Music for a Cause: Rebecca Metheny Mason ’01 on advocacy through art

5295991In 2008, when Rebecca Metheny Mason ’01, music, heard a moving speech on human trafficking, she knew she had to act. So, she helped form a task force at her church. She and her husband Steve Mason ’01, biological sciences, became involved with Love 146, a Connecticut-based organization that seeks to educate the public about child trafficking. But she was most inspired to take unique action when a choreographer friend put on a benefit performance for the victims of trafficking, with dances inspired by their stories.

“She’s able to use her passion for dance and combine it [with work for a cause]…what can I do?” Metheny Mason asked herself. Then it clicked: the classically trained flutist and one-time Linehan Artist Scholar would start using her music to make a difference. She’s hosted benefit concerts for various anti-trafficking groups since 2011, and now, while parenting two young children, is continuing to establish her brand of activism in the D.C. area.

Before dedicating her life and art to this cause, Metheny Mason had been a private flute teacher for many years, coaching students in a variety of age groups. One job had her going into middle and high school band rooms to coach students for competitions and concerts. When she first became aware of how pervasive human trafficking was (and is) throughout the world, she was living in New York City and finishing her D.M.A. at Stony Brook University, playing with a small orchestra in Staten Island and teaching private lessons for undergraduates.

For her first benefit performance, held in 2011 over Freedom Week, she paused in between songs to discuss trafficking statistics in the composers’ countries of origin, and proceeds went to the Girls’ Educational and Mentoring Services (G.E.M.S.). For her second benefit for Love 146, she decided to take a more emotional approach, selecting pieces that would evoke the idea of love, the idea of children.

She held her most recent benefit this past March for the D.C.-based organization Polaris, and she says she’s pleased with both the turnout and the response to her brand of awareness-raising: “It’s been very, very positive.”

Metheny Mason says people are often surprised to learn of the real scope of human trafficking…and that it often happens in their own back yards. But she hopes that her performances will help spur people to action, and now that she, her husband, and their children have relocated from New York to Northern Virginia, she still tries to perform whenever she can, though she says her family keeps her “very busy.” She envisions her next benefit as a wine and cheese tasting with a slate of French music.

Her hope, when her children are a little older, is to go back to teaching college students. For now, though, her focus is on her family and her advocacy. It’s not always easy — she mentions rehearsing for her benefit concerts while her youngest daughter naps in the afternoons — but it’s worth it.

“Do whatever works,” she says.

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[PHOTOS] Update: Performing Arts and Humanities Building

The new Performing Arts and Humanities
or PAHB, aptly named for the 20627_N324_mediumdepartments it houses, opens this fall to the UMBC campus and community. The construction was completed in two phases: the first section was home to the Department of English, the Dresher Center for Humanities, the Department of Theatre, the Linehan Artist Scholars Program, and the Humanities Scholars Program, and the second included the Department of Dance, Music, Philosophy, and Ancient Studies. However, the focus of the building now rests on the many theatres, performance halls, and sound studios.

Performance Spaces

There are five main performance halls in the PAHB: the Proscenium Theatre, the Black Box theatre (used mainly for more experimental performances), the Dance Cube, the Music Box, and the Concert Hall. The previous theatre, located in the Fine Arts building, only reached 16 feet in height; the new Proscenium Theatre now stands at 20 feet tall, and can seat up to 275 spectators. In three of the four halls, the seating can be moved to create a more open performance or a more intimate setting, and with state of the art lighting systems, the light can be adjusted accordingly.

The Concert Hall, the largest space in the building, was designed for music performances and has special air duct systems designed to eliminate all noise. The setting of the hall can also be changed from a large venue to a class-sized setting, simply by turning the performers around and opening a hidden section of seating. Every aspect of this building was designed to create performance friendly spaces, while also offering a new and distinctive campus landmark.

Behind the Scenes

As for those who work behind-the-scenes, there are brand-new costume design facilities, catwalks and lighting structures, music technology rooms, and conference rooms created to enhance learning and provide hands-on experience. Students in the music fields can now enjoy a new recording studio, as well as many sound-proofed walls throughout the building.

Give Back to the Performing Arts

With the opening of the PAHB quickly approaching and the first performance scheduled for mid-October, alumni are encouraged to show their support of the performing arts by naming a seat in either the Proscenium Theatre or the Concert Hall. All gifts will directly benefit the arts and humanities at UMBC now and for future generations.

Save your seat today!