Music Department Adding Graduate Degrees

University to offer state's only graduate degree in ethnomusicology

The Ole Miss African Drum and Dance Ensemble performs earlier this year during the 2018 Black History Month Concert. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Department of Music is expanding its graduate program offerings beginning this fall, adding a Master of Music with emphases in musicology, ethnomusicology and music theory.

“The department is adding these new programs because we want to better serve the students of Mississippi and the region,” said Alan Spurgeon, professor of music and the department’s director of graduate studies.

The addition of these degrees “will significantly expand and enrich our graduate program,” said Robert Riggs, chair of the music department.

“Very few universities in this region offer graduate degrees in these important fields – we will be the only one in Mississippi where students can pursue ethnomusicology – and thus, we hope to attract many applicants,” Riggs said.

John Latartara, associate professor of music, is heading up the music theory program; George Dor, professor of music and holder of the McDonnell-Barksdale Chair of Ethnomusicology, is in charge of the ethnomusicology program; and Thomas Peattie, associate professor of music, is leading the musicology program.

Expanding the music department’s program options “will make for a more diverse student body,” Spurgeon said.

“These new degrees are all research degrees, and we’ll have people studying new topics that wouldn’t have been covered with our other degrees,” he said. “It further enhances our position as a research department and as a research university.”

The university has been building its program in ethnomusicology since 2001, said Dor, who also directs the Ole Miss African Drum and Dance Ensemble. Dor teaches world music classes and recently acquired several instruments from Ghana for use in classroom learning and performances.

“Given ethnomusicology’s tendency to focus on the ethnographic study of non-Western art music forms, the new program will train and equip prospective students to research either the rich music cultures of our state and region or gain knowledge necessary for studying any other world music tradition,” Dor said.

Concert Singers to Perform at Carnegie Hall

Choral students will travel to New York City for once-in-a-lifetime performance

The University of Mississippi Concert Singers are set to perform twice this weekend in New York City, including a Sunday concert at Carnegie Hall. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Concert Singers will travel to New York City to perform in the world-famous Carnegie Hall this weekend.

The Concert Singers were invited to perform at 8 p.m. Sunday (April 8) by Distinguished Concerts International. The group will be singing a wide range of pieces, including classics, contemporary pieces and Mississippi originals.

“My goal is to provide Ole Miss choir students with a comprehensive choral experience, which includes performing in a variety of acoustical environments in historical churches and concert halls,” said Don Trott, director of choral activities and UM professor of music. “Carnegie Hall is certainly the world’s most famous concert hall.”

Previous travel experiences for the Concert Singers have included tours to Europe, with performances in Austria, Czech Republic, France, Germany and Hungary.

While in New York, the Concert Singers also are to perform a program of sacred repertoire on the concert series at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, at 4 p.m. Friday (April 6). The choir also will attend two Broadway musicals and participate in sightseeing activities.

“The singers have worked extremely hard in preparation for this unique opportunity,” Trott said. “The music department and the university will benefit from the exposure of having Ole Miss students performing on this world-renowned stage.

“This is a great opportunity to showcase these talented singers promoting one of the great aspects about our university.”

The opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall “will be an inspiring and thrilling experience for our students,” said Robert Riggs, UM chair of music.

“Knowing that they have the honor of appearing at Carnegie Hall will energize them to work and to strive for the highest possible level of excellence in their performance.”

Music Professor Returns from Columbia University Fellowship

Thomas Peattie spent fall semester at the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America

UM music professor Thomas Peattie attends an event at the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America during his fellowship there last fall. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Thomas Peattie, an assistant professor of music at the University of Mississippi, has returned to campus after completing a prestigious fellowship at Columbia University during the fall semester.

Peattie spent the semester at the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America, part of the university in New York City, which takes scholars from around the world in a variety of fields. The academy’s goal is to “support advanced research in areas relating to Italian culture, science and society,” according to its website.

Peattie, a music historian, was specifically interested in the work of 20th-century Italian composer Luciano Berio, about whom he is writing a book.

“I have always been fascinated by Berio’s practice of taking an existing music work and using it as a point of departure for the creation of an entirely new composition,” Peattie said. “What I continue to find so compelling about this practice is the extent to which these newly fashioned pieces offer a kind of musical commentary on the unrealized potential of the original material.”

During his research, Peattie paid particular attention to Berio’s practice of transcribing the works of other composers, including Johannes Brahms and Gustav Mahler, which has been largely neglected by scholars, he said. The way in which Berio listened to the music of his predecessors may illuminate more about Berio’s own works, Peattie said.

