Brian Justison, professor of music and coordinator of percussion studies, has been named the new director of the Millikin University School of Music. Justison will begin his new position in June 2017. Justison replaces Dr. Stephen Widenhofer who will return to the School of Music Faculty in July 2017.
Brian Justison began teaching at Millikin as an adjunct instructor in 1989. Since that time, he has been promoted to assistant professor (1998), associate professor (2005), full professor (2011) and was awarded tenure in 2016. He has served as the area coordinator for the percussion programs since 1998, building one of the most successful instrumental programs in the School of Music.
"We're very grateful for Steve Widenhofer's long and faithful service as director of the School of Music, and being able to call on Brian Justison to follow in his footsteps just demonstrates the depth of our academic bench," said Millikin Provost Dr. Jeffery Aper. "Brian is a gifted musician, teacher, academic planner, and leader who brings a great deal of energy and vision to the work ahead. Millikin's School of Music is renowned for its excellence, and though the music world has changed profoundly over the years, we are confident that we will continue to adapt and maintain Millikin's excellence in preparing musicians, music teachers, and leaders in the music industry. Brian is very well prepared to work with colleagues within and beyond the School of Music to help assure that it will remain a signature component of Millikin University for generations to come."
Justison has served Millikin as a teacher, performer, conductor, music director, producer and interdisciplinary collaborator, and has been acknowledged as one of Millikin's best by the campus community through being awarded Millikin's highest honors, the Research and Artistic Achievement Award twice in 2008 and 2015 and the Teaching Excellence Award in 2010.
"I am humbled by the responsibility of leading this talented group of faculty, staff and students," Justison said. "The School of Music at Millikin has a long history of artistic and organizational success led most recently by Dr. Stephen Widenhofer. Without question, my decision to step away from most of my percussion teaching responsibilities was a difficult one. In the end, I came to the realization that Millikin has been a great place for me for a lot of years. As director, I can best facilitate this same opportunity for reward and fulfillment for everyone."
Off campus, Justison's work with students has been recognized by Downbeat Magazine. In 2013, the Millikin Chamber Percussion Ensemble was awarded a Downbeat Student Music Award for "Best Classical Group," and the World Percussion Ensemble won a Downbeat Award for "Outstanding Latin Jazz Performance." Justison's Latin-Jazz Project was invited to perform at the prestigious Havana International Jazz Festival in December 2016.
"Brian has proven himself to be a respected leader, a strategic thinker, an innovator, a good listener and communicator, a consensus builder, and a staunch supporter of all areas within the School of Music and within the College of Fine Arts," said Laura Ledford, dean of the College of Fine Arts at Millikin. "He has also proven himself to be an effective recruiter, fundraiser, marketer, and promoter of student/faculty enterprises and Performance Learning opportunities."
I hope to make Performance Learning even more visible through a revitalized connection to the Decatur community and beyond.
Ledford noted, "It has been a privilege and a pleasure to work closely with Dr. Steve Widenhofer as director of the School of Music. He has been a strong leader and effective advocate for the programs, faculty and students in the School of Music, and he has been a kind and supportive colleague to me and many others across the College of Fine Arts and Millikin. We are very pleased that, after stepping out of the director position, he will stay on as a valued member of the teaching faculty in the School of Music."
Justison added, "In a small university with so many performing artists, it's not surprising that we have come to value 'performing' in all disciplines across campus. Learning by doing works. But, theory and history are the foundation on which this approach is actualized. It all comes down to balance. I hope to make Performance Learning even more visible through a revitalized connection to the Decatur community and beyond."
Justison has commissioned and premiered numerous new works by emerging and established composers. He has served the School of Music and Millikin as a member of the Information Technology Advisory Committee, numerous search committees, and several standing and ad hoc university committees.
"Enrollment is the first priority of any School of Music director," Justison said. "Attracting a talented and diverse student body ensures our future viability and our capacity 'to deliver on the promise of education.' We will be putting a new face on the School of Music, one that is both highly visible and relevant to the realities of a 21st century musician."
Justison noted, "My first priority will be to build a framework for where, exactly, the next step lies. On one hand, my vision for our future is that image on the horizon of who we might become. I see this as the sum of our collective strengths, proclivities and values. My vision is also the lens through which I view our day-to-day endeavors. As coordinator of percussion, I lived by the pledge that 'Millikin has to be a great place for everyone.' We built a strong bond of support for each other. I hope that I can imbue that same sense of egalitarianism throughout the School of Music."
The mission of the Millikin School of Music is to develop the whole musician – artistically, intellectually, technically – through the integration of theory and practice in an environment where students become active learners through their relationships with faculty, who themselves continue to grow as artists, scholars, and teachers. For more information about the Millikin School of Music, visit millikin.edu/music.