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Spring 2018 Courses

The Presidents' College offerings include:

The Richard P. Garmany Chamber Music Series at Presidents' College—Larry Alan Smith

The Hartt School’s nationally acclaimed Richard P. Garmany Chamber Music Series, now in its ninth season, is partnering with the Presidents’ College to once again offer a two-session course in the spring semester. The first session will feature one of the visiting ensembles in conversation with longtime Hartt faculty member Larry Alan Smith, the series curator. The second session will take a behind the scenes look at how such a series is created.


Larry Alan Smith, Host and Curator and Steve Metcalf, Director, Presidents' College
Tues., April 17; 1:30–3 p.m.; KF Room. Register online.
Both spring sessions: Cost $40; Fellows, $20; Register online.

Garmany Series Curator Larry Alan Smith and Presidents' College Director Steve Metcalf will discuss trends in classical music programming and presenting, with a special focus on how 21st century chamber music ensembles are positioning themselves to be successful in a rapidly changing world. The session will also feature the unveiling of the 2018–19 Richard P. Garmany Chamber Music Series along with a discussion of the process that led to the final selection of artists for the upcoming 10th Anniversary Season.

LARRY ALAN SMITH is a professor of composition and the former dean of the University of Hartford's The Hartt School. He is curator of the Richard P. Garmany Chamber Music Series.

STEVE METCALF, director of the Presidents’ College, is formerly director of instrumental studies at The Hartt School, and served as full-time music critic at The Hartford Courant from 1982 to 2001. He is the founder and curator of the Garmany Chamber Music Series and a Hartt alumnus. Metcalf is a commentator on the local musical scene and a frequent guest on WNPR’s Colin McEnroe Show.

Venice: Art, Civilization, and the European Imagination—Patrick McCaughey

Fri., May 4, 11, 18, 25: noon–1:30 pm; Wilde Auditorium
Cost: $120; Fellows, $90. Register online.

John Ruskin called it “the Paradise of Cities” and Venice, despite the onslaught of mass tourism, retains its magnetic beauty and mystery. Its history, art, and civilization are as remarkable as its improbable situation: the city on the sea with canals for streets and waterways for lanes.

The first settlements on the shifting sand banks and mud flats of the lagoon were refugee encampments as the populations on the main land fled from the successive waves of barbarians from the Goths in the 5th century AD to the Lombard invasion of the Italian peninsula from the 6th to the 8th century. By the turn of the millennium, Venice had established itself as a city-state with a burgeoning maritime empire, a bridge between the eastern and western empires. The Most Serene Republic of Venice, as it came to be known, lasted for over a thousand years until 1797 when Napoleon captured it without a shot being fired.

The layers of civilization in Venice have left a rich legacy of art and architecture. This course of four lectures will start with its Byzantine and Gothic origins. We will trace the coming of the Renaissance to Venice in the 15th century and its triumph in the 16th, when some of the greatest masters of the age—Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto, and Verones—made Venice their home. A consideration of the final flowering of Venetian art in the 18th century with the veduti, the view painters—Canaletto, Guardi, and Bellotto—will give way to a look at Venice in the European imagination.

It was the inspiration of Turner, Whistler, and Sargent amongst others and the matrix for literature from Goethe to Browning, from Henry James to Thomas Mann. Wagner and Stravinsky were denizens of the city. Stravinsky died there and is buried on the island of San Michele. As much as Rome or Florence, Venice, the idea and presence of the city, persistently haunts the western mind.

PATRICK MCCAUGHEY, art historian and writer, is former director of the National Gallery of Victoria (Australia), the Wadsworth Atheneum, and the Yale Center for British Art. He writes frequently for publications in Britain, the United States, and Australia, and is known as an accomplished lecturer on all aspects of art.

Noah Webster: The Man Behind the Words—Jennifer Dicola Matos, John Morse, Joshua C. Kendall

Tues., May 8, 15, 22; 3–4:30 p.m.
All sessions of the course will take place at the Noah Webster House and West Hartford Historical Society, 227 South Main Street, West Hartford
Cost: $80; Fellows, $60. Register online.

Noah Webster. If people don’t know his full name, they usually know of his magnum opus, An American Dictionary of the English Language. But that’s the extent of most people’s knowledge. The man behind the words is a complex story of language and perseverance, of patriotism and culture, and of identity and legacy. 2018 is a very momentous year for Noah Webster. It’s the 260th anniversary of his birth (October 16, 1758) and the 175th anniversary of his death (May 28, 1843). This course will take a deeper dive into Webster’s role in American history and his lasting legacy. Nowhere is his impact felt more greatly than in West Hartford, Conn. Webster is West Hartford’s favorite son. He was born in the small farming community called the “West Division” in 1758. Through his accomplishments as an adult, he put West Hartford on the map. He also shaped the nation in a profound and lasting way that is rarely acknowledged. Yet for all of this, Webster is a historical figure that is largely overlooked. Even residents of the town of his birth are not aware of his accomplishments, save the dictionary.

