Music Alumni

a large group photo of music alumni

Alumni & Development

Emily Mann ’12

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Major: History
Minor: Music

You hail from pretty far away. What made you come to Rhodes?
I applied for and received the CODA fellowship here–the Center for Outreach in the Development of the Arts. You get a scholarship annually and do 10 hours of work a week towards promoting the arts in Memphis and helping with local Memphis projects. I visited Rhodes for a CODA interview and fell in love with the campus. The CODA fellows here were really welcoming and there were so many cool opportunities in Memphis through CODA. There are so many things going on in the Memphis art and music scenes.

You also do spring and summer music fellowships with Rhode’s Mike Curb Institute for Music. How are those?
Through Curb, I’m working at the Blues Foundation, a Memphis non-profit. It puts on two major events every year. One is the International Blues Challenge, the other is the Blues Music Award. My specific role right now is helping them in the process of getting ready for the Blues Music Awards. Over summer, I was hired by Curb to write the manual for how they put on the Blues Music Awards. So, I’m playing the researcher role as well, figuring it all out. I think that for me, through every single fellowship and project that I’ve worked on in the past three years, I’ve personally grown as an individual. I’ve also been able to connect with people I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. I think I’ve learned something from everyone I’ve had to interact with. I’ve learned skills, overcome fears, and now have a clearer idea of what I want to do with my life after I graduate. Through fellowships, I definitely have more confidence in what that will be, and the means to get there.

What’s it like to have those opportunities?
If I was home in Los Angeles, or New York City, I’d be fighting for the opportunities that I’ve had here. But here, it’s easy. Rhodes makes it really easy to find these experiences through programs like CODA and Curb. Rhodes works really hard to give you internships, to help you achieve what you want. If you want an internship, they’ll help you find one. That’s what is so great.

How does your History major tie in to your passion for music?
I love music history. The African American music class I took with Professor Bass was amazing. You learn that so much of why music changes is because of things that are changing in the world, changes in history. But also, Rhodes knows we came here for a liberal arts degree, that we’re interested in lots of different things. So what’s really awesome is that my History major didn’t exclude me from having music fellowships. I had just as many opportunities as any Music major.

Rachel Wright ’02

Born and raised in a small town in southern Oklahoma, Rachel Proby Wright often visited her grandparents in the Memphis area—so when she began the hunt for the right college, Rhodes was the obvious forerunner.  Once here, she considered majoring in English but found her passion in the Anthropology/Sociology and the Greek and Roman Studies departments.

While pursuing an honors degree in Anthropology, she searched for a medium that would bridge her two majors.  To her surprise, she found the perfect topic right here in Memphis:

“I took a model that’s been used to study Homeric portraits and applied it to the Southern blues tradition,” she says.  That project provided the foundation for her continuing involvement in the Memphis community.

“Like most seniors, I was tired of studying, and I wanted a different kind of stress,” she says, so she decided to work for a few years after graduation.  She first worked briefly for an archaeology firm before taking the position of program assistant at the Stax Music Academy, which is operated by the Soulsville Foundation, the parent company of the Stax Museum of American Soul Music.

“From day one,” she laughs, “my job description went in the trash.”  During her first year, she did everything from stuffing envelopes to writing fliers and editing newsletters, but her most challenging project came when she joined a pilot team charged with planning a charter school at Soulsville.

The Soulsville Charter School opened its doors in July 2005 with 60 sixth-graders recruited from inner-city neighborhoods.  Since then, the school has grown by one class a year, all the while maintaining its mission of instilling discipline and ambition in at-risk youths through music.

Once the school was up and running, Wright’s job changed yet again. In September 2005, she became the community projects manager for the Soulsville Foundation. When the original Stax studio closed its doors, the community around it went into decline. Working with community data, Wright identified the pitfalls and assets of the neighborhood and helped develop initiatives to meet the specific needs she encountered.

