A Century
of Music


The School of Music celebrates its 100th year with festivities happening across the country

Jess Umbarger / For The Post

While at school, Donna Brink Fox met her husband in a Spring Semester choir class.

The two got married in August of that year in Galbreath Chapel on College Green and at the reception, they celebrated by singing a song about love together.

Fox, an OU alumna, received her master’s in music education in 1975. During her two years at OU, Fox was a student and a visiting instructor.

Like many alumni, Fox believes the School of Music at OU was and continues to support a culture of togetherness and progress.

Celebrating 100 years

What many students might not know when they ride the elevator in Glidden Hall to avoid Jeff Hill is that 2017 marks the School of Music’s 100th anniversary, and the celebrations will last the calendar year.

The beginning and the end of the year-long celebration took place in New York City. The first major event was the Wind Symphony performance at Carnegie Hall, a prestigious concert hall in New York City. It took two years to book the event, Christopher Hayes, the director of the School of Music, said. The closing will be the Marching 110 performing in the 91st Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Provided via the Ohio University Archives

The Ohio University Symphonic Orchestra at rest during one of their three concerts in 1952.

“We were looking for a really special event to highlight our anniversary and have a life-changing experience for our students,” Hayes said.

The performance Feb. 27 was the first time the School of Music performed at Carnegie Hall, although the Marching 110 was the first marching band to ever perform in the venue.

Andrew Trachsel, the director of bands at OU, was almost at a loss for words at how to describe the experience while sitting in his office. Surrounded by Beatles Lego figurines and posters encouraging musicians to be their best, he sat at a desk which is covered in piles of music scores.

“(The students) kept growing throughout the entire process (of preparing for the concert) and really came together at the performance,” Trachsel said. “It was thrilling.”

The students performed a piece from the Broadway Musical Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, which OU alumnus Dave Malloy wrote. Malloy arranged a piece from the show and had the female lead, Denée Benton, perform with the wind symphony.

“We have set the bar here, so what’s next?”

Andrew Trachsel, director of bands

Trachsel said the performance and Malloy’s offer was “better than anything (he) had imagined”.

Katie Heitkamp, a junior studying music education, was one of the 58 students who performed at Carnegie Hall, and she also had a hard time describing such an experience.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Heitkamp said. “If you told me I’d be in Carnegie Hall five years ago, I wouldn’t believe you.”

Other events happening throughout the rest of the calendar year for the celebration include the United States Navy Band in concert performing at Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium and a weekend-long centennial celebration. The school also had the Canadian Brass, a brass music quintet, perform at Memorial Auditorium earlier in the year.

“What we are trying to do is make a big splash in a celebration of the past but also have an eye on the future, and hopefully, this is the beginning of a lot of great things,” Trachsel said.

He said the Carnegie Hall performance was a historical moment for the school but raised expectations for future students. Hayes agreed the performance was a “fabulous” event but that “it probably won’t happen again for another 100 years.”

“We have set the bar here, so what’s next?” Trachsel said.

A Loyal Student Body

Kay Werth, president of the Society of Alumni and Friends, said during her time at OU from 1983-85, the professors were “marvelous motivators” to the students.

The common consensus for more than 30 years has been the faculty of the school are especially welcoming and supportive. Heitkamp said the school was “tight-knit.”

Heitkamp said all of her friends are in the same classes together so they are always helping each other, which is the case with many students in the school.

“The students that I was with were always very committed,” Fox said. “It was a place where people wanted to come and study.”

Many of the students, including Heitkamp, chose the School of Music specifically for a professor. For her, she chose the OU School of Music because of trumpet professor John Schlabach. Schlabach has won the “Distinguished Teacher” award from the School of Music and has written multiple educational articles on music.

Lauren Modler

Director of bands, Andrew Trachsel, conducts pieces recently performed at Carnegie Hall, in Glidden Hall, on Thursday, March 2, 2017.

Emily Kuhn, a graduate student studying woodwind pedagogy and performance, said she chose the school because of the dynamic between the students and professors.

“(The professors) are really supportive and guiding,” Kuhn said.


Despite having graduated years before, many alumni are heavily involved with the School of Music.

“Our alumni love to come back no matter where they are in life,” Trachsel said. “How people give back is to share (their) talents with each other.”

One example is the Marching 110 alumni band that comes back and performs every year for the homecoming parade.

Along with coming back for Homecoming, many alumni attend events hosted by the school. Alumni also come back to help students start their professional lives after college by assisting in the job search process.

“Alumni were (at Carnegie Hall) in force,” Hayes said.

Many musicians give back in other ways than donating money, which will hopefully encourage students to do the same after they graduate, Trachsel said.

The school has developed an archive online of pictures, video interviews with past professors and partial list of professors over the 100 years of the school to celebrate their history.

The list of professors has significantly grown over the years, adding more professors for each section of instruments. In 1917, there were only 11 professors in the School of Music. Now, that number has quadrupled.

“Every time the faculty grows, it means that we can offer more to the students and the region,” Hayes said.

The School of Music is important and impactful to the region because it provides a “center of arts” and exposes people to kinds of music they might have never heard, Hayes said.

Hayes said the school has grown significantly over the past century, adding students and professors. The university offered piano classes in 1883, but they were considered extracurricular, so they did not count for credit hours. Now, students have the opportunity to major in many different instruments, including piano.

Compared to the beginning, the school has grown significantly, but it has always stayed true to tradition.  

“For me, (the school is) a great community of musicians who are passionate about making music together and teaching music, and I think that’s something that’s been consistent in the last 100 years,” Trachsel said.

Development by: Hannah Debenham / Digital Production Editor

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