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Bringing notable musicians to online learning

courtney lewis on zoomStudents in the School of Music continue to benefit from the personal connections faculty members have with leading musicians around the country as well as those with the Jacksonville Symphony, a national recognized orchestra. 

Dr. Simon Shiao, associate professor of violin, serves as director of Orchestral Studies at UNF and also performs as a violinist with the Jacksonville Symphony. To add interest to his students’ online learning, Shiao arranged two different virtual interviews: one with Billy Hunter, principal trumpet with the Metropolitan Opera in New York; and one with Courtney Lewis, music director for the Jacksonville Symphony.

Courtney Lewis explained his job to the students, saying that a conductor has to have a clear sense of the composer’s style and the overall sound he wants from the symphony. He also shared his method for planning the music for each season, from budgeting to trying to find balance in the type of music performed. He shared some of his favorite pieces and discussed the details of the music. When Shiao asked Lewis for “words of wisdom” for the graduating students, he discussed the difficulties of being a professional musician and the determination that it requires. “Make sure you really want to do it, and if you do, give it 100% and don’t give up — ever.”

Dr. Shiao also interviewed musician Billy Hunter along with Dr. Randall Tinnin, professor of trumpet and director of the UNF School of Music. Hunter told the students that he auditioned 28 times before winning his current position with the Metropolitan Opera. He also treated the students to a Zoom trumpet performance, demonstrating different styles and audition strategies.

Tinnin believes these Zoom sessions have brought students together who share an interest in learning music. “I am very proud of Dr. Shiao and the rest of the music faculty for maintaining relationships with top professionals that benefit our students,” Tinnin said.