Friday, January 29, 2016

[297] MTSU professor’s ‘Portraits’ features trail-blazing black classical singers in free Feb. 1 screenin

MURFREESBORO — MTSU School of Music vocal professor Dina Cancryn has a new song in her heart for Black History Month: sharing the stories of some of the first classical singers of color.

Cancryn created “Portraits: The First African-American Divas of Song and Opera,” a theatrical production that depicts Elizabeth Taylor-Greenfield, Sissieretta Jones and Marian Anderson sharing their history and their fabulous voices, a decade ago.

Now a special performance of “Portraits,” captured on video, is set for a free public screening Monday, Feb. 1, at 8 p.m. in Hinton Hall inside MTSU’s Wright Music Building.

“Most people don’t know these ladies,” Cancryn explains, a note of surprise in her voice. “They're just not spoken of. And that's part of the reason I dedicated this to my daughter, because if it wasn't for her I wouldn't have written this.”

Cancryn, a soprano with a lengthy resume of national and international performances, was at home on maternity leave and flipping through videos on TV while her then-infant daughter napped. Frustrated at the “one-dimensional” aspect of what she saw, and channeling her longtime interest in African-American musicians’ contributions to classical music, she began to write.

“I wrote ‘Portraits’ thinking at the time that I'd love to have something for my newborn daughter to see that, as a people, we are not one-dimensional, and that there are contributions made on a variety of scale and genre,” she says. “These women are not the first three African-American opera singers, but they are three of the first. I found their stories to be quite compelling.”

The project evolved into a theatrical production that toured for about seven years across the Southeast. When Cancryn received a small grant from MTSU’s Faculty Research and Creative Activity Committee to film the production, another phase of “Portraits” got underway.

“Considering we had a very small budget, for which I’m very grateful indeed, I'm very proud of what we've done,” Cancryn says. “James Manning, executive director of Oaklands Mansion, donated use of the mansion and free rein of all the different rooms so that we could film on location there. … I'm very appreciative of that, because it helped to give this a more intimate feel.”

Their weeklong filming schedule took Cancryn, the performers, pianist/vocal coach Joseph Walker and an MTSU crew that included director Ty Whitaker, Jon Jackson, Mitch Pryor, Jordan Kirkman and Aaron Trimbal back in time as they worked at Oaklands and inside Hinton Hall to recreate the performances of these divas and capture them on film.

MTSU alumna Courtney Clark portrays the gifted Greenfield, whose 1851 debut as the first African-American classical singer led to her nickname “The Black Swan,” coined for the lovely tone of her voice as well as her gracious presence. Cancryn performs as Jones, renowned for her vocal clarity and enunciation as well as her status as the highest-paid African-American performer at her turn-of-the-century career zenith.

Nashville-based vocalist Sonya Sardon portrays contralto Anderson, one of the 20th century’s most celebrated singers who also was lauded for her trailblazing civil rights efforts, including her Easter 1939 Washington Memorial concert and her return for the 1963 March on Washington, where she sang “He’s Got the Whole Word in His Hands.”

The women come together on the screen now as they never could in life, performing an arrangement of the spiritual "Done Made My Vow to the Lord" specially created for Cancryn’s “Portraits” by her School of Music colleague, Grammy-winning musician Dr. Cedric Dent.

“My goal now is to have this disseminated to middle schools and high schools all over the country so that young people can see what these African-American women have contributed to history,” Cancryn says. “There would be no Leontyne Price or Jessye Norman or Denyce Graves without Elizabeth Greenfield.

“I'm not taking anything away from the Beyonces and the Nicki Minajes of this world at all, but I feel like there's a need for balance, to let young people of any culture or color see that we're not monolithic as a people. … Our contributions are like an artist's palette.”

You can watch a preview of the production at To arrange to screen “Portraits: The First African-American Divas of Song and Opera” at your school or organization, contact Cancryn at

For details on more MTSU School of Music events, call 615-898-2493 or visit and click on the "Concert Calendar" link.

[296] Sign up now to swim with gentle whale sharks in Honduras during spring break

MURFREESBORO — MTSU has set a Feb. 12 deadline for applying to escape the winter chill of the United States for the warm, inviting waters off Honduras in Central America.

Ray Wiley, associate director of campus recreation, will lead a group to Utila, Honduras, during the university’s spring break March 5-12.

Although the trip is recreational, it will include a trip to an institute to learn more about whale sharks, the largest fish in existence, which are considered vulnerable to poachers because of their lack of speed.

“They are slow, … swimming at 3 miles per hour, but they can travel 8,000 miles in just 37 months,” said Wiley. “Whale sharks are a migratory species.”

Many divers swim with the gentle giants, who are docile and pose no danger to humans. Wiley said the group plans to swim in the waters off the bay islands of Honduras for five days.

Meals, lodging, island transportation and diving are included in the price, which is $1,450 excluding airfare. All participants must have valid passports.

Participants who wish to dive must become certified. They can do this through short classes at MTSU’s Campus Recreation Center. Wiley said those who need certification should enroll as soon as possible.

For more information, contact Wiley at 615-898-4701 or


[295] ‘MTSU On the Record’ examines millennials managing money

MURFREESBORO — The next “MTSU On the Record” radio program will focus on what millennials think about money and how they intend to manage it.

Host Gina Logue’s interview with Don Roy, interim chair of the MTSU Department of Marketing, and Tim Graeff, director of MTSU’s Office of Consumer Research, will air from 5:30 to 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 1, and from 8 to 8:30 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 7, on WMOT-FM (89.5 and

Roy and Graeff collaborated on the Millennial Money Mindset Report for iQuantifi, a Franklin, Tennessee-based financial advice firm. The nationwide online survey of 500 randomly selected Americans between the ages of 21 and 35 was conducted between Feb. 12 and 15, 2015.

