Maestro Roberts makes music

Photo by: Aaron Gotter

Rachel Baggett, Staff Writer

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Like many musicians, Assistant Professor of Music and Coordinator of Music Industry Program Dr. Terry Roberts began playing music at a very early age. Even though Roberts’ father was a music education teacher, he let Roberts develop his own interest in playing instead of pressuring him into an instrument.

Roberts played a variety of instruments including the piano and cello, but ended up sticking with the French horn.

“The funny thing is I didn’t want to play the horn…and then my father said try it for 6 months,” Roberts said. “We never talked about it again.”

After earning his Bachelor of Science degree in music from Florida State University, Roberts travelled to Europe to perform and to further his education. After only a year in Europe, Roberts became the Solo Horn of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Germany. He later moved to Monte Carlo where he became the Solo Horn for the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra

During his time in Germany, Roberts began to take an interest in conducting. At this time in his life, he had played all the significant pieces he could hope to play for the horn and wanted to use his experience to shape an orchestra.

Roberts started off studying different scores and taking classes and eventually began getting small groups together to practice.

Also while in Europe, Roberts discovered one of the oddest and most unique instruments he has ever played, the Alp horn.

Measuring almost 12 feet long, the wooden instrument looks intimidating, but makes a very soft and mellow sound when played.

“I literally was in Switzerland and I heard someone playing it on a mountain, and I drove up the mountain trying to find him,” Roberts said. “He had an extra horn … and he taught me how to use it, and we started playing together.”

After 16 years in Europe, Roberts decided to return to the United States. While he continued to perform and conduct, Roberts also decided to make the transition into teaching.

Just as he did with conducting, Roberts wanted to start teaching because he had gained so much knowledge and experience during his music studies that he wanted to take what he knew and share it with others.

Once Roberts received his doctorate from Florida State University, his family moved to South Carolina where his wife got a job teaching dance.  During that time, Roberts joined the Florence Symphony Orchestra as the conductor and music director. Before he realized it, several years had passed and he was still living here.

When Francis Marion University created their new music industry program and offered Roberts a teaching position, he decided to go with the “force of fate” and stay permanently.

Although Roberts has only been teaching full time at FMU for three years, he already speaks highly about the school and his co-workers.

“I really, really like the people I work with in the Fine Arts Department,” Roberts said. “We really have a nice relationship, and everyone is friends with each other.”

Roberts also really enjoys working with the students at FMU because of their creativity and different ways they interpret the music.  Plus, he went on to add, working with young people keeps him feeling young.

At FMU, Roberts teaches a number of classes from Ear Training to Music Commerce.

Roberts said that his favorite class to teach is conducting.

“I get a kick out of conducting,” Roberts said. “Everyone thinks it’s easy until they get up there.”

Since he began teaching full time, Roberts only has time to perform about seven times a year, which he prefers to all the travelling he did previously. Even though he doesn’t travel and perform as often, that hasn’t limited his musical studies.

“You never stop learning in the arts,” Roberts said. “I’ll never play all the music there is.”

Even with all his travels, performances and musical accomplishments, Roberts still has a very humble view of himself.

“One of the nicest things anyone has said to me was ‘You’re just sort of normal’,” Roberts said. “I’ve been very fortunate that my profession has taken me to the places it has, and hopefully it will continue.”

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Maestro Roberts makes music