School of Music News

New vocal jazz program adds class offerings
By Christy Rosell

KEEPING JAZZ ALIVE Kristin Houston KSU jazz ambassador - Header Photo

Kristin Houston became a jazz ambassador last year. She started college with dreams of writing film scores. But everything changed during a Kennesaw State University trip to Italy with Steve Dancz, a music instructor. 

“He introduced me to jazz,” she remembered. “I fell in love with the art.”

A Count Basie Orchestra performance featuring Grammy-award winning singer Carmen Bradford “solidified everything” in her pursuit of jazz.
KEEPING JAZZ ALIVE Kristin Houston KSU jazz ambassador - Photo page body-1Houston will be among the first to graduate from KSU with a degree in Jazz Voice in 2019. She studies under Karla Harris, who helped launch the program last year and is offering a new vocal jazz combo class in fall 2018.

“This class will be an opportunity to work as a group to practice elements of singing jazz,” said Harris, a vocal jazz instructor.  “Students will learn the importance of musical conversation.”

Harris has an extensive background as a jazz vocalist, working with some of the best musicians in the thriving jazz scenes of St. Louis, Missouri, and Portland, Oregon. In 2012, she began performing across the Southeast. She released an album in 2015 featuring songs by jazz legends Dave and Iola Brubeck.

Now, she shares her lessons in performance and music entrepreneurship, preparing students to carry on the legacy of jazz.                        

The significance is not lost on Houston.

“It’s important to American culture to keep this art form alive,” Houston said. “It’s one of the only art forms that is originally ours.”

KEEPING JAZZ ALIVE Kristin Houston KSU jazz ambassador - page photo-2Houston said Harris is a great example of the teacher she hopes to become herself. “She’s an amazing performer and educator; her instruction will help me get to that point one day, as well,” she said.

Houston takes solo vocal lessons and expects the new vocal jazz combo class to teach her to collaborate with other vocalists. While Houston is focused on preparing for graduation next spring, her instructor predicts a bright future.

“Kristin will do what she's setting out to do,” Harris said. “Her time at KSU has obviously developed her skills and character.”

Harris lights up when she thinks about KSU’s jazz vocal students, “I look out and I just see possibilities. There’s so much potential. The spirit and the energy at KSU are very real.”


KSU_Music Harry Price 2018 Senior Researcher Award
Harry E. Price

Beethoven is credited with saying “Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.” With that, we could stop right now, but that would make this talk a bit too short.

It is important to begin by recognizing some important people. I appreciate the National Executive Board of NAfME, the Music Education Research Council and its Executive Committee, as well as all the members of the Society for Research in Music Education for supporting my nomination. I especially want to thank my skilled col-league and friend Deborah Confredo. She wrote a remarkable nomination letter for this award. It is an honor for me to be named among this award’s previous recipients.

As an undergraduate in the early 1970s, I assisted a doctoral student, Michael Wagner. My job was as a “technology” aide to him. At that time, our job was mostly to make sure that the stereos were hooked up and the power cords were plugged in. Yes, this was the time of phonograph players, a little machine that was about this size that turned around and around, on which you placed a vinyl disk, and a needle sat on it to transfer the waveforms through an amplifier to speakers. We also made sure that the equipment was turned on, a problem many times. Mike helped me to begin think-ing about music education and how it does or does not function. Along with this work, I also helped some other doctoral students with technology in their research.

In my master’s work, Clifford Madsen directed the thesis. Later, after teaching a bit, I was fortunate to work with Cornelia Yarbrough on my doctorate and beyond; strangely, I assisted her with some technology when she worked on her dissertation. Cornelia taught me a great deal about education, research, and life in general. She is responsible for so many good things that have happened to me. without our wonderful mentors? As for the not-so-successful things that have occurred in my career, those are due to my continued stubbornness.

My colleagues over the years have been so helpful. At Virginia Tech, I was able to further develop my research skills—even as the marching band director. By the way, Jere Humphreys (2006) stated that the ancient Romans fielded marching bands, so I guess I was doing historical research when I was there. Of course, there were the many positive years at the University of Alabama, which was incredibly supportive of my research. Finally, there were many wonderful undergraduate and graduate students in my almost 40 years of teaching. How rewarding it has been for the students and me to share working on papers together! Interestingly, I worked quite a while ago with one of my students, Evelyn K. Orman, and now am assisting her fine research on virtual reality, efforts that she has pursued for more than 18 years (Orman, Whitaker, Price, & Confredo, 2017). In this case, the teacher can also become the student.

Read more about Harry Price in the Journal of Research in Music Education.

Download the full article here.

