News Hartwick Shoots for the Stars through Music, Science, Art

March 22, 2023

Hartwick College will celebrate Earth Day, April 22, with stargazing and the world premiere of the film, The Search for Up, by Duo Extempore, a piano and bass duo that, in their latest collaboration, have weaved curated improvisations with storytelling, art, music and science.

The film, shot in Hartwick’s Ernest B. Wright Observatory in early November 2022, features a recording of a live performance by Duo Extempore overlaid with student and faculty interviews and a celebration of astrophotography.

“We are thrilled to be part of this one-of-a-kind event,” said Evan Jagels, Duo Extempore bassist and Hartwick Artist-in-Residence. “We believe it truly showcases how science and the arts can and do come together. And best of all, it all came together here, at Hartwick College – a place that embraces cross-disciplinary collaboration.”

Parker Troischt, professor of physics, astronomy and planetary sciences, facilitated the use of Hartwick’s observatory for the filming. “Several faculty and students contributed to the production,” said Troischt. “While I was operating the larger observatory telescope and providing explanations, my student, Nicholas Volk ’23, managed a smaller telescope mounted with an SLR camera and produced some fantastic images of deep sky objects.”

Among the visuals Volk captured that evening were the Hercules Globular Cluster, the Dumbbell Nebula, the Andromeda Galaxy and the Orion Nebula. The film’s interviews and the reflections came courtesy of Troischt’s FlightPath: Search for Life students.

“They really got caught up in the experience, fully engaging in the process by making interesting observations and asking some great questions,” he said. “We all enjoyed the spontaneously created beautiful sounds inspired by the astronomical setting. And Evan and Nicole Brancato, the Duo Extempore musicians, were wonderful. Overall, it was an amazing night!”

The film’s “production crew” came courtesy of Larry Nienart, professor of physics, who helped prepare the observatory before the November filming. Additional post-production artwork was provided by Sigi Clupper ‘26.

In addition to the film screening at 6 p.m. in Hartwick’s Yager Museum of Art and Culture, the April 22 event will feature a 5 p.m. opening of a showcase of creative projects by secondary students from local and regional schools. Students interested in submitting creative content, including artwork, photography, short stories or poems, can apply online.

Following the premiere, Troischt and Volk will lead a stargazing opportunity on Frisbee Field, allowing for reflective conversations with the artists, students and musicians associated with the film.

The event is supported by Hartwick’s Departments of Physics, Music and Art and Art History; the divisions of Institutional Advancement, Strategic Communications and Enrollment and Student Experience; the Office of Academic Affairs; the Hartwick College Student Government Association; Sigma Alpha Iota; and the Hartwick College National Association for Music Education Club.

About Duo Extempore: Combining the talents of Evan Jagels on bass and Nicole Brancato on piano, Duo Extempore’s curated improvisations draw from classical and jazz virtuosity— all to create music that pushes the boundaries for what a piano and bass can do together. Jagels and Brancato’s shared performance credits include Carnegie Hall in New York City; the Banff Centre of the Arts in Alberta, Canada; Bellas Artes Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramírez in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; the Blue Note in Dresden, Germany; and at the UniJazz Festival, held in Boskovice in the Czech Republic.

Visit the Duo Extempore website for information and recordings.

For questions or information about the April 22 event, contact Meghan Sheehy, associate professor and director of music education.