Jessica Spafford ’11, B.A., Vocal Applied Music
My journey to becoming a music major at Ohio Wesleyan University was slightly atypical. I came to OWU to major in microbiology—a passion I still love—and keep up with music through choir and maybe a musical since I had done about 30 of them growing up. When Mr. Hiester first heard me audition for choir, he asked me why I wasn’t majoring in voice and encouraged me to audition and be a part of the opera workshop class and the department. Eventually I did so and ultimately followed my real passion in music. I did not initially major in music because I thought it was unrealistic. I never had a voice lesson until my freshman year of college and knew very little about classical music. I was able to follow through with the requirements for a biology minor, but I am so happy to have chosen music to fulfill my life.
Being able to take the classes you want and be involved in groups that interest you is one of the greatest aspects of Ohio Wesleyan. Aside from choir and opera workshop, I am also a member of the honors music fraternity Mu Phi Epsilon, the all women’s a cappella group Pitch Black, the musical theater group The Muses, the sorority Kappa Alpha Theta and more. One of the best parts about OWU is the music department faculty members support me in all of these endeavors. They care about me as a person and try to help me accomplish my goals in life and in music.
As a vocalist, I have had various opportunities for solo performances. I have sung solo student recitals, solos in the choir, a solo aria with our orchestra, roles and solo arias in opera scenes, a junior recital, and an upcoming senior recital—among voice competitions and auditions for summer programs. This kind of experience is crucial to have as a growing performer. Knowing I have had this kind of preparation gives me confidence for my future aspirations, like auditioning in my hometown for the Pittsburgh Opera this May.
Of all the experiences I have had, one of the most rewarding was being supported emotionally and through scholarships and grants by the music department to attend a summer program in Salzburg, Austria. I lived with a host family for over five weeks; attended numerous concerts and operas in the Salzburg Music Festival; traveled to Vienna, Prague, and Munich; had solo concert performances; worked with greats like Joyce DiDonato in master classes; took German language classes; and had private voice lessons and vocal coachings four times a week. It was intense, but I learned a great deal. My journey is now ending after these four years, but my teachers, fellow students, and Sanborn Hall have become a family and a home away from home.
Samantha Spiridellis ’11, B.A., Instrumental Applied Music
As native of New York City, my early exposure and deep passion of the arts has encouraged me to get my Bachelors of Arts in Music with an emphasis in applied piano. My favorite part about being a music major at OWU is the individual attention from professors. They take the time to get to know you and focus in on what you need the most help within your course of study. My piano teacher sometimes makes our lessons twice as long in order to give me all the time I need and even comes in on Sundays to make up a rescheduled lesson. The faculty members give you all they possibly can to make sure you are not only a successful student, but also a successful person in the world.
One of my favorite aspects of OWU’s music department is the freedom to explore my interests. I personally requested to take keyboard techniques and piano accompanying (which are not required of me as a B.A.). I am also researching an independent study course on the origins and development of jazz theory in addition to taking composition lessons. If the OWU music department was not an advocate of following your passion, I would not be able to have learned as much as I have.
Ohio Wesleyan University has allowed me to pursue my interest in music while I explored other realms. As a freshman, I made it my obligation to go out and explore what OWU has to offer. For three years in a row, I spent my spring break on an OWU community service-learning trip. The first was to Chicago to explore urban poverty, the second was to a Lakota Reservation in South Dakota, and the third was a wilderness trek/mission trip where we hiked mountains in Ecuador and volunteered at a church. Participating in these trips allowed me to branch out and meet people with different majors and interests.