“This ultimately led me to the conclusion that although these transcriptions rely on an intimate knowledge of an original ‘text,’ Berio’s relationship to these texts is also shaped by an entirely different kind of knowledge, one shaped by the lingering sonic traces of the performed work as remembered and misremembered over the course of a lifetime of listening,” he said.

Peattie described Berio’s impact on modern music as enormous.

“The rich body of vocal, orchestral and chamber music that he created between the mid-1950s and his death in 2003 has played a crucial role in securing his reputation as the most important Italian composer of his generation,” he said. “His works continue to receive frequent performances and have also attracted considerable attention from scholars of 20th-century music.”

Berio’s music has often been described as complex, but this has not prevented it from being accepted or understood even among the most contemporary-averse audiences. This is because Berio’s works “are always informed by conventional categories of harmony and gesture even if they also draw extensively on the advanced musical techniques associated with the postwar avant-garde,” Peattie said.

Outside the academy, Peattie was involved with Columbia’s Department of Music by serving as a guest lecturer at a seminar and giving a talk at the department’s musicology colloquium series. He also was a co-curator of an exhibition at the Italian Academy covering Berio’s relationship with 17th-century Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi; Peattie helped organize a two-day symposium and a concert.

“This experience has already made me a better scholar,” Peattie said after returning to his Ole Miss classroom. “It has given me new ways of thinking about the way in which research is conducted.”

Robert Riggs, chair of the Department of Music, expressed the value of an opportunity to be a guest at another university in addition to being able to spend time free from teaching and service obligations.

“This highly competitive fellowship enabled Dr. Peattie to make significant progress on his new book, and his selection for this honor certainly reflects well on the high quality of research being conducted in our music department,” Riggs said. “Moreover, I anticipate that his future teaching and research will be invigorated by his having been immersed in the vibrant musical culture of New York City.”

Inaugural Living Music Institute Deemed an ‘Incredible Success’

UM music department's Living Music Resource expands to include an intensive opera workshop

Music professor Nancy Maria Balach instructs students at the UM Living Music Resource’s inaugural Living Music Institute, an intensive opera aria workshop. Photo by Kevin Bain/University Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The inaugural session of the Living Music Institute, which ran Jan. 18-21 at the University of Mississippi, got high marks from students and music professionals alike.

The Living Music Institute, a production of the Living Music Resource in the UM Department of Music, is an intensive workshop for opera aria singers. During the workshop, students received personal attention from faculty members and special guest and opera star Kallen Esperian.

Student participants also attended master classes, coaching sessions, yoga classes aimed at performers, acting classes and aria performance classes.

“Listening to these young singers gave me great hope for the future of opera,” Esperian said. “I thought that the weekend was an incredible success – a brilliant idea to have young singers from all over the country come together with their peers.”

The workshop concluded Jan. 21 with a student competition in David H. Nutt Auditorium. Rebecka McAlister, a graduate student in music from Jonesboro, Arkansas, won the event, which included a monetary prize.

She also will perform with the LOU Symphony Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19 in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $10, available through the Ole Miss Box Office at the Ford Center, phone 662-915-7411.

Led by Nancy Maria Balach, an associate professor of music, the Living Music Resource started as an online library of videos produced in-house from interviews with musicians and vocalists.

Balach said she wanted to establish Living Music Institute to bring national attention to the program, help recruit quality graduate students and create a new opportunity for vocal performance students to “hone their craft in an intensive young artist and professional environment.”

“The Living Music Institute is an excellent chance for budding performers to experiment and grow in their artistry,” Balach said. “We want to continue LMR’s mission to bring acclaimed artists to the great state of Mississippi and offer both our amazing community and online followers unique artistic events.”

Students from 12 states applied to be the inaugural Living Music Institute participants. Sixteen singers, representing nine states, were picked for the cohort.

The participants all were talented and unique, Esperian said.

UM theatre arts professor Matthew Wilson, left, instructs Blue Mountain College student William Thompson at the Living Music Resource’s inaugural Living Music Institute, an intensive opera aria workshop. Photo by Kevin Bain/University Communications

The opera star also said she found the students very open to the feedback and advice given to them, and said she hopes they capitalized on the opportunity to learn from professional artists.

The Living Music Resource’s expansion to offer the Living Music Institute is a natural result of the program’s growth and the educational and artistic collaboration between Balach and Amanda Johnston, Living Music Institute co-director and associate professor of music.

The idea for the institute first occurred when Balach and Johnston established the Living Music Resource’s “Next Step Audition” day, which occurred in 2016 and 2017. They recognized that this opportunity “filled a void” in the region for emerging artists, but wanted to expand it.

They began creating the framework for Living Music Institute in spring 2017 and launched it last month.

