As my thirty-fifth year in higher education and third year as Music Department Head at MSU wind down, I’m pleased for the opportunity Dean Galanes has offered me to communicate with you, gentle reader, about our department. I am a Missouri girl who couldn’t wait to leave the state for college, but now I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am to be back in Missouri and on the Missouri State campus. My two previous institutions were land grant universities, designed to provide low-cost educations to many constituents within those states. I had known Missouri State as Southwest Missouri State and almost missed the opportunity to apply for my position because of the name change.
One of the most intriguing aspects of this job is the university’s Public Affairs Mission of Cultural Competence, Community Engagement, and Ethical Leadership. President Smart recently wrote that he shortened the mission: “Our goal is to develop educated persons. Our mission is public affairs.” The Music Department lives this mission.
Cultural Competence in Music
Music, an original member of ancient Greek scholarship and learning, was coupled with arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy (the quadrivium, all branches of mathematics) and followed by grammar, rhetoric and logic (the trivium) to form the liberal arts. Our music curricula stress critical thinking in theory, history, and aural skills, and open our students’ worlds to musics from many world cultures.
In regard to the latter, we have been blessed with Chinese, Malaysian, Australian, and South American students who share their musicianship and cultures with their colleagues. Our White String Quartet, Yajing Zhang, Xiao Hu, Ryan Hardcastle, and Matt Price, competed on a national level in New York City in 2012, spent two weeks on our Qingdao campus last summer, and will play their farewell concert soon since they are graduating. Cindy and Sherry, both from Qingdao, will return home. Matt plans to attend law school. Ryan has a viola assistantship at the University of North Texas. Despite language barriers and differences in backgrounds and majors, these four lived a commitment to interpreting the music of Haydn, Mozart, and Ravel.
Dr. John Prescott, one of our resident composers, has brought Chinese music to life for our students. His Multicultural Instruments Ensemble teaches students skills to perform on traditional Chinese instruments like the pipa, the hulusi, the erhu, and the sheng, bringing Chinese and American students together. Dr. Prescott, who has studied Chinese and is quite proficient in the language, travels to the Qingdao campus annually to teach. Every other year, MSU has three Qingdao instrumentalists who spend a three-week residency here working with our students. Did I mention that this involves learning to read Chinese musical notation, too? I just acquired my own hulusi, a Chinese oboe-like instrument, and I hope to join Dr. Prescott’s class next fall.
Dr. Amy Muchnick leads two groups of Study Away students to London each summer for concerts, plays, and museum tours. Next fall, she and Dr. David Hays will take the MSU Chamber Orchestra to China over fall break.
Our choirs do an international tour every other year under the direction of Dr. Guy Webb. Last May, I was able to accompany the choirs on their trip to Germany and Paris. It was a life-changing trip for many students to sing in the Chartres Cathedral or to sit on the organ bench once occupied by composer Gabriel Faure.
It is easy to talk about community engagement when a department presents nearly 200 free concerts per year! We have our loyal following of Springfieldians and campus community members, and every year, we gain new friends through students who wind up at concerts due to a class assignment or who show up to support a friend. I have called our department “The Department of Cheap Dates.” Where else can you take a date for an evening of free entertainment, and still have funds left for a pre-concert dinner or après-concert dessert?
There are other ways the Music Department demonstrates community engagement as well. First, the department faculty are an amazing and wonderful community themselves. Individually, our faculty members are dedicated and talented performers, conductors, and scholars who work independently to continue to hone their expertise and who come together to perform, create, and share research with each other and with our students. They continually model the behaviors and efforts that we want our students to have.
Here is a short list of community activities that the department offers:
- The Music Department offers a community choir experience every Thursday evening, and the community band meets every Monday night.
- The band area presents the Ozarko marching contest every fall for regional marching bands, and the day-long pageantry is open to the public.
- The Pride Bands are also known for their annual Veterans’ Day Concert, another free public offering.
- More recently, the department has sponsored the “Taps Cascade,” a gathering of over fifty trumpeters who successively play “Taps” at 11:11 AM on or close to Veterans Day on the MSU Campus. This offering, started by former Associate COAL Dean Roger Stoner, has included many community musicians and a number of high school trumpeters.
Community Engagement can also refer to communities beyond the scope of campus boundaries. This March, our Jazz Studies Ensemble traveled to New York City. On the way to the airport, they performed concerts at four St. Louis area school programs. Their first evening in New York, they joined the Theatre and Dance annual Showcase at a venue in Greenwich Village as the back-up band for the musical theatre majors to perform for alumni and friends. The following day, the Jazz Studies Ensemble members had master classes and individual lessons with some legendary members of the Village Vanguard Big Band, and they attended an evening listening to the Vanguard Band. This was a case of taking our students into a new “community” for engagement!
New faculty member, Dr. Ann Marie Daehn recently produced and directed our first full-length opera in a number of years, Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Dr. Daehn involved Dr. Eric Pervukhin’s class in designing the posters advertising this event. In addition, Dr. Vonda Yarberry and her classes in designed the virtual digital sets for the production. The costumes were donated as a result of her efforts in the community. Visiting Theatre instructor Jennifer Stoessner built and trained the puppet dragon (who unfortunately is killed in the first scene!). Our opera theatre workshop class developed a partnership with Robberson Elementary who studied what the genre of opera means and what the Magic Flute story symbolizes. The story, rich with Masonic symbolism of the Enlightenment, is about the power of love, redemption, and integrity, which brings me to the Ethical Leadership piece of our mission.
As the primary institution for music education in the state of Missouri, our faculty is dedicated to providing our students with solid examples of classroom standards, integrity, and honesty as teachers, whether in the classroom or in the private studio. Our music education majors are exposed to these ideas from their first year on campus in their first teaching practicum. And we, of course, want our other majors and minors to embrace these ideals as well. I think our faculty all model ethical leadership for our students, but one faculty member visibly lives it every week through his work in founding and directing the Missouri State String Project.
The MSU String Project was the idea, dream, and reality of Dr. David Hays, our violinist. Dr. Hays designed the String Project, founded in 2005, as a means for providing group and individual string lessons to elementary students through a model of master-teacher, apprentice-teacher activities delivered off campus in partnership with Roundtree Elementary. Dr. Hays and Elizabeth Johnston, MSU alumna, serve as master teachers, and supervise a number of MSU string students and registered volunteers who teach a growing number of young string students and present them each semester in a culminating recital.
String playing teaches coordination, independence, and interdependence in ensemble work. Elementary students get to learn concentration, fine motor skills, to read a non-verbal language, and to use both sides of their brains in performing. MSU students get the opportunity to hone their teaching skills, and audiences get to experience the joy of shared music making by enthusiastic youngsters. The Project does not compete with any regional string orchestras and provides a bridge from elementary to middle school string programs.
These are just a few of many examples of work by the 30 full-time and 17 per-course MSU music faculty, our 300 undergraduate majors, and 45 graduate students to “live” the mission of Public Affairs.
During summer 2013, you will be able to enjoy the Summer Carillon Series, Tent Theatre, the Missouri Fine Arts Academy, and performances by the Summer Choir, Bands Alive, and others.
We will be back starting in August with a year’s worth of wonderful free concerts, and we hope you’ll join us as we continue President Smart’s summary: “Our goal is to develop educated persons. Our mission is public affairs.”