Hampton University

faculty q&a

The Maestro of Our Musical Experience
Professor Dillard Strives for Excellence

Professor Royzell Dillard

"To Speak, to sing, to make new the music of the African-American experience is the highest achievement that I can give to all peoples of the world..."

In 1988, he received the title of conductor and artistic director of the Hampton University Choirs, now more than 19 years later Maestro Royzell L. Dillard is still composing the musical experience at Hampton University. He has been featured in several performances some of which are "Porgy And Bess" an operatic role, the music drama "Hiram And Nettie" and baritone/bass solos in "Messiah", "Scenes In The Life Of A Martyr" and "The Seven Last Words." In addition he has had the opportunity to study with some of the most prominent music teachers in the country.

"All music should be shared rather than just listened to or performed," said Dillard. He has continued to promote the tradition of musical excellence at Hampton University. This year the music department celebrates its 80th anniversary and the Student Connection recently got a chance to sit down with Dillard to discuss some of the events that will take place to celebrate the anniversary.

Q. What are some of the events the Music Department is planning in celebration of its 80th Anniversary?

A. We have dedicated both the spring 2008 semester and the 2008 fall semester to celebrating the 80th anniversary. The department was founded by R. Nathaniel Dett. We are doing some specific things to celebrate including an alumni concert series, an interdepartmental read featuring a book written by Dr. Willia Daughtry about the life of the "Black Pattie", Matilda Sissieretta Joyner Jones. In the fall we will host a forum about closing the gap between hip-hop and classical music with our students here on campus. We will end the year with a concert featuring the R. Nathaniel Dett Coral from Toronto, Canada and an all alumni performance of the Messiah in December.

Q. What have been some of the highlights of your career here at Hampton?

A. In 1998, when President Bill Clinton was elected for a second term, the Concert Choir was invited to sing at his inauguration; in that same year we performed at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York. In 2002, we performed in Las Vegas for the Evening of Black Performance which has been airing on PBS on Tony Brown's Journal for quite some time. Lastly in 2006, we participated in a national radio broadcast called "Lift Every Voice" created by Eric Tait, which talks about the Historical Black College Choir and its development from the early 1800s to now. There is a segment that talks about Hampton's Choirs and you hear the choir behind it. This was featured on WHOV 88.1 last year during Black History Month.

Q. In what field of study was your undergraduate degree in?

A. My undergrad degree is in psychology. At that time many believed there was no future for someone with a music degree other than teaching music. I was not interested in at the time. My mom was a teacher and I did not want to follow in her footsteps. Here I am today, a teacher and I enjoy it, and it's my calling. I just had to come to terms with it. I am most happy in the place I am in right now.

Q. What are some of your hobbies?

A. I am a chef. I have invited students over to my house and hosted Thanksgiving dinner. Also I am a movie buff. I enjoy all movies. I try to get as many movies in as I can while I am not working or when school is not in session. One of my favorite movies is "Imitation of Life" but at the moment my favorite would have to be "No Country for Old Men."

Q. Have you been in any performances recently?

A. No not lately. I did do a set for the Martin Luther King Day performance. In addition I did a recording with an alumnus who entered a song in the competition for the Virginia State Song.

Q. What other activities do you enjoy besides writing and teaching?

A. I have a great love of Jazz and R&B. Lately I have been playing a CD by Heath Brothers and a Miles Davis Tribute album called "VSOP" I love movies. Over the break I saw as many movies as possible. I watch them for entertainment, as well as movies that inform my teaching, because I also teach Mass Media and there is a movie component in there.

Q. If you could tell people one thing about the Choirs what would it be and why?

A. The Choirs are an important part of Hampton's history, its present, and its future. A lot of people hear the choir and make their decision of whether or not they want to go to Hampton because they can see the legacy of Hampton in our students.

-Autumn D. Wilds