For “The Classics,” the UAB Gospel Choir will perform songs that have stood the test of time from artists Aretha Franklin, The Beautiful Zion Choir, Milton Brunson & The Thompson Community Singers, and more.
UAB Gospel ChoirAudiences will be singing along when theUniversity of Alabama at Birmingham Gospel Choir presents “The Classics,” its 21st anniversary concert, Monday, Nov. 14.
The UAB Gospel Choir, directed by Kevin P. Turner, is part of the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Music. The UAB Gospel Choir is a music performance class open to students of all majors. It performs traditional and contemporary American gospel music tours throughout the United States and abroad, and its acclaimed productions offer students one-of-a kind performance opportunities.
For “The Classics,” the evening will feature songs that have stood the test of time by Walter and Edwin Hawkins, Keith Pringle, L.A. Mass Choir, Milton Brunson & The Thompson Community Singers, Benny Cummings, Thomas Whitfield, Aretha Franklin, the Rev. James Cleveland, The Beautiful Zion Choir, and Daryl Coley. Specials guests include WAGG radio personality Leo Taylor, alumna/recording artist Valerie T. Smith and renowned classical pianist Daniel M. Cason with a tribute to the late Andraé Crouch, Turner says.
“Every song will be delivered with great care and authenticity at this 90-minute concert,” Turner said.
Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. for the 7 p.m. concert, in UAB’s Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center. General admission tickets are $7, $6 for UAB students and employees with valid UAB ID. Tickets for groups of 20 or more are $6 each, with advance purchase required. For tickets, call the Alys Stephens Center Box Office at 205-975-2787, visit www.alysstephenscenter.org or call the UAB Ticket Office at 205-934-8001.
The 2016 UAB Gospel Choir recipient of the Dr. Mildred Givens Scholarship will be announced at this concert and will receive a $1,000 award from the Givens family. Local gospel pioneers and trendsetters DJ Strict, George Stewart, Eloise Ford Gaffney and the late Albert Grant will be honored with Gospel Anthology Awards.
Since its inception in 1995, the UAB Gospel Choir has brought American gospel music from the choir stand to the classroom at UAB, and developed a powerhouse strategy of turning out talent and presenting sold-out concerts. This highly decorated and award-winning ensemble has over the years succeeded with nationally distributed CD recordings and a performance to 5 million viewers on NBC’s “Today” show; has charted No. 1 songs on amazon.com and XM Satellite radio; and has proudly waved the UAB flag for 20 years locally, nationally and with self-funded international tours. The UAB Gospel Choir is open to all students regardless of their major. One credit hour is earned for participating. Registration is required to participate.
Theatre UAB alumnus Luke Harlan, newly graduated from Yale School of Drama, returns to direct a provocative play that examines gender and power through the lens of the 17th century witchcraft trials in England.Russell Alexander, Elizabeth Forman and Alex Ingram in Theatre UAB’s production of “Vinegar Tom."“Would they have called you a witch then?”
That is the question asked by a chorus of modern women in the play “Vinegar Tom,” as Theatre UAB ventures into the depths of an age-old fear and perhaps finds it is not so old after all. Written at the height of the second feminist movement in the 20th century, writer Caryl Churchill’s provocative play examines gender and power relationships through the lens of the witchcraft trials of the 17th century.
Theatre UAB is the performance company of theUniversity of Alabama at Birmingham’sDepartment of Theatre, part of the College of Arts and Sciences.
“Vinegar Tom” is set for shows at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9-12 and 16-18, and at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, in UAB’s Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center,Odess Theatre. This show has adult themes. Tickets are $15, $6 for students, and $10 for UAB employees and senior citizens. For tickets, call 205-975-2787 or go to www.AlysStephens.org. Visit Theatre UAB online atwww.uab.edu/cas/theatre.
Churchill wrote “Vinegar Tom” in 1976 in collaboration with a company called Monstrous Regiment after finding similar interests and obsessions with the members. The result is a stunning portrait of one of the darkest chapters of modern history, says Director Luke Harlan, MFA, a 2008 graduate of the Department of Theatre.
