In Memoriam – Dr. Charles E. Stevens

Dr. Charles E. Stevens of Greenville, who taught piano at East Carolina University for 30 years before accepting emeritus status in 1990, died Sept. 4. He was 89. Stevens, who received his master’s degree in music at ECU in 1954 and his doctorate in music from UNC Chapel Hill in 1957, was dean of the School of Music for the last six years of his tenure.



He recently was honored for more than 50 years of service to the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia national music fraternity.

Survivors include daughters Margaret Mauney of Winston-Salem, a 1976 ECU graduate, and Mary Charles Jenkins, a 1979 graduate, and son-in-law Jack Jenkins, a 1978 graduate, both of Morehead City.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Charles E. and Margaret S. Stevens Endowment, ECU Foundation, 2200 S. Charles Blvd., Greenville, NC 27858.

— Steve Tuttle


ECU graduate stars in opera version of “Cold Mountain”

Deborah Nansteel as Lucinda and Nathan Gunn as Inman in the world premiere of Cold Mountain at the Santa Fe Opera.

Deborah Nansteel as Lucinda and Nathan Gunn as Inman in the world premiere of ‘Cold Mountain ‘ at the Santa Fe Opera.

Mezzo-soprano Deborah Nansteel, who earned a degree in music from East Carolina University in 2007, premiered the role of Lucinda in the Santa Fe Opera Festival’s world premiere production of “Cold Mountain” on Aug. 1.

Born in Okinawa, Japan, and raised in Havelock, North Carolina, Nansteel has performed as part of the American Opera Initiative; with the Seattle, Dayton and Merola opera companies; and with the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi in Milan and the Seattle Symphony. She completed her second season at Washington National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program in May.

In its review of the premiere, “Opera Today” wrote that Nansteel “sang with formidable vocal power while expressing the desperation of a runaway slave.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon based the opera on Charles Frazier’s 1997 novel. Like the book, the opera tells the story of Confederate soldier W.P. Inman and his struggle to return to his North Carolina home and his wife during the Civil War. Isabel Leonard and Nathan Gunn sing the starring roles.

Additional performances of the opera are scheduled on Aug. 14, 17, 22 and 24. The Dutch recording label PentaTone will release a recording of the premiere.

The opera will be reprised at Opera Philadelphia in February 2016. The North Carolina Opera, a co-commissioner of the opera along with Santa Fe Opera, Opera Philadelphia, and Minnesota Opera, plans to present “Cold Mountain” as part of its 2017-2018 season.

“This piece has deeply ingrained historical and cultural connections to North Carolina that will invigorate our core audience, while inspiring our state-wide community,” said Timothy Myers, artistic director and principal conductor at North Carolina Opera.

– Steve Tuttle


ECU Guitar Festival celebrates 20th year with SoloDuo, Rene Izquierdo

SoloDuo—Matteo Mela and Lorenzo Micheli – will perform at ECU this summer as part of the ECU Guitar Festival.

SoloDuo—Matteo Mela and Lorenzo Micheli – will perform at ECU this summer as part of the ECU Guitar Festival.


The 2015 East Carolina University Summer Guitar Festival and Workshop celebrates 20 years of world-class classical guitar with SoloDuo, Rene Izquierdo and others in Greenville on July 11-14 in the A. J. Fletcher Music Building on the ECU campus. Directed by ECU guitar professor Elliot Frank, the festival includes the International Concert Series, which features elite performers from the United States and abroad.

Hailing from Switzerland and Italy, SoloDuo—Matteo Mela and Lorenzo Micheli—have performed throughout Europe, Asia, the US, Canada and Latin America, and have been acclaimed as one of the finest guitar ensembles in the world. About one of their performances, the Washington Post wrote “…the duo’s playing was nothing less than rapturous—profound and unforgettable musicianship of the highest order.”

Of international award winner and Cuba native Rene Izquierdo, Classical Guitar Magazine wrote “His natural and instinctive interpretations are second to none: his virtuoso technique allows him absolute command of the instrument giving him the independence of subtle phrasing, dazzling speed, beautiful tonal control… everything.”

Cuba native Rene Izquierdo will perform during the ECU Guitar Festival.

