Moving on in music, in theory
Music department administration shuffles resources to account for the void left after the departure of Larry Johnson.
Changes made in the music department faculty lineup this semester will allow students to encounter music education in a different way, giving them experience they are not likely to find anywhere else.
This semester, Associate Professor Bryce Rytting will be putting off a sabbatical to teach not one level of Music theory but all four, while Director of Choral Studies Reed Criddle, who has primarily dealt with vocal aspects of music, will be conducting the symphony orchestra. These moves are an example of the measures taken at UVU to ensure that students receive an engaging experience during their education.
Gene Lawrence (Larry) Johnson passed away July 8, 2011, after teaching theory and directing choirs at UVU for 18 years. After playing such a large role in the music department for so long, the departed professor’s spot was hard to fill. The void left by Johnson was more than just an academic one. He was a beloved friend and supporter to faculty and students in the department.
One of the things Rytting found “especially lovely” about Johnson was his ability to neutralize the sometimes-bloated opinions of the “quirky” professors that can often lead to disagreements. Johnson’s approach to keeping opinions under control enabled a warm, friendly and open environment that was conducive to student success.
Rytting stepped in to finish the summer semester, teaching a second-block theory class after illness took Johnson away from his job. Volunteering to stay on through the semester is a move Rytting made to be helpful to the department, but there was more to it than that. He has wanted to try some “theory innovations,” by teaching all levels of music theory, instead of having separate professors teach each level.
“This semester will give me a better handle on whether these ideas are smart or not,” Rytting said.
Experimentation like this may seem unusual for a university, but Rytting feels strongly that the ability to try new things, rather than being set in strong tradition and habit, is the best way to provide music students to get the most valuable education.
“The motto for my career has always been to show performers what the rational study of music has to offer them,” Rytting said.
The decision for Reed Criddle to lead the orchestra, while less experimental, has more than one advantage. The monumental work of Carmina Burana that the department plans to showcase this semester will involve instrumentalists, vocalists and dancers. Putting this together, the department will be tapping resources throughout the UVU School of the Arts, the community and four local high schools. Giving Criddle the opportunity to lead the choral and instrumental groups involved with the work, said Donna Fairbanks, music department chair, was “an obvious choice.”
Criddle is elated to have an opportunity like this after being on faculty here for only a year, noting that his expectations of the huge potential of a position at UVU are now being realized. His main instrument may be his voice, but he is a trained conductor with a wide variety of experience under his belt.
“What I look forward to,” Criddle said, “is to bring a different perspective to the symphony orchestra that perhaps the UVU students have not seen.”
While each decision made after Johnson’s departure may have had many reasons behind them, one thing remains constant: the needs of the students and the value of their experience here are always taken seriously.