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April 2021

Michael Alexander

Dear Friends:

Did you know that April has been declared "Arts, Culture, and Creativity Month" by the state of California? Arts organizations and others in the creative community are celebrating the many ways that they contribute to the health of our communities, the vibrancy of our economy, and the intellectual, social, and creative growth of our school children. We join in that celebration.

In the not-too-distant future, we expect the local and regional arts community to once again be sharing arts experiences in theaters and museums, and at festivals and other gatherings. Until then, I want to share our spring events here at Caltech. We have put together a series of performances that remind us of the healing power of laughter, music, and creativity.

Last Laugh with Elaina Newport: A Capitol Steps Exit Interview

During this pandemic, we have been committed to serving our communities and ensuring that artists' voices remain heard—even those whose tours have disbanded.

Among those ending their public careers is a perennial favorite at Caltech, the Capitol Steps. As much as the Steps hold a special place in the hearts of its audiences, Caltech and the Greater Los Angeles area hold a special place in the hearts of the ensemble.

Early on, KCRW and Sarah Spitz (a retired producer at the station) played a critical role in introducing the Steps to the American public. Sad as we are to lose this mainstay, we are excited to announce that we have arranged for an "exit" interview with Steps' founding member Elaina Newport on May 8 at 5 p.m.

Sarah will join us for the initial portion of the program before we welcome questions and comments from viewers. We expect to hear from Elaina about performing in the White House for various presidents and about how some specifically requested the material [JH1] that poked fun at them. Politicians weren't the only famous people who sat through songs that sent up some of their most public work. I remember sitting in Beckman Auditorium years ago when Michael Eisner laughed as loud as anyone during the Steps' musical skit about EuroDisney.

Behind the Book: Indre Viskontas

Our next Behind the Book installment explores the power of music. We're excited to feature neuroscientist/opera singer Indre Viskontas, author of How Music Can Make You Better, which investigates the nature of music and how our brains use it to promote our personal health and, thus, that of our community.

She will be interviewed by Caltech's director of chamber music, Maia Jasper. We look forward to hearing how certain songs can carry us through a tough workout, comfort us after a breakup, or unite tens of thousands of people, whether it's an audience in a giant arena or participants in a civil rights march.

During the pandemic, many artists have developed or adapted their work for the internet (e.g. our recent presentation of Herbert Siguenza's A Weekend With Pablo Picasso). Others have created online services and programs to help fill the void. One thing is clear: the arts create incredible opportunities for people to gather and we have an ongoing human need to share experiences with one another. Many of you have joined us for online conversations with artists over the last year. I look forward to having you join us for in-person experiences before too long. Until then, we will continue to create online opportunities.

Many thanks, as always, to our sponsors—the Friends of Beckman Auditorium and the Caltech Employees Federal Credit Union—for their support. For information about joining the Friends, please visit Events.Caltech.Edu and click on "Join the Friends of Beckman Auditorium."

It is through their support that we have created the popular Science Journeys lecture series. Originally intended to supplement middle- and high-school science curricula, these Science Journeys talks, prepared and presented by Caltech grad students, focus on their particular areas of research. With great narrative ability, superb graphics, and fascinating personal stories about how they got into the sciences, these presentations offer students, teachers, parents, and other science enthusiasts fascinating insight into these young scientists' work. We also hope that school-age children will be inspired to let their curiosity lead them into deeper consideration of the sciences as a career. We have archived five of these talks already, which are available to view at your convenience. We'd love to hear your comments. Our team is currently working with a new cohort of grad students, so we will have new Science Journeys episodes to share for the upcoming academic year.

I look forward to you joining us for any (and all) of our upcoming presentations.