Butler Magazine

Spring 2016

Embracing a Love of Music

Jen Gunnels

from Spring 2016

For the Starost Speicher family, music was and is a gift to be shared with others. Helen Starost Speicher earned her bachelor’s degree from Butler in 1941 and her master’s degree in 1948 before going on to play music professionally, often alongside her sister Lillian, who also earned music degrees from Butler. The sisters embraced a love of music from their parents and grandparents, and spent their lives passing that love on to others. Both women spent many years teaching music in Indianapolis Public Schools and were active in arts organizations throughout the Midwest. 

Together with her husband Bill ’35 and her sister Lillian ’38 MA ’48, Starost Speicher also chose to share her love of music by establishing three scholarships at Butler during her lifetime: The William and Helen Speicher Outstanding Music Performance Award, The Anne Starost Memorial Music Award, and The Starost Speicher Music Memorial Award. 

“My mother and aunt were both professional musicians and they were very grateful for their education,” said Helen and Bill’s daughter Anne Soper. “They wanted to afford others with the same opportunities they had because they knew how difficult it is to become a professional musician, especially how financially difficult it can be.” 

The scholarships also honor Helen and Lillian’s parents, Anne and Charles Starost, who were both accomplished musicians. The three endowed scholarships currently benefit six Jordan College of the Arts students; Whitney Cleveland ’17 is the current recipient of two of those scholarships. 

“It wouldn’t be possible for me to attend Butler without my scholarships,” Cleveland said. “I’m from a small town in western Montana, and while I grew up being very fortunate to have great teachers and strong and thriving community theatre, I didn’t have any friends my age who were serious about music. Being able to be surrounded by talented, dedicated musicians every day inspires me to work harder to fulfill my own potential.” 

Soper says it would have brought her parents great joy to know that the scholarships they established are helping promising students like Cleveland pursue music at Butler. 

“There was a lot of family history at Butler,” Soper said. “Butler was a very special place in their hearts.” 

Arts & Culture

Embracing a Love of Music

by Jen Gunnels

from Spring 2016

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Midwestern Voice in the Capital

Marc Allan

from Spring 2016

During her six years at Butler—four as an undergraduate Arts Administration major and two earning her Master of Music Education— Ursula Kuhar ’05 MM ’07 often thought about moving to Washington, DC. 

In July, Kuhar took over as Executive Director of Washington Concert Opera, which specializes in performing seldom-heard operas. Kuhar calls it “one of the most revered companies in the country.” 

Getting to this point was a journey that began in Powell, Ohio, outside Columbus, where Kuhar had volunteered for her hometown symphony orchestra while in high school. She knew she wanted to pursue a career in music. After meeting with then-Associate Dean of the Jordan College of Fine Arts Steve Roberson, she discovered the idea of Arts Administration as a major. 

Butler’s undergraduate program allowed Kuhar to explore all avenues of music, from business to teaching to performance. She was so taken with what she learned from Professor Michael Sells (“He’s still a huge mentor and guiding force in my life, and a great friend.”) that she wanted to keep studying with him. So she stayed for a master’s degree, taking voice lessons and performance-based classes from Sells, as well as music education classes with another favorite professor of hers, Penny Dimmick. 

Butler led to Indiana University, where Kuhar earned her Doctor of Music in Voice. Three days after graduation in 2011, she was hired by Sweet Briar College as Director and Assistant Professor of Arts Management. She spent four years there—and would have happily stayed longer—but on March 3, 2015, the faculty was assembled and told that the school would be closing on June 30. (That decision was rescinded in mid-June, but not until after Kuhar had accepted her position with Washington Concert Opera.) 

At Sweet Briar, Kuhar had quadrupled enrollment in the arts-management program, helped secure foundation and individual gifts, and “had a wonderful time” there. Now, she enjoys presenting “exquisite music” like Rossini’s Semiramide “to a group of devoted patrons.” 

“It’s a niche that people love,” Kuhar said. 

Plus, there’s the benefit of being in the nation’s capital. The location is head-turning, she said, “but I’m still a salt-of-the-earth, Midwest girl at the end of the day.”


