Micky Elliott College of Fine Arts News Archive

August 2022

  • SFA SRT student enjoys dream internship with favorite producer and band

    SFA SRT student enjoys dream internship with favorite producer and band

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    SFA SRT student Andrea Pacas is pictured with studio owner and producer Kris Crummett in the tracking room of Interlace Audio in Portland, Oregon, during Pacas’ summer internship.

    August 30, 2022—Robbie Goodrich

    A dream internship for a Sound Recording Technology student at Stephen F. Austin State University led Andrea Pacas to work this past summer with a producer and band she greatly admired, and the experience put her one step closer to the goal of one day owning her own recording studio.

    A senior from Tyler who is on track to graduate from SFA in December 2022, Pacas received mixing assistant credit on what is currently Billboard’s No. 8 album in the Top 200 and No. 3 on the UK rock and metal charts.

    The album “Jackpot Juicer” by Dance Gavin Dance is the band’s 10th LP with an impressive 18-song tracklist, according to Pacas. The band consists of founding members Will Swan (guitar) and Matt Mingus (drums). Along the way, they’ve picked up vocalists Tilian Pearson (clean) and Jon Mess (harsh). A featured performer, and possibly the newest member of the band, Andrew Wells (guitar and vocals) contributed to many songs on the album. This album also memorializes Tim Feerick (bass), who passed away in April. The internship took place at Interlace Audio in Portland, Oregon.

    “This studio was my first choice for an internship because the owner/producer, Kris Crummett, has worked on my favorite music since I was able to create my own opinion about music,” Pacas said. “When I arrived, vocal tracking was still taking place. It was difficult to remain professional in the presence of people I have looked up to for so long.”

    Once all tracking was done, Pacas was tasked with “mix prep,” sample replacement, vocal editing, tuning and automation. While working on the new Dance Gavin Dance album, Pacas worked on music for several other artists at the same time. She would also complete other miscellaneous tasks, like creating and sending backing tracks for bands to use while they toured.

    Pacas said she is grateful to have had the opportunity to work with “my favorite band and my favorite producer.”

    “Kris was very good at teaching me his processes and explaining why he does them,” she said. “Not only did he teach me things about ProTools and plug-ins, but he gave me hands-on experience with outboard gear.

    “I was very surprised with the trust Kris put in me to complete these tasks at a professional level,” she added. “Everything I learned at Interlace Audio will help me in the future and now while completing my senior project.”

    SRT internships give students an opportunity to see the music industry “in motion and practice,” according to James Adams, program director. SRT majors are required to take on an internship in the summer after their third year of study.

    “It also gives them a chance to put their best foot forward and begin establishing what is usually their first business relationships,” Adams said. “At SFA, we know that we can provide stellar world-class education in our classrooms, but we are aware that SRT majors need the real-world experience, beyond the walls of our institution, to further understand how their growing skills can be applied.”

    Additionally, students can see what others are doing in the industry and learn of possible employment paths. Through daily hands-on experience at an active music business, students meet and work with individuals in a variety of positions in the music industry.

    “All of our students have transformative experiences like Andrea and return to campus in the fall of their senior year excited and with a refined focus and passion for their studies,” Adams said. “The internships only give students a glimpse into the industry as a whole, but that glimpse is typically inspiring and a bit overwhelming at times. Still, it is a wonderful component of our degree program.”

    Among the lessons she learned over the summer: “the importance of communication, keeping track of details and building relationships.”

    Along with gaining skills that will advance her toward owning a recording studio, Pacas’ work within the SRT program at SFA has sparked some additional interests, such as video game music and film music composition. She thanked her family, friends, Professor Adams, Professor (James) Taylor, the SFA School of Music and Crummett for “helping me believe in myself and follow my dreams.”

    “Their support means the world to me, and I hope I can continue to learn and use my skills to make great art,” she said. “As a first-generation Hispanic American woman, and part of the LGBTQ+ community, I hope to inspire people like me to believe in themselves and their dreams.”

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  • SFA’s Children’s Performing Arts Series returns to SFA

    SFA’s Children’s Performing Arts Series returns to SFA

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    “Oskar’s Not So Simple Comeback” opens the Children’s Performing Arts Series at SFA on Thursday, Oct. 6.

    August 26, 2022—Robbie Goodrich

    The Children’s Performing Arts Series returns to the Stephen F. Austin State University campus in the 2022-23 academic year with four fun shows designed to entertain and educate East Texas youngsters.

    The series, presented by the Micky Elliott College of Fine Arts, features curriculum-enhancing programs presented by Texas artists. Although selected shows are designed to engage audiences of all ages, careful consideration is given to show topics, which always include teachable classroom elements, according to Diane Peterson, Fine Arts Box Office manager and director of the series.