Cuba native Rene Izquierdo will perform during the ECU Guitar Festival.

“Now in our twentieth year, this is perhaps the finest lineup I have ever had for this event,” Frank said. “Matteo Mela, Lorenzo Micheli and Rene Izquierdo are three of the very best guitarists, technically and musically, on earth, and together Matteo and Lorenzo are simply the finest duo alive. Not only are they artists of the highest caliber, they are master teachers as well.”

Other featured concert artists this year include The Sharpe/Zohn Duo, the Kithara Duo, 2014 festival competition winner Alec Holcomb, Elina Chekan, Zachary Johnson, William Kossler, Frank and others.

In additional to the International Concert Series, the finals of this year’s solo competition are open to the public and feature some of the finest young talent in the world of the guitar. Students compete for cash awards and a performance at next year’s festival.

The festival’s workshop and camp are open to students ages 10-and-up who wish to acquire or improve skills on the classical guitar. Students under the age of 10 may participate with parental supervision. For the first time, instruction in the Suzuki guitar method is available to students with William Kossler, the originator of Suzuki guitar in the US, serving as lead instructor.

For more information regarding the workshop or concert series, contact Dr. Elliot Frank at 252-328-6245, or by email at, or visit

2015 Summer Guitar Festival Concerts

Saturday July 11


ECU Alumni 4 p.m.


Elliot Frank/Rene Izquierdo 7:30 p.m.


Sunday July 12


Zachary Johnson 4 p.m.


Kithara Duo/Soloduo 7:30 p.m.


Monday July 13


Solo Competition Semifinals 4 p.m.


Alec Holcomb/Sharpe Zohn Duo 7:30 p.m.


Tuesday July 14

Afternoon 4 p.m.

Youth competition finals


College competition finals 7:30 p.m.


Individual event ticket prices

Afternoon concerts $10 adults, $5 students; Evening concerts $20 adults, $15 students

Pass for all eight concerts: $50.00, adults, $30.00 students

All concerts are in the Recital Hall, Fletcher Music Center, ECU, Greenville, NC.

Tickets: 1-800-ECU-ARTS; 252-328-4788, 252-328-4736 V/TTY;, or at the door.


ECU Marching Pirates to play Carolina Panthers halftime show

 In front, ECU alumna and former band member Elizabeth Gates lines up in front of Kelsey Blake on the field in preparation for a performance at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. (Contributed photo)

In front, ECU alumna and former band member Elizabeth Gates lines up in front of Kelsey Blake on the field in preparation for a performance at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. (Contributed photo)

The ECU Marching Pirates have been invited to perform at halftime of the Carolina Panthers home football game against the Washington Redskins this fall.

The Marching Pirates will take the field on Sunday, Nov. 22 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, said William Staub, director of the ECU Marching Pirates and associate director of bands. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.

The Carolina Panthers recently contacted Staub, and the band is thrilled to perform, he said.

The last NFL game where the ECU Marching Pirates played also was at a Charlotte Panthers game in 1998, Staub said.

The Carolina Panthers kick off their 2015 season on Aug. 14 at an away game against the Buffalo Bills.


ECU students use music therapy to help Vidant Medical Center patients

ECU music therapy students Amanda Bernstein and Emily Selitto help patients at Vidant Medical Center with music. (Contributed photo)

ECU music therapy students and Emily Selitto, left, and Amanda Bernstein help patients at Vidant Medical Center with music. Not pictured are Madaline Logan and Emily Margagliotti. (Contributed photo)


“The girls and their music made it much easier for him to go on to glory,” Brenda Daniels said. Her husband, Noah Daniels, passed away in January at Vidant Medical Center. She said she is eternally grateful for two East Carolina University music therapy students who spent time singing and playing music for her husband and family.

For more than 45 years, the East Carolina University Music Therapy program has been training students to help people through the power of music. This semester, four of those students have brought their talents to Vidant Medical Center, to work with patients on a weekly basis.

Noah Daniels was just one of the patients who benefited from their work. “He was having a hard time, but when those girls walked in, we were elated,” his wife said. “I could see by the look in his eyes and the expression on his face, how the music lifted his spirits.”

