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Schwob School of Music

Schwob School of Music

History of the Schwob School of Music

(Text composed in 1993 by Col. Hal Gibson)

 

You see things that are and say, "Why?"
But I dream things that never were
and say, "Why not?"

-George Bernard Shaw

  

It began as but a germ of an idea. A small, timorously flickering hope in the hearts and minds of but a few forward thinking visionaries. Their hope and passionate desire was to bring a new heretofore-unknown level of artistic experience to their beloved, quietly dignified, venerable hometown. An archetypical mid-sized holdover from the classical Old South, Columbus found itself at the midpoint of the bustling twentieth century. The new-age America of the post World War II period was gaining a foothold in a community long noted for its resistance to change. There were those that were saying, "We must and can do better." The Columbus of the turn of the century was blessed with a number of highly gifted community leaders. Their names dot our streets and buildings today. Their offspring were just taking their places as the business and community leaders of the 1950s. Their leadership and vision provided the impetus, which resulted in Columbus being selected to be the site of one of the new colleges of the burgeoning University of Georgia System.

I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do
everything, but still I can do something; I will
not refuse to do the something I can do.
-Helen Keller

 

From the ranks of these Columbus leaders and doers there arose a most unlikely individual who would become the self-appointed standard bearer for a new thrust toward artistic excellence. A businesswoman upon whom fate had cast the onus of taking over a thriving and lucrative clothing manufacturing operation upon the death of her husband, she nevertheless found time to pursue her deep seated love of the arts, particularly that of music. Her name was Ruth Schwob. As the titular representative of the Simon Schwob Foundation, a community-minded philanthropic federation established by her late husband, she began a campaign to raise money for a new performing arts hall, which she envisioned as being a part of the still relatively new Columbus College. A generous donation from the Simon Schwob Foundation set the pace for what would follow and her aggressive and tireless efforts soon paid handsome dividends. In a comparatively short time she had raised sufficient funds to pay for a substantial portion of the costs of what would be a modern, efficient and well-appointed concert hall. With funds in hand, she approached Dr. Thomas Y. Whitley, the president of the college and a man of towering and imposing presence with stentorian voice. This small woman with a will of iron requested that Dr. Whitley and the Georgia Board of Regents bring forth the remaining funds required for the erection of the building. History will record that this they did with alacrity and understanding, and what would be known as Fine Arts Hall took place among the many new buildings that were being put up on a beautiful knoll in northeast Columbus, which was now the home of its very own college.

 

For there is a music wherever there is a
harmony, order or proportion; and thus
we may maintain the music of the spheres
most full of harmony.
-Sir Thomas Browne
Religio Medici, 1642

 

On a beautiful sunlit day in May of 1969, the new Fine Arts Hall was dedicated. The ceremonies featured then governor Lester G. Maddox as guest speaker in addition to President Thomas Y. Whitley and T. Hiram Stanley of the Board of Regents. Governor Maddox described the building as "another step forward in the educational progress of Columbus and Muscogee County." He added, "It's not easy to bring about the reality of a dream."
As with many dedications that would follow, there was special music for the occasion. This was provided by members of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Harry Kruger and the Columbus College Chorus directed by Dr. Katherine Hines Mahan.
As the year wore on the Fine Arts Hall would enjoy increasing prominence throughout the valley area. A writer for the Columbus Enquirer wrote, "It's hard to imagine it not being there." Dr. Whitley would say, "A building of this type was an absolute necessity as it is hard to imagine a college of this stature without music, drama, and art." It immediately became the new home of the Columbus Symphony and the orchestra presented its opening subscription concert in the auditorium on November 8 with Eugene List as the guest soloist.
An edifice of such consequence gave promise of great things to come and was undoubtedly an important factor in luring the outstanding artists that would make up the proposed music department faculty. Dr. John H. Anderson would become the chairman of the Fine Arts Division and he had this to say, "The Fine Arts Hall is a tremendous facility, with a capacity to develop into one of the finest arts facilities in the South. Columbus is a community that is interested in the arts and this is so necessary for the development of a good program." He continued, "Knowing that we could not start in all areas at once, we have emphasized music first."

