Kansas Wesleyan announced Wednesday that it has named Dr. James McAllister as the university’s new chair of the Department of Music and director of bands. Dr. McAllister began his duties earlier this month.
McAllister comes to KWU following five years at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tenn. During that time, he served as the assistant professor of Music and director of bands, including concert band, jazz ensemble and athletic bands. He also served as the chair of the Fine Arts and Media Communication Department and the director of the Music program.
“Dr. McAllister stood out from the beginning of the hiring process,” said Dr. Damon Kraft, KWU provost. “His experience and knowledge of the region will help take KWU’s department of Music to new heights.”
“It’s a passion to teach music and train musicians,” McAllister said. “I really consider myself lucky; I knew what I wanted to do at 16. I’ve always wanted to be a musician. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher.”
He spent nearly a dozen years at Garden City Community College as the Director of Instrumental Music, from 2003-15.
“From my time in Garden City, I had a large respect for Kansas Wesleyan and its music department,” he said. “It was considered a well-run and well-respected place for musicians. It is somewhere students learn something about the craft they won’t get anywhere else.
“I literally jumped at the chance to join the faculty at Kansas Wesleyan.”
While working in Garden City, McAllister traveled to Lawrence regularly to work on his Doctor of Philosophy in Music Education at the University of Kansas, which he completed in 2012.
McAllister said he was a “band kid” growing up. He began playing the clarinet in the fifth grade and eventually branched out.
“I switched to saxophone because it looked fun to play in a jazz ensemble,” he said.
Upon graduating with his bachelor’s from Shenandoah University in Virginia, McAllister taught middle and high school band in Wilmington, Del., while playing in both Wilmington and Philadelphia.
For McAllister, one alluring aspect of Salina is the variety of performing arts.
“I think the symphony is top-notch,” McAllister said of the Salina Symphony. “I remember hearing them play. The musicians are top-notch. The concerts I attended were really fabulous.”
The Smoky Hill River Festival is another exciting musical outlet, where KWU students will perform Sept. 3 on the Eric Stein Stage.
“The River Festival is important and vibrant,” McAllister said. “I’m ready to embrace and experience it first-hand.”
Kansas Wesleyan has strong community ties, which are essential to the program.
“I know how important arts are to Salina. I’m looking to build partnerships and work collaboratively with local art groups to build better arts programs for not only Salina, but for the region,” McAllister said.
The music schedule begins on KWU’s campus on Sept. 25, with the Honors Choir Festival. The Orchestra, Wind Ensemble and Jazz Concert will take the stage at Sams Chapel at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 28.
Additional performances and festivals are slated throughout the 2021-22 academic year.
“I’m excited about the Fusion Festival in March,” McAllister said. “We’re talking about what acts we will bring. I want to bring a variety of diverse musical styles to Salina. I’m chomping at the bit about that one.”
KWU classes began on campus Wednesday morning.
“I see many great opportunities at Kansas Wesleyan,” McAllister said. “Kansas is an adopted home for me, so it’s good to be home.”