Seeing the Music

Marc Allan

from Spring 2016

Nathan Blume ’03 came to Butler from Fort Wayne, Indiana, with a plan to double-major in Chemistry (on a pre-med track) and Trumpet Performance. A year later, thanks to the guidance of Professor of Music Michael Schelle, he went “all in” on music. 

“Once I did it,” Blume said, “even the act of changing my major, I felt like that was exactly what I wanted to do. It took Schelle to get me to do that. Throughout my time there, he really became a mentor and instilled in me—not just through personal advice but in his teaching—a confidence about myself and my abilities. I always knew that I wanted to come out to L.A. and try film music. I don’t think I’d be out here without Dr. Schelle’s advice and help.” 

Schelle’s confidence proved spot-on—Blume’s resume now includes composing music for The CW Network’s Arrow and The Flash, CNN’s The Seventies, NBC’s Blindspot, and the popular web series Vixen

But before Blume got to Hollywood, there were detours—a master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University to build up his composition chops, followed by a couple of years with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra while he and his future wife, Megan McGarry ’05, figured out their next steps. They married in 2006 and moved to California in 2007 so he could attend the University of Southern California’s (USC) Thornton Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television program. That one-year intensive curriculum, taught by working professionals, is “the front door into the film music industry,” Blume said. “That’s where you meet a lot of people and you start networking.” (In the meantime, McGarry founded and now serves as principal of a charter middle school in San Fernando.) 

After USC, Blume found work consistently, first on short films, then on the TV series Eastwick, where he began collaborating with well-established composer Blake Neely. Blume credits his education for teaching him not only how to compose music but how to work fast (composers typically only get a week to write 35 minutes of music for a 42-minute show) and appreciate the way his work fits with everyone else’s. 

“You want something that sets the tone for the piece,” he said. “You’re working as a collaborator. It’s not about you and your musical abilities. It’s about your ability to work with the project and accomplish the end goal that everyone’s trying to accomplish.” 

Arts & Culture

Seeing the Music

by Marc Allan

from Spring 2016

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From Bulldog to Ogre

Marc Allan

from Spring 2016

Where in the world is John Thyen?

Depending on when you’re reading this, the 2010 graduate could be in Egypt dressed as a green ogre. Or in Asia, disguised as one of the three little pigs. Or in Australia singing in a chorus. Throughout 2016, Thyen is on a world tour with Shrek: The Musical, understudying the title role while also appearing nightly as a featured ensemble player. 

“I’ve never left the country before,” he said prior to the tour, which began in January 2016 in Istanbul. “So I think it’s going to be life-changing to see so many different cultures and bring an art form that is awesome to so many different places.” 

Thyen grew up in Valparaiso, Indiana, and chose Butler because the Jordan College of the Arts (JCA) offered an all-encompassing degree rather than a specialized one. Versatility, he realized, would be important for someone hoping to break into theatre. In fact, after sophomore year, Thyen changed his major to Arts Administration so he’d have a fully rounded view of the business. That, he said, “has been a huge benefit for me as a professional.” 

After graduation, Thyen worked in Butler’s Office of Annual Giving for seven months, then took a job at a nonprofit for about a year. In his off hours, he performed in the Indianapolis Civic Theatre’s production of Rent and with Indianapolis Opera. But at work, he found himself thinking, “I’d rather be in rehearsal right now.” Thyen felt he owed it to himself to try to be a full-time actor. 

So he packed up a car and drove to New York. He lined up a place to live and a temporary job and went to auditions. That led to some Off-Broadway and regional theatre work, then a national tour of Seussical the Musical. And now Shrek, where he will be dressed in 70-75 pounds of costume and prosthetics and, some nights, airbrushed in green paint. (Follow his trip on Instagram or his website, 

Thyen said that when he took off for New York, the initial reaction from family and friends was mixed. “Your family is always a little bit like, ‘Oh, you’re going to give up a salary and benefits to go be a waiter.’ But I think they saw that I really wanted to do it,” he said, “and I’ve been able to show that hard work pays off.” 

Arts & Culture

From Bulldog to Ogre

by Marc Allan

from Spring 2016

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Bright Lights to Financial Heights

Evie Schultz ’16

from Spring 2016


When Renee Tabben ’94 arrived at Butler as a freshman, she dreamed of Broadway. She ended up— happily—closer to Wall Street. 

