School of Music Valentine’s Day Gala helpful for music students, scholarships

Faculty, staff and students of the School of Music enjoyed Jerome Kern’s melodies and raised scholarship money for students.


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The MU School of Music hosted its fourth annual “Friends of Music” gala at Columbia’s Holiday Inn Executive Center on Valentine’s Day. Julia Gaines, the director of MU School of Music, had the opportunity to experience and coordinate parts of the fundraising gala.

“This is our annual Friends of Music campaign kickoff event,” Gaines said. “It kicks off the fundraising campaign for the year. We have done this for four years now and we raise about $70,000 throughout the year with this campaign.”

With such a demand for scholarship money, Gaines pulled together her side of the gala, while also being the top administrator of the school of music. She spoke prior to the gala about her work associated with the event.

“My role is supervising the marketing plan [for the gala] and getting people there and then I will be the narrator throughout the evening,” Gaines said. “You will learn about the composer in addition to hearing the music he’s written throughout his life.”

This year, the gala made a change by choosing late musician Jerome Kern. Steven Jepson, assistant teaching professor of voice, private lessons, diction and director of a studio class through the School of Music, had the prestige of running the music side of the gala this year.

“I basically set up which students are going to sing,” Jepson said. “I contact my colleagues. I coordinate between the students, the faculty members, our pianists and the concert jazz band. I also will write the script that Dr. Gaines will be using, set up the show order and make sure rehearsals are done. We usually start working on it in the middle of the fall semester, because we do a preview of it right before finals week. We start really fast and furious when the spring semester starts.”

Jepson and other faculty members chose Kern as the musician for the 2019 gala to counter the usual Western classical music that is typically played at their concerts. This way, the choral and instrumental students were able to have more fun mixing things up and the school of music concert jazz ensemble was included, and were able to play tunes that were not accessible in the 1920s.

“When [Kern] was alive, he didn’t want any of his pieces done outside of the musicals that he was writing them for,” Jepson said. “Which is really funny because besides ‘Show Boat,’ you can’t think of any other piece that Kern’s music is known for. And the pieces have become the standards because they are just wonderful. It was a lot of fun learning about the man and his music.”

The MU Friends of Music Board of Directors has an importance within the School of Music as an advisory board for fundraisers for the school, Gaines said. John Parker, a member of the board of directors, came up with the idea for the gala.

“For years, I was active in the MU Retirees Association and I know my generation pretty much all liked the music of George Gershwin, and Jerome Kern and so forth,” Parker said. “So I guess I did suggest ‘why don’t we have a special evening with dinner and all?’ and this year they went to Jerome Kern. So that’s kinda how it got started.”

The new School of Music building is set to be ready by this upcoming October and everyone involved with the school cannot wait, especially Gaines. The building has the possibility of bringing many fresh and positive aspects to MU, music and students.

“The sky's the limit for our new building,” Gaines said. “I mean we definitely feel like we are coming up against a glass ceiling right now, because we don't have adequate rehearsal spaces, and we are spread out all around campus. I know our numbers will go up; everybody likes the concept of getting into a new facility. It’s going to be beautiful. I see it changing us radically.”

Edited by Janae McKenzie |

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