From the Chair: Music@Webster

From the Chair of the Department of Music, Webster University in Saint Louis

Honors graduates

Department of Music faculty recently decided on departmental honors for graduating students. Here are some of the recipients at today’s convocation:

Three students were student teaching today, and one other grad student was teaching at his high school, and a couple of graduates from last semester couldn’t make it. But this is a fine crew, and we are quite proud!


Wet Ink

The third annual Wet Ink concert this evening was a delight from start to finish. Seven undergraduate composition majors teamed up with Chamber Project Saint Louis this year, culminating in an hour-long recital this evening.

The inventiveness and playfulness and depth of these works, from 18- to 22-year-old musicians, confounds me.

Four first-year composition majors, a sophomore, and two graduating seniors . . . .

I was blown away tonight.

My colleagues Kim Portnoy and David Werfelmann were proud composition teachers. And they should be!

My MDMT majors

We currently have five students at Webster working on the degree Bachelor of Music in Music Direction for Musical Theatre.

I head this program.

This summer, these wonderful students will be busy:

  • conducting Be More Chill at New Line Theatre in Saint Louis
  • MDing Sister Act at Grand Street Theatre in Helena, Montana
  • serving as Resident Assistant Music Director/Teaching Artist for Southeastern Summer Theatre Institute in Hilton Head, South Carolina
  • working on Mary Poppins and My Fair Lady at Ozark Actors Theatre in Rolla
  • MDing A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder at Faust Theatre in Kansas City
  • learning from the masters and assistant MDing in Italy.

Composition events

Last weekend I reflected on how special a place Webster is, and the lens was that of a composition recital.

But I’m struck by what a wonderful weekend we had for the whole music composition program.  Witness —

  • Wednesday night, senior songwriting major Annalyse Crowdus presented a senior recital that, according to a colleague, ‘knocked it out of the park’
  • Friday night, Student Songwriters Showcase concert
  • Saturday night, Hunter Johnson’s senior composition recital
  • Saturday night, senior Noah Valenti’s new work for piano was premiered by Big Muddy Dance Company at the Grandel,
  • performed by Son Pham, a first-year composition major whose primary instrument is piano
  • and on the same weekend, Noah Valenti’s incidental music for Photograph 51 was part of the Webster University Conservatory of Theatre Arts production of the show.


We have more composition events yet to come, including the culmination of the Wet Ink Project!


Love my work.

There are days when I really really really love my work.

Life at the office this week has not been especially slow, nor especially uneventful, but the last two days have made it especially meaningful.

I tell prospective students and parents that we are like a family. Our Department of Music is housed in an old family home. Faculty are directly involved in the lives and work of students. Students care for each other, and support each other. Alumni are engaged, present, interested.

Friday evening’s student songwriter showcase was standing-room-only with students, family, friends, and faculty. And the energy was kinetic. Songs shared personal stories and informed outlooks. This Songwriting program has grown much over the last year, if the concert was any indication.

Then came this evening. Hunter Johnson, who came to Webster from Orlando, programmed a senior composition recital of vocal, choral, and instrumental chamber music. Some funny. Some totally abstract. And some powerful, reflective of his distinct voice and the events and attitudes that inform his very existence.

Hunter, who is much loved, needed large forces this evening. I counted ten Webster Department of Music alumni on stage with him this evening. They answered the call to be in the family. These folks are now doing things like writing and programming music for video games; winning Metropolitan Opera competitions; heading to graduate school in sound design; running a concert hall; teaching at a middle school four hours away. In short, these alumni are doing exactly the kaleidoscope of work that we expect in the 21st century. And they appear to be loving what they are doing.

Hunter also enlisted the aid of more than a score of current students. All totaled, his throng of performers came from at least seven different states. He called on friends and classmates in music education, musical direction for musical theatre, music composition, performance, and the BA in Music program. They too had his back, gathered forces, and acted like the extended family that they are becoming.

I don’t know many music programs that are closely-knit as the Webster University Department of Music. Something in the air . . . in the faculty . . . in the bones of Thompson House . . . in the type of student we attract — something helps makes this alchemy happen. I’ve witnessed the result the last two evenings.

I’m not writing tonight about the music. That will need to take some time process. I am writing, though, about the people who make up this music department. The remembered voice of a mentor often rings in my mind: “At the end of the day, it’s all about the people.”

And I’m one proud and happy department chair.


Proud of this crew at their year-end showcase tonight!!

MI-19-120B DOM WUO_Choir April Concert

Keyboard performances

In the past few days, I have attended two keyboard performances.

Daniel Schene, Professor of Piano, was joined by friends including Assistant Professor Matt Pickart and Adjunct Professor Ken Kulosa for music of Mozart and Brahms.  This concert took place Sunday in Moore Auditorium.

chamber-music - 1

And then this evening I attended a graduate recital performed by Jae Park, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Master of Music in Church Music.

Jae’s recital was at Christ Church Cathedral (Episcopal).


I love my job!!

Gateway Concert

Two of our choirs performed this weekend Downtown at the Webster University Gateway Concert.

This performance celebrated the moon landing 50 years ago, and also contemporary society (a piece built on Twitter texts).

A good time was had by all!

Our three first-year students majoring in Music Direction for Musical Theatre helped stage the #twitterlieder.

Back to work

After five months of sabbatical, I return to work on Monday.

I’m ready.

My personal blog had a back-to-work posting on Friday.  Please take a look?