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Artistic Collaborations Online

Sasha Middeldorp ’18 and Arch Williams ’18, both members of Grinnell Singers, are helping launch a new project called the Grinnell Virtual Choir. In the project's most recent video, 25 singers used the technology to perform a movement from Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil.

In a virtual choir, each participant records one or more individual singing parts of a particular song, and the videos are then synchronized and combined into a group performance.

In the current video, Middeldorp and Williams are among the singers testing virtual choir technology and demonstrating how it works. It’s the first step in introducing both a testing tool for better choir singing and a new opportunity for musical interaction among alumni and current students.

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Middledorp says she found her initial singing experience to be “simple and straightforward” from a technological standpoint. “I only had to practice once or twice to figure out some of the logistics,” Middeldorp says. “I was in a practice room, and I just recorded it on whatever video recorder is built in on the computer and watched John [Rommereim] conduct on the same device.”

Williams did the same “after finding a quiet spot in my house where I could sing,” he says. “I did a couple of takes before submitting my video. I adjusted based on the recordings of my own voice and as I got a better handle on the music.”

Taking Ownership

One of the goals of the virtual choir project is to develop innovative approaches to teaching and learning. Using videos to record individual parts may provide a better way to test and evaluate the contribution of singers and improve their accountability in the chorus.

“Often in choir you think you know your lines but you’re just relying on the person next to you,” Middeldorp says. “When it’s just you singing alone you really take ownership over the music. One of the great benefits of this is that you know if you’re truly solid on your part independently.”

The Grinnell Singers have already begun putting virtual choir technology to the test as a rehearsal tool. They are using it to practice Duruflé’s Requiem for a combined concert with the Grinnell Oratorio Society later this spring.

“I think that using virtual choir capabilities will be an exciting experience and will help us learn the music in a new, cool, and different way then we normally do in class,” Williams says.

Learning the Technology

Austin Morris ’15, a mathematics major and Grinnell Singers alumnus, is the talent behind the scenes. He says learning to synchronize audio and video files from various devices has been challenging but worthwhile. Innovation Fund support for the project helped secure dedicated equipment for his work.

“Once we get the videos from all the people that we contact, it’s my job to put them all together in the final project,” Morris says. “My goal is to make it look as good and complete as possible.”

Fun and Inspiring

“The main goal of the Grinnell Virtual Choir is to create an online platform that facilitates choral performances that are connected virtually,” says John Rommereim, Blanche Johnson Professor of Music. “It’s a way to engage alumni in an artistic way so they can collaborate with current students and with each other.”

Current singers and alumni are invited to contribute additional vocal parts on All-Night Vigil and other works via the website. In addition to instructions for accessing the score and conducting video, the site offers musical and technical tips for getting a workable recording.

Essentially, singers can make it as simple as putting on earbuds and singing into their phones or laptops.

“We want it to be fun and a little inspiring,” Rommereim says. “We’re hoping it will blossom into a significant artistic endeavor.” 

Sasha Middeldorp ’18 is an anthropology major from Northfield, Minn. Arch Williams ’18 is a chemistry and political science double major from Minneapolis.

A Pioneering Spirit

It’s not often that you get the chance to create a career for yourself that’s never existed before. Many graduates have planned their college years around jobs they want to have in the future, but for Hilary Mason ’00, carving out a place in an existing field just didn’t cut it.

A pioneer of the growing data science movement, Mason has combined her computer science background with statistics, engineering, and technology to make sense of the massive amounts of data that pile up in businesses and other enterprises.

“It’s a very rare thing to have the chance to be at the leading edge of something that has become a fairly significant movement,” Mason says. “It’s been really interesting to see it evolve.”

After working as the chief scientist at bitly.com, a well-known URL-shortening service, Mason has quickly become the face of data science. She’s been interviewed for Fortune Magazine and NPR’s Science Friday, and even cofounded a nonprofit called HackNY that connects hacking students with startup companies in New York City.

In 2014, Mason finally decided to take a leap and start her own business called Fast Forward Labs. She and her team analyze large amounts of data from their client businesses and develop prototypes for innovative technological products. The goal is to inspire their clients and show them what kinds of options are available to them.

