Since its beginning, the Michigan State University College of Music has attracted some of the world's leading teachers, scholars, and performers to its faculty, as demonstrated in these short profiles. Names are listed in reverse chronological order based on the year of retirement from Michigan State University and then alphabetically by last name.
Retiring in 2013
Curtis Olson is retiring as professor of trombone and associate dean for undergraduate studies in the College of Music. He holds degrees from Bemidji State University and the Eastman School of Music. He taught music in Minnesota before joining MSU in 1976. His responsibilities included teaching trombone at the undergraduate and graduate levels, coaching trombone quartets, directing the trombone choir, and performing with the faculty brass quintet. Professor Olson has performed with the Detroit Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic, Buffalo Philharmonic, and St. Paul Civic Orchestras, and has been a guest soloist with military bands in Washington, D.C. He recorded with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra on the Columbia Masterworks label and with the MSU Symphonic Band on the Mark Record label. He has presented clinics and recitals at many colleges and conservatories throughout the United States. In 1992 and 1996, Professor Olson performed and conducted master classes at the International Music Festival in Brasilia, Brazil; in 2001 and 2010 he was a faculty member for the Brazilian Trombone Festival. As a composer of brass works, he has written numerous pieces for various solo instruments with piano or synthesizer accompaniment. Professor Olson received the Paul Varg Award for Excellence in Teaching from MSU’s College of Arts and Letters in 2000, the Outstanding Alumni Award from Bemidji State University in 2002, and the Neil Humfeld Award for Teaching Excellence from the International Trombone Association in 2002.
Retired in 2012
Dale Bonge received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and joined MSU in 1977. He retired as associate professor of musicology in the College of Music. Professor Bonge’s research addresses aspects of performance practices and music theory of the Middle Ages and Renaissance as well as the connections between music and other aspects of arts and culture. A particular focus of his work is tempo in early music. He has presented papers at meetings of the American Musicological Society, The Michigan Academy, and the International Congress of Medieval Studies annual conference in Kalamazoo, Michigan. His publications include articles in Pro Musica, Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association, Centennial Review, Michigan Academician, Musica Disciplina, and Studi Musicali. In the classroom Professsor Bonge concentrated on the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the seventeenth century, early notation, and performance practice. His approach emphasized insights into musical style and interpretation grounded in detailed study of representative musical works of each particular era, national style, and genre. In the courses he taught for the Center for Integrative Studies in the Arts and Humanities, generations of MSU students gained an appreciation of music and its development in the context of the arts and western culture in general.
Leon Gregorian retired from the College of Music after 28 years of service as professor of music, director of orchestras, and head of the graduate orchestral conducting program, which he began. Professor Gregorian joined MSU in 1984 and built the orchestra program into one that is recognized nationally and internationally for its excellence. Under his leadership, the MSU Symphony Orchestra has performed in such prestigious venues as Avery Fisher Hall and Alice Tully Hall in New York, Orchestra Hall in Chicago, and Orchestra Hall in Detroit. At the invitation of the Austrian government, Professor Gregorian and the MSU Chamber Orchestra participated in the worldwide celebration of the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth with concerts in Salzburg and Vienna. Professor Gregorian has guest-conducted orchestras in Venezuela, Mexico, South Korea, Italy, Romania, Armenia, Russia, Brazil, Argentina, the Czech Republic, Australia, and the People’s Republic of China, as well as orchestras throughout the United States, including the Boston Symphony, Boston Pops, and Boston Esplanade Orchestras. He has recorded for PBS, Koch International Classics, Crystal, and Arizona Records. A ten-CD set, “Teaching Music through Performance in Orchestra,” was recorded with the MSU Symphony Orchestra for worldwide distribution by GIA Publications. Professor Gregorian received the Teacher-Scholar Award, the Apollo Award, and the Distinguished Faculty Award in recognition of the international stature of his teaching, conducting, and outreach achievements.
Mark Johnson retired as professor of music and music literature in the College of Music and as professor in the Center for Integrative Studies in the Arts and Humanities. He received two music degrees from the University of Illinois and joined the MSU faculty in 1972. He was head of the percussion program and director of the Percussion Ensemble for 25 years, and has more than 50 years of professional orchestral experience as percussionist/timpanist with groups such as the San Antonio Symphony, the Santa Fe Opera, the Lansing Symphony, and numerous community orchestras in Texas, Illinois, and Michigan. He has also performed throughout Europe, Africa, and South America. Professor Johnson has participated as percussionist, conductor, and orchestral musician in a number of radio and television broadcasts, including several productions of the WKAR-TV "Artistry of …" series and "Music from Michigan State," as well as concerts broadcast by the BBC, PBS, WNET, and WFMT. He has recorded for the New World, Albany, and Gate-5 Records labels. Johnson is the author and editor of Marimba Solos and Etudes.