KSU Music Instructor Leads Largest Music Therapy Program in the Nation

Originally published in The Atlanta Journal Constitution and Click here to view the original story.

Fulton schools boast largest music therapy program in the nation

Story by Will Robinson | Atlanta Journal Constitution

Since founding Fulton County Schools’ music therapy program, Amber Weldon-Stephens has become the program director, internship director and president-elect of the American Music Therapy Association.

Above: Since founding Fulton County Schools’ music therapy program, Amber Weldon-Stephens has become the program director, internship director and president-elect of the American Music Therapy Association.

Atlanta, GA (February 9, 2017)–– “Music is the thing that can make the difference,” said Amber Weldon-Stephens, who has made a career of using music to help special-needs students in Fulton County.

Clayton County was the only school district in Georgia that offered music therapy when Weldon-Stephens, a 22-year-old University of Georgia graduate, finished her internship in 1990. She hoped to replicate in Fulton what existed in Clayton: two music therapists and an intern. In 1991, Fulton approved funding to start a music therapy program with Weldon-Stephens at the helm.

For the first five years of the program, she was Fulton’s only music therapist, traveling to 13 schools a week. Today, Fulton has 15 music therapists and four interns, making it the largest music therapy program in the nation. About 1,500 students across 73 Fulton schools participate in music therapy each week.

“Never did I have any kind of vision that we would get any bigger than hiring more than one other music therapist,” said Weldon-Stephens. “It does not look at all like I thought it was going to look.”

In Fulton, music therapists serve students with intellectual disabilities, autism, physical disabilities, communicative disorders and behavioral disorders. They lead students in song, playing instruments and dancing to develop students’ social behavior, motor skills, academic performance and musicality. A student may work on gripping objects, reading facial expressions and solving equations in a single session.

“We touch it all, that’s the joy,” said Weldon-Stephens. “We don’t land on any particular (therapeutic domain), we get to do all of them. Sweet!”

Co-workers at Weldon-Stephens’ home school, Sweet Apple Elementary, call her “the little engine that could.” Since founding Fulton’s program, she has become the program director, internship director and president-elect of the American Music Therapy Association. On Monday nights, she teaches at Kennesaw State University. She has twice been her school’s Teacher of the Year and still works with students.

“I still love singing with the kids,” she said. “I say all the time that I’m the most overeducated person who sits on the floor with a guitar.”

Roy Joyner joined FCS as a music therapist in 1998. He travels to four schools a week, guitar in hand, and serves about 130 special-needs children. He loves seeing his students light up when he arrives.

“I’m sure my dancing isn’t too good, but the kids don’t care,” said Joyner. “I’m just the guy bringing music to them.”

Joyner has created a long list of instructional songs over his 19 years in Fulton. Some student favorites are “Days of the Week,” sung to The Beatles’ “Eight Days a Week,” and “Bust a Mood,” rapped to the melody of Young MC’s “Bust a Move.” During “Bust a Mood,” Joyner shows pictures of faces on an iPad to students and asks them to match expressions with moods: “happy” to a smiling face, for example.

“Whatever it takes to reach them, that’s what I’m going to do,” said Joyner.

Students in music therapy sessions run the gamut of physical, emotional and cognitive spectrums. Physically, students may use a wheelchair and be under the full-time care of a physician. Emotionally, students may be schizophrenic or bipolar. Cognitively, a goal for a student might be to simply stay awake during instruction. Each student’s severity of need varies widely, which means no two classes are alike. Weldon-Stephens thinks that’s half the fun.

“Their little behaviors — the things they do and don’t do — they’re all such little pickles, and yet I love them,” she said.

The music therapists take notes on every student, every session. Each student has personalized goals that a team of music therapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists and physical therapists help them achieve. Some schools also offer adapted physical education and art classes.

Three districts in Georgia, Fulton, Clayton and Atlanta Public Schools have a music therapist on staff, but Weldon-Stephens hopes more districts will adopt music therapy.

Fulton County Schools has groomed more than 90 interns since adding the internship program in 1998. Internship hours are required for a music therapy license and often for music therapy degree programs.

The uniqueness of special-needs students is why Fulton’s internship program is essential, Joyner said.

Noting that there is no substitute for experience, he said, “You can’t role play kids.”

Weldon-Stephens’ career as a music therapist has spanned almost three decades, and she’s seen a lot in that time. She’s been bitten, kicked and spat on. Once, a student even broke her jaw. But she says she wouldn’t do anything else.

“I still really want to keep doing it. I’m still impressed by what music does.”


Originally published in The Atlanta Journal Constitution and Click here to view the original story.

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