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Harbinson Named Music School Dean

billl.jpgBOONE–William “Bill” Harbinson says he’ll be wearing a bull’s-eye July1. That’s when he becomes dean of Appalachian State University’s School of Music.

Of course Harbinson makes the statement with a broad smile. He knows any administrator can be an easy target for students, faculty, parents, and others. But with his background as a music major at Appalachian in the 1970s, then a faculty member, and most recently associate dean, he’s more likely to be a target for praise rather than arrows. Art Unsworth, who has been dean of the School of Music since 1989, will remain at Appalachian as a member of the music faculty. He will teach undergraduate music courses.

Harbinson earned his bachelor’s degree in music education from Appalachian in 1975, a master’s in music theory from the University of Alabama in 1977 and a Ph.D. in music theory from Florida State University in 1982. He joined Appalachian’s music faculty in 1984. He says his years as a student, faculty member and administrator at Appalachian have provided unique training for his new post.

“I don’t think a lot of people get to come to a job like this with the understanding of the institution’s history that I’m privileged to have,” Harbinson said. “It’s a wonderful foundation from which to work.” Harbinson has identified several goals and is eager to put his mark on the music program. “Although maintaining is good, we’re not going to live just through maintenance,” he said.

At the top of the list is completing the music school’s recording studio, which will complement the school’s growing music industry program.

“This studio is going to set us apart from every music school in this state and most in this region,” he said. When fully equipped, the recording studio will be one of only four recording studios housed within music schools in the Southeast, Harbinson said. “It’s going to touch every faculty member and student in this School of Music. It will allow our performers to record, our music industry students to learn the technology and our composition students to hear their performances recorded in professional formats and will allow every faculty member to produce compact disk recordings to use when recruiting students.”

Another goal is to continue building the school’s orchestra program. “Schools of music are often times are judged to be only as good as their orchestra,” Harbinson said. “There are very few string programs in the state’s public schools so we have a real challenge.” Appalachian’s music program competes with programs at East Carolina University, UNC Greensboro and the North Carolina School of the Arts for music students.

Another priority is revising the music education program. “Our history and our future is music education,” Harbinson said. “It needs to be revisited, just like all curricula need to be revisited.” Planned revisions will get music education majors into the classroom earlier in their studies to give them more experience working with school students. “The revised curriculum will address what a music educator needs in the 21st century, which is different from what a music educator needed in the last two decades,” he said.

Recruiting students also will be a top priority. “In some ways we are very much like athletics,” Harbinson said. “They need so many quarterbacks, so many linebackers, so many guards. We need so many trumpets, so many clarinets, so many oboes, so many vocalists, and so many sopranos. We have a really extensive recruiting program that we continue to nurture. We need to raise the quality of students we recruit. Although it’s very high already, we can get better.” Fundraising will be another focus of Harbinson’s. “We have to raise private dollars to do all of the above: the recording studio, the orchestra, scholarships, recruiting -