Once upon a time, James Undercofler and other members of Eastman’s administration came to the conclusion that Eastman students were headed in the wrong direction.

“We’ve been walking blindfolded for decades,” Undercofler said in a recent interview. “It’s about time we wise up and look at what sells.”

“Eastman students are wasting their time with classes like music history, theory and aural skills. They are taking two steps backward each time they perform a classical sonata or aria. It’s high time we re-examine the curriculum,” Undercofler said.

As a result of the ensuing dialogue between Undercofler and administration, Eastman students have begun to notice changes. Look inside a studio ? many teachers have taken down their antiquated framed concert programs and artwork depicting “great” composers like Brahms and Liszt.

In place of these, Garth Brooks and Christina Aguilera posters now decorate the walls. The thousands of recordings at the Sibley Library have been reorganized, with those containing music composed before 1980 being thrown out to make room for the new collection of popular music being shipped in in shifts from the giant Virgin Records superstore in New York City.

In several weeks, students and community members alike will have access to albums by musical greats like the Jay-Z, Willa Ford, Aaron Carter and Dream.

If you were within screaming distance of Gibbs Street last Friday, you know that *NSYNC was the hot ticket item in the Eastman Theatre.

“We were extremely enthusiastic that they were available and willing to come to Eastman,” said Dean of Students Phyllis Wade. “Performers like *NSYNC can inspire and teach us all to become better musicians.”

*NSYNC was the first group to come in as part of a new lecture series that will round out the end of the Spring semester. Future presenters include recent success Uncle Kracker, who will perform and discuss his hit single, “Follow Me.”

The Eastman Theatre was packed for this unprecedented performance by one of the world’s best loved boy bands. *NSYNC’s Justin Timberlake was the first to appear on the Eastman stage, flying in on a trapeze hooked to the chandelier. The audience, which was filled with Eastman students, faculty members and senior citizen season ticket holders alike, broke into a chorus of shrieks.

J. C. Chasez, Lance Bass, Chris Kirkpatrick and Joey Fatone swung onto stage an instant later from ropes secured to the top left and right sides of the curtain. The group began to sing their recent hit single, “Pop,” above the roar of the crowd.

The chandelier then lifted up into a trapdoor in the ceiling, and a giant disco ball dropped down several inches away. For the first time, the Eastman Theatre was filled with the colorful lights of this impressive rotating globe ? many people hadn’t even realized that George Eastman had requested this specifically before donating money toward the construction of the Theatre.

Although it was excruciatingly difficult, the members of *NSYNC calmed the audience enough to be able to give a lecture along with their performance. For about an hour, the group talked about vocal methods ? Timberlake began, by leading a talk on the importance of lip synching as part of good vocal technique. Chasez talked about the nuances of digital remasterization of sounds, while Bass talked about the importance of performing in an outfit that makes the performer feel comfortable, as well as stylish.

Kirkpatrick gave a short talk geared toward instrumentalists.

“Who is our keyboard player?” Kirkpatrick asked the hushed audience. He waited a few seconds, before shouting “Exactly!” to the tune of thunderous applause.

He used this preface to inspire Eastman instrumentalists to leave their practice rooms behind in order to be a part of music that really touches people.

The last presentation of the lecture was a demonstration by Fatone on the basic structure of a piece. This part of the concert really hit home for music theory students.

“You only really need three chord changes,” Fatone explained. Finding a tonic, a dominant and a subdominant on the grand piano in the center of the stage, he gave a short talk on how the group composes its numerous hit songs.

“The concert was a huge success,” said Sigrid Long, Eastman’s newly appointed Associate Director of Student Life and Activities. “I hope that we can continue moving forward in this new direction.”

And, although Dean of Torture Ken “The Rock” Ensies put Undercofler, Wade and Long on summary disciplinary probation for organizing the concert, William Green, the newly appointed head of the River Campus and Eastman Dating Service, thought it was a great idea. “THINK OF THE POSSIBILITIES!!” he shouted, accidentally hitting the Rock with the cheeseburger he’d been holding.

Although *NSYNC’s tour bus left that night not to return again for some time ? acting as RTS Bus 72 and taking a handful of River Campus students back to CLARC on its way back ? the lessons learned will stick like gum to a classical concert program and all of Eastman’s students will certainly live happily ever after.

Spears can be reached at bspears@campustimes.org.

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