At Play – Winter 2009

Published: Jan 19, 2009

Sound & Strength

Imagine a few sounds: a squeaky door, the shredding of paper, a bowling ball falling down a staircase, and a persistent buzz. Then: a drum beat, some notes from a piano and a wailing saxophone enter the mix. Soon pauses are woven in, here and there, filling up space not with sound but with silence. Until the sounds renew themselves again.

This music filled the UMBC Fine Arts Recital Hall on an evening last November, created by five composers – four of them alumni of the university’s music department. It was a celebration of improvisation, experimentation – and deep connections made at UMBC which have endured long after graduation.

Though the performers that night had collaborated in the past, the autumn performance by Jeff Arnal ’97, John Dierker ’88, Will Redman ’98, Jonathan Vincent ’97 – accompanied by former UMBC student Marc Miller – was the first time that they had played together as a cohesive group. It was a chance for these professional musicians to commemorate bonds they formed at UMBC a decade ago and to revel in the diversity of their own creative approaches to contemporary music.

“Even though we all work in the avant-garde or experimental realm,” observes Redman, a percussionist who organized the concert, “we have very different approaches to what we do.”

The quintet’s members point to another shared bond: the influence of music professor Stuart Saunders Smith. “Smith had an incredibly profound influence on the direction that my musical career took,” says Redman.

“I encourage each student to let composition emerge from their unique self, untethered by commercial culture,” Smith says. “And each of them did that.”

— B. Rose Huber

Many Tiny Moments

Robert Deluty simply can’t help himself.

Poetic moments may strike at any time, in any place. He wouldn’t be so rude as to compose a full haiku during an administrative meeting, per se, but he’s certainly not above scribbling a few choice phrases on the nearest sugar packet.

He hopes you don’t mind.

“If you are aware and alive, every day provides new opportunities,” says Deluty, an associate professor of psychology at UMBC since 1980 and associate dean of UMBC’s Graduate School since last July. “You just open your eyes and you’re bombarded with sights and smells and sounds.”

Deluty opens his eyes wider than most. Having released his eighteenth volume of haiku, As With Sunbeams, last fall, he has published more books of poetry than there are syllables in most of his works.

In tiny pieces, with the observance of a psychologist, he chronicles everything from the shocking price of a young bride’s gown, to the stark beauty of an albino peacock, to the rich history of his Jewish family in Poland. Some end with a punch line; others with a punch to the stomach.

Many of the poems draw from his own life. His favorite isn’t a haiku or a senryu, the haiku’s more humanistic/satiric/ironic/humorous first cousin. It’s “Lessons,” a 21-liner (“That’s epic for me,” he jokes) encompassing four generations of his own family. In another, “For Elise,” he recalls his mother, a former diamond cutter with the eyes of hawk, in her later years, nearly blind.

Other poems come from acquaintances and strangers, real and imagined. If you see him grabbing a pen and napkin on the fly, his next haiku just might be about you.

“I try to write them down as quickly as possible,” he says. “I wouldn’t want to lose the moment.”

— Jenny O’Grady

Choice Strokes

The Choice Program is one of UMBC’s most successful initiatives – helping at-risk youth through personal intervention by program workers. And now the Commons boasts a new work of art that celebrates the innovative program’s 20th anniversary.

“Choosing to Make a Difference” is a mural conceived by artist Joey Tomassoni. Choice Program participants helped create the mural in collaboration with Class Acts Arts – a nonprofit group based in Silver Spring, Md. The work was unveiled in February 2008 at the Maryland Statehouse before its move to UMBC.

Based at UMBC’s Shriver Center, the Choice Program’s intensive efforts to attack youth delinquency and aid in personal development have been copied in other cities. Lamar Davis, director of the Choice Program, is proud of the program’s statistical successes, including the fact that 85 percent of its participants do not acquire new delinquent charges. “But numbers tell only part of the story,” he says. “Choice stories are stories of struggle and challenge but above all, they are stories of achievement, triumph and hope.”

— Joseph Cooper ’08 and B. Rose Huber

Got Gritty?

He may not fit into a jersey yet, but UMBC’s new mascot Gritty (so named by the nearly 900 athletics fans who voted online last fall) is already a regular on the courts and fields. Our new favorite Chesapeake Bay Retriever’s rookie card is sure to be a collector’s item.

— Jenny O’Grady



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