A Collaborative Celebration: Eastman School of Music 100th Anniversary and Garth Fagan Dance 50th Anniversary

August 27, 2021

Media Inquiries: Eastman School of Music: Jessica Kaufman, Director of Communications, 585-274-1057; jkaufman@esm.rochester.edu

Garth Fagan Dance: William J. Ferguson II, Executive Director, 585-802-0195 (Text Preferred); bill@garthfagandance.org


The Eastman School of Music, of the University of Rochester, together with Garth Fagan Dance, are proud to announce A Collaborative Celebration: Eastman School of Music 100th Anniversary and Garth Fagan Dance 50th Anniversary, Friday, October 1, at 7:30 PM in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre.

Garth Fagan Dance, together with the Eastman Percussion Ensemble, directed by Michael Burritt (’84, ’86 MM), and the Eastman Saxophone Project, directed by Chien-Kwan Lin (’07 DMA), join forces for an incredible evening of music and dance, including the world-premiere of a composition written specifically for these groups by Eastman alumnus, Baljinder Sekhon (’08 MA, ’13 PHD), titled Dreamer

“Eastman is thrilled to partner with Garth Fagan Dance as our institutions celebrate landmark anniversaries,” said Eastman School of Music’s Joan and Martin Messinger Dean, Jamal Rossi.“This concert will be marked by artistry, creativity, and collaboration, and we are excited to premiere a new composition written specifically for this celebration.  It will also be our honor to recognize Garth Fagan with the Eastman Luminary Award in recognition of his countless artistic contributions to Rochester and far beyond.”

“I am so thrilled to be a part of this collaboration honoring and celebrating 100 years of the Eastman school of Music and 50 years of Garth Fagan Dance,” shares Norwood Pennewell, Garth Fagan Dance Choreographer/Rehearsal Director. “I am truly humbled to create fresh new choreography to an outstanding score written by Baljinder Sekhon. Dreamer is a thought-provoking work and for me, incredibly creatively inspiring, this historic occasion is a must-see event!”

The first half of the program will feature Eastman’s two ensembles, including two additional world-premieres: Fandango 21, by Eastman Percussion Ensemble’s director Michael Burritt, and Three Jazz Settings for the Eastman Saxophone Project, by Professor Emeritus Ramon Ricker (’73 DMA), both composed specifically for Eastman’s Centennial Celebration. The second half will begin with Garth Fagan Dance performing excerpts of The North Star choreographed by Garth Fagan in 2018, with music by The Melodians and Walter Blanding. The evening will finish with Sekhon’s Dreamer, performed in collaboration by all three groups.

“It’s an honor to be commissioned to compose a work in celebration of two of the most important artist centers in Rochester. My work Dreamer celebrates the visionary aspects of George Eastman and Garth Fagan,” shares composer and Eastman alum Baljinder Sekhon. “These are people who brought their dreams to life and created permanent spaces for future dreamers, including myself, to imagine, create, explore, invent, and freely chase their dreams. This is the aspect of Eastman that I chose to focus my celebration on, and it is in this spirit that I envisioned this new work. The opportunity to once again work with the Eastman Percussion Ensemble and Eastman Saxophone Project, in combination with Garth Fagan Dance and choreographer Norwood Pennewell, is certainly a dream come true.”

As a special addition to the evening, Garth Fagan will be honored and presented with Eastman’s Luminary Award. This award recognizes individuals who have given extraordinary service to music and the arts at the community and national levels. Fagan will be only the tenth recipient of this honor.

“I am honored and thrilled to receive the Luminary award and celebrate all the awardees, especially my beloved Louise Slaughter, whose efforts helped to affirm Garth Fagan Dance as a major local, national, and international cultural institution from Rochester, New York. She was instrumental in obtaining a letter from President Obama, which she read at the 45th anniversary celebration of Garth Fagan Dance,” shared Garth Fagan. He adds, “I am looking forward to receiving the award on October 1, 2021, when my company will perform excerpts from my work, The North Star (2018), and Norwood Pennewell’s new work with music by Baljinder Sekhon, performed by the Eastman Percussion Ensemble and Eastman Saxophone Project, continuing the long history of creative collaborations between The Eastman School of Music and Garth Fagan Dance.”

Tickets are available here: https://www.esm.rochester.edu/theatre/events/fagan-dance-50th-anniversary/ 

Media interviews are available for representatives of Garth Fagan Dance and the directors of the Eastman Ensembles, upon request.



