Reaching a Crescendo

The Hugh Hodgson School of Music has an ambitious new director and lofty goals for the future


When Jennifer Holloway came to the University of Georgia in 1996, she planned a career as a music educator. She studied the euphonium and voice, and enjoyed folk music and the drum corps.

A few years later, when the Hugh Hodgson School of Music and the Classic Center formed the Athena Grand Opera Company, Holloway auditioned. The production was Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” and Holloway played Third Lady.

The next year, the company produced Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus,” and Holloway was Prince Orlofsky. She recalls Gregory Broughton, associate professor of voice, telling her, “You could really have a career in this.”

“I was like, hey, people really get paid to do this,” Holloway says. “It just so happened that around the right time in my life, I really started concentrating on it and had good instruction.”

A decade later, Holloway knows she found her true calling, having performed with some of the biggest stars and at some of the grandest venues.

As one of the country’s largest collegiate music programs, the Hodgson School of Music continues to prepare students for careers as school band, orchestra and choral directors, college professors, and performers of classical, opera, jazz and even rock music. High-profile groups such as the Redcoat Band showcase the musical talents of music and non-music majors. Students prepare for careers in education by student teaching in the public schools and teaching toddlers, kids, college students and adults in the Community Music School, an outreach to the area for beginners and lifetime musicians, along with the String Project, promoting the study of string instruments for young children.

With all these ongoing programs, the new decade is a pivotal time for the school, which brought on a new director last summer and this year could see new leadership in four critical areas—trombone, viola, percussion and choir.

Director Dale Monson, who came to UGA in July from Brigham Young University in Utah, does not hide his ambition.

“This is a watershed moment in the history of this school,” Monson says. “The whole faculty feels that. Ten years from now I think we’ll be in a much different place.”

The Hodgson School has had a number of those moments since Hugh Hodgson, a former student, was named Georgia’s first music professor in 1928. Four degree programs in music were developed between 1930 and 1941, including the master of fine arts. In 1938, the Fine Arts Building opened, signaling the university’s commitment to the program. That same year, Hodgson started a chamber music festival that brought nationally known groups to campus for more than two decades.

In 1951, he created a high school music festival that signaled UGA’s support for statewide music education. In the 1981-82 academic year, the department was elevated to school status. By 1995, it had expanded to fill a new 100,000-square-foot building, which opened that year as part of the Performing and Visual Arts Complex on East Campus. In 2005, the school was named for Hugh Hodgson.

Hodgson laid the groundwork for the school’s growth by hiring faculty who would be key to the school’s success.

One of those, Roger Dancz, came in on a one-year temporary appointment in the mid-1950s but stayed for more than 35 years, energizing the Redcoat Band as it increased in size from 99 to more than 420 members and grew in stature nationally and internationally.

“What he brought was an incredible enthusiasm and an incredible talent that just got focused in on one thing—the Redcoat Band and the University of Georgia,” says his son, Steve Dancz, who as a child would be in his crib in the end zone at Sanford Stadium while his dad rehearsed the band and his mom, Phyllis, coached the Georgettes.

Jazz trumpet player Glenda Smith (BMus ’88), who has performed with the “American Idol” band and for the Emmys, and co-leads several jazz groups, came to UGA to work with Roger Dancz, who offered her a scholarship.

“I got to Georgia wanting to be a high school band director, and I left wanting to play,” says Smith, wearing a Georgia shirt in her Hollywood home on a rare day off. “All my playing experiences were vital to that decision.”

Faculty are the key to building a nationally recognized program, Monson emphasizes. Typically, non-music majors look at schools based on the reputation of the institution or individual programs, Monson says.

“That is not how music students make their decisions,” he says. “They make a decision based on a person” who will be their teacher.

Baritone Frederick Burchinal, a regular performer at the Metropolitan Opera; violinist Levon Ambartsumian, who studied and taught at the Moscow Conservatory; and flutist Angela Jones-Reus, a former longtime member of the Stuttgart Philharmonic, who occasionally performs with the Berlin Philharmonic, are among the many top-shelf faculty that students have sought out at UGA.

Hiring strong faculty replacements for two faculty members who died last year—trumpeter Fred Mills, founding member of the Canadian Brass, and saxophone professor Kenneth Fischer—is a priority for Monson.

Another is increasing scholarship support for students and developing more career and performance opportunities for students who hope to make performance a career.

The Wind Ensemble’s recent performance at the College Band Directors National Association conference in Austin, Texas, is one such opportunity.

“We want to do more recording. We want to do more travel in the region, state and internationally,” says John Lynch, who was named director of bands in 2007.

More opportunities were the reason doctoral student Amy Knopps came to UGA after getting her undergraduate and master’s degrees in the Midwest. Lynch was her mentor at Kansas before he joined the UGA faculty in 2007.

“For me, the University of Georgia was the opportunity to be in a bigger program,” Knopps says. “We’ve got a lot of different students involved, whether you’re a music major at the highest level or a non-music major involved in the marching band, concert band or basketball band.”

Monson also is interested in increasing the school’s commercial opportunities and expanding the visibility of the school by broadcasting UGA faculty and student performances on radio, TV and the Internet.

“We cannot, and must not, be isolated from the national artistic scene if we are to rise to our potential,” Monson says.

Other goals include boosting the chamber music program, purchasing instruments such as a concert organ for Hodgson Hall, completing the Redcoats marching field facility and building on the school’s music therapy program, perhaps in conjunction with the Medical College of Georgia/UGA Medical Partnership.

The faculty welcomes Monson’s ambition for the school, says Jean Martin-Williams, who has taught horn at UGA for 20 years. Hiring a director from outside of the Hodgson School was a seismic event, she says.

“Bringing in someone from the outside always causes some unrest, but in this case, in a good way,” Martin-Williams says. “We need to respect the past but not be afraid to do things in a new way that is appropriate for our future.”

Ultimately, Monson says he would like to see music, along with all the fine arts programs at UGA, grow to become a greater presence on campus and on the national level.

“Our mission is to become one of the great music schools in the country, where we can be ever more effective in educating and promoting the careers of young musicians, building a deeper love for music through the state and nation,” he says. “I personally feel, as do many others, that (Hodgson’s) legacy is crucial for the school. His vision really was to promote the appreciation for the arts.”

—Lori Johnston is a writer living in Watkinsville.

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