 

A lasting inspiration, sanctified by reason,
blest by faith: what we have loved
others will love,
and we will teach them how.

 

-William Wordsworth

 

It followed reasonably and logically that with the new building in place, a music department would rise full-blown like a Phoenix. When the fall term opened in 1969, the campus would play host to a multitude of new musical organizations and activities. Already on hand were music faculty members Katherine Mahan and Harry Kruger who had previously formed student music groups. Now a true and officially designated department of music was added to the college curriculum and things were to move forward with a frantic pace.
The first step in this process was the selection of a new chairman to head up the fledgling department. The person chosen was a singular and unique individual by the name of Dr. Andrew J. Galos, who left a similar position at the University of Akron. Though small in stature he was a giant in musical talent and artistic temperament. His lengthy career had taken him throughout the United States and he had served on the faculties of Utah State University, the University of New Hampshire, and the Peabody Conservatory of Music in addition to his work at Akron. As a scholarship student, he received two degrees from the Juilliard School of Music and a doctorate from Columbia University. This provided him the background to become an unusual performer and teacher. It was often said around the halls of Columbus College that anyone that had even the briefest passing acquaintance with Dr. Galos would never forget him. He was Hungarian by birth and his early upbringing in Hungary greatly affected his lifestyle and his passionate approach to music making. He had performed as a violinist with a number of our major orchestras but none had the impact on his life and his artistic development as the eight years he spent with the NBC Orchestra under the baton of the incomparable Arturo Toscanini. As he conducted and trained the Columbus College Orchestra, many of the well-known traits of the Italian maestro surfaced.
The bird who flies higher
sees farther.
-Jonathan Livingston Seagull

 

Despite a somewhat frenzied approach to administrative detail, Dr. Galos had an uncanny ability to recognize great musical talent and potential. In his own words he said, "When it comes to finding the great musical talent of this world, I rise above the chaos of the moment and in the quietness of my mind I listen for that which comes from above." Not only could he instantly recognize outstanding talent, he also had a finely honed skill in enticing the very best – both students and faculty – to come to Columbus College. He began assembling a faculty of artist-teachers and he brought to the college a group of the most promising students to be found anywhere. His orchestra, which he conducted in addition to a number of other activities and a heavy teaching schedule, quickly became known as one of the finest in the entire southeast and was invited to perform for many important regional venues. His new faculty was increasingly looked upon, by other schools, as one to be reckoned with. He once told a cherished colleague and confidant, "When it comes to selecting faculty I have very few requirements; I want only the best."

We are the music makers
We are the dreamers of dreams.
-Arthur William Edgar O'Shaughnessy
The fall of 1969 saw the inauguration of four new musical organizations. Dr. Galos began the first orchestra, which would be the forerunner of a great orchestral tradition at the college; Mr. Paul Weise formed the first band that would provide support for a wide variety of other collegiate activities; Dr. Mahan led a choral chamber group known as the CC Singers; and Mr. James Bratcher assumed leadership of the College Choir. The new music department was well under way and could be said to be under full sail. Columbus College now had virtually every musical organization to be found in a large-scale university. Concurrently with the new student organizations, faculty ensembles were being formed and in November the faculty string quartet presented the first of what would be many truly outstanding faculty performances. Prior to this performance, a Sunday afternoon faculty recital had been given in October in Fine Arts Hall with individual performers. As early as January of its first year, the department was ready to launch a full-scale opera, the Marriage of Figaro by Mozart, which was a truly ambitious undertaking.
From its earliest days it was determined that the focus of all music pedagogy would point toward the end of the musical performance and as a result, the strength of the department was directly tied to the quality of its performing organizations. That tenet has held until today, and from its earliest beginnings the notable achievements of the various performing groups – both student and faculty – have been widely recognized.

