by Linda Lazar Curatolo, Contributing Writer
With the grand opening just two months ago, enrollment at the Oakland University Anton/Frankel Center in Mount Clemens has already topped 500. Mount Clemens patriarch Gabe Anton, who donated the building along with business partner Stuart Frankel, is thrilled with the progress thus far. “Frankly, I’ve been ecstatic over the fact that they are offering the number of courses that they are. I thought it was going to be a very limited program, but I’m amazed at the number of things that they are offering,” he said. “I’ve driven through the parking lot to look at the number of cars to be able to determine what kind of student population they’re developing and it’s basically blown me away.”
The Department of Music, Theatre and Dance is an exciting component of the new OU community in Mount Clemens. A brand new offering at AFC this winter semester will be Intro to Theatre. Slated to teach the course is OU Theatre graduate, Rob Arbaugh ('05). “I’ll be teaching about a 2,500-year-old art form. I’m currently teaching an arts appreciation class at Rochester College which is similar, but I go into much more detail in the Intro to Theatre because I’m able to spend a lot more time on each section of theatre history,” he said.
Arbaugh, who received his MFA in Acting at Regent University, feels he can also offer his own "in-the-trenches" perspective to students. He has acted or directed in productions from Virginia Shakespeare Festival to Meadow Brook Theatre and is co-founder of Uncovered Theatre Company (UTC).
“We’re in our infant stage and will probably get into full swing next year. We’ve done some national tours with the company – we did a few shows in Chicago and in Virginia Beach – and my section of the company is going to end up here.” Read more about UTC here
Arbaugh grew up in Macomb County and hopes his instruction at AFC will give east side students an edge, “I know the area theatres and I can recommend shows and things to different people,” he said. “What is kind of interesting is the local actor’s take on theatre. I am a working actor and people sometimes think that’s interesting, too.”
MTD is also offering a variety of music classes at AFC in the Winter 2012 semester, including Beginning Guitar for Non-Majors, Jazz Improvisation Combos, African Ensemble, Guitar Ensemble, Introduction to Music, Music of Americas: African Origins, and Jazz & Blues American Music. Enrollment was adequate for two music classes to run this fall, and the winter semester promises to be even more successful.
Bibianne Yu, director of the Oakland University Music Preparatory Division, talked about also developing pre-college classes at the AFC. “Music Prep is only offering a smattering of classes and lessons out there currently, but I hope to have more join as we go forward. Right now, Jenine Brown is teaching College Preparatory Theory I there on Tuesdays and Lisa Agazzi is teaching voice lessons on Tuesdays as well,” she said. The College Preparatory Music Theory class is a great asset for east side high school students who are interested in building a solid foundation to succeed in college courses, as well as the music theory placement exam that is typically administered to incoming freshmen. Students may also use this course to prepare for the AP Music Theory exam offered each May.
According to Yu, plans to offer piano and Early Childhood Music had to be postponed because the current roster of instructors already had a full workload. “Based on inquiries throughout the summer, though, I know that there is definite interest in piano and Early Childhood Music classes. I need to find instructors who I can place at the AFC. My concern is that I don't want to just line up ‘someone’ to place there; I want to find strong teachers who would represent the same pedagogical excellence Prep and MTD have a reputation for. The AFC location and facilities are wonderful, and the OU personnel there are fantastic to work with. Prep hopes to continue to bring high-caliber music learning to the community at and near Mount Clemens,” she said.
While attending classes at AFC, students – and parents – can take advantage of a downtown environment, including a coffee shop, retail stores, many eateries and entertainment venues. Mayor Barb Dempsey recently stated that she has received a large influx of inquiries from businesses contemplating a move to Mount Clemens in the wake of the opening of AFC.
Gabe Anton couldn’t ask for a better reward. “As for the arts courses, I would be excited if we could expand on it, particularly with the art center that we have here in Mount Clemens now,” said Anton. A few years ago, he spearheaded the campaign to raise funds for the expansion and remodeling of the nearby Anton Art Center, located a couple of blocks from the AFC. “We could create some tie-ins. I’ve had some conversation with some of the powers that be at OU and there seems to be a strong interest in doing that. To whatever extent we can make that happen, I’m happy to be involved with it. I think OU is just going to be a great thing for Mount Clemens. I hope I live long enough to see the end result.”
The Oakland University Anton/Frankel Center (AFC) is at 20 South Main Street, Mount Clemens. Find it online here.
Photos: Left: Anton/Frenkel Center. Right: Robert Arbaugh, courtesy of Uncovered Theatre Company.