On May 21, 2016 at Pasadena's Ambassador Auditorium, the Caltech Concert Band, Glee Club, Jazz Band, Orchestra, and a few of the Institute's many chamber music groups will take the stage for a unique Performing and Visual (PVA) Showcase. The one-night event—featuring over 200 Caltech students—also will include a reprisal of favorite scenes from Boldly Go!, Theater Arts at Caltech's recent Star Trek musical parody, as well as presentations from students in the course Storytelling for Scientists (PA040C), taught by lecturer and Boldly Go! director Brian Brophy. In addition, select works from Caltech's visual artists will be displayed in the Ambassador lobby—which also will feature pre-showcase performances by additional chamber groups.
The idea for the first-of-its-kind showcase originated in 2014, when William (Bill) Bing, director of the Caltech-Occidental Concert Band (and former director of the Caltech Jazz Band), was looking for a world-class venue in which the band could perform; in prior years, the band had played at Carnegie Hall in New York and Beijing's Tsinghua University, among other locales. Bing hoped to next take the group to Italy, but the trip proved too expensive. Then long-time ensemble member, guest conductor, and Caltech professor of geology and geochemistry Paul Asimow (MS '93, PhD '97) suggested an alternative: Pasadena's Ambassador Auditorium. Bill and his wife Delores, founder and director of Caltech's chamber music program, had both played the Ambassador in the past—Bill on trumpet and Delores on cello—so they knew the acoustics well. The pair decided that this local performance should include all of the different performing and visual arts groups at Caltech, and the showcase was born.
While plans for the showcase developed, Bill and Delores made the decision to retire from Caltech in 2016, after a combined 75-plus years heading the Caltech's music program. Friends and colleagues made the obvious connection, determining that the showcase should honor the Bings. The call for a celebration of the Bings was not surprising, as the pair is well known across campus to current and former undergraduate and graduate students, staff, faculty, and others.
"Bill is one of the kindest people I know," says Rebecca Glaudell, a graduate student in physics. "I found out about Caltech's music program the week before I started classes at Caltech. I hadn't even brought my trumpet to California, but Bill was able to lend me an instrument until I had mine shipped. He really looks out for the members of the band."
"As a student, I greatly looked forward to getting my brain away from the technical world and into the world of sound and music," recalls Robert M. Manning (BS '81) of JPL, chief engineer for the Mars Pathfinder flight system. "Bill was gentle, fun, always self-deprecating, and respectful and enthusiastic even when we rolled late into his rehearsals in the Beckman basement disorganized, tired, unprepared, and unpracticed. Within an hour of being with Bill, we were full of energy and focus and found our groove as if we had practiced all week. We did it as much for Bill as for ourselves."
Clare Hao, a freshman clarinetist who is "thrilled" to be playing at the Ambassador, describes the Bings as "amazing" people. "They are very enthusiastic and supportive of everyone's musical endeavors, and they are always a great reminder of why I love music." Victor Tsai (BS '04), assistant professor of geophysics and an alumnus of the music program, was coached by Delores. "She was always so nice and understanding, and was somehow able to bring out the most musicality we had in us," he says.
"What sets Caltech's PVA program apart from those at other higher education institutions is their all-inclusiveness and the depth of their community integration," notes Tiffany Kim, grants administrator in the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences, who has participated in the program as both an alto and an actor. "From the moment I came on the scene, it felt so warm and inviting that it was hard not to keep coming back!"
Leslie Deutsch, deputy director for the Interplanetary Network Directorate at JPL, is another who has kept coming back—literally, for decades. Deutsch joined the Caltech Band as a freshman in 1972 and the Caltech Jazz Band in 1973, and began playing the organ at Caltech's commencement ceremony in 1974. Because of his father's connection to the Bings, Deutsch's son Elliot began trumpet lessons with Bill as a child. Today he heads up the Elliot Deutsch Big Band, a Los Angeles-based swing band. After learning that Bill was retiring, Elliot composed a piece titled Lyric/Endurance Suite in Bill's honor. ("Lyric Endurance" is the title of a series of trumpet exercises Bill developed for his students.) Elliiot's piece will premier at the PVA showcase.
Bill and Delores are coming to terms with their decision to retire, but both say that they will really miss the students. "I enjoy being around smart people, and I enjoy being around nice people, and Caltech students have both those qualities," Bill says.
However, long after the Bings depart, a new endowment created in their honor—the Bing Fund for the Arts at Caltech—will continue to help students. "The Bings have left a marvelous legacy in the form of a vibrant music program that forms an important part of the student experience at Caltech," says Joseph E. Shepherd, vice president for student affairs and C. L. Kelly Johnson Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering. "Music and more broadly, the arts, complement our students' intense education in technology and the sciences. I am hoping that all the supporters of the music and arts program at Caltech will join me in helping ensure that our present and future students will continue to enjoy the marvelous benefits of these programs."
The Performing and Visual Arts Showcase is funded by the Office of the President, Caltech Student Affairs, the Alumni Association, and the Moore-Hufstedler Fund. Tickets are $10 for students, $25 for general admission, and $50 for premiere seating, and can be purchased by visiting music.caltech.edu and clicking the link for the showcase, or by calling (818) 538-4911. Net proceeds will go to the Bing Fund for the Arts at Caltech. Donations to the Bing Fund also can be made at http://breakthrough.caltech.edu/.