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University to Host Benefit for Brandon Bitner Scholarship

Published on March 20, 2012

The Department of Music’s Opera Studio at Susquehanna University will present threeBenefit to Fund Bitner Scholarship benefit performances of “Die Fledermaus” (“The Bat”), a comic opera by Johann Strauss, March 30 and 31 at 8 p.m. and April 1 at 3 p.m. at Stretansky Concert Hall, in the university’s Cunningham Center for Music and Art.

All ticket proceeds will be donated to the Brandon E. Bitner Memorial Scholarship at Susquehanna. Bitner, a Middleburg High School student and accomplished violinist who played in what was formerly the university preparatory program’s youth orchestra, ended his life in November 2010, having described repeated bullying he endured from peers.

On opening night, March 30, Susquehanna will host anti-bullying advocates, community leaders, family and friends for a private reception at 6:30 p.m. in the Charles B. Degenstein Campus Center. The event will include a discussion of bullying prevention with remarks from Stephen Wallace, director of the newly launched Center for Adolescent Research and Education (CARE) at Susquehanna; University President L. Jay Lemons; and Bitner’s mother, Tammy Simpson. Among invited guests are Penny Wells, executive director of Boston-based Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), as well as local health care, law enforcement and education professionals. Area businesses, including Shade Mountain Winery, Rine’s Florist and ARAMARK are donating all or part of their services to the event.

The Bitner scholarship fund has supported the talent of a Susquehanna music major each year since it was established in 2010. As a tribute to Bitner’s musical legacy, a quartet composed of local students Brianna Carnathan, Irene Ganahl, Joshua Druckenmiller and Victoria Doll, members of a new Susquehanna Strings pilot program, will perform during Friday’s reception. Other local violin students, ranging in age from 6 to 16, will play before each performance of the opera and during intermissions.

“We are grateful to Brandon’s mother,” said Jennifer Sacher Wiley, associate professor of music and private instructor for the young violinists playing at the weekend’s performances. “Her scholarship foundation is a gift to future violinists in his honor, and our students are humbled and moved by her generosity."

“Die Fledermaus” is a favorite story with a costume ball as the setting for romantic indiscretion, mistaken identity and good-natured revenge. When outrageous high-society figures get their inevitable comeuppance, they blame their plentiful errors in judgment on their host’s free-flowing champagne. The tale’s traditional party scene will be expanded to include some surprise guest performers.

"For this particular occasion, we wanted to do a work that was uplifting, something that would be a celebration of a person's love of music,” said Associate Professor of Music David Steinau. “That's why we chose a comic opera."

Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for non-SU students, and are available by visiting or calling the university box office at 570-372-ARTS, Monday through Friday, noon to 5 p.m.


Karen M. Jones


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