While Mirae Kim was a graduate student in Pittsburgh, a conversation with a friend clarified her future research interests. As Kim describes it, her friend said “My mom always makes a donation every year to the Carnegie Museum, though she rarely visits it.” When Kim asked why, her friend answered, “Well, she is a Pittsburgher, and she feels like it’s just ‘our thing.’” Kim realized, “So, as a community member, she feels like she is obliged to make some gift every year; it’s just something that she has to do. And I just got so fascinated: why do people make [these gifts]? Why do they feel they need to do that?” It was a practice she had not seen growing up in South Korea or studying abroad in New Zealand. In the United States, however—particularly Pittsburgh, a city known for charitable giving—Kim was intrigued by patrons making small donations—under $100—to arts organizations. Moreover, arts organizations’ share of revenue from individual donors was huge: “It wasn’t just a small amount,” Kim emphasizes, “but often fifty percent or more of their revenue stream.” She wanted to learn more: why do people make these gifts? What is the role of small gifts? What kind of contribution does the nonprofit sector make to the community?
Born in Equatorial Guinea, Dr. Stephanie Shonekan is an ethnomusicologist who grew up during the height of funk music and television shows like Soul Train and the Beverly Hillbillies. Living in Nigeria during times of dramatic change, Dr. Shonekan learned about the world through music. As a young girl she heard many types of music on the radio and developed a deep interest in music and the cultures that create it, including Afrobeat, American country and black soul among others. Now an Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology and Black Studies, Dr. Shonekan has built a career in academia that combines her interest in culture with her love of music, studying identity and what can be learned through experiencing music and learning about the lives that create it. Today, her office is decorated with iconic black musicians including Paul Robeson, Louis Armstrong, and Bob Marley – voices that echo across time, space and genre. While it can be difficult to come to an understanding of “the heart” of a culture, “music,” Dr. Shonekan says, “can take us there.”
From blues and punk to rock and roll, Arthur White has at one point in his life played in nearly every kind of band, but now he believes he has finally found “the perfect gig.” As the director of MU’s Jazz Performance Studies program and Assistant Professor in the School of Music, White now handles all things jazz at MU.
“There’s nothing quite like the high of hearing one of your own pieces played,” MU Professor of Music W. Thomas McKenney admits, “but to me the most important thing is the active, creative process itself.” Having internalized his teacher’s advice that music must be a balance of emotion and intellect, and that if you have too much of either one “things get out of whack,” McKenney focuses on both levels. His goal is to assure that “structurally and formally, a piece is going to work.”
Between teaching viola individually and in groups, directing the Missouri String Project, and playing professionally with several internationally renowned chamber music groups, music professor Leslie Perna keeps very busy. Yet you have the distinct impression in listening to her talk that all of her work is thoroughly enjoyable.
Dr. Kim gives a few examples of how arts organizations have built community engagement programs.
Dr. Kim traces the shift in focus for arts organizations from education to broader definitions of community engagement.
Dr. Kim relates how she became interested in studying nonprofit arts organizations, and describes the different ways the nonprofit sector and nonprofit organizations function in the United States.
Dr. Kim describes the interest in the arts field about civic engagement, and discusses her research on arts organizations and community engagement.
Julia Gaines introduces us to the marimba and its appeal.
Schwarz is known for playing five minutes of classical music before each of his classes. He believes it can teach students about beauty.
Dr. Higgins discusses her background in folklore studies and how she came to be director of the Missouri Folk Arts Program.
Dr. Shonekan’s current research examines how African youth have made musical hybrids by incorporating elements of American hip hop. Dr. Shonekan examines how this process influences the identities of young Africans, and discusses a concerning trend towards emulation.
Dr. Shonekan tells us about her collaborative work with African American Opera singer Camilla Williams. This collaboration served as the field work for Dr. Shonekan’s dissertation, and later culminated in her full-length biography The Life of Camilla Williams, African American Classical Singer and Opera Diva .
Dr. Shonekan tells us about her interest in music and culture, and explains how this interest impacted her studies and lead to a career in ethnomusicology.
Dr. Shonekan explains how her teaching and reasearch enhance each other, and talks about how her own cultural background provides a unique platform for teaching about music and identity.
Everyone has songs that stick with us and hold special importance. As a side project on her personal webpage StephanieShonekan.com, Dr. Shonekan interviews people about their own favorite song, and asks when it came into their life and why it lives on.
