» News & Announcements
Facts About Mills
Mission & History

Media Contact Info:
Media Relations Manager
Phone: 510.430.2300
Email: media@mills.edu
Home > News >

Mills College Celebrates 80 Years of Musical Innovation with Giving Free Play to the Imagination Music Festival

Oakland, CA—December 15, 2008. Mills College celebrates 80 years of musical innovation as it reopens the historic Mills Concert Hall after an extensive 18-month renovation with a music festival featuring some of the world's leading contemporary musicians. The six-concert series, Giving Free Play to the Imagination, runs from February 21 through April 5, 2009.

music festival 2009 logoMusical innovators such as Pauline Oliveros, Terry Riley, Joan Jeanrenaud, Roscoe Mitchell, Muhal Richard Abrams, the Arditti Quartet, and Fred Frith, among many others, will celebrate Mills College's leadership in defining contemporary music.

At the heart of the aesthetic and educational mission of music at Mills is a tradition of experimentalism. Breaking free from preconceived notions about music, Mills composers and performers embrace new sounds and musical forms while pursuing creative, exploratory, and individual approaches to music. It is this unique approach that has made Mills College the destination for sonic pioneers. And it is why some of the top names in contemporary music—Darius Milhaud, Dave Brubeck, Joëlle Léandre, Phil Lesh, John Cage, Anthony Braxton, and Pauline Oliveros, to name just a few—have been part of the faculty and student population at Mills.

"Because of our long history of support for an experimentalist tradition across barriers of genre, cultural identity, or perceived hierarchy, Mills is uniquely placed to cultivate, appreciate, and celebrate musical pioneers," said Fred Frith, head of the Music Department and internationally known composer, multi-instrumentalist, and improviser.

Mills music faculty, students, and visiting artists from varied musical traditions come from as far away as Argentina, China, France, and Turkey to study musical forms from electronic music to classical performance to jazz improvisation.

"Ever since renowned French classical composer and Mills' professor Darius Milhaud encouraged soon-to-be-renowned jazz pianist composer and Mills' student Dave Brubeck to 'be himself,' our students have been discovering how to 'be themselves' with single-handed determination," said Frith. "As a Music Department that encourages experimentation while respecting tradition, we are second to none."

"We are continually inspired by the influence and impact of our music graduates in their artistic pursuits," said Janet L. Holmgren, president of Mills College. "Whether they are composers, performers, professors, or music producers or whether they are working in the film, video game, or music industries, or in leading technology and digital media companies, our graduates reflect the College's mission to encourage creativity and experimentation, all within a global context."

Giving Free Play to the Imagination also marks the completion of the $11 million renovation of the Mills College Concert Hall, to be renamed for well-known Bay Area philanthropist and Mills alumna Jeannik Méquet Littlefield, MA '42. Designed by noted California architect Walter Ratcliff Jr., the Mills Music Building has received widespread acclaim since its opening in 1928.

Improvements to the Concert Hall include new acoustic panels for enhanced sound quality, an expanded stage area for larger performances, installation of a dedicated mixing station, soundproofing for performance and recording quality, new seating and improved layout for a better audience experience. The multicolored frescoes and murals created by California painter Raymond Boynton were restored by two teams of art conservators to return them to their original vibrant colors.

The festival's name, in fact, derives from Boynton's vision for his murals, "to produce a scheme of decoration that would give free play to the imagination."

Mills Music Festival Honorary Committee:
(as of February 4, 2009)

Charles Amirkhanian* – composer, sound poet, radio producer, director of Other Minds
Laurie Anderson* – performance visual artist, composer, musician
Dave Brubeck*+ – jazz and classical pianist and composer
Robert Cole – director of Cal Performances
Merce Cunningham – choreographer and founder of Merce Cunningham Dance Company
Evelyn Glennie – percussionist, composer
David Harrington – violinist and founding member of the Kronos Quartet
Phil Lesh* – bassist, composer, founding member of the Grateful Dead
George Lewis – trombonist, composer, interactive computer system designer, scholar
Jeannik Méquet Littlefield* – philanthropist and patroness of the arts
Annea Lockwood – composer, professor emeritus at Vassar College
Rebeca Mauleón* – Latin and world music pianist, composer
Meredith Monk – composer, singer, director/choreographer
Michael Morgan – music director of the Oakland East Bay Symphony
Pauline Oliveros+ – composer, performer, humanitarian, first director of the San Francisco Tape Music Center at Mills (now the Center for Contemporary Music)
Lauren Speeth* – CEO of Elfenworks Foundation, violinist
Roselyne Swig+ – philanthropist, activist, and patroness of the arts
Michael Tilson Thomas – music director of the San Francisco Symphony

* Mills alumnae/i
+ Mills honorary degree recipient

For more information about the festival and Concert Hall, please visit www.mills.edu/music festival.

Nestled in the foothills of Oakland, California, Mills College is a nationally renowned, independent liberal arts college offering a dynamic progressive education that fosters leadership, social responsibility, and creativity to approximately 950 undergraduate women and 500 graduate women and men. Since 2000, applications to Mills College have more than doubled. The College is named one of the top colleges in the West by U.S. News & World Report, one of the Best 368 Colleges by the Princeton Review, and ranks 75th among America's best colleges by Forbes.com. Visit us at www.mills.edu.

Quynh Tran
Media Relations Manager

Last Updated: 8/18/08