“This is not a play about witches, or witch hunters, or a bygone era or things that happened over there way back when,” Harlan said. “This is not just a play about women, or feminism, or sexism or any of the many -isms that lead to violence. This is a play about a culture ruled by fear. It is about the way we as a society treat those who are different.”
In the midst of the most divisive election in modern history, and on the brink of possibly electing the country’s first female president, the play is timely because it tells a tale of fear of the other, Harlan says.
“Churchill, in her brilliance, does all of this with humor and intellect,” he said. “Our guides through this journey of fear and accusation are a modern chorus of women, beckoning us, showing us and challenging us to ask ourselves the question, ‘would they have called you a witch then?’ This play shows us the perils of letting ourselves be ruled by fear.”
Luke Harlan. Photo credit T. Charles Ericsson.After graduating from UAB, Harlan spent six years as a freelance director in New York City, where he directed the world premiere of the New York Times Critic’s Pick “Honky” by Greg Kalleres, co-wrote and performed in the critically acclaimed “home/sick” by The Assembly, and directed numerous world premieres with some of the country’s most exciting playwrights.
Harlan’s work has been seen from San Francisco to New York, downtown and Off-Broadway, regionally and internationally at such places as the Old Vic Theatre in London. He then went to study at the Yale School of Drama, where he directed eight productions, including Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale,” and Thornton Wilder’s “The Skin of Our Teeth,” as well as plays by Will Eno, Greg Keller and Tarell Alvin McCraney. Harlan was also the co-artistic director of the Yale Summer Cabaret and founding artistic director of Engine Company No. 11. After graduating with his Master of Fine Arts degree, Harlan was assistant director of the premiere of “The Square Root of Three Sisters” with visionary Russian director Dmitry Krymov. Read more at https://lukeharlan.net.
The faculty and staff working with the production include Marlene Johnson, vocal direction; Olivia Skillern, set; J. Marc Quattlebaum, props; Kimberly Schnormeier, costumes; Elliot Johnson, lighting; and Sean Allan Doyle, sound. Original music is by Julia Christgau, with some music direction byCarolyn Violi.
The cast is Alex Ingram of Birmingham as Alice; Elizabeth Forman of St. Petersburg, Florida, as Susan; Peyton Overstreet of Tallahassee, Florida, as Betty; Kenya Stewart of Huntsville as Joan; Jenn Palmieri of Alpharetta, Georgia, as Ellen; Marissa Hebson of Pinson as Margery; Chance Novalis of Madison as Jack; Nadia Harden of Madison as Goody; and Russell Alexander of Montgomery as Man/Doctor/Parker.
The band is Alicia Batterson of Columbus, Ohio; Joseph Baude of Atlanta, Georgia; Seth Burgess of Gardendale; Clara Holmes of Flint, Michigan; and Kayli Porter of Bessemer.
The crew includes Olivia Skillern, scene designer, of Madison; Elliot Johnson, lighting designer, of Minneapolis, Minnesota; Rachel Walsh, stage manager, of Johns Creek, Georgia; Mary Ashley Dease, assistant stage manager, of Vestavia Hills; Addie Counts, assistant stage manager, of Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Taylor Dole, assistant director, of Birmingham.
Michael Heaven's biotech business was hatched in a UAB lab, and accelerated by several UAB resources designed to fuel innovation on campus.By Matt Windsor
You may have heard that your genome is the blueprint for your life. That’s not exactly correct. It’s more like a parts list — or, in the analogy preferred by Birmingham biotech entrepreneur Michael Heaven, Ph.D., a recipe. “It’s the ingredients for a person," Heaven says, "but it doesn't factor in critical aspects that impact health, including stress, injuries, diet and exercise that over a person’s lifetime are equally important.”
Heaven, a UAB-trained biochemist who is the founder and CEO of Birmingham-based Vulcan Analytical, is much more interested in the proteome — the collection of proteins made by your genes. “That’s a much more biologically representative measure of health,” he says. “Every cell in the body has the same genes, but the proteins that are actually expressed in an eye cell versus a finger cell make those two parts of the body very different.” Understanding which proteins are active in a patient sample, and how those concentrations change during treatment, for example, could prove much more useful than simply learning about a patient’s genetic makeup. “The vast majority of scientists believe that proteomics has tremendous potential for advancing the diagnosis of disease and development of more efficient drugs,” Heaven says. Danny Hillis, the prolific inventor and serial entrepreneur, made that point in a widely viewed talk at the TEDMED conference in 2010, calling proteomics “the future of medicine.”
