Message from the Dean – February 4, 2019

First some good news:

Dr. Barbara Fox DeMaio, Associate Professor of Voice, has been accepted to give a demonstration on “Teaching the Aging Voice” at the International Voice Workshop Conference in Suffolk, England in April of this year. Dr. Fox DeMaio has previously presented this research at the Voice Foundation in Philadelphia, the National Association of Teachers of Singing and “La Voce Artistica” in Ravenna, Italy. She is currently working on a book titled “The Female Voice.”

More good news:

UCO submitted 144 abstracts to present at NCUR 2019 in Kennesaw, Georgia in April. Out of the total of 115 abstracts that were approved, 34 are from the College of Fine Arts and Design, which is more than any other college at UCO. We are small but MIGHTY!

Now a story:

Sandy purchased my first guitar when I was twenty-one years old. Her fledgling career as an Occupational Therapist kept us afloat financially as I chaotically stumbled through an expanding list of undergraduate majors. She trusted me to navigate through an academic maze of my own devising. With precious little solid evidence to build faith on, she trusted in my eventual success. During the first year of our marriage, purchasing me a guitar and amplifier seemed like a profligate act of love. The instrument was a bargain-basement, off-brand electric, painted in burgundy and silver sparkle. Under the flamboyant paint job, the particle-board body weighed about ten pounds. I was inspired by the legendary “Hound Dog” Taylor, a six-fingered, fellow late bloomer who started playing a cheap, Japanese Teisco guitar at age twenty. Thirty-five years later, he become the first artist recorded on Chicago’s Alligator Records label. Taylor’s primeval, rollickingly joyful, sloppy and sometimes slightly off-tune boogie inspired a generation of blues musicians like George Thorogood. Taylor once said, “When I die, they’ll say, he couldn’t play shit but he sure made it sound good”. That became my mantra. I purchased a Mel Bay You Can Teach Yourself Blues Guitar book, and set to work destroying my fingertips. That guitar followed me everywhere.

I remember the day I learned the pentatonic scale. I rushed to the single bedroom of our tinyapartment, where Sandy had sequestered herself against the noise of my flailing and fumbling efforts to play the guitar. I could barely contain my excitement as I demonstrated that any combination of notes in that five-note scale sounded like the blues. Miraculously, the same finger pattern could be moved up and down the neck to play in any key, and OMG, if you bent the G string… it was literally magic. She patiently offered me a wan smile and waved me back to the couch, where my bumbling attempts to achieve bluesy joy now at least possessed a graspable pattern.

Last year at the Monterey Jazz festival, the gifted saxophonist Tia Fuller described jazz improvisation as an exercise in building a pattern of tension and release. Musicians imaginatively skirt the boundaries of a scale, followed by the sweet release of landing on the tonic or root. Jazz and blues improvisations are pure creativity in real time. What prevents those extemporizations from existing as random noise is the structure of the chart, and within that chart, the scale. Within these minimal parameters, a jazz or blues combo is capable of virtuosic ingenuity. Flurries of notes, soaring over, around and under the theme coalesce when they hit the root at the end of a phrase. In academia, the chart is our mission statement. Within that chart, we exercise enormous creativity and ingenuity. Individual professors may employ vastly different approaches in pedagogy. Varying expectations exist for studio courses, lecture formats, research expectations and performance mentorship, but all those improvisational variations eventually return us to our root. Our success is measured by the professionals and citizens we help to produce. In CFAD, this is our chart and scale, The College of Fine Arts and Design (CFAD) at the University of Central Oklahoma prepares creative individuals to become leaders, professionals and educators through innovative, diverse and collaborative transformative experiences. Now, let’s see what we can create.