    “CPAS shows are a great way to supplement class curriculums, and our in-depth study guides provide suggestions for pre- and post-performance activities and discussions,” Peterson said.

    CPAS shows bring hundreds of students from schools throughout East Texas to the SFA campus to enjoy the productions.

    With the renovation of Turner Auditorium still underway, teachers can expect a few changes this year. Performances will be in Kennedy Auditorium, 1906 Alumni Drive, and three show times will be offered at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to accommodate the smaller venue.

    “Kennedy holds half the audience that Turner would, so we expect shows to sell out quickly. We encourage teachers to book their classrooms early to take advantage of these great field trips that provide fun and educational outings for children,” Peterson said. “We also offer great discounts for large groups.”

    This year’s lineup includes “Oskar’s Not So Simple Comeback” on Thursday, Oct. 6; “The New Little Red Riding Hood” Thursday, Nov. 10; “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! The Musical” Wednesday, March 1; and “Reading and Rhyming with Mother Goose” Wednesday, April 26. Tickets go on sale Sept. 1.

    Presented by Alley Theatre, “Oskar’s Not So Simple Comeback” targets children in kindergarten through fifth grade. When Oskar starts attending school in person again after an extended period of remote learning, he’s excited about joining his classmates for his favorite activity: Sportsball! But much to his dismay, his skills have deteriorated, and he’ll have to find a way to restore his talent and confidence. After trying to tackle his problems on his own, he is compelled to find connection and support from his peers, his teachers, his parents, and his community, finding the solution to all his woes comes in the unlikeliest of places.

    In “The New Little Red Riding Hood” presented by Storybook Theatre, Big Bad Wolf has retired as the forest’s caretaker. His daughter, Wanda Wolf, is finding out she has big shoes to fill, especially when her BFF, Little Red, the great-great-great-granddaughter of the first Little Red Riding Hood, is trashing out the forest! Using Storybook Theatre’s signature “edutainment” format, the forest comes to life as the audience interacts with Granny Red, Wanda and the forest animals to help Little Red understand what she’s doing is wrong. This show targets kindergarten through fifth grade.

    When a bus driver takes a break from the route, a very unlikely volunteer springs up to take his place – a pigeon! And you’ve never met one like this before! From the Caldecott Honor award- winning book, “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! The Musical!” is sure to get everyone’s wings flapping with its innovative mix of songs, silliness and feathers. The production, which targets pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, is based on the book by Mo Willems and presented by Main Street Theater.

    Join Mother Goose along with Lamby, Mary, Goosey, Itsy Bitsy and her other puppet friends as she shares the music of language expressed in rhyming in “Reading and Rhyming with Mother Goose,” presented by MCP Shows. In this fun and hilarious interactive show, children will learn these classic poems by acting out the various rhymes utilizing props, and they will leave the theatre with enthusiasm for reading, language and creativity. This performance targets pre-kindergarten through second grade.

    Tickets are $7.50 for individuals and $6 per person for groups of 20 or more. To order tickets, call (936) 468-6407 or (888) 240-ARTS. Visit the CPAS website at http://www.cpas.sfasu.edu for additional information

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  • Summer residencies translate to improved artistry

    Summer residencies translate to improved artistry

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    SFA art Professor Lauren Selden takes a selfie upon her arrival in Helsinki for a month-long stay in Finland. She spent six days in Helsinki before traveling internationally to the Netherlands, Estonia and Denmark.

    August 22, 2022—Robbie Goodrich

    This past summer took Stephen F. Austin State University art professors Lauren Selden and Shaun Roberts to separate residencies where their adventures were as different as their art. Yet their time spent studying, creating and exploring different countries and regions resulted in transformative experiences that will make them better artists and teachers.

    In addition to providing artists with a specific time and location for creating new work, artist residencies are also about making connections with other artists and communities, leading to exhibition opportunities, sales of artwork and improving and diversifying one’s craft.

    Selden completed a residency in Finland and an artist retreat stateside. While traveling internationally, she visited design and art museums in the Netherlands, Denmark, Estonia and multiple cities and villages throughout Finland. She created drawings, silver jewelry and sculptural works while at the residency in Fiskars, a historic blacksmithing village. She was in Fiskars during the Fiskars Village Art & Design Biennale featuring fine art, design, craft and architecture.

    She also was invited to a mid-career retreat at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to collaborate with 13 other artists from across North America. The group shared new techniques, explored national collaborative projects, and learned about new pedagogical developments in studio art. While at Arrowmont, Selden’s sculptural work was on exhibition in the Sandra J. Blain Gallery, and she installed an 8-foot steel sculpture for the permanent outdoor sculpture collection in the library courtyard.