Jabez Co ’12, B.M., Instrumental Music Education
I first heard about Ohio Wesleyan University from my counselor in high school. I graduated in 2008 from Brent International School Manila in Manila, Philippines. Currently, I am pursuing a B.M. in Music Education with a focus on flute performance and minors in piano and composition. I have learned a great deal here at Ohio Wesleyan University. I have had the opportunity to study flute with Dr. Nancy Gamso and Mr. Randy Hester. While both are extremely different in their pedagogy. Their varying styles have allowed me to explore different styles of flute playing. I have also studied composition with Dr. Clint Needham and Dr. Jason Bahr. I never thought I would be composing until I came to Ohio Wesleyan University. Through composition lessons, I have learned to master compositional techniques and to compose pieces that are performed by students on campus. I have also studied piano with Dr. Mariko Kaneda. Piano lessons were very helpful with learning technique and coordination. I was greatly challenged, but Dr. Kaneda was always encouraging. Lastly, I have had the opportunity to study conducting with Dr. Michael Malone and Dr. Richard Edwards. I am honored to be the Assistant Conductor of the Chamber Orchestra and have had the chance to conduct the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Larry Griffin.
I am a current member of the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Chamber Orchestra, and the Bishop Pep Band. I have also previously been in the Choral Art Society, Flute Groupe, and the Pit Orchestra. During ensemble rehearsals, I am constantly challenged to perform better. I also conduct sectionals for the flutes in Symphonic Wind Ensemble, the woodwinds in Chamber Orchestra, and have conducted sectionals for the basses in Choral Art Society. All of these positive experiences are endless here at OWU.
Ohio Wesleyan University not only focuses on academics but extracurriculars as well. I am currently a Resident Assistant of Smith Hall and will be returning as an RA next year. I am currently the Vice President of Mu Phi Epsilon and was the President of Mu Phi Epsilon last year. I am a member of CMENC and have been to the OMEA Convention every year since I have been at Ohio Wesleyan. I have also served as a tour guide and Orientation Leader and have been in President’s Club as well. Ohio Wesleyan is a great place for serious students who seek a wide range of opportunities. I have definitely been blessed to have such different experiences on campus.
Furthermore, I have performed at many different events. I performed during Convocation 2009, as well as other campus events, such as Culture Fest. I am currently the Director of the Teen Choir at Asbury Methodist Church. This year, I will be performing at the Ohio Federation of Music Clubs convention. I have had the privilege to perform with the Manila Symphony Orchestra as well.
I encourage you to look into Ohio Wesleyan University. Ohio Wesleyan provides an array of experiences for any student. You will receive a high quality of education, while also making a close knit of friends. Ohio Wesleyan allows students to explore their interests, to broaden their minds, to find new passions, and to further become an established musician.
Jillian Ristau ’12, B.A., Instrumental Applied Music and B.A., Psychology
I am from Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania and graduated in 2008 from Blackhawk High School. I originally came to OWU for Genetics and Psychology, but after less than one semester here I fell in love with the music department. Dr. Griffin was very welcoming and helped me prepare for my audition and figure out what was the best way for me to become a music major. Since I am a B.A., I am able to keep my double major in psychology. I am still quite busy within the music department, but I am able to expand my learning across campus.
My lesson is one of the highlights of my week. Practicing can become monotonous. However, every time I have a lesson, Dr. Griffin shows me either a new way of looking at my music or a new technique that will better my playing. He has taught me not only how to play the music, but how to emote and get the story across to the audience. He knows how to work with his students individually, which is one of the many things I love about OWU. Here you are not a number; professors really do take the time to get to know you as a person.
Campus life is always buzzing. There are a variety of groups and organizations that students can become a part of, and there is something for everyone. There is no time and no reason for anyone to be bored on campus. Some organizations within the music department that I have been a part of in my three years here include the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Park Avenue Jazz Band, Bishop Band, and the orchestra. I have been exposed to so many different kinds of music that I never would have experienced outside of those ensembles.
Every fall, the Bishop Band attends home football games. Although I am not interested in football, we always have fun and the fans really seems to appreciate our musical entertainment. It’s nice to be able to play in a relaxed atmosphere outside of Sanborn. Aside from the ensembles on campus, I have also played for various church services at churches in the Delaware area and back home during breaks.
Ohio Wesleyan is a beautiful campus, and I don’t mean just on the surface. Here, everyone is accepted and diversity is celebrated. We have events such as Heritage Dinners where people from all kinds of backgrounds can come, share theirs, and learn about other’s roots. As a whole, this campus is accepting of other’s opinions, lifestyles, and anything else that may differ person to person. It’s a comfortable place to call “home” for the short four years we spend here.