“All I wanted to do was perform,” the Cincinnati native said. “I was absolutely focused on moving to New York and becoming wildly successful in musical theater.” 

But she also wanted a backup plan. Encouraged by her parents and Owen Schaub, the Department Head of Theater at the time, Tabben declared an arts administration major with a concentration in theatre. During her time at Butler she performed with the Butler Chorale and participated in a variety of Jordan College of Fine Arts (JCFA), now currently named the Jordan College of the Arts (JCA) productions. 

Her first job in musical theatre came two weeks after graduation at a summer stock theater in Maine (thanks to an introduction from Bernard Wurger, a Butler Theater Professor). That opportunity led to several others at theaters across the country, but by 1997, Tabben wanted a change of pace. 

Renee left New York, returning to her hometown of Cincinnati to consider going to law school. Before enrolling, she landed a temporary job at Fidelity Investments. The job required her to be a quick study and to communicate effectively—two skills she had honed while performing. 

From there, an unexpected career in finance took off. Tabben went on to start a financial planning practice and earn an MBA from the J.L. Kellogg School of Management of Northwestern University. 

Now she is the Market Executive of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management in West Michigan. She is responsible for seven offices across the state in a role she said is incredibly dynamic, people focused, and personally rewarding. 

“Theatre has a human, emotional, raw core,” she said. “When I began engaging with clients around their financial lives, I realized the connection with the person—their emotions about money, was the essential element to helping clients achieve their purpose for their wealth. My experience with communicating with audiences and actively listening helped me to connect with people. My business education in Arts Administration reinforced my value in the business world.” 

That connection, Tabben said, is easier with the help of her Butler education. 

“There is no way I ever thought I would be a Market Executive at Merrill Lynch,” she said. “But so many of those skills I learned at JCA are highly transferrable.” 

“At Butler, what you’re learning can be valuable at a variety of careers. Stay open-minded—don’t limit yourself to what you think you can do with your degree.” 


Bright Lights to Financial Heights

by Evie Schultz ’16

from Spring 2016

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Deeply Rooted

Cindy Dashnaw

from Spring 2016

“It's about time.” 

That’s how Patricia Brennan See ’74 reacted when she heard that Butler’s vision for its Arts Center is to become Central Indiana’s arts and culture destination. 

“Butler has had a stellar—and I mean stellar—arts program for decades, and it’s been under wraps. Now, we’re coming into our own,” said this alum and member of the Jordan College of the Arts (JCA) Board of Visitors. “It’s time to get out there and show ourselves as the fantastic school we are.” 

See generously supports ArtsFest and the Butler Community Arts School. And though she wasn’t an arts major, her family tree is as firmly rooted in the arts as it is in Butler. 

Her father and mother were amateur actors during her childhood, and “Patsy,” as family and friends call her, was active in high school theatre. When it came time for college, she and her brother followed in dad’s footsteps by attending his alma mater; Robert Brennan holds Butler degrees in Music and Pharmacy. 

He also taught here for 18 years, some of which overlapped his children’s time as students. And nine years after her graduation, See joined him on Butler’s faculty. 

After a career focused on speech and communication, See felt the bite of the theatre bug once her three children were grown. 

“I got involved in the local (Zionsville, Indiana) community theatre. And because I can’t do anything halfway, I worked on 19 shows in a row and did everything except costuming,” she said. “I’ve relaxed a little bit now, except that this week, my husband and I are doing lights and sound for a children’s play.” 

“Relaxed” meant getting involved in Butler arts again when an old classmate popped up on Facebook: Howard Schrott, the arts supporter after which the Howard L. Schrott Center is named. 

“We're starting to have a coordinated vision for the arts together. Butler's arts center is just a gold mine of artistic expression."

“Howard introduced me to Ron Caltabiano (Dean of the Jordan College of the Arts), and I thought his vision for Butler was long overdue,” See said. “I don’t have relationships with institutions. I have relationships with individuals at institutions. So after talking with Ron and those who support him, I was glad to get involved.” 

