News and upcoming events from the DSU Department of Music
Department of Music 

Music Notes

October 2014
Volume 11, Issue 2
Archived Newsletters

New Music Faculty Join DSU

At the end of the 2013-2014, we said fond farewells to several DSU faculty members. We wish Dr. Mark Butler and Dr. Mary Lenn Buchanen the very best as they enjoy retirement. We welcome two new faculty to the Department of Music.

RichardsDr. Erik W. Richards is the Director of Bands and Assistant Professor of Music at Delta State University. In this capacity, Dr. Richards directs the Delta State University Wind Ensemble and Marching Band, teaches coursework in instrumental music education and conducting, and administers the DSU Band program.

He holds a Ph.D. degree in Music Education with a concentration in Instrumental Conducting and a Graduate Certificate in College Teaching from the Florida State University, a Master of Music Education degree from Virginia Commonwealth University, and a B.S. degree in music education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. As the Assistant Director of Bands at Iowa State University, Dr. Richards worked with the marching and athletic bands, concert bands, and supervised student teachers in music education degrees, among other duties. As a graduate teaching assistant at Florida State, he assisted with the band program and taught courses in conducting, instrumental music, and music education. Prior to his appointment at Iowa State University, Dr. Richards taught instrumental music in the Virginia public schools as the Director of Bands at Thomas A. Edison High School in Alexandria, and Manassas Park High School in Manassas Park.

BacklinDr. Laurissa Backlin, soprano, is Assistant Professor of Music at Delta State University where she teaches studio voice and aural skills. She received the DMA degree from University of North Texas where she studied with Dr. Lynn Eustis and was the recipient of a Master’s/Doctoral Fellowship. She received her Master’s degree in vocal performance from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA and her Bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from Wheaton College (IL). As soprano soloist, Dr. Backlin has sung in performances of Fauré’s Requiem, Vivaldi’s Gloria and Beatus Vir, Handel’s Messiah, Israel in Egypt, and Dixit Dominus, Bach’s Cantatas 93 and 140, Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610, Schubert’s Mass in G Major, Haydn’s St. Nicolai Mass, Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, and Schütz’s Musikalische Exequien
Prior to coming to Delta State,
Dr. Backlin was an Adjunct Professor of Music at Dallas Christian College where she taught studio voice, voice class, music history, and sightsinging/eartraining. As a Teaching Fellow at University of North Texas, she taught studio and class voice. She is a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing and College Music Society.

Payton Receives National Teaching Recognition

PaytonDr. Chad R. Payton, Assistant Professor of Music, received one of twelve teaching internship awards from the National Association of Teachers of Singing organization. Payton is in his fourth year at Delta State University, where he teaches applied voice lessons, vocal pedagogy, the four diction courses, and song literature. Additionally he hosts the Opera Lecture Series each semester, and heads the recruiting committee for the department. As a NATS Intern winner, he participated in a ten day mentorship program at The Ohio State University this summer, where he was paired with master teacher, Dr. Brian Horne from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. Dr. Payton received daily critiques on his teaching and performing, prepared two students for a live recital at the end of the program, and participated in a variety of masterclasses and sessions regarding voice science, learning styles, and vocal pedagogy.

