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Decoda Cello presents community engagement through music


The Decoda Cello Quartet is a part of the Decoda Ensemble, based in New York City.  The members of The Decoda Cello Quartet are highly accomplished professional musicians who perform in a variety of groups, tour, and participate in community enrichment and educational projects. They presented a workshop on community engagement through music and arts on Friday, January 20 in Cadek Recital Hall.

The video shows The Decoda Cello Quartet performing for UTC students and the public. Claire Bryant, a cellist in the Decoda, talks about her experience while performing and how music can make an impact on the community.

UTC senior Jonathan Bartholomew found the experience eye opening, saying, “This actually really opened my mind to a lot of more ideas about composing, as well as what I can do with music both socially and privately and just how I can open to the world with music and get everybody united.”

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Decoda Cello Quartet presents workshop on community engagement through music

The Decoda Cello Quartet will present a workshop on community engagement through music and the arts on Friday, January 20, at 4:30 p.m. in Cadek Recital Hall on the UTC campus. Admission is free and open to the campus and the public. The group will perform and will hold an open conversation about making a positive impact in communities through music. There will be time for questions from the audience as well.

The Decoda Cello Quartet is a part of the Decoda Ensemble, based in New York City. Its members are highly accomplished young professional musicians who perform in a variety of groups, tour, and participate in community enrichment and educational projects. They have also performed with numerous world-renowned soloists. The Cello Quartet members include Hamilton Berry, Claire Bryant, Yves Dharamraj, and Caitlin Sullivan.

This workshop is sponsored by the Holmberg Professor of American Music and the Department of Performing Arts. This group is in Chattanooga to be part of the String Theory concert series at the Hunter Museum of Art. More information on the members can be found here.


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Music’s first African American student looks back at a lifetime of musical achievement

johnny-malone-trumpet-sliderJohnny Malone ‘74, professional musician and songwriter, was seventeen when he started his educational career at UTC, then still the University of Chattanooga, as the first African American student in the Music Department.

“It was a challenge for us then. In 1967, there weren’t many black students in the school. But, I was used to being in situations like that. I played in youth orchestras in high school, and I was usually the only black student.”

For Malone, the biggest challenge he faced in coming to the University was the same challenge that students face today.


Johnny Malone in 1967

Johnny Malone in 1967

“It was a shock, coming from high school. College was more demanding, but there’s more freedom too. You have the freedom to succeed, but you’re also free to fall by the wayside. No one holds your hand and forces you to succeed.”

Malone had his heart set on getting away from his hometown to attend an out of state school.

“Me, being my rebellious self at that age, I tried to flunk out, thinking my dad would send me somewhere else. Well, he sent me somewhere alright – he sent me to work!”

Malone spent time working at Miller’s department store, before he came back to UTC at 19, ready to get down to business.

“It wasn’t a bad job. I didn’t want to follow money, though, I wanted to follow my passion, and that was music.”

Before Malone was a master of the keyboard, he used to practice in Cadek Hall when he thought it would be empty. “I didn’t want anyone to overhear me.”

On one such occasion, Malone overheard a phenomenal piano player. He followed the sound of the music to its source. “I looked through the window in the door and there was this skinny little red headed kid playing amazingly, just tearing it up. I tapped on the door and he nodded me in. I said, ‘Hey, man, that was great. Do you think you can help me work out some music I’ve got in my head?’”

Together, the pair collaborated to bring the tunes Malone had thought up to life on the piano.


The Marching Mocs on Chamberlain field in 1973

“Afterwards, he told me, ‘Hey, you’re a great songwriter!’ and I said, ‘No, I’m not a songwriter.’ Because at that time, I wasn’t good at writing out the notes on the page; I got a D in Sight Reading. He said to me, ‘You thought it up, didn’t you? Then you wrote it. And if you can write something like this, you could write music for a band.’”

Malone may have gotten a D in Sight Reading, but despite that, he ended up making a lifelong career out of music. When Malone’s band cut their first demo, it drew the attention of Elektra Records.

“This guy comes up to me at a bar in this fancy suit, telling me he’s from Elektra Records and they want to talk about hiring me. I told him, ‘No, you’re not. Get out of my face, I’m having a drink. Bye.’ He went back to his table with some other fancy looking men, they laughed a bit, and he comes back with a business card, and I’m like, ‘Wait, you are for real!’”

It turned out, however, that they were interested in hiring Malone for his songwriting – and only Malone.

“They wanted me as a writer, not my band, so I turned them down. Which was stupid!” laughed Malone. “It sounds morally great, but it was just me being young and dumb. If I’d gotten that job at the record company, I could have just hired them as a recording band and we could have stayed together that way!”

Johnny Malone's senior picture

Johnny Malone’s senior picture

Eventually, Malone moved to Los Angeles to pursue musical opportunities.

“I got to work with artists that I’d only ever dreamed about – that I’d listened to, but never thought I’d meet.”

After being in Los Angeles for only a year, Malone auditioned with Stevie Wonder.

“Stevie’s office called me! They heard about me through my acquaintance, whose sister was dating Stevie’s cousin. This was before the days of being discovered on Youtube, but you have to get lucky either way. I got a lot of breaks most people never get.”