    In addition to her role as a professor of art at SFA, Selden believes her duty is to bolster the national and international professional networks of the School of Art and to expand the research capacity of the university through creative activities. Following an artist residency and assisting in facilitating a study abroad in Iceland in 2018, she was accepted to the internationally competitive studio art residency program at Fiskars AiR in Fiskars, Finland.

    “This international residency provides access to important and rare research resources, as well as studio space for the creative generation of conceptual and studio works, which will aid in advancing my study of Scandinavian and Nordic design,” she said.

    Fiskars is famous, in part, for creating the scissors with the orange handle. Fiskars serves consumers and customers around the world with globally recognized brands, including Fiskars, Gerber, Iittala, Royal Copenhagen, Waterford and Wedgwood. Building on a mission to create a family of iconic lifestyle brands, Fiskars’ vision is to create “a positive, lasting impact on quality of life.” An eclectic mix of blacksmiths, industrial designers, ceramicists, glass designers and other artists call Fiskars Village their home.

    Her efforts at each of these residencies were concentrated on sculptural works associated with social issues, communication, potential energy, displacement, education and climate change, Selden said. “Time at these residencies will provide inspiration for the production of multiple series, exhibitions and publications in the coming years,” she added. The project was conducted using SFA Research and Creative Activity Grant funds.

    Roberts completed a residency studying with the accomplished painter Odd Nerdrum in Norway.

    Since the 1980s, Nerdrum has been receiving students to his homes in France, Iceland, Norway and Sweden where they work side by side with the master artist. In the studio, they discuss everything from painting techniques to philosophy. The studio emphasizes narrative painting, and the students have two main goals: create a self-portrait and make a narrative painting.

    Roberts described Nerdrum’s studio as a “modern-day Renaissance workshop where students come from around the globe to learn from the world-famous and accomplished painter.” The residency is cost-free. “However, like a Renaissance workshop, we would have studio chores that cultivate learning, such as stretching and preparing canvases, modeling for Odd, and starting sketches on the canvases for some of his larger compositions,” Roberts said. “They expect you to be very accomplished ‘skill-wise’ in your paintings when you arrive.”

    To be accepted in the Nerdrum Studio, one must first send a self-portrait made from life (no photos). If the work is good enough, the studio will contact artists for acceptance, Roberts said.

    “The Nerdrum studio is a place where you look, and you learn,” he said. “You can have conversations with Odd in the studio while he paints. Extremely talented painters surround you. There is a camaraderie formed through ‘friendly competition.’ We are competing with one another constantly but in a way where we lift each other up, and everyone improves. You want your colleagues to improve so that you, in turn, must improve. We all share knowledge and grow as a group. Half of the learning experience is in the studio with your cohorts.”

    Expecting to deal with “a huge ego from someone with such a star status in the art world,” Roberts said he was pleasantly surprised with Nerdrum’s disposition.

    “He is an extremely kind human being,” he said. “The first time I met him, he shook my hand and told me what a pleasure it was to meet me and that he is a fan and likes my self-portrait, at which point I almost fainted.”

    Roberts said the residency was a constant learning experience, and perhaps one of the most valuable lessons from it was gaining an understanding of the importance of “always digging deeper and striving in all things.”

    “I watched Odd do this in his paintings,” he said. “He would scrape out finished figures and repaint them a few inches over if there was a chance to improve the image. It is not good enough to be good; a painting needs to be better than good. If you are telling a story, your characters must have a breath and think. You can eventually achieve something great by scraping out, repainting, moving things around and striving harder. Painting better than you are capable of seems impossible, but if you are brave enough to try it, you can get shocking results.

    “The experience transformed me in ways I can't put into words,” he added. “I feel I returned as a different person, reborn with curiosity and excitement for life and learning. I have learned painting skills and techniques that my students will benefit from, but I also learned philosophical approaches and thoughts on painting in general.”

    The combined artistic results of both residencies will be showcased in the exhibition “Nordic Proximity,” a feature of the School of Art Faculty Exhibition showing Aug. 30 through Sept. 30 in The Cole Art Center @ The Old Opera House, SFA’s historic downtown art gallery. An opening reception is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 30. Admission to the exhibition and reception, which is sponsored in part by William Arscott and the Friends of the Visual Arts, is free. For more information, call (936) 468-5500. Gallery hours are noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

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  • SFA’s Griffith Fine Arts Building construction progressing as planned

    SFA’s Griffith Fine Arts Building construction progressing as planned

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    Construction continues at Griffith Fine Arts Building on the SFA campus with an estimated move-in phase during summer 2023 and classes underway in fall 2023.

