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OBU Division of Music Plans for Future, Announces New Structure

May 22, 2015

The new mission and structure intends to build on the decades of success in music training at OBU, while adapting to meet current and future needs of music students. It will also improve the university's ability to successfully meet increased needs for musicians in business and production by offering related degrees, minors and programming, according to Dr. Ken Gabrielse, dean of the Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts.

The new mission of the Division of Music is "to educate outstanding artists who will influence and enrich individuals, schools, churches, and communities around the world by glorifying Christ through music. We realize this mission through music study and performance designed to develop quality core musicianship, creativity, and collaborative skills."

"The impetus for these changes comes from the ongoing work of the faculty to continuously improve our program for our students," said Dr. Randolph Johnson, chair of the Division of Music and assistant professor of music theory. "It also stems from the ongoing relationship between the Division of Music and our accrediting body, the National Association of Schools of Music."

Following the recommendation from NASM to revise the division's mission statement, external advisors from another university and from the music industry were consulted to provide input on best practices and industry needs. The need to restructure the division into departments became evident during the process.

"The Division of Music faculty members have spent over a year studying the changes affecting arts programs in our state and region, and that study has resulted in a new mission statement and new initiatives - such as this new re-structuring in the division," said Dr. Jim Vernon, professor of music.

For many years, faculty members were organized into areas of discipline, such as voice, keyboard, instrumental, choral and other areas, but will now be structured into four interdisciplinary departments: core musicianship, music education and teaching, music and worship ministry, and music technology and production.

"The changes will benefit students and the Division as a whole by creating more collaboration between departments, affecting better communication, and allowing faculty and staff in the Division to use their complete skill-sets more effectively," Vernon said.

This structure is designed to enrich the student experience, to deliver the highest quality music education and training possible, to expand career outcomes and to enhance opportunities for graduate music study.

"The new structure will help support us as we prepare today's graduates for their future service and for their work in rapidly evolving and newly emerging music vocations," Johnson said.

Another intended outcome of the process was to revise and strengthen the division's two primary music performance degrees - the Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance and the Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance.

"We want our students who accept the challenge of the increased musical content of these degrees to have the opportunity to more fully engage our liberal arts heritage," Gabrielse said. "The faculty will encourage elective studies that will help prepare students for vocational opportunities while maintaining strong standards that prepare students for graduate study as well."

The faculty will place additional emphasis on strengthening the Bachelor of Music Arts degrees allowing for specialized study through guided musical disciplines. The music faculty will likewise explore music degrees that allow for elective study in digital media, graphic design, audio production, business and marketing, psychology and more.

"These changes will lead to new courses, degree opportunities and performance opportunities designed to educate musicians who will not only excel in their musicianship, but who will also be adaptable to the many changes occurring in musical vocations," Johnson said. "Not only do all musicians need to be strong performers, teachers, and scholars, but they also need to understand the impact of technology as well as the impact of economic pressures and changing demographics."

Another outcome from this process has been clarification of the academic and professional qualifications necessary for open faculty positions.

"We know we need to find teachers who can help our students explore commercial voice, vocal jazz and musical theater," Gabrielse said. "We will continue our strong emphasis on classical training utilizing art song and opera literature."

Under the revised structure, Gabrielse, as dean, will serve as the director of performance programming. Johnson will continue to serve as the chair of the division of music and will fill the role of director of degrees and standards. The four departments will be structured as follows:

The department of core musicianship will be chaired by Dr. Jim Vernon, professor of music. Members of the department will include Johnson, degrees and standards: Drs. Michael Dean and Mary Chung, keyboard studies; Drs. Louima Lilite, Kathy Scherler and two additional new faculty members, vocal studies; Ryan Meeks, Justin Pierce, and Johnson, instrumental studies; and Dr. Keith Whitmore, accompanist.

The department of music education and teaching will be chaired by Johnson. Members of the department include Scherler, degrees and standards; Dr. Brent Ballweg, vocal performance programming; Meeks, instrumental performance programming; and Conchita Hansford, preparatory director.

The department of music and worship ministry will be chaired by Gabrielse. Members of the department include Dr. Lee Hinson , degrees and standards; Lilite, vocal performance programming; and Chung, instrumental performance programming.

The department of music technology and production will be chaired by Dr. Peter Purin, assistant professor of music theory. Members of the department include Purin, degrees and standards; a yet undetermined faculty member for vocal performance programming; and Pierce, instrumental performance programming.