Faculty and Students Present at Blues Conference

On October 6-7, DSU hosted the International Conference on the Blues, attracting an audience of over 500 scholars, performers, and enthusiasts from the United States, Germany, Norway, France, Canada, and Russia to Cleveland. 
  • Dr. Josh Armstrong (percussion) presented Blue Steel: The Influence of African Drumming on the Creation of the Steel Drum, followed by a performance by the Steel Drum Ensemble, featuring Dr. Pimentel, saxophone.
  • Dr. Shelley Collins (flute, music history) served as conference chair. 
  • Dr. Karen Fosheim, Dr. Doug Mark, and Dr. Erik Richards served as panel moderators. 
  • Andrew Owen (BA '09), a PhD student at Louisiana State University, presented a paper, Purposeful Vowel Modification in the Vocal Style of Charley Patton.
  • Dr. Bret Pimentel (woodwinds) presented Blues for the Classically Trained
  • Dr. Erik Richards (Director of Bands) directed the W.C. Handy All-Stars, a select group from the DSU Wind Ensemble, at the Blues Brunch.
  • DSU students enrolled in MUS 301: Music History and ENG 461: Literature of the Blues participated in the Lightnin' Talks Competition, in which they presented a short speech on a blues topic. Five music students were selected as finalists and presented their speeches at the conference. Music education major Justin Barnes was awarded 2nd place for his presentation, Muddy Waters' "Hoochie Coochie Man," and piano performance major Minji Kim received 3rd for Boogie Woogie Piano Blues and the Music of Pine Top Smith.
Clockwise from top right: Lightnin' Talk Finalists Tirzah Simmons, Hannah Simpson, Minji Kim (3rd place), Elizabeth Ogle, Justin Barnes (2nd place); Andrew Owen (BA '09); students listen to guest speaker Bob Santelli, Executive Director of the  GRAMMY Museum; and the W.C. Handy All-Stars perform at the Blues Brunch. 

DSU Acquires New Pianos


During the 2013-2014 academic year, the university purchased 10 new Kawai pianos to replace several 30-to-50-year-old pianos that were not up to professional standards. Dr. Karen Fosheim, Dr. Kumiko Shimizu and Dr. Jung-Won Shin, piano faculty, and Dr. Mark Butler, interim chair, assessed the pianos owned by the department. With the help of consultants from Memphis and industry representatives, they quickly discovered that most were confirmed to be in poor condition. This realization sparked a search for quality pianos and a quest for funding from both the university and interested contributors.

The piano faculty felt the best investment for the university would be through Kawai. Lane Music Company in Germantown (TN) worked with the department on the purchase of a C2 Yamaha grand piano, funded by a generous gift from the estate of the late Mrs. Keith Dockery McLean. A seven-foot piano, the SK VI Orchestra Grand, is the crown jewel of the music department’s Kawai collection. This purchase also included SK III grand pianos for each piano studio, GX3 and RX2 grand pianos, three Kawai digital pianos for classrooms, and one upright piano.

Several generous donations, including a notable gift from the Tri-State Educational Foundation in Iuka, enabled this venture to go forward. Delta State music alumna Sarah Ellington, a Tri-State board member, committed her annual Tri-State stipend to the piano fund for two years to honor the late Professor Nelle Wynn, a beloved member of the DSU music faculty. Delta State appropriated the remaining funds with guidance from Dr. Paul Hankins, who was serving as interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of music.

The department continues to strive to be named a Kawai EPIC partner, a status that acknowledges that an institution has acquired a collection of 20 new Kawai pianos comprised of at least five Shigeru grand pianos and five other models of grands. When that level is reached, the Shigeru Endowment connected to Kawai will donate the 20th piano, a fourth Shigeru Kawai III with an institutional value of $40,000. This status would provide international media recognition for Delta State among other EPIC universities and music conservatories around the world.

The Department of Music is in need of interested supporters and alumni to help achieve this honor of EPIC status by giving to the piano fund at the Delta State University Foundation. Our current and future piano majors and faculty will have access to performing on these instruments for years to come as a result of the financial commitment shown by Delta State and its friends.

This level of quality is important to communicate in recruiting potential piano majors both in the U.S. and abroad. The department is in the initial stages of creating a relationship with piano teachers and students in the Republic of Korea through associate professor of music, Dr. Jung-Won Shin, who travels there annually to visit family and give master classes and recitals.

Interested donors may inquire about making a gift or a memorial to a loved one by contacting Dr. Paul Hankins, Chair of Music, at 662-846-4615 or the Delta State University Foundation.

PianoMaster piano artisans Takanori (Terry) Otake and Yoshi Kusakabe worked on four new Shigeru Kawai grand pianos. These very experienced craftsmen, who sign the inside of each piano they build by hand, are sent from the Kawai headquarters in Japan to venues with new Shigeru Kawai pianos within the first year after purchase to provide customized regulation and voicing — a painstaking process for quality pianos at this artist level.