    August 22, 2022—Robbie Goodrich

    Progress continues on the much-anticipated renovation and expansion of the Griffith Fine Arts Building on the Stephen F. Austin State University campus with an estimated mid-2023 completion date just under a year away.

    University and construction officials remain optimistic that current deadlines can be met, and that the building will be ready for occupancy prior to the start of the 2023-24 academic year, as planned.

    As the project moves forward, spaces within the outwardly visible exterior walls are becoming more defined as the state-of-the-art classrooms, laboratories, offices, studios and theatres that designers and fine arts faculty and staff had envisioned, according to Dr. Gary Wurtz, dean of the Micky Elliott College of Fine Arts.

    “Not that long ago, I would look out my window at the deep, muddy pool that had been placed between the Griffith Fine Arts Building and College Street, and all I could think was ‘what a mess,’” Wurtz said. “Now, I walk through the building, and the progress is stunning. Most of the spaces are framed out, and you get a true perspective of the scope of the project, and you realize that SFA is fully committed to supporting the fine arts and fine arts education. That is a spectacular feeling.”

    The Fine Arts Expansion Initiative is extending the Griffith building along North Street. The project includes renovations to W.M. Turner Auditorium, and the building will also feature two dance studios, two new theatres, recording studio, sound stage, audio and video editing rooms, an art gallery, multiple classrooms, rehearsal facilities, faculty offices and the offices of the College of Fine Arts dean. The facilities will house the ECFA’s sound recording technology, filmmaking, theatre, dance and musical theatre programs.

    Jessica DeWitt, assistant director of construction for the SFA Physical Plant and Griffith project manager, said that despite initial delays pertaining to weather and supply chain issues, the project remains on course.

    “To everyone’s credit, the project is still on track for its original completion dates and is expected to deliver all of the exciting new spaces as originally intended,” DeWitt said. “We are looking at a March 2023 construction completion date followed by an extensive move-in period. Following a summer move-in, the building is expected to open for classes in Fall 2023.”

    DeWitt credited project management teams – KDW, Kirksey Architecture, Project Control, Physical Plant, SFA Design Center and ECFA staff – for working tirelessly over the last year to stay on top of schedule milestones and ahead of potential risks to maintain momentum.

    “However, I believe the toughest challenges are in front of us,” she said. “Last year was about specifications and selections that avoided hard-to-get materials. This year, there are pieces of equipment that are not available or manufacturers simply will not commit to making available by building opening. We are leaning hard on the flexibility I referenced last year, putting our heads together, reaching out to our sources, and tackling these issues every day.”

    Over the next year, the project management team will be “busy as ever,” but the results will be hard to see from the outside, DeWitt said.

    “Passersby now see an almost fully constructed new building and exterior improvements underway,” she said. “The visual presence of large equipment and workers onsite is waning. However, this is not cause for concern, because more work than ever is ongoing inside the building.”

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  • SFA School of Art Faculty Exhibition to feature works from summer residencies

    SFA School of Art Faculty Exhibition to feature works from summer residencies

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    “Notes for String Theory,” 2022, embroidery on canvas, by SFA art faculty member Candace Hicks will be among the works in the School of Art Faculty Exhibition, showing Aug. 30 through Sept. 30 at The Cole Art Center @ The Old Opera House in downtown Nacogdoches.

    August 19, 2022—Robbie Goodrich

    Works of art created during summer residencies will be showcased in Stephen F. Austin State University’s annual School of Art Faculty Exhibition showing Aug. 30 through Sept. 30 at The Cole Art Center @ The Old Opera House in downtown Nacogdoches.

    Each year, the faculty exhibition features a wide variety of artworks in ceramics, sculpture, photography, painting, prints, metals and mixed media, according to Christopher Talbot, director of the SFA School of Art.

    “We are excited to see what our talented faculty has been up to,” said Erik Ordaz, exhibition coordinator for Cole Art Center. “This is always a wonderful opportunity to share their work with the community and to welcome our students to the new academic year.”

    The show this year will feature works created by SFA art professors Lauren Selden and Shaun Roberts while they were on residencies this past summer in Finland and Norway, respectively, in a combined exhibition, “Nordic Proximity,” presented in the upstairs Reavley Gallery in Cole Art Center.

    Selden, professor of metals/jewelry, completed an internationally competitive studio art residency at Fiskars AiR in Fiskars, Finland. The residency provided access to important and rare research resources, as well as offered studio space for the creative generation of conceptual and studio works, which Selden said will aid in advancing her study of Scandinavian and Nordic design. She also participated in a mid-career retreat at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The project was conducted using SFA Research and Creative Activity Grant funds.

