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Oct. 2, 2014 Volume 36, No. 6

School of Music’s presence felt at Chancellor Loftin’s inauguration

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Singer Brandon Browning and pianist Jenna Braaksma, both graduate students in the School of Music, practiced together only twice for their performance Sept. 18 at Chancellor Loftin's installation ceremony in Missouri Theatre. Photo by Rob Hill.

Professor emeritus composed original piece for event

Brandon Browning first met Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin Aug. 28 on National Bow Tie Day. Browning was dressed casually, sporting a Mizzou shirt and baseball cap, and the chancellor was wearing a Dr. Who bow tie. They snapped a selfie to commemorate the moment.

The second time they met was following Loftin’s installation ceremony Sept. 18. Their attire was a bit different from what they wore Aug. 28. Browning was in a tuxedo, dress shirt and bow tie, while Loftin was in full academic regalia and wearing the Jefferson medallion.

“I don’t think he recognized me from [our first meeting],” Browning said. 

Browning, a graduate student in the School of Music, sang in front of nearly 1,000 people in the Missouri Theatre during Loftin’s installation as the 22nd chief executive officer of the University of Missouri. Browning was part of the school’s conspicuous presence at the event.

Julia Gaines, director of the School of Music, said the school's integration into the ceremony was part of an effort to involve as many MU units and students as possible.  

Loftin said Wednesday that the music touched him, especially the aria and fanfare performances. "Those two pieces stick out in my mind as things that were very special to me" about the ceremony, he said.

Browning and pianist Jenna Braaksma, also a School of Music graduate student, were selected to perform “Shannon’s Aria” from Corps of Discovery, an opera co-commissioned by the University of Missouri that premiered in 2002. The aria was originally intended for a tenor, but the key was changed to fit Browning’s baritone voice. 

In the aria, the character George Shannon, the youngest member of Louis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery Expedition, sings about what he learned during the three-year adventure. Shannon looks to the past to help glean a brighter future. 

Likewise, the installation ceremony, Browning said, “looked at where we are, where we’ve come from and where we are going.” The two-and-half-minute aria suited the event perfectly, he said. 

At the beginning of the fall semester, Browning and Braaksma began preparing for their performance. The duo practiced individually with Christine Seitz, an associate teaching professor of voice and opera. Browning and Braaksma practiced together only twice.

“There weren’t too many challenges,” Braaksma said. “We’ve known each other for a while and performed together, so we know how each other work.” 

Braaksma and Browning weren’t the only MU musicians who took the stage at the inauguration. The Mizzou Wind Ensemble Brass played John Cheetham’s “Proclamation.”

“Cheetham is well known internationally as an excellent composer of fanfares,” Gaines said. “He has a few pieces that are standard in the repertoires of brass musicians.” 

His credentials become apparent by simply typing “Scherzo” into YouTube and scrolling through the hundreds of quartets that have performed his composition. Besides being a world-class composer, Cheetham was chosen for his Missouri connection: He taught music theory and composition at MU for 34 years.

“Proclamation,” his newest short-and-sweet fanfare specially written for the event, took two months to compose. “The fanfare is a proclamation announcing that Mizzou has a new chancellor,” Cheetham said.

“I was thinking of the chancellor when I wrote it,” he said. “I tried to visualize the complete piece beforehand and then work out the details.”

After the ceremony, Cheetham spoke with Loftin. “He said he was honored,” Cheetham said. “It was the third time he had been installed as [leader] at an institution but the first time he had anything written about him.”

Browning also met Loftin after the ceremony.

“He was moved by the message my song was delivering,” Browning said. “The music came out of something that Mizzou sponsored, something that would’ve otherwise never have been. At that moment, we were both feeling a lot of school pride.”

— Alaina Lancaster