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Members of UE Community Recognized for Excellence in the Arts

Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013

The University of Evansville had an excellent showing in this year’s Arts Awards, presented by the Arts Council of Southwestern Indiana. Faculty members and student performers in the Department of Music won two of the annual Arts Awards: Dennis Malfatti, associate professor of music and director of choral activities, was named Arts Educator of the Year, while UE Opera under the direction of Jon Truitt, associate professor of music, received the Ensemble of the Year Award. In addition, UE trustee Bob Jones and his wife, Lisa, were named Arts Advocates of the Year.

Arts Council leaders announced the honors June 27 at a news conference at the Bower-Suhrheinrich Foundation Gallery.

With at least two fully staged productions a year, UE Opera provides performing opportunities for music and non-music majors alike. In addition to performing, students learn the mechanics of staging and the sheer labor of putting together a full production. Some UE Opera alumni have gone on to prestigious graduate schools and successful careers, and the program has also created greater opportunities for Tri-State families to experience opera without the time and expense of traveling to major cities. 

Jon Truitt, himself an accomplished opera performer, directs the program and serves as head of the voice area at UE. “Teaching a full load of applied voice majors, he always has his students’ well-being at heart,” said Jack Schriber, chair of the Arts Awards committee, while announcing the award. “Exhibiting never-ending energy and optimism, he is demanding of his students, but always encouraging and patient.”

This fall, Truitt and the UE Opera will collaborate with the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra in a fully staged production of Madame Butterfly. 

Under the direction of Dennis Malfatti, the Arts Educator of the Year, the choral program at UE has flourished. The University Choir is recognized as one of the outstanding choral groups in the state of Indiana, and in May 2011, Malfatti conducted the University Choir and choirs from Indiana, Kentucky, New York, and California for a performance of Haydn’s Paukenmesse at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

A recent graduate stated, “To say Dr. Malfatti made a significant positive impact on my undergraduate experience would be an understatement.  I have never known a choir director to be so passionate about what he does, and he instills that passion in his students. He hold us to the highest standards of musicianship and discipline and we are all better musicians and students because of it.” 

In addition to his work at UE, Malfatti serves as director of music at Eastminster Presbyterian Church and directed the Evansville Philharmonic Chorus for four years. 

Bob and Lisa Jones, named the Arts Advocates of the Year, have been actively involved with the University of Evansville’s Department of Theatre, one of the nation’s top undergraduate theatre programs. Lisa served on the UE Theatre Society Board of Directors for six years, chairing numerous committees, in addition to serving as the president of the organization for two years. She has been awarded the Barbara St. Clair McKenna Award, the highest honor the UE Theatre Society can bestow.

Bob and Lisa have been generous contributors to UE Department of Theatre and UE Theatre Society fundraising campaigns, and in 2011, they personally funded the idea of “flying the fairies” in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, through the expertise of ZFX Flying Effects. Bob and Lisa are dedicated theatre patrons and participate in the UE Theatre Society's Adopt-a-Student program. 

“Bob and Lisa don’t just lend their names to arts causes, although that in itself would be helpful, but they actively work with groups to improve the community,” said Schriber while announcing the award. “They regularly offer themselves as organizers for charity events, provide guidance on fund development efforts, and open their home or Old National Bank corporate offices to support arts activities.”

The Arts Awards will be presented at a banquet on Thursday, August 22 in the Walnut Atrium of Tropicana Evansville.

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