Day in and day out, artists take to our stages, presenting work that is beautiful, touching, inspiring, funny, smart, and challenging. Frequently, we are simply the presenter, making things happen behind the scenes so that the show can go on. Other times, we’ve helped to shape the program in some way, via a commission or student participation. And then, every so often, we have the unique opportunity to play an integral role in creating something extraordinary.

In early May, we’ll be presenting a PAC-commissioned project called Dreams & New Worlds: Stories from First-Generation Students by an artist named Daniel Kelly.

Daniel Kelly is a composer and jazz pianist who, by his own description, “explores the meeting place of music with literature, visual art, and journalism.” His Rakonto projects transform the stories of everyday people into musical experiences. A topic is chosen, interviews are recorded, and then music is written, all with the goal of capturing the spirit of a community and telling its story. The final project is a multi-media performance, with taped interviews intertwined with the virtuoso playing and singing of Kelly and his musicians.

For our project, I had an idea—I wanted to shine a light on the experiences of first-generation college students in our region. This is exactly what Dreams & New Worlds will do.  A number of students who are part of the Purchase College Equal Opportunity Program were interviewed for the piece, as were students from White Plains and Ossining High Schools, some of whom are first-generation college bound and some who have self-identified as feeling that college is out the realm of possibilities for them.

What will the final work look and sound like? We have no idea, and that is part of the magic. Something completely new and unique to our community is being created, something that is going to tell a very personal and important story. I for one cannot wait to experience it.

Seth Soloway
Director, The Performing Arts Center, Purchase College

Daniel Kelly’s Dreams & New Worlds will be celebrated with a premiere performance for school groups, members of the Purchase College community, and the public on Monday, May 6.

Pictured: Daniel Kelly interviews Ashely Wilson, Purchase College Senior and EOP student.