See believes wholeheartedly in the quality of the arts at Butler and in the value of the arts in education. 

“There’s no other discipline on earth that teaches you who you are—not only who you are, but who you are in relation to other people. My friend Lynn Manning says, ‘Art is the ultimate team sport.’ You find out how to work with other people in intricate ways, and you learn so much about yourself,” she said. 

She pointed out that plenty of research shows the arts enhance every other discipline. 

“Teaching the arts is integral to the proliferation of artistic expression,” See said. “The arts are cut and cut and cut from schools, yet there has to be some place that will continue to offer them.” 

She believes Butler emphasizes excellence, expertise, and depth of knowledge to a degree no other school can match. 

“Even just building the Schrott Center has elevated all the arts at Butler. It’s one of those rare places where you can do music, dance, and theatre all in one place because of the adaptability of the space. Now, with Studio 168, black-box spaces, Clowes, the Schrott—whatever you want to do, you can do it in one of our spaces. 

“We’re starting to have a coordinated vision for the arts together. Butler’s Arts Center is just a gold mine of artistic expression.” 


Deeply Rooted

by Cindy Dashnaw

from Spring 2016

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Stream Lines

Marc Allan

from Spring 2016

The Impact of Water

Walk in Holcomb Gardens these days and you’ll see a series of red lines, mirrors, backwards words, and a pedestal in the center where visitors can stand. There are poems written on the mirrors, as well as facts about the Indianapolis water system. And there are even jokes: What is a tree that looks different on both sides? Asymmetry. 

They’re all part of StreamLines, an interactive project that merges art and science to advance the Indianapolis community’s understanding and appreciation of its waterways. 

StreamLines—in place for the next two years—was unveiled in September 2015. It’s the result of a $2.9 million National Science Foundation grant awarded to the Center for Urban Ecology at Butler University. 

The project features a collection of dance performances (choreographed by Butler Dance Professor Cynthia Pratt), musical recordings, poetry, and visual art tailored for sites along the six Indianapolis waterways—White River, Fall Creek, Central Canal, Little Eagle Creek, Pleasant Run, and Pogue’s Run. The art created for each site invites the community to learn, explore, and experience the science of local water systems. 

Also incorporated into the project is an interactive website (, smartphone app, and related programming to increase access, enhance interpretation, and provide expanded opportunities for learning. 

Spokesperson Ryan Puckett said the objective is to inform Indianapolis about its waterways, to understand the impact water has on us, and to recognize the impact we have on water. 

“We’re not trying to get somebody a PhD in the science of water,” he said. “We’re trying to go for things like getting people to understand that we all live in a watershed. In Indianapolis, we live in the White River Watershed. When a drop of water hits the ground here, it eventually flows into the White River, which ends up in the Mississippi River, which ends up in the Gulf of Mexico, which ends up in the ocean. So that connectivity to all those different waterways shows we can have some impact on the ocean.” 


Stream Lines

by Marc Allan

from Spring 2016

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Big Break

Megan Ward MS ’13

from Spring 2016

Guns N’ Roses. Senses Fail. Thomas Rhett. Florida Georgia Line. All are musical influences of KaraKara, a band out of Louisville, Kentucky, who has opened for The Ataris, Asher Roth, and Walk the Moon among others. KaraKara also is the latest to sign with Butler’s Indyblue Entertainment. Chris Allen ’89, who has scouted many great bands and is a Vice President of A&R for Global Music Publishing, connected KaraKara with Cutler Armstrong, Creative Media and Entertainment (CME) Instructor at Butler. 

The whirlwind process of making an album hasn’t been without its challenges for KaraKara. The biggest being writing every song “long distance without a single band member being in the same city. We had only one weekend of rehearsals with everyone in the same room before we recorded,” said member Sam Varga. 

And the biggest surprise? “The talent and insights of the [Butler] students involved with the project. Not only is the studio amazing, everyone behind the board was awesome. We never felt like we were missing out on anything [by working] with the students and Indyblue,” added Varga. 

In fact, it was invaluable to KaraKara to get the feedback of their peers—and target audience—while recording. During the intense three-and-a-half days of recording, Butler students pushed KaraKara to experiment with different sounds—“a cool experience” according to the band. 

