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Celebrating 100 years of music at OHIO

Celebrating 100 years of music at OHIO

Daniel J King | Feb 14, 2017

Ohio University Symphony Orchestra pictured in the 1937 Athena Yearbook.

[Top] Ohio University Choral Union concert, December 2014. Photo by Daniel Radar. 
[Bottom] Ohio University Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of J. E. Thackery, pictured in the 1937 Athena Yearbook.


Celebrating 100 years with the OHIO Music community

If you were to drop in on the School of Music one hundred years ago, you might not recognize the program as we know it today, but you'd certainly see similarities, such as a shared love of learning and a passion for community. Above all you'd find a dedication to music as an essential component to every day life.

In the decades since it’s inception, the program has grown extensively, and has come to embrace a full calendar of recitals and performances by students, faculty and wide ranging guest artists, complimenting and supporting its diverse areas of specialized study. 

As part of the centennial year celebrations, the School of Music and the College of Fine Arts is planning a major event in Athens—a weekend of music, laughter, community, and celebratory rememberances. With former and current faculty, staff, students, and alumni, the school seeks to embrace where it’s come from and what’s coming next. A special weekend of festivities, April 21-22, culminates with a Centennial Concert at the Templeton-Blackburn Auditorium, and a Centennial Gala on the College Green Saturday, the evening of April 22.

1969, construction on Glidden Hall, and 1979, Professor Ira Zook conducts The OHIO Singers in rehearsal.[Left] In 1969, construction on the Robert Glidden Hall, formerly called the Music Building, was completed. [Right]1979, Professor Ira Zook conducts The OHIO Singers in rehearsal in Glidden Hall. Photo by Ken Shrader.


Looking Back:

The Ohio University School of Music began in 1917, although some of the programs date back more than thirty years prior. In 1936, the departments of music, dramatic art, and art combined to form the College of Fine Arts, and in 1970 the School of Music moved into the newly constructed music building, later renamed Robert Glidden Hall.

The move into the new facilities proved to be a major turning point in the program’s history, according to Dr. Wetzel, who joined the faculty that same year. He is a recipient of Ohio University's Outstanding University Professor Award, and is currently Chair of Graduate Studies in the School of Music.

“At it’s core, the program retains the same strong guiding passion for music, teaching, and learning, but what was once a high level, but generalized music education, has now become more focused and specialized, geared toward applied majors,” said Dr. Richard Wetzel, professor of musicology.

“When I first started—in order to play music for students—I had to first record pieces from a vinyl LP (record) onto magnetic tape, which I then rolled on a cart into my classroom and crossing my fingers, and hoped everything worked. Now the music, and the information, is all at the students' fingertips—so much easier to access. Technology has changed so much. Of course, the way you teach your material still has to give context,” said Wetzel. 

“Increasingly, over the years our faculty and students have pursued more ambitious works of performance. This is significant, to have the ability to tackle something like Johann Sebastian Bach’s B Minor Mass, or the Carmina Burana, by Carl Orff. These, for me, were significant moments for our program,” recalled Wetzel.


1977 Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, and 2013 World Music and Dance Concert.

[left] The 1977 Carmina Burana program featured the combined talents of the OHIO Symphony, OHIO Chorus, and the Children's Choir. Here the symphony performs as conducted by John Ferritto. [right] a moment from the 2013 World Music and Dance Concert.


Additonally, the music therapy field was quite small in the 1970’s, while today the program has a large and growing enrollment at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. 

"Our program started in 1951. The music therapy field really began in 1950. Over the years many of the most celebrated music therapy pioneers have come through our program," described Dr. Kamile Geist, chair of the music therapy program. "Our program is continually shifting it's focus in response to the practical needs in the field, from one decade to the next. The depth and quality of our program has developed alongside a growing industry."

Geist recently initiated, alongside colleagues from both inside and outside the arts, an effort to develop interdisciplinary research opportunities which bring the arts together with other research initiatives through a project called the ARTS lab. Read more about this new research incubation initiative in this ARTSlab story.

Seth Alexander, one of Dr. Wetzel’s history students studying graduate level percussion performance—more specifically that of jazz and contemporary music—produced two video interviews with former faculty from the school, Ernie Bastin (1968-2009, interview here) and Bob Smith, (1954-1999, interview here) as part of his graduate assistantship position.

In the interviews, Professor of Music Ernie Bastin, who was the first trumpet teacher in the program, recalls the history of jazz education, and Professor of Music Bob Smith shares his experiences teaching brass, and the beginnings of the Trombone Choir at OHIO way back in the mid-fifties.

When Alexander is not producing video and live recordings of music recitals he performs in percussion ensembles, jazz ensembles, and with the OHIO Wind Symphony.

“Whether it's brand new [material] or centuries old, the students and faculty make every concert a really incredible experience for the audience and performers,” said Alexander, who is also looking forward to performing at Carnegie Hall with the Wind Symphony in February.

Jazz One on the left, Music Therapy student on right.

[Left] The JazzOne ensemble, pictured in 1980 in the pages of the Green Spectrum Yearbook. [Right] Music therapy major Pat Roberg pictured in the 1978 Green Spectrum Yearbook.


Looking Forward

This year offers the faculty and administration the opportunity to not only look back on 100 years of developing confident, creative, and skilled professional musicians, but the chance to imagine what the next century might look like, building on a legecy of preparing students for careers in music education, performance, music therapy, composition, musicology, and music theory.

“Planning and organizing these events is a total team effort on the part of all the faculty and staff here in the School of Music, and the staff in the College of Fine Arts. The 100-year celebration and gala events will be a celebration of our wonderful alumni, former faculty, and staff members who have helped build the School of Music into the respected institution it is today. We’ll lift up our current students and faculty, and project a continuation of our outstanding music programs into the future,” said Josh Boyer, assistant director of marching and athletic bands.

“Our alumni, including former instructors and faculty, have left profound legacies or are in the midst of creating their own legacy in their programs throughout the world. This is the perfect time to reach out to those individuals, to celebrate their accomplishments, as well as the accomplishments of our current students and the future of the School of Music,” said Boyer.

The School of Music is collecting your alumni memories to highlight at our upcoming events. We invite you to share your stories with us here.

School of Music alumni are invited to join the school April 21-22, 2017, for a weekend of festivities, music, delectable treats, and celebration in Athens, OH. Find details here.


For further information please visit our 100th Anniversary Year info page:


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