With experience gained from the challenges of her various positions, Wright was more than prepared to return to the classroom.  “I was chomping at the bit to get back in school,” she explains, so she enrolled in the graduate program for Anthropology at the University of Memphis in 2005.  She continued working at Soulsville full time, completing her graduate studies with a 4.0 GPA.

So what’s next for Wright?  Perhaps a professorship.  Her love for academics coupled with her experiences working with students and college interns at Soulsville solidified her desire to be involved in education on a regular basis.  She is currently a doctoral student at Syracuse University. 

Doug Trapp ’85

Major: Theater
Musical Pursuits: Voice, Rhodes Singers
Hometown: Nashville, TN Current Residence: New York, NY
Current Profession: Actor/Advertising Art Director

How did you become involved with the theater?
I was very involved in music and theater when I was at Rhodes. Tony Lee Garner, who passed away in 1998, was my advisor and an important mentor for me. He was the director of what was then Southwestern Singers. I did four shows at Rhodes and studied voice with Diane Clark. Although I loved the theater department at Rhodes, I never really thought about going into it as a profession because I wanted to go into advertising. Now I do both – I often freelance as an art director as my “day job.”  I started getting back into theater in the late 90s, when I was living in Minneapolis. A friend of mine was taking some acting classes, and I was starting to miss it. I started to do some community theater and ease my way back in. In 1998, I quit my art directing job to become an actor full time, moved to New York eventually, and have been acting professionally ever since. But my jobs vary based on what’s most available. Sometimes advertising work is easier to come by. Last year, I was an art director full time.

Do you have a favorite project in either advertising or acting?
I played Tobias Ragg in Sweeney Todd during my junior year at Rhodes, and it still stands out as one of my favorites. I particularly remember the song “Not While I’m Around,” which was absolutely beautiful. This show was meaningful for me because it was the first time I was involved in something of such a professional caliber. The department brought Memphis theater professionals to the college as well, so we all had the chance to work with many, many amazing people. I recently got to watch a DVD of the performance, and it was very surreal, probably because I had never seen a taped version before. It was a great little piece of magic to be able to watch the production objectively.

Tell me about life after you graduated from Rhodes.
After graduation, I lived in Memphis for about six months, and then attended art school in Atlanta for two years. I visit Rhodes periodically, but when I visited for my 25th reunion two years ago, I hadn’t seen the campus in about ten years. It seemed both current and nostalgic. I realized that all the students on campus hadn’t even been born when I was a student all those years ago!

When you came back for the reunion, did you notice any big changes?
I’d say half looked the same and half looked different. The library is amazing. I was thrilled to walk around, especially to see McCoy Theater. It was built when I was a freshman. It was nice to see the older buildings as well, and to find the dorms I lived in when I was a student. Basically, it’s expanded, but still feels like the same place.

How do you stay connected with Rhodes from New York City?
I have been on several reunion committees, and I’ve designed the invitations for my 5th and 25th reunions, which has been a lot of fun. I still stay in touch with one of my great friends, David, who owns a gallery in Memphis. He and his wife came up recently and saw the musical I’m doing off Broadway, Silence! The Musical (the musical parody of Silence of the Lambs).  Part of my Tennessee connection stems from the fact that I’m from Nashville, and my aunt and uncle used to live in Memphis. They’ve since moved, so I don’t have family in Tennessee anymore, but I still have a strong emotional connection to Tennessee, to Memphis, and to Rhodes.

Rene Orth ’07

Hometown: Dallas, TX
Major: Music
Post-Graduate Information:
Master of Music (composition), University of Louisville
Diploma program (composition), Curtis Institute of Music

When asked what my most meaningful Rhodes experience has been, I start with, “It happened at my Senior Piano Recital…”  Walking onto the stage of Tuthill Performance Hall to give what amounted to the culmination of my four years of musical study and practice here, I was not only touched to see who was in the audience, but also the number of people who came to support me.  Everyone who has impacted my time at Rhodes—students, friends, professors and administrators alike—was there to show their interest in my work.

