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June 13, 2013

ULM appoints new Emy-Lou Biedenharn Endowed Chair in Music

Having just finished his first year of teaching low brass as a member of the ULM music faculty, Dr. James Layfield has already been appointed the new Emy-Lou Biedenharn Endowed Chair in Music.

"The Biedenharns are one of the most well-known families in Monroe, and their contributions to the music department here at ULM are incredible," said Layfield.

"The fact that I am forever associated with the name Emy-Lou Biedenharn is something that I will cherish always."

On a typical day of work at ULM, Layfield begins by practicing his instruments in his office before any of his classes meet.

"The relationship between musicians and athletes is a strong one," he said.

"As athletes condition themselves by spending time in the weight room or gym in order to perform consistently and improve, musicians must also exercise our technical and musical abilities through fundamental practice."

Layfield plays the alto, tenor, and bass trombones, the euphonium, and the tuba. "Not all at the same time, mind you."

His interest in music sparked early, when he and his father played in the church orchestra as Layfield was growing up in McKinney, Texas. His father played the trombone.

"It was one of the best times with my dad, and I started to really enjoy what I was doing," he said.

"Believe it or not, I actually started my undergraduate career as an aerospace engineer. After one semester, I knew I couldn't be anything else but involved in music – and the rest is history."

Though Layfield enjoys teaching full classes, he feels personally fulfilled by the relationships he develops with students through one-on-one interaction.

"Working with students individually is something that I enjoy most about my job. The kind of relationship that is earned through this interaction forms into a diligent commitment by the student to improve and prepare for the future job market while enjoying the time along the way."

In an attempt to forge these relationships, he encourages students, "Go by and talk with your professors during their office hours. If you are struggling in a class or need some assistance, I think you will find that they will be able to help. Respond to emails in a timely fashion, show up on time for class, and act like a professional – you will become one!"

His favorite professional experience has been playing with the Black Bayou Brass, the resident brass trio comprised of three ULM faculty members.

"This past year we played over 20 concerts together," he said.

"Playing with two incredible musicians such as Dr. James Boldin and Dr. Alex Noppe is an opportunity to continue my own learning experience and development as a musician, an opportunity that I always want to have."

Over time, Layfield believes music educators will adapt to "the change in direction or focus in which a particular program is heading."

He said, "Being involved with different genres, instruments, and vocal styles while honing your primary instrument strengthens your abilities to adapt to the changing world and makes you an irreplaceable colleague."

"I look forward to seeing our program grow and expand next year and in the years to come," said Layfield.

"The amazing and talented faculty in the music department captivates me on a daily basis. Come experience the exciting musical diversity that this great university has to offer!"

Layfield obtained his Bachelor of Arts in Music Theory from the University of Texas at Arlington and his Master of Music in Trombone Performance from Southern Methodist University.

Just before accepting the position at ULM, he completed his Doctorate of Musical Arts in Trombone Performance at the University of Michigan.

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