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UCM percussion professor Alex Smith earns prestigious Fulbright-Hays award

Alex Smith works with the UCM Drumline before marching band rehearsal on Tuesday. (Photo by Erica Oliver/Assistant Photo Editor)

Professors in the UCM Music Department continue to bring home awards and honors.

Assistant percussion studio professor Alex Smith won a Fulbright-Hays award that will allow him to travel to Ghana for eight months to conduct original research, according to UCM Daily.

Photo by Erica Oliver/Assistant Photo Editor

The gyil, a Ghanaian marimba.

“This award was an application process. I am still working out the details right now but (I will) probably be (leaving) in December so I can be back in time for the fall semester,” Smith said.

Smith will be focusing on the gyil, a Ghanaian marimba, during his time in Ghana for his research.

“It’s tuned to a pentatonic scale, and it’s used in cultural ceremonies such as funerals and weddings. Usually two people play at the same time,” Smith said.

This will be Smith’s fourth time going to Ghana.

“Being able to stay in a place for an extended period of time is always a life-changing experience because you re- ally kind of start to absorb the things that are going on around you,” Smith said. “I will get a better understanding of the food, culture, people, music, and the language, which I’ve been studying for three years now.”

Smith hopes to bring some of what he is able to learn in Ghana here to the University of Central Missouri to help teach the percussion students he works with on a daily basis. Smith said he would like to see other study abroad opportunities for students as well.

“Dr. Smith is one of the best teachers I’ve had in my time at UCM,” said Daniel Gardner, a senior percussion performance major. “He is able to identify what areas you struggle in and cater his teaching to help better your understanding. He has impacted me by showing me an entirely new way to understand and perform music.”

Smith said a residency was started last year that highlights continental African musical traditions.

“I think that spending that much time in Ghana will definitely make Ghana a part of who I am,” Smith said.

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