Category Archives: Alumni

Live in Purple: maeve & quinn perform “Fusion”

The Northwestern University Class of 2014 features a double dose of musical talent in the form of Bryce Quinn (violin) and Maris Maeve (piano and vocals) O’Tierney, twin sisters from Anchorage, Alaska who perform as maeve & quinn.

Before they graduated in June, the duo’s song “fusion” was selected as this year’s student-produced Niteskool music video, and the sisters were featured among Northwestern magazine’s “Senior Standouts.”

“We love making music together and we love people,” Bryce said. “The goal is always to keep finding new people to share the music with and new ways to do that.”

After graduation, Bryce, a creative writing (poetry) and violin studies double major, will pursue a master’s in creative writing at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. Maris, a vocal performance, art history and political science major, will work at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in Washington, D.C., as one of the selected interns for the Katzenberger Art History Internship Program.

Although they will soon be on separate continents, Bryce and Maris plan to continue performing whenever possible and plan to compose an album together.

A Wildcat in Sochi: Greg Presto (Medill ’04, ’07)

Greg PrestoNorthwestern alumnus Greg Presto (BSJ ’04, MSJ ’07) just returned from covering the Winter Olympics in Sochi, working as a video producer for USA Today Sports. Presto shot, edited and produced an array of Olympic content, including a fun piece on Russian culture in Sochi.

Read his reflections on the surreal experience of covering the world’s greatest athletes in an unfamiliar land—and running into some fellow Wildcats along the way.

There’s nothing better than a scoop for a journalist, and our team had broken the biggest story in Sochi: There were burritos somewhere. And they were amazing.

The Winter Olympics hold a lot of mystery for Americans—we don’t usually watch a biathlon, and placing the Games in Russia added another layer of confusion in language, alphabet and food.

Despite the reports of missing shower curtains and brown tap water, the lost-in-translation moments are what made covering the Sochi Games wonderful. And I do mean full of wonder. We wondered about the boiled meats and how often to say thank you and what lugers are really trying to do. And for me, answering questions that arise from natural curiosity is what makes journalism fun. If you see something, ask about it. Then say something.

So we asked: “What are lugers trying to do, anyway?” (As little as possible, it turns out.) “Do Russians celebrate Valentine’s Day?” (Yes.) “How much does skiing before you shoot a gun alter your aim?” (A little.) “What does the Russian letter that looks like an asterisk sound like?” (It’s a “J.”) “Why are downhill ski poles bent that way?” (To bend around the skier’s body.)

And, of course, where did the Russian guy at the Ekaterininskiy Kvartal media village learn to make such amazing “fajitos?” Turns out he spent some time in Colorado, where he learned to make some incredible wrapped goodies filled with crunchy vegetables (a rare treat) and spiced pork worth the 40-minute round trip to grab a bunch for some coworkers.

A taste of home like that was a welcome respite from feeling like the ugly American who can’t understand anything. Staring at a string of Cyrillic text and having the symbols look completely meaningless was, as one coworker pointed out, as close as we’ll probably come to understanding what it’s like to be illiterate. Trying to translate kilograms to pounds on a rare trip to the press center gym was nearly impossible on three hours of sleep. And giving directions to a cab driver? Well, an hour to wait for the next bus isn’t so bad, I guess.

But it was something we were all learning together—not just my fellow USA Today Sports folks, but other media, including a pile of Northwestern alums. Ten of us gathered for a photo on the last day, recounting confusions and questions we’d raised and reminiscing with our fellow Americans and media from Australia, Korea, Japan and China.

It’s with the Chinese guys that we finished. After the Olympic flame was snuffed out and the last of our video gear packed, we celebrated with a dinner that devolved into a sing-off, with a table of Chinese journalists singing one song and our group singing another. They took us to school with a string of not-in-English tunes that included Pavarotti and a bunch of stuff we couldn’t identify. But the crown jewel of their dominant concert was a three-part harmony rendition of a song that wasn’t lost in translation at all: “Jingle Bells.”

Medill alumni in Sochi

Some of the Northwestern alumni covering the Olympics in Sochi gather for a group photo.

Do you know any Cool ‘Cats? We’re looking for Northwestern University students, alumni, faculty and staff who are having cool experiences or have unique stories to tell. Let us know at socialmedia@northwestern.edu

The Hills Are Alive for Northwestern Alumnus

Ian Weinberger (Bienen ’09) spent the past several months working as a music assistant on NBC’s production of “The Sound of Music Live,” which airs tonight at 7 p.m. (CT). Read about his varied experiences working with the cast, crew and orchestra on this unique production.

Ian Weinberger

I’m really grateful to have had some great experience at Northwestern learning how to put together new musicals. Working on the American Music Theatre Project shows and the Waa-Mu Show taught me so much about how musical theatre is made. While “The Sound of Music” isn’t exactly a new musical, and while working in television is a whole different animal, there were certain elements of this process—new dance music, different keys, working with orchestrators and copyists—that my Northwestern experience absolutely prepared me for.

I was brought onto “The Sound of Music Live” by music director David Chase. I’d worked with David on a couple of projects over the last couple of years. He wrote to me in August and asked if I’d be interested in being the music assistant…and I’m so glad he did. My duties have been pretty varied, but in general I’ve been working with the orchestra, the cast and the creative team to help put this thing up.

We’ve been rehearsing the show since mid-September, and for the first couple of months the rehearsal process functioned very much like a Broadway show. My first major set of tasks had to do with preparing for the recording sessions. We recorded the orchestra (37 stellar Broadway musicians) that you’ll hear on the broadcast tonight, and the actors came in to record the companion cast album that was released earlier this week.

