Friday, Sep 24, 2021
Foundation generously supports state-of-the-art technology to enhance performances and better prepare students for arts careers
by Diane Cornell
Rider University’s Westminster College of the Arts has received more than $155,000 from the Martinson Family Foundation for the purchase of theater technology equipment to be used as soon as this semester in theatre, dance, choral and operatic performances and classes. The college successfully trains more than 500 students each year from across the country for an array of performance-related professions. The new technology will boost this preparation for students. It will also assist with recruitment and create a heightened audience experience.
“This generous support provides the tools that will enable our students to develop the technological skills that a career in the arts today demands,” says Westminster College of the Arts Dean Marshall Onofrio. “In addition to offering our students this advantage, this contribution will also allow us to use digital technology to elevate our performances, moving them from an arts event to an arts experience.”
New technology will include the types of equipment currently used by opera houses and Broadway and off-Broadway theaters, such as a high-resolution projector to create backgrounds that invite an immersive experience for audiences. The new projector will be twice as powerful as Rider’s current one, allowing for strong resolution backdrops as well as the ability to project images in different locations, both within the campus’ theaters as well as outside on building walls or outdoor screens.
In addition, new moving light technology will broaden instruction for theatre design and technology students and prepare them for the type of lighting they will encounter in professional theaters. Motion capture technology will provide opportunities for computer-generated images to be used in conjunction with dance, theatre, opera and choral productions. New cameras will enable both live-streamed and recorded performances providing opportunities for students to share their work on the web and via social media. Finally, iPad Pros will provide the optimal learning experience in scene and costume design classes.
Several faculty members and staff worked as a team to identify technology that would have the greatest impact and could be shared broadly within the College of the Arts — for performances and rehearsals as well as classes. These individuals included Yoshinori Tanokura, Robin Shane, Todd Loyd and Anne Sears.
“It was such a pleasure to work with this team, to see their passion and to know how much they think about our students’ needs as well as how to optimize the audience members’ experience,” says Onofrio.
The Westminster College of the Arts is composed the School of Fine and Performing Arts (SFPA), Westminster Choir College (WCC), Continuing Education and Westminster Conservatory, the community music school. Students enrolled in SFPA and WCC can choose to major in one of more than 30 programs. They include theatre, musical theatre, design and technology, music, music education, dance, and voice performance, among others. Students are involved in more than two dozen performances each year.
Rider alumni have appeared on Broadway and major opera houses and have toured nationally with Rent, Hamilton, Ragtime, Once and with Disney Cruise Lines. They have appeared in movies such as In the Heights and on television’s America’s Best Dance Crew, as well as performances with Beyoncé.
Alumni have also gone on to be nominated and to receive GRAMMY Awards in multiple categories, with seven participating in award-winning recordings in 2021 alone.
The Martinson Family Foundation supports educational initiatives that encourage scientific and technological advancement. Venture capitalist John Martinson, whose son attended Rider, is the Foundation’s founder. In 2013, Martinson received an honorary Doctor of Laws from Rider for his ongoing support of the development of curricula, the improvement of instructional methods and the enhancement of professional development for K-12 teachers in the critical STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.