Research Award Winners Focus on U.Va.'s Lawn

May 25, 2010 — Two University of Virginia students will spend the summer on the Lawn, each conducting separate research projects.

Brian Cofrancesco, a rising fourth-year architectural history major, will create self-guided walking tours of the Academical Village – the oldest portion of the U.Va. Grounds – and central Grounds, under the guidance of Richard Guy Wilson, the Commonwealth Professor of Architectural History.

Matthew Jones, third-year graduate student in music, will research "The Role of Music in Education and Daily Life in the Academical Village at U.Va.," under the guidance of associate music professor Bonnie Gordon.

Their research will be funded by the William R. Kenan Jr. Endowment Fund of the Academical Village. Each student will receive up to $4,000 toward his research.

"The Kenan Award provides undergraduates and graduate students with an unparalleled opportunity to conduct summer research on the Academical Village," said Lucy Russell, director of the Center for Undergraduate Excellence. "Students may come from any discipline, from engineering to history and from education to architecture. This year's projects in music and architectural history promise to add a great deal to our understanding of the University. I'm looking forward to seeing the final projects in the fall."

Jones, 31, of Jasper, Ga., will research music education in the first 100 years of the University, from 1819 through 1919.

"I am interested in finding out who taught music at U.Va., where they were trained, how they were hired and brought to the University, and as much information about their living and teaching conditions as I can gather from U.Va.'s archives," he said. "I am also interested in the students themselves: who received music instruction, what music did they play, etc."

In addition to students playing music in the Rotunda music room or out on the Lawn, he is interested in other, more common sounds that helped structure the University experience.

Inspiration for his research came from Gordon's class on the "Soundscapes in Jefferson's America." Jones said that before the creation of the McIntire Department of Music around 1920, the historical record of musical education at U.Va. is incomplete.

"My goals are pretty modest," Jones said. "I want to fill in the blanks in the historical record and make some informed speculations about the role of music and sound in the Academical Village."

Jones wants to produce an academic paper from his research and hold a concert of early Lawn music.

"Sounds, both musical and non-musical, are an important part of how we understand experience, yet sounds often fall out of histories because they are ephemeral," he said. "The absence of sound from the historical record of U.Va. struck me as a problem well-suited to a  musicologist's particular training."

The research is out of Jones' usual area of study, which encompasses popular music of the 20th and 21st centuries and issues of gender and sexuality.

Jones received a bachelor's degree in music and masters' degree in musicology from the University of Georgia. After completing his Ph.D., he plans to become a professor of musicology.

Cofrancesco, 21, an architectural history major with minors in architecture and historic preservation, will be studying his new neighborhood, having been selected as a Lawn resident next year.

He researches patterns, trends and styles in early American architecture, beginning in the 17th century and continuing through the Victorian era of the late 19th century, with a particular focus on the architecture of Thomas Jefferson.

"This fellowship will allow me to continue my study of the Academical Village and Thomas Jefferson, while expanding my knowledge of the other buildings within the historic precinct," he said. "It presents a great opportunity for me to practice the research and investigative skills which are central to the work of architectural history."

"Brian Cofrancesco is an amazing student, and in my many years of teaching the history of architecture at the University, I have never had a student so dedicated to the subject," Wilson said. "Brian's work under the Kenan grant will help to make more understandable the various additions to the original Jefferson plan. He is in many ways just what Jefferson envisioned as the type of student the University should attract."

Cofrancesco has received a $28,900 grant for the conservation of the 1926 World's Fair model of the Academical Village. He is also involved in a Jefferson Public Citizens Project to study, with a team of undergraduate and graduate students, the possible effects of a soon-to-come cruise ship terminal in Falmouth, Jamaica.

He has been inducted into the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society, Student Council's Diversity Initiatives Committee, Thomas Jefferson Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians, and the Circle K International, and is a member of both the U.Va. Concert Band and the Cavalier Marching Band.

He has received a grant for the Capital District Kiwanis Foundation and the A.G. Goodrich Distinguished President Award.

During the 2009 symposium, Jefferson, Palladio, and the Fine Arts in America International Symposium, he presented a paper titled "The Unbuilt Chemistry Building," about Louis Kahn's proposed building at U.Va.

He was also one of two students selected for the St. Eustatius Schotsenhoek Plantation Project on the Caribbean Island of St. Eustatius, with architectural history department chair Louis Nelson. While there, they helped document, record and dismantle, piece-by-piece, a 1780's plantation house in danger of being demolished.

Cofrancesco, of Meriden, Conn., plans to work in architectural history for a few years after his 2011 graduation, then continue his education with plans of an academic career.

William R. Kenan Jr. made his fortune by founding the company that became Union Carbide and was a partner in the Flagler System Companies. In his later years, he became a philanthropist focused on education. U.Va. has benefited from his generosity through fellowships, chairs and grants.

— By Matt Kelly