Ted Buehrer `91: Kenyon music major becomes Kenyon music professor
As a music major at Kenyon, Theodore E. Buehrer '91 did it all. He composed, directed, and performed musical numbers in a variety of shows. He came into his own as a trumpet player. And he discovered jazz. For his senior-honors project, he selected six jazz styles, from Dixieland to bebop to fusion, arranged or composed a piece in each style, and then performed the pieces in recital, with the College's jazz band playing backup.
In a sense, Ted Buehrer was much like the music students he encounters today as a professor. "Kenyon students amaze me in the way they just go for things," says Buehrer, who returned to teach at the College last year. "They're very independent; they know what they want, and they know whom to ask to get it."
Buehrer, who teaches courses in music theory, composition, jazz history, and the use of computer technology in music, believes Kenyon's music program offers a good balance of fundamentals and electives. "I didn't really know what a great musical education I got here until I went to graduate school and faced proficiency exams," he says. "I tested out of all of them, while students from supposedly stronger undergraduate music programs were failing some."
A native of Oregon, Ohio, a suburb of Toledo, Buehrer began his own musical education at five, with piano lessons. He added trumpet during elementary school, although he still considered piano his main instrument when he arrived at the College in 1987. While he originally thought he might major in chemistry, he notes that "by the end of freshman year, it was evident that music was where I was headed."
Trumpet was where he was headed, too. As a student, he played in both the jazz band and the Knox County Symphony, as well as the brass choir, for which he served as student conductor during his senior year. He was also active in Kenyon's lively musical theater scene, adapting scores, coaching singers, and playing accompaniment. Among his credits are productions of Godspell, The Gondoliers, Bye Bye Birdie, and You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
"My interest in jazz actually didn't blossom until junior or senior year," says Buehrer. "I really enjoy the instant creativity that jazz improvisation requires. You're making new music in real time." He especially admires trumpet greats Clifford Brown and Dizzy Gillespie, as well as the legendary band leader and composer Duke Ellington.
Buehrer's own compositions, in both the jazz and classical idioms, met with success at Kenyon. In his sophomore, junior, and senior years, works of his were selected for performance as part of the student composition competition.
He went on to graduate school in the prestigious music program of Indiana University, earning a master's degree in jazz studies in 1993. It was a demanding, performance-oriented program, packed with coursework in theory, composition, and music history in addition to lessons and ensemble playing. One of the highlights was a three-week, all-expenses-paid trip to Monte Carlo, where the jazz band (actually, one of four jazz bands at Indiana) played as the house band for a jazz festival.
"We got to play backup for Dave Brubeck and Freddie Hubbard, and we accompanied the singer Betty Carter," recalls Beuhrer. "It was phenomenal."
Buehrer loved playing, but he knew he wanted to teach at the college level. And so he entered the doctoral program in music theory at Indiana. While writing his dissertation, which explores new methods for ear training, he taught a range of undergraduate courses, winning a teaching excellence award in 1997.
Buehrer joined the College's faculty in 1998. After seven years in the intense musical world of Indiana, he finds Kenyon students refreshing. "They're much more interested in studying music from a variety of perspectives," he says. "At Indiana, students want to be left alone to spend five hours a day in the practice room. Students here are much more well-rounded and engaged in a broad academic discussion of music. It makes for a better musician in the end."
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