Among its findings are that 72 percent of millennials said they have financial goals, and the most frequently cited goal is “increase overall level of savings.”

“They tend to want to save money more for what I would consider short-term goals than long-term goals,” Graeff said. “More of them said they wanted to save money for a vacation than said they wanted to save money for retirement or even for buying a house.”

Only 29 percent said they have sought financial advice from professional advisers, and 23 percent said they have used blogs or websites.

“Millennials also exhibit what I would call timeless consumer behavior, and that is relying on good old word of mouth communication with friends and family,” said Roy. 

To hear previous “MTSU On the Record” programs, go to

For more information, contact Logue at 615-898-5081 or WMOT-FM at 615-898-2800.

[294] Latest MTSU Tennessee Business Barometer: Anxiety growing in new year

Online survey of business leaders shows continued slide in confidence about economy

The statewide Tennessee Business Barometer index declined significantly to 146 from 243 in October 2015. The quarterly index is a collaboration between Middle Tennessee State University and the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry to capture the mood and outlook of business leaders through online surveys.

The latest survey shows growing pessimism about the future of the overall U.S. and Tennessee economies, according to Dr. Tim Graeff, MTSU professor of marketing and coordinator of the index.

“Economic unease is beginning to hit even closer to home as business leaders have also become more anxious about the economic conditions for their industry and their individual firm,” Graeff said. This is coupled with continued pessimism regarding the employment outlook.”

The latest results are based on a 17-question online survey submitted by 115 business leaders throughout the state Jan. 12-19. The margin of error is 9.1 percent.

The index score is computed by adding the percentage of positive responses to each question and subtracting the percentage of negative responses. Respondents included business owners, vice presidents, senior managers and managers at firms of various sizes.

A pdf copy of the full report is available at Previous reports are available through the MTSU Office of Consumer Research’s website at

The barometer was launched in the summer of 2015. MTSU and the Tennessee Chamber will track the index over time to identify patterns in the assessments of Tennessee business leaders about the business climate, similar to national consumer confidence surveys.

For more information, contact Graeff at 615-898-5124 or For more information about the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry, visit or call 615-256-5141.

[293a] Start of Middle Tenn. Boulevard upgrade near MTSU to slow traffic, impact parking access

Motorists urged to avoid area, seek alternative access to campus throughout project

MURFREESBORO — Construction begins soon on the long-awaited Middle Tennessee Boulevard improvement project. MTSU officials are encouraging students, faculty, staff and visitors to avoid the area if at all possible because traffic flow and parking on the west side of campus will be significantly altered during the two-year plus construction process.

Lane shifts will be done between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30, reducing the street to one lane in each direction between East Main Street and Ewing Boulevard. The shift will slow traffic noticeably, so drivers should plan for extra commuting time to and from campus beginning next week and use alternative access campus.

The 30-month, $15.7 million project will upgrade the .8-mile section of the thoroughfare between East Main and Greenland Drive. The project is finally moving forward after the City of Murfreesboro approved the bid of contractor, Jarrett Builders of Nashville, following a second request for bids. The City of Murfreesboro is overseeing the work.

MTSU officials said they expect at least one lane of traffic will always be open in both directions throughout construction, but access to parking and traffic flow on the roadway will be affected throughout the project. Pedestrians and motorists are asked to pay close attention to posted signage to ensure safety.

Completion is expected by Fall 2018. The City will share project updates through an interactive online map at

The project will reconstruct the existing four- and five-lane roadway to a consistent four-lane divided street with a landscaped median. It will include bike lanes, improved sidewalks and lighting, new traffic signals, decorative crosswalks, landscaping and underground utilities.

Officials with MTSU Parking and Transportation Services are encouraging students, faculty, staff and visitors to seek alternative campus access from Greenland Drive, Rutherford Boulevard and East Main Street and take advantage of the university’s Raider Xpress shuttle bus service and the MTSU Mobile app.

The MTSU Mobile app includes real-time tracking of the Raider Xpress shuttles and can be downloaded at A map of Raider Xpress Blue, Green and Red routes is available at

The University is hosting a community meeting from 4 to 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18, in the Ingram Conference Center, 2269 Middle Tennessee Blvd. Project consultants will join city and MTSU officials to answer questions about the project and its potential impacts during construction. Attendees will find designated parking on the north side of the building by entering the parking lot from Lytle Street.

Upon completion, the west side of campus also will be affected in the following ways:

• Traffic flow on Faulkinberry Drive will change to “right turn in, right turn out” onto Middle Tennessee Boulevard.
• A pull-in area for buses will be added to the front of Murphy Center.
• Signalized pedestrian crossings will be added at Lytle and Division Streets, and crosswalks at Bell Street and Faulkinberry Drive will be upgraded.
• Brick walls with signage will be erected at the corners of Greenland Drive, and another wall will be added at East Main Street, to better define the university’s boundaries.
• Flagpoles will be erected at Faulkinberry Drive.

MTSU will lose a portion of three tennis courts during construction, which will be supplemented by the use of the new Adams Indoor Tennis Complex, a partnership between the city, MTSU and the nonprofit Christy-Houston Foundation.

For campus visitors, a printable campus parking map is available at

Off-campus visitors attending events should obtain a special one-day permit from MTSU’s Office of Parking and Transportation at Temporary permits are also available at the Parking and Transportation Services office on East Main Street. No permit is required for the Feb. 18 community meeting.