Inside Mizzou: Musical Missouri

Inside Mizzou Podcast:
Musical Missouri, Ep. 12

Music is an important part of our lives: We listen while we exercise or cook, we attend concerts with friends and family, and we enjoy it to bond as a community. At Mizzou, we embrace musical citizenship through education, performance and innovation. Every day our School of Music, Marching Mizzou, the Mizzou Summer Composition Institute and so much more affirm this commitment.

Join Chancellor Cartwright for this week’s Inside Mizzou podcast where he talks with Brandon Boyd, assistant professor in the School of Music and Concert Chorale director; and Rachel Hahn, a PhD candidate studying music education. They discuss the role music plays across the many communities Mizzou touches, and why it is so essential to the human experience.

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Moderator: [00:00:11] From the classroom to the cornfield, journalism to SEC athletics, the University of Missouri works 52 weeks a year, every year. This is Inside Mizzou — real stories, real discoveries and real impact of the Mizzou community. Today’s episode is called “Musical Missouri.” Music is a part of our way of life, as the food we eat or the air we breathe. We listen to it while we work, while we exercise and while we cook. It’s a bonding experience between friends and family. It generates emotions, and it shapes identity. Joining Chancellor Cartwright today to discuss music and the ways it impacts our community are Dr. Brandon Boyd, assistant professor in the School of Music and Concert Chorale director; and Rachel Hahn, a PhD candidate studying music education. Thank you all for being here today. Dr. Boyd, let’s start with you. Could you talk a little bit about the role that music plays in community?

Dr. Brandon Boyd: [00:01:15] Sure. The first thing I think about when you think of music in our community is it’s everywhere. You can go to the grocery store, you can go to church, you can go to the gym. I mean, you can go anywhere, and you’re hearing music. I think of music kind of like a lady I remember from my childhood, who was kind of like music. I mean, she didn’t have to have an invitation. She was just everywhere. Sometimes she would go, “Wow, did you get an invitation here? No no, but I heard about it.” And she showed up! One of the things about her, though, just like music, is she was never overbearing. She was in this space, and she was there, and she was always a servant in some ways. And so, as I think about music, that’s what music does: It serves our community, in so many different ways. Some people listen for easy listening. Some people go to it to get into that space that they want to create for themselves a personal space. Some people need it for energy, and so it has all these roles. But, you know, my connection to music is I can see how that’s more so the product of music, but the process of music is related to music education, which is why I’m sitting here today, and why I think it’s so important in our universities, and why we have Rachel Hahn here.

Moderator: [00:02:37] Yeah, Rachel, do you want to talk a little bit about music and its role in the community as well?

Rachel Hahn: [00:02:42] Definitely. So, when I think about community and building a culture and how music is involved in that, I think of the unique aspects of music that both speak to the universal sense of a community and also the individual sense of a community. I was thinking of an example, and, for example, whenever I think about Queen’s “We Are the Champions,” I can’t help but think about my experiences driving home in the middle of the night to St. Louis to see the 2011 World Series — Game 6 and 7 with my dad — and how we watched that together. But at the same time even though that experience is obviously a very personal, individualistic one for me, I think that song also evokes a lot of memories for just all St. Louis-ins, and it really built a sense of community around that particular baseball team. So, just the magic power I think of how music can both unite us in a community and also serve our individual purposes. As Dr. Boyd was saying, we each use it for our own needs, whether that’s easy listening or actively engaging.

Moderator: [00:03:52] And have both of you identified kind of musical patterns here on this campus? Do people typically like listen to specific stuff here? Just what is your observations as being a part of music education and using that to observe what’s happening on campus?

Dr. Brandon Boyd: [00:04:09] Well, I’m not quite sure I can really identify a musical pattern, as much as I can say I’m from the East Coast, and I live in a more so choral world, which is kind of classically based. Not that I don’t listen to secular music because absolutely I do, or music of other genres I do. But I just think overall — let me just say overall — there is something in the Midwest that I can appreciate about music and its excellence, and Mizzou being one of those hubs and one of those places that’s responsible for producing great musicians, music educators. I keep going to music educators. That’s very important. But I think that the Midwest has a strong tradition of not just choral, vocal music but also instrumental music. And I learned that by living here for two years now, just sensing that, you know, drum corps are really big — not so much in the South where I’m from. Bands are, but here you just sense that every place has its kind of thing that it is developed and nurtured. And I think that’s one of the things here that I really can appreciate about the Midwest and Mizzou and Columbia.