“The interest in LMI has far exceeded our expectations,” Balach said. “All of the singers thoroughly enjoyed being on our campus, working with our faculty and experiencing the opportunities LMI created.”

The interest in attending Ole Miss for graduate education dramatically increased by the end of the weekend for many participants, she said.

“The UM music department is now offering a program unique to our region that has national reach,” Balach said.

Living Music Institute Hosts Leading Opera Soprano

Inaugural opera aria workshop brings renowned soprano Kallen Esperian back to UM

Kallen Esperian

OXFORD, Miss. – The Living Music Resource at the University of Mississippi is holding its inaugural Living Music Institute this weekend. This intensive opera aria workshop includes a residency by world-renowned soprano and recording artist Kallen Esperian.

A member of the Metropolitan Opera and La Scala Opera, Esperian has performed in leading roles at major opera houses around the globe.

This is not Esperian’s first time at Ole Miss. In 2011, she led master classes and special topic courses, taught private voice classes and worked alongside the Ole Miss Opera Theatre ensemble as a one-year artist-in-residence.

“I had the immense privilege of working with Kallen when she came to Ole Miss and experienced her greatness firsthand,” said Nancy Balach, co-director of Living Music Resource in the Department of Music. “She left an invaluable mark at Ole Miss and helped us keep our pulse on the professional world of music.”

Esperian will appear at two of the three public events this weekend.

The activities open at 7 p.m. Friday (Jan. 19) with a documentary showing, mini-concert and Q&A session in Nutt Auditorium. Accompanying Esperian are filmmaker Steven John Ross and pianist Gary Beard.

The documentary “Vissi D’Arte” explores challenges Esperian has faced throughout her career. Tickets are $5 each, available at the Ole Miss Box Office or at the door.

At 1 p.m. Saturday (Jan. 20), a performance of “Aria Matinée” in Nutt Auditorium will feature emerging artists from nine states who are participating in the workshop. This event is free.

Later that evening, Living Music Resource will host its signature live show, “LMR Live,” hosted by Balach. This production’s guests will focus on Esperian, and she will be accompanied on stage by Beard. This 7:30 p.m. show is free to the public.

“At Saturday’s ‘LMR Live,’ we will dig even deeper into how one finds balance in life, professional and personal,” Balach said.

Balach also said she expects this to be a unique showing of “LMR Live,” since participants of this weekend’s Living Music Institute will be in the audience. She anticipates an engaging show with much more interaction than usual.

“I am thrilled to have Kallen back in Oxford as the featured guest artist for the inaugural Living Music Institute,” Balach said. “Her journey is relatable to anyone who has faced adversity. She is inspirational and to experience Kallen’s artistry is an absolute gift.”

Balach described Esperian as “inspirational” and “one of the leadings sopranos of our time.” It is significant to have an artist of Esperian’s caliber to share knowledge and experiences with the Living Music Institute participants and with Ole Miss students and faculty, she said.

UM Student Chosen for SEC Student Music Ensemble

Lazarrus Miller played piano during Football Championship festivities

Kirby Davis (left), of the University of Kentucky; David D’Angelo, University of Georgia; Erik Alvar, University of Florida; Lazarrus Miller, University of Mississippi; SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey; Xavier Scaife, Auburn University; Mason Soudelier, Louisiana State University; Ben Keith and Michael Pendowski, both from Auburn University, gather after their performance at the 2017 SEC Legends Dinner. Photo courtesy SECU

OXFORD, Miss. – Lazarrus Miller, a senior music performance major at the University of Mississippi, recently participated in the 2017 SEC Football Championship festivities in Atlanta as part of the conference’s Student Music Ensemble.

For the second year, the SEC Student Music Ensemble provided jazz music for the football championship activities, including for the SEC Legends Dinner and SEC Pregame Hospitality Party. The group was made up of six student musicians from league universities, including Auburn University, Louisiana State University and the universities of Florida and Kentucky.

Miller, from Shannon, was the group’s pianist. He was nominated for the ensemble by Michael Worthy, Ole Miss associate professor of music. Miller said he was “excited and delighted” when he found out he had been selected for the group.

“I feel like the music department has helped me mature as a musician,” Miller said. He explained that his versatility and flexibility, fostered by his professors, have made him a successful jazz musician.

In the improvisational spirit of jazz, the student musicians and directors, David D’Angelo of the University of Georgia and Michael Pendowski of Auburn University, met and rehearsed for the first time just hours before their first performance at the SEC Legends Dinner.

All the students were individually recognized by SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey following their performance at the dinner.

