The passing of Assistant Professor Rebecca Tyree

Letter from VCU Arts Dean, Shawn Brixey
May 25, 2018  

Dear faculty, staff and students,

It is with profound sadness that I share with you the tragic news of Rebecca Tyree’s death from a bicycle injury yesterday. She passed away at the hospital last evening in the presence of family and friends.

Faculty members are on campus today to meet with students, including the music department’s interim chair James Wiznerowicz and director of choral activities Erin Freeman.

Becky was a vital and beloved part of our VCUarts community. As assistant professor of choral music education and choral ensembles, she inspired the next generation of choral educators and believed in the transformative power of choral singing. She was deeply devoted to service learning through projects such as SPARC’s Live Art, which trains kids to sing, act, and dance, and the RVA Street Singers, which serves people affected by homelessness in the Richmond community.

Becky was extremely accomplished, dedicated, and decorated as a public school music educator with 25 years of experience prior to joining our faculty in 2000. That dedication continued with her work here, where she was profoundly committed to our music students and to the art of choral singing.

She was adored by her colleagues, students, friends, and family. Her unexpected death comes as a shock to us all.

Our thoughts are with her family. We will pass along information about arrangements when they are known.

With heartfelt sorrow,

Shawn Brixey
Dean | School of the Arts
Special Assistant to the Provost for the School of the Arts in Qatar
Professor | School of the Arts
Affiliate Professor | College of Engineering

A video of Professor Rebecca Tyree’s memorial service can be viewed here and is also available for download through the Second Presbyterian Church’s website.

Rebecca Tyree’s obituary from The Richmond Times Dispatch can be viewed here.

Congratulations VCU Music Graduates!

Congratulations to our VCU Music Graduates:

Daniel Adams
Jake Adams
Chris Baker
Taylor Bendus
Matthew Benson
John Bradberry
Georgia Cotter
Colton Dodd
Tristan Dougherty
Minh Vy Duong
Madison Erskine
Kirsten Ferguson
Quinton Folks
Cleandre Foster
Noah Fotis
Chet Frierson
Jason Garland
Alexis Gruber
Samantha Hoster
Jason Kincy
Sean King
Brian Larson
Michelle Lightfoot
Eric Liverman
Randall Mailand
Byron Maldonado
Alexandra Mattson
Phillip McIntosh
Aaron McNair
Ella Mort
Jeromy Myers
Alanna North
Tess Ottinger
Caleb Paxton
Taylor Ramirez
Cody Reifsteck
David Roberts
Ricardo Rodriguez
Alfred Crespo Santiago
Ryne Siesky
Ryan Stubbs
Nathaniel Talbert
Jason Tyler
Jaylen Veal
Peter Vincenti
Scott Waterland
Ashley Weitzel
Savannah Whittenburg
Hayleigh Wilson
Derneeshia Winston

We wish each of you all the best in your future endeavors! Stay in touch and keep VCU Music posted on your great accomplishments!

Congratulations to our 2018 Award Winners:

Outstanding Achievement in Performance
Caleb Paxton
Outstanding Service
Minh Vy Duong
Outstanding Achievement in Scholarship
Alexandra Mattson
Outstanding Achievement in Music Education
Kirsten Ferguson
Award of Excellence in Music
Jason Garland and Alexandra Mattson

From left: Dr. James Wiznerowicz, Caleb Paxton, Minh Vy Duong, Alexandra Mattson, Kirsten Ferguson

Professor Doug Richards Retires After 39 Years at VCU

Professor Doug Richards

After nearly 40 incredible years, professor Doug Richards is retiring from VCU.

Richards joined the VCU faculty in 1979, and founded its Jazz Studies program in 1980. He is regarded as one of the finest jazz composers in the world, as well as a legendary educator and band leader. Richards is the recipient of VCU’s 1997 Outstanding Teaching Award and numerous grants from VCU toward the creation of musical works.

The Classicalite referred to Richards as “one of the most respected composers/arrangers you’ve never heard of” in their review of his 2016 album, “It’s All in the GAME.”

During his time at VCU, Richards has had an incredible impact on the lives of students and faculty alike.

“Doug Richards is the greatest educator I have ever known. He wields passion, honesty, and knowledge like no other. I am a better musician and better person for having had the privilege of learning from this living legend,” stated Pete Anderson, one of Richard’s former students.

