|Dr. Dahlia Guerra, dean of UTPA's College of Arts and Humanities, stands in the University's Fine Arts Auditorium, where she says she grew up from a teenager taking piano lessons to leader of the college that oversees the auditorium. UTPA is hosting its CODA Concert June 3 to bid farewell to the auditorium, which has housed many performances over the past 40-plus years. A new Fine Arts Complex is to be completed at the same location by 2014.|
The first time Dr. Dahlia Guerra set foot on The University of Texas-Pan American campus and entered its Fine Arts Auditorium she was a teenager about to meet her new piano teacher.
"I remember walking in there and it seemed huge to me, the seats were so bright and red, and the pianist on stage with her sparkling dress," Guerra, dean of UTPA's College of Arts and Humanities said. "She played the most beautiful piece, which later ... has become one of my most beloved pieces that I play, it is my signature piece by Granados 'The Maiden and the Nightingale.' Even now when I walk in there I still picture my teacher on stage playing."
Guerra recalls when she was first allowed to play on the stage as a student after winning a competition, a major achievement since students were not allowed to perform on stage. She also remembers numerous other performances there as a faculty member, as a soloist with the Valley Symphony Orchestra, and with the UTPA Mariachi Aztlán.
"I have a gamut of memories of that place," she said.
On June 3, Guerra, joined by fellow artists and patrons of the Fine Arts building, will bid adieu to the place that has served as a cultural center of the Rio Grande Valley for more than 40 years, as well as a second home for Guerra, who had rehearsed and performed there as a student at the University.
UT Pan American will host its CODA Concert at the Fine Arts Auditorium, which will feature a duet by Guerra, a classically trained pianist, accompanied by one of her former teachers, Dr. John Raimo, music faculty emeritus of UTPA. The concert also includes theater, music and dance performances by current and former faculty members, students, alumni and others who have performed at the auditorium throughout its existence. The College of Arts and Humanities Advisory Board is sponsoring the event.
The name coda comes from the musical term signifying the end of a piece. Organizers of the event said it was a fitting name to mark the end of an era and prepare for a new one with the new Fine Arts Complex to be completed by 2014. (The University is raising money for a recital hall in the new center, which was not included in the initial funding it received to build the complex.)
"It's a gathering place," Guerra said. "It was the heart of the community and just a symbol of how important the arts are in the community."
Over the years, UT Pan American's Fine Arts Auditorium hosted numerous performances put on by UTPA faculty, as well as the Valley Symphony Orchestra, student music competitions and theater productions. It also hosted famous musicians such as pianist Jorge Bolet and public figures including former U.S. President Bill Clinton and author Maya Angelou.
The new fine arts center will provide more rehearsal and classroom space for the University, as well as state-of-the-art equipment, which Guerra and other faculty said is much needed for their students and others who use the facility.
"We're going to enjoy the new building, and I'm looking forward to that," Guerra said. "We have to look at what are the improvements for our campus and community, so this is a huge plus for us. But I'll never forget this one."
Dr. Peter Dabrowski, professor of music at UTPA and music director of the Valley Symphony Orchestra and Chorale, called the Fine Arts Auditorium one of the most important buildings in the Valley because it served as the center for cultural activities in the area. The CODA concert is a tribute to the building and all it offered the Valley in terms of arts, as well as a celebration of the construction of the new state-of-the-art Fine Arts complex, scheduled for later this year, Dabrowski said.
"It's a tribute to all the years the building was home to so many different groups, so many different varieties of performances," Dabrowski said. "It's a joyful celebration, in my opinion, because it's like saying thanks, thanks to so many years of providing this great opportunity to perform and display talents of students, faculty and guest artists. It's an acknowledgement, and at the same time, it's saying welcome to a new phase, a new chapter in the history of culture in the Rio Grande Valley."
The event will include a theatre presentation by Dr. Marian Monta, faculty emeritus of UTPA and founder of the UTPA Theatre, a commemoration by the Valley Symphony Orchestra, and performances by:
• Dr. Guerra and Dr. John Raimo, pianist and faculty emeritus of UTPA, performing the piano duet" Scaramouche" by D. Milhaud;
• UTPA alumna Linda Musollari, soprano, and her son, Laerta, who will sing a piece from the opera "The Atonement"— composed by Dr. Carl Seale, faculty emeritus, at UTPA — and will be accompanied by the Quartetto Bravura, a string quartet consisting of UTPA students and alumni;
• UTPA's dance program, including Modern Dance and Folkloric Dance performances;
• UTPA faculty Dr. Daniel Andai on violin and Dr. Joel Pagan on viola playing the "Passacaglia" by Handel and "Preludium and Allegro" by Fritz Kriesler, with Brendan Kinsella on piano; and
• The UTPA Mariachi Aztlán joined by the UTPA Folkloric Dance Co.
The event begins at 2 p.m. and is free and open to the public. For more information, contact the College of Arts and Humanities at (956) 665-2175.