“I saw an opportunity to add value by providing expertise to people building real products around data technology,” says Mason. “It’s a win for all, because we’re working on the most interesting technology that we can come up with at any given time!” A recent prototype they created was a program that identifies and categorizes users’ Instagram photos to provide more information about their interests.

For Mason, the Grinnellian spirit of combining multiple disciplines and thinking critically about the world we live in helped her to be a leader the field of data science. “Grinnell teaches you to think critically, communicate well, and analyze the world,” Mason says. “It’s an excellent grounding for entrepreneurship. Being able to think in that way is really helpful no matter what you end up doing.”

At Grinnell, students take classes in a wide variety of disciplines rather than just sticking within their majors. This makes them the perfect candidates for a world where thinking innovatively and combining multiple fields of knowledge is the hallmark of many of the most interesting jobs out there.

Contrasting Sculpture Exhibitions at Faulconer Gallery

Grinnell College's Faulconer Gallery reopens Friday, July 1, with a pair of contrasting sculpture exhibitions, each drawn, in its own way, from life. Both exhibitions are free and open to the public. They will close September 11, 2016

Anders Krisár, Untitled, 2014–15

Anders Krisár, Untitled, 2014–15. Polyester resin and mixed media. Courtesy of the artist.

Anders Krisár features a Swedish artist who first exhibited his work as a photographer in the Faulconer Gallery’s 2005 exhibition, Scandinavian Photography 1: Sweden. Returning now as both a photographer and sculptor, he creates figurative pieces that are uncannily lifelike, cast primarily from members of his own family.

On the Bright Side ..., the first exhibition in Iowa of works by California artists Tim Berg and Rebekah Myers, explores the way consumerism and branding tug on individuals’ heartstrings. Their sculptures, smooth-surfaced and candy-colored, may provoke gallery visitors’ senses of conservation and kleptomania in equal measure.

Anders Krisár is inspired by the human tendency to describe emotional states in terms that are rooted in the physical, says Daniel Strong, associate director of Faulconer Gallery and curator of the exhibition. For example, he adds, “It is second-hand to say that someone or something has an ‘impact' on us, or that we are ‘beside ourselves’ in making a decision, or ‘torn in two’ by a particular dilemma or event in our lives.” The self-trained Krisár, whose family has been affected by bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, explores in his work a physical expression of this emotional language.

On the Bright Side … focuses on “shiny objects” — rare things that capture our attention for a moment or two longer than usual in today’s global cultural exchange routinely reduced to seconds-long sound bites and rapid-fire images. Berg and Myers recreate this phenomenon in their sculpture, casting everyday objects and animals in unexpected ways that underscore the power of re-presentation in stoking cultural consumers’ desire.

Polar bears and penguins are coveted at all points on the spectrum, both the moral and the rainbow-colored variety. (You’d like this polar bear in purple? You got it.) These animals are precious victims of melting ice caps but also stylized logos to promote everything from conservation activism to boutique ecotourism.

“Ultimately,” Strong concludes, “love is a tricky emotion. Love is to nurture and protect, but love is also to want. Gallery visitors are going to want these objects. Of course, we applaud the instinct to preserve while discouraging the desire to take.”

Faulconer Gallery is located in Grinnell College’s Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, 1108 Park St., Grinnell. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week, and admission is free. The gallery will be closed on Monday, July 4, for Independence Day.

Experiential Learning in Burling Library this Summer



Experiential learning is alive and well at Grinnell College in the summer. Current summer MAP students from every discipline and a few  summer interns on campus are having a complimentary lunch with  Maria Tapias at MAP luncheon 2016prospective students and their families every Monday and Friday in Burling Library. These lunches, sponsored by the Office of Admission, provide prospective students an opportunity to meet current students and find out about the cool things they are doing over the summer in Grinnell.

Bookstores to be Closed June 18 – July 4 While Moving

The Grinnell College Bookstore, on campus, and the Pioneer Bookshop, at 823 4th Ave., will be closed for moving starting on June 18, 2016.

The two stores will be combined at the new location at 933 Main Street, Grinnell. The new store will open on July 5 as the Pioneer Bookshop. The online bookstore is also closed during the move.