Like I said before, another wonderful thing about OWU is that professors get to know their students. With class sizes being relatively small, there is more of that one-on-one learning and connection with faculty and peers. And since OWU has a fairly small student body, it’s hard to be in a class where you don’t know at least one other person. It’s nice because, when comparing to friends who go to large state schools and don’t get to see the same people every day, there is a sense of security and stability.
Michael Bret Irvin ’13, B.M., Choral Music Education
I am from Granville, Ohio and a 2009 graduate of Utica H.S. When I auditioned at Ohio Wesleyan, I auditioned on euphonium to become a music education major. I have since changed to the vocal track to broaden my knowledge and horizons into the choral world. Having voice lessons with Mr. Heister has proved challenging and rewarding. I have gained a new respect and joy for singing as I learn new techniques that I have started to apply to my own singing and performing. Campus life is one reason why I love Ohio Wesleyan so much. The community that Ohio Wesleyan has because of its small size is astounding. The campus is filled with life. You have so many opportunities to step outside of your comfort zone to try new things you never thought you would. Even though Ohio Wesleyan is considered small, you still meet new people every day. With the lively campus, opportunities to expand your experiences, and meet new people, it makes leaving for summer break bittersweet. As for ensembles, the Choral Art Society and Chamber Choir have offered numerous rewarding experiences for performance. I have performed alongside a full orchestra in Choral Art Society, which was truly a unique and magnificent experience. The future performance I am most excited about is performing Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana with the Choral Art Society. I would encourage other students to attend Ohio Wesleyan because you will have the opportunity of a lifetime; an opportunity to learn from renowned professors, gain crucial performance experience, and live inside a campus community stretches far beyond Delaware, Ohio. You will also have opportunities to perform off-campus. Fall semester of 2010, the Chamber Choir and the Choral Art Society performed at many local high schools and the Ohio State Capital Building. With all of this in mind I am ecstatic to be able to say that I am a current music education student at Ohio Wesleyan University.
Liza Blakeslee ’13, B.M., Instrumental Music Education
My journey to Ohio Wesleyan was much shorter than your typical college move. I am from Delaware, OH, so I can drive ten minutes from campus to the place where I grew up. I was always aware of the beautiful campus and music department programs, but I never considered Ohio Wesleyan as a college choice. It seemed too close to home for me to really enjoy my college experience. However, my choice of major made Ohio Wesleyan one of my top options.
I am an organ major/voice minor in Music Education. As an organist, my selection of colleges was slightly more limited. I visited many colleges with organ programs, and ended up auditioning at five of them. Of all my audition experiences, Ohio Wesleyan was the best. I was given access to the audition instrument, the fantastic Klais Organ in Gray Chapel, for at least a week ahead of my audition. After my audition, the faculty members talked with me about my goals in music, and why I had indicated an interest in Music Education. They were friendly, welcoming, and answered any questions I had about the department. Their support, as well as the scholarships I received, made Ohio Wesleyan the best option for my college experience. Since starting at OWU in the fall of 2009, my first impressions of a caring and music focused department have only been enhanced. My lessons with Robert Griffith on organ, and Marilyn Nims for voice, are always wonderful learning experiences. I am more confident in myself as a performer on organ and voice, and as a church organist and choir accompanist.
I am involved in many organizations in and out of the music department. Within the music department I have been involved in Choral Art Society, Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Chamber Choir, and Opera Theater. I will be a member of the Percussion Ensemble next semester. I am a member of Mu Phi Epsilon, the International Professional Music Fraternity. I am also the sophomore representative for the Music Department Student Board. Outside of the music department, I am a member of the co-ed a cappella group, OWtsiders, and was co-director from January 2010 to January 2011. I am also currently the song leader for my sorority, Delta Zeta. Even with the busy schedule of a music education major, I am still able to enjoy organizations and events on campus.