On November 20, 2013, as part of a series of educational events on American music, Dr. Shonekan hosted the event Hip Hop 101 at the Blue Note. The event included performances of spoken word poetry, spinning, hip hop music, and freestyle rap.
Originally a music major, Bartholow turned to social psychology after realizing his desire to learn “what makes people tick.”
White and the jazz students we interviewed share their stories about becoming interested in jazz. Reflecting on what jazz means to him today, saxophonist Jacob Hallman describes the ability to reach people through music: “It gives you an opportunity to communicate in something of a new language. You can say things through jazz that might not be as clear if you were trying to articulate them with words."
From selecting charts and arrangements to planning the nitty-gritty details of rehearsals, considerable work goes into preparing for concert performance. “Sight reading is a very important skill,” remarks former director Leibinger, “and the more you sight read, the better you are going to get.” Being able to take a brand new score, and breathe life into the notes on the page is a wondrous thing. After a few weeks, they begin focusing on the harder parts. As concert day nears, the director and band must quickly determine how to spend the remaining practice time.
A uniquely American art form, jazz grew out of many musical developments around the turn of the last century. What most sets jazz apart from other kinds of music is its complex improvisational content. Percussionist Lloyd Warden suggests that, if done right, jazz can express emotions better than the spoken word. “When you hear Charlie Parker play the alto saxophone or hear Ella Fitzgerald sing,” he explains, “the emotions are condensed and presented in a way that is a lot more accurate than just a conversation, reading a book, or watching a movie.”
From sight-reading practice to concert performance, we trace a jazz composition to its final destination at the Missouri Theatre with former director Doug Leibinger and guest saxophonist Ron Dziubla.
Another way that Leong has dealt with mixed media is through his work Spiritual Transformations, a collaborative art form that combines animated video of his painted images with contemporary music. He creates the artwork, while MU professor Thomas McKenney composes the music by using software that generates sounds from images.
In this segment, faculty members talk about how their research and creative activity contribute to better teaching, as well as the relationship between these two aspects of their work. Frequently, the two endeavors intersect, profitting both. Carmen Chicone remarks, “If you are actively involved in your subject, you’re bound to be a much better teacher.”
Whether their work seeks to counter domestic violence and ethnic genocide, identify cancer treatments, or employ literature and music to understand humanity, these MU faculty describe in their own words why this work is important to society.
When asked about why they were drawn to this area of research or creative activity, MU faculty provide interesting and compelling responses. In some cases, they continued in school because the drive to learn new things was so great, because family provided a sense of identity and career direction, or because of initial interest in a related field. In other cases, they stumbled upon the field quite by accident. Regardless of the reason, the passion they hold for their work is obvious.
Taan gestures are a fraternal fluctuation used by Indian classical singers. Western classical singers tend to use involuntary mechanisms for vibrato that require very little voluntary control and more breath support. Taan gestures are voluntarily controlled, and can be used rapidly or slowly depending on the singer’s emotions.
Langen describes the rewards of two collaborative projects: Eight Twentieth-Century Russian Plays (2000) is an anthology of Russian plays that he translated and edited with Justin Weir. He also worked with his brother, Jesse Langen, examining how the music by Russian composer Dmitry Shostakovich drew upon the poems of Alexander Blok.
Research for composer Thomas McKenney often takes the shape of such activities as score studies. That is, before McKenney begins to write a piece, he examines what other composers have done. While research informs his creative process, helping to get the creative juices flowing, McKenney then strives to put aside the research and focus on what he wants to do with his own composition.
Miller discusses some of his original works in costume design, painting and music composition.
Watch Perna in a short viola performance.
Perna’s recent work with the Concordia String Trio is now in its fifth season. The challenge and excitement is in playing 21st century music commissioned by living composers and being able to work directly with the composers themselves.
The Missouri String Project, which Perna directs, provides outreach to the community and valuable teaching experience for music majors.
Perna discusses what it means to teach music in a group context at Mizzou.
Perna discusses how teaching others about music is her part of moving humankind forward.
Considering the universal drive to make music, Perna appreciates the magic of bringing music to life.
Perna found herself drawn to viola performance, and especially chamber music, because of the collaborative and democratic nature of the music-making process.
The Esterhàzy Quartet, the string quartet with whom Perna performs chamber music, focuses particularly on work from contemporary living composers. The Esterhàzy Quartet established residency at the Berklee College of Music in Boston six years ago, where they experience the magic of the collaborative process while working with the best student composers.