 

 

Now to what higher object, to what greater character,
can any mortal aspire than to be possessed of all this
knowledge, well digested and ready at command.
-John Adams

 

With a full-fledged music department firmly entrenched it was time to grow and expand its programs. The first year's faculty of four full-time professors and six part-time instructors would begin to experience a lengthy period of almost continuous growth. Dr. Galos looked to the future and sought those with the talent and potential to grow with the department. In 1970 he brought on board a brilliant young pianist who had recently completed graduate studies at the Eastman School of Music by the name of L. Rexford Whiddon. Dr. Galos' foresight would be rewarded in years to come as this new professor would play an increasingly prominent role in the department and be the innovator of many new offerings to enhance the overall program. Also of importance was the fact that Mr. Whiddon's wife was an accomplished violinist and also a graduate of the Eastman School. Although not a faculty member, she began playing in the Columbus Symphony seated alongside Dr. Galos who was concertmaster of the orchestra. This association with the Columbus Symphony was an extremely important one as the orchestra was one of the prides and delights of the community and the new faculty members being brought to the college played a significant role in raising the stature of the orchestra to what became one of the finest community orchestras in all of the southeast. In 1971 Edwin Riley, an exceptional young clarinetist was added to the faculty as well as his wife Marcia Riley, both of whom were Juilliard Graduates. In addition to their teaching responsibilities, both became first chair players in the orchestra and remain so today. In 1972, Paul J. Vander Gheynst also joined the growing faculty to teach theory, low brass, and begin what would become a prize winning jazz band. Again the astute selection process applied to these early faculty members would be validated when Dr. Vander Gheynst would be selected as the outstanding faculty member of the college in 1981 and would become the Dean of the School of Arts and Letters. Thomas Williams would assume leadership of the choral program at the college and Mrs. Joyce Schwob would be added to the piano faculty. These new dynamic young musical leaders brought vitality and enthusiasm to the ever-expanding program.
 
When music fails to agree to the ear,
to soothe the ear and the heart and the senses,
then it has missed its point.
-Maria Callas

 

In 1973 the Faculty Artist Series was begun. The purpose was twofold: to showcase the musical ability of the distinguished artist/teachers of the department, and to raise money to be used to fund student scholarships. The opening performance on October 1st of 1973 featured Rexford Whiddon playing the music of Bach, Chopin, and Debussy.
By this time the Faculty Trio had been formed with Andrew Galos, Marcia Riley and Rexford Whiddon as its members. They were also included on the Faculty Concert Series, but were additionally performing frequently throughout the state. By 1975 they had become national performers and appeared in the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as a part of the Bicentennial Celebration. They were reviewed by the notable Washington critic, Paul Hume, who described their performance with glowing compliments.
During the same period Natalie Kruger was added to the faculty as the professor of flute instruction. In addition to performing with faculty ensembles, she organized the Flute Choir and the Recorder Ensemble. She currently plays first flute in the Columbus Symphony.
Music is to the soul as soap and water is to the body.
-Seth Day
Retired Army Colonel

 

 