Rachel Hahn: [00:05:28] Yeah, I think I agree. I haven’t really noticed any particular trends amongst my students or my peers here at Mizzou, but I think the overarching, general sense is that everybody’s really well-rounded here. They have a lot of different experiences in music, and even if they’re a classically-trained piano major, they might like hard rock or another genre or another instrument. Everybody reaches out and tries to do a little bit of everything, which is great for just the balance of the community.

Dr. Brandon Boyd: [00:05:59] Absolutely.

Moderator: [00:06:00] So, going off of that and exhibiting how this community right now is Mizzou — so like our community is Mizzou — how have your experiences changed the way you think about music, that you’ve kind of experienced here on this campus? Has it changed your perception of things?

Rachel Hahn: [00:06:20] So, for me, I came into Mizzou with already a pretty strong sense of how music can build a community, but I think one of the things that kind of changed my perception here is just how important it is to be strategic and be intentional when you’re developing a community and when you’re trying to become part of a new community. I think so often we think, as music educators, we focus on the nitty-gritty details, the fundamentals of the score, and we often forget about the little things that involve people in music in the first place, and how we’re really trying to nurture their whole person and not just the music. So, that’s been one of my primary focuses here, just trying to really make sure that I know the whole individual, not just the piano student sitting in front of me.

Dr. Brandon Boyd: [00:07:12] That’s excellent. That’s exactly what we want. That’s exactly what we want from students — undergrads, masters and graduate students — to understand that there is a person there, and the content is what brings you to that person. But I just had a little thought while Rachel was speaking, but one of the things that I thought about is with all the rich music that is produced on Mizzou’s campus — you know, part of our product — I’ve been thinking of ways that we can share it with our community. And one of those things in my past I’ve worked with homeless choirs, senior choirs, prison choirs and things like that, and I’ve been thinking of ways, and I’ve been working with one of my colleagues — wonderful colleagues — Professor Andrews, and we’ve been working on just yesterday had a little plan for how we could start a homeless choir that would be a, basically, a service project for one of our ensembles at the university. And so, we also had another idea of how can we maybe create a partnership with one of these senior facilities here, so maybe we could give back in some kind of way that is a clear, even exchange. Because our students will gain. But not only that, those who we’re serving — and we use the term “less fortunate,” and I believe in some ways people are less fortunate than others — but we don’t want to go into it with this sense of pity. We want to gift them with something that already belongs to them, which is music.

Moderator: [00:08:48] So, Chancellor Cartwright, Dr. Boyd and Rachel have talked extensively about kind of that human experience, that human element of music, and what are your thoughts about that? So, why do you think music is so important to the human experience?

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:09:03] You know, growing up in the Bahamas, I mean one of the ways that we certainly capture a lot of the culture is within music, and I think that’s not just unique there. That’s in every country. You see some real distinctive music and something that tells a story about what the culture is about. I think, you know, Eddie Minnis, who was a musician in the Bahamas, and you know a song called “Slam Bam,” and it actually brings back a lot of fond memories because it actually talks about something that we ate in the Bahamas and how it worked, and it was just different. School was different there. And so, it’s that type of connection through music that you learn so much about a culture. And then, just individually, those people who have the opportunity to learn musical instruments or have the ability, they then get connected to a lot of other people who have similar interests, and when they come into a university or any other community they have ways that they can connect with others, right? Both of my kids play musical instruments, so they were in orchestra and band all the way through college, and that allows them to connect in ways that helped them to be able to then be successful.

Dr. Brandon Boyd: [00:10:19] What about your wife?

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:10:21] My wife was a piano major at university and a music educator, and you know it allows for a way to really connect with people in a different way than what most people can. And so, that connection to the experience of life is what music allows.

Moderator: [00:10:49] Right. And we kind of touched on this as well about how Mizzou kind of cultivates this sort of community within music, and you kind of touched on that and the fact that people like these different types of music on this campus, yet there’s a lot of common kind of signifiers that people identify with and create that community. So, how does Mizzou do that in your eyes, aside from like what you were saying previously?

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:11:17] You know within the institution, there’s lots of ways that we do it, right. We do it through the “Chancellor’s Showcase,” where I think last year we really highlighted the music program here. But it’s also at our sporting events. All of the things that you see and what we connect with on the sporting events because a lot of that is around music. Our Alma Mater is just an incredible experience to participate in and to sing, and you know there’s so many things. It’s not just that sporting events. We end a lot of our award activities with the Alma Mater. And I think that binds people to an institution, and I think it gives that signature of what it means to be part of Mizzou. So, that’s what I think of here in terms of building community and bringing people together on the campus.

