Margie V. Marrs
Pearl M. Taylor Professor of Music
B.S., Kansas State University
M.A., Washington State University; Royal Academy of Music, London
What classes do you teach at Coe?
Private voice lessons, Diction for Singers, Topics in Vocal Literature, Music Theory
What activities or campus organizations are you actively involved with?
Faculty advisor for Mu Phi Epsilon; National Association of Teachers of Singing; Iowa Music Teachers Association; Music Teachers National Association; American Society for Teachers of Alexander Technique, Kato Havas Association for the New Approach
What makes the Coe Music Program stand out from music education available from other schools?
Coe's Music Department, accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music, combines the intensity of conservatory training with the breadth of a diverse liberal arts curriculum.
The Coe Music Faculty is dedicated to providing an education that will foster a lifelong love for music while also preparing students for a job market requiring flexibility and commitment. If you want to continue your education in music, we hope you will consider the advantages of a music school where the faculty's central mission is teaching undergraduates.
Although we have the largest teaching faculty at Coe, the Music Department is intentionally designed as a small department. Each year we seek to enroll a class of music students for whom we can provide a concentrated, individualized program within a personal, friendly environment. The success of our effort is evident in the successes of our recent graduates: symphony personnel managers, music therapists, freelance musicians, music educators, a movie producer, an opera singer, and recipients of grants for overseas graduate studies, including a Fulbright in ethnomusicology and a fellowship for the study of Kodaly in Hungary. Planning for the future is never an easy task, but we hope you will regard Coe College as a sensible step in the preparations for your future.
What is your favorite class to teach and why?
Private voice lessons. Singing lessons on the college level include so many different aspects-technique, musicianship, language, history, style and performance practice to name a few. Each student provides me with the challenge of determining and appropriately addressing his/her needs. Acquiring a reliable healthy technique is a must for life-long singing.
Singers are fortunate to have such a vast body of vocal literature of varying styles and languages available to them. Choosing literature which satisfies the standard requirements for college students while meeting the students' needs musically, technically, and interpretively is one of my favorite (but time consuming) tasks.
Whether students study for a semester or four years, it is always exciting to watch them grow. Guiding a student through the process of self discovery-helping them become more themselves-is gratifying indeed.
Name your most memorable Coe concert and what it meant to you.
In September of 2008 my husband Bob, daughter Kristin, and I collaborated in a presentation on the work of Emily Dickinson. Bob lectured on Dickinson's poetry and life, and I sang settings of her poetry by American composers-including John Duke, Robert Baksa, and Aaron Copland. Although the two of us had presented versions of this program several times since the 1980s, we added a new dimension last fall by commissioning a choreographer to set several of the songs on Kristin, who is a professional dancer. Combining our three passions (written word, song, and dance) into a single presentation was indeed a memorable experience.
Another special event was in the Fall of 2004 when I hosted eleven faculty artist performers and two staff members from the Shenyang Conservatory of Music in Shenyang, China for a Festival of Chinese Music on campus. The artists formed an condensed version of a traditional Chinese orchestra comprised of pipa, yangqin, banghu, erhu, sauna, and two vocal soloists. On several occasions in the past I had taught vocal master classes at Shenyang, and it was a marvelous experience to have these incredible musicians perform at Coe and to also share their music at a local school and church.
Who is playing on your iPod?
I don't own an iPod and probably never will. I love music, but my passion is the creation of live music with live performers. While I certainly have nothing against recorded music-and in fact I own hundreds of CDs and vinyl records-my preference is to live as much as possible in a world of live music. Perhaps I'm old fashioned, but I have never cared for music as background and accompaniment while doing other things. If music is being played, I want to focus and listen, really listen, to the music. Music is such a special treasure. It should not simply be used as background for other concerns.
What book are you currently reading?
An example of a recent book I have been reading (or actually rereading) is The Act of Living by Walter Carrington. In recent years, much of my reading has focused on relearning how to breathe, how to move, how to use the body with ease and appropriate tension. For singers, the body is our instrument, and I think it makes sense to learn as much as possible about how the body works and what we can do to ensure its health and well being. For example, I frequently integrate into my teaching what I have learned from studying the Alexander Technique thereby helping students improve the way in which they use their bodies.
What do you enjoy doing outside of class?
Practicing, learning new music, reading, traveling, visiting with long time friends and family members, talking with my daughter on the phone, watching the Antiques Roadshow.
What is the best getaway location, local or abroad?
Whenever possible I return to England-site of my first extensive overseas experience in 1966-67 when I studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London. I love attending recitals at Wigmore Hall, walking through Regents Park (not far from the Royal Academy), going to plays in the West End, hiking through the Lake District with my husband, visiting with old friends from my days at the Royal Academy.
What advice would you give a prospective student?
It is important not to assume that size equals quality. There are many advantages to participating in a small music program that is part of a liberal arts college.