MU faculty member turns passion for music, teaching into e-book
HUNTINGTON -- From the relatively new city of Brasilia, to the ancient hills of West Virginia, Dr. Julio Alves has combined his passion for music and his love of teaching. Now he wants the world to know and enjoy the folk music he's found here through a unique project he and his students at Marshall University are undertaking.
Alves, a classical guitarist, is a faculty member in Marshall's School of Music and Theatre, where he serves as director of the Guitar Ensemble, a group of student musicians, and also is one-half of Violauta, a performing duo that includes fellow Marshall faculty member, flutist Dr. Wendell Dobbs.
"On my sabbatical leave I wrote a book, which I'm now going to publish as an e-book, featuring arrangements of folklore, fiddle tunes and traditional music from West Virginia composers and performers," Alves says. "This semester my guitar students will be recording a series of videos using the music arrangements."
The students performed some of the arrangements during Alves' presentation at the 37th Annual Appalachian Studies Conference last week.
This opportunity to celebrate West Virginia's heritage through music is exciting, Alves says.
"I wanted to get better acquainted with the music here, but I also want to share it. We are becoming more global, so I think it's important to share because I think this music is very good."
He was born in the Brazilian capital city, which was constructed in 1960 from the ground up.
"The government was transported to the middle of nowhere," he explains.
He became a musician because his mother, seeking a way to channel her raucous 8-year-old son's high energy, enrolled him in a nearby conservatory and it was love at first note.
"I knew almost from the start I wanted to be a musician. I loved music; it was my call for life. I never pondered anything else," he says intently. He learned to play a variety of instruments and then spent five years concentrating on the violin. He was a promising student, his instructors said, with a bright future. But when Alves made an abrupt switch to the guitar, it was unsettling for both his instructors and his family. They warned he might find difficulty finding work playing the guitar, not a popular orchestra instrument like the violin.
"However, my parents were so thrilled when I married a violinist," he says, laughing.
His talent won him a government-sponsored, fully paid opportunity to study abroad, the only guitarist to be selected. He chose Johns Hopkins University's Peabody Conservatory, where he not only earned an M.M. degree but also met his future wife, Kristen, a student there as well. After a return to Brazil they were university faculty members until Alves decided to return to the U.S., this time to pursue a doctorate at Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music. Then came the job opening at Marshall, where's he been for the past eight years.
Alves and Kristen, a violinist with both the Huntington and Ohio Valley symphony orchestras, are the parents of three daughters, Ana Cecilia, 14, Clarissa, 11, and Elena, 8, who, not surprisingly, are deeply immersed in the arts as well. The girls recently danced in Marshall's production of the opera "The Magic Flute."
Alves is a popular performer both on and off campus and gives generously of his time and talents throughout the year. But as much as he enjoys performing, his true passion lies in the classroom, working with students who come from very diverse musical backgrounds.
"My students have a range of guitar abilities, but my colleagues and I work hard to make sure students get a solid education in all aspects of music," he says. "Some come with solid musical skills but I also get those who want to be musicians but who don't read music ... The exposure to music they get at Marshall and the tutoring they get from the faculty is so intense, by their senior year they feel like music was their whole life."
Alves avidly seeks opportunities to showcase the talents of his students. Through a grant he was able to take the Guitar Ensemble to Brazil in 2011, where they gave a series of concerts. In early August, the ensemble will make a similar trip to Costa Rica. Luckily there are lots of opportunities to perform locally, he says, both on and off campus.
"It's important to have a solid foundation, but vital that they perform as much as they can; that's what music is all about. It's not just reading about music, it's performing music," he says. "That comes as a necessity to me; my whole life is involved with music. I can't go too long without playing."
The Herald-Dispatch welcomes your comments on this article, but please be civil. Avoid profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, accusations of criminal activity, name-calling or insults to the other posters. Herald-dispatch.com does not control or monitor comments as they are posted, but if you find a comment offensive or uncivil, hover your mouse over the comment and click the X that appears in the upper right of the comment. If you do not want your comment to post to your personal Facebook page, uncheck the box below the comment.