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W&J College to re-evaluate Vilar Distinguished Artist Series

Thursday, July 31, 2003

By Andrew Druckenbrod, Post-Gazette Classical Music Critic

Washington & Jefferson College has refrained from scheduling its Vilar Distinguished Artist Series for the 2003-04 season to rethink its effectiveness.

The postponement also accommodates the current financial circumstances of Alberto Vilar, an alumnus of the school and famed philanthropist who initiated the series three years ago.

"My express purpose in this program was to bring world-class music to the students of W&J," said Vilar. "The program has been operating several years, and it is now an opportunity for students, faculty and the donor to evaluate it. For example, should it have more dance, more opera, more chamber music? We want to see how it can be improved and then improve it."

The evaluation also extends to how attentive the series has been to the students of the Washington County school. By bringing in top-level artists such as conductor Lorin Maazel, singers Susan Graham, Jennifer Larmore, Samuel Ramey and Barbara Bonney, community members from throughout the region flocked to W&J's Olin Fine Arts Center. Student involvement, however, has been less than projected.

"The Olin Fine Arts Center has always been the way that the college has served as a resource to the community for entertainment, but we need to make sure whatever we offer also serves the students," said Rita McConnell, W&J media relations manager.

"Hopefully this is a temporary hiatus and we will reopen the season in 2004-05," added Ron Sherhofer, managing director of Olin Fine Arts Center.

W&J did not enter into any contracts with performers for the upcoming season. Sherhofer said February 2004 would be the latest W&J could wait to book artists for the season encompassing 2004-05.

Vilar, who made his fortune in the stock market and is president and founding partner of Amerindo Investment Advisors, has given millions to the arts and initiated the Vilar Distinguished Artist Series three years ago. He also is the largest contributor to the Vilar Technology Center, scheduled to open on campus this fall.

Wall Street's downturn has curtailed his giving and even delayed promised contributions to major arts institutions such as the Metropolitan Opera, the Washington Opera and the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival.

Andrew Druckenbrod can be reached at or 412-263-1750.

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