    Roberts, associate professor of painting, was accepted to study in the modern-day Renaissance workshop of the world-famous and accomplished painter Odd Nerdrum. There, students had two main goals: create a self-portrait and make a narrative painting.

    An opening reception for the faculty shows will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 30. Admission to the exhibition and reception, which is sponsored in part by William Arscott and the Friends of the Visual Arts, is free. The Cole Art Center is located at 329 E. Main St. For more information, call (936) 468-5500.

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  • SFA School of Theatre and Dance to offer exciting 2022-23 performance lineup

    SFA School of Theatre and Dance to offer exciting 2022-23 performance lineup

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    From SFA’s award-winning presentation of the play “Bootycandy” last fall, to the popular Danceworks concerts, excitement continues to build as two artistic programs merge to form the School of Theatre and Dance in the Micky Elliott College of Fine Arts. (photo from "Bootycandy")

    August 18, 2022—Robbie Goodrich

    The School of Theatre and Dance at Stephen F. Austin State University has an exciting production schedule for the 2022-23 academic year that will, in part, celebrate the addition of SFA’s dance program to the Micky Elliott College of Fine Arts.

    Cleo House Jr., director of the School of Theatre and Dance, and Heather Samuelson, associate professor of dance, are looking forward to the opportunities this new collaboration can provide for students, as well as for others who may benefit.

    “Probably not since I accepted my job at SFA have I been this optimistic and hopeful about what’s to come,” House said. “The new School of Theatre and Dance and its faculty and staff are open to using this momentum to re-evaluate why and how we do what we do.

    “It’s a great time to look at our traditions and embrace what is working for us,” he added, “but we also feel empowered to make changes or experiment in ways that seek to make the most of this moment for our students and the community.”

    The dance program had previously been a part of the Department of Kinesiology in the James I. Perkins College of Education.

    “The dance program is thrilled to become a part of the ECFA,” Samuelson said. “Our students will have the opportunity to collaborate and grow as artists in a setting that enhances their education and transforms their lives. We look forward to the future of dance at SFA and the possibilities that lie ahead.”

    To accommodate growing fine arts programs at SFA, construction and expansion continues on the Griffith Fine Arts Building, bringing with it new theaters and dance studios, along with filmmaking and sound recording technology facilities, in addition to modern new classrooms, laboratories and offices.

    House described the slate of productions and concerts for the coming year as “modern, inclusive and exciting,” offering a preview of what’s to come in future seasons.

    “We have made a conscious effort to make sure that dance and theatre productions do not overlap,” he said. “We have scheduled them in such a way you can see a theatre production one week and a dance concert in the next. In collaboration with our publicity team we have created some outstanding brochures that represent how natural this partnership is. Dance and theatre coming together is quite common at many colleges and universities across the nation. With the addition of the new space/expansion in Griffith Fine Arts Building, the synergy between all artists in that space should be palpable.”

    Mainstage shows at SFA have an expanded schedule to offer audience options in weekend matinees for theatre-goers. Mainstage performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. All plays are in Kennedy Auditorium on the SFA campus.

    This season’s Mainstage shows include “The Moors” by Jen Silverman, Sept. 29 through Oct. 2; “Lord of the Flies” by Nigel Williams, Nov. 3 through 6; “Everybody” by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Feb. 23 through 26; and “[title of show]” by Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell, April 20 through 23. Student-directed one-act and full-length plays are also offered. Descriptions of plays are available at theatre.sfasu.edu/onstage.

    Danceworks Concerts are scheduled for Nov. 10 through 12 for the fall show, and April 13 through 15 for the spring show. The Repertory Dance Company Faculty Concert is Feb. 16 through 18. Dance concerts are at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday and at 3 p.m. Saturday. All dance performances are in HPE Complex, Room 201.

    Estimated completion of the Griffith Fine Arts Building’s renovation and expansion is sometime in mid 2023. House said the new and expanded facilities will be “a game changer” for fine arts students, faculty/staff and the community.

    “When I toured the space, I toggled between tears of joy and goose bumps of excitement,” House said. “The state-of-the-art studios and performance spaces, dedicated studios for the various areas of specialty in design, and professional level spaces will make the School of Theatre and Dance an aspirational place to be.”

    He said the building itself will be “a melting pot of artists” from all fine arts areas – sound recording technology, film, dance, theatre, musical theatre.

    “The thought of these creative minds rubbing elbows, hanging out in the ‘tree house’ student hub and building relationships truly fills me with glee,” House said “This is where lasting artistic friendships and partnerships will be made. A future Oscar, Tony or Grammy Award winner is going to come out of fine arts because this space is setting them up for that kind of success. The future of fine arts at SFA, but dance and theatre in particular, is truly bright.”

