ORONO – In recognition of the University of Maine’s 150th anniversary, more than 75 students in the School of Performing Arts will bring to the stage selections from the Great American Songbook in a concert that aims to raise awareness of the school and funds for outreach programs.

“150 Years of American Song: A Celebration of the University of Maine” will feature performances by a full big band, string orchestra and singing groups, as well as 13 featured vocal soloists. The musicians will perform classic songs made famous by artists such as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Michael Buble.

The student-run production takes place at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 23 in the Collins Center for the Arts. Proceeds benefit the UMaine School of Performing Arts student initiatives and outreach programs.

Ben McNaboe, a fourth-year music education major from Yarmouth, Maine, is the show’s music director and conductor. Morgan Cates, a fourth-year business administration major from Camden, will host the event.

In January 2014, McNaboe led a similar student-produced fundraiser, “An Evening of Rodgers and Hammerstein Classics,” that featured a 60-piece pops orchestra and 40 vocalists. The musicians performed to a sell-out crowd at the 500-seat Hauck Auditorium and raised about $10,000, according to McNaboe.

“The money raised from this fundraiser goes directly to outreach student initiatives in the School of Performing Arts that both get our students off campus and into communities near and far, as well as bring community members and younger students to our campus for enrichment programs through our courses and performances,” McNaboe says, adding the event will support two tours in 2015 that will reach schools and communities throughout Maine and parts of Canada.

When determining a theme for the show, organizers sought music that would be appreciated by audience members across generations.

“Much like the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein, the big band music of the American Songbook has a similar timelessness to it. We see this even more today through artists like Michael Buble who are actively working to preserve and keep this music present,” McNaboe says. “This program features so many wonderful songs and many that everyone in the audience is sure to recognize.”

The concert will feature a special guest artist, UMaine alumnus and Broadway performer Merritt David Janes, who is currently on a national Broadway tour of “The Phantom of the Opera.” Janes graduated from UMaine in 2004 with a degree in music education and concentrations in voice and trumpet.

“DJ has experienced much success since leaving UMaine, and it’s a great opportunity to have an artist of his caliber perform on stage alongside our students,” McNaboe says. “It’s just an unbelievable experiential learning experience for us all.”

While on campus, Janes will teach a free master class on musical theater that is open to the public. University and area high school students will perform for and be coached by Janes at 3 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 22 in Minsky Recital Hall.

“The performance quality of last year’s show was really remarkable,” McNaboe says. “What we did last year was raise the bar. We showed ourselves and our faculty that we could produce a full-fledged pops concert. We showed we were able to pull off something truly amazing, make a difference in our programs in SPA, and reach the community like, I believe, never before.”

Tickets for “150 Years of American Song: A Celebration of the University of Maine” are $25, $12 for students with a valid MaineCard. Tickets are available at the Collins Center box office, by calling 581-1755 or online. For more information about the performance or to request a disability accommodation, call 581-1755. The event’s snow date is 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24.


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