ECSU students join their peers at the 50th Intercollegiate Music Association Conference

Kesha Williams
February 21, 2011


Sixteen students from the Elizabeth City State University Music Department attended the 50th Intercollegiate Music Association Conference held February 10-12, 2011 at Hampton University. They gathered with peers from Historically Black Colleges and Universities for intense rehearsals that led to a striking finale concert last Saturday at HU's Robert C. Ogden Hall.

For ECSU music education majors Myriah Harkley, a freshman, and Joell Harris, a senior, it was a heart-warming experience. Harris, who had attended a previous conference, knew what to expect. The student ensemble rehearsals, which lasted about five hours on Thursday and Friday, are where the talent shines, Harris said.

"This was my second year. I wanted to return because I enjoyed being around people outside this university who play percussion," Harris said.

Saturday's concert included performances by the IMA Symphonic Band, the IMA Jazz Ensemble, the IMA Chamber Ensemble and the IMA Concert Choir. The students said they were surrounded by outstanding instructors and accompanying musicians. Attending IMA gave them the unique opportunity not only to learn from talented African-American conductors, but to play the music they've written.

The Jazz Ensemble won roaring applause after performing music written by the ensemble's conductor, Dr. Russell Thomas Jr.

During Harris' first year at the conference, the conductor was Ellard L. Forrester, Harris' music instructor at ECSU. "I was familiar with the music covered at that workshop," Harris said. "This year, it was interesting to work with a different conductor and having different people from last year participating in the section."

Harris said the sessions prove that students who normally don't practice and perform together really can learn musical selections in a short period and then take the stage for a great concert.

"As a young musician looking at a piece of music for the first time, you wonder if you are playing the music as the composer would interpret it. We have to play the piece and fine tune it. You work to make sure it sounds as the composer wants it to sound and as the conductor interprets it," Harris explained.

One of the greatest challenges of the conference is working with a new and unfamiliar conductor, Harris and Harkley agreed.

"But all you have to be is willing to learn -- learn what they expect from the students and what their interpretation of the music will be," Harris said.

Harkley said her talents were stretched by the challenge.

"The students and instructors from the other institutions were very nice," she said. "People from Hampton University met us with open arms. It was nice to be in an environment with other students who have a passion for music. We all have different voices, but the time comes when you must blend them into one choir for the concert on Saturday. I admired the dedication of our teacher, because she was sick but still made it through the weekend."

Founded in 1961, the Intercollegiate Music Association was started as a vehicle for enriching and enhancing the development of students from its member institutions. Association founders were Dr. Evelyn Johnson of ECSU, Dr. Albert Grauer of Saint Augustine's College and Dr. Nathaniel Gatlin of Virginia State University.

The founders believed the IMA could present an opportunity for cooperative, non-competitive activities among students who attended colleges in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association. In addition to the founders' institutions, early IMA member institutions included Hampton University, Virginia Union University, Norfolk State University, Livingstone College, Winston-Salem State University and Bennett College.

The students listed below attended the Intercollegiate Music Association 2011 Conference in Hampton, VA:

Band Students

Paul Baker
Lance Garrett
Markiss Barnes
Joel Harris
Marlana Cook
Dominique Royal
Daniel Ferland

Choir Students

Chameshia Coplon
Justin Garland
Maria Harkley
Joshua Murrill

String/Orchestra Students

Katori Eason
Haywood Mull
Briana Robinson
Mercedes Jackson T
Tyler Thompson