Each year Butler students produce a full album— everything from finding talent and recording to mixing and mastering the final product—as part of their capstone course in the Recording Industry Studies program. Past artists include locals Jenna Epkey and Jai Baker Band. 

“I believe it’s better to have hands-on experience versus learning from a PowerPoint,” said Armstrong. 

He isn’t alone. Two grants—one from Butler’s Innovation Fund (earned by CME Department Chair Ken Creech), and one from the Music and Entertainment Industry Educators Association—were awarded to create Indyblue Entertainment. 

Throughout the recording process, students work with Armstrong and Technical Services Coordinator Mark Harris—both vital to the recording process, listening and providing valuable feedback to the students. Visiting Professor Richard Ash also was instrumental in the recording process, even demonstrated various mixing techniques. Ash is a multiple gold- and platinum-record earning mixer/producer and former Vice President of Guitar’s Center’s professional division. 

At Indyblue, students also get to collaborate with other industry pros like mastering engineer Andy VanDette and Indianapolis-based lawyer Robert Meitus. Names not familiar? VanDette has worked with Whitney Houston and the Beastie Boys (to name a couple) and Meitus specializes in entertainment contracts and intellectual property. 

KaraKara has hopes of working with industry heavyweights as well. “Dreaming big” Varga said he hopes Scott Borchetta or Shane McAnally take a listen to the band’s album. 

As for the album release, it’s slated for early 2016. While there aren’t any concrete plans, Varga promised, “There will be a party. There is always a party.” 

About Indyblue Entertainment

Since its launch in 2013, Indyblue has released six albums. Along with a full-length album, each year students produce and market other recordings, including a music sampler of local artists and various audio productions for radio and internet. Any profits go toward funding the next year’s project. CCOM has two, industry-standard professional recording studios on Butler’s campus. 

Indyblue Student Team 

Recording and Mixing Engineer/ Producer: Ryan Hallquist 

Assistant Engineers/ Producers: Marco Rosas, Phillip Tock, Jesse May, Jordan Fuchs, Matt Brooks, Dan Fuson, Charell Luckey, Javier Perez 

Assistant Mix Engineers: Marco Rosas, Jesse May, Phillip Tock 

Album Artwork and Photography: Cate Pickens 

Liner Notes and Credit Coordination: Matt Brooks 

Social Media Coordination: Grey Gordon 

Student Life

Big Break

by Megan Ward MS ’13

from Spring 2016

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Setting the Barre

Cindy Dashnaw

from Spring 2016

While most high-school juniors were getting their driver’s licenses, Karnjanakorn “Gift” Sapianchai was saying goodbye to everyone and everything she knew. 

She was moving 8,100 miles from home to dance ballet. 

“Home” is Bangkok, Thailand, on Southeast Asia’s Indochina peninsula. While younger Thai children can learn ballet at studios, dance offerings in general are severely limited in her country, Sapianchai said. 

“I think art hasn’t developed in the same way there that it has here or in Europe. Sports are more developed [in Thailand]. My sister is a swimmer for the national team, and she plans to try out for the Olympics in a few years. 

"Dancing allows me to express what's inside of me."

“I started ballet because my parents thought it would improve my posture,” she said. “I also did piano, art lessons, swimming, all the other sports. Eventually, they all went away except for ballet.” 

Sapianchai’s ballet instructors followed the RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) syllabus, an internationally recognized portfolio of exams and assessments that outline a progressive structure for learning and achievement. But it goes only so far in a culture that doesn’t value ballet, she said. Bangkok City Ballet is the country’s only professional ballet company. 

Fortunately, a teacher in Sapianchai’s studio danced professionally and recognized her potential. He recommended that she audition for the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, DC. 

“I sent in a video, and they accepted me,” Sapianchai said. “We had academics in the morning, then four hours of ballet in the afternoon and sometimes rehearsals.” 

The experience strengthened her love of ballet. She chose to attend Butler because she knew it had one of the top dance programs in the country and offered a wide range of dance styles. 

