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Facing the final curtain call: Dr. George Mabry to retire

March 25, 2003

Some say hes truly gifted. Others say hes a total ham. Both are accurate.

Whats also accurate is that whether hes teaching students, singing solos, conducting choral groups or directing one of his original and magical musical productions, Dr. George Mabry always leaves the audience wanting more.

However, Mabry has decided that, when the curtain comes down on this semester, it will be his last, the end of a long and successful run as professor of choral music and director of the Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts at Austin Peay. March 25, 2003

Some say he's truly gifted. Others say he's a total ham. Both are accurate.

What's also accurate is that whether he's teaching students, singing solos, conducting choral groups or directing one of his original and magical musical productions, Dr. George Mabry always leaves the audience wanting more.

However, Mabry has decided that, when the curtain comes down on this semester, it will be his last, the end of a long and successful run as professor of choral music and director of the Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts at Austin Peay.

Although Mabry may teach a couple of classes for a few semesters, he will retire as a full-time faculty member and director of the Center for the Creative Arts as of June 30, 2003.

In true theatrical style, he's going out with a great flourish. On March 11, at the famed Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, he received the Governor's Award in the Artspresented to him by Gov. Phil Bredesen in recognition of his statewide leadership in the arts.

The list of accomplishments that garnered him this honor is extensive. Among them, he has been the founding director of the Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts for 18 years. In addition to serving as center director, music professor and director of choral activities at APSU, Mabry has been choral director of the Nashville Symphony Chorus since 1977.

He was president of the Tennessee American Choral Directors Association in 1999-2001, musical arranger for numerous shows at Opryland USA from 1972-82 and musical arranger/choral director for the NBC special, “From Nashville to Moscow,” starring the Opryland Singers under his direction.

Also under his direction, the APSU Chamber Singers performed at the national conventions of both the American Choral Directors Association and the Music Educators.

In 1974 Mabry's musical production, “Country Music USA,” was presented at the White House and toured the Soviet Union under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Cultural Affairs.

Mabry has enjoyed many aspects of his APSU career, but what he remembers most fondly are “the many wonderful musical experiences with the students singing in choral groups.”

He recalls the performances in San Diego before thousands of choral musicians at the 1997 National Convention of the American Choral Directors Association as especially memorable. “The standing ovation of 2,000 of your peers in recognition of the students' remarkable performance was a true highlight,” he says.

Mabry also appreciates the many e-mails, telephone calls and letters he has received through the years from former students who, in varying degrees, attribute their own successful careers to the time spent at APSU under his tutelage and leadership.

In his nomination of Mabry for the Governor's Award in the Arts, Marlon Crow, associate director of the Center for the Creative Arts, wrote: “The work of Dr. George Mabry has enriched the lives of millions of people, not just in Tennessee, but throughout the world.

“His work as a university professor, as well as guest conductor, clinician and adjudicator for choral festivals and all-state choirs, has made him a significant mentor for young people throughout the country. Through such roles, he fosters excellence in, appreciation of and access to the arts on a grand scale.”

Mabry earned the bachelor's degree in music from Florida State University in Tallahassee. He earned both his master's degree and PhD in music from George Peabody College for Teachers, now a part of Vanderbilt University.

As a graduate student at Peabody, Mabry auditioned to take a class under a famous Broadway conductor. Following the audition, the conductor told Mabry, “You should give up music. You have no talent at all.”

Although Mabry was demoralized temporarily, the experience cemented his resolve to succeed in the world of musical writing, performance and production. And it also taught him a lesson about mentoring young people: “I make sure never to tell my students they can't do something,” he says. “They should dream bigand go for it.”

After 30 years of service to Austin Peay, Mabry's biggest fan and best friend continues to be his wife, Dr. Sharon Mabry, an APSU professor of voice, director of graduate studies in music and nationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano.

In an article in “The Leaf-Chronicle,” she is quoted: “I've sung with a lot of conductors over the years, and I can honestly say I've never sung for a conductor I respect more than George. He really knows the working of the music, and that comes out in the performance. He's able to get musicians to perform at a higher level than they might otherwise.”

The couple has no intention of retiring to Floridawhere they met as doctoral students--when she some day steps down from the faculty at APSU.

Quite the opposite of the title of his acclaimed 1984 musical “Clarksville Movin' On,” Mabry and his talented wife won't be “movin' on” from Clarksville. For them, the Queen City is home.