Former IU trustee endows student award for scoring silent films at IU Cinema

  • Feb. 27, 2015


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- IU Cinema and the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music will commission a new orchestral score for one silent film each year, thanks to a generous gift from P.A. Mack Jr.

In April, the first Jon Vickers Film Scoring Award will be given to one student from the composition department in the Jacobs School of Music.

A jury of faculty members from the Jacobs School and The Media School will listen to all of the submissions and select the award winner. Entries for the 2015-16 scoring competition will be accepted beginning March 1 and must be received by April 15. The winning student will receive a $5,000 commission to fully score a silent film for an orchestra containing up to 17 musicians.

The world premiere of the winning film score will be held at IU Cinema in February 2016, when a student orchestra will provide live accompaniment to "The Return of Draw Egan," a 1916 film directed by William S. Hart. The world premiere event will be presented through the support of Old National Bank.

Scoring silent films at IU Cinema

The idea for an annual film scoring competition grew from a pilot program in 2012, when IU Cinema hosted the world premiere of a new, student-composed orchestral score for a screening of the 1922 film "David Copperfield."

Ari Fisher won a juried competition and was awarded a commission to score the 75-minute silent film for a student orchestra. He was just a sophomore at IU when his score premiered.

Fisher is now a master's student studying composition in the Jacobs School. He said it was "a dream come true" to have his original music for "David Copperfield" selected and performed for the cinema audience.

"To score a silent film is really rewarding. It taught me so much," he said. "You get to bring this picture to life. It's all you.

"I don’t think this is an opportunity you can get at any other school."

The Jon Vickers Film Scoring Award is designed to provide undergraduate and graduate students from the Jacobs School of Music the opportunity to compose music for films, and to have those new scores premiere in front of live audiences. The program also will give community members a chance each year to view a film presented with a live orchestra -- a rare cinematic and cultural event for communities the size of Bloomington.

"While this isn't the first collaboration between the IU Cinema and the Jacobs School of Music, it is one of a number of projects envisioning student composers writing for film for presentation at IU Cinema," said David Dzubay, chair of the composition department at the Jacobs School. "The composition department is thrilled about these possibilities for the future and grateful to Jon Vickers for his support of the creation and presentation of new work at the cinema."

"Thanks to the generosity of the Honorable P.A. Mack Jr., this ongoing opportunity will tap into the great resources of the university and highlight some of the talent in the Jacobs School of Music," Vickers said. "Since the 2012 pilot, it has been our goal to commission and premiere a score each year, which provides unparalleled opportunities for these students."

A philanthropist and arts advocate

P.A. Mack Jr. has been a strong and loyal supporter of Indiana University since his days as chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh. He was appointed by both presidents Carter and Reagan to serve as a member of the National Credit Union Administration, of which he was ultimately elected vice chairman. Mack is a current member of the Indiana University Foundation Board and has served as vice president of the IU Board of Trustees and chairman of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. He and his late wife lift up outstanding teaching within the university through the Marian and P.A. Mack Endowment for Scholarship and Teaching Excellence, which funds the P.A. Mack Award for Distinguished Service to Teaching and the Mack Center for Inquiry on Teaching and Learning.

Mack believes in the importance of the IU Cinema, and it is his belief that music and film enrich the lives of students and the IU community at large. The hard work and high ethical standards of his friend and teacher, Jon Vickers, inspired his support for Jacobs School of Music students majoring in composition through the creation of the Jon Vickers Film Scoring Award.

Vickers is the founding director of IU Cinema, which opened in January 2011. IU Cinema is considered one of the best-equipped film venues in the United States, and the program has garnered national attention from scholars, filmmakers and industry leaders. Vickers previously served as managing director of the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center and director of the Browning Cinema at the University of Notre Dame. Vickers also opened, co-owned and operated the Vickers Theatre, an independent, single-screen art house in Three Oaks, Mich., with his wife, Jennifer. The theater was purchased in the early 1990s and renovated into a boutique art cinema that gained national attention.

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P.A. Mack Jr.

P.A. Mack Jr. | Photo by Eric Rudd

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Jon Vickers

Jon Vickers | Photo by Eric Rudd

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Nicholas Hersh and student orchestra

Student maestro Nicholas Hersh conducts a student orchestra at IU Cinema. | Photo by Indiana University

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