“Even if you’re a dance major, you’re not restricted to just dancing. You can take Arts Administration, Arts Pedagogy, or the History of Dance. The Dance professors really know what they’re doing, and students are very connected to them. They offer you very personal advice,” she said. 

“And they encourage you to do a second major or a minor that’s completely separate from Dance, so that when you graduate, you don’t feel like your only option is to be a professional dancer. You will have other skills.” 

Sapianchai appreciates the “strong sense of community in Ballet, the College, the entire campus” she has found at Butler. She also is glad for the hard work. 

“In the RAD system, it is the same class every single day, just repeated. Here, at Butler and at Kirov, every class is different. They make your brain work in different ways because you have to apply different combinations to music you may never have heard before. 

“I grew up with a lot of classical ballet. I wasn’t aware of other types of ballet like modern or Balanchine. Now that I’m here, I’m doing a wide repertoire and learning there’s a lot more to ballet,” she said. 

Sapianchai plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in Dance Performance, then audition for a dance company here in Indianapolis. 

“Ballet allows me to express myself. I’m not a very vocal person, so dancing allows me to express what’s inside of me,” she said. 

Arts & Culture

Setting the Barre

by Cindy Dashnaw

from Spring 2016

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Art: The Secret Ingredient

Cindy Dashnaw

from Spring 2016

Common Core State Standards outline what to teach students so they can graduate. What the standards don’t address is how to do that.

In this void, College of Education (COE) Professor Arthur Hochman saw an opportunity for Butler to influence the way teachers teach and students learn for decades to come.

Art Meets Education

We know today that the arts improve educational performance. But it wasn’t until 2002 that a first-of-its-kind research study showed that students exposed to arts education scored higher on standardized tests, developed better social skills, and had more motivation than their counterparts.

Hundreds of studies since have reached the same conclusion: Integrating the arts with other subjects improves the performance of K-12 students. 

Why, then, haven’t schools changed? 

“In 2002, teachers weren’t being taught to teach this way,” Hochman said. “And they still aren’t, for the most part—frankly, because standardized tests don’t emphasize it.” 

Teachers who might want to add an arts component to lesson plans are on their own.

“They have only their own experience to draw from. And think about that: all of us—teachers—included, grew up doing sums on the board, not moving in front of the class,” Hochman said. “So how can we expect them to naturally integrate an art form into the way they teach?” 

Hochman’s solution began with his creation of the Arts Integration (AI) course.

Art for All

Hochman recruited Tim Hubbard, Arts Integration Specialist, to help teach the required course in 2004. AI ensures that future teachers get a base of knowledge about successfully marrying the arts with other subjects. 

It’s our responsibility as an educational institution, Hochman said. 

“We always hear that the arts are for everyone, but they’re not. When families cannot afford to take their children to a performance or exhibit, school is their only chance,” said Hochman. “We want to make sure teachers know how to give students what they need.”

The arts can be integrated into any subject—math, for example. Twenty students solving the same equation may come up with the same answer. But when they can use their bodies to express their thought processes, Hochman said, individuality, retention, and attitudes soar. 

“The arts are inherently personal. They demand our own interpretation. So when I, as a student, connect math with the physical movement of my body, the math becomes a personal expression of me. After all, what am I more connected to than me?” he said.

Effective Arts Integration

The approach intrigued Superintendent of Kokomo-Center Consolidated School Corporation Jeff Hauswald. He asked Hochman and Hubbard for help in developing an arts-integrated elementary school. Thanks to exceptional community support, the Wallace School of Integrated Arts opened in 2012 with a waiting list. Eleven of its 14 teachers are Butler graduates. 

One of those is Veronica Orech ’14, who wrote in an email that Butler transformed her ideas on how to be a teacher. She also saw the approach at the Indianapolis Public Schools/Butler University Lab School 60, a COE partner. 

"The arts are inherently personal. They demand our own intepretation."

“No matter the subject, arts integration is my favorite way to teach. The overall experience is more rewarding for everyone involved because everyone is more motivated to take ownership of their learning experience—myself included,” she wrote. 

For more information, visit the Wallace School of Integrated Arts

The Art of Creating Butler Artsfest

Patricia Snyder Pickett ’82, APR

from Spring 2016


Those who perceive Butler ArtsFest as a showcase of the Jordan College of the Arts (JCA) are clearly not in tune with the vision of Ronald Caltabiano, JCA dean. 