OWU is a wonderful university. I have made friendships here that will last for years to come. My lessons and experiences in and out of the classroom will certainly benefit my career after college. As I mentioned before, I am an organist for two churches. My experience of church jobs is supported by the music faculty, and has resulted in more performances around Delaware. As a music education major I have chances to be in elementary, middle, and high schools many semesters before student teaching begins. My major is certainly a demanding one, yet I have a chance to grow in ways I never knew I could. I am excited for my last two years at Ohio Wesleyan!
Joshua Decker ’13, B.M., Instrumental Music Education
I attended Olentangy Liberty High school located in Powell Ohio, and am a 2009 graduate. At the start of my musical journey in my junior year of high school, I began to study classical trumpet with Dr. Griffin. At this time, my trumpet playing ability was not very great, but I desperately wanted to attend college in hopes of earning a music degree. My confidence at the time seemed to match my trumpet playing, insecure. With tremendous help from Doc over the next year and a half, my trumpet playing had skyrocketed, as well as my confidence. Ohio Wesleyan has been a pleasant educational and social experience. I auditioned at Ohio Wesleyan University to expand my musical horizons, and to become a professional in that subject matter. I am now studying music education with an applied trumpet.
Thus far, I have discovered many reasons why Ohio Wesleyan is an amazing place to be. The campus is small, yet you have the freedom to be yourself. You have the opportunity to take up space and be as successful as you aim to be. The music department at Ohio Wesleyan University harnesses some of the best educators in Ohio. I have realized over the past few years, that if you want to be a serious trumpet player, and wish to study performance or music education, OWU is the place to be. Dr. Larry Griffin has provided me with so much, including ambition, confidence, and a future. Private lessons are simply incredible because of the high energy and passion for success Dr. Griffin expresses. If you are looking for a private lesson teacher to tell you that you are the best, don’t even bother coming here! Doc wants you to be the best, so you must work for it and always set the bar higher.
I have had very positive experiences within OWU music ensembles. As a member of the OWU Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Park Avenue Jazz Band, and the Battling Bishop Pep-Band, I am beginning to fill up my musical toolbox with the finest tools around. I personally love to perform, and to have exposure within all of the instrumental ensembles has provided me with the ultimate experience. Performing within the school is not the only opportunity made available: gigs provide professional experience. Gigs are often made available to me, to provide professional experience. I have performed in numerous churches as an ensemble performer for church mass. I have performed in numerous churches as well as playing in a a big band, performing Duke Ellington’s “Sacred Concert.” The greatest accomplishment within my performing career was playing with the Newark Symphony Orchestra. The experience of performing in a professional orchestral setting provided the best musical sensation of my life.
There are many reasons why you should attend Ohio Wesleyan University. You are provided with the greatest level of education, as well as the opportunity to make lifelong friends. The music department at OWU provides you with incredible amounts of individual attention, a well-rounded knowledge of all music, and everything else and more, which you are looking for in your college experience.
Samantha Rammaha ’14, B.M., Vocal Performance
I am a vocal performance major from St. Louis, MO. I was first introduced to Ohio Wesleyan University while attending a Colleges That Change Lives fair. OWU interested me because of the university’s reputation for excellence and service, as well as the individual attention I would receive in a smaller undergraduate college. As a performance major, it was crucial for me to have opportunities to perform in various ensembles as an underclassman. Ohio Wesleyan provides numerous performance opportunities.
In my first two semesters at OWU I have performed with the Choral Arts Society; participated as a soloist in a student recital; and will be performing in the upcoming Opera Work Shop production. In addition, I am a member of the Mu Phi Epsilon honor fraternity and Delta Zeta sorority.
One of the highlights of my week is my voice lesson. I greatly enjoy studying music with Mrs. Marilyn Nims. Every lesson provides new and interesting challenges. By the end of the first semester, I could already tell the difference in my approach to singing and performing.
The best part of being part of a more intimate department is the relationships I was able to form with teachers and my fellow students. It is like being a part of a family. I am supported and encouraged.
