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Musician’s Career Full of Rewards

unsworth.jpgBy Jane Nicholson BOONE–You won’t find Art Unsworth’s first job on his resume. Unsworth began his music career as a teenager, playing trumpet at a cabaret. Rest assured he went on to bigger and better things.

Unsworth steps down at the end of June as dean of Appalachian State University’s School of Music and will return to the classroom to teach music theory and other courses. A scholarship in his name will benefit future music students.

Music has always been a part of Unsworth’s life. He grew up in a musical family. Unsworth’s father co-owned an automobile agency, but he also played in jazz groups and often hosted jam sessions in the family living room.

As a youngster, Unsworth filled in for a member of his father’s jazz group at a local club. It was a momentous occasion in more ways than one. Unbeknownst to Unsworth’s father, the club had also scheduled a strip show as part of the evening’s entertainment.

“Here I was 14 years old playing trumpet, trying to concentrate on the tunes,” he said. “He never mentioned it,” Unsworth said of his father’s reaction to the evening. “For the rest of his life, he never mentioned it.”

Unsworth played in several music groups throughout high school and earned his way through college as a musician.

He originally planned a career in chemical engineering, but music had its hold on Unsworth.

“I just couldn’t keep the horn put away,” he said. He earned a music education degree from Trenton State College and taught for several years in the public schools.

He later earned a doctorate from Arizona State University and began teaching music theory at Delta State University.

After a stint at Brigham Young University, Unsworth embarked on a career as a university administrator. “I started work on a Saturday, worked on Memorial Day and after just two days on the job my boss handed me the keys to the building and left for a month,” Unsworth said. He survived the experience and spent 11 years as associate dean of the Crane School of Music at State University College in Potsdam.

Unsworth says his position as dean of Appalachian’s music school since 1989 has been so unique that there never was a “downside” to the job. “I have had such support from Provost Harvey Durham, the chancellor and the faculty,” Unsworth said. The music program grew from approximately 26 full-time faculty to 32 faculty under Unsworth’s watch, and student enrollment grew from 275 to 450 students. The music school has added various performance ensembles such as the jazz ensembles, created the Faculty Recital Series that showcases the school’s talented faculty, and added a music therapy degree. Unsworth also takes pride in the music school’s Appalachian Partners in Education scholarship program, which has awarded $70,000 in scholarships in the past three years.

The rewards of higher education administration have been great, Unsworth said. “Seeing faculty being successful and seeing programs grow” are among the rewards Unsworth lists, but it is the students who are at the core of his pride. “Students are really the reward whether you are in administration or teaching,” he said. “There’s not much that’s any better than having a continuing relationship with students and watching them be happy and satisfied with what they are doing.”

It’s fitting that a music scholarship has been created in his name. “There is no greater honor than to have your name associated with a scholarship for students. It was a very overwhelming experience,” Unsworth said. More than $130,000 has been donated or pledged to the Arthur E. Unsworth Music Scholarship fund.

Unsworth looks forward to his return to teaching this fall, an activity he plans to continue for several years before considering retirement. “I have been very fortunate at every twist of the road,” Unsworth said of his career. “I enjoy the association with students. I have always enjoyed teaching. That’s why I went into music education.”

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