University Enterprises Corporation at CSUSB has been approved for a $15,000 Grants for Arts Projects award by the National Endowment for the Arts to support the Cal State San Bernardino music department’s “New Frontiers: Multimedia Monodramas,” a series of multidisciplinary, multimedia monodramas, and arts events at CSUSB focusing on aspects of new frontiers, California, diversity, women and the idea of the West.

Artists will engage with the university’s largely Hispanic populations through workshops, educational activities and music performances of new works. Chronicling the heritage of women in the West, the project supports the creation and production of two full-length works to be premiered at Cal State San Bernardino and Cal State Fullerton in fall 2022: “Why Women Went West: I Mary, Mary by Herself” and “The New Frontier.”

“I am beyond excited that the NEA has chosen our project ‘New Frontiers: Multimedia Monodramas’ for funding in this 2021 cycle of grants,” said Stacey Fraser, CSUSB professor of music, soprano and the project director. “I have been collaborating with composers Jack Van Zandt and Pamela Madsen and librettists Jill Freeman and Quintan Ana Wikswo for some time; they are doing important and thought-provoking work that celebrates the diversity and heritage of our region.”

Fraser is also looking forward to teaming up once again with fellow CSUSB colleagues on these world premiere productions: theatre arts professor Terry D. Smith, stage director; theatre arts assistant professor Jason Mann, lighting/projection designer; and professor of theatre arts Andre Harrington, costume designer; as well as Grammy winning pianist Nadia Shpachenko, celebrated bassist John Kennedy and percussionist Yuri Inoo; and the Grammy nominated and winning players of Brightwork new music.

“A dream team for sure!” Fraser said.

These monodramas are among the more than 1,100 projects across America totaling nearly $27 million that were selected during a second round of Grants for Arts Projects fiscal year 2021 funding.

“As the country and the arts sector begin to imagine returning to a post-pandemic world, the National Endowment for the Arts is proud to announce funding that will help arts organizations such as CSUSB’s music department reengage fully with partners and audiences,” said NEA acting chairman Ann Eilers. “Although the arts have sustained many during the pandemic, the chance to gather with one another and share arts experiences is its own necessity and pleasure.”

For more information on the projects included in the Arts Endowment grant announcement, visit the National Endowment for the Arts website.

For more information about the music department, visit CSUSB’s Department of Music website.

To learn more about University Enterprises Corporation at CSUSB, visit its website.

About “New Frontiers: Multimedia Monodramas”:

“Why Women Went West: I Mary, Mary by Herself” is a multi-media monodrama created by composer Pamela Madsen, with librettist/video artist Quintan Ana Wikswo for Brightwork newmusic: violin, cello, flute, clarinet, piano and percussion, and Stacey Fraser, project initiator/director and soprano. Exploring controversies over human rights, water wars, and early 20th century feminist artist communities, this work celebrates writer Mary Hunter Austin’s quest for the American Southwest. Acknowledged during her lifetime as an important American nature-writer, leading feminist theorist, mystic and expert on Native American cultures, her story resonates with concerns over marginalization of indigenous cultures, desecration of women and nature, and women’s escape from conventions through their artistic agency in society. The expressionist setting of Austin’s texts, within Madsen’s haunting sonic landscapes, is layered with Wikswo’s evocative videos, embedded with texts and images of the desert southwest. 

In “The New Frontier,” composer Jack Van Zandt, poet-librettist Jill Freeman and project initiator/director/soprano Stacey Fraser team up with an ensemble led by Grammy-winning pianist Nadia Shpachenko to create a tragicomic musical theater work that focuses on aspects of life of women activists and pioneers against the backdrop of the atomic bomb and the daily Cold War threat of nuclear annihilation during the 1950s and 1960s. Characters played by the vocalist include a bomb shelter saleswoman, classroom teacher, atomic physicist, Strategic Air Command general, Ethel Rosenberg, HUAC anti-communist crusader, KGB agent, international political strategist, U.S. government propagandist, civil defense official, atomic soldier, capitalist economist, and priest. The original musical style is influenced by angular 1950s and 1960s jazz and art music, especially cool jazz, hard bop and the early chamber music of avant-garde composer Pierre Boulez. The ensemble evokes styles of Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, Charles Mingus and Chet Baker, under the influence of the high-modernist avant-garde of Darmstadt in the 1950s. The libretto is influenced by the style of the Beat poets as well as the works of Irish absurdist playwright Samuel Beckett and the writings of French existentialists.