Keith Tankersley ’12, B.M., Choral Music Education
I first heard about Ohio Wesleyan University through my high school choir director, Mrs. Debbie Costa. Observing her ability as a teacher and as a professional inspired me to pursue the same type of education. When I visited OWU, I was greeted by a warm and friendly faculty and was impressed by the intimate settings that OWU’s music program provided. The professors were knowledgeable, friendly, out-going, and passionate. I felt that my experience at OWU would be more personable and provide more one-on-one attention. Once I met Assistant Professor Jason Hiester, I knew that I wanted to study voice with him. His skills as a singer, performer, and teacher were unmatched by any other professor I met at other institutions, and I knew he would be a great asset to my education. Upon my graduation from Licking Heights High School (Pataskala, Ohio) in 2008, the decision to attend Ohio Wesleyan University was an easy one to make. I knew Ohio Wesleyan would provide me with the education and experience I needed to become a successful and competent music educator. Currently, I am pursuing a B.M degree from OWU in Vocal Music Education.
At OWU, I am involved with multiple performing ensembles including Choral Art Society, Chamber Singers, and the Opera Theater Program. In addition, I performed one semester in the Symphonic Wind Ensemble. Through my ensemble experiences, I have gained tremendous insights in ways I can improve as a musician, performer, conductor, and teacher. I have enjoyed opportunities to conduct and rehearse the Choral Art Society and I am proud of my experiences as Tenor Section Leader. I appreciate the close personal relationships with all of my teachers at OWU. They are always challenging, encouraging, and professional. Every professor is there to offer a helping hand and will do whatever is necessary to see their students succeed.
I also try to remain active outside of the music department. I am currently a Resident Assistant for our freshman living program (Year One) and will continue to work in that capacity next year. Through the Residential Life Office, I hold positions on various committees that explore different ways to make residential life living a more positive experience for OWU students. One of the great things about OWU’s liberal arts program is I can explore many of my passions and interests beyond music. I feel this helps make me a well-rounded individual.
One of my fondest memories is taking a trip to Salzburg, Austria last summer. Thanks to a Theory into Practice Grant, seven students experienced ten days of music and culture at the Salzburg music festival. Mr. Hiester planned a fantastic excursion including multiple concerts, sightseeing, traveling, voice lessons, and experiencing the culture first hand. Only OWU could provide such a great opportunity for its students.
My experiences at OWU have been rewarding, challenging, and life changing. I consider my professors and peers at Ohio Wesleyan as a family, and without them, I would not be the person I am today. I encourage you to consider Ohio Wesleyan because the same opportunities that I have enjoyed are available to you. You will receive the support you need in order to fulfill your dreams and passions. Ohio Wesleyan will challenge you to explore your passions. Ohio Wesleyan changes lives and it can change yours.
Rachel Parfenchu ’14, B.M., Vocal Performance
I am a freshman vocal performance major from Powell, Ohio. My experience at Ohio Wesleyan is wonderful. The faculty members in the music department take time to get to know each student and they value each of student. In my voice lessons, Mr. Hiester is meticulous and will not allow issues to slide by without being addressed. This focused attention to detail is ideal and helps me to improve during every lesson. Mr. Hiester has encouraged and helped guide me through the process of applying for summer voice programs and I know whenever I have a question it will be answered.
Having a small campus community is also a great thing about Ohio Wesleyan because not only have I made friends with the music majors, but other students with different majors as well. No matter where I am around campus, I always frequently see fellow music majors and friends. At larger universities, it is easy to get lost in the crowded classes, however, the small classes at Ohio Wesleyan make it easy to receive help if I am experiencing difficulty.
My experience in Choral Art Society has also been fantastic. Last semester our choir toured numerous schools around Central Ohio and we performed in the State House. We are currently preparingCarmina Burana with the Central Ohio Symphony. Being in Choir is also a wonderful way to meet friends as it is not limited to music majors and we all share a common love of music.
I would encourage others to attend Ohio Wesleyan because the faculty is outstanding, helpful, and knowledgeable and students consistently receive the individual attention they need. The students in the music department are like one big family and everyone can discover their voice and explore their passions at OWU.
