The Goodman Banks Symposium bridges the gap between art and science


On Friday, April 29, KO welcomed three visitors for the 2022 Goodman Banks visiting artist series, who collaborated with the Stroud Science Symposium for the first time.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the busy lives of our visitors, this event took two years to plan. However, I speak for many when I say that it was worth the wait.

Performing arts teacher and Goodman Banks coordinator Wayne Pierce explained the history behind the over 40 year old tradition of the Goodman Banks Symposium.

“The intent was to bring professional caliber artists from a wide range of disciplines to the school,” he said. He also mentioned Sheri Banks-Cohn, the daughter of Goodman Banks (the namesake for this symposium) for her generosity within the program.

In the past, KO has welcomed both visual and performing artists for this event. “The intent of the program is to try to involve as many activities as possible with the visual or performing side of the arts,” Dr. Pierce said.

This year, KO welcomed composer and conductor Shawn Okepebholo as one of the three visiting artists. While he originally visited to help conduct his piece “Left Foot Peg Foot” for the Concert choir in 2020, the plans for giving the piece its world premiere was derailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finally, Dr. Okepebholo was able to revisit KO to rehearse the debut of the latter piece, as well as another orchestral piece entitled “Motherless Child.” Both pieces were performed at KO Arts Night on Friday, May 13th, where Dr. Okepebholo shared his sentiments about the pieces via Zoom.

Alexa Tarantino, a West Hartford native and renowned jazz saxophonist and composer, was selected as the second visiting artist for the series this year. A graduate of Hall High School, Ms. Tarantino is now well known for her work with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, as well as her participation in the jazz orchestra at the Lincoln Center.

The final visitor in the series stands out because, unlike the guests who were previously mentioned, he is not an artist. 

Stephon Alexander, a physicist from Brown University, is known for his research surrounding the correlation between physics and jazz music, which are highlighted in his book “The Jazz of Physics.” 

It was after reading his book that Dr. Pierce realized that Dr. Alexander would be an excellent person to bridge the gap between the arts and science for the KO community. “He’s a jazz aficionado but a real physics professor who tried to make correlations between improvised music and the improvisation of the physical realm and space,” Dr. Pierce said.

Dr. Alexander and Ms. Tarantino were able to get in touch with each other before the Goodman Banks assembly, and throughout the assembly they balanced each other’s work by offering a perspective that may not have previously been considered. 

While Ms. Tarantino played a soothing, melodic scale on the saxophone, Dr. Alexander was able to explain the soundwaves behind her music, as well as their connection to the physical world.

Not only were new ideas regarding the connection between science and music uncovered for the KO community, Dr. Pierce can now be accredited for allowing two individuals from vastly different fields to find common ground within their work.

“I think the collaboration is interesting because it brings two areas that sometimes live far apart, together very tangibly,” he said.

           This year’s symposium was fascinating, and we cannot wait to see what the future holds for the Goodman Banks symposium, as well as any collaborations that may occur in the future!