Richard’s former students have performed and recorded with many of the world’s leading jazz organizations including the Count Basie Orchestra, the Ray Charles Orchestra, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra and the Village Vanguard Orchestra, as well as with groups led by such major figures as Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, Horace Silver, Betty Carter, Abbey Lincoln, Cyrus Chestnut, Bill Evans, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, James Carter, the Brecker Brothers and many others.

Read more »

Saxophone Instructor Al Regni Retires from VCU

VCU Music’s saxophone instructor, Al Regni, is retiring after 16 years.

Since his start at VCU in 2002, Regni has graced the Department of Music with exceptional teaching and remarkable musical skill. He taught private lessons and led saxophone ensembles, performed as a soloist with the VCU Symphonic Wind Ensemble among other ensembles, and brought stellar performances by his quartet, The American Saxophone Quartet, to VCU.

Regni’s music career has been nothing short of incredible. He began playing the clarinet at age 9 and was introduced to the saxophone at the age of 12. By the time Regni was 16 years old he had performed with with the Rochester (New York) Philharmonic Orchestra, where he worked with renowned conductors, Erich Leinsdor and José Iturbi, launching the start of his career in music. Regni graduated from the Eastman School of Music and Manhattan School of Music, where he majored in clarinet.

In 1963 Regni was asked to become principal saxophonist of the highly esteemed New York Philharmonic, where he continued to perform until 2013. During those years he also served as the principal saxophonist for the New York City Ballet and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestras. Regni has appeared as solo saxophonist with the National Symphony, American Symphony, New York Philharmonic, The American Composer’s Orchestra and The Little Orchestra of New York under a number of luminary conductors including Leonard Bernstein, John Williams, Leonard Slatkin, David Gilbert and Dennis Russell Davies.

Read more »

Advanced Chamber Music: Beyond Playing Together

VCU’s Department of Music aims to engage students in activities that promote high-level musicianship and collaboration.This most often means exposing young musicians to playing in ensembles such as our Symphonic Wind Ensemble, VCU Symphony and VCU String Orchestra, to name a few. But what if students could go beyond the concept of simply “playing together?” Dr. Magdalena Adamek’s new class, MHIS 491: Advanced Chamber Music, seeks to push the boundaries of what it means to play in an ensemble.

Adamek, Assistant Professor in Collaborative Piano, believes that performing in an ensemble setting brings enormous benefits for students, especially for those at the beginning of their musical journey. She created the Advanced Chamber Music class for students who demonstrate a high level of proficiency with their instruments and who desire an in-depth approach to studying chamber music.

As an advocate for the development of a successful chamber music program at VCU, she believes chamber music plays a significant role in every music student’s life. Aside from developing a sense of pitch, rhythm, and gaining detailed insights into the genre and style of a particular piece, Adamek has observed that students learn how to communicate without words and how to sacrifice oneself for the benefit and overall excellence of the whole group. She has seen first-hand how they share their passion for music and learn about solving various problems while maintaining their own integrity.

With these learning outcomes in mind, Adamek designed the course to incorporate a performance element into a broader context of collaboration. First, the participants develop their playing skills under the professional guidance of skilled faculty members: Dr. Tiffany Valvo, clarinet; Dr. Tabatha Easley, flute; Susanna Klein, violin; or Adamek herself. Second, Adamek further guides the students to work together on their semester-long projects. This year’s projects involve a performance combined with a mini-lecture/multimedia presentation or program notes.

Read more »

Music Education Awards

The VCU Music Education Faculty presented awards to Seth Taft and Paul Bakeman at the VMEA VCU Alumni Reception on Friday, November 17, 2017. Seth Taft received the Outstanding Music Education Young Alumni Award for exemplary practice as a young Music Educator, and Paul Bakeman received the Outstanding Music Educator Award for innovative and exemplar practice in Music Education.

Read more »

Professional Development Sessions for Orchestra Teachers

The VCU Department of Music will host three professional development sessions for orchestra teachers this fall. Recertification credit available. Contact Dr. Sandy Goldie for more information.

The Bornoff Approach Workshop
with clinician Debbie Lyle (Foundation for the Advancement of String Education)
Saturday, October 28, 2017
9 a.m. – noon
W.E. Singleton Center for the Performing Arts
922 Park Ave, Richmond Va.

