ROSEBURG, Oregon – When you think of something being transformed, what often comes to mind is the change that happens when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. Music can touch our hearts in a way that makes us think and feel differently about something. In essence, transforming us. When you consider UCC music students, the music skills and knowledge they gain can also change the way they think and feel about music which transforms them and others.
One of the life-changing aspects of UCC’s music program is the student performance groups. They include the Umpqua Singers, the Umpqua Chamber Orchestra, and the UCC Chamber Choir – all combined, they perform about 60+ times per year locally and internationally. The challenges to performing live are daunting. Yet UCC music students rise to the challenge.
“Performing in an ensemble not only increases a student’s technical skills, but provides valuable leadership opportunities and teaches them how to participate in a group effort that crosses all economic and cultural lines,” Dr. Jason Heald, Director of Music Studies, said. “At UCC, we provide those performance opportunities.”
Students aren’t the only ones who stretch their limits. UCC music professors also perform many times throughout the year. They work on musical projects in songwriting, musical exploration, and creative collaboration. This keeps them in tune with the constantly changing music scene. They pass this transformative knowledge and experience on to their students.
Although many UCC music program graduates go on to professional careers in music performance, several are employed as music teachers—locally and beyond. Erin Gilley is one of UCC’s alumni who is employed locally at Roseburg Public Schools. She teaches music at Fremont Middle School.
As a student, Gilley performed with the Umpqua Singers. “In the Umpqua Singers, we went on tours, sang for eight hours a day, and traveled away from our families to share music with other communities,” she said. “I learned what it meant to be a music advocate.”
She graduated from UCC with an Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer degree with a music emphasis, then continued to study at Portland State University until earning a Bachelor of Music in Music Education. Finally, she earned a Master of Arts in Teaching from Western Oregon University.
Interestingly, music was not her first choice of study. She actually wanted to be a veterinarian at first. This highlights UCC’s transformative education.
“The main deciding factors that drew me to music education, specifically, were my instructors [at UCC],” she said. “The way they helped me figure out what I was interested in and what I wanted to do with my life, the way they taught and retaught me until I finally had an ‘Ah-ha!’ moment.”
She concluded, “The sense of community you get from being in a choir is a very powerful feeling. Choir welcomed me with open arms and gave me a place to belong. I wanted to create that space for other students. I wanted to make a place for them to belong – the way UCC made me feel like I belonged.”
Through Gilley and other past UCC music program graduates, more lives continue to be transformed – creating an amplification effect.
Music is not just about the notes. Ask any musician. The reason to get into music is more about how you make people feel. Music affects us in ways we cannot explain. The Music Studies program at UCC invites new music students to audition anytime by appointment and … to be transformed through music.
About Umpqua Community College
Nestled in the beautiful North Umpqua River Valley, Umpqua Community College is the regional center for higher education in Douglas County, Oregon. UCC provides high quality college degree programs, workforce development, and community learning opportunities.
Dr. Jason Heald
Director, Associate Professor, Music