On Feb. 21, SUNY New Paltz’ John R. Kirk Planetarium put on a special planetarium concert in accompaniment with The School of Fine & Performing Arts.
The event was called A Musical Refuge Under the Stars (A Special Planetarium Concert), where performers, such as Elizabeth Heh, Elana Kellerhouse and Kelly Zhang played piano to accompany the display from the planetarium.
Last semester, The Department of Music and The School of Fine & Performing Arts put on Piano Studio: A Musical Refuge in Studley Theatre. As prior inspiration for this week’s special show, New Paltz students majoring in music played piano while Planetarium Director Raj Pandya projected a star show video to complement the musical performances.
“The music was very peaceful and it seemed to be a good fit,” Pandya said. “We tried a few times [for this type of show] and it never got anywhere, so this time we were able to make it work so that was really great.”
In particular, Kelly Zhang, a performer from Thursday’s show, is a music student who takes a wide variety of courses under the astronomy discipline. “It was nice to see someone get it from all angles,” Pandya said.
Students majoring in astronomy are offered a course to help them understand how to operate the planetarium as well.
“It has gotten to the point where [students] run most of the shows,” Pandya said. “Some liked it enough to continue in it.”
Assistant Professor of piano Alex Peh also collaborated with Pandya on the event. Together they concluded that “certain music would go really well with a star show.”
The John R. Kirk Planetarium has free, open shows for the public, as they are used as a tool to educate our community. When John R. Kirk, the planetarium’s namesake, was a faculty member at SUNY New Paltz in the 1960s and ‘70s, children of the Mid-Hudson Region benefited greatly from his teachings.
“Part of our goal is public outreach and we try to do that a lot in astronomy. We have an observatory and the planetarium on campus and those are great tools to get people learning immediately,” Pandya said. “It allows us to teach with the instant gratification of learning without any tests at the end.”
Although the last show for the winter session doesn’t include a music collab, it is on March 7 at 6:30 p.m. in the planetarium in the Coykendall Science Building and it is worth the trip.