Dr. Joe L. Alexander continues to expand his portfolio.

In the process, Alexander, a professor of music at Mississippi University for Women, keeps earning accolades as a world-renown composer.

Dr. Joe L. Alexander

Two of Alexander’s most recent compositions, “DJ2 Extravaganza” and “Ruffner Mountain Express” received Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters (MIAL) Award nominations in the Music Composition, Classical category.

“I am extremely happy to find out I had been nominated for the MIAL awards,” Alexander said. “I am very pleased with both of the pieces and look forward to getting them performed.”

This is the second time in as many years (and second overall) Alexander has been nominated for a MIAL Award. He is one of five people with ties to The W to be recognized for the annual awards. C.T. Salazar (“Headless John the Baptist Hitchhiking) and T.K. Lee (“Scapegoat”) were nominated in the Poetry category. Ian Childers (“Pots for Simon”) was nominated in the Visual Arts category, and Dr. Valentin Bogdan (“Three Songs on the Poetry of Mihai Eminescu”) was nominated in the Music Composition, Classical category.

The winners will be announced June 3 at the 44th Annual Awards Gala in Oxford.

“DJ2 Extravaganza” is a quarter for euphonium, two tubas and percussion. It was commissioned by James Gourlay, a world renown tubist, at the 2019 International Tuba/Euphonium Conference (ITEC) at the University of Iowa. Alexander said Gourlay, an adjunct professor of tuba at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh who also is a leading performer, teacher and academic and a member of some of Europe’s finest orchestras, suggested the instrumentation and that they try and schedule the piece for the next ITEC. There hasn’t been a live conference since the COVID-19 pandemic. The group would consist of Gourlay, Joanna Ross Hersey, Danielle Moreau and Danielle VanTuinen.

“Ruffner Mountain Express” is a six-part trumpet ensemble piece that earned its name from Ruffner Mountain, a privately held, 1,040-acre urban nature preserve in Birmingham). Alexander said he often performs in recitals with Dr. James Zingara, a trumpet teacher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and last December we played on a show in Gainesville, Georgia. While preparing for the concert, we talked about me writing a piece for his group, the UAB Trumpet Ensemble.

Alexander completed both pieces in late December 2022 and is looking forward to having both performed.

“I need to write large chamber ensemble pieces and both pieces fit that bill,” Alexander said. “Even more important that the piece, having James Gourlay ask to write a piece is a dream come true.”

Four Mississippi University for Women students won prizes at the Mississippi chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) annual conference and Student Auditions finals Feb. 24-25.

 Aaron Rishel, Shakia Butler, Dr. Susan Hurley, Jerry Brown and Moira Cairns. 

Held at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi, 69 students participated in the auditions, representing high schools, colleges, universities and independent music studios around the state.

“I’m extremely happy for our W singers,” said Dr. Susan Hurley, associate professor of voice at The W. “They’ve done the hard work in preparing for public performances such as this competition and it’s an extra reward for us all to see the outward evidence of their success. This is the fourth semester in a row that several of our W vocal students have scored competition triumphs. That speaks volumes about the quality of vocal music training here at The W.”

Moira Cairns, a music therapy major, won first place in Younger Student Adults; Jerry Brown, a music education major, won first place in Older Student Adults; Shakia Butler, a music education major, placed second in Upper College Musical Theatre Trebles; and Aaron Rishel, a performance major, placed third in Senior Tenors, Baritones, and Basses.

Dr. William Reber, of the music faculty, accompanied the singers at the piano during each round of the competition. All of the W singers are in the studio of Hurley.

Students competed Friday afternoon in preliminary rounds that were adjudicated by panels of voice teachers. Each singer offered a list of three to four songs and/or arias. Singers with the highest scores in the Preliminary Round were named Finalists on Friday evening. The Final Round took place Saturday morning. Each singer offered one piece in the Finals, and an awards ceremony took place immediately following the Finals.

At the finals, Cairns performed “Er ist gekommen in Sturm und Regen“by Clara Schumman; Brown performed “Lord, I just can’t keep from crying sometimes” by Margaret Bonds; Butler performed “Almost There” from “The Princess and the Frog” by Newman; and Rishel performed “Questo amor, vergogna mia” from Puccini’s “Edgar.”

NATS is the largest professional association of singing teachers in the world. Founded in 1944, NATS members include faculty in higher education, elementary and secondary schools, and teachers at independent music studios. NATS offers workshops, intern programs, conferences and masterclasses that provide ongoing professional development to members worldwide.

The seventh annual international Music by Women Festival will be held on the campus of Mississippi University for Women March 2-4.  The festival will feature concerts of new and historic music written by women composers as well as academic presentations and lecture recitals presented at historic Poindexter Hall. 

“We are excited for the 2023 festival,” said Dr. Julia Mortyakova, The W’s Department of Music chair and artistic director for the Music by Women Festival. “The festival has grown over the years, and this year we have over 230 professional musicians performing works by women composers, our largest event yet.”

As part of the festival, 18 concerts will be presented. Each day concerts will be held at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. All festival concerts are free and open to the public. Between the concerts lecture-recitals and papers will be presented.  

Renowned performers and scholars from different parts of the world will gather to celebrate the musical contributions of women. University faculty from top research institutions and conservatories as well as members of prestigious orchestras and opera companies can be heard on the festival program.

Mortyakova said,” We have presenters from as far away as Poland and Canada, as well as from all around the United States.”

Concert and events will be live streamed to the festival website.

Funding from the Mississippi Arts Commission, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, provides support for this project.

For more information, please visit www.muw.edu/musicbywomen. 

For questions about the festival, contact Mortyakova at musicbywomen@muw.edu.

The Department of Music at Mississippi University for Women will host annual “Music Days” for area high school and community college students Thursday, Feb. 2 and Saturday, Feb. 4.

Poindexter Hall

“For this year’s event, we hope to show our visitors the high quality of music education they will receive at The W, The family atmosphere of our department and the overall great vibe the W campus has to offer on a daily basis,” said Dr. Valentin Bogdan, professor of music. 

This event invites high school and community college students who wish to experience a day in the life of a music major at The W.  This day-long event is filled with musical activities such as lessons, rehearsals, masterclasses and workshops, while ample time will also be given for campus tours, lunch and meetings with university music faculty and students. There also will be concerts performed by the music faculty, students and guests. Parents and family members are welcome to attend. 

“We are looking forward to a fabulous day of music making,” Bogdan said. “Last year’s event was very well attended, with participants from high schools in our area and schools as far as Jackson and West Alabama.”

The first day of “Music Days,” Thursday, Feb. 2, is for students interested in instrumental music or band. Saturday, Feb. 4 focuses on students interested in piano, singing, music composition and choir. 

The event is free to attend but registration is required by Sunday, Jan. 29.

To register, please visit: https://www.muw.edu/music/openhouse/ or call The W Department of Music at (662) 241-6399.

Join the W Department of Music as we celebrate Black History Month – featuring performances by the W Ensembles, Students, and Faculty!

The Department of Music welcomes alumni back to The W with the Homecoming Music Student Showcase at 8:00 p.m. Thursday, March 30, in Poindexter Hall’s Connie Kossen Auditorium.