    For ticketing information or to purchase tickets for theatre and dance performances, call the Fine Arts Box Office at (936) 468-6407 or (888) 240-ARTS, or visit boxoffice.sfasu.edu. Ticket sales open Sept. 1.

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  • SFA Music Prep fall class registration underway

    SFA Music Prep fall class registration underway

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    Fall class registration for music instruction through SFA’s Music Preparatory Division is underway. Lessons begin Aug. 15.

    August 11, 2022—Robbie Goodrich

    Registration is underway for fall classes in the Music Preparatory Division of the Stephen F. Austin State University School of Music, according to Alba Madrid, Music Prep director.

    The fall roster for youth includes private lessons in piano, violin, cello, viola, bass, voice, trumpet and guitar. Lessons may be available for other instruments upon request. Group classes will be offered in piano for adults and children, Kindermusik (for students ages 0 to 6), Strings Project, children’s chorus (for students ages 9 to 15), youth orchestras and Raguet Strings for adult students. Lessons begin Aug. 15.

    Strings Project students have the opportunity to learn to play a stringed instrument at a low tuition cost as part of an after-school activity. The project is grant and community funded. The SFA Children’s Chorus offers an introduction into choral singing for students in second through eighth grades. In this program, students are given opportunities to enjoy music and participate in a group to sing, play games and interact with other students in a musical setting. This choir is intended as a preparatory program to learn skills needed for upper level choral singing, according to Madrid.

    Registration for private and group instruction can be completed online at sfamusicprep.com or by calling (936) 468-1291. Prices range from $20 to $180 per month, depending on frequency, type of lesson and lesson length. Some scholarships may be available to qualifying applicants.

    The Music Prep House is located at 3028 Raguet St. Office hours are 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Madrid can also be contacted at: madrida@sfasu.edu or musicprep@sfasu.edu. Parents can also find program information on Facebook and Instagram.

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  • Music Prep graduate furthering piano studies; hopes to help others reach potential, realize dreams

    Music Prep graduate furthering piano studies; hopes to help others reach potential, realize dreams

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    Antonio “Nio” Ajero, a 2022 graduate of Nacogdoches High School who ranked third in his class, will pursue piano education this fall at Oberlin College and Conservatory in Ohio with 2001 Van Cliburn Competition Gold Medalist Stanislav Ioudenitch.

    August 5, 2022—Robbie Goodrich

    Antonio “Nio” Ajero is known throughout wide-reaching piano circles as an exceptional pianist and musician – having won multiple awards at state, national and international music festivals or competitions; having received acceptance and scholarship offers from renowned music schools and conservatories; and having been awarded performances with noted symphony orchestras in Texas and at the Brevard Music Festival in North Carolina – all of which he achieved before high school graduation.

    Playing it forward

    After recently graduating third in his Nacogdoches High School Class of 2022, Nio is now eager to begin undergraduate piano studies this fall at Oberlin College and Conservatory in Ohio with 2001 Van Cliburn Competition Gold Medalist Stanislav Ioudenitch. After that, he plans to apply for graduate and doctoral programs and to eventually “play” it forward by helping other young pianists reach their potential and realize their dreams.

    “While studying in these programs, I hope to continue performing as well as start teaching piano to help pass the love of music to younger generations of musicians,” he said.

    Family nurturing

    As early as 3, Nio expressed a curiosity about the sounds the piano made while listening to his father practice. From the time he was born, Nio heard his dad, Dr. Mario Ajero, piano professor at Stephen F. Austin State University, giving lessons at home.

    “We would always have some type of music playing in our car, especially on long drives across Texas and beyond,” said Dr. Ajero. “It would include Classical music but also contemporary and popular music, too. When I formally started him on piano around age 3, it was focused mainly on creating positive music experiences and not necessarily any lofty achievement goals. We would gather at the piano every day just so we instilled the importance of the family activity.”

    Nio enjoyed performing and began giving annual solo piano recitals at age 6, first at the SFA Music Prep House, then later in the concert halls of the SFA Wright Music Building. “That must have been significant in giving him the self-assurance to perform on stage with confidence,” Ajero said. “Of course there’s only so much one can learn from one teacher. So several years ago, I asked Linda Parr if she would take Nio as a piano student, and she accepted enthusiastically. We have to give credit to the devotion that Linda gave to Nio – like she does with all her students – and the elevation of his musicianship after joining Linda’s piano studio was quite clear.”

