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Big 12 Fellowships awarded to School of Music Faculty

Erin Ellis and Lindsey Williams were awarded Big 12 Fellowships, a grant program among the institutions in the Big 12 Athletic Conference offering faculty an opportunity to travel to member universities to exchange ideas and research.

Ellis is working with Meredith Blecha-Wells from Oklahoma State University to develop a book on musical interpretation for cello.

“Musical interpretation is a difficult concept to develop in students, so we wanted to create this book as a practical resource to help teachers and students approach these issues together,” said Ellis, assistant professor, noting the limited materials currently published in the subject, particularly at the intermediate level. “We are aiming to present pedagogically organized ideas in a digestible way so that students can begin to develop their musicianship earlier and take more ownership of their musical decision-making skills.”

The project is Ellis’ first book. While initially covering intermediate-level repertoire, she plans to continue working with Blecha-Wells to develop more literature. 

“The reality is that many of our college-aged students might be quite advanced in the technical aspects of cello playing, but are further behind in their development of musical interpretation,” Ellis said. “It is important to help students develop convincing interpretive skills so that they are prepared as professionals." 

Williams is using the fellowship to collaborate with faculty in the Department of Music Education and Music Therapy and the Music Research Institute at University of Kansas on Every Student Succeeds Act Project.

The research, requested by the National Association of Music Merchants, will create a comprehensive understanding of the impact music study can have in the context of the law.

“Every Student Succeeds Act is notably different from No Child Left Behind because is designates music as a core subject and allows for development and assessment of standards in this area,” said Williams, visiting associate professor. Those standards will now be created by each state.

“ESSA gives states the flexibility to choose which core subjects to measure for annual yearly progress,” Williams said. “No Child Left Behind only required measurement in reading and math.”

At the end of the study, Williams and team hope to better understand how music education programs impact school climate and children’s learning.

“This project is important in that it may shed some meaningful light on the impact a strong arts program can have on the overall culture of the school,” Williams said. “There is a growing body of research into the benefits for students who participate in strong arts programs, but there is very little data-driven information about overall school climate, let alone how an arts or music program might impact that climate. This project may show us that a strong arts program not only benefits those students who are involved, but may also benefit the school climate as a whole.”