Sunday, May 28

Music department makes changes to prepare for the future

By Alayna Simons

Assistant News Editor

The School of Music and Worship Arts has added three degrees, morphed several majors and minors together, and turned over four faculty and staff members as part of its changing focus to making Nashville a classroom for students. 

“We’re equipping and preparing young musicians for the marketplace, so that when they leave, they are highly skilled musicians that can step into a job and have gainful employment,” said Vernon Whaley, associate provost of program development for music and worship.

Photo courtesy of Trevecca Department of Music

Whaley has played a leading role in making changes to the music department over the last few years, but recently the changes have become major, shifting the entire focus of the program.

New degree programs 

In the fall, a new degree, a Bachelor’s of Science in music and worship, was introduced. It is designed to train students to work in churches. 

“We’ve moved a number of things in the sequence of our teaching ahead so that they could start their training in their methods classes their freshman year instead of waiting until their junior year,” said Whaley.

Another degree that was recently created and will be presented to the academic council soon is the bachelor’s of music and commercial music. This degree will have four different concentrations, including commercial artistry and artists development, songwriting, composer arranger and worship leadership.

“Mostly we’ve been working on curriculum because that needed to be updated. Some of our degree programs were 10 to 15 years old and just the way the marketplace works, you have to be innovative and forward-thinking,” said David Diehl, the dean of the school of music and worship arts.

The newest degree, which will be offered in the fall of 2023, is the Bachelor of Science in music leadership. This will be used to train students in areas of music such as a recording engineer, music business or entrepreneur studies.

“Our focus has been on the two areas that have the greatest job market, so it doesn’t mean that we aren’t focusing on the other degrees at all. It means that we’re either improving them or putting them in a place where we know we can get a better market,” said Whaley.

These changes have caused some concern from majors. 

Gustavo Zuniga, a senior music theory and composition major, expressed concern about needing two classes in composition in order to graduate, but at the moment is unsure if those requirements will be met.

“I know that some students had an idea of what their semester was going to look like in the fall, but then there was a shift in faculty over the summer and different schedules brought to the surface. [We are] having to reorganize our plans and feel like it’s all up in the air,” said Zuniga.

Photo courtesy of Trevecca Department of Music

Selah Torralba, a senior instrumental music performance major, voiced concerns about how the classical side of the department may not be prioritized as much in the new vision of the program.

“I think with classical study, there’s a very unique kind of richness to that that amidst all of these changes, because it moves slower, and with that it naturally is not as prioritized,” said Torralba. “But I think that for me, the changes have pushed me to be more diligent in my practice. I think some of the things I hope stay at the core of the music program are the things that challenge me and push me to grow.”

Whaley plans on meeting with the performance majors, music education majors and commercial students to talk with them about their goals to try and meet some of their specific needs as a student. She also hopes to show them the new plans for the department.

“We’re here to serve the students. Our goal is not to overlook them or ignore them. We just hope they see that we’re refining the program so that it’s more market-driven so that there’s more opportunity for a job on the other side of their education experience,” said Whaley.

Both Diehl and Whaley have instilled a new vision for the music departmen with a tagline of “Nashville is your classroom,” while continuing the mission that was introduced last year of “equipping musicians to be servant leaders.”

New Faculty Members

In the curriculum redesign, there have also been faculty changes.  

Eric Wilson, who was the chair of the department of music, Matthew Murdock the instrumental coordinator and Taylor McPherson the vocal coordinator are no longer employed at Trevecca.

Blake Houchin moved from the music department to the IT department. 

“I miss them all dearly because they’ve all been good friends, but in every circumstance, God has been at work and God has been leading them in their new places,” said Diehl.

Both Whaley and Diehl said each faculty and staff member decided on their own to leave  inspired by callings in their lives.

“Something we did when we were reimagining the school of music was starting to talk about calling. Dr. Whaley led us in the process of examining our own calling. In that process, for example, Taylor McPherson felt a calling to the ministry. He left to go enroll in a seminary because he wants to preach,” said Diehl.

New hires have been made to support the programs. 

Michael Lee Harland has stepped in to teach musicology classes, Angela Forsythe has taken over as the director of vocal studies, and Phillip Keveren is now an adjunct composer teaching theory and composition classes.

Whaley and Diehl both agree that the most important thing to teach the students is their calling. Moving forward they hope to instill the music department’s vision and mission into the students’ lives.

“The core of the mission of Trevecca is making sure we are being intentional that we are not just placed in this earth to make a living, but that God has given us gifts for us to be stewards of for His glory,” said Diehl.

Though the new vision has brought changes, both Diehl and Whaley are hopeful for the future of the music department and the students involved. Their goal is to grow the school of music while also being intentional with the needs of their students.

“So, with the practical elements of ‘Nashville is your classroom,’ along with equipping servant leaders and being an unapologetically Christian school, we think the combination of these things makes Trevecca a unique place to be. I’m excited about the future, I really am,” said Diehl.

Zuniga agrees. 

“At the end of the day, we put our faith in God. I hope that the new idea of the music department to create leaders who are servants, I think that that is a powerful thing. I came in knowing nothing about music, and the opportunity of experience that has been given to me has gifted me, and I am so thankful,” said Zuniga.

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