“It is quite an honor for Lazarrus to be chosen for the SEC Music Ensemble,” Worthy said. “Not only is this an incredible opportunity for him, but it reflects well on the music department and Ole Miss.

“We are very proud of Lazarrus and his talent.”

Music Students, Faculty Stand Out at Regional Competition

UM well-represented in final rounds of the National Associate of Teachers of Singing event

Among the group performing ‘Master Class’ at this year’s NATS competition are (from left) Erik Gudiel, Patricia O’Neill and Sandra Moon of Louisiana State University; Nancy Maria Balach and Amanda Johnston of UM; Susan Ruggiero from the University of Southern Mississippi; and Kyle Davis, a UM alumnus on the faculty at the University of Alabama. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Several University of Mississippi students fared well in the recent 2017 National Association of Teachers of Singing Southern Regional Competition in Hattiesburg, which draws voice teachers and students from universities, high schools and private studios in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Senior music major Lacey Hindman was a finalist and placed third in her category, Senior Women.

“I felt accomplished,” said Hindman, of Atoka, Tennessee. “Senior Women has always been filled with amazing talent and tough competition.”

Of more than 50 competitors in Hindman’s category, only 19 advanced to the semifinals and only five qualified for the finals.

“I cannot express the amount of support I have from the amazing music faculty,” Hindman said, crediting associate professors Nancy Maria Balach and Amanda Johnston with preparing her for the performance.

Balach noted how hard-working and dedicated Hindman is to her craft, saying that Hindman is the “whole package” when it comes to musical talent.

Six other music majors were semifinalists in their respective categories. They are: master’s students Melanie Culhane, from Cordova, Tennessee, and Caitlin Richardson, from Mahomet, Illinois, in the Younger Advanced Women category; Madilyn Morris, a freshman majoring in music from Pheba, Freshman Women category; Lawson Marchetti, a freshman music major from Jackson, Freshman Men category; Carley Wilemon, a sophomore music major from Aberdeen; Sophomore Women category; and Jocelyn Sanabria, a senior music major from Atoka, Tennessee, Senior Women and Upper College Music Theatre Women categories.

Lacey Hindman, a senior music major at UM, was a finalist in her division, Senior Women, and placed third overall at the 2017 NATS Southern Regional Competition. Submitted photo

Besides several student competitors, Ole Miss had three faculty members from the Department of Music serve as judges: Balach, Brad Robinson and Jos Milton, all associate professors. Cynthia Linton, an emerita faculty member, also helped judge the competition, and Johnston served as a collaborative pianist for the competition.

The competition provides many opportunities for the student performers, Balach said. They get to see how they stack up against other singers at their level, receive feedback from other teachers and get an opportunity to network.

“I am extremely proud of all of our students. They represented themselves and our university with great artistry, confidence and poise,” Balach said.

Several UM faculty members, students and alumni also were invited to perform the Tony Award-winning play “Master Class” at this year’s NATS competition. This production was a collaborative effort with Sandra Moon and Patt O’Neill, faculty members from Louisiana State University; Susan Ruggiero, a faculty member at the University of Southern Mississippi; and Kyle Davis, a UM alumnus who is on the faculty at the University of Alabama.

The show featured Balach and Johnston, along with student performers Culhane, Hindman and Sanabria.

The play was selected as a showcase event for this year’s competition after its October 2016 production with LSU and Theater Baton Rouge. It was produced by Ole Miss’ Living Music Resource, an effort to produce an online library of interviews and music, led by Balach and partially funded by a Southeastern Conference Travel Grant.

UM Professor Lectures on African Music at University of Georgia

George Dor invited as fall speaker for the Institute for African Studies

George Dor works to promote diversity through music research and education. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – George W.K. Dor, professor of music at the University of Mississippi, recently delivered the fall lecture for the University of Georgia’s Institute for African Studies.

Dor was invited as guest lecturer by Akinloye Ojo, the institute’s director. The institute highlights a different discipline each year for the lecture series, and this year’s focus was music.

“African studies is highly multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary,” Dor said. “I gave a lecture that emphasized the interplay between music and other domains of culture and disciplines.”

His talk covered a multitude of related themes, including diversity in African indigenous music cultures, how historical evidence can be derived from music, and the common features across different genres of African music despite their differences. It touched on links between music and diverse fields such as history, politics, religion, gender and ecology.

Dor, who also is the UM McDonnell-Barksdale Chair of Ethnomusicology, is known throughout the community as founder and director of the Ole Miss African Drum and Dance Ensemble.

Increasing awareness of cultural diversity is the focus of Dor’s creative works. He initiated and coordinated the Black History Month concert at UM, even composing music for it.

