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Jorgensen drawing larger audiences
with bigger names in entertainment

December 15, 1997

With ticket sales up and praise from patrons, Rodney Rock says Jorgensen Auditorium is on the move.

"Our numbers are showing that we're doing something right," says Rock, director of the auditorium. Single ticket sales are up 54 percent compared to this time last year, and subscriptions for the two series - classical music and cabaret - are up as well.

Rock attributes Jorgensen's success to changes in programming, including offering "bigger names" in the entertainment business. For instance, Harry Belafonte started this season's cabaret series and violinist Itzhak Perlman, Doc Severinsen and his Big Band and Bela Fleck and the Flectones will perform in the spring. Rock says the new programming is attracting more people, particularly younger audiences."If you attend performances you'll notice many of the same faces, but we're also getting more students, which is important," he adds."It's the main reason why we're here."

The Jorgensen can play an important part in augmenting the educational process at the University, Rock says. And through a variety of workshops, master classes and community activities, Jorgensen is doing just that.

Last spring, for example, Jorgensen arranged performances for the Mexican music ensemble Quetzalcoatl at a library in Hartford and at three public schools, before their concert at UConn.

And this fall staff arranged public school performances for the the San Jose Taiko drummers and an appearance at the music department's convocation seminar, a class for music majors."That was the first time in the history of the school that artists from Jorgensen had come to convocation to perform," Rock says.

The King's Singers will perform at a convocation class in January, before their auditorium concert, and the Juilliard String Quartet will teach master classes next semester. Jorgensen also now sponsors events with SUBOG, such as Judy Tenuta's comedy act presented this fall, and the upcoming Bela Fleck concert.

"In the past there was a perception that even though the auditorium was physically located on campus, that somehow this program was outside the University," Rock says. He says he wants to change that perception and is committed to interacting with all the academic departments and centers on campus.

Rock is particularly proud of the new programming that addresses relevant social issues. He noted the October presentation of The Beast, a dance theater piece that placed the issue of domestic violence on the concert stage. In conjunction with the performance, Jorgensen hosted a three-day conference on domestic violence that involved faculty, administrators and social service professionals from across the state."It was a great opportunity to show that the arts can do more than just entertain - they can educate," he says.

Sherry Fisher