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That’s what Lee Day is in a nutshell: A glimpse of life at Lee University, including financial aid, class selection, Greek clubs, academic organizations, community service, sports teams, music ensembles, worship opportunities…and much, much more. Don’t miss the next “visit day” at Lee University on April 3-4, 2020!
Darlia Conn, one of the School of Music’s longest working accompanists, is retiring. We reached out and asked her a few questions about her time at Lee and this is what she had to say:
“I started working in the Department of Music at Lee College many years ago when Dr. David Horton was the Chair and we were located in an old World War II relic in the space that is right across from the current Deacon Jones Dining Hall. He asked me to teach non-music majors who wished to play the piano. That is where it all began. I had earlier taught piano lessons in a private studio in Cleveland and was myself a graduate of the department.
About the same time, I began accompanying for the occasional vocal student in Mrs. Horton’s studio. Accompanying had always been my first love. Memorization is not necessary, and it is a less solitary occupation. I also love the wide range of music that you get to practice. As a student, accompanying had provided my work-study opportunity. It became my main focus after I completed a Master’s degree at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville in 1995. That was the Fall that we opened the new Curtsinger Building.
As I am married to Paul Conn, president of Lee for the past 34 years, all of Lee University has also been my life’s occupation. However, being part of the School of Music for more than 30 years has given me a home on campus. Our faculty and students are the ones I know the best and with whom I have been able to share life. It has been such a privilege! I have been an advocate for the School of Music wherever I go and will continue to do so.
Having officially retired and moved out of my studio, I will still stay involved with music at Lee University, not because it is required of me, but because it is my first love. For all the music majors at Lee, my advice is to work hard and learn to listen with your heart as well as your ears. You are the blessed ones who can make music your life’s work.”
Thank you for all of your love and contributions to this school. You surely helped make it the special place that it is!
Lauren Mills, a junior music education student, has been selected as a state representative for TMEA! To fully understand this honor, we asked Lauren to explain it herself.
“From June 23-25 (Lord willing), I’ll be traveling to DC with three other collegiate representatives from the Tennessee Music Education Association to attend the 2020 NAfME Collegiate Advocacy Summit “Hill Day”. During this event, we will receive advocacy and leadership training that will be put to use on the last day when we meet with the Senators and Congressmen of Tennessee advocating for music funding and support on a legislative level.”
But that isn’t all!
Lauren was also selected as this year’s Presser Scholar for the School of Music. The Presser Scholar is awarded to a music major entering their senior year, recognizing them for their dedication and excellence in the field of music.
Both of these are huge honors, and we are so proud of you Lauren! Thank you for showing excellence in the School of Music!
This month’s alumni spotlight goes to Dr. Ryan Fisher, the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of Memphis. As busy as his life is, he put aside some time for some questions!
Q: What is it like to be an associate dean?
R: It is a tremendous honor to serve as associate dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts at the University of Memphis. I have gained so much knowledge and respect for the various disciplines represented in our college – architecture, art, communication and film, journalism and strategic media, theatre and dance, and my home unit, the School of Music. With over 1800 students and 150 faculty and staff, our college is extremely diverse and plays an important role on our campus and in the broader Memphis community. Our faculty represents some of the brightest and most talented scholars and artists in the profession, and our students and alumni are positively impacting their communities and achieving great things. It is exciting to have my finger on the pulse of all that is happening in the college and university and a tremendous privilege to know my thoughts and efforts are influencing policy and practices that directly impact our students, faculty, and staff.
Q: How did Lee help you get to where you are now?
R: First, Lee established the foundation of my knowledge and skills in the field of music and, more specifically, music education. Is it at Lee where my passion for impacting the world through music was ignited. My professors at Lee provided the tools I needed to become an artist and advocate for the importance of the arts in education and society. That passion continues to drive my efforts in advocating for the importance of the arts as an essential component of our university’s diverse offerings, and promoting the power and influence of the arts to positively impact and change a community. Memphis is known as a music city, but many may not know that our cultural industries have been central to the development of numerous arts districts throughout the city that are thriving with independent restaurants, small businesses, and arts organizations.
Q: How has music education shaped your life?
R: Music education has allowed me to see the beauty and diversity of the world. My countless hours of individual practice, ensemble rehearsals, and academic music study have enhanced my character and leadership skills. Because of my musical training, I have developed the skills to plan and execute large-scale events and create complex policies that consider potential impacts on programs and groups of people. I also have the self-discipline and perserverence needed to complete difficult tasks. The creative components of music-making have also influenced by ability to dream and vision for the various organizations I have been fortunate to serve.
