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Professor finds unique method to improve musician health

As a music teacher for more than 25 years, Dr. Kevin Ford can tell when something is not quite right during a student performance. It may be in the way a note sounds or how a student holds his or her instrument. After all these years, the UC Foundation professor of music still notices the little things and he knows those little things can make or break a performer.

He had a graduate student who tensed up while she was conducting. Ford could see it in her body and could hear how it affected the music. Ford tried traditional methods to remedy it, but the tension kept returning. Looking for a unique solution, he turned to his wife, Allyson, a UTC alumna and certified practitioner in the Feldenkrais method, to work with his student.

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UTC music professor delivers keynote address at national music symposium

Dr. William R. Lee

Dr. William R. Lee, professor emeritus of music and former coordinator of music education at UTC, recently gave the keynote address at the Oklahoma City Symposium on the History of Music Education.

The symposium was a national conference sponsored by the National Association for Music Education and its History Research Special Interest Group.

Lee, recently inducted into the Tennessee Music Education Association Hall of Fame, spoke on the future of historical research in music education, including “Lowell Mason, the Cherokee Singing Book, and the Missionary Ethic,” his work on Cherokee music accumulation by the Oklahoma Historical Society.

His research often focuses on the history of music education with an emphasis on the 19th and early 20th centuries. He has published extensively, including 15 entries in the New Grove Dictionary of American Music. He also is Book Review-Media Editor of the Journal of Historical Research in Music Education and is a member of the National Book Review Circle, an organization of published reviewers and editors.


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Making music with light: Chemistry student spends summer researching the photoacoustic effect

Rachel Peters is making music with a laser.

As a chemistry major entering her senior year, Peters and Dr. Han Park, assistant professor of chemistry, are researching what is called the photoacoustic effect.

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Music teachers fine-tune their skills at Kodaly Institute

If you go
What: Kodaly Institute Closing Concert
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, June 29
Where: Cadek Recital Hall
Admission: Free

Emily Halbert stands in front of the class, hands gently sweeping back and forth, up and down, as the class sings in graceful harmony.

Her movements are precise, subtle and indispensable. They telegraph instructions to the singers on volume, tempo and melodic phrasing as they perform a choral interpretation of “Hava Nashira,” a Jewish folk song.

Lamar Robertson stands behind Halbert, gently adjusting her arm to different positions while talking quietly or, as he jokingly says later to another student, “whispering sweet nothings in your ear.”

Lamar Robertson helps Emily Halbert adjust her arm to the correct conducting posture.

“That was wonderful,” he tells Halbert when she’s finished. “I like what you did at the end. You were planting more on the floor; in the beginning you were moving and that instills insecurity.”

Halbert, who graduated from Lee University in 2015 with a degree in music education and an emphasis on vocals, says courses like the one on conducting “are really great because you always want to continue learning.”

She and 18 other students are at UTC for three weeks, taking classes in the Kodaly (pronounced KO-dai) Institute. Most are already music teachers or recent teaching graduates, but all came to improve their music skills and take them back to school.

“Everything’s that learned makes them stronger musicians and that is what’s really good for the children, for the students,” says Lee Harris, chair of the Music Division in the Department of Performing Arts.

Four days a week through June 30, six teachers from Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Louisiana and other states are leading classes in conducting, singing, music-teaching methods and other subjects.

Robertson, for instance, is a retired elementary school teacher from Louisiana. Another instructor, Michael Perryman, now teaches at Ooltewah Elementary School and is in his fourth year at UTC’s Kodaly Institute.

Students in the Kodaly Institute practice on Sing-Play in which they sing in one range and play in another.

“We make sure students get their money’s worth,” Harris says.

The program is named after Hungarian composer, musician and teacher Zoltan Kodaly who, in 1935, began formulating a set of principles that can help with music education.

“Music is a spiritual food for everybody. So I studied how to make more people accessible to good music,” he once said.

Kodaly courses are taught over the summer in colleges and universities worldwide. This is the 17th year that UTC has hosted the institute and it has been endorsed by the Organization of American Kodaly Educators.

“If you can say that your Kodaly-certified, the main thing is it’s an indication of the quality of the instruction for the students that you’re teaching,” Harris says.

Getting schooled

Students warm up their voices before a morning singing class.

In the Conducting class, several students stand in front of the class and lead it through “Hava Nashira.”

“So if you did not conduct ‘Hava Nashira’ yesterday, today is your lucky day, OK?” Perryman says as the students laugh, some nervously.

Robertson listens to each student’s performance, giving praise and suggestions afterwards, using such terms as “phrasing” and “pulsing” and “legato.” One of his suggestions is to “do it faster just for kicks.”

After those students are done, others come to the piano to sing and play at the same time, which sounds like something every piano bar performer knows how to do.

In this case, however, they sing in one range, say mezzo-soprano, but play in another. The technique is called — obviously — Sing-Play, but the combination of voice, hands and brain don’t always sync up.

For a choral director, however, “the ability to work with two different parts is really a valuable skill in terms of conductor becoming familiar with a score, imbibing the music in a deep way,” Harris says.

Halberthas been hired as choir director as Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy. She says she enrolled in Kodaly to “fine-tune” her skills.

“It makes you a better teacher overall, to kind of think on your toes,” she says.


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Longtime UTC professor, musician Booker T. Scruggs dies

Along with being a talented clarinetist, Booker T. Scruggs was an adjunct professor of sociology at UTC from 1969 until his death on Monday.

Booker T. Scruggs, a longtime member of the UTC community and the Chattanooga music world, died Monday. He was 74.

He fell ill on Sunday while playing with the Booker T. Scruggs Ensemble at St. Luke United Methodist Church and passed away in Memorial Hospital

Along with being a talented clarinetist, Booker T. Scruggs was an adjunct professor of sociology at UTC from 1969 until his death on Monday.Scruggs was an adjunct professor of sociology in the Department of Social, Cultural, and Justice Studies from 1969 until his death.

A talented clarinetist, he released many albums and played in several groups over the years. He has performed at dozens of jazz and gospel events in the Chattanooga area as well as performances across the U.S. and in Europe.

He was a 1960 graduate of Howard High School and was one of the Howard students who staged sit-ins at lunch counters around Chattanooga that same year.

“Booker T. Scruggs was dedicated to education and social justice,” says Dr. Pamela Ashmore, department head and professor of biological anthropology in Social, Cultural, and Justice Studies.

Several people have left comments on his Facebook page.

  • “Rest and take your place with the great musicians. Chattanooga is a better place because of you.”
  • “You were loved by many people and you will be in our hearts forever.”
  • “A class act and role model I’ll always admire.”

In 2006, Scruggs retired as director of Upward Bound at UTC after working with it for 36 years. The federally funded program helps high school students from low-income families prepare for college with the goal of increasing the number of students who graduate from high school then enroll in college.

From 1970 until 2016, Scruggs also was producer and host of “Point of View,” a local public affairs broadcast that is the longest-running, locally-produced TV show in the world.

Among his many awards were:

  • The Local Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Negro Musicians Inc.
  • The M.L. King Jr., Birthday Celebration Community Service Award from The Unity Group.
  • Inducted into the African American Educators Hall of Fame by Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
  • Lifetime member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

Information about funeral services will be shared with the UTC community when they are available.


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