Annual WSU Commemoration Will Explore “Music that Defied the Holocaust”

OGDEN, Utah – Organizers of Weber State University’s 15th Annual Holocaust Commemoration have planned a series of presentations and discussions examining the role music played during the Holocaust and continues to play in raising awareness about genocide.

This year’s commemoration, “Music that Defied the Holocaust,” will feature the Spectrum Dance Theater performing a dance-theater piece choreographed to music by composers who died in the Holocaust, and a lecture by Grammy-nominated ethnomusicologist Rabbi Jeffrey Summit, an associate music professor at Tufts University. Other events include a screening of the film “War Child,” and a discussion of the children’s book “Brundibar,” led by WSU English professor Kathleen Herndon and performing arts professor Karen Brookens.

“We want to encourage students to reflect on the atrocities of the Nazi Holocaust, and at the same time remind them that genocide is still happening in the world today,” said Amanda Sowerby, chair of the 2009 Holocaust Commemoration Committee.

This year’s commemoration will begin with the Spectrum Dance Theater’s performance of “The Theater of Needless Talents,” at 7:30 p.m., March 7 in the Val A. Browning Center’s Allred Theater.
Choreographed by WSU’s 2009 Hurst Artist-in-Residence, Donald Byrd, the contemporary dance piece is set to music composed by Jewish prisoners of the Holocaust. The performance is sponsored in conjunction with WSU’s Cultural Affairs.

The film “War Child,” shares the story of Emmanuel Jal, a former child soldier in Sudan’s brutal civil war, who has become a hip hop artist. The film documents how Jal uses music to relate his experiences, as well as raise awareness about the genocide in Sudan. The screening will be held March 24 at 7 p.m. in the Shepherd Union Wildcat Theater, with a student panel discussion afterward featuring members of the WSU STAND chapter—part of the Student Anti-Genocide Coalition.

On April 2, at 1 p.m., Rabbi Summit will present “Cabaret at the Edge of the World: Performing in the Shadow of the Holocaust,” in the George S. Eccles Lecture Hall in Elizabeth Hall. Summit’s presentation will explore the music of the cabarets and the lives of the extraordinary men and women who performed under the most difficult of circumstances.

The commemoration activities will conclude with a book discussion of “Brundibar,” led by Brookens and Herndon. WSU Student Involvement and Leadership purchased and donated 50 copies of the children’s book, retold by Tony Kushner with illustrations by Maurice Sendak, based on the opera by Hans Kraasa and Adolf Hoffmeister, for students to read this spring. The discussion will be held April 6 at noon in the Stewart Library Hetzel-Hoellein Room.

All the presentations except the dance performance are free to the public. Tickets to the dance are available for purchase at Dee Events Center Ticket office, the Shepherd Union Building Information Desk, or over the phone at 1-800-WSU-TIKS.

The commemoration committee also sponsored a research competition leading up 
to the planned activities. The goal was to get students thinking about parallels between the Nazi Holocaust and genocides during the past 40 years.

Students were encouraged to submit work in one of two categories—scholarly or creative research—that incorporated the theme of this year’s event.

The winning entry will receive a $500 award and the runner-up will receive a $250 prize. Both research projects will be featured during the commemoration activities.

The Dean W. and Carol W. Hurst Artist-in-Residence program, established in 1997, brings world-class artists to campus, where they mentor and collaborate with WSU students in the College of Arts & Humanities.

For more information on this year’s presenters and a schedule of events visit

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Schedule of Events for 2009 Holocaust Commemoration

March 7: 7:30 p.m.:  Spectrum Dance Theater presents “The Theater of Needless Talents”—Val A. Browning Center for the Performing Arts Allred Theater
March 24: 7 p.m.:  Screening of documentary film, “War Child”—Shepherd Union Wildcat Theater
April 2: 1 p.m.:  Rabbi Jeffrey Summit, “Cabaret at the Edge of the World: Performing in the Shadow of the Holocaust”— George S. Eccles Lecture Hall, Elizabeth Hall

April 6: noon:  Kathleen Herndon and Karen Brookens, “Reflections on Brundibar” — Stewart Library Hetzel-Hoellein Room

Amanda Sowerby, chair, 2009 Holocaust Commemoration Committee
801-626-7674 •
John Kowalewski, director of Media Relations
801-626-7212 •