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FAYETTEVILLE -- Student musicians and faculty from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville will visit each of the state's 75 counties as part of an expanded outreach program that includes music majors performing recitals for hometown crowds.

Those involved in what's called the Music75 initiative said it's important to show younger musicians how music careers can continue after high school, especially with visits to areas of the state where classical or jazz performances can be rare.

"There's never been a tuba recital in that part of Arkansas," said Vordie Mathis, a 2013 graduate of Gosnell High School in Mississippi County. In June, he made the 5½-hour road trip to the northeast corner of the state to perform in front of Gosnell students.

"I think it's going to help these small bands in Arkansas say, 'Wow, I can do something with my instrument. It's not a waste of time. It's not just for fun,'" said Mathis, 22.

The first visits took place in February. Out of 20 counties visited by faculty members or students so far, two have involved what UA is calling "back home recitals" for students like Mathis, with stipends paying for their travel and expenses. Other visits have involved larger ensemble performances or faculty workshops. The university's goal is to visit all 75 counties over the next 2½ years.

"I think it's a great idea," said Julia Reynolds, executive secretary of the Arkansas School Band and Orchestra Association, the group that coordinates various band competitions across the state.

Reynolds, the group's executive secretary since 1999, said most universities have their bands or ensembles perform community exhibitions and perhaps even hit the road for a few days. But UA's Music75 initiative is "the first complete, 'Let's hit every county in the state' initiative that I've heard of," Reynolds said.

Local music teachers as well as their students will benefit, she said. Nearly all school districts in the state teach some form of instrumental music, but some areas lack easy access to the types of performances put on by UA's "top notch" ensembles and outstanding faculty, she said.

"You never know what student this is going to inspire," Reynolds said.

For UA, the trips offer a chance to recruit and also establish connections far from Northwest Arkansas, faculty members said.

Alan Gosman, associate chair of UA's music department, worked to create the initiative. He said the idea came in part from a meeting last year with Chancellor Joe Steinmetz.

"One of the things we talked about was, we're in the corner of the state. We want to have an impact, a good impact, throughout the state," Gosman said.

UA's previous music outreach has typically involved visits to urban areas. Oboist and faculty member Theresa Delaplain said the initiative involves going "to some of these counties that we don't normally visit."

In March, with other faculty members, she visited Dumas High School in the southeast corner of the state. The school has an enrollment of about 328 students, according to the state Department of Education, with 67 percent considered low-income students.

"It was really rewarding, and it was eye-opening because the band director said, 'No one ever comes here,'" Delaplain said.

Delaplain applied for a grant from UA's Women's Giving Circle and the group provided $13,455 in support for the initiative, according to UA.

The grant helps pay for the stipends allowing small groups of students to travel and experience the benefits of outreach, Delaplain said.

"It's going to help them in the same way it helped us," Delaplain said.

Gosman said UA's music department has 222 undergraduate music majors as well as 32 graduate students. He said he expects most students to take part somehow in the Music75 initiative, noting that many large ensembles are also travelling to different areas of the state. He said outreach trips have been made in the past and so, with the grant covering stipends, there was no budget estimate for the cost of the campaign.

Alaina Tuberville in May traveled back to Mountain Home, where the flutist performed, with four other UA students also traveling to perform.

"I was very eager to do this," said Tuberville, 22.

She recalled arriving at UA and the difficulties of transitioning to college life.

"I was very intimidated. There were so many amazing musicians here," Tuberville said, adding that, unlike some students, she arrived having never had private lessons.

Tuberville has since been selected for flute competitions and performed in master class sessions, and said she wants to continue her performing career in graduate school.

By going back to Mountain Home, she said young musicians with backgrounds similar to hers see what can be accomplished with practice.

"They can see that and just know that they aren't alone, and that there is a way and it is possible," Tuberville said.

Metro on 11/24/2017

Print Headline: UA musicians going on road to play in state's 75 counties

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