New composition to honor Christel DeHaan, celebrate anniversary


CDFAC-002It’s already been two decades since the architectural-award-winning Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center opened its doors and changed the city’s cultural landscape. To celebrate the milestone, the University of Indianapolis has commissioned a classical music composition in honor of the benefactor whose support made the center possible.

Christel-DeHaanPhilanthropist Christel DeHaan was in attendance in September when President Robert Manuel announced the commission during the gala anniversary celebration that served as the opening of the University’s venerable Faculty Artist Concert Series. The composition will premiere this fall at the opening of the 2015–16 Faculty Artist Concert Series season.

The concert in the Center’s Ruth Lilly Performance Hall was led by Maestro Raymond Leppard, artist-in-residence at UIndy and conductor laureate of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and featured student ensembles and professionals from the ISO and the UIndy music faculty.The piece is being composed by John Berners, UIndy associate professor of music. Berners earned a bachelor’s degree in trombone as well as a BA in mathematics at Northwestern University. He studied composition privately with C. Curtis-Smith and at the University of Michigan under Evan Chambers, William Albright, Bright Sheng, Michael Daugherty, and William Bolcom. There he earned an MM in composition and PhD in Composition & Music Theory.

Berners,-JohnBerners’ works have been performed by the Detroit Symphony, Virginia Symphony, Kiev Philharmonic, Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, Boston Symphony Brass, Ronen Ensemble, Brave New Works, Ensemble SurPlus, Xanthos, and many university ensembles, and at festivals including Tanglewood, June in Buffalo, Music X, Denison University Tutti, and the Missouri New Music Festival.

The Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center and its Ruth Lilly Performance Hall opened in 1994 at a cost of $10 million, with support from Lilly Endowment Inc., philanthropist Ruth Lilly, and DeHaan, a former UIndy student who served many years on the University’s Board of Trustees. Among other interests, she is the founder and president of the Christel DeHaan Family  Foundation, which supports arts and culture in central Indiana, and the founder and CEO of Christel House International, which provides education and other assistance to impoverished children around the world.