Launched in 2013, ArtsFest has evolved into an annual event that presents renowned performing and visual artists from around the globe alongside students and faculty from JCA. 

It all began when Caltabiano, a New York native, landed on Butler’s campus in 2011 as its newly appointed Dean of JCA. Along with JCA faculty and staff, he quickly began to formulate plans for an event that would not only feature the many facets of the College, but one that would be rooted in collaboration and create a cross pollination of artistic talent spilling well beyond the Butler campus. 

That vision ultimately became the first Butler ArtsFest— themed “Revolution!”—that premiered in April 2013 with 40 performances and events over an 11-day period. That premiere provided a festive and impressive backdrop for the opening of the Howard L. Schrott Center for the Arts. 

“It was evident from that first year that there was much more to it than celebrating the launch of the new building,” said Caltabiano. “For our students, Butler ArtsFest is a way for them to progress. It enables them to collaborate across the arts. We know that—with the most rare of exceptions—that will serve them well in their careers after Butler.” That concept is well illustrated among the students of JCA. 

Caltabiano points to a piece of art on his office wall. “I asked the student who painted that piece what she was doing during the summer,” he recounted. “She said, ‘Well, my real major is theatre, but I’m going to spend the summer playing violin in a rock band.’ That’s really an example of what the future holds for these young artists— that sort of multifaceted work across many platforms.” 

It’s a stark contrast to the perceived classic tradition of arts education. From an academic standpoint, Professor of Music at Butler and Orchestral Conductor Richard Auldon Clark believes cross-disciplinary collaboration at the college level is imperative to both ArtsFest and the future of the arts. 

“It’s great to embrace our history and the past, but not at the expense of the future,” Clark said. “Providing this breadth of work through ArtsFest, and the relationship the experience creates for all those involved, translates into one of the most unique and valuable programs a liberal arts college can offer.” 

It’s also a valuable driver of support, both on and off the Butler campus, according to Caltabiano. 

“Initially, we had a few skeptics … but they gave me a ‘bye’ the first year. By the second year, they began to see how it helped our students, our reputation, and our bottom line. Now people at the University and in the arts community are embracing it year-after-year.” 

By embodying the essence of Butler’s arts program, ArtsFest provides an ideal opportunity for potential students and donors alike to engage with the University. Perhaps no one understands this better than Howard Schrott ’76, whose generous gift helped move Butler’s new, state-of-the-art performing and visual arts venue from the drawing board to fruition. 

“As we chatted with Butler, we landed on this idea that arts students truly needed a ‘lab space’—much like the business or science students—in which to practice their craft,” according to Schrott, who said he was initially drawn to the arts from his high school years spent playing the saxophone. “Butler ArtsFest is a wonderful way of bringing that ‘lab experience’ to the stage.” 

“We are right on track with my vision,” said Caltabiano, “It began with a 10-year plan to grow the festival from a budget of less than $100,000 to $1 million. While we initially hosted all performances on Butler’s campus, as we grow, we want to include off-campus performances as a means to further enhance our students’ experiences and position Butler as a leader in the Central Indiana arts scene.” 

Now in its fourth year, Butler ArtsFest 2016 will take place April 7–17 with more than 40 performances and events, including dance, music, theatre, visual arts, and family programs. From the measured beats of the Los Angeles Percussion Quartet to the ancient sounds of a chanting Buddhist nun, from newly commissioned dance and theatre productions to a work composed in a Nazi POW camp, this year’s theme “Time and Timeless”—drawn from Indiana’s bicentennial celebration—explores the many ways we think about, measure, and use time.

Arts & Culture

The Art of Creating Butler Artsfest

by Patricia Snyder Pickett ’82, APR

from Spring 2016

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The Arts at Butler

S. L. Berry

from Spring 2016

The arts are more than an essential part of Butler University's academic mission. They exemplify Butler’s emphasis on experiential education, show our commitment to diversity, and bring our entire community together. In fact, as a magnet for Indianapolis-area residents, they attract more people to the campus annually than any other activity. 