About Eastman School of Music:

The Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester was founded in 1921 by industrialist and philanthropist George Eastman (1854-1932), founder of Eastman Kodak Company. It was the first professional school of the University of Rochester. Mr. Eastman’s dream was that his school would provide a broad education in the liberal arts as well as superb musical training.

More than 900 students are enrolled in the Collegiate Division of the Eastman School of Music—about 500 undergraduates and 400 graduate students. They come from almost every state, and approximately 23 percent are from other countries. They are taught by a faculty comprised of more than 130 highly regarded performers, composers, conductors, scholars, and educators. They are Pulitzer Prize winners, Grammy winners, Emmy winners, Guggenheim fellows, ASCAP Award recipients, published authors, recording artists, and acclaimed musicians who have performed in the world’s greatest concert halls. Each year, Eastman’s students, faculty members, and guest artists present more than 900 concerts to the Rochester community. Additionally, more than 1,700 members of the Rochester community, from young children through senior citizens, are enrolled in the Eastman Community Music School.

For up-to-date information on the Eastman Centennial, including feature stories, future events, videos, testimonials, ways to engage, and more, please visit our Centennial website at https://www.esm.rochester.edu/100.


Critics have called Garth Fagan “a true original,” “a genuine leader,” and “one of the great reformers of modern dance.” Fagan is the founder and artistic director of the award-winning and internationally acclaimed Garth Fagan Dance. Fagan continually renews his own distinctive dance vocabulary, which draws on many sources: a sense of weight in modern dance, torso-centered movement and energy of Afro-Caribbean, the speed and precision of ballet, and the rule breaking experimentation of the postmoderns. Originality has always been Mr. Fagan’s strong suit, not least in his transformation of recognizable idioms into a dance language that looks not only fresh but even idiosyncratic,” writes Anna Kisselgoff of The New York Times.

For his path-breaking choreography for Walt Disney’s The Lion King, Fagan was awarded the prestigious 1998 Tony Award for Best Choreography. He also received the 1998 Drama Desk Award, 1998 Outer Critics Circle Award, 1998 Astaire Award, 2000 Laurence Olivier Award, 2001 Ovation Award, and the 2004 Helpmann Award for his work on the Broadway musical, which opened in fall 1997 to extraordinary critical praise. Fagan’s distinguished work in the theater also includes the first fully staged production of the Duke Ellington Street opera, Queenie Pie, at the Kennedy Center in 1986 and the opening production of Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival’s Shakespeare Marathon: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1988), set in Brazil and directed by A.J. Antoon.

In the world of concert dance, Fagan choreographs primarily for Garth Fagan Dance. “An evening spent with Garth Fagan Dance is a humanity-affirming event,” shares Victoria Looseleaf.  His work, Mudan 175/39, was named by The New York Times as the third of the top six dance watching moments of 2009. The company continues to be cited for its excellence and originality. The Los Angeles Times said, “Consider the Fagan program a prime example of the versatility and sophistication of concert dance in this new century.”  Fagan has also produced commissions for a number of leading companies, including his first work on pointe, Footprints Dressed in Red, for Dance Theatre of Harlem; a solo for Judith Jamison, Scene Seen, for the debut of the Jamison Project; Jukebox for Alvin, for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; Never No Lament, for the José Limon Company; and Ellington Elation, one of a triad of pieces commissioned by New York City Ballet in honor of Duke Ellington’s centenary and New York City Ballet’s 50th anniversary. In 2012 Lewis Segal wrote “…it was American master Garth Fagan who best fused technical virtuosity with conceptual depth… soul-deep conviction and spectacular flair… the indispensable dance experience of the year.” For more information about Garth Fagan please visit https://www.garthfagandance.org/garth-fagan

About Garth Fagan Dance:

Now in its 50th season, Garth Fagan Dance has been acclaimed as “unfailingly original” by The New York Times. Tony and Olivier award-winning choreographer Garth Fagans dancers communicate with unbridled energy the depth, precision, and grace of Fagans work. The Companys “fearless” dancers are “able to sustain long adagio balances, to change direction in mid-air, to vary the dynamic of a turn, to stop on a dime,” wrote David Vaughan in Ballet Review. Fagan technique, Garths ever-evolving dance language, draws on many sources: sense of weight in modern dance, torso-centered movement and energy of Afro-Caribbean, speed and precision of ballet, and the rule breaking experimentation of the post-moderns. The Company has been cited for its excellence and originality with a New York Governors Arts Award and has claimed five winners of “Bessie” Awards (New York Performance Awards): Garth Fagan, Steve Humphrey, Norwood Pennewell, Natalie Rogers, and Sharon Skepple.

