Gary A. Speck receives 2017 Curry Award

Professor Gary A. Speck conducts the Miami University Wind Ensemble
Professor Gary A. Speck conducts the Miami University Wind Ensemble Photo: Angela Gelfuso

Annual award honors outstanding faculty in the College of Creative Arts

Curry awardGary A. Speck, professor of music at Miami University, is the recipient of the 2017 Crossan Hays Curry award. The annual award was presented during the College of Creative Arts recognition ceremony, held May 14, 2017 at Goggin Arena.

Each year, the Curry award honors outstanding faculty in the College of Creative Arts who have demonstrated excellence in teaching, research, and service. The award was established in 1994 by an endowment named for Professor Emeritus Crossan Hays Curry, a former faculty member in the Department of Art who was greatly admired by students for his teaching and his art making.

Gary SpeckExperience and
Teaching Philosophy

The 2017-18 academic year will mark Gary Speck’s thirtieth year of teaching in the Department of Music at Miami. He serves as Director of Bands and the conductor of the Wind Ensemble in addition to teaching courses in conducting, music education, and wind repertoire. Professor Speck is frequently in demand as a guest conductor/clinician and adjudicator throughout the Midwest and in his home state of Texas.

His teaching philosophy focuses in part on the music rehearsal process. “I tell the students that they should view the rehearsal as a laboratory in the truest sense: a place to try out solutions to the often difficult and complex task of performing music well,” said Speck. “I believe that it is possible to have high standards and expectations yet still create an environment that encourages, even rewards, musical risk-taking. Keeping things moving and finding fresh challenges is an important part of any conductor’s job, and it is one of my goals daily,” states Speck.

Student members of the Wind Ensemble benefit from Professor Speck’s approach of “individualized study for fifty players.” Chair placements and parts performed are rotated and the group sometimes perform pieces that call for fewer than the total number of players in the ensemble. “This is both a challenge and an opportunity for me to craft the musical experience of each student personally, and one that I continue to welcome,” he said.

Under his direction, the Miami University Wind Ensemble has performed at seventeen professional conferences over the past twenty-nine years, and has participated in commissioning consortia that has enabled the group to premiere over two dozen works, many by the world’s leading composers including Pulitzer Prize winners who have praised the ensemble on the performances of their music.

Meaningful Miami Moments

Professor Speck was instrumental in organizing groups of approximately 80 alumni members of the Wind Ensemble to rehearse and perform “all-star” reunion concerts during the summer Alumni Weekends of 1999 and 2011. “These concerts were extraordinary experiences and it was a great joy to see everyone’s path,” said Speck. “One clarinet player was in the United States Air Force Band (D.C.), a former oboist was Artistic Administrator at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and one trumpet player conducts the band and teaches trumpet at St. Xavier College in Chicago. And, of course, many of them are teaching music in the schools.”

Afterward, one alumna, who earned the Ph.D. in Philosophy at the University of Oregon, wrote: “When it comes down to it, Wind Ensemble, though meeting in a certain space and in a certain time, transcends those boundaries, and, try as they might, nobody ever really leaves.”

“The reality of teaching is that students do leave, but there is always the possibility of returning and reconnecting, as I have discovered, with their help,” said Speck. “It has been my great privilege to work with these students over the years, and I look forward to performing our third reunion concert with many of them again during Alumni Weekend in 2018.”

Past Recipients

Previous Curry award recipients include Pepper Stetler (2016), Murali Parandandi (2015), Harvey Thurmer (2013), Thomas Effler (2012), Robert Benson (2011), Julia Guichard (2010), Sara Butler (2009), Chris Tanner (2008), Sandra Seefeld (2007), John Reynolds (2006), Brenda Mitchell (2005), Jim Killy (2004), Mary E.M. Harris (2003), Michele Gingras (2002), Steven Shumway (2001), Peg Faimon (2000), John Weigand (1999), Clive Getty (1998), William Albin (1997), Tom Dutton (1996), and Crossan Hays Curry (1995).