Idyllwild Arts music chair expands department curriculum

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Chris Reba, chair of the Music Department at Idyllwild Arts Academy, is the featured speaker at the Associates of Idyllwild Arts Foundation’s Spotlight on Leadership series. Photo courtesy Chris Reba


Chris Reba is in his second year as chair of the Idyllwild Arts Academy Music Department and is already expanding curricula offerings to better equip students to work professionally in multiple musical genres and specialties.

He is the next speaker at the Associates of Idyllwild Arts Foundation’s Spotlight on Leadership series. As part of the academy’s outreach to the community and an attempt to build bridges of understanding, the series features department heads in both academic and art disciplines.

Reba will talk about his academic and professional background, and changes that are being made in his department. Reba’s talk is at 10 a.m. Monday, April 10, at the Fireside Room in Nelson Dining Hall on campus.

Reba is the first IAA music chair to have worked professionally and been trained in a wide range of musical genres. Previously, music chairs have emphasized the classical music conservatory approach to music education.

Schooled in both classical and jazz music, Reba has worked across an extremely broad spectrum of musical genres, including world, rock, punk, folk and bluegrass, and in musical theater. He is a professional bassist, both acoustic and electric. He holds an associate degree in music with an emphasis in music recording from Mira Costa Community College in Oceanside, a bachelor’s degree in music composition and bass performance from the University of California, San Diego, and a master’s in music composition from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Importantly for program expansion at IAA, Reba has professional expertise in recording engineering and production with a wide variety of professional musicians and groups. He is a voting member of the Producers and Engineers Wing of the Grammys and served on the executive board of the New York section of the Audio Engineering Society.

Prior to joining the IAA faculty, Reba was associate professor of Music and Sound Recording at the University of New Haven in Connecticut. Already at IAA, Reba, working together with President Pamela Jordan, has launched a number of new initiatives including:

• a campus recording studio for students to learn the fundamentals of recording and to record their work;

• a new course, with faculty member Don Reed, that teaches music business and marketing to give students a basic understanding of copyright and trademark issues, as well as professional contracts;

• a campus record label using new, state-of-the-art equipment, to feature students’ work as well as an artist series featuring IAA faculty, alums and visiting artists;

• and a change in how classical music performances are recorded — recording them in surround-sound to conform with prevailing industry standards.

Ultimately, Reba hopes to start, on a small scale at first, a music recording and technology program at the academy. “No other schools, at our level, are offering an intensive audio training program,” said Reba. “We could equip our students to come out with a level of training equivalent to a bachelor’s program. That would put us in a position to have our students participate in worldwide conferences with others with bachelor’s and master’s degrees.”

In music training, in today’s broadly diverse professional world, Reba believes students must understand the need for having a wide range of skill sets to be competitive. “I’m not really a specialist in any one area, but because of my broad background, I’ve been able to work in many different areas,” he noted.

“Next year, we’ll be offering a music production and recording fundamentals course that can also be used for majors in other departments, such as part of technical theater emphasis in the Theatre Department. The administration approved purchase of new wireless [microphone headsets] equipment for theater productions and we’ll be moving 32 channel boards from Lowman to Bowman to improve the clarity of theater audio.”

Asked how it’s all coming together, Reba noted that last year had been a learning transition, but this year things are more grounded. “We’re ahead of the game this year,” he said. “The music faculty has been incredibly supportive. And student performance levels in all areas are coming up.”

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