World-Renowned Musicians Align with WCU Students: Master Instruction Provides a Host of Virtual Opportunities

WCU music students are learning techniques and tips from world-renowned musicians who are providing experiences that are virtually unlike any other.

“With stay-at home orders in place, we are gaining access to artists previously unavailable due to busy performance schedules,” says WCU Wells School of Music Dean Chris Hanning. “Now, the barriers of travel time and expense have been removed. In addition, artists have upgraded their technology at home so that they can continue to teach their students online. Given the invaluable instruction our students are gaining, we will continue with these types of virtual experiences even after we return to the classroom.”

Necessity is indeed the mother of invention. This familiar adage has come into play, so to speak, as professors in the Wells School of Music find new ways to connect with and teach students during this time of social distancing.

Below is a sample of the high-caliber virtual experiences taking place in online classrooms throughout the School of Music this spring.

PercussionSteve Rucker  

Students in the Percussion studio have gained access to top musicians from across the country and around the world. All were scheduled after the school transitioned to alternative modes of instruction by faculty members reaching out to friends and professional connections.

March 27 - Steve Rucker. Rucker toured for many years with the Bee Gees. He also recorded with Michael Jackson. He is the Drumset Studies Director at the University of Miami.

April 3rd -  Dave Tull. Tull is the drummer for Barbara Streisand, playing five tours and for her GRAMMY nominated live Netflix video concert. His latest album release, “Texting and Driving,” was the #2 most requested new album of 2018 on SiriusXM Real Jazz.

April 10th - Billy Hulting. One of the busiest drummers on the scene, Hulting has toured with Maynard Furguson, Nea Peeples, Natalie Cole, Barry Manilow and Lou Rawls, Patti Labelle, and the Manhattan Transfer. He most recently toured with Zappa Plays Zappa – a band led by Dweezil Zappa performing the music of Frank Zappa.  

April 17th - Jonathan Dresel. Dresel has been drumming for the Jimmy Kimmel show for many years. He also played with jazz pianist Keiko Matsui, and English rocker John Waite.

April 17th - Ric Fierabracci Three Time GRAMMY Nominated, Bassist Ric Fierabracci has performed and recorded for artists like Blood Sweat and Tears, Chick Corea, Electrik Band, Sir Tom Jones, Bo Bice, Stevie Wonder, Yanni, and many others. Ric has also recorded many tracks for the "Guitar Hero" Video games. His studio work has also included bass tracks for the CBS Hit TV series "Without a Trace."

April 24th - Gabe Staznik. Staznik is a WCU Alumnus and active freelance percussionist, educator and arranger. He is currently the drummer in Max Impact, the premier rock band of the United States Air Force. He has performed and recorded with GRAMMY, Emmy, and Tony award-winning artists including Chubby Checker, Kristen Chenoweth, Drake White, Mike Ryan, Jessie James Decker, and James Torme.

May 1 – Ric Craig. (Dean Chris Hanning conducted a Master session for Craig’s students in exchange.) Craig instructs drumset students at the University of South Florida. He has toured with the likes of  Diane Schuur, New York Tenors, Michael Crawford, Barry Manilow, Alvaro Torres (Latin American international tour), Selena (Buenos Amigos video),and GRAMMY-nominated David Arkenstone to name a few.

Stringsspain master class

Ovidiu Marinescu, associate professor of Violincello, scheduled zoom sessions with a colleague who teaches in Barcelona and Madrid, Spain.

“It felt exciting,” says Marinescu. “We played for each other and then discussed performances and offered feedback. I think creating these different kinds of opportunities for our students is very motivating for them, particularly when many of them are feeling disconnected at this time.”


Leelanee SterrettLiz Pfaffle, associate professor of horn, invited Leelanee Sterrett, the acting associate principal horn for the New York Philharmonic, to her classroom. After remote learning was put into place, she reached out to Sterrett, who was more than willing to fulfill her appearance virtually.

Pfaffle says, “I wanted the master class to be a wonderful experience for both the student and for Ms. Sterrett. It required some creativity and problem solving because sound quality on online platforms is not as good as it would be live. I had my students pre-record their pieces and send them to Sterrett prior to the class. They also came prepared to ask questions.”


Kimberly Reighley, professor of Flute, invited four guest artists as an alternative to her weekly studio master class. Each artist shared a particular area of expertise with WCU students.

April 9 - Lindsey Goodman. Goodman is principal flutist of the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, and a faculty member at West Virginia State University and Marietta College, and founded the chamber groups Leviathan Trio, PANdemonium4, and Chrysalis Duo. She spoke to students about how to manage their careers as artists to remain financially stable and artistically fulfilled.Lindsey Goodman

April 16 – Lauren Carr.  Carr works on and makes professional flutes and piccolos. She travels to many flute shows and universities throughout the country, working to help people choose their perfect flute, as well as giving repair workshops. She talked to students about diagnosing flute problems and doing self-repair.

April 23 – Edward Schultz. Schultz is the principal flutist for the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Ballet Orchestra, the Academy of Vocal Arts Opera Orchestra, and the Philly Pops. He talked with students about a balanced program for productive daily practice and options for career pathways.Edward Schultz


April 30 - Renae Block. Block is a flute teacher in New Jersey and owner of the Evesham Flute Studio. She discussed developing a private flute studio.


Wiktoria Godawa, a flute student of Reighley’s says, “While I am sad that we don't get to perform for one another, I am learning some valuable information about a career in music from these guest artists. They have provided us with really useful insight on how to be successful in a career as a classical flutist. I feel that if classes hadn't gone online, I wouldn't have had the chance to hear from so many incredible and successful flutists.”





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