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Making music work for you

It’s been said that music moves the soul. Well according to Music program head Mark Denison, it’s good for what ails you, too.

Denison leads TCC Music, which includes ensembles in jazz and classical music, as well as chorus. The program helps students find their voice, as they study music theory, history and performance.

Here are Denison’s top tips for using music to reduce stress.

  • Enjoy vocal pieces and songs that can help articulate feelings. Especially helpful are the words and texts of master lyricists. They help make concrete the various vague and abstract emotions we can be feeling. It requires some introspection on the listener’s part, but like analyzing the works of a poet, the correlations can be found with some contemplation.
  • Playing instrumental pieces and songs can help you feel the complexity of emotions without a presumptive meaning attached. Master composers and songwriters in the world of instrumental music often seem to have an inside scoop to a listener’s soul. The melodies and harmonies, textures and rhythms, and themes and contrasts can hit at such a deep emotional level, we can find ourselves feeling joy, sorrow and anger all at the same time.
  • Learning about different artists’ lives, their triumphs and their tribulations can help us draw parallels in our own lives and provide inspiration for us to overcome whatever obstacles we are facing. They also help us to focus on longer-term goals. No one becomes a musician overnight. By understanding their journey, a person can look inside and possibly come to a better understanding of one’s journey.
  • Practicing music can help us develop a deeper sense of self and accomplishment. Self-esteem follows where one develops a certain amount of ability in a skill. Like being able to build a table, needlepoint or cook. Music practice is a highly developed skill that requires repetitive practice and, honestly, repeated failures and successes. That success follows failure should be a given in life, and thus feelings of accomplishment follow success.
  • Practicing music can also be used as a meditative exercise. You can block out the rest of the world, even if only for 30 minutes or an hour. The mind hones in on the skill being practiced and thus becomes free from worry. The world will still be there when the practitioner returns, but for that period, one is free to let it go. 

After learning he could learn at TCC, alumnus wants to teach others

Rudy Wingate could have become another statistic – another special-education student left behind in life.

Instead, he is a college graduate working toward becoming a music teacher.

“I came to TCC and learned that I could learn, and that was a great surprise,” said Wingate, who earned his Associate of Applied Science in General Studies from Tidewater Community College in May 2017.

He completed the two-year degree in three packed semesters and is now studying music education at Norfolk State University.

“My plan was to get through TCC as quickly as possible because of a promise I made to a teacher. After that, I was going to get a job and never look back,” Wingate said. “But once I got to TCC, I started believing in myself and was making good grades. I realized that education could take me places.”

While at TCC, Wingate found a passion for music by taking a guitar class. After one semester, he was proficient on both guitar and saxophone and participating in two TCC music program ensembles.

“It was like a lightbulb went on, and music just clicked with me. I was surprised at how fast I was learning, and not just in my music classes,” he said.

Wingate found support from his academic advisors, teachers and pretty much everyone on the Norfolk Campus. He credits counselor Mark Flanders, who helped him develop a career plan.

His introduction to education hindered his progress prior to his college years. Wingate repeated second grade and was placed in special education classes because of behavioral issues. Even though he was smart enough, he was never part of a mainstream classroom after that.

“In high school, I would score well on SOLs, but I didn’t know how to act. I really didn’t learn what other high school kids were learning,” he said.

Meeting Jahkari “J.T.” Taylor, a special education teacher with Chesapeake Public Schools, changed his direction.

“He saw something in me and encouraged me to go to college. He even helped me with the admissions process to TCC,” Wingate said.

Taylor regarded Wingate as an extremely energetic student with untapped academic potential, recalling, “I would tell Rudy on a regular basis, ‘You can do whatever you put your mind to and you can become whatever you want to.  You got this!’ ”

“If I could I’d buy him a house or something big, I would just to thank him,” Wingate said. “I decided to become a music teacher so I can be the change for someone else.”

TCC Alumni: Connect, Contribute, Celebrate

TCC, VCU sign off on new transfer agreement in music

A new agreement between Tidewater Community College and Virginia Commonwealth University offers students a streamlined transfer process to obtain their bachelor’s degree in music.

Following successful completion of a two-year Associate of Fine Arts in Music at TCC, graduates meeting the terms of the agreement are now able to transfer directly to VCU to work toward a bachelor of arts in music or bachelor of music with a concentration in performance.

To be eligible to enroll at VCU, TCC students must meet admission criteria and hold a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher. Students must also complete a successful audition with the VCU Department of Music. 

“TCC partners with colleges and universities that are not only popular with our students but offer them a seamless transfer of credits as well,” said Kellie Sorey, TCC’s associate vice president for academics. “We are proud to partner with VCU, as it is a primary transfer destination for our students.”

TCC’s 63-credit Associate of Fine Arts in Music (AFA) gives students a foundation in performance, music theory and history. It also provides opportunities to enhance skills in groups, such as chorus, orchestra or jazz ensemble. TCC is the first community college in the state to offer an AFA in Music. It is offered on TCC’s Norfolk Campus.

The associate degree is designed for those interested in pursuing careers as music educators, sound technicians, performers, composers and music therapists.

First-time college students who meet GPA and other requirements may qualify for a two-year transfer grant to apply toward tuition at VCU. The grant could be as much as $2,000.

Interested students should contact the TCC Enrollment Team at 757-822-1111.

First AFA graduate on her way to VCU to study vocal performance

Emma Tracy started taking voice lessons at age 12. Today she is a college graduate who has parlayed her love of singing into a college degree.

