Program Spotlight: West Chester University Music
Interview performed by Acceptd Marketing's Amy Overturf and Larissa Bateman
Nestled in the heart of Pennsylvania’s Brandywine Valley, West Chester University is a picturesque and historic community that offers small-town charm with cosmopolitan flair due to its close proximity to Philadelphia. The West Chester University Wells School of Music offers students an opportunity to perform weekly under the direction of world-class teachers and musicians. With 16 undergraduate programs and over 24 ensembles to choose from, you can find your perfect fit.
This week, we sat down with WCU alumnus, Dr. Austin Glatthorn. Dr. Glatthorn graduated from WCU in 2011 with a B.M. in Music Education. From there, he pursued his Masters in Music and Ph.D. in Musicology from the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom. He currently serves as Assistant Professor of Musicology at the Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music.
Q&A with Dr. Glatthorn:
Acceptd: How did you first discover your love of music? Were there early influences or experiences that shaped your path?
Dr. Glatthorn: To be honest, I don’t really know when it began or who put that seed in my head. I didn’t come from a particularly musical family, but one early memory I do have of classical music was when my father returned from a business trip and brought me a classical music CD. I loved it -- I played it over and over again. It wasn’t music that he listened to, but it had a big impact on me. My parents were always supportive of my interest in music, but they didn’t push it.
I started playing saxophone in the third grade. I actually almost left music entirely in middle school because I wanted freedom from the stand and notes. That’s when I started playing guitar, and honestly, I think that saved my interest in music. I continued playing saxophone, and by high school, I was playing in more ensembles. I had the support I needed to take my interest in music to the next level. The teachers were able to guide my interest in music in a way that my parents couldn’t -- they were unconditionally supportive but just didn’t have the training or knowledge to point me in the direction that my music teachers could. I was playing classical music and participated in the jazz band when I became interested in composition -- I’m not a composer, but I wanted to know more about the building blocks of music.
Acceptd: Think back to when you were 18 and deciding where to study for your undergraduate program. What were some of the major factors that helped you choose West Chester?
Dr. Glatthorn: For me, the location of West Chester was ideal. It has somewhat of a small town feel to it while having all of the advantages that come with its proximity to Philadelphia. I loved the beautiful, historic campus, but perhaps most important of all was the quality of the facilities. I believe I was part of the first full class of students to enjoy the new Swope Music Building -- it was great to know that I’d be spending the majority of my time in this innovative, aesthetically appealing building.
Additionally, the audition process at West Chester was phenomenal -- it was intense like any audition, but the professors made it feel more like a lesson, which was great. Everyone seemed so friendly; the way the professors interacted with students made what is normally a very stressful situation feel much calmer. It was apparent to me right away that the professors were interested in you, not just as a potential student, but as a person. That made a big impression on me as a prospective student.
Acceptd: How would you describe your experience at West Chester? Were there any particularly important/special professors, groups, or activities that enriched your experience?
Dr. Glatthorn: In a word, I’d describe my experience at West Chester as “formative.” It allowed me to investigate things I wouldn’t have otherwise explored, largely because of the academic opportunities and the Applied Music faculty. I was involved in the Marching Band all four years and served as a student director in my final year, and that provided a sense of camaraderie, especially among the incoming freshmen.
One aspect I very much enjoyed about West Chester was how much music you heard all the time. Concerts, recitals, and performances by students and professors alike were always a source of inspiration for me to get into the practice room. This intense concert life also fueled my musicological interests - I constantly wanted to know more about what my peers and professors were playing, and I wanted to understand more about the historical periods in which those pieces were created.
I’m still in touch with many of the great professors who were so helpful in that formative period of my life. I keep in touch with them and, on occasion, seek out their advice. They were the kind of people who went out of their way to help you out, and that really impacted me.
Acceptd: How has your interest in music evolved over the years, from a Music Major at West Chester to a Musicology Professor at Oberlin?
Dr. Glatthorn: I started at West Chester as a saxophone player and Music Education major -- I knew I wanted to teach. When It came time to decide what I wanted to do as a senior in high school, I had a hard time making up my mind between history and music.
I took a keen interest in Baroque Music, and it was only a matter of time before I switched instruments to oboe. I had been performing Baroque Music on saxophone and decided I would be better off playing it on an instrument the music was originally written for. This was a key moment for me -- switching to oboe opened up the ensembles that were otherwise off-limits to me as a saxophonist. I joined the Chamber Winds, Orchestra, and of course, kept playing in the band.
As time went on, I became more and more interested in the repertoire of the Baroque era -- I wanted to know more about the history behind the music, and as a senior at West Chester, I thought to myself “maybe there’s more to this.” I knew I was still passionate about teaching, but I didn’t want to sell myself short in terms of my interests. I wanted to explore the intersections between music and the world in which it was created. I love discovering how music reflects culture, and how culture gives rise to music. That’s when I decided to pursue musicology.
Acceptd: At Acceptd, we work to connect artists with opportunities and communities. Keeping that in mind -- what advice would you give to a high school student choosing an undergraduate program? To an undergraduate student deciding on a specialty within music or on their next step as a musician, whether that be as a graduate student or professional?
Dr. Glatthorn: I’ve always thought it was a bit ridiculous, and certainly unnecessarily stressful, to try to decide what you want to do for the rest of your life when you’re 18 years old. I’d tell a high school student this instead: do what you want. Do what you enjoy, and always keep your options open. Your interests may change -- be open to that change, and be open to trying new things. Try not to be too stressed about making a decision, because that decision isn’t final. Be sure to explore lots of different avenues - you may be pleasantly surprised.
Regardless of where you are in your journey as a musician, make sure you have a mentor who has had a successful career in the field that interests you. Ask them for advice, and do so often. If I can consider myself successful today, it’s because I’ve had great training and haven’t been afraid to ask for advice and have had mentors who were there to help.
For an undergraduate student, I’d say this: when it comes to your time at university, you get out of it what you put into it. Take advantage of all of the resources around you -- both within your music department and outside of it. This is such a great time to learn many different things and make connections between music and the related arts. You’ll probably never be in such an intellectual and performative community again unless you decide to work in a college setting, so be active and take advantage of every single opportunity.
Click here to learn more about West Chester University’s School of Music.