News Item

Lander Music Faculty Receive High Marks

May 27, 2015
Music Faculty
Lander music faculty include, from left, Associate Professor Dr. Chuck Neufeld; Associate Professor Dr. Reed Gallo; Associate Professor and Music Department Chair Dr. Lila Noonkester; Professor Emeritus of Music Dr. Tony Lenti; Lecturer of Music and Staff Accompanist Amy Blackwood; Associate Professor Dr. Robert Kelley; and Associate Professor Dr. Robert Gardiner.

Patrick Rodden teaches music at George B. Armstrong Elementary School of International Studies in Chicago. He’s also the elementary director and assistant high school director for an all-city choir.

Marshall Gagne is a freelance tuba player who performs with several quintets and quartets in the metro Atlanta area. He also gives music lessons and currently has 30 students from 10 different schools.

Kelly Hammond has played piano for theatre productions and church services since she was 15. She’s pursuing an M.M. in Collaborative Piano at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Rodden, Gagne and Hammond have more in common than an interest in music. All three are graduates of Lander University’s recently reaccredited Department of Music and speak positively about the experience of studying music at Lander.

“During my first week at Lander, I met [Professor Emeritus of Music] Dr. Paul Criswell and auditioned for Old Main Singers,” said Rodden, a 2007 graduate whose goal is to work as an assistant principal in Chicago’s public schools. “Within the next week, he had me audition with the song “Caro Mio Ben” for [Associate Professor of Music] Dr. Lila Noonkester. They both thought that, with training, I had the potential to build a strong voice.”

Left to right, Kelly Hammond, Marshall Gagne, Cody Beard and Patrick Rodden

Rodden said he “absorbed so much from the music faculty” at Lander, mentioning Professors Emeritus of Music Dr. Tony Lenti and his wife, Marianne, and Associate Professors of Music Dr. Robert Gardiner and Dr. Robert Kelley, along with Noonkester and Criswell, as faculty members who “pushed me extremely hard and encouraged me to continue growing. They prepared me with the necessary tools to become a successful teacher.”

Gagne, a 2011 graduate who aspires to play with a major orchestra and teach at a university, remembers Lander’s music faculty as not only “immensely talented and knowledgeable” but also “kind and welcoming people.” He rated the instruction he received as “above and beyond what I expected.”

Hammond, who plans to pursue a Doctor of Musical Arts in collaborative piano, then work as a staff accompanist for a university, musical theater or opera company, sounded a similar note. “I feel the instruction I received in the classes for my major was much higher than one might expect from a small-town, public university. The classes were taught in such a way that the content has been fixed in my mind,” she said.

“My instructors at Lander gave me a solid foundation on which I can build everything I’ll learn in graduate school,” she added. “They gave me tools that, combined with hard work, will help me become a success.”

Like Rodden and Gagne, Hammond singled out Criswell as a faculty member she found especially helpful, saying that he provided “an endless amount of encouragement.” Another professor who influenced her, she said, was Lenti.

“While all my music professors were highly qualified, effective teachers and wonderful people, Dr. Tony Lenti has been a driving force behind my success at Lander and my continuing education in the years following my graduation.” She described Lenti, from whom she learned piano, music history and music business, as a teacher who “really cares about his students. He has always been willing to listen to or help my classmates and me any way he could.”

Senior music major Cody Beard, who studied in Salzburg, Austria, last year under Wolfgang Navratil, principal trumpet for the Mozarteum Orchestra, is himself principal trumpet player for Lander’s Wind Ensemble, as well as lead trumpet for Lander’s Jazz Ensemble. He hopes to land a job with a symphony orchestra after obtaining a Master of Music degree.

He said that Lander’s music department “is full of distinguished faculty.” He called the education he has received “top notch.”

Playing in ensembles and recitals at Lander, he said, was essential to his development as a musician. “Playing in these settings has expanded my versatility as an instrumentalist. Now I have a knowledge of many different styles and approaches to playing specific repertoire, something of extreme importance to a professional musician.”

Associate Professor of Music Dr. Reed Gallo, who directs Lander’s Wind Ensemble, believes that Lander students should have the same performance opportunities they would have at a larger university. “With this in mind, I program at least two concerts per semester with musical selections that provide a technical and musical challenge for our students. Our student musicians are always willing to accept the challenge and are receptive to the special demands of each piece,” he said.

Gallo said that many students perform in all the ensembles available to them — wind and jazz ensembles, chamber winds, choirs and opera scenes — “and ultimately become well-rounded performers and educators.”

Lander is a different place than it was in 1970, when Lenti first set foot on campus, but he believes it has retained much of what was good in its past. For example, as in his first years, he still knows Lander’s music majors on multiple levels — musically, academically and personally.

“In a field in which young people are encouraged to express themselves, our department’s supportive environment fosters the kind of trust students need to put themselves forward. I don’t think a school with hundreds of majors could offer that,” he said.

Lenti believes that the success of the department is best measured by its graduates, who have become performers, school teachers, administrators, church musicians and musical business people, to name but a few.

“I would like to think that the department aided each one of these folks to find a direction and then helped them to prepare for that career. One of the most gratifying things is to receive an email or note from a student from the past — two years ago, 20 years ago, or more — who says, ‘thanks for helping me find my road.’ This is what I treasure about my work at Lander,” he said.