Malone auditioned with Stevie Wonder while he was working on his Hotter than July album. It was 1 AM before Malone got to meet the famous musician, which gave him plenty of time to get cold feet.

“I was thinking, oh my god, this is Stevie Wonder’s studio! And I was saying, ‘Thank you, you’ve all been so nice, but I don’t think I should be here, I’m going to go.’ Then Stevie came in, and I heard his voice and I recognized him before I ever saw him, and he said, ‘Come on, Johnny!’ He liked my playing, but I wasn’t what he was looking for. I wasn’t good enough, yet.”

Malone was included in several videos featuring artists like Ray Charles, Manhattan Transfer and F-MOB. He also had a brief stint in an artist development program at Motown as a songwriter. He also had one of his songs recorded and produced by the then hottest producer of the eighties for R&B, Leon Sylvers. Malone recently recorded a contemporary jazz song co-written with Sheldon Reynolds, former member of Earth, Wind and Fire.

Johnny Malone playing the French horn in 2015

Johnny Malone playing the French horn in 2015

Eventually, Malone’s music career came full circle when he began teaching, which had been his goal when he started his music degree at UTC. He started off substitute teaching, and then became a high school band director in 2002.

“I had planned to be a band director when I started college in 1967, but those aren’t the opportunities that presented themselves to me. I am where I am because of UTC. The seed was planted at Riverside High School, watered at UTC, and bloomed when I moved to L.A. I’ve been so lucky to have a successful professional career doing what I love.”

When he’s in Chattanooga, Malone still makes a point of visiting the UTC band. He likes to chat with current students and sit in with the jazz band.

“It was a big deal to me when I saw myself on the wall of fame in the Music Department. One of the kids asked me, did you go here? And I said, yeah, this is me right here in this picture! He said, ‘That was you?!’ and he ran down the hall to grab the other kids to show them. They were so excited, and that meant a lot to me.”

Malone semi-retired in 2007, though he still stays active in music.

“I’ve been playing for forty years now, but I’m still always trying to improve. I like to say I’m a blue collar musician – a working musician. The music was always more important to me than fame. You know, I’ve worked in music my whole life, and I’ve worked with a lot of famous people. I’m not famous, but I’ve got a lifetime of musical achievement, and that’s more valuable to me.”

UPDATED 12/24/16

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Musicians raise awareness for music in therapy with Chamber Music for Body and Soul IV

Several leading regional musical organizations will collaborate in a unique chamber music event on November 18, 7:00 P.M. in UTC’s. Musicians from the UTC Department of Performing Arts, Huntsville Symphony Orchestra (HSO), and the non-profit organization Music Therapy Gateway In Communications (MTGIC) will combine their talents in a concert designed to educate and entertain the audience on the positive therapeutic outcomes for motor, speech, and cognitive challenges utilizing music as a direct conduit into the brain.

A pre-concert lecture is scheduled at 7:00 P.M., followed by a 7:30 concert featuring Olivier Messiaen’s remarkable composition, Quartet for the End of Time. The event is supported by a grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission to MTGIC as part of their 2016-17 Arts Build Communities grant cycle.

Dr. Nikolasa Tejero's Headshot

Dr. Nikolasa Tejero

Pianist and MTGIC Executive Director Dr. Martha Summa-Chadwick will be joined by UTC professor Dr. Nikolasa Tejero on Clarinet, HSO concertmaster Mark Reneau on violin, and Heather Anderson on cello for the performance.

The year 2016 marks the 75th anniversary of the premiere of Messiaen’s Quartet, which was composed and premiered in a prisoner-of- war camp during WWII. The unusual scoring of piano, cello, violin, and clarinet was a result of the limitations of instruments and musicians that could be found at the POW camp. It will be the featured work following a brief demonstration of the more public facade of musical entertainment in war-torn Europe during 1941, including Strauss waltzes and Weill cabaret songs. The Quartet’s structural design includes qualities that are musical, physiological, and also mystical based on Messiaen’s personal belief structure.

Messiaen had synesthesia, a condition affecting 1 in 2000 people that involves a fundamental jumbling of the sensory system; he could see sound and hear color. Compositional techniques in the Quartet are influenced by this rare physiological ability to transcribe sound into colors, and also his intense faith in the Catholic Church. The reflection on “time” illuminated in the Quartet allowed Messiaen to create the fundamental connection that would link all of his beliefs; on hearing the work, the concert audience will understand different approaches of how music can influence humanity.

This event is free of charge and open to the public. Organizations interested in learning more about biomedical music via MTGIC’s free concert or lecture series can contact Martha Summa-Chadwick at www.mtgic.org or at her personal website www.marthasumma.com.

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Dr. Jonathan McNair, Finalist for National Music Award

Dr. Jonathan McNair was recently announced as a finalist in Composition-Orchestra Music, professional division, with The American Prize for his Hopyard Overture.

McNair, UC Foundation Professor and Coordinator of Music Theory and Composition for the Department of Music, was named Tennessee Composer of the Year for 2008 by the Tennessee Music Teachers Association. His music has debuted on international stages in Brazil, Germany, Puerto Rico, and England to name a few.

“I seek to compose music that is expressive of musical values which can be known and felt,” explains McNair in his artist’s statement with American Composers Forum.

The American Prize is a national, non-profit competition series that recognizes “the very best” artists in the performing arts.

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