Alma College Expands Highland Arts Program
It’s an exciting time for the highland arts at Alma College.
“Recognizing that students have many alternatives when seeking a quality liberal arts education, it’s essential to identify those things that distinguish Alma College from other institutions,” says Ann Hall, assistant provost. “Andrew and Kate have international reputations and excellent contacts in the highland arts community, so having them speak on behalf of Alma is a great way to get our story to areas where we’re less well-known."
Alma College highland dancers
In addition to instructional duties, Duncan and DeGood are responsible for administering the program and recruiting new students at the state, national and international levels.
“Highland arts have always been an integral part of Alma College,” says Duncan, director of piping. “This expansion allows us to build positive relationships with other Scottish organizations and societies.”
DeGood, director of highland dance, is equally as enthusiastic about the program’s possibilities.
“I’m very excited for all the potential this program has,” she says. “As one of the only highland arts colleges out there, we have such a unique opportunity.”
DeGood, the current U.S. Highland Dance Champion, has won more than 80 championships. She frequently travels to compete, teach and attend workshops, so she is familiar with the difficulties highland dancers face during their college search.
“It’s difficult to keep dancing at a championship level after you graduate high school,” she says. “There are very few colleges and universities where you can continue dancing without driving several hours to attend lessons. There’s a need for this program.”
As a 2007 alumna, DeGood already recommends Alma to dancers everywhere she goes, so she’s thankful she has the opportunity to do this in an official capacity.
“I believe in what Alma College does,” she says. “I loved my time here, and I’m so excited to build upon the program my mentor, Christie Freestone, started. I hope we can expand the program every year.”
Duncan, a 1996 graduate of Alma who has won numerous international and national piping competitions, plans to expand the program by adding additional instruments, such as fiddle, harp and drums.
Alma College pipers
He also hopes to organize a yearly concert and bring back the Robert Burns event by modernizing it. He says this is hardly the extent of possibilities within the program, however.
“Thinking long term, there’s a possibility of a Highland Arts Spring Term course, as well as a highland arts minor,” says Duncan. “Through the continued development of the program, I hope Alma will be recognized as a resource in the highland arts community and a supporter of all things Scottish.”
Duncan, who passed the Graduate Piping Exam in both light music and Piobaireachd, the highest level of certification a piper can hold, has taught piping at Alma since 2007.
If his experiences as an instructor at Alma are any indication, both he and DeGood have much to look forward to while coordinating the highland arts program.
“The piping program right now is full of fantastic people,” says Duncan. “Class is a highlight of my week. I couldn’t ask to be a part of a better group of hard-working musicians, and I look forward to adding dedicated musicians to the highland arts community at Alma.”
Posted: Sat, February 5th, 2011 at 8:53AM