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Oct. 9, 2019

Marc Embree: Passing into a very good time

Oct. 9, 2019

Marc Embree is an associate professor of voice in the College of Music. A singer, actor and educator, Embree was a principal singer with the New York City Opera for several seasons and has performed throughout the United States, Mexico, Canada and Europe. His spouse, Jane Bunnell, is also a professor at MSU and celebrated her 28th season at the Metropolitan Opera.

When we moved to MSU from DePaul a few years ago, we were immediately impressed with the “How can we get this done?” attitude prevalent in the College of Music for just about any project, great or small.

Led by Dean James Forger’s vision, an almost mystical whirlwind of energy, willingness and desire brought together the administration, faculty, artists, staff, patrons and students in support of a new building project. It had been long overdue and a desire of past administrations, but then a generous gift by Dr. James K. Billman gave us an unprecedented opportunity to do something big — something that had been elusive for so long. It seemed almost overnight the plans for new construction were underway.

It is remarkable to me that less than a year ago they broke ground, and the grand opening of the Billman Music Pavilion next April is just around the corner.

Whew! I can say without exaggeration that the excitement is at times palpable.
For me, the creative process always begins with a “sense of place.” A place to be centered, comfortable, surrounded by a creative and supportive community. A place to realize the artist’s dream of “extending oneself to others in love and service.” The College of Music is that kind of place.

The new construction unceasingly whirls around us as we go about our daily routine: hard hats and Handel, rebar and Ravel. What a great place this is, and what a greater place it’s going to be!

It started with a big hole in the ground and the demolition of old Hart Recital Hall, and now we're on the cusp of a very special age in this grand place.

This year, when I put together the program for my annual “Pass A Good Time” concert, I decided the old vaudeville song “Crazy Words, Crazy Tune” by Tin Pan Alley composer Milton Ager was a good place to start.

While a lot of planning went into the concert, in a nutshell, I was celebrating my topsy-turvy fifty years in show business and my 70th birthday. So, with a tip o’ the hat to the College of Music, I decided to laud the new construction and remarkable renovation of older spaces by adding some special lyrics noting how far we’ve come.

“Dean Jim Forger looked at Hart and said,
‘That building, it must depart,
It’s gotta go, go-dee-o, go go go-dee-o go.’
They all worked and in a flash,
Rebecca, Amy, Annie, Maddie raised the cash.
We’re talkin’ dough dough-dee-o dough dough dough dee o dough.
They’ll be razzin’ and jazzin’ percussion too (woo woo woo)
Woodwinds, brass and strings – everybody!
Billman Pavilion! Go Green! Go White”

Thank you to the University for its support. Thank you to Dr. Billman and the many generous donors. And thank you to the expert architects, acousticians and hard-working construction crew and trades. Bravi tutti! This is a great time to be a musician at MSU, and it fills my heart with joy to know that the "sense of place" will be here for generations to come.