Come and explore the exciting pedagogy of the Bornoff approach on your primary or secondary instrument in this interactive session for recertification credit.
Registration Fee: $10 on-site (Checks to ASTA@VCU or Cash)
Click here to register

Applying Paul Rolland Actions in Public and Private Schools with clinician Nancy Kredel
Saturday, November 4, 2017
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
James W. Black Music Center
1015 Grove Ave, Richmond Va.

Registration Fee: $10 on-site registration (Checks to VVS or Cash). Violapalooza participants attend for free. To register for Violapalooza, click here.
Click here to register

Viola Masterclass with Daphne Gerling (University of North Texas) and Wendy Richman (New York University)
Saturday, November 4, 2017
1:15 p.m.- 2:50 p.m.
W.E. Singleton Center for the Performing Arts
922 Park Ave, Richmond Va.

Registration Fee: $10 on-site registration (Checks to VVS or Cash) Violapalooza participants attend for free). To register for Violapalooza, click here.
Click here to register

Summer Spotlight: Jasmine Harris, Viola

Violist Jasmine Harris

Violist Jasmine Harris spent two weeks this summer at the Hot Springs Music Festival in the Ouachita mountains of central Arkansas, and five weeks at the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, N.C.

The Hot Springs Festival ran from June 3-16 and was orchestrally focused, with rehearsals every day and a full program concert every four days. Harris also had the opportunity to play and perform in a chamber group, attend masterclasses and receive private lessons.

The Eastern Music Festival (EMF) was a more intensive orchestra program with a full program orchestra concert every week, plus chamber performances. Her chamber group learned and performed Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 8, which required rehearsals every day and two scheduled coachings per week. There was also a scheduled studio class once a week, where Harris and the other viola participants studied with six viola faculty members. She also had the opportunity to see the EMF faculty perform in their own orchestra. Read more »

Summer Spotlight: Shyheim Hinnant, Bass-baritone

Bass-baritone Shyheim Hinnant could be found anywhere but home this summer. He attended the Classical Singer Convention and Competition in Chicago, the Harrower Summer Opera Workshop in Atlanta, the Wintergreen Summer Music Academy in Nellysford, Va., and the German Vocal Arts Institute’s Summer Opera Program in Seattle.

Shyheim Hinnant performing role of Zuniga, the Lieutenant of Dragoons, in Bizet’s opera, Carmen.

Hinnant spent May 25-28 in Chicago for the Classical Singer Competition and Conference. He passed the first round of the competition this spring at George Mason University, and was invited to Chicago for the regional round where he continued to the second and semifinal rounds. This competition gave Hinnant a full scholarship to attend the German Vocal Arts Institute’s Summer Opera Program in Seattle. He also performed in masterclasses for Robert Swensen from the Eastman School of Music and Juliana Gondek from the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.

Next, Hinnant visited Atlanta for the Harrower Summer Opera Workshop, which ran from June 5-25. This workshop included daily movement classes and had a strong focus on French diction. He performed the role of Zuniga, the Lieutenant of Dragoons, in Bizet’s opera, Carmen. This was his first opera performance outside of VCU. Hinnant was also chosen to sing in a recital with American mezzo-soprano Jennifer Laramore.

“I grew tremendously as a singing-actor and made some amazing friends that only this business can provide,” said Hinnant. Read more »

Summer Spotlight: Hamed Barbarji, Trumpet

Hamed Barbarji spent his summer traveling Europe, trumpet in hand. He first went to Switzerland for two weeks to visit family and attend the Montreux Jazz Festival, then attended Italian Brass Week in Florence, Italy, and then returned to Switzerland for another week before returning home.

Hamed Barbarji performing at the Montreux Jazz Club in Switzerland.

While at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, Barbarji got the opportunity to see live performances of great jazz legends, including Herbie Hancock.

“It was absolutely the best concert I have ever been to,” said Barbarji. “Herbie is obviously an amazing musician, but he’s also just an incredible creator. I love what he writes.”

Barbarji was invited on stage to play with the band in the Montreaux Jazz Club and later found out that the legendary Quincy Jones, who took a video of Barbarji’s performance and shared it on his Instagram story, was in the audience.

“It was really awesome to be able to go up to the stage in front of 2,000 people and just call out a tune and have everything work,” said Barbarji. Read more »