As a music major, my work has not been limited to performance.  Composition is my greatest passion, and my current honors project consists of writing a piece for the Rhodes Women’s Chorus, which will be performed later this spring.  Such an opportunity could not occur without the constant presence and dedication of my professors and fellow music majors.  Where else can you feel like your talents are not only appreciated, but are continually cultivated and encouraged?  This same sense of community and connection with the Rhodes campus at large led to my involvement with the Honor Council, a service that is my first priority after my studies.  I have had the honor of serving as Honor Council president this year, but I started as a sophomore representative and then became vice president my junior year. While this commitment can be quite demanding and sometimes frustrating, I find it all doubly worth it.  It is an amazing experience to dedicate yourself to upholding a tradition that is over 100 years old.  Having the opportunity to serve on the Council has made me appreciate the Rhodes community and the Honor Code so much more.

At Rhodes, varsity athletes are always encouraged to be students first.  I have played on the varsity women’s basketball team for the past four years, and my coaches have always been extremely flexible and understanding with the demands of my academic work.  Playing for a Division III school has also allowed me to fully participate in all Rhodes has to offer while letting me remain a devoted athlete. Some of my favorite people on this campus are my teammates!

With so many opportunities and resources unique to Rhodes, it is hard to imagine an undergraduate experience elsewhere.  Whatever the future brings, I know that I have laid a strong foundation for myself here.

Dorothy Wells ’82

Hometown: Mobile, Alabama
Academic Major at Rhodes: Music – Vocal Performance 
Rhodes Graduation Year: 1982
Post-Graduate Information:
Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law (University of Memphis)
Memphis Theological Seminary
Current Home: Memphis, Tennessee
Current Profession: A successful attorney for the last 17 years, Dorothy recently set off in a new direction and is pursuing a call to ordained ministry.

Tell me about this career transition that you are going through.
I had really been feeling a call to ordained ministry. I decided I would pursue that to see where it might lead and I actually entered the formal ordination process in the Episcopal Church. I’ll finish seminary in December, and take ordination exams in January. So I’m getting close now to the end of that part of this journey. We will see what happens after that, but God-willing I will be ordained sometime in 2012.

Was there a professor at Rhodes who had a significant influence on you?
Wow, there were a lot, but I’d have to put Tony Lee Garner at the top; he was one of the music professors at Rhodes while I was there. Tony had a tremendous expectation of his students. He spoke volumes to me about making music, but also about living life. One thing that I certainly learned being around him was that God was in music. And I guess one of the other things I learned was that music embodies the whole of our being. He made a profound influence on so many people.

Did he have some influence as far as later down the line you deciding to enter seminary school?
You know, in a way I think he did. He was one of those people who, without teaching you to listen to your heart, really taught you to listen to your heart. I felt a calling to ordained ministry for probably 10 years before I was actually able to say that out loud. Finally being able to hear that voice and to listen to that voice, and then accept that this is what I am supposed to do has been wonderful. Professor Garner was a remarkable, remarkable professor.

How has your Rhodes education carried over into your life today?
Rhodes inspired a passion for learning that I really didn’t appreciate for a while. I’m one of those people who has embraced the notion of being a lifelong learner and I think I got that notion at Rhodes. I suddenly found myself taking classes and being intrigued by things that I wouldn’t have imagined I would have been intrigued by. I took political science and I thought at that point, I was going to end up in law school. I loved political science and I thought, “Wow, I had no idea this is what it was all about.”

In what ways do you support Rhodes now?
I am on the Alumni Executive Board and I am a perpetual giver. I have been involved in some of the women’s network events at Rhodes through the years. I have also been on the Margaret Hyde Council board in the past. I have been connected a lot and there has been nothing more fulfilling. I mentored a student there and it was just the most remarkable experience for me to think, “Wow, I got this from this school and now I have the opportunity to give back in a meaningful way.” It’s a great school. I believe wholeheartedly in everything the school does.