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Vail Series | Denison University

Sure, it’s a new season of highly diverse concerts, performed by world-class musicians. But the Vail Series is so much more here at Denison University.


It’s seeing Béla Fleck or Yo-Yo Ma on a small stage, six feet away from your front row seat, knowing he’ll be spending enough time here to interact with students and answer a question if you have one. The Vail Series joins in bringing the contemporary classical quartet ETHEL to campus four weeks a year as Denison’s ensemble-in-residence. ETHEL takes the arts from the performance stage to classrooms. They play in a variety of surprising locations across campus, and often just grab lunch and chat with students in the student union. In other words, it’s personal. Even the Vail Series’ venue — Swasey Chapel — is known for its intimacy. There’s no need to hang around stage doors to meet performers when they come to Denison; they’re right there, up close and totally accessible.


And the arts are such an essential element of a liberal arts education at Denison that Vail Series tickets are free for students, faculty and staff.


The Vail Series was endowed by a generous gift from the late Mary and Foster McGaw in honor of Jeanne Vail, class of 1946. Just as it was intended to do, the Series enriches the artistic experience of the entire Denison community. Programmed creatively with the mindful pursuit of learning across traditional academic boundaries, the Vail Series was directed by Lorraine Wales from its inception in 1979 through her retirement in June of 2013. Michael Morris is currently the Director of the Vail Series.


Since 1979, more than 100 individual artists have found their way to Swasey Chapel’s stage, but that doesn’t include the dozens of ensembles or full symphony orchestras that have played here over the years. And some stay for a while. Last time he was here, Bobby McFerrin presented two concerts, performing with ten students groups over the two night engagement. Yo-Yo Ma and Yuja Wang have each been to Denison five times. They’re kind of like family.


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