This is a challenging but exciting time to be a musician. Distinctions between genres, as well as barriers to record and distribute music, are crumbling. Opportunities to make music abound, but one must have the correct set of tools to take advantage of them, let alone make a living from them. The modern musician must be flexible, tenacious, and innovative. Millikin recognizes this and provides students with the academic, applied, and performance learning necessary to be a successful musician.
Our high quality chamber groups, musicals, operas, jazz ensembles, and recording projects, along with our excellent flagship group the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, give students the varied experience needed to perform in today’s musical world. The Millikin Decatur Symphony Orchestra has an innovative hybrid model combining faculty, students, and area professionals, which means that we perform advanced repertoire at a professional level. Outstanding students not only learn from playing of my talented colleagues, but receive real-time feedback from me on their orchestral playing. Both music and non-music majors have the opportunity to play in ensembles and receive scholarships.
We have a dedicated reed making room with a locked cabinet for students to store supplies, and a Popkin profiler and shaper. Learning how to make and adjust reeds well makes life as a bassoonist so much easier! We work individually and as a studio to improve our skills and share techniques.
As a teacher, I want my students to learn how to make music in a natural and meaningful way. Therefore, my teaching emphasizes process and connection. My students must learn how to practice efficiently while thinking critically and clearly about high-level goals for their playing. They must also develop the curiosity and problem solving skills to learn how history, theory, performance practice, and aural skills apply to their projects.
Critical and creative approaches to practicing and performing are the only way to develop the physical, intellectual and emotional capabilities needed to succeed as a musician. Whether mastering a technical passage, making a reed, or communicating with an audience, I share the processes that have worked for me in the past, but more importantly I encourage my students to examine their own. We write down and discuss our goals for the semester as a studio, including differentiating between short-term goals (such as learning a specific piece) and long-term goals (such as improving overall intonation, faster tonguing, better reeds, etc.). I also emphasize the connections between applied and academic studies. Etudes and solo pieces offer opportunities to discuss and analyze theory, understand the structure of the piece, and train one’s ears. My students also research, present, and discuss background information about the music they are preparing.
Finally, my diverse background is one of my strongest assets in the studio, given that applied students in the university setting come from many different backgrounds and are heading in countless directions. I have played with musicians from all over the world in many different styles. I have been both a professional musician and a professional who happens to be a musician on the side. How do you win auditions and get freelance gigs? How do you keep performing if you’re a busy band director or a field biologist in a small town in Wyoming? I have the expertise to guide you no matter what your destination.