The new Pioneer Bookshop will still offer the same wide selection of children’s books and toys, fiction, and non-fiction. It will also have the same special order service and gift wrapping.

In addition, the store will feature Grinnell College clothing, school and office supplies, art supplies, consumer electronics, greeting cards, and gifts.

Goldstein Earns Academic All-America Honors

Grinnell College’s Daniel Goldstein ’16 joined elite company Tuesday when he became the 24th Pioneer in history to earn Academic All-America recognition.

Goldstein made the At-Large Team after enjoying a stellar diving and scholastic career at Grinnell.

The team is chosen by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA), The At-Large category covers 16 sports, including Grinnell’s offerings of men’s and women’s swimming and diving, golf, and tennis.

Goldstein, a computer science/mathematics major from Ann Arbor, Mich., qualified for the NCAA Division III National Championships for the third year in a row this season. He earned honorable mention All-America honors twice.

A three-time Midwest Conference Diver of the Year, he won five league titles in his career and owns school and MWC records in 1-meter diving for 11 dives (score of 529.45), 1-meter diving for six dives (333.55) and 3-meter diving for six dives (335.90).

Goldstein three times earned Academic All-District recognition and in 2016 collected Grinnell’s Morgan Taylor ’26 Award for outstanding senior athlete.

2016 Research Award Winners

Grinnell College librarians Julia Bauder, Kevin Engel, and Phil Jones are recipients of the 2016 Research Award from the Iowa Chapter of the Association of College and Research Libraries. Their article, Mixed or Complementary Messages: Making the Most of Unexpected Assessment Results,” was published this March in College & Research Libraries, 77(2), 197-211. Read their remarks upon accepting the award during the ILA/ACRL 2016 Spring Conference.  

Mark Christel Named Librarian of the College

Mark ChristelMark Christel, director of libraries at the College of Wooster in Ohio, will be the next Samuel R. and Marie-Louise Rosenthal Librarian of Grinnell College. He was selected through a national search and will begin his new position on Aug. 1.

"Mark Christel brings an impressive record of leadership and innovation to the Grinnell College Libraries," said Michael Latham, vice president for academic affairs and dean of Grinnell College. "His experience in promoting student and faculty research, interdisciplinary digital initiatives, external grants and collaborations, facilities design and strategic planning makes him well suited to this role. I am confident that he will provide outstanding leadership for the Grinnell College Libraries, and I am grateful to members of the search committee for their efforts."

Christel has served with distinction in positions of increasing responsibility over the past 22 years at Hope College, Vassar College and the College of Wooster. Since joining Wooster as Director of Libraries in 2008, Christel built close collaborations with faculty to support student learning, carefully stewarded collections, and championed emerging technologies to promote open access and scholarship. 

He is a committed advocate for the application of digital technologies in teaching and research. He also was the lead author of two Mellon Foundation grants awarded to the Five Colleges of Ohio and has served on the steering committee for the Institute for Liberal Arts Digital Scholarship. 

"I am so honored to be joining Grinnell and its exceptional library staff," Christel said. "Grinnell’s foundational commitment to undergraduate research and teaching creates an exciting context for exploring the traditional and evolving facilities, services and collections offered by contemporary academic libraries.  

"I look forward to many engaging conversations about what the libraries are and might become, and then working with key campus partners and my colleagues within the libraries to achieve that vision over the coming years."

Christel succeeds Julia Bauder, who was named interim director of Grinnell's libraries last October after Richard Fyffe, Samuel R. and Marie-Louise Rosenthal Librarian of the College and associate professor, began permanent medical leave. He died on Nov. 5, 2015, due to complications from ALS.

"It is very humbling," Christel said, "to follow in the footsteps of Richard Fyffe, a friend and colleague whom I greatly admired."

An award-winning librarian, Fyfe made vital contributions to many national partnerships and consortia. He also was an eloquent advocate for libraries' central role in fulfilling the educational mission at Grinnell and other liberal arts colleges.

In announcing Christel's appointment, Latham said, "I want to thank Julia Bauder for her great commitment and dedication in serving as interim director of the libraries. At a time when Grinnell sought to recover from the loss of Richard Fyffe, she brought great energy and vision to a challenging task, and she excelled at it. We are all in her debt."