The troupe has performed throughout the United States, Europe, Africa, Asia, the Near and Middle East, North and South America, New Zealand, Australia, and the West Indies. Garth Fagan Dance Performances in New York City venues include BAM (The Brooklyn Academy of Music), City Center, and frequent seasons at The Joyce Theater. In 1993, Garth Fagan Dance went on a national tour with the Wynton Marsalis Septet, performing Fagans critically acclaimed evening-length work Griot New York. The company was seen nationally on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” in that same piece; Griot New York aired worldwide on the PBS “Great Performances—Dance in America” series in the spring of 1995, marking the companys third appearance on that series. Principal dancers Norwood Pennewell and Natalie Rogers participated in The 66th Annual Academy Awards broadcast, joined by principal dancers from seven other major international dance companies. In 2004, the company performed at the historic opening of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, and participated in the grand opening celebration of Frederick P. Rose Hall at Jazz at Lincoln Center; it returned in fall 2005 for its 35th anniversary season in New York City. In 2012, the company returned to BAM for the world premiere of Lighthouse/ Lightning Rod, with original music composed and arranged by Wynton Marsalis and scenic design by Alison Saar.  Most recently, on February 21, 2021, Garth Fagan Dance performed for NYPOPSUP at the Magic Spell Studio on the campus of the Rochester Institute of Technology/National Institute for the Deaf. For more information about Garth Fagan Dance please visit our website at https://www.garthfagandance.org/our-history

About Eastman Percussion Ensemble:

The Eastman Percussion Ensemble, under the direction of Michael Burritt, is a two-time winner of the Percussive Arts Society International Percussion Ensemble Competition and has performed at the international convention as a result in the 2013 and 2017. The group was also the featured ensemble at the 2009 Paris Conservatory international Percussion Festival, made its Kennedy Center Debut in 2012, and has performed at numerous local festivals. The ensemble has commissioned and premiered works by Alejandro Vinao and John Psathas and this year will be giving the world premiere of works by Grammy Award winning jazz pianist and composer Billy Childs as well as the Pulitzer Prize winning composer Joseph Schwantner in March 2022. The ensemble is the primary chamber experience for percussionists studying at the Eastman school and represents the upperclassman and graduate students in the studio.  

This year the ensemble will release its first recording, The Works of Alejandro Vinao, in collaboration with the Grammy award-winning ensemble Third Coast Percussion. 

About Eastman Saxophone Project:

The Eastman Saxophone Project (ESP) is directed by Chien-Kwan Lin and is comprised of his studio at the Eastman School of Music. Colin Crake serves as the ensemble’s Assistant Director and chief arranger. Since their founding in 2010, ESP has quickly become one of the most recognized saxophone ensembles in the world. They made their New York debut at Steinway Hall in 2011, were the featured ensemble at the recent North American Saxophone Alliance Conference and have appeared on National Public Radio through WXXI’s Backstage Pass. In addition to multiple outreach concerts, ESP performs two full-length productions a year in Rochester, New York. The ensemble also made their Kennedy Center debut in 2015, and embarked on a China tour in Beijing, Jinan, Ningbo, and Shanghai in 2016. Archived performances of ESP are shared through the EastmanSaxProject channel on YouTube.

ESP is a Vandoren and Conn-Selmer Artistic Ensemble and endorses Selmer (Paris) saxophones.  The ensemble recently celebrated its 10th Anniversary by launching the ESP Education Series (ESPES). For this and more information, about ESP please visit: www.eastmansaxophoneproject.com

About the University of Rochester:

The University of Rochester is one of the nation’s leading private research universities, one of only 62-member institutions in the Association of American Universities. Located in Rochester, N.Y., the University gives undergraduates exceptional opportunities for interdisciplinary study and close collaboration with faculty through its unique cluster-based curriculum. Its College, School of Arts and Sciences, and Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences are complemented by the Eastman School of Music, Simon School of Business, Warner School of Education, Laboratory for Laser Energetics, School of Medicine and Dentistry, School of Nursing, Eastman Institute for Oral Health, and the Memorial Art Gallery.