    Parr, piano instructor in the Music Preparatory Division of the SFA School of Music, describes her star student as “eager, attentive and respectful” from the very beginning. “As a student pianist and musician, he showed musical and technical maturity beyond his years,” she said. “As a person, I would say he’s developed confidence and social skills with every experience that I’ve witnessed, and he worked hard for every one of those opportunities. Nio thinks and speaks highly and respectfully of everyone. He has been taught these values from his parents who have dedicated themselves to giving Nio and his sister Olivia (also studying with Parr) a well-balanced environment of family, fun, travel, discipline, exercise, study and practice.”

    Olivia, who is four years younger, has seen the joy music has brought to her family. “I think that definitely inspired her to follow a similar path as her brother,” Ajero said. “Early in her music studies, I got Nio involved by playing duets with her, which strengthened both their musical and family relationship with one another. Nio enjoyed that role as the supportive older brother, and Olivia enjoyed playing grander-sounding music with her sibling. They continue to support each other in performances and competition.”

    The Music Prep experience

    In 2015, Ajero approached Parr about teaching Nio following the final round and awards ceremony of the SFA East Texas Piano Solo Festival in which several of Parr’s students earned top prizes.

    “He’d been watching and listening to my students over the years,” she said. “I was totally taken aback when he asked if I’d be willing to work with preparing Nio for his piano performance portion of the Royal Conservatory Music program. I had only a few weeks to help get him ready. He was 10 years old and turned 11 about two months later. After that, I was privileged to be piano teacher to Nio for seven years.”

    Sometimes, with gifted individuals, the teacher can learn from the student. “What I learned from Nio, is that there are unusual gifts that can surpass what I have previously experienced,” Parr said. “Nio had perfect pitch and memorized his music quickly – as with many gifted children – but even at age 10, unusually complex rhythms, extremely difficult technical challenges and even mature musical concepts were taken on without hesitation. I remember working on the tango variation of Muczynski’s ‘Desperate Measures’ trying to explain the ballroom drama with graceful and yet abrupt rhythmic twists,” she said. “He was so young but picked up the idea and went with it. Subtleties in music can be felt in children. For a teacher, there is always an element of cautious planning of the proper repertoire and technical training for a promising student, without skipping to the most difficult and mature pieces. But Nio could learn an enormous amount of music and thrive on it.”

    Other benefits of music training

    The discipline Nio learned as a piano student spilled into his academic endeavors. In high school, he placed in regional, district and state Number Sense, math, and calculator UIL academic competitions; he was a member of the NHS varsity tennis team; and he won academic scholarships from Nacogdoches Rotary Club, Hispanic Heritage Foundation, NHS Alumni Association, Nacogdoches Symphony Club and Concerned Black Men of Nacogdoches. He is also a second-degree taekwondo black belt.

    Additionally, through music, Nio has given back to his community, helping to raise money for charitable causes with his solo recital performances, as well as playing for church services, UIL solo/ensemble and SFA choirs.

    In addition to being offered a scholarship and grant to study at Oberlin College & Conservatory, Nio was offered admission and scholarships to The Juilliard School, Eastman School of Music, Manhattan School of Music, New England Conservatory, The Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University and The New School College of Performing Arts, New York.

    Nio serves as an example of how utilizing the opportunities offered by the Music Preparatory Division at SFA and its dedicated teachers can lead to an aspiring musician’s greater success, according to Alba Madrid, director of the program.

    “Music Prep provides a unique opportunity for all the students to study with highly qualified teachers, perform in state-of-the-art concert halls, share their talent with the community, and be part of an inclusive support system needed to achieve success,” Madrid said. “All the experiences that are offered through the music prep program are filled with lessons that will last a lifetime. Through music, students learn the values needed to succeed in life – determination, perseverance, critical thinking, teamwork, attention to detail, courage and more. Music Prep offers a support system of teachers, peers and family that helps each student to grow into a confident and high-achieving individual. Through private lessons, group classes, ensembles, competitions, performances and music festivals, the students have many opportunities to fine-tune their craft while developing valuable skills and traits.”

    “Parents play such an important role in instilling values into their children,” Ajero said. “If parents prioritize music education as an essential part of their children’s development and also an essential part of life in general, then children will make it their priority. There are so many benefits to music study – especially piano – beyond just making beautiful music. Those include life lessons, discipline, academic success, and improved mental and emotional health.”

    Finding a teacher that will provide the best opportunities for positive music-making experiences is also key, Ajero said. “What’s great is that we have a wonderful team of teachers that can do just that, here at the SFA Music Preparatory Division,” he said.

    Nio has his own advice, not only for aspiring young musicians, but also for others who have a passion that they hope may one day become a dream career. “Not only put in hard work and dedication into what you are doing, but also enjoy what you are doing,” he said. “These disciplines combined with the passion for pursuing a certain field of study can make magical things happen.”

