New Southeast music chairman delights in River Campus

Sunday, December 1, 2013
Kevin Hampton, chair of Southeast Missouri State University's Department of Music, plays the piano inside the studio at the River Campus. (Laura Simon)

Dr. Kevin Hampton has studied, performed and taught piano all over the Midwest and South, but Cape Girardeau is where he said he's found the perfect blend of students, colleagues and culture.

For 18 years, Hampton taught studio piano, piano literature, piano pedagogy, group keyboard classes and music theory at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, Ga. Now he's a professor and chairman of the music department in the Holland School of Visual and Performing Arts at Southeast Missouri State University. He started in August.

"It's been something that very much back into my teenage years I knew I wanted to do. I remember writing in my entrance essay for my doctoral program that I wanted to be a college professor," Hampton said. "To do that, I felt I needed to be able to play the repertoire, but I did not actively seek a concert career. It's always been the love of sharing the music. For me, that was always through teaching."

Hampton, originally from Louisiana, Mo., said Cape Girardeau was a little like coming home. And he loves Southeast's River Campus.

"First of all, it's exciting to be part of a university where there is a dedicated campus that focuses on the visual and performing arts in one location. I find that incredibly stimulating," Hampton said.

"The second part of that equation is the students. We have an amazingly talented student body. Our students are multifaceted.

"The third part is the faculty. This is a faculty of active scholars and performing artists."

Plus, he said, his digs are in a beautiful space.

"Having the visual and performing arts [here], there's a wonderful synergy on the River Campus. You find the academic side, but also the creative side. We have students who are composing and faculty who perform," Hampton said. "There's always something of interest that our faculty and students are doing."

Hampton holds a bachelor's degree in piano performance from William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo., a master's degree in music from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and a doctorate of musical arts from the University of Maryland at College Park. He also studied piano and harpsichord at the Conservatoire National in France.

"I had taught while working on my doctorate at a couple of community colleges and at a women's liberal arts college in Virginia," Hampton said, referring to Frederick Community College in Frederick, Md., and Sweet Briar College in Sweet Briar, Va.

At Southeast, he has 169 undergraduate music majors and oversees 18 full-time faculty members and a number of part-time instructors. Classes also are offered at the satellite campuses in Sikeston, Mo.; Kennett, Mo.; and Malden, Mo.; generally for nonmusic majors, Hampton said.

Southeast, he said, focuses on students' success and on building sustainable programs "that are going to help students in their pursuit of lifelong learning."

During his tenure at Southeast, Hampton hopes to build on the music department's rich tradition while anticipating the challenges of technology -- "everything that is driving higher education today," he said.

Content in higher education today is being delivered online, which is reshaping accessibility and the classroom, he said.

"It affects everything from performance through the academic side. It's the ability to literally access information, observe, participate over long distances and share performance experiences," Hampton added. " ... The possibilities seem to be limitless."

Riley King, a senior majoring in vocal and music education, studies with Hampton each week.

"I really like him as a teacher," she said, adding he is her third instructor on the instrument. " ... I do think I've benefited from him the most. He's worked on getting me more comfortable with accompanying and having a vocal, conducting and error detection. It's kind of like a multitasking lesson more than a piano lesson."

Connor Joyce, a junior transfer student from Union, Mo., is majoring in music performance and has played piano since he was 10 or 11.

"I think it's fantastic," Joyce said of Southeast's music program. "With the quality of teachers, they're very excited [about what] the students are interested in.

"The first lesson I had with him [Hampton], he blew my mind. I was very happy. I've learned so much in every lesson," he said.

Hampton chose Southeast because he'd been looking for a good midcareer opportunity.

"I've always enjoyed classroom and studio work. As I worked my way through administration, it became more interesting. This opportunity was a mix of administration and piano, so it was a nice attraction," he said.

And he receives bonuses of culture and a friendly environment.

"I love Cape," he said. "In many ways, it reminds me of other river towns. It's very friendly, warm and welcoming. There's a lot going on, centered through the River Campus. That's very appealing. You have the wonderful Crisp Museum," theater, gallery openings and concerts.

"It's remarkable to see this kind of partnership between a city this size and a university in helping to create such a vibrant cultural scene," he said.


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