Moderator: [00:12:08] I just want to ask more of a personal question to all of you. So, I’m a really big fan of playlists and Spotify. I love creating them, especially when I’m in my moods or something happens. And so, I’ve got my answer to this question, but I want to hear all of your answers. What is one of your favorite songs, or if you can’t do that what is your favorite band? Who wants to kick it off?

Dr. Brandon Boyd: [00:12:33] Well, it’s just hard when you know so much music to say what’s your favorite. So, I won’t say — I’ll just take it from a different angle. Recently, we lost the “Queen of Soul,” Aretha Franklin. And, unfortunately, I didn’t know much about Aretha Franklin before her passing. I knew her popular hits, but I thought the day before she passed — a person who didn’t know she was even at death’s door — I bought her album, and I was reading the cover and I saw that she was on the piano playing the songs. “Spanish Harlem.” You might not know that one. That’s one of my favorite songs. And I listen to it all the time, and I just had no idea I liked her so much. But I do because she’s a pianist, she’s a singer. She bridged the gap between gospel music, which is soul music connected to spirituals and all kinds of things that I think are just a part of my natural fabric of growing up, and she bridged into this idea of soul, which she’s a bridge. She is the “Queen of Soul” in so many ways, and I think she understood how to really tug on your heart.

Rachel Hahn: [00:13:48] I love that you said that because what I was going to say is, yes, as musicians we often get asked like, “Who’s your favorite composer? What’s the favorite piece you’re working on right now?” And that’s so hard to answer, because we put so much work into all of them.

Dr. Brandon Boyd: [00:14:00] And we want our students to be…

Rachel Hahn: [00:14:02] Yes, and we want everybody to be well-rounded. So, when I get asked that question or get asked my favorite band or something, I usually go complete opposite from what I’m working on. So, I go to what’s playing in my car recently or what my husband and I have been listening to recently. So, right now that happens to be Fleetwood Mac, a song like “Go Your Own Way.” Kind of classic song.

Moderator: [00:14:25] A nice car ride song.

Rachel Hahn: [00:14:27] Yes, exactly! Great road trip song.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:14:29] Belting it out.

Everyone: [00:14:30] (Laughing)

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:14:33] Yeah, that’s a tough question for me. It’s always really hard for me to answer that one. You know, when I think about music, it depends on what I’m doing, which music I want to listen to. If I need to work, I typically will listen to classical music because then I can — and only instrumental, I can’t take anything with words. It just creates too many thoughts in my mind. But, you know, I think back to some of my my favorite artists. Otis Redding. I really enjoyed Otis Redding growing up. And of course Bob Marley. I mean, I was in the Caribbean, so you get a different influence, and who I mentioned, Eddie Minnis, who was a remarkable Bahamian artist in many ways and created just some really fun songs about the culture of the Bahamas and teaches you a lot about — if you can understand the accent — it teaches you quite a bit about the Bahamas. So yeah, any of those people I go to. And then I enjoy a lot of the more recent artists also, so I have a large collection of different types of music at once.

Moderator: [00:15:42] Well, thank you all for being here today. We really appreciate all of the insightful words you had about music. But before we go, I have one more thing for all of you, so let’s, we’re going to kick it off.

Dr. Brandon Boyd: [00:15:56] We’ve been waiting on it.

Moderator: [00:15:57] I know, I know you have.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:15:57] We’re patiently waiting. I hope it’s about music.

Moderator: [00:16:02] Oh no, sorry. Alright. How does a rancher keep track of his cattle?

Everyone: [00:16:08] HMM…

Moderator: [00:16:14] Okay, I’m going to cut you all off. With a cow-culator!

Everyone: [00:16:17] Ahhh.

Dr. Brandon Boyd: [00:16:34] Of course!

Moderator: [00:16:34] Our audio engineer is Aaron Hay. Our featured music is “Forest Park Rhapsody,” composed by MU undergraduate and music composition major Ben Colagiovanni. You can find more information about Ben and his piece on the Inside Mizzou webpage. Make sure to join us next time, and keep an eye out for the chancellor’s newsletter to stay on top of what’s happening at Mizzou. Thanks for joining us on this episode of Inside Mizzou. See you around the Columns!