Dr. Grant William Cook III
Teaching Area(s): Music
Title: Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities
Courses Taught: Concert Choir, Cantus Femina, Coro Inspirare, Choral Conducting and Literature
A Transformative Experience
I started my undergraduate studies in physics and pre-engineering without any notion of being a teacher or a professional musician. Attending a small, private liberal arts institution, however, gave me the opportunity to explore a wide variety of academic disciplines, including music. Singing in my college choir was truly a transformative experience, and I recall saying to myself, “I must figure out how to do this—how to live in this amazing world of choral music.” So I guess you could say that music chose me. I am so blessed to have the opportunity to make music with incredible people every day of my life and to be continually surrounded by art and beauty and all that is good and right. It is so wonderful to do what you love and love what you do!
In 2002, a choir under my direction was selected by audition to perform at a meeting of the American Choral Directors Association—one of the highest honors of the profession.
Director of Many
I conduct the Mount Union Concert Choir and Cantus Femina (women’s chorus), teach coursework in choral conducting and literature and administer the University’s choral program. I also serve as the artistic director for the annual University of Mount Union Christmas Festival and organize/develop the Concert Choir’s annual spring tour, including an international tour every fourth year. Beyond this I am an active guest conductor and clinician for a variety of high school choral events; this type of work is not only a service to the profession, but one means of recruiting high-quality students to the University.
As a teacher, I respect the scholarly nature of the choral rehearsal process and treat each rehearsal as an academic exercise. “Music is a rational undertaking,” wrote American conductor Robert Shaw, and “successful performance is the product of reason.” To this end, I strive to challenge the collective intellect of each of my choral ensembles. I believe that my choristers are not simply singers, but musicians who sing, and I believe in teaching the fundamentals of choral musicianship, including literacy. Utilizing the solfege system (do, re, me, etc.), choristers under my direction work daily to develop their sight-singing skills, which in turn develops independent musicianship and, by extension, promotes ensemble growth and development. The use of solfege is a new pedagogical approach for the University’s choral program and one that has really been embraced by the students.
Best Part of the Job
Making music with my students!
Active as a musicologist, my research has primarily concerned the life and writings of the celebrated American Beethoven scholar Alexander Wheelock Thayer (1817-1897). Since completing my dissertation in 2001, I have actively continued my investigation, building a sizeable collection of Thayeriana, and I aim to be the first scholar to give Thayer full biographical treatment as an American individualist, writer, critic and distinguished biographer. My published research in the area of choral musicology focuses on the Viennese court singer and conductor Ignaz Karl Dirzka (1779-1827), choirmaster for the premiere of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and the first complete performance in America of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. My scholarly research has been published in The Choral Scholar, Choral Journal and The Beethoven Journal and presented by invitation at meetings of the American Musicology Society and the Ohio Choral Directors Association.
Cope Music Hall
My favorite building is Cope Music Hall—here art and beauty are created every day!
The University of Mount Union permits and actively encourages students from all academic disciplines to participate in the arts. For example, students representing 26 academic majors comprise the two choirs under my direction—these choirs truly represent the University’s strong commitment to its liberal arts foundation and mission. As Wendell Berry once wrote, “The thing being made in a university is humanity…. What universities…are mandated to make or help to make is human beings in the fullest sense of those worlds—not just trained workers or knowledgeable citizens but responsible heirs and members of human culture….” The University of Mount Union is fulfilling this important mandate!
Home at Mount Union
When I visited campus for my interview in February 2011, I was immediately struck by the quality of the University’s leadership team—from President Giese to Dean Draves to Dr. Patty Boehm, chair of the Department of Music, I sensed a collective commitment to excellence and to the strengthening and development of the University’s arts education programs. In addition, I immediately felt at home with the members of the music faculty, who were incredibly welcoming and engaging. Perhaps the most important factor in my decision to come to Mount Union, however, was my interaction with the students, whom I found to be incredibly bright, talented and hungry for choral music.
Getting Involved in the Arts
Something that our wonderful Director of Bands, Jonathan Willis, and I discuss quite frequently is why students should get involved with the arts. There are very few opportunities for students to make music beyond the college years. Once students graduate, enter the workforce, start families and the like, their lives becomes very busy and so often making music becomes less of a priority or simply impossible. Particularly for non-music majors, college ensembles can provide a capstone experience in the arts. Beyond this, participation in the arts provides students the perfect nexus of the heart and brain—the opportunity to develop their intellect and their humanity. After all, Mount Union is a liberal arts institution!
B.M., Vocal Performance and Pedagogy, Heidelberg College
M.M., Choral Conducting, Kent State University
Ph.D., Historical Musicology-Ethnomusicology, Kent State University
Perhaps the most important factor in my decision to come to Mount Union, however, was my interaction with the students, whom I found to be incredibly bright, talented and hungry for choral music.
- If You Could Teach Another Class
- Poetry or philosophy (This will not surprise my students!)
- Favorite Quote
- “I love you, Daddy!” –my daughter, Jane Dieadra Cook (age 9)
- Surprising Fact About Yourself
- The high school I attended in western New York did not have a choral music program—I never really had an opportunity to sing in a choir until I enrolled in college.
- If You Weren’t a Professor
- I’d be a librarian/archivist/historian. I love old books and manuscripts and anything related to historical sleuthing.
- Places to Visit
- I would like to visit Trieste, Italy to see the grave of Beethoven’s biographer Alexander W. Thayer, whom I have been writing about for more than 15 years.
- Hobbies and Interests
- Spending time with my wife, Susan, and daughter, Jane, at Disney World! Also, I really enjoy tending my flower garden, especially my roses.