NACOGDOCHES, Texas – The Music Preparatory Division of the Stephen F. Austin State University School of Music has provided a strong foundation in music education for generations of young East Texas musicians. That tradition will continue as a “changing-of-the-guard” takes place at the end of August.
Longtime director Pat Barnett retires Aug. 31, and succeeding her is Melissa Nabb, who is currently an adjunct instructor of music theory, viola and violin in the School of Music. Nabb is eager to get started in her new role with SFA and its music education outreach.
“I have wanted to run a community music school since I observed Suzuki group violin classes at the Music Institute of Chicago when I was earning my master’s degree,” Nabb said. “I was immediately taken with the cooperation between teachers and the enthusiasm of the students and parents, and I wanted to be part of a program like that. So, I jumped at the opportunity to apply for this position.”
Barnett has served as director of the Music Prep program for 20 years, succeeding a list of “Who’s Who” directors that included Shirley Watterston, Linda Parr, Bobbie Ann Anderson and interim director Brenda Josephsen. The program was established in 1980 by Dr. Robert Blocker, who was then-chair of the SFA Department of Music, and Watterston, a longtime music faculty member.
When Barnett became director of Music Prep, the office was located inside Wright Music Building, and she worked only 10 hours a week. She recalled those early days with gratitude to those who helped her learn and grow as director.
“Ten hours a week was adequate, because the student workers in the music office wrote receipts for Prep and recorded the enrollment, and Dr. Ron Anderson, the chair of the music department at that time, loaned Prep his computer,” she said. “He would come in and help me learn to navigate the mysterious computer. Finally, I got the hang of it! The program was quite a challenge for me, and I did my best to move it forward. Many people helped! I have seen many, many changes – in the program and the university. I wish Melissa best wishes as she continues to move the program forward.”
Two of Music Prep’s “call to music” lie in the slogans of “A growing awareness of beauty in sound” and “Bringing music to the community!” Barnett said the SFA music faculty and music students join together to epitomize these ideals.
“I have been fortunate to work with the best teachers and students anywhere – bar none,” she said. “I salute them – both present and past. Some of my best memories are of our scholarship fundraisers, ‘Musical Time Machine,’ ‘We’ve Got Rhythm,’ ‘Piney Woods Home Companion,’ and the sequel, ‘Piney Woods Home Companion – Pine-ier and Woodier,’ and the Middle School All Region Choir Camp – to name a few. We have great community support that is greatly appreciated. The Music Prep Advisory Board deserves recognition for its great contributions to the program. Thank you all. A special note: Mr. Ed Cole purchased harps for Prep, and we have taught harp for 20 years. Thank you, Ed!”
Nabb hopes to expand program offerings that will inspire the next generation of musicians to participate in Music Prep. Beginning this fall, Music Prep will offer new classes to reach more children and adults in the Piney Woods. In addition to traditional lessons, the program will offer group classes for beginning violin and viola, cello and guitar, with these classes costing just $10 each week.
“We are also expanding our lesson offerings to include all strings, winds, percussion and voice,” Nabb said. “Things to look for at Music Prep in the future are Kindermusik classes as well as a training program to prepare our SFA music education majors.”
“I am most looking forward to collaborating with teachers and parents to build a community where students can not only learn music but meet friends and create memories for a lifetime,” Nabb said. “The Music Preparatory program at SFA is a special place, and there are tremendous opportunities to build on the tradition of excellence there and move forward with new and exciting offerings.”
For more information about the Music Preparatory Division and its fall lesson lineup, call (936) 468-1291 or visit www.music.sfasu.edu/prep.