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Knight Foundation Award to Fund Interactive Music Programs at Drexel's ExCITe Center

April 30, 2013

Science of JazzDrexel University’s Expressive & Creative Interaction Technologies (ExCITe) Center is taking a step forward in efforts at the intersection of the arts, technology and science thanks to a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The ExCITe Center’s proposal was chosen from a field of more than 1,300 initial submissions to receive funding from the foundation’s Knight Arts Challenge. Support will help engage and develop new audiences for the arts by developing a series of live music concerts enhanced with audio-visual technologies spanning various musical genres.

The focus will be on three major programming initiatives at the ExCITe Center: producing technologically augmented and interactive live concerts like the recent “Science of Jazz” concert during the Philadelphia Science Festival; creating hackathons for arts-related apps; and launching an artist-in-residence program to co-develop new works. Each element is an integral part of ExCITe’s mission to create a space where creative people can work together on innovative projects directly benefitting the Philadelphia region.

“Everyone loves live music, and most of us carry a powerful computing device -a smartphone- in our pockets,” said Dr. Youngmoo Kim, director of the ExCITe Center. “The opportunity to explore this intersection for greater understanding and enjoyment of music, particularly jazz and classical performances, has yet to be fully realized.”

“As our world, and our attention spans, become increasingly fragmented, arts groups are challenged with finding new ways to engage audiences.” said Dennis Scholl, vice president of arts at Knight Foundation. “Cross-genre performances, including those that blend in technology, show great promise towards bringing people into artistic works.”

Since its opening in the fall of 2012, the ExCITe Center, located at the corner of 34th and Market streets, has been helping to grow collaborative research and innovation in the city. Along with providing an open workspace for multidisciplinary research teams spanning the University and regional partners, the Center has hosted several community events, including the Random Hacks of Kindness hackathon and serving as the global main stage for this year’s International Space Apps Challenge presented by NASA. This July, a group of high school students will also participate through the annual Summer Music Technology program, hosted for the first time at ExCITe.

ExCITe projects and events have often focused on the intersection of music and technology. As part of the 2013 Philadelphia Science Festival, Kim brought together a group of internationally renowned musicians to participate in the “The Science of Jazz,” a unique concert event, for the second year in a row.  The musicians took the stage as an interactive smartphone app and visual display guided the audience through the intricacies of the sound, instrumentation and arrangement of the concert.

“At ExCITe, we pursue innovation in a unique manner through highly multidisciplinary activities, and we try to enable innovative projects benefitting the region that wouldn’t occur through traditional mechanisms,” Kim said. “We’re honored and thrilled to have the support of the Knight Foundation in pursuit of this vision.”

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Knight Arts Challenge funds innovative projects that engage and enrich Philadelphia’s communities. More than 1,300 organizations, groups and individuals applied for the Philadelphia Arts Challenge this year. The field was narrowed to 69 finalists, from which ExCITe’s proposal was one of 43 chosen for an award.

This award also represents the continuation of a partnership between Drexel and Knight Foundation over the past several years to support the arts in Philadelphia. Kim received a Knight Arts Challenge award in 2011 to develop an interactive smartphone app for the Philadelphia Orchestra. Students at Drexel’s Pennoni Honors College write a serial arts column for the Philadelphia Daily News as part of a grant from the Knight Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.