Think college music program in Connecticut and the Hartt School of Music springs to mind. There’s the Yale School of Music and Wesleyan’s ethnomusicology program. Now, a report on the quiet transformation of Southern Connecticut State University’s Music Department – thanks to the generosity of a state resident.
SCSU student Andrew Pinto sings a song he composed. Pinto, a music theory major, says he’s benefited from free private singing lessons at Southern.
"I’ve learned so much about breathing, and technique, and control. Those free lessons really, really helped."
Southern only began providing free lessons for music majors in 2008, after Connecticut resident Walter Stutzman, offered funding through his family’s foundation. Stutzman says he likes Southern’s non-traditional approach.
"Students weren’t forced to come in and continue with the instrument that they’d already played. We had a string player who wanted to learn to play the banjo. We’ll even find people who want to do scratching and be a DJ because that’s musical expression as well."
Stutzman retired several years ago from computer consulting to follow a passion for music. He enrolled as a student and is now a lecturer at Southern. In addition to private lessons, his foundation supported a new electronic music studio.
"Unlike a traditional music school, we’re driven primarily by popular culture."
Electronic music professor Mark Kuss:
"We’ve been redefining our sense of mission just by the nature of the students that we actually get at the school. So we’re doing a lot of business courses. We’re doing courses tied to electronic production."
And music professor David Chevan says the new opportunities are paying off.
"I run four of our ensembles. And I have watched the level of musicianship jump monumentally over the past two, three semesters."
The department has seen an increasing number of applicants. Students are currently interning at recording studios in Connecticut and New York City.