Programs and Series

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2023 Centre County Reads

2024 Centre County Reads

For 2024, the Centre County Reads/CALS Community Read features Brendan Slocumb and his novel The Violin Conspiracy. Our programming is inspired by the themes of artistic development, family history, and racial injustice explored in the story of Ray McMillian, a Black violinist who must take matters into his own hands when his Stradivarius—a priceless heirloom, and the instrument on which he’s made his career—is stolen and held for ransom. A roundtable discussion and writing contest organized by CALS will precede a virtual author visit from Slocumb himself, to be held via Zoom on March 20.

Details for these and other events (all of which are free and open to the public) are summarized below and can also be found at the Centre County Reads website here. A review of the book by CALS undergraduate Sydney Burns can also be read here.

Violin Conspiracy Cover

January 2024

Launch of “Lost and Found” Writing Contest

All entries are due by Monday, March 11.

This contest is part of the 2024 Centre County Reads/CALS Community Read of Brendan Slocumb’s The Violin Conspiracy, a novel centered on the history of a Stradivarius passed down through the generations of a Black Southern family. Ray McMillian inherits the violin of his formerly enslaved great-great-grandfather and uses it to make a name for himself as a classical musician. When the violin is stolen, facing indifference from both the police and the classical music community, Ray must take matters into his own hands to find it. As he works to recover his violin, he must also confront the racist past surrounding it—and reassert his claim not only to the violin, but also to his own talent, career, and destiny.

Following the example of Slocumb’s novel, enter your best work of writing that centers on something lost—an object, a person, a history, a memory—and the attempt (successful or not) to recover it. Submit your piece of 7,500 words or less for competition in one of the following categories:

  • Best Short Fiction
  • Best Nonfiction
  • Best Poetry
  • Best Entry for a Writer under 18

$300 Grand Prize
(additional prizes for winners in each category)

Please send entries to cals@psu.edu and include a cover letter with your name, address, contact information, a brief biography, and contest category. Winning entries will be displayed at Schlow Centre Region Library and on the CALS website.

Entries are due by March 11.

Submit your entry to cals@psu.edu.

Please include a cover letter with your name, address, contact information, a brief biography, and contest category. Winning entries to be displayed at Schlow Centre Region Library and www.cals.la.psu.edu.

 

Book Discussion
Tuesday, January 16, 5:30-6:30 p.m. | Schlow Library, Sun Room

February 2024

Storytime
Saturday, February 10, 10 a.m. | Schlow Library

 

Book Discussion
Thursday, February 22, 6:30-7:30 p.m. | Schlow Library, Sun Room

 

CALS Roundtable: “The Art of Growing Up”
Wednesday, February 28, 4-5 p.m. EST | Zoom
Register Here>>

Brendan Slocumb’s The Violin Conspiracy follows Rayquan “Ray” McMillian, a Black youth from the South who must overcome various forms of prejudice to become a professional musician. Ray’s coming-of-age coincides with his development as a violinist; the joys and challenges he faces as a young man are mirrored by those he faces as a budding artist. Inspired by Slocumb’s novel, this year’s Centre County Reads selection, this roundtable discussion will address the role of the arts in the process of growing up. Three invited panelists will consider not only fictional representations of coming-of-age, like books and movies, but also the real-life role art plays in making us who we are and enabling us to embrace our unique identities.

Featured Panelists:

  • Suzanne Hall, Associate Professor of Music Education, Temple University. Suzanne Hall teaches courses in general music at the elementary and secondary levels at Temple University. She is a frequent presenter at conferences and provides professional development workshops on music and literacy integration strategies for school districts across the country. She is also a published author of articles and texts including Teaching Elementary Music: Integrative Strategies between Music and Other Subjects.
  • Spencer Tricker, Assistant Professor of English, Clark University. Spencer Tricker specializes in American literature of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His first book manuscript-in-progress, Imminent Communities, explores the uses and abuses of cosmopolitan rhetoric and feeling in the work of writers and public figures from the United States, Canada, the Philippines, and Hawai‘i. Tricker regularly teaches courses focused on coming-of-age stories in multiethnic American literatures.
  • Ann Holt, Assistant Professor of Art Education, Penn State. Ann Holt is an advisor and artist teacher with Arts Action Group, an international community-based collective committed to facilitating arts initiatives with children and youth in conflict-affected environments. She is also Co-Editor in Chief of Arts Culture & Development, a blind peer-reviewed, annually published journal on the role of arts and culture in global development practice.

Moderator:

  • Jess Rafalko, Graduate Student in English, Penn State.

March 2024

The Soloist Film Talk
Friday, March 1, 1 p.m. | Centre County Library & Historical Museum (Bellefonte)

 

Storytime
Monday, March 4, 10:30 a.m. | Centre Hall Area Branch Library

 

Book Discussion
Monday, March 4, 6-7 p.m. | Holt Memorial Library (Philipsburg)

 

Storytime
Wednesday, March 6, 10:30 a.m. | Holt Memorial Library (Philipsburg)

 

Kids Connect Music Program
Thursday, March 7, 6 p.m. | Holt Memorial Library (Philipsburg)

 

Storytime
Wednesday, March 13, 10 a.m. | Centre County Library & Historical Museum (Bellefonte)

 

Storytime
Wednesday, March 13, 11 a.m. | Centre County Library & Historical Museum (Bellefonte)

 

Book Discussion
Wednesday, March 13, 12:15-1 p.m. | Centre Region Active Adult Center (Nittany Mall)

 

Book Discussion
Friday, March 15, 3-4 p.m. | Centre County Library & Historical Museum (Bellefonte)

 

An Evening with Brendan Slocumb
Wednesday, March 20, 7-8 p.m. | Schlow Library Zoom
Register Here>>

Penn State’s Marica Tacconi (Distinguished Professor of Musicology and Art History) will be in conversation with Brendan Slocumb, author of the 2024 Centre County Reads pick, The Violin Conspiracy. The novel tells the story of Ray McMillian, a Black violinist who must take matters into his own hands when his Stradivarius—a priceless heirloom, and the instrument on which he’s made his career—is stolen and held for ransom.

 

Book Discussion
Thursday, March 28, 6-7 p.m. | Centre County Library & Historical Museum (Bellefonte)

 

Book Discussion
Thursday, March 28, 7-8 p.m. | Foxdale Community Building Meeting Room, 2nd Floor
(For Foxdale residents only)

 

Music Craft Take and Make
All of March | Centre Hall Area Branch Library