An “enabling technology”So why don’t all laboratories do proteomics? The obstacles, Heaven says, are speed and sensitivity. With today’s next-generation DNA sequencers and data-crunching software, it is becoming routine to analyze a person’s genome. In contrast, "it’s currently far more difficult due to sensitivity limitations to assay the entire human proteome," he says — a job done with a machine known as a mass spectrometer. Vulcan Analytical specializes in a "novel mass spectrometry acquisition and data analytics software workflow" that is quicker and more sensitive than competing state-of-the-art methods, Heaven explains. Vulcan’s latest patent-pending product, microSWATH, which is set to launch this year, “can analyze more than 70 percent of the entire human proteome in about an hour,” Heaven says. “That’s basically doubling what is currently possible with the latest instruments available. And we’re working on ideas to get that percentage up even higher." Equally important features of microSWATH are its design to handle biological fluids — such as plasma and blood — that can be analyzed from patients, "which has also been a major problem for mass spectrometry-based proteomics analysis due to the large dynamic range of proteins in biosamples,” Heaven says.
Screenshot from Vulcan Analytical's Protalizer analysis of tumor vs. non-tumor biopsies from renal clear cell cancer patients. The image shows upregulation/increased relative abundance of a peptide belonging to the protein, vimentin, in a tumor sample.
In the near term, "microSWATH applications will be focused on creating a knowledge base that predicts disease diagnosis by closely monitoring hundreds to thousands of protein concentration changes when compared to a large pool of healthy human samples with similar demographics," Heaven says. But the larger goal "is to be able to analyze any patient’s specimen and rapidly screen for many common and rare diseases using high-quality, publicly available research that is able to be validated internally by the company in trials.”
Molding an idea into a businessHeaven, a 2014 graduate of UAB’s doctoral program in biochemistry, also got his undergraduate degree in the UAB College of Arts and SciencesDepartment of Chemistry. As an undergraduate in the chemistry honors research program (now the Chemistry Scholars Program), Heaven studied protein unfolding with professor Donald Muccio, Ph.D., and learned that he enjoyed research.
Later, during his doctoral training, the idea for Vulcan Analytical was born in the lab of Michael Brenner, Ph.D., Heaven’s research mentor and a professor in theDepartment of Neurobiology. “We were doing proteomics on protein aggregates in a rare disease called Alexander disease,” Heaven says. “While doing that work I realized there were many shortcomings in how mass spectrometry proteomics is done. So Dr. Brenner basically let me do my own project and develop the methods that became the initial technology at Vulcan Analytical while doing my graduate work.”
The proprietary analysis methods that Heaven developed clearly had potential for commercialization, so he began working toward a patent with the UAB Research Foundation, now part of the UAB Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “I got my first experience drafting patent documents, understanding the type of data that needed to be included, and going through that whole process, which takes years,” Heaven says. “That was invaluable experience as we are applying for new patents at Vulcan Analytical.”
"Dr. Brenner basically let me do my own project and develop the methods that became the initial technology at Vulcan Analytical while doing my graduate work."
Skills to succeedBrenner encouraged Heaven to take an MBA-level course in entrepreneurship at the Collat School of Business, taught by biotech veteran Erik Schwiebert, Ph.D., the CEO of Birmingham-based DiscoveryBioMed.
The Research Foundation staff also encouraged Heaven to apply for Alabama Launchpad, an annual competition that awards high-potential businesses with startup funding. “Erik’s class was very useful, including helping me develop my PowerPoint and pitch for Alabama Launchpad,” Heaven says. He won $22,000 in 2012 as part of Launchpad, “and I also learned how to make a business pitch and present in front of potential investors,” he adds.
Today, Vulcan Analytical has offices at Birmingham's Innovation Depot and its clients include "leading university researchers, government agencies such as the FDA, and pharmaceutical companies," Heaven says. Ultimately, he adds, “we want hospitals to be our customers and to gain insurance and Medicare reimbursement.”