When Nicholas Gunty and Brian Powers put their songs and voices together, there is a delicate and powerful magic that commands the room to attention. The multi-instrumentalist indie-folk duo is known as Frances Luke Accord, and they are what NPR’s Mountain Stage calls “the definition of lean-in music.” Rich, up-close tenor harmonies lend their timeless songwriting an urgency that is compared to Simon & Garfunkel, Bon Iver, and Jose Gonzalez.
Our February Student Spotlight this year goes to Tyler Whitehead! Tyler is in his first year of grad studies at the school of music, studying percussion performance under Dr. Andy Harnsberger.
Q: What made you choose Lee for graduate school?
W: I had a few graduate schools I was looking at when researching for my masters degree, and ultimately Lee was the best fit for me. I knew the percussion studio was top notch and I knew the school of music was filled with world class educators and performers that I could learn a lot from.
Q: What do you enjoy most about studying with Andy Harnsberger?
W: My favorite part of studying with Andy Harnsberger is the sheer amount of knowledge and tatlent he has to give. I have known of Harnsberger for years and what he could do, and I knew if I had the chance to study with him that it would be a great experience. He’s tough when it matters, but also very caring and super helpful. He is a great model for what a good teacher and performer should be, and he does a fantastic job making sure the studio and me are on the right track for success.
Q: What are your future plans after graduating?
W: My future plans at this moment include continuing on with education and getting a DMA in percussion performance while working a side teaching or performance job of some sort.
Q: What is your favorite part about being a percussionist?
W: There’s so many cool things about percussion, for starters you never run out of instruments you could learn and practice, so it is really hard to get bored or burnt out. I love rhythm and being a percussionist gives me almost unlimited chances to explore the possibilities of rhythm in composition or improvisation. The final thing I really enjoy about the world of percussion is just how new it still is relatively. It is not uncommon to play entire recitals of music from living composers, and to me that is really exciting.
Our Alumni Spotlight of this month belongs to Sarah Nordin! Sarah graduated from Lee in 2005 and has since performed lead opera roles all over the country. We were able to connect with her and ask her a few questions about her time at Lee and after.
Q: What made you decide to come to Lee?
N: I was all set to go to Florida State and we went to visit it on our way to Missouri on a family vacation and I didn’t like it. The school was too big and had too many distractions that had nothing to do with music. It was the June before I was going to start school in the fall. Lee University was not a school I had heard of but they had a billboard along highway on 75 so I decided to check it out. Lee was so delightfully, small and seemed like a place I could focus practice in peace. I was allowed to apply despite the late date because I spoke with admissions and told them my situation. I got accepted right away to the school of music and as I was walking out of the building I started talking to Dr Holsinger. Even though I planned to major in voice I am also a horn player and he has always been someone I admired. After talking with him I decided then and there to come. At the very least the music theory and composition classes would be both challenging and creative and that was important to me. When I first arrived it was also Dr Holsinger who in my audition for the Wind Ensemble told me to join the opera workshop and suggested I go meet Tony Deaton. Tony ended up being my voice teach and if it weren’t for him I would not be the professional opera singer I am today. I truly feel God sent me to Lee and helped me meet all the right people in a time when I was searching for the right path to take and a little lost.
Q: What did you learn from Lee that has stayed with you?
N: Lee is where I learned some basic skills that I still use now at my job everyday. Italian, French and German languages and the discipline of self-motivated daily practice. Most importantly, Lee University gave me the opportunity to perform my first 5 opera roles with orchestra. This was very valuable to me because when I left undergrad I already had 5 roles on my resume. Many students have to pay for programs in the Summer to get that opportunity and I was able to spend my whole year working on my role with my teacher, Mr Deaton, and perform for the first time in a comfortable, loving and supportive environment. Also while I was at Lee one of my professors, Dr Burns, cast me in a professional musical that he and his wife wrote. This gave me the invaluable opportunity to learn how to creat a role with a composer and work in a professional environment along with a professor who was very patient and supportive.
Q: How have you used your education to get to where you are now?
N: I could not be the professional opera singer I am today with out my education. When I began at Lee I had never sung in an opera before and I had only seen one. Now I have performed at major opera companies all over the world including the Metropolitan Opera.
Q: What advice would you give current Lee students?
N: Spend your time in prayer and thinking hard about what it is you want to do. Then once you figure it out create a timeline and achievable goals to help you accomplish your dreams. Lee has all of the resources you need to accomplish just about anything. What you need is the ambition and self-motivation to take advantage of the resources you have access to.
We are so blessed to have Sarah Nordin as a Lee alum. We can’t wait to see what else you will accomplish!
To learn more about Sarah, visit her website below!
Join us tomorrow, the 22nd, for workshops sponsored by the Lee University division of National Association for Music Education. We will have two presenters discussing hymnody in multiple settings and also wind instrument repair. The workshops will be from 10-12pm and 1-3pm in the Choral Rehearsal Room. For members of CNAfME the workshop is free, and if you are not a member the workshop is only $5 for one or two people for $8. We can’t wait to see you there!
Do you find yourself achey and sore after practicing? Are you using a warm-up routine to enhance your practice sessions? If not, check out this informative video by our very own Dr. Andy Harnsberger about the benefits of stretching before practicing!
Join us this summer for level 2 of Orff-Schulwerk! The program will cover the second level of certification and is recommended for all who want to advance into the next level of music education. The program starts June 15th and ends the 26th.
Orff Schulwerk is a unique approach to music education. Carl Orff and Gunild Keetman founded this child-centered approach that connects speech, movement, song, instruments, and listening, emphasizing creativity and active engagement by the children. Within these connections, the Orff approach addresses all aspects of a child’s musical development— performing, creating, listening, and analyzing—in ways that encourage the child’s joyful imagination and musical spirit.
To register, follow the link below. We’ll see you there!