ETHOS: Exploring Equity Through Music

This past summer, three faculty members from the Music Department participated in the Unidos Equity Leadership Retreat, with three other members having attended previous retreats. A major question that has arisen is, how do we best serve the mission of this university, and our students as we prepare them for meaningful careers in the 21st century?

ETHOS is a Greek word, meaning “character” that is used to describe the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a community, nation or ideology. The Greeks also used this word to refer to the power of music to influence its listener’s emotions, behaviors, and even morals. Music has always been a reflection of society and culture, both the positive and negative aspects. It may reflect the biases or norms of certain groups, or be a call for action against social injustices perpetrated by others.

For the faculty and students of the Music Department at Adams State University, ETHOS stands for an overarching, multi-year program we are implementing this year, addressing equity and diversity issues in the programming of our music ensembles and the development of new curricula.

There will be ensemble concerts, faculty recitals and guest artist appearances, which will be designated as part of the ETHOS program. For example, a faculty voice recital, titled “Out of the Closet and on to the Stage,” featuring composers from the LGBT+ community, a faculty flute recital celebrating the works of women composers, and a visiting brass quintet that will be performing works by Hispanic composers.

This programming will be an opportunity to explore music of different cultures, that which is a product of varying social groups, and addressing issues of diversity and equity. ETHOS will also encourage cross-discipline relationships by including other disciplines such as art, literature, history or theatre. In addition, these concerts will allow the open discussion of issues in the classroom and throughout the university and local community, educational outreach, and fundraising concerts to benefit organizations that are working towards equity for underserved populations.

By implementing this new philosophy in our music program, we are supporting Adams State University’s mission to include all who choose to serve diverse, historically underserved groups, and who value quality education and inclusivity.

This new initiative will be highlighted at the state level on January 26, 2017, when the Adams State Winds and Percussion will perform at the Colorado Music Educators Association (CMEA) conference. This program will consist of works written specifically for this ensemble that reflect the heritage, culture and geography of the San Luis Valley. Composers include internationally-known band composer, Jack Stamp, Jennifer Bellor, and David Pierce. In addition, there will be a composition written by a former ASU music composition graduate and San Luis Valley native, Chelsea Oden, and a fanfare that will be composed by one of our current students.

Fees for commissioning these CMEA works are substantial, and we would like to encourage anyone who is interested in supporting this, or future efforts, to contact the music department at (719) 587-7621 or if you would like to donate and be a part of this initiative or one of our Friends of Music. Find out how you can be involved!

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.”

~Victor Hugo

(Written by Dr. Beth Robison)

A New Vision for 21st Century Music Education at Adams State

The Vision

The new academic year has brought exciting changes to the Adams State University Music Department. With the support of University leadership, we created a new focus on select chamber ensembles to meet the department objectives and address student learning outcomes. The music industry has changed. Students have changed and so have the demands on their time. To meet these changes we have pivoted away from the singular emphasis on large ensembles, and brought into focus the real world experience gained by empowering students to create, rehearse, market, schedule, manage, and lead their own small music ensembles. Our Wind Ensemble, Concert Choir, Symphony, Mariachi, Chamber Choir, and Jazz Ensemble remain as the core from which select ensemble members are drawn. The large ensembles are key components of our nationally accredited department and they, too, will benefit greatly from these new and sensible changes.

The Chamber Ensemble Model as Service

For the 2016-17 academic year, we have redistributed the rehearsal time, department expenses, service stipends, and faculty credit overload from the marching band and its eight fall performances. While the Music Department will provide half time music for football games, we are redirecting our focus from the resource-intensive athletic bands to a more equitable and academically relevant six service ensembles. These ensembles are:

68 West (a cappella vocal ensemble)

Alpine Backbeats (marching percussion and samba bateria)

Power of Five (brass quintet)

Desert Winds (woodwind quintet)

7,543’ Panhandlers (steel pan band)

Summit Quartet (flute quartet)

Each ensemble is tasked with providing a minimum of five performances a semester in the following categories:

University Service

Community Engagement

Educational Outreach


Featured Performance

For less expense to the Music Department and University, this “lighter, faster, smarter” model provides a minimum of 60 performances benefiting the entire University, the community, region, and music education in the public schools.

The return on investment will be phenomenal while providing students with relevant and empowering experiences.

A Focus on Student Success

With faculty serving in advisory and mentoring roles, each of the six ensembles has a student manager who also performs in the group. Every ensemble member has specific responsibilities to the whole, and the ensembles rehearse weekly with the intention of preparing specific programs that are unique and engaging for their intended audience. Additionally, students provide arrangements and compositions for the ensembles and are invested in the selection of repertoire.

In place of a “pre-season” marching band camp, our students came together for a week to rehearse, create their own promotional materials, develop management and leadership skills and strategies, and began booking their performances. Each group finished the week with repertoire learned, bios, head shots, and group photos, electronic press kits, websites and social media strategies, and live performances for New Student Orientation. With control over their schedules, the ensembles have begun the semester with greater individual responsibility, ownership of their musical product, and practical skills for their careers. As chamber ensemble musicians, individual musicianship is of greater importance and accountability is higher.

Our Model

 As a department, we are focused on preparing our students for their music careers. Our students have gone on to be performers, educators, composers, ethnomusicologists, Fulbright Scholars, music merchandisers, audio technicians, producers, and numerous other career fields. We want to train all of our students to have multiple streams of revenue and develop the skills to be portfolio musicians in the industry.

We aren’t just training musicians and educators. To quote music business author, educator, entrepreneur, and innovator David Cutler, “it is imperative for musicians to also learn about things like entrepreneurship, personal finance, marketing, creativity and innovation, community engagement, advocacy, collaboration, communication — those kind of 21st century skills.” We are confident this new model distinguishes our music program and fits the mission of Adams State University. We now have the opportunity to best meet our student needs and represent who they are, while serving the University and community as a whole.

To book an Adams State University Service Chamber Ensemble or learn more about each group, visit:

(Written by Dr. James W. Doyle)