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New music dept. chair sets new goals

John Roberts
John Roberts is the new chair of the music department. He took over the position from Nathaniel Dickey, who acted as interim chair following Robert Chabora’s retirement in December 2012. Photo curtesy of Concordia College.

Roberts hopes to increase focus on international and interdisciplinary options

In the intense debate that will likely crop up over which of Concordia’s two coffee shops is best, John Roberts, the new chair of the college’s music department, might side with the newly opened, Starbucks-serving The BREW in the Offutt School of Business: he has a special admiration for a Starbucks Hazelnut latte with whipped cream.

Like the latte in question, Roberts is generous and warmly welcoming. He is courteous, well put-together and quick to smile. In his office, a large, patterned rug bursts with warm colors beneath a coffee table, and a sleek, black Steinway grand piano sits near the door.

Roberts is one of a couple new faculty members in Concordia’s music department. He took over the position from Nathaniel Dickey, who acted as interim chair following Robert Chabora’s retirement in December 2012.

Dickey, who has returned to his regular duties directing the Cobber Symphonic Band, called the job demanding.

“You have responsibility for oversight of all department activities,” he said. “Issues come up that have to be resolved immediately.”

Having previously taught at Furman University in South Carolina; the University of North Carolina in Charlotte; Mercer University in Georgia; and Steven F. Austin State University in his home state of Texas, Roberts’ journey to Concordia was not a short one, and his pedigree will hopefully serve him well in his new job.

As for why he chose to take the position, Roberts said, “I like the kind of institution it is. I really believe in the kind of student that’s attracted, the flexibility of the whole mind.”

Roberts is passionate about music’s uniquely transcendent capacity. He finds that music is the medium through which he can open up most completely.

“When you’re very young,” Roberts said, “you find that you can communicate in the language of music in a special way that’s different from anything else you’re doing in your life.”

Among Roberts’ goals for his tenure as department chair is increasing the focus on international work for music students and faculty through exchanges and travel to countries that “haven’t been explored as much.”

Roberts himself has spent extended periods in Australia (7 years) and Italy (6 months).

In addition, Roberts hopes to promote interdisciplinary activities between music students and the other departments around campus, citing his upcoming recital performance of Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, during which he hopes to display the Mussorgsky-inspired works of Texas painter Peter Andrew. Roberts also remarked his interest in teaching courses in a similar vein.

Among those music students who have had the chance to meet Roberts is junior music education major Dan Anderson, whose experience with the chair, though limited, has been positive.

“I so far enjoy him,” Anderson said. “He seems very involved. He seems to really love being here and working with the students.”

So, if you happen to see Roberts around campus, say hello. He’s new here and he’s just settling in. As for former acting chair, Dickey, he claims he won’t miss too much about the chair position, not even the larger office.

“I really like the office I have now,” he said.

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