Music dean receives Governor’s Award for enriching the arts in South Carolina

Tayloe Harding, dean of the School of Music was honored with a 2021 Governor’s Award for the Arts for his work in arts education. Harding was one of seven recipients of the award, the state’s highest recognition for achievement in practicing or supporting the arts.

The S.C. Arts Commission acknowledged Harding’s community involvement serving on the state’s Arts in Basic Curriculum Project steering committee and his national leadership as president of the College Music Society.

We caught up with Harding to talk about the award, teaching music during a pandemic and new endeavors at the School of Music.

Throughout the pandemic, the School of Music continued to fulfill its mission of preparing students. Can you speak to how your faculty and students have demonstrated resilience and flexibility during this period?

I was serving as the university’s interim provost in March 2020 when the whole campus had to readjust to online learning, but the interim dean of the School of Music pulled together a management team that I continue to consult for all sorts of academic matters, beyond just COVID management. In June, we formed a summer task force of music faculty and staff to study how to adjust facilities for safe in-person music making and how to engage more fully in online instruction and learning through the summer and fall. That meant adjusting virtually every course in some way. Our faculty was willing to adapt to totally new ways of music teaching and music making and to embrace a public health challenge as an opportunity to advance the impact of the music school on students and communities.

Most music instruction and most music making is in person, but we’ve spent a good amount of time thinking how we could expand online capacity not only in the moment but also leverage it toward a brighter future. We have just begun to scratch the surface on how we can do this.

You were recently honored with a Governor’s Award for the Arts for your work in arts education. How do leadership activities outside the university help inform the work that you do at the School of Music?

The award recognizes a variety of educational and arts curriculum matters statewide that I've been involved with and which have become a model for other states as well as arts advocacy, a big issue for me that has become a part of our curriculum at UofSC. I think it also has to do with how the School of Music is developing future teachers of music. That has been critical, largely based upon the people that we've hired, but also based upon the fact that our faculty and our alumni work so closely together constantly addressing the next issue. Almost half of all public school music teachers in South Carolina are graduates of the UofSC School of Music. Helping propel music education in our state is one of the great legacies of the UofSC School of Music.

The School of Music has taken on some big endeavors recently: The Bridging Our Distances initiative and the management of the Koger Center. The school will also manage the Greene Street United Methodist Church as a performance venue. How do these new efforts benefit our students and the broader community?

The real possibilities for the Koger Center to advance the school and music in our state is through their own self-production efforts and not just as a rental venue. It's a very natural fit with the School of Music, so we're finding ways to leverage the faculty and staff of both institutions in production and presentation.

The Greene Street United Methodist Church will provide the school about 11,000 square feet of additional space. Some of it needs renovation to be useful for our music program, but some areas like the sanctuary with its beautiful woodwork and windows have quite good acoustics and will need few updates. The jazz program will move there, and it will be a performance space for the school. The church congregation also will continue to use it on Sundays. We are very excited about the possibilities for collaboration in the Greene Street church and inviting others to be a part of it.

Bridging Our Distances is the big result of last summer's post-COVID task force. We decided we wanted to leverage the work of the music school, student concerts, faculty recitals and guest events in a way that would bridge distances presented to our society by the pandemic and by racial and ethnic division. We identified four bridges: uniting communities, amplifying voices, celebrating heroes and spurring our future.

We've been isolated from one another now for nearly a year, and music can help heal our society and bring us back together. The next major activity of the Bridging Our Distances initiative will be a weeklong series of events, Celebrating Local Heroes with The Concert Truck, where we will celebrate 10 community heroes around the Midlands – live at the places where they work – with a final concert on the Horseshoe on the evening of March 29.

One of the hallmarks of your tenure as dean has been hiring of nationally known, top-notch faculty members. Can you speak to how those hires have helped move the school forward? 

Even though all job descriptions have specific teaching, performing, researching, writing and service duties, we want candidates to choose our school because of our five core values, which are pursuing excellence, assuring student success, preparing music leaders for tomorrow, training outstanding musician educators and developing diversely skilled musicians. The latter three are unique and differentiate our school. We encourage faculty to become leaders and mentors to the students in their program and to contribute to campus-wide priorities where our early adoption differentiates us. We work hard on that, and as a result, we have developed a reputation around the country that has proved itself with the nature of the applicant pools for faculty vacancies.

And more specifically, one of your faculty members, David Cutler, recently was named a Yamaha Master Educator. How does that type of recognition help the School of Music?

David is the nation's foremost imaginer, innovator, creator and teacher in the field of music entrepreneurship and business, so it is so obvious he would be the first Yamaha Master Educator in that field. His two books — and a third one that will be out in the next couple of years — on music entrepreneurship are the standards in the industry. Every college or university that offers music entrepreneurship curriculum has been seeded in some way directly or indirectly by David Cutler's work. That really serves our university because it highlights how we prepare musicians for the world tomorrow, propelling the national recognition for how we do that and how it differentiates us.

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