The tricky part was, unlike a Broadway show, we were recording the album about five weeks ahead of our “opening,” and only a couple of weeks after our official start of rehearsals. So a tremendous amount of planning had to be done with David and the music department, director Rob Ashford and his team, as well as the actors, to determine what would be recorded. We knew certain changes could be made after recording had completed—if we needed a few bars to be repeated, for example, or if a certain section had to be a little slower, we could make those adjustments digitally. But, by and large, what we recorded is what we had—we couldn’t create new underscoring if we needed more music. In fact, in many instances we recorded several versions of something–at different tempi, or with both 2- and 4-bar intros, etc.—just so we’d have options as we started to piece the show together.

After the recordings were completed and mixed, I worked with David to organize the various playback cues that we’d use for the show. Some musical numbers needed to be split into several cues. For example, at the top of the show, when Maria sings “The Sound of Music,” there is a held note in the orchestra. Then she sings “My day in the hills…”—and the orchestra joins her in time on the word “day.” In a standard theatrical setting with a live orchestra and a conductor, this is as simple as the conductor holding until “day” and then bringing in the orchestra with Maria. But in this case, the playback was split into two cues—one for the held note, and then another for the rest of the song. So Mark “Wedge” Weglinski, who’s manning the playback, presses “GO” for the held note and then “GO” again when she sings, “My day in the hills.” All told, there are about 75 playback cues for the entire show.

The makeup of our music department differed greatly from that of any standard theatrical production that we’re used to working on. Aside from David—the boss!—we were very lucky to have Fred Lassen as associate music supervisor. Fred was left in charge with cast rehearsals while David went away for the 10 days of recording. (Tonight, Fred’s job is to sit at a keyboard and play along with the entire show, just in case—knock on something—the playback system and its backup system fail for any reason.) Steven Malone served as the music director dedicated to the seven von Trapp children and their understudies—working specifically on the kids’ music. We had two additional rehearsal pianists, plus I also played rehearsal piano when needed. Finally, Georgia Stitt, one of the nuns, took on the role of “nun captain,” rehearsing and leading the choir of 24 nuns on her own when David or Fred were otherwise tied up. Plus—Doug Besterman (orchestrator), a team of copyists, a recording engineer and two assistants, Wedge on playback, a sound mixer and his team…it has taken a village—for the music alone! I heard yesterday that all told, about 340 people are working on this.

Anyway, it’s all been very exciting and a very educational project for all of us. But now I am off to work! We’re just about to start our last (only our second!) full run-through at 1 p.m. before we do the show at 7 p.m. (CT) tonight. The excitement is palpable here in Bethpage, NY—we really can’t wait to share this with you. If you’re watching tonight, hope you enjoy!

World War II Midshipmen’s School at NU

As World War II raged in Europe, Northwestern University was one of three schools to open a Midshipmen’s School to train Naval officers. By 1945, more than 25,000 men had graduated from the school.

Rev. Robert Wilch graduated in 1943 and looked back fondly on the time he spent training for the Navy on Northwestern’s Chicago campus. Hear his memories in this 2009 interview, featuring archival footage of the Midshipmen’s School at NU. Read more

NU has a long history of naval training on campus, as one of the six original Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps units was established on campus in 1926 and remains today. Last Friday, current NROTC students honored alumni who gave their lives in war.

On this Veterans Day, we honor and remember all the courageous men and women–past and present–who served our country in the military. Thank you for your service.

Relive WNUR’s Broadcast of ‘War of the Worlds’ from 2001

This week marked the 75th anniversary of Orson Welles’ infamous “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast, and Northwestern students celebrated by gathering at a residential college Wednesday evening to listen to the original production and engage in a fireside discussion afterward.

But on May 13, 2001, a group of students working at Northwestern’s student radio station, WNUR, produced and aired their own live version of “War of the Worlds.”

The brainchild of Mark Gordon (Communication ’03), the radio broadcast used the original script but was adapted to include references to Northwestern, Evanston and Chicago people and landmarks. According to a story that ran in The Daily Northwestern, WNUR received permission to alter the script from the estate of Howard Koch, one of the writers of the original broadcast.

Gordon recruited WNUR students who typically reported news and sports, as well as a few radio/television/film majors to round out the cast. The broadcast begins as a breaking news story about a mysterious accident on the I-90/I-94 John F. Kennedy Expressway. The cast rehearsed in Annie May Swift hall several times before the live production to coordinate the timing of their lines with the various sound effects that Gordon had previously recorded to make the broadcast sound authentic.

“My favorite story related to the show was how we got the car horn sound effects,” said Brian Nemerovski (Medill ’03), who played a sports anchor in the fake broadcast. “Obviously, we needed the sound because the re-creation centered around traffic being stalled on the Kennedy. So Mark Gordon walked into the attendant’s booth at the Whole Foods parking garage on Chicago Avenue and asked them to press the panic button on as many sets of keys as they could find. The attendants agreed, and Mark got the sound!”

Given the pandemonium created by the original 1938 broadcast, WNUR took no chances and featured disclaimers throughout the show to remind the listening audience that this was a theatrical production and not an actual emergency.

“I think someone even called Evanston and Northwestern police just to keep them in the loop in case they got any calls,” said Ben Harper (Medill ’03), who served as a news anchor in the broadcast.

Click below to listen to the complete WNUR broadcast from 2001, courtesy of Ben Harper. The action starts around the 10:15 mark.