Q: What is your favorite memory from your time at Lee University?
R: While I was at Lee, I had the privilege of being in the Lee Singers, Symphonic Band, Wind Ensemble (as a founding member), and Pi Kappa Pi. I made such incredible memories in all of these organizations and established life-long relationships with men and women who are now impacting the world and achieving great things in their respective disciplines. I was gifted to study with fine teachers and musicians who patiently mentored me and provided me wonderful opportunities to develop my craft while molding my character. My fondest memories from Lee come from the numerous tours and performances the Lee Singers executed across the United States, as well as China and the UK. As a country boy from a small town in northeast Texas, I would have never imagined the places I would visit or the diverse people I would encounter during my time in Singers. Those opportunities shaped the man I am today and opened my eyes to see the world in a different way. Because of those life-changing experiences, I learned to be more tolerant of people who do not look like me or share my same experiences AND to love “the least of these”.
Dr. Ron Brendel has been on sabbatical this semester, and was excited to talk to us about it and some other big news!
Q: How has sabbatical been for you?
R: It has been a welcomed change of pace…I think I’ve been at this higher ed thing for 36 years, so it was good to take time away for a project, and just a sort of mind-clearning break. The whole paradigm shift with the global health issue caused some unforeseen challenges, but I have managed to do some of what I intended back in January.
Q: You were just accepted the position of Director of Graduate Studies in Music! What are you looking forward to the most?
R: This is a position I did not really go seeking, but have been thinking about administrative work for a few years, so when it was presented, after a few days of thought and prayer, I accepted. In a way, I’m looking forward to learning something new about the inside workings of the academy, and more specifically, to trying to facilitate some tightening up of degree programs, and doing some degree assessment. The bottom line, though, is to try to always have the student as the main motivation in any decisions or changes that may be made.
Q: Have you come up with the title for the book you’re writing during your sabbatical?
R: It changed a little from my proposal to when I actually submitted the idea to the publisher, but at the moment it is “Singing Britten: Suggestions for Tenors”
Q: What is one thing you would tell seniors graduating this May?
R: Without question, this is the hardest question to answer….and if I only get one “thing to tell seniors” it would be to stay grounded in the Truth of Jesus Christ. My life verse is Philippians 4:8-9. If your mind is firmly on Christ, everything else is secondary. Everything.
We can’t wait to see you back at Lee in your new role!
Since COVID-19 has put a stop to most events, many vocal students were concerned that the National Association of Teachers of Singing’s yearly competition would not take place. However, through the use of virtual auditions, students were still able to compete. This year, we have two semifinalist coming from Lee University, Senior Libby Clark and Junior Rose Livingston. We had a chance to ask them a few questions about online auditions.
Q: How was your experience competing, particularly through Zoom?
R: I was actually able to film videos of my repertoire and submit them through YouTube links. I am so thankful that I was still able to compete despite the unusual circumstances! My choir director from my home church accompanied me and my brother filmed the videos for me. It was a great learning experience working with others on the spur of the moment to accomplish something in a short amount of time. I really couldn’t have done it without the help of others!
L: My experience competing through video had its pros and cons. I was able to relax more while I sang and take the time to prepare mentally for each piece, because it was not a live audition. I do feel, however, that a performance or experience can be cheapened when it is not experienced live and in person.
Q: How has this competition enhanced your learning experience?
R: I’ve always wanted to try a competition but have never gotten the opportunity until now, so I jumped at the chance! This competition was not only a fun goal toward which to work, it was also a rewarding learning experience. It helped me to focus my attention on aspects of my performance that do not come naturally to me. I concentrated on improving my interpretation of the music through my body language and motions. I was also able to gain insight about my performance through comments the judges wrote; this is so helpful in learning and growing!
L: This competition always enhances my learning because with each audition, you are given written feedback from adjudicators who have never heard you sing before! This is always really informative and useful because it is unbiased advice on how you can improve as an individual performer.
Q: How did Lee help you to be successful in this competition?
R: The most significant way that Lee has helped me to succeed is by creating a great environment of love and encouragement. This encouragement comes not only from the faculty but also from students. I am so grateful to those who have prepared me throughout the school of music by their instruction, guidance, and support, especially Mr. Deaton, Dr. Lee, and Ms. Wickes!
L: Lee helped me greatly! My vocal coach and voice teacher were extremely supportive in the application process for the competition. Without them, I would not have had the time or resources to do well and succeed!