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New music professors up the tempo
New faces are bringing new talent and possibilities for collaboration to the music department. Two faculty members, Michael Knight and Blake Henson, are spurring enthusiasm among students and fellow faculty alike.
Knight, assistant professor of music, is the new director of bands and head of instrumental music education. He conducts the Wind Ensemble and Concert Band and also teaches courses in conducting and instrumental music education.
Knight’s previous position was associate director of bands at the University of Missouri, where he led the nationally known Marching Mizzou and the symphonic bands. He earned his doctorate in band conducting from the University of Iowa.
He is impressed with how committed St. Norbert music students are to learning. “The students here are extremely hard workers. They are very serious in their classes, very studious and very self-conscious about what they need to do to improve themselves,” he says.
Henson takes on a new position for the music faculty as assistant professor of music specializing in theory, history and composition. Part of his job is teaching existing courses in music theory and history; his other charge is to establish a composition curriculum, with the eventual goal of offering a composition major.
Henson received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from Westminster Choir College and his doctorate in music composition from The Ohio State University, where he served as artistic director of the New Music Collective. He is also a composer and editor for church music publisher GIA Publications, where he oversees his own choral series.
Henson is thrilled to be laying the groundwork for a new composition program at the college. Right now he’s taking time to listen and find out what students really want. He says: “There is nothing we have to say ‘no’ to right now. Everything’s on the table, that’s what is really exciting for me.”
Knight and Henson are not only pursuing new initiatives individually but also finding ways to collaborate. For instance, Knight wants Henson to write a piece for the Wind Ensemble he conducts. Henson is happy to oblige.
Knight says: “With all this positive new energy here, we have the opportunity to explore some of these collaborative ideas. That’s something we’ve kind of tossed around as goals for us as colleagues and as a department.”
Henson adds, “The possibilities for collaboration are limitless.”
One such collaboration has already taken place. The St. Norbert Chamber Singers, conducted by Sarah Parks (Music), recently performed “What Comfort Can Our Worship Bring,” which was written by Henson. Parks gave him the honor of conducting the piece for its American premiere during the Family Weekend concert in September.
Parks is enthusiastic about the new faculty members. She says: “The creative accomplishments and diverse backgrounds of Dr. Knight and Dr. Henson are truly invigorating to our department. Their talents and love of learning will add much to St. Norbert College’s recognized tradition of excellence in music education.”
A new group of adjunct professors also adds to the excitement. Kortney James, Karen Stefiuk, Marc Jimos, Paula Brusky and Becky Nimmer ’96 bring additional expertise in flute, clarinet, saxophone, bassoon and music education, respectively.
Music is not the only discipline with new faces among its majors. Every year, it is interesting to get to know our incoming faculty, to learn about their academic backgrounds and to see what new research interests and teaching opportunities are heralded by their arrival. Click here for more.