits of beginning Asian language courses. SPU currently offers Chinese instruction, but hopes to expand to Japanese and Korean. Every Asian Studies major will also complete an “engagement experience” — an Asia-focused study abroad program, internship, or senior project.
“Practically speaking, it will help students be more knowledgeable about and sympathetic with Asian people, culture, religions, history, and nations,” Hamilton says. “Like all of SPU’s liberal arts majors, it will be a launching pad for careers in most professional fields.”
He points to a number of recent SPU graduates who majored in History and now hold jobs with significant ties to Asia, including a senior manager of global trade services at Amazon, an immigration review attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, and an operations coordinator at South Korea’s Yonsei University.
Within the School of Business, Government, and Economics, SPU already has a study abroad program in China, reflecting the rise of China as an economic power. The new major and minor will provide students with disciplinary and topical courses to allow in-depth study and to prepare for their place in an increasingly interconnected world.
The program is also expected to draw more Asian-American students to SPU and will deepen the University’s connections to Asian-engaged neighbors in the region through research, education, and development.
When at first she did not succeed, she tried another door
Theatre takes courage. It requires a heady brew of nerve, self-confidence, and persistence to break in and stay in. Sarah Ware Feldman, an 2006 SPU graduate, knows that as well as anyone.
After graduating with a degree in theatre from Seattle Pacific University, she applied for grad school and didn’t get in. Twice. Acceptance to MFA in Acting programs is notoriously difficult to achieve. But when she tried a third time, she received multiple offers from several schools.
One of the offers was a slot in the highly prized MFA in Acting program at Ohio State University. Ten spots, five men and five women. One thousand applicants. Incredible odds. She got in.
To say it was demanding is an understatement. Six days a week, 10–12 hour days. Her day in the theatre building — taking classes, teaching, rehearsing, creating and writing new work — would often end at 11 p.m. She still had to go home and prepare for the next day. Life outside the program? Practically nonexistent.
The rewards were stellar. Feldman apprenticed with OSU partner the Royal Shakespeare Company in England. She spent 10 days in Stratford-upon-Avon learning teaching techniques in the Stand Up for Shakespeare program for K–12 students. Cressida Brown, assistant director of the RSC production of Hamlet with famed actors David Tennant and Patrick Stewart, directed Feldman in a production of The Tempest. She played Miranda. “My time with RSC helped me to love Shakespeare again,” says Feldman.
Her time acting and training with Saratoga International Theater Institute, and with well-known visual artist and National Medal of Arts winner Ann Hamilton, were similarly priceless — as was work on Ballarini, a movement piece in translation she helped launch. “Physically, it was the most challenging show I’ve ever done,” says Feldman. “I’m always so thankful to get those artistic opportunities that take me out of my comfort zone.” The show premiered in London and played at the New York Fringe Festival.
How does an artist build the courage and fortitude to succeed? For Feldman it was the good fortune to have earned her undergraduate degree at a smaller, yet highly respected school such as SPU. “We worked in community, the foundation of any successful theatre production. Our SPU professors urged us to play an active role in multiple aspects of the production process. I’m a working artist because my talents aren’t limited to playing a role on stage. Those same professors were genuinely interested in knowing and mentoring me. I’m still in touch with some of them, because they continue to play an important role in my life outside of university walls.”
Today, Feldman consults with Seattle’s Taproot Theatre Company and is developing a new play for the For/Word Company. Patience Worth is set to premiere in St. Louis in spring 2017. Feldman also applies everything her journey has taught her about the marketing side of business at her full-time job performing a variety of tasks for Two Beers Brewing Company and Seattle Cider Company.
Courageous and versatile? “Our culture sometimes takes a very narrow view of an arts degree,” says Feldman, “but the training I’ve had makes me a great collaborator who can creatively solve problems, communicate well with others, and think outside the box. I use my education every day.”
Spring Events Calendar
The Spitfire Grill: A Musical
April 21–23, 28–30, 7:30 p.m.; 2 p.m. matinee April 30
E.E. Bach Theatre, McKinley Hall
An American musical, with music and book by James Valcq and lyrics and book by Fred Alley, based on the 1996 film by Lee David Zlotoff. The journey of a young woman just released from prison who decides to start her life anew in a rural Wisconsin town. The folk and bluegrass tinged score is unlike that for any other musical. Tickets required.
Jazz Ensemble Concert
May 3, 7:30 p.m.
Directed by Dan Kramlich. Free.
The Denise Levertov Award and Poetry Reading
May 11, 7 p.m.
Pigott Auditorium, Seattle University
Annual award presented by Image Journal to an artist or creative writer whose work exemplifies a serious and sustained engagement with the Judeo-Christian tradition. Dessert reception. Free.
Fan Mayhall Gates Literary Reading
May 19, 7 p.m.
SPU Art Center Gallery
Suzanne Wolfe, instructor in English and executive editor of Image Journal, will read from her new novel The Confessions of X (Thomas Nelson, 2016), the imagined recollections of Augustine’s unnamed concubine. Free.
May 25–28, 7:30 p.m.; 2 p.m. matinee May 28
Backstage Theatre, McKinley Hall
Two kindred spirits find true love in 1944 Missouri in a romantic comedy by Lanford Wilson. Tickets required.
Symphony Orchestra Concert
May 26, 7:30 p.m.
First Free Methodist Church
Directed by Eric Hanson. Free.
Percussion Ensemble Concert
May 31, 7:30 p.m.
E.E. Bach Theatre, McKinley Hall
Directed by Dan Adams. Free.
Gospel Choir Concert
June 2, 7:30 p.m.
First Free Methodist Church
Directed by Stephen Newby. Free.
All Choirs Concert
June 3, 7:30 p.m.
First Free Methodist Church
Concert Choir and Chamber Singers directed by David Anderson. Men’s Choir directed by Ryan Ellis. Women’s Choir directed by Beth Ann Bonnecroy. Free.