Tom Reinman ’12, B.M., Instrumental Performance
I am from New Canaan, Connecticut and I attended New Canaan Public High School. I began playing drum set during my sophomore year of high school, and joined band my junior year. After applying to Ohio Wesleyan, I met Dr. Griffin at an Ohio Wesleyan admissions event in Connecticut. I remember Dr. Griffin played an outstanding trumpet solo and the room dropped silent. He recruited me and gave me inspiration and confidence for my audition. The audition was not perfect, however, I enjoyed the one-hour private lesson with the percussion instructor Dr. Burdett. Those sixty minutes I spent with Dr. Burdett along with the relationship I had previously established with Dr. Griffin made the process of becoming a student here at OWU possible.
This is perhaps the most valuable trait about the music department: the professional relationship between student and faculty. The faculty will do everything in their power to help you develop the skills needed to flourish in the music world. I am extremely lucky and grateful to have been able to work with Dr. Burdett over the past three years. She has guided me through the thick and thin of practicing efficiently, teaching me techniques spanning from classical symphonic percussion to jazz drum set. Without her, I would not be able to move forward in a musical performance environment.
Ohio Wesleyan’s campus life is remarkable because there is a place for everyone. Unlike high school, you are free to be and do whatever fits your personality. Because the school recruits students from all around the world, you are bound to make friends with whom you share the same interests. At Ohio Wesleyan, you will learn how to manage your time diligently. There is always something to do for fun; however, academics are at the forefront and need to be taken seriously if you want to succeed.
The ensembles at Ohio Wesleyan cover many areas of performance. I am currently enrolled in the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Chamber Orchestra, Percussion Ensemble, the Park Avenue Jazz Ensemble, and Bishop Band. Each of these ensembles has given me the opportunity to see what the performance style is like, as well as to figure out what type of performance interests me the most. Performances usually take place at Sanborn Hall in Jemison Auditorium, or University Hall in Gray Chapel. However, Dr. Griffin’s Jazz Ensemble has played numerous times at off campus locations for special events.
I have been extremely lucky to have been exposed to two professional drummers that Dr. Griffin contacted for me. Sammy Kestenholtz and Reggie Jackson, both of whom are extremely successful international musicians, came to visit Ohio Wesleyan and gave me special individual lessons on the drum set. Meeting these drummers has given me inspiration and a real world perspective about what it takes to be a successful professional musician. Opportunities like these do not come often or freely, and without the music faculty, they would not have occurred. When I realized this, I knew that I was truly in the right place at Ohio Wesleyan University.
Cory Poulton ’14, B.M., Instrumental Music Education
I am from Columbus, Ohio and graduated from Whetstone High School in the class of 2010. I am a Music Education major. My primary instrument is trumpet and I intend to becoming an applied piano minor after this year. I have enjoyed working with Dr. Griffin here at Ohio Wesleyan University and I strive to emulate his musicianship throughout my studies. I studied trumpet with Dr. Griffin in high school and I have a great opportunity of continuing my education at OWU. He is an extraordinary musician and teacher who endeavors to exceed students’ expectations every day.
I am a member of the Symphonic Wind Ensemble and Jazz Ensemble and the Bishop Band, which performs at the football games in the fall. Our Wind Ensemble reflects the passion and determination our students have for music. Our music department has a way of forming special bonds among students that is hard to find in other universities. The Park Avenue Jazz Ensemble is an exciting and energetic group of and we do everything possible to make it a great experience for everyone. Dr. Griffin has a way of teaching that both pushes students to play to their full potential and influence them to be successful in everything they do.
I have performed with the brass choir at numerous churches in Columbus. We have had the privilege of performing at two beautiful churches: St. Joseph’s Cathedral and St. Timothy’s Church. Dr. Griffin has provided me with several outside performance opportunities as well. I have been regularly performing at Our Lady of Victory Parish and North Broadway United Methodist Church. Going out and getting experience like this has been very beneficial and I am excited about the progress I am achieving in this closely-knit community of OWU. While there are so many opportunities to succeed at OWU, everyone is so supportive. My wonderful experiences and passion for learning propels me to encourage ambitious music student to attend Ohio Wesleyan University.