Published: Fri Aug 29, 2003Charles Faulkner Bryan was the kind of teacher, composer and musician who touched many lives — including the life of a biographer who never knew him.
Carolyn Livingston — a 1959 Tennessee Tech University music education graduate whose biography, Charles Faulkner Bryan: His Life and Music, has just been published by the University of Tennessee Press — said she would have probably enjoyed being his student or colleague, though.
Bryan was the head of the music division from 1935 to 1939, when TTU was still called Tennessee Polytechnic. He was the first Tennessee musician to win a Guggenheim Fellowship and the first composer anywhere to write a symphony based on white spirituals.
“I’ve long considered him to be a role model for my own teaching and musicianship,” said Livingston, who is the director of graduate studies in music at the University of Rhode Island.
She will make several book-signing stops in Tennessee in September, beginning with one at Jackson’s Davis-Kidd at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 17. Other stops are as follows:
• Brentwood’s Barnes & Noble at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 18;
• McMinnville’s Southern Museum & Galleries of Photography, Culture and History at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 20;
• Cookeville’s BookWorks at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 21;
• Knoxville’s Barnes & Noble at 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 22;
• Chattanooga’s Barnes & Noble at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 23;
• And the 15th Annual Southern Festival of Books: A Celebration of the Written Word on Oct. 10-12 at Nashville’s War Memorial Plaza.
Livingston first learned of Bryan’s career from her mother, Myrtle Lee Harris, who’d taken one of his classes when she was an education student at TTU.
“It’s not an exaggeration to say Bryan’s name was a household word in the home where I grew up,” she said.
It wasn’t until she was a graduate student at the University of Florida around 1980, however, that she chose to write her dissertation about Bryan. Even at its completion, her interest hadn’t been exhausted.
“He was ahead of his time because he, more than most musicians then, drew music out of its discrete categories — like classical, popular, folk and jazz,” Livingston said. “He also taught his students that the culture they already possessed was as worthy as any other and did not need to be discarded in order for them to become educated persons.”
She continued to lecture and write articles about his career, and the 1995 discovery of some long-forgotten personal papers at his McMinnville home gave her more than enough information for the book.
“Tennessee Tech University, as an institution of higher learning, and the state of Tennessee have a right to be extremely proud of Charles Faulkner Bryan,” Livingston said. “I hope my book will help to make readers and music listeners alike aware of his many contributions to American music.”