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Sparking Creativity 

John Cimino, at left, promises a royal first-class concert experience at the Concert of Ideas Dec. 9 and 10.

ALBANY, N.Y. (Dec. 5, 2016) – The flute soars. The drum roll builds.
The singers take center stage.

This is the Concert of Ideas, coming to the Campus Center Ballroom, at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 9. The concert is designed to awaken the creative mind, to encourage participants to get involved in the University’s strategic planning process. The conversations continue Saturday, Dec. 10, with brainstorming about the University’s future. To register: http://bit.ly/2gffXQH.

The event is produced by Creative Leaps International, a nonprofit company co-founded in 1992 by two RPI alumni, John J. Cimino, Jr. and contingent faculty member Richard Albagli.

“We use the arts as a spark to generate a playful, open frame of mind aimed at jumpstarting a process that’s both productive and joyful,” said Cimino, one of two singers in the company who were winners of Luciano Pavarotti’s International Singing Competition.

“When something happens that melts away our assorted social and intellectual inhibitions, we feel more completely free to engage fully in the moment,” he said. “Some of our best thinking takes us by surprise, a surprise sparked by something that’s caught us off guard in a curious or interesting way. Just think of an ‘ah-ha’ moment.”

Both Friday’s Concert of Ideas and Saturday’s brainstorming session will explore some of the themes raising in the 18 futuring papers written by University teams. The papers examine where the University will be in 10 years, through topics ranging from academic disciplines through campus and societal issues.

UAlbany's Richard Albagli at left, and John Cimino at right.

From left, Richard Albagli, and John Cimino, co-founders of Creative Leaps International. Albagli also directs the University Percussion Ensemble.

All members of the University are encouraged to take part in the two-day exercise, said Interim Provost Darrell Wheeler, who co-chairs the University’s Strategic Planning Steering Committee with Vice President for Planning, Policy and Compliance Leanne Wirkkula.

“I hope very much that you will commit to attending and participating on both days,” Wheeler wrote in a message to the campus community. “Ideas not generated at this key point are likely to be minimized or not included – so your voice is critical at this stage.”

Cimino promises a royal first-class concert experience with top-notch singers and musicians. The group has more than 25 years’ experience and has performed its Concerts of Ideas in projects for the White House, the United Nations, the Aspen Institute and dozens of universities on five continents.

Co-founder Albagli also directs the University Percussion Ensemble and is principal percussionist in the Albany Symphony. He joined UAlbany in 1975, and will perform an arrangement of the last part of the William Tell Overture for solo marimba and his own work for solo timpani, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.” He will also collaborate with other ensemble members in the performance of selections from several Broadway shows, a Puccini opera, and an original work by Cimino and Jon Kilbonoff, “This is Our Time.”

“One of our guiding principles is that music is the sound of ideas,” said Albagli. “It’s a non-threatening way of accessing the imagination, giving it free rein to roam, finding new connections. And it’s fun.”

After the concert, those attending will break into discussion groups and work together on generating big ideas for the future of the University, Cimino said.

“The concert has the effect of being both celebratory and a big catalyst for new thinking and feeling positive about working, planning and thinking together,” he said, stressing that administrators, faculty and staff are not only invited to participate, they are absolutely essential to this planning process.

On Saturday morning, those attending will continue to discuss the ideas and futuring papers in a three-hour collaborative working session led jointly by Cimino and project consultant Robert Brodnick.

“You are all peers, all a part of the community that is the University at Albany,” Cimino said. “All voices are equal in this setting.”

“What happens here in the brain,” said Cimino, tapping his forehead, “and here in the heart for you,” putting a hand to his heart, “will be the most important occurrences at the Concert of Ideas. Our job on stage is to keep the airwaves lively, full of sparks and action and so your own brilliant thoughts and bold emotions can become more vivid.”

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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.