As is often the case, there’s so much going on that it’s hard to fit into the allotted space, so let’s get cracking.

Regional piano competition marks anniversary

The Mobile Music Teachers Association (MMTA) will host its 50th annual sonata contest Feb. 2 at the Laidlaw Performing Arts Center on the University of South Alabama (USA) campus. The contest features 217 participants in 20 levels of difficulty, all the way up to college and noncompetitive adult levels. They will perform for judges in rooms around the Laidlaw facility starting at 9 p.m. before assembling in the concert hall for the day’s awarding of trophies.

“We think it’s a big deal,” MMTA Parliamentarian Vincentine Williams said. “One other teacher, (USA instructor) Dr. Holm, Lin-ya Hsu and I are the teachers who have put in the most students each year in the contest.”

The public is invited to the free event.

Williams was chair for 18 years and said the high-water mark was nearly 500 participants in 1987. Last year’s field was 256.

“One year I might have 10 trophy winners and the next year not have any. It’s just how they prepare,” Williams said.

While she has been teaching music for 40 years, Williams only moved to the Mobile Bay area in the late 1970s. Since then she’s seen generations of students go through the program, then later accompany their own children to the ceremony.

Some of those follow the path through to their own professions. Examples are close for the teacher.

“I started teaching my niece at age 3 and she would come down every year from Mississippi to be in this. She’s now teaching at Troy University in vocal performance after going on to her doctorate,” Williams said.

The host organization was formed in 1919 and marked its own silver anniversary by launching this competition. Its website lists three other competitions interspersed through the year.

An affiliation of independent music teachers who follow traditional models of teaching from in-home studios, Williams said the frequency of instruction offered at music stores bites into their livelihood. Their aim is to let others know independent instruction still lives.

“There are studies that show music instruction does more as compared to other art forms to help the brain,” Williams said. “We’re building future responsible citizens, people that are responsible and disciplined and understand the value of hard work, because it does take hard work.”


Famed state historian speaks at UM

In celebration of the state’s bicentennial, the University of Mobile (UM) will present an appearance by acclaimed historian Dr. Wayne Flynt at the college’s Weaver Auditorium on Jan. 30 at 7 p.m. The professor emeritus of history at Auburn University will deliver a lecture titled “Pulitzers and Politics: The Best and Worst of Alabama on Our 200th Birthday” at the free event, which includes a book signing.

If Flynt’s name is unfamiliar, perhaps you haven’t been in the Yellowhammer State for long. He started out a ministerial student at Samford University but double-majored in history and speech. He went on to earn a Ph.D. from Florida State University, then spent 40 years teaching at Samford and Auburn where he won 18 teaching awards. He has been an invited international lecturer, including at Oxford and Cambridge universities.

As imagined from his background, Flynt’s work often spans religion, poverty and literature in addition to pure history. He has authored 11 books, two of which were Pulitzer nominees. His memoir, “Keeping the Faith,” was published in 2011.

Flynt was the subject of two Alabama Public Television documentaries and in 2000 was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters by Samford.


Opera scholarship winners named

Three winners were named in the 2019 Madame Rose Scholarship Competition held Jan. 12 at the Larkins Music Center. This year’s competition featured 10 finalists from five southeastern states vying for cash scholarship awards for college through graduate level.

First-place cash went to Kimberly Milton of Valdosta State University. Second place was Elana Gleason of LSU and third place was Samantha Dapcic from The University of North Texas. Honorable mention went to Joanna Burrell from Georgia State University. The remaining finalists were Samantha Anselmo, Natalie Bodkin, Christine Cummins, Carol Marie Gomez, Kyle Melton and Monica Music.

The competition is named for the founder of Mobile Opera. A panel comprising opera industry professionals Kathleen Halm, Tyler Smith and Betsy Uschkrat selected the winners.

Congratulations to all.