In addition to the highly touted performing organizations, the academic offerings were expanding as well. In 1974 the M. Ed in Music Education was added to the curriculum and the department began preparing for its evaluation to be accepted fully into the prestigious National Association of the Schools of Music.
1976 saw a change in the basic philosophy of faculty acquisition and rather than seek young professors with relatively limited experience it began to look for those with well-established national reputations. Two such individuals were added to the faculty in this year. One was Donald Schumacher, first cellist of the Atlanta Symphony and a well-known solo performer. The other was Colonel Hal Gibson who had just retired from the Army after a career of more than thirty years. As the conductor of the U.S. Army Field Band, the Army's premier travelling musical entourage, he had conducted in all fifty states and in 36 foreign countries and prior to his retirement had been selected from the bandleaders of all services to form and conduct the Department of Defense band comprised of members from all five uniformed services.
His new duties at the college included the teaching of theory, instrumentation, orchestration and heading up the band program. At the completion of his first year of teaching he was presented the Vice President's Award at the annual awards dinner. This was one of only two faculty awards given. In the spring of 1977, he hosted the First Annual Honors Band and Orchestra Program. This became an annual event at the college with the focus shifting just to bands as the large number of band applicants became overwhelming. It continued annually until Gibson's retirement in 1991.
In 1978 another innovative program became a part of the ever-expanding music department. Mrs. Alma McGee, a long-time, highly respected and much loved piano teacher in Columbus, created an endowment fund, which would provide for the establishment of a new piano pedagogy program designed specifically to train piano teachers. The Piano Pedagogy Degree soon followed. A veteran professor with outstanding credentials was brought to the department to head up this new program. He was John O'Brien who had originated a highly successful four-year pedagogy degree program at Goshen College. He had previously been the director of teacher training at the New School of Music Study. Now at Columbus College he would devise a pedagogy program to train piano teachers that would be considered a national model. The Preparatory Division was established to offer piano instruction to persons of all ages and a wide variety of new music students found their way to Columbus College as a result. Later this program would evolve into what is now known as the Music Conservatory Division.
1981 was another banner year for the addition of yet another nationally known musician and professor. During the previous year, the Fuller E. Callaway Foundation had provided funds to establish endowed chairs at certain colleges and universities throughout the Georgia system. It was generally agreed that the professors chosen to fill such chairs would be nationally known and among the most prestigious at each institution. Columbus College was awarded one such chair and the then president, Dr. Francis Brooke, determined that it should go to the music department, which he considered to be the leading department of the college. Hal Gibson was elected to be the chairman of the search committee and he began a nation-wide pursuit to find a stellar personality to fill this unique position. After talking with many noteworthy musical celebrities he settled on Dr. Lara Hoggard who had just retired as the William Rand Kenan Professor of Music at the University of North Carolina. A man of impressive musical intellect, Dr. Hoggard was also a man of many talents and thus he was asked to fill two important positions with the department – that of choral conductor and that of orchestra conductor. And both of these he did admirably. Additionally, he established the Civic Chorale, an auditioned group of the finest adult singers from the area who would present at least one major work with orchestra every year. This organization was a huge success and is still today one of the mainstays of the department's musical organizations.
Dr. Hoggard was with the institution for one year and was then followed by Dr. William J. Bullock who had been director of choral activities at Mississippi Southern University. Dr. Bullock was not only a highly accomplished musician but also an able administrator with a tremendously high energy level. His abilities in this area have proved invaluable to the department. In addition to work with student choral groups, Dr. Bullock has continued to work with and expand the scope of the Civic Chorale. The Chorale is considered to be a most important part of the musical life of Columbus and it has taken the name of the college abroad with several summer over-sea tours.
During this same period a distinguished theorist and a nationally outstanding bassoonist was added as a full-time faculty member. This was Dr. Ronald Wirt who plays first bassoon with the Columbus Symphony and performs with the Southwind Quintet.
Good music resembles something.
It resembles the composer.
-Jean Cocteau
1982 was the beginning of a new era for the music department. Dr. Galos had departed for a new position in Oklahoma and Dr. John H. Anderson had assumed the chairmanship of the department as an additional duty to that of Chairman of the Fine Arts Division. It was determined, however, that the department needed its own chairman and an internal search was launched. There were many outstanding faculty members from whom to choose but by a vote of the faculty, it was decided that Rexford Whiddon would be the next to take his place at the helm. It was a totally new administrative style characterized by a quiet, studied approach to every new challenge and problem with the functions of the office carried out with dignity and élan. The department as a whole took on a new elegance and some dramatic new programs and offerings came into existence. Housing for music majors became available for the first time as houses on Clearview Circle were provided for this purpose. In early winter of 1983, the first Musical Extravaganza was held. This was done in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the founding of the college and was an illustrious black-tie affair that featured all of the student and faculty performing groups. It was overwhelmingly successful with a sold-out crowd of the city's luminaries. Their response demanded that such an event be repeated and it has thus become an annual presentation that just gets bigger and bigger.
The next summer of the same year saw the first season of the Southeastern Music Center, a summer orchestral music camp that was originated by James Sigmund and Pamela White to encourage the study of stringed instruments. It was held that first year at the LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia but was subsequently moved to the music department facilities at Columbus College. This activity continues today and is administered by Dr. William Bullock.