    Registration is underway for fall classes in the SFA Music Preparatory Division. The Music Prep House is located at 3028 Raguet St. Office hours are 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Madrid can also be reached via email at madrida@sfasu.edu or musicprep@sfasu.edu. Parents can find program information on Facebook and Instagram.

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  • SFA vocal music majors awarded TCDA scholarships

    SFA vocal music majors awarded TCDA scholarships

    press image
    Frankie Barraza

    August 5, 2022—Robbie Goodrich

    Five Stephen F. Austin State University vocal music education students have been awarded scholarships from the Texas Choral Directors Association for the 2022-23 academic year.

    “Congratulations to SFA vocal music education majors Frankie Barraza, Deanna Fitz, Madison Montague, Andrea Sanchez and Jay Teamer for being selected to receive Texas Choral Directors Association scholarships,” said Dr. Michael Murphy, director of choral activities for the SFA School of Music. “Students go through a competitive application process in which they submit an application, listing qualifications and honors and achievements, transcripts, and two letters of recommendation. Having one or two students annually receive this award is a great honor. However, having five SFA students selected from 12 across the state is an incredible achievement.”

    Barraza, Borger senior; Fitz, Houston junior; Montague, Liberty Hill junior; Sanchez, Kingwood senior; and Teamer, Lewisville senior, each expressed gratitude to TCDA in being selected for the awards.

    “Earning this scholarship means the world to me,” Montague said. “I am fortunate enough for this to be the second scholarship that I have received from TCDA. Scholarships like these allow me to focus on school rather than having to worry about the cost of attending school, which I am also very thankful for.”

    “This is a big honor, because a committee of established choir directors from all over the state select the recipients,” Teamer said. “I'm very thankful and humbled to have been selected because the committee of choir directors saw something in me that was worthy enough of investing money into my education here at SFA. We have some of the best music professors that I'm so grateful to have learned from. The experiences I've had in their classrooms have helped in making amazing opportunities like this happen for me.”

    “Earning this scholarship brings me much needed tuition relief,” Barraza said, “which in turn will relax my financial situation over the course of this semester, thus allowing me to focus on practicing my craft and my academic studies.”

    Upon learning of her scholarship award, Fitz said it was “encouraging to have the support of an amazing organization,” like TCDA. “By being a recipient, I felt empowered that the organization shared the same values and beliefs that I have, like safety in community and passion for music,” she said. “This is just another stepping stone towards the future of students I would be blessed to help mold.”

    Sanchez was selected for TCDA’s Jackie Cocke scholarship. “Earning this scholarship felt very rewarding, and I am honored to have been chosen,” she said. “When reading through Jackie’s accomplishments, I appreciated the scholarship even more. Her contributions to music education will surely not be forgotten. Receiving this scholarship will help pay my tuition for my last year at SFA.”

    Sanchez hopes to student teach in the Dallas area during the spring semester of 2023. After graduation, she will either attend graduate school or become a choral educator in Texas. During her college career, she has been involved with Sigma Alpha Iota, an international music fraternity, holding various officer positions, including editor, sergeant-at-arms and president. She has been a research and interview assistant for choral conducting and was a student conductor for this year’s TCDA convention. She received a voice scholarship from the voice faculty at SFA for the 2021-22 school year.

    Teamer plans to attend graduate school “to broaden my horizons” and, following that, he’s looking forward to teaching choir at the middle school or high school level. Among his accomplishments at SFA are as an Undergraduate Research Conference College of Fine Arts presenter (spring 2021), president’s list, dean’s list, Gammill Voice Scholarship recipient, School of Music Scholarship recipient, Orientation Leader of the Year (2021) and Jack Walker Rookie of the Year (2021).

    Before coming to SFA, Barraza made the Texas All-State Choir for four consecutive years. After auditioning at SFA, she was offered a top choral scholarship and enrolled as a music education major. The accomplishment of which she is most proud is her success as an academician, having been on the dean’s list since her freshman year and on the president’s list last spring. “None of this would’ve been possible if I would not have come to a university that fostered and nurtured my growth as a musician,” she said. “I am eternally grateful to all of the faculty here at SFA for giving me a home away from home.”

    Fitz hopes to teach music in high school and eventually on a collegiate level. While in high school, she was selected to District Choir for two years, was a member of the Houston's Girl Chorus, held educative positions in choir council, and was president of the voice club.

    Montague looks forward to becoming a high school or college choral director, and she said she is proud of being a first-generation college student.

    For information about the choral program at SFA, contact the SFA School of Music at (936) 468-4602.

    article ID 2163

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