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Shepherd University music department chairman leaving for Indiana

April 14, 2011|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com
  • Shepherd University music department Chairman Mark McCoy is leaving the university to take over the music department at DePauw University in Indiana.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — When former Shepherd University music department Chairman Guy Frank died last year, Mark McCoy said of his predecessor: "Guy Frank invented it all.

"Everybody at Shepherd lives in Guy Frank's debt. The success of the music department stands on his shoulders," McCoy said.

Now, faculty, administrators and members of Friends in Music, the music department's support group that McCoy helped to found in 2001, are expressing similar sentiments about McCoy, who is leaving to take over the music department at DePauw University in Indiana.

Frank retired in 1984. He was followed as department chairman by Farrell Coy, Jim Pantle and then, in 1999, by McCoy.

McCoy, 47, was born in Buckhannon, W.Va., and is a 1987 Shepherd graduate.  He earned a master's degree at Peabody Conservatory and a doctorate degree at Texas Tech. He returned to Shepherd in 1995 to take over the instrumental music program and became department chairman a year later.

McCoy, who departs July 1, leaves behind a legacy of bringing musical excellence to the Eastern Panhandle, according to a college news release.

"We're very proud of Mark," Shepherd President Suzanne Shipley said. "For years, he dedicated his tremendous talents in developing our music program. The results are evident. They (DePauw) want him to build what he built here. We'd love to have him back, and we're keeping the door open."

"When I came back to Shepherd, the music department had about 40 students taking music majors. Now it has 140, including some in the master's program," McCoy said. "We had nine or 10 faculty members. Today, we have about 40, full- and part-time. We've hired some great teachers and musicians. I've loved every minute I spent at Shepherd. I will always be a Shepherd grad."

Shepherd has about 4,500 students, Depauw University about 2,300, McCoy said.

"It's a smaller university with a bigger music department," he said. "I was hired to build it up."

He said he was happy at Shepherd and was not looking to move. The Indiana college 40 miles west of Indianapolis sought him out.

"There's no reason a small school in a poor state should succeed like it has. The department's music students, bands and ensembles have performed around the world," McCoy said of Shepherd's music department. "We've played at Carnegie Hall, in England, France, Ireland, Switzerland and Germany. This spring, we're doing a concert tour in Spain."

Shepherd students have moved on to such noted music schools as Peabody, Eastman School of Music, Curtis Institute of Music and Ithaca College School of Music, he said.

McCoy is credited with leading the effort to create and conduct the Two Rivers Chamber Orchestra, a professional ensemble, and the Friends of Music community support group.

"It became clear to me in 1999 that if we were going to do great things here we needed more support than the state could provide," he said.

The group has financed world class performers at Shepherd since its founding, including the Vienna Boys Choir, Canadian Brass Quintet and concert pianist Marvin Hamlisch.

The Friends group has raised more than $500,000, he said. Some of that money, about $140,000, was paid to bring in a world-famous, Italian-made Fazioli concert grand piano to Shepherd in 2004. It was first played at a Carnegie Hall concert before it was shipped to Shepherd. A second Fazioli was donated by the Shipley's family.

"There are hundreds of Steinways in colleges around the country, but we have Faziolis," McCoy said.

"The music department has grown exponentially since Mark arrived," said Dan Anderson, first vice president of Friends of Music. "Mark came back to a small town college music department and took it to a place of national recognition.

"Along with that, he increased the quality of the department's faculty dramatically. His successor will have a lot to work with," Anderson said.

Tonight, McCoy will do something he has been doing since he returned to Shepherd 12 years ago. He will lead a student concert at the university's Frank Center, but this will be the last time.

Since McCoy's announcement came so late in the current school year, a national search for a permanent replacement for the department chairman and director of bands won't begin until next year, according to a college news release. Scott Beard and Laura Renninger will co-chair the music department for the 2011-2012 academic year.

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