From the Director: Our Return for Spring 2021 | LSU School of Music

Our Return for Spring 2021


Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

During the fall semester 2020, the faculty, staff, students, and administration of the LSU School of Music found ourselves in the serious business of personal and collective soul-searching. With the uncertainty of COVID-19 and the tragic deaths of George Floyd and other members of our Black and brown community converging and gripping our lives, we were, frankly, staggered. While we lost the automatic triggers that made life before March 2020 easier, we began an engagement with humanity (even in the relative absence of humanity) perhaps like never before. It was a wake-up call. We organized, acted, sacrificed, and learned. Thanks to a determined faculty and staff and our hearty students, we did better than merely survive a fussy semester. 

All of us, in school and in life away from school, were forced out of old patterns, old habits. We had to stop, think, listen, and problem solve. We did a lot of figuring out and a fair amount of experimenting. We had wins. We had missteps. We learned and will continue to work through challenges. We took steps, admittedly baby steps, to really see who we are through the lenses of racism and unconscious bias. The School of Music Diversity & Inclusion Student Organization was born. A sub-group of faculty and staff formed the School of Music Diversity and Inclusion Group. We embraced LSU’s Roadmap to Diversity, as we did the position statement “We Stand Together, and We Stand for One Another.” Diversifying our School community, nurturing a culture of inclusion, and expanding and diversifying our curriculum are long-term projects. They are the immediate and continuous, not intermittent, responsibility of each and every School of Music employee.

Through it all I witnessed one of many distinguishing features of this School of Music. Its people care. The sheer amount of caring behavior demonstrated by faculty, staff, and students has been incredible. It showed in the amount of time and energy you put into planning, preparing, adapting, following-through, and communicating, much of it in meaningful one-to-one correspondence. Faculty and staff put students first. They negotiated a balancing act by setting boundaries and showing grace, while not losing sight of policy and standards. Let’s call it compassionate and skillful caring.

Among many student achievements in the fall alone:

  • 18 music majors were honored as fall 2020 graduates.
  • 375 other music majors made successful progress toward an LSU degree!
  • 42 student recitals were live-streamed from our Recital Hall.
  • Across all platforms, people watched our livestreams, pre-recorded concerts, and student recitals for a collective 1200 hours
  • Our performances reached approximately 45,000 people through Facebook and YouTube.
  • 13 singers were winners at the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) Regional Conference
  • Soprano Jenna Grissom was a district finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Auditions.
  • Manon, Act III, scene ii (St. Sulpice excerpt) advanced to the finals of the National Opera Association (NOA) Collegiate Opera Scenes Competition.
  • Lea Baumert won First Prize in the LSU Concerto Competition.
  • Thomas Kim won Second Prize in the Concours de International Musique de Paris.
  • 9 student chamber ensembles performed in “Chamber Music Across Campus.”
  • Our student composers and instrument developers created new music at an impressive clip and presented it in local, regional, national, and international venues.
  • Students were active on the professional organization scene, presenting research and otherwise participating in the conferences of Music Teachers National Association and the American Musicological Society.

Higher education in the spring semester will look much like the just-completed fall semester but, thankfully, flanked by the optimistic light offered by vaccine development. We will depend on the caring impulses of our people to make the coming semester all that it can be. I thank you all for your hard work and dedication as we “get after it” once again beginning on January 11.


James Byo

Director, School of Music
Carl Prince Matthies Professor of Music


Last updated 01/11/2021