TAMIU Center for Fine and Performing Arts Sets 'Celebration of Arts' Today

A sleek and shining home dedicated to the fine and performing arts will be welcomed with a special celebration at Texas A&M International University's new Center for the Fine and Performing Arts today, Thursday, Aug. 21 at 6:30 p.m.

Dr. Ray Keck, University president, described the celebration as a long-awaited dream impressively realized.

"It's a dream space. This facility will change the face of fine and performing arts education in South Texas," he said, This truly is a remarkable space and one that our students and community richly deserve. For so long there has been a hunger for this, and we are honored to be able to finally invite everyone to join us at the table. In the past, students have left Laredo and even abandoned their dreams of being an artist or performer. That doesn't have to ever happen again," he said.

The $22 million Center for the Fine and Performing Arts opens to students this fall with new classrooms, studios, practice rooms, an auditorium and theater. It will be home to initial degrees in three different music programs.

The evening, dubbed "A Celebration of the Arts as Life," will get underway at 6:30 p.m. with a reception followed by musical performances by violinist Richard Kilmer of San Antonio and pianist Dr. Fritz Gechter of TAMIU's music faculty. Visitors will have a chance to tour the impressive new facilities.

One of the upcoming features of the new Center is especially dear to Dr. Keck's heart: the inclusion of a massive pipe organ in the 815-seat auditorium.

"We have been truly blessed by the generosity of the E. H. Corrigan Foundation and its president, E. H. Corrigan, with the gift of the Sharkey-Corrigan Pipe Organ. It will make remarkable learning and performance opportunities possible," the long-time organist explained.

Dr. Gilberto Soto, chair of the new TAMIU department of Fine and Performing Arts, said the Center's opening makes possible remarkable study opportunities for students at TAMIU.

"We will provide excellent educational opportunities for the fine arts that are now either unavailable or inadequately served in the region," he said, "The new Center will help reduce the massive Texas teacher shortage in art and music by making it possible for the first time for students in the area to earn degrees in fine arts without having to move away from home, an impossibility for the many low-income students of the area."

The Department of Fine and Performing Arts has grown rapidly during the last two years, Soto said.

"We served more than 1,000 students this past year," he said, "Compared from the last two years, we have increased enrollment more than 300 percent."

The department faculty is committed to bringing student success and come from diverse backgrounds, Soto said.

"The faculty of the department of Fine and Performing Arts bring an array of music, dance and art experience from different areas of expertise and regions. They are from as far as Illinois, Seattle, Minnesota, México, and as close as Laredo, bringing so many backgrounds in music (voice, clarinet, flute, trumpet, piano, guitar), art (drawing, painting, art history, photography), and dance (flamenco, folklórico, modern)," he said.

Keck noted that the new Center will also make it possible for students and the community to participate and attend numerous artistic events that are life enriching.

"We will have the Laredo Philharmonic Orchestra housed in this facility, and playing two concerts per year. In addition, we just recently launched the Distinguished Music Lecture Series, which will bring one to two concerts every year. Furthermore, we will have guest faculty recitals, student recitals, not to mention the long-time popular music and dance concerts we have organized for years, which will now be housed in this remarkable new facility, Keck said.

For further information about the Department of Fine and Performing Arts, programs and activities, please contact Dr. Gilberto Soto at 326- 2649, e-mail gsoto@tamiu.edu or visit offices located in the Center for the Fine and Performing Arts, room 217B.

Registration for the Fall Semester at TAMIU is Friday, Aug. 22. Classes begin Monday, Aug. 25. Late registration, with late fees applied, will be underway through Aug. 29. For registration information, contact the Office of the Registrar at 326.2250. University office hours are from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Affairs and Information Services at pais@tamiu.edu