The Chancellor’s Concerto

It was a delight to be a part of the audience at a recent performance by the UMKC Conservatory Orchestra at the Folly Theatre, though I certainly hope no one there got the wrong idea about whose talents were on display.

There was a reference to “The Chancellor’s Concerto,” but let me assure you, I was in the audience, not on stage; and the piece performed was Barber’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, not Morton’s.

No, I lend my office’s title to the annual Chancellor’s Concerto Competition at our Conservatory of Music and Dance because I want to underscore how important this program is to our university and our community. That importance stems from several factors.

chancellor's concerto

Chancellor Leo E. Morton, Sora Park, and Conservatory Dean Peter Witte

First, performances by our Conservatory artists are one of the primary ways in which we as a campus interact directly with the broader community. The fruits of our research, and the talents of our alumni, touch thousands daily; but usually without a UMKC label of any kind attached. It is through performances by our musicians and dancers, as well as our theatre performers and our athletes, that so many people in our community experience a direct connection to UMKC.

Second, the arts are a critical component of our identity as a university. The long-term excellence of our arts programs led us to be designated as the UM System’s flagship campus for the visual and performing arts. Maintaining that lofty status is a key responsibility of this office, and this competition is an important factor in allowing us to continue to compete globally for top musical talent.

The pianist who performed the concerto with the orchestra, Sora Park, is a perfect example of this. A native of Seoul, South Korea, Sora is currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts in piano performance at the Conservatory. She earned her Master of Music from Western Illinois University at Macomb, Ill., and her Bachelor of Music from Hanyang University in Seoul. She is currently studying with Professor Robert Weirich.

The Chancellor’s Competition gives students a chance to perform an entire concerto, which is very important if they want to become professional musicians. The competition selects one winner for the opportunity to perform a complete work with orchestra during a regularly scheduled concert of the Conservatory Orchestra. The intent is to encourage the very finest performance level at the Conservatory and reward it in a special public performance. The competition is open to all enrolled degree-seeking instrumentalists or singers.

Finally, I was delighted to have the opportunity to see and hear Sora and the orchestra perform in the beautiful Folly Theatre, a great concert hall in the heart of the city. More than a century old, the Folly is a perfect Downtown complement to the brand-new, much larger and world-class Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts a few blocks away. As we continue to work to make our dream of a Downtown Campus for the Arts a reality, our new Folly for Five program provides a taste of the kind of vibrancy and excitement a Downtown arts campus can create.

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