Each Thursday, ECU seniors and music therapy majors, Amanda Bernstein and Emily Selitto visit Vidant Medical Center and go room to room singing and playing instruments for some of the sickest patients. “It’s a very humbling and rewarding experience,” Bernstein said. “We aren’t just singing and playing music for ourselves, music therapy is so much more than that; we are using our talents to help people.”

Music therapy students are required to complete a 12 hour practicum each semester in order to graduate. “Our main goal is to help patients use music to complete tasks that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to,” said Selitto. “If we can be a distraction, lift their spirits, and help relax them, if only for a few minutes at a time, then we are successful.”

Dr. Michelle Hairston, professor and chair of music education and music therapy department at ECU explained that a music therapist is constantly assessing the responses of the patient and uses his or her training to formulate a goal– and then work on it immediately. “Music is the powerful tool that reaches the soul of every individual. It is nonthreatening and inviting,” said Dr. Hairston. “Music engages patients immediately, and the personal connection of the music therapist keeps that connection going. The power of the music, the human contact (by the music therapist) and the goal-directed interaction of the two, is what makes music therapy work.”

Patricia Rice, a physician assistant at Vidant Medical Center, has been a practicum mentor for the music therapy students for the last three years. “The influence that these students have with the patients is remarkable,” Rice said. “They have a way of using music to help the patients with pain management, relaxation, and increasing physical activity which helps the patients reengage into life.”

Their influence is especially true in regards to the Daniels family. Brenda Daniels was so impressed and inspired by Bernstein and Selitto, that she asked if they would perform at her husband’s funeral. The girls obliged and sang several hymns, including Amazing Grace. “I wish that I could repay them, for what they gave to me and my husband with their music,” Daniels said. “I’ve never experienced anything like that in my entire life.”

For more information about the ECU Music Therapy program, please contact Dr. Michelle Hairston at

Courtesy of Vidant Health Corporate Communications


Appalachian-style musicians coming to ECU

By Jamitress Bowden and Kathryn Kennedy
ECU News Services

Two multi-talented musicians will perform traditional Appalachian-style music for the East Carolina University community and the public Feb. 10-12.

James Leva and Riley Baugus will host an open class on Appalachian culture from 2-3:15 p.m. Monday, Feb. 10 in Fletcher Recital Hall, room B136. They’ll then present “African American Banjo & Fiddle Artists: Musicians & Music” from 7-9 p.m. that evening in the Fletcher Recital Hall.

On Tuesday, Feb. 11, they’ll host two sessions at the Tipsy Teapot, 409 S. Evans St. The topics are “Round Peak Reflections: Tommy Jarrell and Old-Time Music” from 3-4 p.m. and “Rural Sacred Music: Styles & Songs” from 7-9 p.m.

Their residency will conclude with another open class from 2-3:15 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12 in Fletcher B136.

“James and Riley are just incredibly gifted and engaging performers and speakers, with a great deal of experience in all kinds of formal and informal settings,” said Marc Faris, assistant professor of music theory in the ECU School of Music.

“If you’re curious about the roots of American folk and popular music; if you’re interested in learning about the musical traditions of rural religious communities; or if you’re simply looking to expand your musical horizons in unexpected ways, these events are certain to be of interest.”

Their residency is part of an Honors College seminar on “Appalachian Culture,” co-taught by Faris and Leanne Smith, assistant professor in ECU’s Department of English. The seminar focuses on many aspects of the Appalachian culture, including the origin of common stereotypes associated with Appalachia.

“The content in the class will be similar to the evening performances, but we’ll have more time for questions and answer interaction with the artists,” Smith said.

James Leva developed his fiddle and banjo skills at the feet of traditional Appalachian musicians such as Tommy Jarrell and Doug Wallin. Through exploration of the African history rooted in Appalachian music, Leva also worked with Joe Thompson, a traditional African-American fiddler.

Riley Baugus began playing the banjo at a young age and later switched to the fiddle. He grew up in the Baptist community will perform music styles traditional to that community.

The artist residency is sponsored by the ECU Fine Arts Funding Board, Folk Arts Society of Greenville and the ECU Student Forum for Musical Organizations.