Lecture No. 1: Noah Webster, the Man

Jennifer DiCola Matos
Tues., May 8; 3–4:30 p.m.

If the name Webster is synonymous with the word ‘dictionary,’ it could nearly also be synonymous with the word ‘cranky.’ Although he had a reputation for being cantankerous, his correspondence with his family suggests otherwise. At the same time he was badgering politicians with newspaper editorials, he was also a loving father and husband. In this session, Matos will discuss Webster’s childhood here in West Hartford, his studies at Yale, and the circumstances that precipitated him to write the Blue-Backed Speller. What made Webster tick? How did growing up in a farming community in Connecticut shape his character? What were his wishes and dreams? Amongst his professional achievements, Matos will talk about his personal relationships and how they affected and were affected by his 28-year project, An American Dictionary of the English Language.

JENNIFER DICOLA MATOS is the executive director of the Noah Webster House and West Hartford Historical Society, located in the restored birthplace and childhood home of Noah Webster. She has a BA in history and art history from the University of Saint Joseph and an MA in American civilization from Brown University. She currently serves as a co-chair of the New England Museum Association’s Historic Sites Professional Affinity Group and is an advisor at the Women’s Leadership Center at the University of Saint Joseph. Prior to her current position, she worked at a variety of museums and historic sites in the Greater Hartford area, including Connecticut’s Old State House, Connecticut Historical Society, Connecticut Landmarks, and the Wadsworth Atheneum.

Lecture No. 2: Noah Webster to Merriam-Webster: The Legacy of the Dictionary Today

John Morse
Tues., May 15; 3–4:30 p.m.

“Look it up in Webster’s.” A work with such brand recognition that it goes simply by the author’s last name, Noah Webster published his dictionary in 1828. After Webster’s death in 1843, Charles and George Merriam purchased the rights to the dictionary, as well as the remaining unsold copies to sell in their shop. While they would later make significant changes to the text, the Merriam’s recognized the importance of Webster’s name and incorporated it into their company. With great business and marketing acumen, the Merriam’s made Webster a household name. Today, Merriam-Webster Inc. maintains the spirit of Noah Webster and the essence of his life’s work by chronicling the ever-evolving American English language. Morse will detail how Noah Webster’s dictionary became Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, changes made to various editions with special emphasis on the pivotal 1864 version, and how that version established the model for the unabridged dictionary, as we know it today.

JOHN MORSE is the former president and publisher of Merriam-Webster Incorporated, having retired from the company in 2016. He joined Merriam-Webster 1980 and served as manager of editorial operations and planning ,and as executive editor, with responsibility for all product-development operations. He became publisher in 1996 and president and publisher in 1997, but remained actively involved in the company's product-development activities, including the launch of Merriam-Webster’s line of bilingual dictionaries, beginning in 1998; creation of Merriam-Webster's Advanced Learner's English Dictionary, a dictionary for people learning English as a second or foreign language in 2008; and the relaunched of in 2016. He writes and speaks regularly about the history and evolution of reference works in print, online, and mobile formats. Morse is a graduate of Haverford College and holds a Masters of Arts degree in English language and literature from the University of Chicago.

Lecture No. 3: Noah Webster: The Forgotten Founding Father

Joshua C. Kendall
Tues., May 22; 3–4:30 p.m.

Noah Webster was more than just America’s greatest lexicographer. He was also a Founding Father who helped define American culture. In his book (published in 2011), Kendall describes Webster’s far-reaching influence in establishing the American nation. He was friends with various Founding Fathers, he started New York’s first daily newspaper, he wrote a best-selling schoolbook (the “Blue-backed Speller”) that influenced copyright law and taught millions of Americans how to be American. But perhaps most important, Webster was an ardent supporter of a unified, definitively American culture, distinct from the British, at a time when the United States of America were anything but unified—and his dictionary of American English is a testament to that. Kendall will cover these fascinating stories and more to prove that Webster is indeed a “forgotten” Founding Father. 

JOSHUA C. KENDALL is the author of The Man Who Made Lists (Putnam, 2008), about the creation of Roget's Thesaurus, and The Forgotten Founding Father (Putnam, 2011), a biography of Noah Webster, the lexicographer responsible for Webster's Dictionary. Both of these books were New York Times Editors’ Choice selections. He has profiled seven American icons, including Thomas Jefferson, Charles Lindbergh, Ted Williams, and dEstée Lauder in his group biography, America’s Obsessives: The Compulsive Energy That Built a Nation (Grand Central, 2013). His last book is First Dads: Parenting and Politics from George Washington to Barack Obama (Grand Central, 2016). Kendall's journalism on a wide range of subjects has appeared in The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Parade, Financial Times, Psychology Today, The Nation, Politico, The Daily Beast, and BusinessWeek, among other publications. For his excellence in reporting on psychiatry, he has received national journalism awards from both the American Psychoanalytic Association and Mental Health America. Kendall is currently an associate fellow of Yale University's Trumbull College.

Note: Tuition and fees are non-refundable.