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Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Dr. Lee Spear and Wife Becky Retire From Pitt-Bradford

Dr. Lee Spear works with students in the
University of Pittsburgh at Bradford’s music lab.

BRADFORD, Pa. – Dr. Lee Spear, who re-established the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford’s College-Community Choir in 1997 and contributed to the design of Blaisdell Hall, is retiring from Pitt-Bradford at the end of the fall semester.

Spear, who earned his own bachelor of arts degree in psychology from Oberlin College, began his teaching career at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., where he started a combined men’s and women’s chorus shortly after Hamilton became co-educational.

Later he earned doctor of musical arts in conducting from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

From Hamilton College, Spear moved on to Chautauqua County, N.Y., where he became the artistic director of the Chautauqua Chamber Singers.

The Chautauqua Chambers Singers regularly assisted in the concerts of Allan Slovenkay, who founded the College-Community Choir at Pitt-Bradford, served as its director and taught music.

The Chautauqua Chamber Singers also appeared annually at Pitt-Bradford as part of the Spectrum series, presenting a dinner concert in Renaissance costume for the annual December banquet in the 1980s.

Slovenkay arranged for Spear to be invited to teach classes at Pitt-Bradford, which he began doing in the fall of 1983. In fall 1997, he was appointed associate professor of music.

“We’re happy that Lee chose to share his talents with us back in 1983 and he will be missed by all of us in this community,” said Dr. Steven Hardin, vice president and dean of academic affairs. “He not only enriches the lives of his students through his excellent teaching but he also brings music to life for anyone who has ever attended his concerts or lectures.”

Although Pitt-Bradford does not offer a music major, Spear clearly doesn’t believe in offering watered-down classes for non-majors.

“You have to dive in with general education students,” he said, “otherwise it’s a waste of their time. You only have 14 weeks.”

Students taking his basic musicianship class end up composing their own pieces of music with four parts, something that advances in technology have made easier, he says.

“Music education has changed as it has begun to embrace technologies,” he said. Spear welcomed the new tools, studying and designing a music lab for Blaisdell Hall, Pitt-Bradford’s fine arts center, which opened in 2005, that consists of a dozen Macintosh computers and keyboards. Spear said it was the first iMac G5 lab in the world.

“Technology is a great gift to students who are learning to analyze music by listening to it,” Spear said. “We were one of five schools in the country that participated in the development of a software solution to the problem of enabling students to freeze an audio file and place markers in the file wherever they hear something interesting -- a process that used to
have to be done by rewinding and fast-forwarding tape with a counter.

In designing the lab, Spear visited a dozen other labs at universities across the country to examine what was being done on the cutting edge of music pedagogy.

He also contributed to the design of the Bromeley Family Theater and the Webb/Bradford Forest Rehearsal Hall, which is an acoustically superb room, constructed to be totally isolated acoustically from the rest of the building. He said that the first time the College-Community Choir practiced in that room it accomplished in two hours what previously would have taken three weeks because the singers could hear each other so well.

Spear is proud of the work he did to make Blaisdell Hall a first-class facility for a small college. “To leave a legacy that is a permanent legacy, you can’t beat bricks and mortar,” he said.

Jeff Guterman, chairman of the Division of Communication and the Arts, commented on Spear’s departure.

“Lee’s accomplishments are evident in the wonderful music he has brought to the college, in the fine and performing arts facilities he had a direct hand in helping to design, and in his standards of utmost quality and attention to detail,” he said. “He is the type of individual who will take on especially challenging and complex tasks and experience a very high degree of success with them.

“He teaches courses that are at several different skill levels in terms of student learning, and he seamlessly moves from the most fundamental music courses to those that are highly advanced.”

Spear plans to continue his involvement with the Chautauqua Institution near his home in Jamestown, N.Y., where he teaches courses in how to listen to the symphony, presents pre-concert lectures for every symphonic concert of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, and writes the “Symphony Notes” column for the Chautauquan Daily newspaper.

. He and his wife, Becky, who is also retiring from Pitt-Bradford, where she has been a voice instructor, also plan to work on renovating their home.

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