 

 

Canned music is like audible wallpaper.
-Alistair Cooke
In 1983, Patricio Cobos joined the faculty as conductor of the College Orchestra and teacher of violin. Professor Cobos, a native of Chile, brought a totally new tone and tenor to the department as well as making a personal imprint on the orchestra and greatly affecting the direction that it would take. A world-class violinist and conductor, he was immediately taken to heart by the music lovers of Columbus. As concertmaster of the Columbus Symphony, he became well known to the concert going public and soon was recognized throughout the state as a master teacher.
With Spanish as a first language he was uniquely able to capitalize on an unusual situation that was to develop in 1985. A parent of a Columbus College music major who travelled abroad extensively became aware of an extraordinary music school in the small Central American country of Honduras. Known as the La Esquela de Musica in San Pedro Sula, this public high school trained string students to a very high level of expertise. The director of the school, Maestro Chain, was brought to Columbus to play a solo recital, and he later returned with all of the advanced students of the school. They played a program of impressive proportion and arrangements were soon after instigated to bring graduating students of the Esquela to Columbus College for their further education. Mr. Cobos established a close relationship with these students and worked diligently to help them become oriented into a new country and society. Most adapted very well and thus began a new era for the college orchestra program. Today the orchestra attracts students from all over the world with many coming from Central America, South American, and Asia.

 

 

There must be a common thread that runs
through the music of J.S. Bach, Charles Ives, and Frank Zappa,
though for the life of me I haven't the foggiest idea what it might be.
-The Honourable Sir James Bowers

 