Tracy, 23, became Tidewater Community College’s first graduate to earn an Associate of Fine Arts in Music when she walked across the stage at the Ted Constant Convocation Center on May 12.

“I found that I really didn’t have any other interests or anything else I’m good at except my music,” Tracy said. “It feels great forging this path for other students to follow.”

The Maury High School graduate attended the Governor’s School for the Arts. Tracy came to TCC the first time right out of Maury High and the Governor School for the Arts. The honors graduate struggled with mental health issues initially at TCC, where she failed her early classes.

She returned to the college in spring 2017 to retake courses and start anew.

Emma Tracy performing with TCC's Blue Moon Jazz ensemble at the Norfolk Campus.
Emma Tracy performing with TCC’s Blue Moon Jazz ensemble at the Norfolk Campus.

“I wish I’d known about the support services available for students the first time I was here,” she said. “I’ve learned that everyone here is rooting for you and wants you to succeed.”

Tracy refined and expanded her performances skills at TCC by participating in ensembles and TCC Chorus.

A classical singer who enjoys opera, Tracy discovered jazz singing by joining TCC’s Blue Moon Jazz ensemble. She enjoyed performing with the group so much that she is taking the class again this summer.

“The music program here is such a great community,” she said. “I made so many friends and we help each other out.”

Tracy credits Mark Denison, music program head, and staffer Jeannette Winsor for their support.

Tracy will attend Virginia Commonwealth University to pursue a bachelor’s in vocal performance and hopes to later work toward a master’s in music performance.

“In the music field, you definitely need a degree unless you are some YouTube star, but even then, formal training is really necessary,” she said.

Married to Jesse Ingle who is in the Navy, Tracy spends her free time playing guitar and piano and singing. She also enjoys fitness and spending time with her three cats and her dog named Teddy.

For students pursuing a similar path, she advises, “Don’t be afraid to do what you love. Communicate with your professors. If you have a problem, let them know right away. And don’t ignore your mental health. If you need help – get it.”

A celebration of multiple firsts and a memorial for a special grad part of TCC’s spring commencement

During a Saturday afternoon of milestones and remembrances, Tidewater Community College celebrated the spring class of 2018 at its 66th Commencement Exercises.

In addition to more than 700 graduates walking in the ceremony at the Ted Constant Convocation Center, TCC President Edna V. Baehre-Kolovani recognized the following milestones:

  • Four graduates, Brandi Porter, Gabrielle Hutchings, Jaylyn Richard and Jay Sellers, received the Governor’s Medallion, given to four teenagers who completed associate degrees while still in high school.
  • Alexis Spangler and Xiaomin Chen, are the inaugural students to graduate through the Women’s Center’s STEM Promise Program, which provides full scholarships to students pursuing STEM degrees at TCC. Each earned an Associate of Science of Engineering.
  • Another first: Christopher Newbill and Alyssa Shepherd, both Wilson High School seniors, became the first high school students to earn Career Studies Certificates in Maritime Welding.
  • Emma Tracy became the first recipient of the Associate of Fine Arts in Music.
  • Finally, five students from Chesapeake Public high schools, Zachary Booker, Hunter Edward, Brandon Halloran, Christian Keifer and Jalem Wilson, became the first recipients of the Career Studies Certificate in Electrical Wiring for Technicians.
Student speaker Tony Sawyer and President Kolovani at TCC's 66th Commencement Exercises.
Student speaker Tony Sawyer and President Kolovani at Commencement.

Keynote speaker Cheryl Turpin, an educator elected last fall to Virginia’s House of Delegates, encouraged the students to keep learning regardless of age.

“No matter your age, I see nothing but young minds when I look out to this crowd,” said the longtime science teacher.

Turpin’s journey has taken her from science teacher at Cox High School to the cover of Time magazine the week after she was elected to the House of Delegates. “If you follow your passions, you can achieve what you dream,” she said.

Student speaker Tony Sawyer, previously a high school dropout, talked about finding the desire to succeed at TCC thanks to the support he received. He graduated with an Associate of Science in Social Sciences.

“Education required a lot of sacrifices, but the lessons learned have been worth it,” said Sawyer, on the President’s List every semester at TCC and bound for Old Dominion University. “Today’s success is not an ending point. Let us apply the knowledge we’ve learned to make a difference.

Jordan McNair's classmates and President Kolovani on stage at Commencement.
Jordan McNair’s classmates at Commencement.

“As a former 16-year-old dropout, who is now a 49-year-old TCC graduate and attending the ODU honors college in the fall, I currently experience a new freedom from this education I no longer thought was possible,” he said.

During the conferring of degrees, Jordan McNair was awarded a posthumous Career Studies Certificate in Automotive Chassis Systems. McNair, a student at TCC’s Regional Automotive Center, died in a car accident last August. He was 20 years old.

Jordan McNair's parents, (center) Dexter McNair and Paula Borchert, accept his certificate during a standing ovation from classmates.
Jordan McNair’s parents, (center) Dexter McNair and Paula Borchert, accept his certificate during a standing ovation from classmates.

McNair’s family received an inspiring standing ovation from the graduates. His classmates, who finished restoring his project car, a 2000 Honda Civic, presented his family with his certificate.

Priority Automotive’s Jim Rose, McNair’s employer, also announced a new $12,000 scholarship, the Jordan McNair Memorial Honda PACT Scholarship, sponsored by the dealership. The scholarship will assist second-year TCC students enrolled in the Honda PACT program.

TCC’s alumni base of more than 100,000 continues to grow with the addition of the 1,500 graduates who are part of the class of 2018.