Special to The Star
A passion for music — particularly guitar — and sharing that love of music has earned Meridian Community College Music Instructor Mitch Brantley another honor.
Brantley has been named the 2012 Humanities Teacher of the Year at the College and will present a lecture at 11 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 2, in the Casteel Gallery, located in the foyer of the L.O. Todd Library. The public is invited.
Each institution of higher learning is invited to designate a member of its faculty for the award each year by The Mississippi Humanities Council, which gives the award in celebration of Arts and Humanities Month to recognize a faculty member who represents the best. A monetary honorarium comes with the award. Recipients are also recognized at the Mississippi Humanities Council’s annual awards banquet in the spring.
Michael Thompson, MCC dean of academic affairs, said each year the academic affairs division chairpersons choose one humanities professor to represent the College. “Mitch Brantley, is not only an outstanding instructor, but also a talented musician,” Thompson said.
“Mitch is very well respected by both his students and his peers. MCC is lucky to have an instructor of Mitch’s caliber as a member of our faculty,” he added.
In connection with the award, Brantley will present, “The Guitar Code: Deciphering the Earliest Printed Music for Guitar and Vihuela.”
Explaining that the vihuela was a guitar-like instrument used in Spain in the 1530s and later, Brantley said he has been researching digital archived scores, which are housed in Spain, for the instrument. “One of these books that dates from 1546 by Alonso Mudarra contains the earliest printed music for guitar. I wanted to show the process of how one can take the tablature of the 1500s and transcribe it to modern tablature and modern musical notation."
Why this topic? “I am fascinated at how after understanding how to read this early notation I can put my fingers in exactly the same shapes and places on the fret-board that musicians did almost 500 years ago,” he said.
Not only will Brantley lecture, he will also demonstrate by playing the guitar.
“I believe that music is one of the greatest gifts we have as human beings,” Brantley said, and it is vital to teach music because of the way it shapes humans as well.
“It takes not only the right brain creativity, but also the left brain to perform music. For example, the counting and sight reading of rhythms requires the instantaneous calculations of the values of notes just like figuring out fractions. Rehearsing in a band, choir, orchestra or guitar ensemble teaches teamwork. Music therapy can physically rehabilitate and alleviate pain. Music can culturally enrich and improve life in a community,” he said.
Brantley considers himself a musician whose instrument just so happens to be guitar. “I am just more comfortable teaching that instrument. The guitar is one of the most popular instruments and it is affordable and portable,” he said.
It was his classical guitar instructor at Hinds Community College who drew him to his current profession.
“I started taking classical guitar lessons from Dr. John Ingwerson at Hinds Community College and that’s when I realized this is what I wanted to do for a living. His performances and lessons really inspired me and after that all I really wanted to do was perform and teach at a community college,” Brantley said.
The thrill of teaching extends beyond the classroom walls. Brantley said the best part of his job is performing live music with the students.
“I live for that moment when we go on stage in front of an audience," he said. “To share that experience is priceless.”
The sounds from Brantley’s guitar have been heard in a myriad of venues. He won first place in the Magnolia Guitar Society’s Great Guitarist of the Year Competition in 1996, where he played a classical piece against other guitarists performing classical, heavy metal and blues. He also won first place in the Music Teachers National Association Collegiate Competition in the Mississippi Division in 1998.
The Hill Guitar Co., headquartered in California and the maker of classical guitars since 1972, features Brantley on its artists website. “It was a totally unexpected call from the Hill Guitar Company’s marketing director asking if they could use my video and biography on their company’s website."
The video, which was shot by Brantley’s dad, showcases Brantley playing Fantasia 10 by Alsonso Mudarra in a church venue.
He earned his bachelor of music education and master of music performance degree from the University of Southern Mississippi and his associate degree from Hinds Community College. While at USM, he taught guitar and guitar ensemble as a graduate teaching assistant.
Brantley and his wife, Christi, who were college sweethearts who met in music theory class, have been married for more than 15 years and have a 12-year-old daughter, Marianne, and son, Liam, who is 6 years old. Marianne is in the band and choir at school and has performed in voice and piano recitals. They are members of Crossgates United Methodist Church and live in Brandon.
Twelve years ago, Brantley began his MCC tenure as an adjunct instructor teaching guitar and sharing his love for music where he now teaches full time.
He said, “This job is a calling. It is doing something greater than yourself. I enjoy rehearsing and teaching lessons as well.”