By the mid-eighties the department had developed to the point that it began to attract the national honorary music fraternities and sororities. The first to be installed was that of Mu Phi Epsilon, which was chartered on June 7, 1974 with the national president coming in from California to participate in the induction ceremonies. Miss Terri Davis was the first president of the Columbus chapter and proved to be a fortuitous choice as she provided brilliant and inspired leadership to the embryonic organization.
This was followed in 1987 by the establishment of a local chapter of the nationally prestigious Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. The first honorary fraternity with Dr. Bullock as faculty sponsor and Charles Karpf as president made giant strides in its first year and contributed much to the department. In May of 1988, they held their first formal dinner-dance at the Goetschius House Restaurant on the river and as a part of the festivities, presented their foremost form of recognition, the Orpheus Award, to Hal Gibson, Director of Bands.
In 1922, the Eta Kappa Chapter of Pi Kappa Lambda, the national music honor society, took its place of honor within the department with six faculty members as charter members.
To burn always with this hard, gemlike flame,
to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.
-Walter Horatio Pater
For those with a dedication to success, there are rewards:
the opportunity to perform as professionals, to feel the power of achievement.
The years 1987 and 1988 were both busy and productive for the department of music. It was during this time that Dr. Frank D. Brown assumed the presidency of Columbus College and with his inspirited leadership, a form of intellectual renaissance ensued. Dr. Brown's studiously contemplative management style coupled with his discerning and imaginative approach to the daily problems of running a large institution quickly endeared him to students and colleagues alike. His keen and penetrating perception of the importance of the arts, particularly music, to a major center of learning made him a great favorite with musicians of the campus. He was a faithful concert attendee at both student and faculty performances and a genuine inspiration to those with whom he came in contact.
It was in the fall of 1987 that the fruition of a long held dream of Chairman Whiddon finally saw the light of day. For several years he had worked very closely with both Henry and Joyce Schwob who now served in the principal administrative positions of the Simon Schwob Foundation. Additionally, Joyce Schwob had graciously given generous amounts of her time and talents to offer valuable assistance toward the day-to-day overall development of the department. Together these three pooled thoughts and prescience and in October, two separate meetings were held in the downtown Hilton Hotel to entertain the most prominent and influential leaders of the Valley community and to discuss the formation of a civic-minded philanthropic organization to be known as the Patrons of Music. Mr. Sal Diaz-Verson, a young, dynamic CEO of one of the largest companies in Columbus, accepted the challenge of chairing this prestigious association and with his astute leadership the group, moved forward quickly and efficiently. The Patrons of Music had as its simple philosophy the goal of stimulating support and fostering the continued growth and development of the Columbus College Department of Music. It has proven to be an extremely valuable ancillary addition to the ongoing progress of the department.
In the spring of 1988, the first student Honors Recital was held in the Davidson Center Recital Hall. A competition was held in March for the opportunity to appear on this recital, and the entire music faculty voted to determine the winners. The April recital was followed by a lovely reception at the bucolic and pastoral suburban home of Mr. and Mrs. Diaz-Verson.
As the decade of the eighties came to a close, the department was riding the high crest of a wave of expansion. Mr. Gunby Jordan, one of Columbus' most respected community leaders, bequeathed a Charitable Lead Trust to benefit the vocal division with special emphasis on opera. As a result, Joseph Golden was brought on board as Director of Opera and three years later, Dr. Jon Bartlett was added to the artist faculty. This new program has resulted in music artistic excitement and has brought a high level of artistic achievement to the Valley Area. Gunby Jordan, a great lover of the arts, chaired the Patrons of Music Society until his death in 1994.
1989 would also see the instigation of another new offering known as the Young People's String Program, which would become a part of the Music Conservatory Division. This important auxiliary adjunct to the department offers music instruction to the people of all ages in the Columbus community. The dynamic coordinator of the Conservatory Division, Steve Clark, is a department alumnus and under his leadership, the division has grown to the point that today more than 150 students on virtually every instrument participate in the study of music.
The string program was further bolstered in 1990 when Manuel Diaz, a notable violist and an accomplished violin and viola repair technician came to Columbus College. In addition to a substantial teaching load, he established a unique and valuable class in the repair of stringed instruments. He was accompanied by his extremely talented wife who brought to the department her finely honed keyboard skills. Her value as a performer with various faculty ensembles and as a musically sensitive accompanist has been greatly appreciated.
Also in 1990, Gail Lewis joined the faculty as the horn instructor and to teach in the theory department. In addition to a growing horn class, she performs with the Southwind Quintet.
In 1992 Dr. William E. Fry assumed the position of director of bands following the one-year tenure of Paula Crider of the University of Texas. Dr. Fry is a graduate of Columbus College and has become a noted authority on the music of Don Gillis. He brings new directions and new challenges to the Symphonic Wind Ensemble and has already, in his short time as its conductor, taken the group to the state In-Service Conference for an important appearance.
The newest full time faculty member came to the department only this year. He is Dr. Allen Howell, a choral music education specialist who now works in the vocal area in a variety of assignments.

 

What's in a name?
-William Shakespeare

 

In May of 1988, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia approved a recommendation by Columbus College to name the department of music the "Schwob Department of Music." The request was specifically made by President Frank Brown to name the department in honor of the Schwob family and the Simon Schwob Foundation to recognize the commitment and support both have shown throughout the years to the college, and in particular, to the department of music.
A Ceremony of Appreciation honoring the Simon Schwob Foundation was held on December 7, 1986 and featured the unveiling of a bronze plaque, which would be permanently hung in the office and would denote the official naming of the department. Two years previously, the beautifully appointed Conference Room had been dedicated to the memory of Ruth S. Schwob.

 

I have a dream.
-Martin Luther King

 

Today the dream envisioned more than a quarter of a century ago lives on with vitality and ever increasing promise. In many ways, the accomplishments of the Schwob Department of Music have vastly surpassed even the most cherished hopes of those early founders. The department has risen to a position of national prominence, and is now consistently recognized as one of the finest in the country.
The annual "Musical Extravaganza," the "Holiday Gala," the "Faculty Concert Series," the "Jazz Festival," and the many high quality concerts presented by both student and faculty performing ensembles have made the campus a mecca for musical excellence throughout the entire Southeast.
It can be said most simply, "The dream goes on."