Spears Wins 2023 ATU Solo Music Competition

Allison Spears
Allison Spears

Even after all she has accomplished over four years as a standout member of the Arkansas Tech University band program, Allison Spears can still get nervous before a solo performance.

“I would not have ever believed that I would have willingly gone up and performed in front of people, let alone for a competition,” said Spears. “I almost did drop out of it because of nerves and everything, but I decided it was my last thing of senior year so I might as well do it. It was just for fun, and that’s how I approached it.”

That approach helped Spears win the ATU Department of Music Solo Competition at the close of the spring 2023 semester. She performed “Concerto for Marimba” by Brazilian composer Ney Resauro and earned the prize of $300 from Phi Mu Alpha music fraternity.

Other competitors were Brendan Frazier of Denton, Texas (trombone), Tess Butler of Hot Springs (clarinet) and Sanders Hilburn of Cabot (trumpet). ATU music faculty members Dr. Tim Smith and Dr. Mary Trotter provided accompaniment on piano.

“I’m so grateful to have won it,” said Spears. “I competed against three other competitors. They are great friends of mine, and they all deserved to win it. I felt so unworthy because they are all amazing.”

A native of Van Buren, Spears was active in the marching and concert band programs at ATU throughout her four years on campus.

“I’ve learned so much about how to work hard and persevere through collaboration,” said Spears. “Even from the outside looking in, you can see how much the directors pour into us. They only want us to succeed and they push us, even when we think we can’t do it. We can, and then we see that at the end of the semester. I am grateful that I and my colleagues were pushed out of our comfort zone. If you’d told me freshman year we would do this much, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

ATU music faculty mentors such as Dr. Daniel A. Belongia (director of bands and professor of music), Dr. Jonathan Nash (associate director of bands and assistant professor of music) and Dr. Jim Daughters (former associate director of bands) were among those who helped Spears realize her potential.

As a percussionist, she also benefited from the expertise of Philip Parker, professor of music and a member of the ATU faculty since 1977.

“He has grown me in so many different ways,” said Spears when asked about Parker. “There are so many things I didn’t know when I got here. As a percussionist, you arrive thinking you are a keyboard player or a timpani player. He pushes you to grow in other aspects so you are well rounded by the time you leave. The relationships at ATU have brought out just how much of a family we are. You really make close connections, and I’m grateful for that.”

Spears will complete her student teaching internship during the fall 2023 semester and graduate from Arkansas Tech in December. Her goal is to become a percussion educator at the K-12 level.

Learn more about the ATU Department of Music at www.atu.edu/music.