New music director aims for perfect notes

Sometimes, change is not such a bad thing.

Andrew Davis stepped up as the new director of the Moores School of Music over the summer and has been surprised most by the sheer complexity of the vast organization he now spearheads.

“It’s just so many different things happening all at once,” Davis said. “It’s a very complex school. It’s like running a small college. In the school of music there are about 90 faculty and basically 12 small departments all running themselves, and there’s somebody like me acting as the dean and coordinating them.”

Davis worked closely with Bill Monroe, dean of the Honors College, to complete UH’s 2009 and 2012 applications for a Phi Beta Kappa Society chapter, an honor society for liberal arts and sciences.

“It really did prepare me quite well in terms of complexity and the number of people I had to deal with, although that was mostly internal communication, whereas most of what I do now is external,” Davis said.

Monroe said he agrees that the Phi Beta Kappa application was a contributing factor to Davis’ ability to lead the music school.

Davis took on his new role over the summer./ Image courtesy of Andrew Davis.

Davis took on his new role over the summer./ Image courtesy of Andrew Davis.

“Taking the lead in this process allowed Andrew to meet scores of faculty leaders across campus and establish working relationships with them,” Monroe said.

“These relationships will be invaluable now that he has assumed the position of director of the Moores School.”

Davis said he felt prepared for his new position because of his prior experiences at the Moores School, where he has been a member of the music theory faculty for 11 years. He spent eight years as the director of graduate studies.

“I ran degree programs, I got to understand committees and the relationship between UH and the State Board of Higher Education and more administrative things like that,” Davis said.

Davis said the mentors in his life have helped prepare him to take on this enormous responsibility.

“My two most important mentors in this context are (former director of the Moores School) David (Ashley) White and Bill Monroe,” Davis said.

Monroe said he believes that Davis is ready and able to take the Moores School to the next level of success as both an educational institution and an arts organization.

“Andrew is an innovative and generous leader,” Monroe said. “He is very personable and incredibly hard working. He will build important relationships both on and off campus for the Moores School and enhance the University’s reputation as well.”

Davis isn’t expecting to make enormous, immediate changes to the day-to-day life of students in the Moores School.

“My predecessor (David Ashley White) did a great job hiring the right faculty and putting the right degree programs into place, so all of that is really well-positioned already,” Davis said.

Because the school itself is stable, Davis intends to focus on building its reputation.

“There are so many obligations and expectations within the art community for an organization like this,” Davis said. “We figure pretty prominently in the arts in Houston. I have a mission to be engaged and to make us a major part of that arts scene.”

Davis said that is ultimate objective is to increase the value of degrees from the Moores School and therefore the University as a whole.

He also has plans to increase community involvement through partnerships with other local arts organizations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time with the management at the Houston Symphony… We don’t have anything specifically in place yet, but they are very interested in collaboration and community outreach,” Davis said. “They feel like they have an obligation to the city and the future of the art form, as well as populations that may not normally be served by what they are doing.”

Davis said he understands that this outreach is an integral part of a musician’s education.

“Part of learning that to be a modern professional artist is learning how to engage other people that aren’t normally engaged by our art forms,” Davis said.

He also hopes to form a partnership with a local music-oriented charity.

“We are working with Music Doing Good to find ways to provide resources to their charity, including people and equipment,” Davis said.

“They need teachers for school programs, and we have people who are training to do just that, so that’s an obvious opportunity.”

Music Doing Good is also hoping to send its graduates on to UH to study music or to simply participate in Moores’ music programs for non-majors.

“MDG wants to do this locally, so why not UH? It’s an ideal place for this because it’s the city’s university,” Davis said.

He is planning on forging collaborations within the University as well by creating a link between the Moores School and the Honors College.

“I have charged our Director of Undergraduate Studies, Blake Wilkins, with investigating ways to improve the day-to-day experience of underclassmen Honors music majors,” Davis said. “I thought mainly about Honors sections of music theory and musicology. I think we’ve got a critical mass of students that would be interested in those classes.”

Monroe seconded that notion and said he believes these classes will be coming fairly soon.

Davis also hopes to pool the recruiting resources of both organizations and recruit new students to UH as a team effort. This resource pool would include jointly issued scholarships.

Monroe added that this partnership is already beginning on a micro level.

“The Honors College is partnering with the Moores School on a number of projects this fall, including the Fall Convocation, held at the Moores Opera House, and a special lecture and recital by Richard Kogan on Nov. 7,” Monroe said.

After a few months on the job, Davis said he is confident that he is moving the school in the right direction.

“I used to say that if I contact somebody new every day and tell them what we’re doing here, by the end of the year, a lot of people will know about us and will know what we’re doing,” Davis said. “That’s how you move an organization like this along.”

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