ECU music student wins two orchestra competitions

Mary Catherine Cox

Mary Catherine Cox

Mary Catherine Cox, ECU junior violin performance major studying with Ara Gregorian, won both the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra and the Durham Symphony Orchestra concerto competitions Jan. 11.

She recently won the 2013-14 ECU Concerto Competition Ron and Patty Allison Prize, and the opportunity to perform as soloist with the ECU Symphony Orchestra.
Cox has been awarded All-State Honors Orchestra and has attended the Music Teacher’s National Association state auditions and international music festivals in France, England, and Italy.

Last summer Cox was awarded a fellowship to study at the Madeline Island Chamber Music Festival in Wisconsin. She will perform with the Raleigh Symphony Feb. 23 and the Durham Symphony April 6.

She studies piano with ECU’s Keiko Sekino. Her older sister, Caroline Cox, who graduated in 2012, also is an accomplished violinist. Younger sister Sarah Cox is majoring in music. They are the daughters of optometrists Carson and Valerie Cox of Southern Pines.


ECU Chamber Singers win in international competition

The ECU Chamber Singers perform in international competition in Spain.

The ECU Chamber Singers perform in international competition in Spain.

The ECU Chamber Singers have been named one of the winners of the international Tolosa Choral Contest in Spain, and as winners, they will perform at the winners concert today in Tolosa.

The ECU group was competing against other invited choirs from Germany, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Indonesia, Russia, Spain and Sweden. ECU was the only representative from the United States competing at the event.

In the chamber choir category, the final results are as follows:

POLYPHONY COMPETITION:  1st place St. Jacobs Ungdomskor (Sweden), 2nd place Saarbrucken Kammerchor (Germany), 3rd place East Carolina University Chamber Singers

FOLKLORE COMPETITION:  1st place St. Jacobs Ungdomskor (Sweden), 2nd place East Carolina University Chamber Singers, 3rd place Saarbrucken Kammerchor (Germany)

With these awards, ECU will receive a silver medal, bronze medal, and a total of 1,250 euro cash prize (750 for silver, 500 for bronze).

The invitation to compete came after the ECU Chamber Singers posted several concert performance videos on YouTube in spring of 2012. Soon after the posting, ECU chamber singers director Andrew Crane noticed that Javier Busto, a prominent Spanish choral composer, commented on one of the videos.

“This was particularly exciting for us, that someone so renown, and halfway around the world, would take the time to tell us he liked our video,” Crane said. “ I didn’t think much of it after that.”

As a jury member of the Tolosa Contest, Busto invited the ECU Chamber Singers to participate in 2013. No more than one American choir is invited to participate annually.

“Apparently, he listened to our performances on YouTube and shared them with his fellow jury members,” Crane said.   “They all agreed that they were of a high enough quality to grant us this invitation.”

The Tolosa competition is unique among choral competitions in that the organizers pay for all the choir’s lodging, food and transportation once at the location.  The chamber singers will be in Spain through Nov. 5.

ECU Chamber Singers-4

ECU Chamber Singers-1


Composer Augusta Read Thomas works with student composers on campus

Augusta Read Thomas

Augusta Read Thomas worked with ECU composition students March 21 while on campus with the NewMusic@ECU Festival. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)


Celebrated composer Augusta Read Thomas conducted a master class with East Carolina University composition students while visiting campus March 21.

Thomas served as guest composer for the School of Music’s NewMusic@ECU Festival, held March 18 – 27. Her pieces were performed during the festival by the ECU Wind Ensemble on March 20, and by ECU faculty violinist Hye-Jin Kim and pianist Melvin Chen on March 21.

Thomas is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, an honor society of 250 architects, composers, artists and writers. Election to the academy is considered the highest formal recognition of artistic merit in the United States. She joined the group in May 2009.

In 2007, her ASTRAL CANTICLE was one of the two finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in Music.

Thomas is a composition faculty member at the University of Chicago, and served as composer-in-residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1997 through 2006.

For additional information about Thomas, visit

Thomas listens to an ECU student composer's music before providing feedback during a master class March 21.

Thomas listens to an ECU student composer’s music before providing feedback during a master class March 21.