Calendar of Events

Visit our Concerts & Events page for more performances. All events are in the BPAC Recital Hall unless otherwise noted. Programs are subject to change. To verify, please call 662-846-4615.

Dr. Joseph Frye, trombone; Dr. Kumiko Shimizu, piano
Monday, October 13, 7:30 PM, Recital Hall
Dr. Patricia Campbell
Chair of Ethnomusicology, University of Washington
Monday, October 13, 11:00 AM, Zeigel 153

SENIOR RECITAL: Beth Allmon, soprano
Thursday, October 23, 1:40 PM, Recital Hall
Monday, October 27, 6:00 PM, Recital Hall
Thursday, October 30, 7:30 PM, Recital Hall
Sunday, November 2, 3:00 PM, D&PL Theatre
OPERA LECTURE SERIES: Lucia di Lammermoor
Monday, November 3, 6:00 PM, Recital Hall
Tuesday, November 4, 7:30 PM, D&PL Theatre
Wednesday, November 5, 7:30 PM, D&PL Theatre
JUNIOR RECITAL: Rory Young, saxophone
Thursday, November 6, 1:40 PM, Recital Hall
Thursday, November 6, 7:30 PM, D&PL Theatre

Saxophone Quartet & Flute Ensemble
Monday, November 10, 7:30 PM, Recital Hall

The official touring big band of the United States Army
Thursday, November 13, 7:30 PM, D&PL Theatre

Tuesday, November 18, 7:30 PM, Recital Hall

Saturday, December 6, 7:00 PM
Covenant Presbyterian Church, Cleveland

Sunday, December 14, 3:00 PM, Recital Hall
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Faculty Headlines

Performances, service, and innovative teaching

  • Dr. Kumiko Shimizu's recording of Sy Brandon’s beautiful piano music, Phantasie on Singaporean Folk Songs, has recently been released on the Emeritus Recordings label and is available at CDBaby. 
  • During spring and summer of 2014, Dr. Bret Pimentel has performed with the North Mississippi Symphony, the North Mississippi Symphony Jazz Band, and the "Stars over Mississippi" Orchestra, and at  the Sunflower River Blues Festival, the Central Wyoming Single Reed Celebration, the Crosstie Arts and Jazz Festival, and Mississippi's historic Club Ebony. He also performed a solo recital at DSU, and solo recitals and masterclasses at Hinds Community College, Copiah-Lincoln Community College, and the University of Tennessee-Martin. He has presented research at the International Clarinet Association conference and the Tennessee Music Education Association conference, and was elected for a second term as treasurer of the Mid-South Flute Society.
  • Dr. Shelley Collins (flute & music history) performed and moderated a panel discussion at the National Flute Association convention in Chicago in August. 
  • Dr. Josh Armstrong (percussion), Dr. Bret Pimentel (woodwinds), Dr. Shelley Collins (flute), and Dr. Paul Hankins (trumpet) performed with the North Mississippi Symphony in the spring of 2014 at Delta State University. 

Shimizu recording

Calling all Alumni

The DSU Department of Music Alumnus/a of the Year Award

If you are a graduate of Delta State University, we invite you to make nominations for the DSU Department of Music Alumnus/a of the Year Award. Nominees for the award must be graduates of the DSU Department of Music and display excellence in the field of music. To make a nomination please go the Department of Music website and follow the link to “Alumni News” to view selection criteria and download the nomination form. Forms may be submitted electronically to, or by regular mail to: Dr. Douglas Mark, Delta State University, Department of Music, Box 3256, Cleveland, MS 38733. All nomination forms must be received or postmarked by March 15, 2015.
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The Department of Music at Delta State University offers undergraduate degrees in liberal arts, music education, and music performance. The department accepts donations through the Delta State University Foundation to support scholarships, student events and projects, and purchase of instructional materials. For more information on degrees or making a contribution, call the Music Office at 662-846-4615, or send email to
Copyright © 2014 Delta State University Department of Music. All rights reserved.
Dr. Shelley Collins, editor. Department of Music: 662-846-4615
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