Green Music Center hosts season-opening gala

Saturday was an evening of music and celebration as the Green Music Center opened up its doors for its fourth season opening Gala featuring world-renowned Chinese pianist, Lang Lang.
Lang performed his signature versions of music by Bach, Chopin and other muical greats. The gala would mark Lang’s third trip to the Green Music Center.

Guests dressed their best and walked the red carpet that lined the pathway to the center, welcoming them to a fruitful and diverse new season.

Prior to the performance, a champagne reception was held in the Prelude restaurant for the donors and community members who helped with the upbringing of the Green Music Center.
A few noteble attendees include President Ruben Armiñana, Co-Executive Directors Zarin Mehta and Larry Furukawa-Schlereth, Joan and Sanford Weill, and student representatives Brandon Mercer and Kevin McMahon.

While this event is a wonderful treat for the Sonoma County community, the question that always lingers is: where are the students? When looking around at the reception or at the Lang Lang performance itself, it was hard to pinpoint which patrons were Sonoma State Students. Students seemed to reside almost exclusively as staff.

Mercer and McMahon, both student voices for the Green Music Center offeredtheir thoughts on the lack of students in attendance to GMC events.

“I think the biggest thing is to just open up the center to be more approachable to students,” said Mercer. “We need to start that trend so that students are acquainted with the hall. The only time I see students here is when they are assigned to come to a performance or see a speaker, and that’s unfortunate.”

In addition, he spoke on the programming at the venue. “Seeing some of the shows that are put on, they don’t necessarily cater to student interests at the moment. It’s so heavy on classical music that it’s not the shows that are inviting to students,” said Mercer.

When talking to Co-Executive Director Zarin Mehta, he spoke very highly on the upcoming season and the accomplishments that are being made during this fourth year. “Every concert we do, we get more and more people coming here for the first time,” said Mehta, “To be perfectly honest, I find it depressing that the students don’t take advantage of what’s going on at the Green Music Center.”

Contrasting from Mercer, Mehta believes the core part of education is to broaden your surroundings and to try something new, such as classical music. “If you don’t know the people [performing], it’s a question of education. That’s why you’re here.”

Are students not willing to immerse themselves into a world of classical culture? Or is the Green Music Center not willing to appeal to the more “pop-culture” genre of music that the millennials have grown up with? Is there a compromise that can be made? Co-Executive Director Furukawa-Schlereth seems to believe so, as he explains the efforts being put into this upcoming season.

“The season that Zarin has put together is probably presented as the most diversified programming that we’ve done in comparison to the previous three seasons,” Furukawa-Schlereth said. The upcoming season encompasses an array of genres including opera, Bollywood, gospel, flamenco, acapella, in addition to the standard classical music.

“We have a richness in the On Campus Presents season, for the programs that are associated with the students,” said Furukawa-Schlereth. The upcoming programming includes motivational speakers, Christie Rampone, the captain of the United States women’s national soccer team, and Laverne Cox, LGBT advocate and actress in the Netflix television series, “Orange Is the New Black,” in addition to comedian and “Reno 911!” actor Nick Swardson.

Regardless of which side needs to put forth a greater effort, there isn’t a question that the Green Music Center has put Sonoma State University on the map. Now the incoming students have two reasons to come to Sonoma State. Before it was because of the nice dorms and beautiful campus, but now you can add the prestigious Green Music Center on that list.

Performances for the 2015-2016 season can be found on the Green Music Center website.