Roger Smeltekop received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from MSU and joined the university in 1977. A board-certified music therapist, he retired from the College of Music as associate professor of music therapy, coordinator of the MSU Music Therapy Clinic, and supervisor of student therapists. He served as chairperson of the Music Therapy area from 1989 to 1997. Previously he was in clinical practice at the Ypsilanti State Hospital, where he worked with emotionally impaired adolescents, and at the University of Michigan’s Department of Psychiatry, where he worked with adults. He has presented music therapy lectures and workshops to both lay and professional audiences. He is coauthor, with Robert Unkefer and Michael Thaut, of Music Therapy in the Treatment of Adults with Mental Disorders (2002), and has published widely on music therapy topics. Professor Smeltekop served for 30 years in the Assembly of Delegates of the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) and is active in the Great Lakes Region of AMTA. He served for two years as chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Certification Board for Music Therapists. In 2009 he received a Sustained Effort Toward Excellence in Diversity award from MSU in recognition of his dedication to providing leading-edge music therapy clinical services to hundreds of mid-Michigan children and adults with disabilities.
Retired in 2011
Frederick (“Ted”) Tims received a B.M. in piano performance from Hendrix College, a B.M. in music therapy from Michigan State University, an M.A. in music literature and performance from the University of Iowa, and a Ph.D. with high honors in music education with an emphasis in music therapy from the University of Kansas. Professor Tims joined MSU in 1996 after teaching at the University of Kansas, Colorado State University (where he began a new music therapy department), and the University of Miami. For six years he was associate director of graduate studies in what is now the College of Music. He retired as professor and chair of the Music Therapy area. As a board-certified music therapist, Professor Tims has done clinical work at hospitals in Germany and the United States as well as in private practice. His research focused on the effects of music making on healthy older Americans and the effects of music therapy on the biology and behavior of Alzheimer’s patients. Professor Tims is past president of the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) and a past secretary of the Certification Board for Music Therapists. In 2001 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from AMTA. In 2009 he keynoted AMTA’s Great Lakes Conference, where he was honored with the Scholarly Activity Award for significant contributions to the knowledge base of the profession.
Professor John Whitwell, who retired as professor of music and director of MSU Bands, has distinguished himself in the field of music as an educator, clinician, conductor, adjudicator, and author. He earned an associate degree from Rochester College (formerly known as Michigan Christian College), a bachelor’s degree in music education from Abilene Christian University, and a master of music degree from the University of Michigan. Professor Whitwell began his teaching career in 1965 and held positions as a music teacher, director of bands, and music department chairperson at public schools in Jackson and Ann Arbor. Before joining MSU in 1993, he taught at Stephen F. Austin State University and Abilene Christian University. During his time as director of bands at Michigan State, Professor Whitwell served as chairperson of the conducting area. As a lecturer, guest conductor, clinician, and adjudicator, he participated in hundreds of music conferences, state and national music association meetings, workshops, festivals, and music competitions throughout the United States and elsewhere, including England, France, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, and Mexico. He joined the board of the Midwest Clinic, one of the world’s largest instrumental music conferences, in 1997. His writings have appeared in several music journals and other publications. He is a tireless supporter of the MSU Alumni Band Association and has worked with that organization to commission new works for band. He received MSU’s Distinguished Faculty Award in 2003 and the Paul Varg Alumni Award for Faculty from the College of Arts and Letters in 2004.
Retired in 2004
Ralph Votapek (1939- )
From the first time his fingers touched the keys of an MSU piano 40 years ago, Ralph Votapek has been captivating audiences with his music mastery. As professor emeritus of piano, Votapek is an example of the College of Music's dedication to quality music education and first-class performance. While at MSU, Votapek shared with his students a worldly sense of music, helping to exemplify its important role in culture both here in the United States and abroad. He was the gold medalist of the first Van Cliburn International Piano competition and he has toured in Russia, Japan, and Korea. For more than 42 years, Votapek has devoted his talent to Latin America, performing in Buenos Aires, Santiago, and other cities. Votapek has also performed many times at Carnegie Hall and in the National Gallery in Washington. His solo pieces – including a recording on Arthur Fiedler’s last Boston Pops recording – have been critically acclaimed by International Piano and Fanfare magazines. Votapek’s talent is legendary among the campus musical community and especially among members of the MSU Symphony Orchestra, with whom he has performed many times over his long career.