Techno-Artistic Tribute at Baylor Will Mark Laser's 50th Anniversary

March 15, 2010

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A pulsating laser show, choreographed to music composed by a Baylor graduate student, will be performed by Waco Symphony Orchestra on March 20 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the invention of the laser.

The performance, to be presented during the symphony's Belles, Brass and Beyond concert, will be a techno-artistic tribute to the innovation known for its diverse use, from scanning bar codes at grocery checkouts to helping aircraft escape heat-seeking missiles.

The event is one of many that will be held nationwide in a yearlong celebration of the laser's anniversary led by the American Physical Society, with communities, educational institutions and technical professional societies joining in, said Dan Hull, former laser engineer and executive director of Waco-based OP-TEC, the National Science Foundation's National Center of Optics and Phototonics Education.

More than 200 science and technology teachers, counselors and administrators from schools in the greater Waco area will join the regular audience as guests at the concert in the 2,222-seat Waco Hall. They also will be hosted at a pre-concert reception and tour of Baylor Sciences Building.

Event sponsors are Baylor University and Texas State Technical College Waco -- collaborators in laser research -- as well as the City of Waco, OP-TEC and Prismatic Magic, which will present the laser show.

Jon Barrett, 26, of Houston, a trombonist and graduate music student at Baylor, will lead the orchestra in his work Oscillate: Dance for Orchestra. The orchestra, conducted by Maestro Stephen Heyde, also will perform Barber's Essay No. 2, Hanson's Symphony No. 2 (Romantic) and Gershwin's An American in Paris.

Barrett said he is a science buff who found the laser inspiring as he composed his music in 2007.

"The link between laser and Oscillate is that the main component of a laser is an oscillator," Barrett said. "I was thinking of very visual things that inspired me and would inspire others."

In his concert notes, he described the composition as a reflection on "the musical ballet of patterns, interconnected and interdependent with one another, large and small."

Practically speaking, "everyone hears something different in it," Barrett said. "A woman I work with heard it and said it made her see trolls in a forest. My grandmother thought she heard a train."

Choreographer for the laser show is Dr. Christopher Volpe, president of Fort Worth-based Prismatic Magic.

"We're planning on using a combination of shooting laser beams through the air and laser graphics -- tracing out images so that it's like looking at moving silhouettes of planets, people, violins playing," Volpe said. "It will be a wonderful assortment."

The event also marks a partnership begun 10 years ago by Baylor University and Texas State Technical College Waco to do laser research through Baylor's Center for Astrophysics, Space Physics & Engineering Research (CASPER).

Baylor uses lasers for research in several of its science labs. Within CASPER, lasers are used as one of its primary diagnostic instruments and as a perturbation/wave dispersion tool for studying complex plasmas, said Dr. Truell Hyde, Baylor's vice provost for research, CASPER director and physics professor. The study of complex plasmas, a relatively new experimental field, is already having an impact on basic physics and engineering and has applications across a host of areas, among them semiconductor manufacturing, nanofabrication and colloidal chemistry, Hyde said.

TSTC, a national leader in laser technician education, has educated thousands of individuals since its program began in 1969. They work globally in energy and defense labs and other laser establishments.

Hyde and Hull noted the use of lasers includes eye surgery, communications, protection for aircraft from heat-seeking missiles, CD/DVD players and optical tweezers to manipulate microscopic objects within an intact cell. Lasers also are used in Short-Time-Encoded Amplified Microscopy -- the world's fastest camera, which uses an infrared laser, Hyde said.

Planners of Science and a Symphony say they hope the event will motivate students, who are the technological consumers of today as well as the technological innovators of tomorrow.

The Waco Symphony Orchestra concert is sponsored by Waco Symphony Council, Mr. & Mrs. Ray Deaver, Community Bank & Trust and Grande Communications.

To hear Oscillate's debut in April 2009, with Barrett conducting the 110-member Baylor Symphony Orchestra, visit a sample of Prismatic Magic's shows, visit www.prismaticmagic.comFor more information about LaserFest nationwide, visit


WHAT: Science and a Symphony, a concert and laser show featured as part of Waco Symphony Orchestra's Belles, Brass and Beyond concert.

WHEN AND WHERE: Reception, refreshments and lab tours for school faculty, staff and administrators and their guests will be at 6 p.m. Saturday, March 20, at Baylor Sciences Building, 101 Bagby Ave. Shuttles will take them to Waco Hall, 624 Speight Ave. on Baylor's campus, for the 7:30 p.m. concert and laser show.

COST: $15-$45 for non-educators.

School faculty, staff and administrators in the Greater Waco area may receive up to two complimentary adult tickets. Complimentary ticketholders may purchase additional tickets for guests to attend the concert and reception. Cost for student tickets is $5. Additional tickets for adults may be purchased for $15-$30, depending on seat location, but all guest seats are in the balcony. Space is limited.

Parking is free for complimentary ticket holders and their guests, with complimentary shuttle service between Waco Hall and Baylor Sciences Building.

Reservations: Call (254) 754-0851 by 4 p.m. March 18, 2010, or visit Waco Symphony Association's office in the St. Charles Place Building, 600 Austin Ave., Suite 10, Waco. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays (closed for lunch noon to 1 p.m.) and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays.

Contact: Terry Goodrich, Assistant Director of Media Communications, (254) 710-3321

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