Widely known in his home country of Ghana as a composer, performer and teacher of Ghanaian music, Dor has composed more than 60 choral pieces, a symphonic suite and five one-movement orchestral works.

Dor said he was “honored, but humbled” to be invited to lecture at Georgia, and while on campus, he also was interviewed as part the Athens public radio station’s 20th anniversary of its “African Perspectives” program.

“Our music department has been honored by George Dor’s invitation to be the guest speaker for the University of Georgia’s Institute of African Studies fall lecture,” said Robert Riggs, chair of the UM Department of Music. “He is one of our many outstanding researchers, and I am confident that he made an inspiring presentation.”

UM Music Majors Fare Well in Statewide Competition

Christopher Scott won his category at the Mississippi Music Teachers National Association Competition

Adam Estes (left) congratulates Christopher Scott on Scott’s win in the Young Artist Solo Woodwind category at the Mississippi MTNA Competition. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Several University of Mississippi music majors competed at the annual Mississippi Music Teachers National Association Competition recently at Millsaps College in Jackson, with one student taking top honors in his category.

Christopher Scott, a senior music major, won the Young Artist Solo Woodwind Performance category. This win advances him to compete in the Southern Division MTNA Young Artist Woodwind Competition representing Ole Miss in January at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.

“I’m extremely excited to represent myself, the University of Mississippi music department and the state of Mississippi in a positive light,” said Scott, a New Albany native. “Winning the Young Artist Solo Woodwind Performance portion proved to me that hard work, consistency and determination does indeed pay off, and that is something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”

Scott performed four pieces during his winning performance, including works by Giovanni Benedetto Platti and Takashi Yoshimatsu.

“Every member of the music faculty here at the University of Mississippi has been valuable to helping me prepare for this audition,” Scott said. He particularly credited Adam Estes, assistant professor of music, and Stacy Rodgers, associate professor of music, with being significant in his growth and maturation as a musician.

Other institutions competing at the event were the University of Southern Mississippi, Mississippi State University and Jones County Junior College.

Besides Scott’s win, the Ole Miss Saxophone Quartet received an Honorable Mention in the Woodwind Chamber Music Competition, and Austin Brooks earned an Honorable Mention in the Senior Woodwind Solo Performance.

Estes said he believes that Scott and Brooks both peaked in their competition performances, and that the rest of the Ole Miss students who performed represented themselves and the university well.

“I am proud of all the students who competed, both those who received placings and those who did not,” Estes said. “For the students, receiving medals and honors help validate the work that they are doing.

“The goal of every competition is to win, but in my opinion, the process of preparing a full program of music: the day-in and day-out work of developing skills, score study, becoming a better ensemble mate, exploring and trying out new interpretive ideas, and learning more effective strategies in rehearsing with collaborators – this is the goal.”

Music Faculty Members Release Album

Trio explores compositions of François Rossé for new recording

UM music faculty members Adam Estes (left), Stacy Rodgers and Amanda Johnston have released a new album of music by French composer François Rossé. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Three University of Mississippi music faculty members have released a new album of material by French composer François Rossé.

Adam Estes, assistant professor of music, is the lead performer on saxophone, accompanied on piano by Stacy Rodgers, professor of music, and Amanda Johnston, associate professor of music. “François Rossé: Métissage” is on the MSR Classics record label.

Rossé is considered avant-garde because of his distinctive techniques for playing instruments that break from tradition. Knowledge of contemporary music and training is essential to perform Rossé’s work, Estes said.

“I have devoted much of my creative energy to exploring Rossé’s music,” Estes said. “I hope that as this music becomes more fully integrated into the saxophone repertoire, familiarity will allow audiences to experience the expressive power of these unique compositions.”

Recording is essential to music research and scholarship, and Rossé’s music is Estes’ primary research interest. Releasing an album of the composer’s music has been a longtime goal, Estes said.

Estes also had an opportunity to interview and collaborate closely with Rossé in efforts to better understand the work and assist other musicians to perform the “dramatic and demanding music,” he said.

This album is Estes’ fourth; he has done two solo recordings and two with his quartet, the Assembly Quartet. This is the first album that Estes and Johnston have recorded together, but the second between Estes and Rodgers.

“I am very excited about the release of our album and was honored to be asked to play two pieces by François Rossé,” Johnston said.

She typically performs with singers and enjoyed changing things up a bit to perform two pieces of Rossé’s works, Johnson said.

“It is always a pleasure working with Adam Estes, who is a consummate musician and exciting performer,” she said.

Estes and Johnston are also both part of the 2017-18 Southeastern Conference Faculty Travel Grant Program. They traveled to the University of South Carolina, where Estes graduated, to perform a guest artist recital in September.