A commitment to grow and enhance Ottawa University’s Department of Music echoes in every note being played or sung by student musicians on campus. This is through a concerted effort by faculty members across the department, who are working to promote excellence in every degree program and every ensemble.
Dr. Michael Pagán, department chair and director of OU’s Bravo!Jazz Singers, outlined steps that have been taken during the past two years to help bolster student recruitment and improve programs. First, he said two additional full-time faculty members have been hired — Dr. Kevin Maret and Serena Eichhorn — who have joined Pagán, Dr. Todd Wilkinson, director of jazz studies, and a full complement of adjunct faculty to instruct courses in the five degree programs offered by the department. Second, the curriculum in all programs has been revised to meet the changing demands in music education.
“All of this has set the stage for an exciting period of growth in our department,” Pagán said. “We have the people and programs in place to provide a top-notch education and experience to Ottawa’s current and future music students.”
Helping identify these future students is the department’s fifth team member, Dr. Jessica Freyermuth. As director of music program outreach, Freyermuth is charged with daily recruitment efforts. She recruits from area high schools and community colleges, and organizes and schedules performance trips for OU’s music groups to allow them to showcase their skills.
“What we’re trying to do is just get the word out about the advancement of our music program,” Freyermuth said. “We’ve been able to do that extremely well in the past few years thanks to the additional faculty we have now. They have been tremendous in helping our recruiting efforts by going into schools and not only speaking about what OU offers, but also showing what we offer by holding clinics. That speaks volumes about what we can offer.”
Prospective music students at OU can choose one of three degrees — Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Bachelor of Music (B.M.) or Bachelor of Music Education (B.M.E.). Those students seeking a B.M. degree can choose a concentration in jazz studies or vocal performance. B.M.E. students work either toward licensure in PreK-12 instrumental or vocal music.
Once on campus, music students have a multitude of opportunities to pursue their musical passions. There are three performance groups for vocalists, including the aforementioned Bravo!Jazz Singers, the OU Concert Choir and the newest ensemble, the Vox Fortis Treble Choir. For instrumental musicians, there is the Wind Ensemble, Percussion Ensemble, Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Combos and the Braves Pep Band.
“The energy amongst the students in the music department is palpable,” Maret said. “Students are excited about the growth of the department, and the rise in quality and variety of performances. We are excited to offer students real-world insight in both music education and performance that is unique to OU. They receive individual guidance as they learn their craft before they embark on their careers.”
Throughout the year, OU’s choirs and bands perform in a variety of forums on campus, in the community and on the road. All of the OU music ensembles present at least one concert per semester. The OU Jazz groups perform at several venues in the Ottawa community. OU’s instrumental ensembles perform concerts on campus, in the community and in support of the football and basketball teams.
A new annual event in its second year is the Summer Jazz Day, scheduled for June 22, which provides high school students hands-on instruction from OU music faculty during workshops and concluding with a full jazz band concert.