FSU Physics Professor's Musical Talents Earn Him a Coveted Spot at Performing Arts Exchange in Baltimore
Musician among 11 Maryland artists highlighted in juried showcases
Singer. Songwriter. Award-winning virtuoso on the hammered dulcimer. And … physics professor? Yes, as different as they all are, these titles belong on Greg Latta’s resume.
In Frostburg, Md., Latta’s home of 18 years, many people think of him as a modern-day Renaissance man. If they’re not listening to him play music at various area summer festivals, they might be looking at the popular local weather Web site he maintains, or learning the difference between speed and velocity in one of the many physics courses he teaches at Frostburg State University. He also makes instruments, runs a recording studio out of his house, and conducts workshops that connect music to science at local elementary schools, part of his duties as an accredited Visiting Performer with the Maryland State Arts Council Artists in Education Program.
“I’m not Leonardo Da Vinci, but I relate strongly to him,” Latta said, noting that Da Vinci wore the hats of scientist, inventor and celebrated artist.
Latta’s background includes degrees in mathematics and physics from Kent State University, and he’s completely self-taught as a musician, playing everything from the dulcimer to the guitar to Irish bouzouki.
Now he’s taking his talents to the next level: He was selected as one of 11 Maryland artists who will perform during the Performing Arts Exchange (PAE) Conference Sept. 27 through Sept. 30 in Baltimore. The annual event, organized by the Southern Arts Federation, brings together musicians, presenters and talent agencies. It’s a great place to land bookings, market talent, or just see what other kinds of performances are out there and available for cultural entertainment.
With the conference coming to Baltimore, the Maryland State Arts Council is using its position as host to highlight Maryland talent by organizing two independent juried showcases featuring Maryland performers. With the help and encouragement of his longtime friend, Bill Mandicott, FSU’s Assistant Vice President of Student and Community Involvement, Latta submitted a demo recording of his work and made the cut. He will share the stage Sept. 28 at the historic Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore with 10 other performers, including the Shizumi Dance Theater of Japan; Tamara Wellons, a jazz, soul and hip hop vocalist; and Almost Recess, an a capella band.
“I’m proud of Maryland,” Latta said. “This is our home state. You want to make a good showing on your own court.”
“Greg competed in a juried competition with approximately 100 artists from the state of Maryland to perform in one of two independent showcases sponsored by the Maryland State Arts Council, which in itself, speaks volumes about his artistic merits,” Mandicott said.
In addition to performing on Thursday at the showcase, Latta is also manning a booth where he will stand ready with demos, brochures and other publicity materials. He’s hoping to land some performance opportunities within a 3- to 4-hour radius from Frostburg, locations he can easily get to on the weekends and during the summer and semester breaks.
“I’m first and foremost a professor,” he said.
In the meantime, Latta remains committed to teaching his courses at FSU, which often feature music as a method of learning. For example, as an introduction to sound and vibration, he might bring his guitar to class. He also sometimes ends class by playing music for a few minutes, his way of teaching students that anything is possible in terms of how much they want to do and the new areas they want to explore.
As a society, “we’ve become too specialized,” he said. “You do not have to do one thing in life. If you’re organized and passionate about what you want, you can do a couple of things.”
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