The Department of Music welcomes a new faculty

Opera song

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The Department of Music is proud to welcome its newest faculty members joining the University of Arkansas.

Christa Bentley is Assistant Professor of Musicology at the U of A. Her research focuses on the politics of music at the intersection of folk and popular song. Her current research focuses on the confessional writing of the singer-songwriter movement of the 1970s, which is the subject of her first book. Feeling Free: The Politics of the Singer-Songwriter Movement in the United States (under contract, University of Michigan Press). This project investigates how singer-songwriters provided a new language of musical protest that intersected with the social movements of the 1970s – including the women’s movement, protests against the Vietnam War, environmentalism and black freedom—arguing that in the context of the Nixon era, the singer-songwriters’ faith-based songs emerged as a highly politicized form of communication. This research also gave rise to a chapter published in the Cambridge Companion to the Singer-Songwriter (2016) and a collaboration with the Grammy Museum, California Dreamin’: The Sounds of Laurel Canyon (2014).

portrait of Christa BentleyHis extensive research focuses on 21st century singer-songwriters, in both folk and pop contexts. She co-edits a collection entitled Taylor Swift: the song, the star, the fans (under contract, Routledge) from a 2021 virtual study day dedicated to the artist. The event attracted 300 registered attendees and the resulting collection brings together the multidisciplinary perspectives of an international cohort of authors.

Bentley earned his Ph.D. in Musicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she received the Glen Haydon Award for Outstanding Dissertation in Musicology, and her BA from Texas Christian University. Before moving to Fayetteville, she held a position at Oklahoma City University and taught at Georgia State University. She previously worked with Yep Roc Records in Hillsborough, NC, and with presenting organization, The Bluegrass Situation, and enjoys using her research to engage fan communities. She looks forward to connecting with the musical community in Northwest Arkansas.

portrait of Nathan MertensAmerican saxophonist, Nathan Mertens (he/she) is currently assistant professor of saxophone instruction at the U of A. As an active soloist and chamber musician, he has given recitals in Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Croatia, Bolivia, UK and across the US. He has performed as a soloist with orchestras such as the Busan Philharmonic Orchestra, Hastings Symphony Orchestra, University of Texas Symphony Orchestra, and University of Texas Saxophone Ensemble. ‘Arkansas. Mertens’ orchestral experience includes performances with the San Antonio Symphony and the Omaha Symphony. In competition, he was awarded third prize at the 14th Kurashiki International Saxophone Competition, second grand prize at the Northern Sweden International Music Competition, and was a finalist in numerous national competitions.

Previously, Mertens lived in Tokyo, Japan as a recipient of the Monbukagakusho Research Fellowship from the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. As such, Mertens was the first American saxophonist to formally study in Japan. Realizing that awareness and access to Japanese music was lacking in the West, Mertens created the Japanese Saxophone Database, a resource to connect the rest of the world to all things saxophone in Japan. While in Tokyo, he performed with the Kunitachi Saxophone Ensemble, Japan Saxophone Orchestra, Marie Kikuchi and Emi Kondo.

As an advocate of new music, Mertens has commissioned and premiered works by composers such as Lucy Armstrong, Akiro Ito, Sachie Kobayashi, Andrew Boss, Rob Buckland and Zach Browning. He has premiered these works with many ensembles around the world at the World Saxophone Congress, the North American Saxophone Alliance Conference, and other concert halls. More recently, he commissioned a work from Anthony Greene called “kWEe(a)r(e)”, which focuses on celebrating and uplifting queer identities.

As a clinician, Mertens has been a visiting artist at institutions including the Conservatorio Plurinacional de Música, Oklahoma State University, South Dakota State University, Texas A&M International University, and will be at the University of Texas-San Antonio and at UCLA this year. He has also worked with high schools in the Midwest and Texas. Mertens previously taught at Hastings College, Austin Saxophone Academy, Longhorn Music Camp, and the University of Texas at Austin.

Mertens studied at the University of Texas at the Austin-Butler School of Music, Hastings College, and Kunitachi College of Music, with Stephen Page, Debra Rhodes, and Masato Kumoi, respectively. Mertens is a D’Addario wind artist and Yamaha performing artist and performs exclusively on Reserve products and Yamaha instruments.

Portrait of Pecos SingerSinger of Pecos is part of the new generation of cellists who is as comfortable on the baroque cello as on the modern cello.

He has performed as a soloist with the U of A Symphony Orchestra, the Baroque Ensemble of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and the Santa Fe Youth Symphony Orchestra.

As a principal cellist, he has performed with the Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra, The Orchestra Now (TON), University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra, Maryland Opera Studio, Avanti Orchestra, Londontowne Symphony Orchestra and the San Francisco Conservatory Baroque Ensemble.

His orchestral engagements include performances with the Washington Chamber Orchestra (DC), New Orchestra of Washington (DC), Fairfax Symphony Orchestra and Annapolis Symphony Orchestra. As a Fellow in 2017, Pecos participated in the GRAMMY-nominated album of American symphonic music performed by the National Orchestral Institute Philharmonic, conducted by David Alan Miller.

An avid chamber musician, Pecos recorded two string quartet commissions from Zachary Friedland sponsored by PICES, the North Pacific Marine Science Organization for their Effect of Climate Change on the World’s Oceans (ECCWO) conference in June 2018. In 2022, Pecos has organized a concert. titled “Environmentalism in Contemporary Art” which combined Friedland’s music with a live reading of Jenny Offill’s novel Time, read by the author. Past festival appearances include Bard Music Festival (New York), Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival (Vermont), Hot Air New Music Festival (California), Zephyr International Chamber Music Course and Festival (Italy), the Decoda Skidmore Chamber Music Institute and the International Master Classes Baroque (Austria).

Pecos was previously a member of Bard College (2019-2022), performing with The Orchestra Now (TON), the orchestra-in-residence at the Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center in Annandale-On-Hudson, New York. A finalist in the Coeur d’Alene National Young Artists Competition, Pecos is a former recipient of the Carlsen Cello Foundation.

Passionate about service and leadership through music, Pecos participated for two years in the Conservatory in the Schools program, which brings conservatory-trained instrumentalists to underserved communities to teach in Bay Area public schools. Pecos has also twice participated in the Gratitude Benefit Concerts which support research into the treatment of veterans with PTSD.

Pecos earned her Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Oregon, Robert D. Clark Honors College, and the School of Music and Dance. He earned his master’s degree in music with an emphasis on historical performance at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and earned a doctorate in musical arts at the University of Maryland.

portrait of garrett jonesGarrett Jones has been a bass player for 25 years and in addition to teaching at the U of A, he plays with the Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra and is assistant conductor and bass strings instructor at the Arkansas Arts Academy in Rogers.

Jones is an alumnus of the U of A and graduated in string performance.

His repertoire covers several genres of music, including classical, jazz, musical theatre, blues, funk, folk, Latin, rock and gospel. He has toured the country extensively since 2008, performing with Broadway touring companies, jazz bands, folk concerts and classical ensembles. Jones has also performed with singers and bands such as the Jake Hertzog Trio, Miles Ralston, The Vine Brothers, Brae Leni and Carmen Bruner.

ChaseJones also recently joined the staff as leader of the Hogwild Band and assists with the Razorback Marching Band.