By Caliesha Comley
This past Saturday, March 1, Evan Harrell (’13) took to the Chapel stage one last time to perform his senior recital-lecture. With tux on and tuba in hand, Harrell fulfilled his final requirements for his Bachelor of Music Education degree.
As the title alludes, Harrell’s recital-lecture consisted of both a performance of musical arrangements and a self-written lecture on the importance of music programs in public schools entitled “Music Does.”
Harrell’s senior event was postponed due to his rigorous student teaching schedule during his last semester as a student. Harrell explains, “It has been really difficult picking out my own repertoire and rehearsing on my own without the help of Dr. LaRue (his lessons professor), and writing my lecture without guidance from professors. But, it was also helpful because I had to rely on myself.” It was apparent, however, that Harrell’s work on his own yielded incredible results.
Though Harrell’s familiarity with the stage did little to assuage his nerves before the performance as he stood in the Chapel corridor talking with his accompanist, his proficiency on the tuba did not falter. He first performed a six-part collection called “Six Studies in English Folk-Song,” originally composed by Ralph Vaughn Williams. He was accompanied by pianist Glenna Metcalfe.
Parallel only to Harrell’s overwhelming musical talent the afternoon of his recital-lecture was the inspiring delivery of his presentation, “Music Does: funding and providing intrinsic support for music programs in public schools.”
This topic was no doubt provoked by the many and deep cuts in music programs across the state of Kentucky. After all, Harrell reminded his audience, only a mere 3 percent of the entire federal budget is allotted for education, and music education is expensive. Yet Harrell argued that the expense of music education is little in comparison to the intrinsic value of the arts.
High education in the arts has been linked in empirical studies to degree attainment as well as community service. Music education is often regarded as an equalizer that supports a “multiple intelligence” approach to education that privileges the many ways in which students can learn the best. Music and arts education has also been associated with higher performance in math and reading, improved social skills and less truancy. In addition, the manner of music education encourages discipline, detail-orientation, learning by repetition and, above all, an insatiable desire for professional and personal improvement.
All of these were presented in the lecture as qualities that good teaching in music can instill in students. These, Harrell argues, are hindered by administrative fear because of music education’s intrinsic and immeasurable benefits, regardless of empirical results. Harrell calls fellow supporters of the Arts to “learn to render those abstractions into actions and present this kind of information to our school boards and administrators.”
Having seemingly inspired himself by the end of his lecture promoting the intrinsic value of music education, Harrell then returned to his tuba to captivatingly perform two more, longer arrangements. The first was Handel’s “Where’er You Walk” from Semele. The second song, though originally composed by Giacomo Puccini, was arranged by Harrell himself. “Nessun Dorma” from Turandot was given a triumphant flair and was a beautiful way to end Harrell’s spectacular recital-lecture evening.
The powerful sentence which ended Harrell’s lecture best encapsulate the evening: “In an educational setting where good is good enough, music begs us to do more. In a society that is so focused on I, me and my, music calls us beyond ourselves. Music does what other things do not and cannot; music does. And that should be worth fighting for.” The complete lecture can be found at www.evanjamesharrell.wordpress.com.