At the Academy

At the Academy: Concert, talks highlight week

2013-08-29T00:00:00Z At the Academy: Concert, talks highlight weekArizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 29, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Sept. 3

Violinist couple

set to perform

Husband-and-wife duo Fadi Iskandar and Tamara Khachatryan will present a recital at the Arizona Senior Academy at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.

These talented violinists have made their way to the United States from Aleppo, Syria, and have been living in Tucson for the past year.

Tamara Khachatryan left her native Armenia in 1998 after completing her musical studies, to seek performance opportunities as a violinist in Syria, where she met fellow violinist Fadi Iskandar, a native Syrian of Armenian heritage.

Iskandar received his musical training at the Arabian Institute of Music in Aleppo, under the tutelage of several Russian violinists who were pre-eminent among the faculty. He eventually became a professor of violin as well as director of the institute’s chamber orchestra.

Fadi and Tamara were married in 2001. They have a 5-year-old daughter and are expecting a new little sister for her in November.

Iskandar has toured major cities of the United States several times as an orchestral member accompanying Syrian and Lebanese singers. He and Khachatryan have also traveled to other countries around the world performing together in various ensembles. In Syria, they often gave solo and duo performances with the late pianist Vladimir Kasatkin, who was a professor of piano in Moscow before coming to Aleppo to teach at the Institute of Music.

For their concert at the Arizona Senior Academy, Iskandar and Khachatryan will perform unaccompanied solos and duets by a variety of well-known composers.

Leslie Nitzberg

Sept. 4

Writer to discuss nature, extinction

From stories of extinct North American birds to the seemingly unrelated subject of meteorites and their effects on the Earth, author Christopher Cokinos will explore themes of extinction, life and deep time in a talk at Academy Village at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Titled “Vanished Birds and Shooting Stars: Life and Death from the Sky,” his lecture will take listeners from flocks of Carolina parakeets to swarms of “killer” asteroids. He will discuss environmental responsibility toward the contemporary biosphere and how we, as keepers of our natural world, can act to conserve and protect what we value.

Cokinos will base his talk on two of his award-winning nonfiction works, “Hope is a Thing With Feathers: A Personal Chronicle of Vanished Birds” and “The Fallen Sky: An Intimate History of Shooting Stars.”

A recent addition to the faculty of the University of Arizona, Cokinos is that rare individual who can take scientific facts and discoveries and make them both personal and poetic. At UA he is associate professor of creative writing and a member of the Institute of the Environment. He also mentors doctoral students who want to become better science communicators.

His poems, stories, reviews and essays have appeared widely, including in venues such as Poetry, Sugar House Review, Shenandoah, Science, Orion and The American Scholar. His essays regularly appear in the Los Angeles Times and the environmental journal High Country News. He has two books appearing this fall, a poetry chapbook called “Held as Earth” and a lyric essay collection called “Bodies, of the Holocene.”

Cokinos has received several awards including the John Burroughs Natural History Essay Prize and the Whiting Award. His books have gotten attention from Natural History, “All Things Considered” and People.

For “The Fallen Sky” he received a grant from the National Science Foundation that enabled him to join a meteorite-hunting expedition in Antarctica, where he spent a month living in a tent and working with scientists. Among his works in progress are a natural history of the wild cats of North America and a poetry collection based on the paintings of Rene Magritte.

Beverley Prentice Robertson

Sept. 5

Closer look reveals an awakened planet

“Then felt I like some watcher of the skies, when a new planet swims into his ken,” wrote John Keats, describing the discovery of Uranus by William Herschel 50 years earlier. Here was the first planet to be found since the dawn of civilization, and it would not be the last.

When Herschel saw that pale blue-green dot in 1781, he was looking at a world twice as far out in space as Saturn, the farthest known planet until that time. No wonder it looked so small, so mysterious and so unreachable to our sight.

When in 1986 the Voyager 2 spacecraft flew by Uranus and sent pictures back, what astronomers saw was — not much at all. Unlike the Voyager photographs showing the stormy atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn, Uranus seemed featureless, quiet, maybe even dull by comparison — a planet asleep. But no more: Uranus has awakened.

As Uranus swings around the sun in its 84-year orbit and its 90-degree tilted axis — like a marble rolling along in its path — its different hemispheres start to heat up as first one side then the other points at the sun. That is happening now, and new photographs taken by the Hubble Space Telescope show a growing brew of activity in the atmosphere of the seventh planet.

Astronomer and researcher Michael Sussman of the UA Lunar and Planetary Sciences Laboratory will discuss some of the new findings in an Arizona Senior Academy lecture titled “Uranus, The Planet That Woke Up,” next Thursday at 3:30 p.m.

Sussman attended Shimer College, earning a B.A. in the natural sciences in 1998. After working in the corporate world for several years, he rediscovered his passion for the planets and went back to school. He earned his Ph.D. in astronomy from New Mexico State University in 2011.

As a postdoctoral research associate at the UA’s Lunar & Planetary Laboratory, Sussman researches the atmospheres of giant planets.

Michael Chriss

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