By JUN KAWASAKI
The Sept. 17 debut of Soka Performing Arts Center with a season opener recalled the May 7 10th Anniversary International Festival held at Soka University of America (SUA), Aliso Viejo.
The infused promotional for the Arts Center was a huge success sponsored on a global scale by local and regional nonprofit and business booths with an array of ethnic cultural wares, therapeutic treatments, foods, spiritual purveyors, student body displays and games/rides for young and old. Nine hundred international musicians and dancers performed on two indoor and one outdoor stages, carnival-like around a vast pond resembling an open fan with water spurting 30 feet from its two partitioned fountain wings.
SUA, a four-year liberal arts college founded by Daisaku Ikeda of Soka-Gakkai (a Buddhist lay denomination), celebrated as well the graduation of its seventh undergraduate class in May. Recalled on the inception and pronouncement of SUA’s goal is the message by Dr. Ikeda, who ardently exclaimed, “The mission of Soka University is to foster a stream of global citizens committed to living a contributive life.”
The SUA campus is situated in a low-lying mountain range slope, interspersed with bountiful trees, an array of floral plants, manicured lawns and pathways with adequate ground-level night lights. Each of the four unit, five-story dorm buildings is designated by academic class level and students are assigned dorms for a four-year double occupancy.
Each dorm room is provided with a private bath/shower, furnished with individual beds, desks, chairs, standing closets, plus access to Internet and telephone. Close by is an enticing dining facility serving three daily buffet-style meals, plus a student-run grocery/dry goods store
Located between two adjacent storied classroom buildings is a spacious garden with eight (approximately 8’ x 16’) water-bubbling lotus blossom ponds aligned in two rows of four with a walking path connected to and around each. They offer the student body a unique, tranquil space for a meditative spell from academic pursuits either away from being online or in a shared presence with vibrations — a serenity that evokes a reflective metaphor, “Although growing in a muddy pond, the lotus remains pure, not defiled by environment” (Lotus Sutra).
Located at a higher level, the congregate of classroom, library and bookstore looks over a wide, open courtyard facing an imposing six-story-high all-glass-faced Soka Performing Arts Center building and complex of classrooms for the arts. Situated nearby is also the main SUA administration building.
The $73 million, 1,034-seat Art Center hall features acoustics by Yasuhisa Toyota, famed for his work on Walt Disney Concert Hall and other. For the opening season, tickets will cost $28, $33 or $48 with no add-on handling fees and with senior discounts offered. Noted is the uncertainty of how long the university will continue below-market ticket pricing while in its learning stage of show programs. SUA’s goal is to eventually have the facility break even with no plans to make a profit, wishing to be a service to the community.
Opening night on Sept. 17 was a black-tie-optional event featuring pianist Horacio Gutierrez with the Pacific Symphony. Last week, pianist Xialin Wang performed with Russia’s St. Petersburg Symphony.
Ensuing schedules will have:
New Zealand String Quartet, Nov. 5
Uncommon Time, a percussion trio that blends drumming styles of Japan, India and Latin America, Feb. 4, 2012
Pacific Symphony to play Beethoven and Saint-Saens in family concert with piano artist Emanuel Ax, March 18, 2012
“First person: Seeing America,” hosted by NPR personality Neal Conan and offering literary readings by Lily Knight
Historic photographic projections and music from the Celtic-classical Ensemble Galilei, April 21, 2012
Violinist Karen Bomy, April 28, 2012
On the whole, it is a first for a major venue like this in Orange County.
The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.