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A composer for Michigan Shakespeare
Festival discovers Jewish roots.
o matter which produc-
tion audiences experience
at this season's Michigan
Shakespeare Festival — Richard III,
Love's Labour's Lost or Pygmalion —
they will be experiencing the musi-
cal creativity of Ann Arbor's Kate
Each play will be staged with
Hopgood's compositions and sound
designs, live and recorded, to give new
dimensions to otherwise nonmusical
"Every show has
an original score, and
the scope of the com-
positions are pretty
grand," says the 30ish
Hopgood, in her third
year with the festival,
running July 12-Aug.
12 in Jackson.
"The beauty of
working with original
material is synching
up with the director's
vision. It makes the
projects feel more united."
The score for Richard III presents
sweeping orchestrations with mostly
recorded sounds. Love's Labour's Lost
will have live music, some played on a
composer-built guitar for lyrics based
on Shakespeare's words. Pygmalion will
have instrumental music combining
classical sounds with ragtime.
"I do most of my composing at the
computer in my home studio:' says
Hopgood, who started playing piano by
ear at age 3; soon took lessons, with her
first recital at 5; went on to saxophone
in junior high school; and moved into
woodwinds and other instruments.
"When I first started composing,
I was 13 or 14 and feeling insecure.
It wasn't until I got into college that I
shaped works with other people. It's
been about eight or nine years since I
decided this was something I could do
[as a career]:'
Hopgood has workshopped a musical
with her husband, Jeromy, a profes-
sor in entertainment design at Eastern
Michigan University. At the computer,
she often has daughter Kira, 2, on her
The composer, who has a bachelor's
degree in music from the University of
Arkansas, has been a voice instructor
and guest lecturer at Appalachian State
University in North Carolina, where she
composed for small theater companies
and taught piano.
While on her musical journey,
Hopgood has taken a dramatic family
journey. Her dad, adopted and raised
as a Christian, learned that his biologi-
cal parents were Jewish and traveled
with his daughter to meet the family
unknown until later in life.
"We met his birth mother shortly
before she passed away and got a lot
of information about the actual family
tree Hopgood explains. "We learned
family had come to the United States
from Germany, and
we traveled around
the country to speak
with aunts and uncles.
There were many peo-
ple who were very sur-
prised, and the experi-
ence was fascinating
"The journey was
ing for me because I
grew up in a part of
the South that doesn't
have a large Jewish
culture. My dad decided to meet with
a rabbi for Torah studies once a week
while still going to Christian services
once a week:'
Hopgood, who has been working
on the Michigan Shakespeare Festival
since February, also has been develop-
ing two musicals and a symphonic
work. She has been closely collaborat-
ing with the Michigan company to
enhance battle sequences in Richard III.
"As the actors rehearse, they video
the footage and email it to me she
says. "I watch the video for the fight
choreography and work out the melod-
ic structure based on their movements.
"As a composer, my goal is to write
well, often and in a fashion that people
will enjoy. Some composers like writ-
ing music to make people think.
Sometimes I do that, but for the most
part, I want people to enjoy the experi-
ence of the music itself"
The Michigan Shakespeare
Festival runs July 12-Aug. 12 at
the Jackson Community College
Potter Center, 2111 Emmons
Road, Jackson. $85-$105 season
tickets; $29-$39 individual
tickets. (517) 998-3673; www.