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.

Atlanta Freedom Bands Premiere New Work by KSU Student Composer

From Atlanta Freedom Bands’ press release:

“Roots & Branches” Concert to Celebrate African-American Culture in Music and Premiere a New Work

Atlanta, GA (March 20, 2017)–– Exciting and interesting works fill the program of Atlanta Freedom Bands’ upcoming concert, “Roots & Branches”, as the musicians celebrate the influences of African-American culture in music. The program spans the decades from works from ragtime to the blues to jazz to classical to modern pieces. The evening even has a splash of Motown hits both for history and for fun!


The concert, the second in Atlanta Freedom Bands’ 24th performance season, also features the premiere of a new work by Connor Sullivan, music student at Kennesaw State University. He is taking part in Atlanta Freedom Bands’ second Student Composer Residency in which the band invites local student composers to provide a work for the band to present to the public.

“Roots & Branches” takes place Saturday, March 25, at 8 PM, at Druid Hills Presbyterian Church, located at 1026 Ponce de Leon Ave NE.

“The audience will experience a wide a variety of sounds, styles, and textures,” explained AFB Development Director Cliff Norris. “The concert features early African-American composers such as Scott Joplin and W.C. Handy who set new directions in American music. They are joined by great artists like Duke Ellington and William Grant Still who broke new ground in jazz and classical music. And, the concert has contemporary works by living composers who are still influencing music today.

Tickets for the concert are $15 for general admission, $10 for students, and $5 for seniors and are available from AFB will also have interesting features on the composers and their works on its Facebook page in the days leading to the concert: A reception follows the concert.

“Roots & Branches” is supported in part by the Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs. AFB has received funding from the city for all of its 23rd season performances. Funding for this program is also provided by the Fulton County Board of Commissioners under the guidance of the Fulton County Arts Council.


Connor Sullivan

Connor R. Sullivan is a Music Performance major at Kennesaw State University. As part of the Euphonium and Trombone studio, he studies under Dr. Paul Dickinson, Dr. Martin Cochran and Mr. Nathan Zgonc and has studied under Mr. Bernard H. Flythe for many years before college. Mr. Sullivan has performed with many professional and Semi-professional groups, including the Atlanta Wind Symphony, the Georgia Brass Band, the Symphony Without Borders, the Honor Band of America, and the Atlanta Youth Wind Symphony, where he had the opportunity to perform at the renowned Carnegie Hall with guest soloist George Curran. At Kennesaw State University, Connor is an active participant of the Wind Ensemble, Tuba/Euphonium Ensemble, Marching Band, Jazz Band, Trombone Choir, Euphonium Quartet and has also performed with the Symphony Orchestra on multiple occasions.

Mr. Sullivan pursues composition as a musical hobby, writing music ever since the 7th grade. His compositions range from full Wind Ensemble to solo piano, brass ensemble, and various other ensembles. He is also an active arranger, having the opportunity to arrange music for various ensembles such as the KSU Marching Band Brass, the KSU Tuba/Euphonium Ensemble, the KSU Euphonium Quartet, and many other groups. His piece, entitled Duphonium (for Euphonium duet and wind band), has been performed on multiple occasions with world- renowned Euphonium soloist Adam Frey, such as at the International Tuba-Euphonium Festival at Emory University and the annual University of Alabama Honor Band Festival. His brass quintet piece, entitled Race, won the GMEA composition competition in 2014 and was performed at the annual conference in Savannah, GA the same year. Mr. Sullivan has enjoyed performing and writing music for many years and looks forward to making it his career.

About the Piece

THE FINAL DESCENT is a piece of music that was written somewhat backwards. Typically, a composer has a reason to write a piece, with a title in mind, then finishes the compositional process. In this piece, that was not the case. When I was told around December 2016 about the Atlanta Freedom Band’s next concert (entitled Roots and Branches, dealing with African- American/African culture/composers) and their search for a student composer, I had two things in mind: heavy percussion and brass domination (as far as orchestration, that is). In my mind, music relating to the African style is very percussive and exciting (thus the brass) – I hope that is portrayed well in the music. When writing The Final Descent, I wanted to keep those two things consistent, while still having leeway to write music that was in my head. While keeping the compositional process to its purest form by not being “bound” by a title or theme, I was able to write naturally-inspired music. Since December 2016, it all came together quite easily and quickly, with very few edits to the music since the first draft. A title was added to the music in February and the final music was passed out to the musicians. With just a title and no story behind the title, I feel that the interpretation of the music is up to the listeners. That, I believe, is the purest form of music and is the best way for the audience to appreciate music. – Connor R. Sullivan

About Atlanta Freedom Bands

Atlanta Freedom Bands (AFB) represents Atlanta’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community through music. Atlanta Freedom Bands started in 1993 with a marching band, which has appeared in every Atlanta Pride parade since as well as numerous neighborhood festivals, community events, and pride events in other cities. AFB was also the first LGBT-identified group to perform in Atlanta’s “Salute to America” Independence Day Parade, as well as the first to perform during an Olympic event.

AFB has expanded its mission over the years to include several different groups. The MetroGnomes jazz ensemble appears at fundraising events and other gatherings. The Atlanta Freedom Concert Band, now in its eleventh year, has professional direction from Dr. Kathleen Nicole Fallin, Ph.D. Music Education from the University of Georgia. AFB’s newest group, the Color Guard, adds panache to the band’s outdoor performances, parades and even concerts.

AFB members have traveled the country and the world to perform in events with other LGBT musicians through the Lesbian and Gay Band Association (LGBA). AFB has sent musicians to Gay Games events in Amsterdam, Sydney, Chicago and Cologne; the inauguration of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama; the 2000 March for Equality on Washington; the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade; the Southern Decadence Parade and yearly LGBA conferences and gatherings. AFB hosted the 2013 LGBA annual conference, featuring the commissioning of a new work, a 200- piece massed-band concert with members of 32 different bands on stage, and the largest-ever marching unit to appear in the Atlanta Pride parade. AFB is a 501 c(3) non-profit arts organization.