November 24, 2010 Edition

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Magee in 26th year at Williams

Dr. Bob Magee, chair of the music department and director of choral activities at Williams Baptist College, will direct the Northeast Arkansas Chorale Christmas concert for the 26th time on Dec. 4. Magee is also in his 26th year as a music professor at Williams Baptist College.
Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

Dr. Bob Magee, chair of the music department and director of choral activities at Williams Baptist College, will again direct the Northeast Arkansas Chorale and The Williams Singers' annual Christmas concert on, Saturday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m. in Manley Chapel at Williams Baptist College. For him, it is a labor of love.

This will be his 26th year of conducting the singers, and he is in his 26th year as a music professor at WBC.

The Chorale is a separate entity but has always been directed in association with WBC. They will present selections from Handel's "Messiah," accompanied by a full orchestra this year.

"It seems like I have always known I wanted to work in the field of music," Magee said. "Because of my family, I grew up surrounded by it. It was everywhere. My relatives were all involved in music in one aspect or another, so music has always been a part of my life."

Born in Tylertown, Miss., Magee began directing his church choir at the age of 15.

"It was a small church, and our pastor asked me if I would lead the choir," said Magee. "He taught me how to use my hands in conducting patterns, and I became a conductor."

Magee finished high school and went on to earn a Bachelor of Church Music from William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Miss., in 1964, a Master of Church Music from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas, in 1968, and a Doctorate of Musical Arts degree at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg in 1989.

He married his college sweetheart, Dolores, and they served as Southern Baptist missionaries in Bogota, Colombia, where he taught music for 13 years. While living in Bogota, Magee said he was very honored to be able to study for a year at Conservatorio Nacional de Bogota.

After returning to Mississippi, Magee was working on his doctorate when he received a call from Jerry Gibbens, a WBC professor. Gibbens, who is now chair of the English and Communication Arts Department at the college, told him that WBC had an opening for a music professor and wondered if Magee and his wife would consider the offer and visit the college.

"I had never heard of the college or the town of Walnut Ridge before in my life," he admitted. The Magees came for a visit and met with the faculty and staff. He accepted the job and began his career at WBC in July 1985.

"It seems like just yesterday, but I met Bob and Dolores over 25 years ago when we interviewed them," said Dr. Jerol Swaim, president of WBC. "We were extremely impressed with that visit and felt that he would be a great addition to our music program, but we didn't know the half of it. The positive impact that he has made on the Williams Singers, the WBC music department and the college as a whole has been beyond what we could have imagined."

Magee immediately began working with the Southern Singers, now called the Williams Singers, when he arrived in Walnut Ridge.

"The Williams Singers are my pride and joy," Magee said.

"There were 18 singers in the group each year," he said. "Tracy Henderson was one of the singers during my first year at WBC. Now she is my accompanist."

"Under Bob's direction, the Williams Singers have been some of the best ambassadors that this college could ever have," said Swaim. "His standard is excellence, and his groups achieve it every time you hear them.

"But beyond the music, the influence that Bob and Dolores have had on these young people is amazing. Many young lives have been made better by the time they have spent with the Magees," Swaim concluded.

"My greatest joy as a music teacher is when a student comes in with innate ability," Magee said. "I get to watch them mature and grow and then see them walk across the stage to receive their diploma."

Dr. Brett Cooper, vice president for college relations, talked about Magee's professionalism and his Christian love.

"Bob's professionalism affects much more than our music program. His personifies the excellence we all aspire to achieve, whatever our area of work at Williams.

"I have also seen countless lives touched by the Christian love and gentleness exemplified by both the Magees. Bob and Dolores are simply among the finest people I have ever had the privilege of working with," Cooper said.

"Working with the Chorale over the years, I have made some very close relationships in the community," he said. "Some of the first Chorale members are still a part of the group and are very, very close friends."

The Magees have one son, Robert Magee of Christiansburg, Va., and a daughter, Melany Bowman of Jonesboro. Magee said that both of their children love music, but neither works in the music field.

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