Centennial celebration brings big acts

Thursday, May 31, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:18 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

The University Concert Series at MU is looking to make its centennial celebration its biggest ever. Among the nearly 40 performances, the most expensive — and likely the biggest draw, the series director said — will be violinist and conductor Itzhak Perlman.

“This being our 100th anniversary, we’ve really gone out of our way to bring in big artists,” said director Mike Dunn, who is also the director of KBIA/91.3 FM. This season, the series is spending between $800,000 and $900,000.

“We’ve spent 25 (percent) to 30 percent more this year than in previous years,” Dunn said.

The University Concert Series has brought music, theater, dance and a variety of performances to Columbia for a century. Dunn said the concert series started out in 1907 with just a few acts each year. It gradually added performances to the roster, but until the 1980s, the series held only about 12 events a year.

Dunn said that over time, the series has maintained the classical roster, but they have expanded to appeal to a wider audience.

“I’m pretty excited about a show we have called Video Games Live!” said Kimberly Mouser, assistant director for the series whose job is to book the acts. The interactive event, which Dunn called “more youth-oriented,” will include instrumental renditions of both modern and classic video game music, live singers and video screens. Video game kiosks will be set up in the lobby for audience members to play while listening to the performance going on in the auditorium, and the conductor and performers will interact with people inside the theater.

The series’ Web site states the show includes “video and specially designed special effects and light sequences showcasing over 50 different games in a wide variety of styles.”

Mouser, who has been with the series for three years, said she books shows based on audience surveys, who or what is touring during the time and by what shows are being brought to Missouri by other groups throughout the state. She then works with agents for each act to establish the lineup.

In addition to big acts such as Perlman, comedian George Carlin and jazz great Wynton Marsalis, a performance being co-sponsored with the “We Always Swing” Jazz Series, the series includes the annual fundraiser, “Beers and Wines of the World” and an MU Choral Union performance of the “Messiah.”

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