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Colloquium Series Participants Bios and Abstracts - May 2, 2011

"Semiology of Musical Gestures: How Uniqueness Expresses Community Identity"
Laurel Myers Hurst - Assistant Professor (Term), Kent State University


While it may be common knowledge that music and community identity go hand-in-hand, it is considerably more difficult to determine which musical gesture or gestures embody communally-held values and foster community identity.  Regarding the semiology of music John Blacking asserts, "In music, code and message are inseparable:  the code is the message, and when the message is analyzed apart from the code, music is abandoned for sociology, politics, economics, religion, and so forth" (Blacking 1981, 185).  This paper argues that if unique and meaningful musical gestures cannot be identified and analyzed in the musical products associated with a particular culture, then meaning is derived only from exo-semantic sources and we fail to show that music itself has any affect on community identification.

This paper is predicated upon the hypothesis that if two communities call a genre "Gospel quartet music" and one community describes its music as "Black" and the other describes its music as "Southern" then two unique musical gestures must symbolize communally-held concepts through their external form and their connotative or denotative relationship to their respective cultures.  The argument will also briefly outline and demonstrate a practical method of semiological analysis applicable to performance preparation of any musical genre.


Laurel Myers Hurst is a 2010 Master of Ethnomusicology graduate of Kent State University.  She serves as adjunct faculty at main and regional KSU campuses.  Laurel also acquired her bachelor's degree at Kent State studying voice with James Mismas.  She maintains an active voice studio and conducts choral clinics for sacred and secular choirs.  Laurel has done field research among communities in crisis including the Assyrian Church of the East, Christian missionaries to pre-Communist Era China and unregistered Christian churches currently operating in the People's Republic of China.  Her current research deals with conceptualization of African rhythm and its theoretical application to African-derived popular music.

Sight-Reading Pre-Adjudication: A Comparison Between Director Commentary and Adjudicator Expectations
Kate Ferguson


Music educators believe sight-reading to be a desirable skill for an instrumental performer; however, in public school music, there is perhaps no single problem as universal in scope as sight-reading.  The importance of this skill is shown by the inclusion of music sight-reading at state contests, as well as auditions within and outside of the school. From the large group performance ensemble perspective, ensemble sight-reading is usually required of school bands participating in district and/or state levels of music contests or festivals. Ratings for ensemble sight-reading achievement are often assigned that factor in to the evaluative device for the school band program.  Many band directors' knowledge of how to teach sight-reading is derived from their own personal experience, both as participants in ensemble sight reading an as leaders learning by trial and error. Sight-reading has had a tremendous amount of importance placed upon it, it would only seem reasonable to pursue answers to the questions of "best practices" for the director commentary portion of sight-reading adjudication. The purpose of this study is to compare the practices of directors during the sight - reading pre-adjudication preparations time block of a large group adjudicated event to the expectations of experienced adjudicators for that same time period. This is a qualitative study.  Comments made by directors during the sight-reading portion of the Ohio Music Education Association High School Large Group Adjudicated Event have been compared to the expectations of experidnces sight-reading adjudicators in the Ohio Music Education Association. Research questions are: (1) From an adjudicators perspective, what are the content areas that need to be addressed by the director during the pre-adjudication time block and how much time should be spent in each area? and (2) What are the techniques used and content areas addressed by directors during the pre-adjudication time block to prepare students for the large group adjudicated event sight - reading?


Kate Ferguson is in her 13th year of teaching and 11th year as an instrumental music teacher in the Crestwood Local Schools. Ferguson earned her Bachelor in Music Education from Kent State University in August 1998, Master of Music in Music Education from the University of Akron in May 2004 and is currently pursuing her PhD in Music Education at Kent State University. Ferguson is actively involved in the Ohio Music Education Association (OMEA). Ferguson is an active OMEA Adjudicator and has also served OMEA as a member of the state board, hosting High School Solo & Ensemble and Marching Band Adjudicated Events, as well as being a member of the 2003, 2006, and 2009 Professional Conference Planning Committee. Ferguson actively performs on her main instrument, trombone, with the Brass Band of the Western Reserve. Ferguson has been on the administrative staff for Matrix Indoor Percussion Ensemble since 1999. Her professional memberships include Music Educators National Conference, Ohio Music Education Association, and Delta Omicron.

Does a School Music Program Influence a School's Culture?
Joseph W. Ellis


The purpose of this study is to facilitate an understanding of whether or not a music program has influence upon an individual school's culture, and if so, in what ways.  Most music teachers agree that their subject matter is an integral part of the school's curriculum, but are these classes truly an integral part of school life within those walls?  Participants were selected because of their position within the school's structure, and a student was selected because of involvement and enrollment in all aspects of the offered music curriculum.   All participants were interviewed and given the same definitions of school culture, music program, and influence so that they were able to consistently speak from their unique perspective using the same definitions for each of these concepts.  From these interviews, data were coded and analyzed in regards to answering the question of whether or not a music program influences a school's culture.  Results are will be reported in May, 2011.


Joseph W. Ellis is a doctoral student in the College of Education, Health, and Human Services at Kent State University enrolled in the Curriculum and Instruction program and is a music teacher at Our Lady of Peace Catholic School in Canton, Ohio.  After graduating with a Bachelor of Music Education degree from Mount Union College in 2001, Mr. Ellis continued his education at Walsh University earning a Master of Arts in Education in 2006.  Serving as a band director, choir director, general music teacher, elementary principal, and drama teacher over the last decade, Mr. Ellis has dedicated his life to learning and continual discovery, especially in the field of music education.

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