Clarinetist Banks returns for Masters Week

Christy Banks
Christy Banks

Clarinetist Banks returns for Masters Week

calendar icon26 Oct 2017    

Christy Banks (B.M. 1996; D.M.A. 2005), assistant chair and associate professor of music and coordinator of woodwinds at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, is this year’s Masters Week candidate from the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts.

“I am thrilled,” Banks said. “This is such an honor.”

Alumni Masters Week is a program sponsored by the Nebraska Alumni Association, the Student Alumni Association and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Chancellor’s Office. Each fall, outstanding alumni return to campus to share their experiences and knowledge with students. Since 1964, 390 alumni have participated in Alumni Masters Week.

Professor of Clarinet Diane Barger nominated Banks for the honor.

“When I first arrived at UNL back in the fall of 1994, Christy was one of the upperclassmen clarinet majors in my studio,” Barger said. “From the very start, she proved herself to be a fine musician who had an inner drive of someone far beyond her years. I was so fortunate to have her as my first DMA student several years later as she set such a wonderful example to my younger students and breezed through her degree program, all while holding numerous adjunct teaching positions in the area at the same time. I have greatly enjoyed seeing all the success she has achieved, and I am so proud of her. In addition to being a wonderful pedagogue and consummate musician, she is also a delightful human being. How fortunate am I to have had the honor of mentoring her in the earlier stages of her education and career and to have her as a friend and colleague now in the profession.”

This year’s activities take place between Nov. 1-4. Banks is looking forward to a busy schedule when she is back on campus.

“I’m looking forward to all of it,” she said. “I’m excited to work with Dr. Barger’s students, because she is such a master teacher. I’m super excited to speak to the undergrads and master’s students at convocation, and I think it’s neat that I get to pop into my daughter’s music history class with Dr. Starr, whom I admire so much. Also I look forward to meeting the new Director of the School of Music.”

Banks has been at Millersville University (MU) since 2005.

“I defended by my doctoral document the day after I flew back from my interview at MU, so I got to walk into that defense with the good news that I had a tenure-track job upon graduation,” Banks said.

Banks has previously taught clarinet, saxophone and related music courses at Nebraska Wesleyan University, Concordia University, Doane College, Union College and Peru State College.

She has performed as a soloist and/or chamber musician throughout the U.S., as well as Austria, Germany, Italy, Norway, Iceland, China and New Zealand. A former member of Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra and the Nebraska Chamber Players, she has performed with the Pennsylvania Philharmonic, the Harrisburg, Lancaster and Reading Symphonies, Pennsylvania Sinfonia, Allegro Chamber Orchestra and Opera Lancaster.

She has two CD recordings of new compositions in the works:  NakedEye Ensemble’s “Storylines Crossing” will be released in 2018 and Spatial Forces Duo will release a CD and video recording in 2019.

Banks’s studio at MU has grown during her tenure there.

“When I first started at MU, I taught a combined clarinet and saxophone studio,” Banks said. “Over the years, the size of my studio more than doubled to around 30 students. Thus, last academic year, we were able to hire a saxophone professor, so now I get to focus on the clarinet studio. I currently have 13 majors. I also teach woodwind methods and our first-year music major seminar.”

In 2007, she became the assistant chair of the music department.

“My main responsibility in that capacity is to coordinate recruitment activities, administer all of the auditions and work with our admissions and development people to dole out scholarships,” she said. “When I began, the department consisted of around 130 music majors. Now we have around 250. Currently we only have undergraduate programs in music education, music performance and our music business technology degree, although we hope to approve a master’s in music education in the near future.”

Originally from Lincoln, Banks chose Nebraska for her undergraduate study because of its strong band program.

“There were a lot of factors in my choice of UNL for my undergraduate degree,” she said. “Perhaps the biggest ones were the strong band program—I was a real band geek in high schoo—and that my mother had gotten her undergraduate music degree in piano there. She was pretty insistent that I attend UNL.”

She returned to Nebraska for her doctoral studies primarily to study with Barger.

“The absolute biggest reason was to study with Dr. Barger. She’s really incredible,” Banks said. “Other reasons were the support I got from the woodwind faculty and the administration to allow me to create a secondary area (like a minor at the doctoral level) in multiple woodwinds. And I was already teaching at several schools in the area, maintaining a sizeable private studio, and actively gigging in the area. I knew what I wanted next vis-à-vis my career trajectory, and UNL was the perfect next step.”

During her time at Nebraska, Banks played in the Cornhusker Marching Band all four years of her undergraduate study.

“I had the absolute privilege of being a drum major for our back-to-back National Championship Football seasons (’94, ’95),” Banks said. “Incredible experiences! The CMB also marched in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin my last year. That experience sparked my insatiable wanderlust, and I’ll forever be thankful for it.”

Banks said Barger has been the single most influential person in her professional life.

“She came to UNL halfway through my undergrad,” Banks said. “At the time, there were ZERO female professors in the woodwinds/brass/percussion/bands area. I think there may have only been five, maybe six full-time female professors in the entire School of Music. She instantly became my role model. She is truly a trailblazer. I’m not exaggerating when I say she is one of the best clarinetists on the planet, and UNL is beyond fortunate to have her.”

Banks began her musical career at age four with piano lessons and started playing the saxophone in 7th grade. But her stepfather pushed her toward the clarinet.

“My stepfather was a band director in the Lincoln Public Schools,” she said. “I remember telling him in elementary school that I wanted to play either the cello or the trombone. He nixed that and said, ‘I have two clarinets. You’re playing the clarinet.’”

Banks said she likes the versatility of the clarinet.

“I get bored easily, so I love how versatile the clarinet is,” Banks said. “I can play so many styles of music with so many different people. And then there are other instruments in the clarinet family (I own six clarinets), so I’m never bored. Frustrated at times, but not bored.”

Nebraska was a perfect fit for her for both of her degrees.

“During my undergrad, it was the perfect training ground for me as a performer because throughout my time here I got to participate in every single ensemble that I wanted,” Banks said. “I didn’t realize until I was in my master’s degree at FSU just how solid and thorough my training had been in theory and history.

“In my DMA, UNL provided academic and performance rigor that gave me an edge in the job search. The faculty and administration also allowed me to propose my own secondary curriculum in multiple woodwinds, which was crucial for the type of job I was seeking. I’m convinced that these academic credentials were critical in getting me to the final interview stage at four universities during my job search, which gave me leverage when ‘sealing the deal’ at my top choice, Millersville University.”

Her daughter is currently a music student, so Banks is now part of three generations at Nebraska.

“My mom is a professional accompanist who did her undergrad at UNL in the 1960s,” Banks said. “She and both of my kids have perfect pitch, but not me. My daughter is currently an undergrad music major at UNL, so that’s three generations of women in Westbrook Music Building.”

Banks’s lasting memory of Nebraska is the life-long relationships she formed.

“So many of the people who helped shape me during those formative years are still in my life,” she said.