Butler’s central role in the cultural vitality of Indianapolis is the basis of the Arts at Butler, a new strategy for positioning the University as the arts and culture hub of Central Indiana. Its foundation is the collective strength of Butler’s interdisciplinary academics, performing arts events and venues, and community-centered programs. 

“The Arts at Butler is what we are,” said Ron Caltabiano, Dean of the Jordan College of the Arts (JCA). “We teach each art form in the context of other art forms.” Pointing to the University’s nationally acclaimed dance program as an example, he said its students explore music, theatre, and visual arts, as well as arts administration. It’s an approach designed to deepen their understanding of—and appreciation for—creative and practical concerns outside of their discipline. 

To that end, the Arts at Butler offers a unified approach to promoting the array of art experiences available on campus. “We do more and more collaborative work,” said Susan Zurbuchen, Chair of JCA’s Arts Administration program. “But audiences still tend to identify as those who love dance, those who love theatre, those who love music, and so forth. We’re trying to help people understand they can experiment a little bit with what they attend.” 

Such campus events as the annual Butler ArtsFest provide an opportunity to do precisely that. Every April, ArtsFest brings renowned performing and visual artists from throughout the world to campus to take part in a diverse range of events alongside students and faculty members. It’s a chance for artists and audiences alike to expand their horizons. 

Building relationships with government agencies and corporations enables Butler to bring international artists to Central Indiana. The Arts at Butler will help focus attention on the diversity of those artists, with the goal of attracting equally diverse audiences. 

“There’s a great energy on and off campus about what the arts at Butler can mean for our students and for Indianapolis.”-Ron Caltabiano

Diversity is also the basis of the University’s community outreach programs, which have long been an important part of its relationship with its neighbors as an anchor institution in Midtown and Greater Indianapolis. The Arts at Butler enables the University to highlight such success stories as the Butler Community Arts School (BCAS), which provides instruction to 2,000 students ages 5 to adult throughout the academic year. Summer camps give another 10,000 underprivileged children the chance to explore the arts. 

In addition to community outreach through the BCAS program, Clowes Memorial Hall marks its 25th season of arts education programming for students, teachers, and parents statewide through their “Experience Learning Through the Arts” energizing, educational, and inspirational offerings. Throughout the program’s history, Butler’s campus and Clowes have welcomed and hosted over 1,000,000 patrons— many experiencing their first live theatre performance in support of educational curriculum and academic standards. A life-changing event for many cultivating informed and educated arts consumers of the future. 

“We want the Central Indiana community to see Butler not just as a place for a great education and the home of a great basketball team,” said Zurbuchen, “but as a place that positively impacts quality of life in the neighborhood, city, and region.” 

Contributing to that vision is the variety of professional venues on campus. From the 110-seat Black Box theatre and 140-seat Eidson-Duckwell Recital Hall to the 450-seat Howard L. Schrott Center for the Arts and 2,200-seat Clowes Memorial Hall, the venues comprising the newly created Butler Arts Center offer settings ranging from intimate to grand. They also offer opportunities to experience everything from student recitals to Broadway tours. 

Additional opportunities stem from the collaborative relationships the University enjoys with professional arts organizations, including the American Pianists Association, Dance Kaleidoscope, Indianapolis Children’s Choir, Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphonic Choir, and Indianapolis Opera—all of which perform at Butler’s venues, with most maintaining administrative offices on campus. 

“I don’t think there’s another university that has as many professional arts organizations on its campus,” said Caltabiano. Such proximity provides students with opportunities to learn from arts professionals, as well as to attend performances and events held by these organizations on and off campus. 

Overall, the Arts at Butler strategy is based on the synergy between students, venues, performers, and the community. Its vision has Butler as the fulcrum—the supportive and sustaining center of arts and culture in Central Indiana. 

“There’s a great energy on and off campus about what the Arts at Butler can mean for our students and for Indianapolis,” said Caltabiano. “By bringing together all of our considerable assets, we have the opportunity to create a world-class center for arts and culture thought, programming, and innovation right here at Butler University.” 

Arts & Culture

The Arts at Butler

by S. L. Berry

from Spring 2016

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