Wayland music department aiming at national accreditation

Just as a sculptor whittles and chisels at a clump of stone to create a masterpiece, the Department of Music at Wayland Baptist University has undergone some refining moments over the past few years in an effort to become the educational work of art its faculty dream about.

Though the department has enjoyed growth both in student enrollment and faculty numbers, music faculty members say it's all part of a grander goal.

According to Dr. Ann Stutes, assistant professor and music department chairperson, the school is hoping to gain accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Music, an independent agency whose stamp of approval is considered "the ultimate accreditation in music."

"We're really pushing this because it's a standard of excellence and includes lots of self-evaluation," Stutes said. "You really get to work the kinks out of your program."

Stutes said the real vision for the accreditation process belongs to Dr. Carl Moman, chairman of the Division of Fine Arts, which houses the music department. Though the challenge of seeking NASM approval was laid before him several years ago by his mentor from William Jewell College, there was some work to be done in the department before the university would approach the organization.

"We were waiting on the right configuration of facility, library and faculty to really begin," Moman said. "We've been comparing ourselves with peer schools and have made improvements, and we have really worked on getting our faculty together. We wanted to go in strong."

After being named music chair a few years ago, Stutes was given the responsibility of overseeing the lengthy process. First, she said, the faculty team had to closely examine degree requirements and curriculum offerings, with attention to issues like library resources, facilities, alumni relations and recruiting and retention of students.

From all that introspection, the department put several changes in place to strengthen the overall program. The music education courses grew, with world and American music courses added. The division also streamlined its music degrees for efficiency and added new faculty members to round out the expertise and strengthen the instrumental and church music portions of the program.

Though change is never easy, Stutes said the overhaul was necessary and welcome.

"It's forced us to shape up, but we're proud of that. If there's something 'broken,' we're in the business to fix it," she said, adding that ways of thinking have also changed. "We really have a focus on excellence now. Everything we do, we question, 'Is this going to make us a better university?' We're really opened up our views."

Stutes said the process of self-study has involved every music faculty member and has taken a while to compile. Once the department was more confident of their situation, they contacted NASM to begin the process on their end.

In April 2001, Wesley Coffman of Hardin-Simmons University conducted a preliminary consultation for Wayland, helping prepare for the formal visit by the NASM team, which is scheduled for October 2002. Having served on such teams previously, Coffman followed the traditional format while on the Wayland campus so faculty, staff and students would know what to expect.

"(The team) attends classes and lessons at their leisure, has a formal recital with students and meets with the president, the academic vice president, our faculty and division chair," she said, adding the entire visit lasts two days. "The team then writes a report and the school can defend it or correct any errors. Then a board votes on the approval."

Coffman's visit, said Stutes, was invaluable. His report showed the department where its strengths and weaknesses lay. Students fell into the positive category.

"During this visit, the team meets with students without any faculty around," she explained. "That was one of our best selling points (with Coffman). He was blown away by our students and their quality. They were very proud to be Wayland students."

Stutes said several factors now in place should work in Wayland's favor as far as the accreditation process is concerned. The department now has 60 majors and about 25 minors. There are also many participating in vocal or instrumental ensembles that are not pursuing music degrees, which Stutes said is actually a strong point for the department. Seven faculty and 20 students attended the recent Texas Music Educators Association conference and helped host a reception for WBU music alums with almost 50 in attendance.

The school also has a presence in the Music Educators National Conference, with Dr. Sandra Mosteller serving as local chapter sponsor and Wayland sophomore Ashley Applewhite having just been elected president of the state collegiate chapter. Faculty members Timothy Kelley, director of instrumental studies, and Dr. Scott Herrington, director of choral studies, are both involved statewide through activities with the University Interscholastic League and other music organizations. Stutes said all of these things speak well of Wayland.

If NASM grants Wayland accreditation, the department would benefit in recruiting new music students and future music faculty members.

"(NASM approval) puts us in a different grouping of schools and encourages highest standards. It keeps you reviewing your degree plans and programming to keep you in the mainstream," Moman said, giving due credit to students and faculty of the past who helped bring the department to where it is today. "We only stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before and press on."