WMU News

Boyer talks about his inspiration for 'Ellis Island'

Nov. 5, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- Peter Boyer, composer and creator of "Ellis Island: The Dream of America," will deliver a free lecture on his inspiration for the composition as part of Western Michigan University's Centennial Scholar and Artist Series.

Boyer's presentation, "Oral History and the Orchestra: Creating Ellis Island: The Dream of America," begins at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 12, in the Dalton Center Lecture Hall. Boyer relied heavily on the Ellis Island Oral History Project and the pictorial archives of the Ellis Island Museum in creating the multimedia theatrical production, which will be performed by the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra Nov. 14.

Ellis Island, in New York harbor, was the principal point of entry for immigrants from 1892 to 1954, when it closed. More than 12 million immigrants, or 70 percent of all those who entered the United States during those years, passed through Ellis Island, which reopened in 1990 as a national park and museum. Boyer reviewed hundreds of interviews with those immigrants.

"Ultimately, I settled on a structure that includes seven stories, four female and three male, of immigrants who came through Ellis Island from seven countries between 1910 and 1940," he says. "In the end, I chose these stories both because they spoke to me personally, and because they seemed to complement one another dramatically."

The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra will present Boyer's dramatic account of the immigrant experience beginning at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 14, in Miller Auditorium.

The stories will be portrayed by WMU theatre performance majors, under the direction of D. Terry Williams, chairperson of the Department of Theatre. The actors will appear in costume with a modest set and props. The orchestra will be to the rear of the stage, and Ellis Island images will be projected on screens above the stage.

Performing in Ellis Island will be seniors Stacie Hadgikosti and Alan VanHouzen; juniors Katie Buthler, Nylda Ria John Mark, Kurt Pickelmann, and Sarah Scanlon; and sophomore Kevin O'Callaghan.

Tickets for the Nov. 14 performance are available through the Miller Auditorium Ticket Office at (269) 387-2300 or toll free (800) 228-9858.

Boyer is an award-winning composer and conductor whose music has been widely acclaimed by audiences and critics alike for its dramatic strength and evocative power. He has won six national competitions, including two BMI Awards, the First Music Carnegie Hall commission, and the Ithaca College Heckscher Prize.

At age 33, Boyer has created orchestral music that has been performed more than 50 times by some 20 orchestras, including the Dallas Symphony, Hartford Symphony, Rhode Island Philharmonic and New York Youth Symphony.

Media contact: Thom Myers, 269 387-8400, thom.myers@wmich.edu

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