Modfest to integrate student artists into musical events

Artists in every medium–poets, singers, dancers and more–gather from Vassar and the greater Poughkeepsie area to perform throughout the spring semester, hosted by the Music Department. Photo By: Sam Pianello
Artists in every medium–poets, singers, dancers and more–gather from Vassar and the greater Poughkeepsie area to perform throughout the spring semester, hosted by the Music Department. Photo By: Sam Pianello
Artists in every medium–poets, singers, dancers and more–gather from Vassar and the greater Poughkeepsie area to perform throughout the spring semester, hosted by the Music Department. Photo By: Sam Pianello

Vassar’s performance-centric Modfest is integrating Poughkeepsie-area middle and high school students into a series of college events filled with art, music, dance and spoken word. Now in its 13th year on campus, Modfest puts on a series of musical events and performances. Vassar alumna Adene Wilson and her husband founded Modfest to showcase the diverse range of artistic abilities at and around Vassar.

According to Wilson, “At first it was just music, but quickly expanded to include dance, art, and poetry. Then more.”

The festival continues to expand in content and reach today, with Wilson still at the helm.  Events at the festival are all, free, require no reservations, and are held at various locations throughout campus. In past years, events have included faculty performances, dramatic readings, film and video game compositions, sculpture exhibitions, and more that explored themes like the censorship and politics of art.

On January 29 from 6:30 – 9:30 in the Villard Room, Modfest is bringing local young artists to campus.  Mill Street Loft’s LitClub, the Vivace ensemble of the Stringendo Orchestra School of the Hudson Valley, and dancers from the New York Academy of Ballet will all be performing.  “The Hudson Valley is very fortunate to have a long tradition of strong arts support,” says Wilson.

It seemed natural to her to include this community in the festival.  The result is an event that “combines in one event what the whole festival tries to do overall.” And that is to showcase the arts of the 20th and 21st centuries in a variety of ways. Each of the groups will be performing separately at the event. Together, they give a glimpse into what Wilson describes as a rich local arts scene.

“As a result of this richness,” she explains, “there are wonderful programs for the children. Even in the school, the arts are highly valued.  Arlington school district, in which Vassar resides, has one of the best music programs in the state.”

This focus is evident in the success of local young artists. Founded in 2012, Mill Street Loft’s LitClub is a collaboration with the worldwide literacy organization LitWorld, that “uses storytelling and writing to advance the literacy rates of middle-school girls.”

Vivace is the Stringendo Orchestra School’s most advanced orchestra and is comprised of 28 high school students from the Hudson Valley. Their orchestra has won several awards including Second Place in The American Prize for Orchestras and the American Prize in the Youth Orchestra Category. They have also been featured on Live from Lincoln Center’s Student Stars.

The New York Academy of Ballet is located in City of Poughkeepsie and has trained dancers who have gone on to several professional dance companies including the School of American Ballet and The American Ballet Theater School & American Ballet Theater.

Over the years, Modfest and local teen artists involvement has expanded under Wilson’s direction.

Vassar’s involvement with these local organizations began with Wilson, who served on the board of the Stringendo Orchestra School for years. “My role is to put this all together and make it happen,” she explains.  And that she did.

When a faculty member had a daughter dancing to a piece of music by a Vassar alum, Wilson decided to include it in the event. It expanded to include Mill Street Loft’s poetry outreach program as well. Modfest aims to bridge the gap between artistic disciplines at Vassar.  “It’s very much about community,” says Wilson.

And this community extends far beyond campus. Teen Music, Dance, And Spoken Word connects Vassar to its larger Poughkeepsie community. This distinguished group of artists has lots of diverse material to bring to Modfest. Their event fits nicely into the festival’s packed lineup and helps accomplish its goal previewing Vassar’s artistic disciplines.

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