Archive for December, 2015

A Conversation with George Papich, Director of the Center for Chamber Music at UNT, by Ruben Balboa

IMG_3162 (1)I have had the distinct privilege during my graduate degree to be a part of the Bancroft String Quartet. Every week , we meet with two professors to go over our progress. One professor, in particular, is Dr. George Papich. He has been a teacher here for nearly 50 years and has taught classes such as Music History, Music Appreciation, Opera, Performance Practice, and Chamber Music. Dr. Susan Dubois and I sat down with Dr. Papich to speak with him about his life and time here at UNT.

Before becoming a professor at UNT, Dr. Papich was called upon to serve in the United States Army whilst in the middle of completing his doctoral degree. During his service, he was the principal violist of the Seventh Army Symphony, with whom he performed throughout Europe; completing 20 concerts in 20 days. Upon returning from his tour of service, he became an elementary music teacher, since the need was there and his course of study had previously been interrupted. He taught there for a year, but was not satisfied with the administration, though he thoroughly loved teaching and the students alike. By happy coincidence, it was then that Northern Michigan University requested that he continue his course of study for his doctorate at their school, which would later lead to Dr. Papich becoming faculty there.

Around the year of 1967, Sandy, his wife, wanted to live somewhere new as she wasn’t fond of Michigan, or the cold weather that accompanies the state. So, Dr. Papich then gave her a list of five universities, and promised if one those universities had an open position, and if they were interested in him, then they would leave Michigan. Shortly after this compromise, he would fulfill his promise to her. Just two days after making this promise, the University of North Texas called offering him a job. At Northern Michigan University, he was making $9,200 a year; UNT offered him $13,000 without even blinking, and even allowed his brother to attend UNT tuition free as a part of his contract.

He then arrived at UNT to teach two viola students, nineteen chamber groups, and several university courses. As a musician he went on to maintain a thriving teaching studio, and performance career. Many of his students have gone on to win orchestral auditions, perform in the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Ft. worth Symphony Orchestra, Austin Symphony Orchestra, and many prestigious chamber groups and quartets. Not only has teaching at UNT for 48 years afforded him to meet and touch many lives, but it has proven that Mrs. Papich’s request to move is one that brought upon a decision they have both been happy with throughout the years.

In the year 2000, Dr. George Papich decided to retire from the University of North Texas, only to return three years later. When asked why he returned to teaching, he said that there were three things most important in his life: family, music, and the people he would interact with and teach. During his brief retirement, he made furniture, played golf, and found that it didn’t bring him as much joy as teaching. “Training young people is something really special,” Papich said, “It’s never perfect but there are times when it is just so good. “  The joy of coaching for Dr. Papich is seeing his students take the next step forward, not being afraid of the challenges, and to hit them head on.

During his time here at UNT, he developed the Center for Chamber Music supported by the Dean of the College of Music, Dr. James Scott. Dr. Papich believed that Chamber Music needed to be more of a priority at UNT. The program started with a piano trio that turned out to be very successful. The trio competed for, and won the Plowman Chamber Music Competition, Colbourn Chamber Competition, and Fischoff Chamber Music Competition.

This primary success has evolved into what chamber music at the University of North Texas is today. Chamber music at UNT currently enrolls over 200 students every semester. Out of those students, 17 musicians are chosen for the Center for Chamber Music Studies. The Center for Chamber Music Studies is comprised of a woodwind quintet, piano trio, brass quintet, and a string quartet. Every week, coaches listen to these groups and there is a final performance every semester. The goals for these ensembles are that when the musicians graduate and leave to go on in the professional world of music, they are capable of being in a chamber group, and know how to efficiently work as a musician and person. They do this by not only teaching students how to play certain pieces, but why we play the pieces the way we do and how to appropriately give our own interpretation.

As we drew closer to the end of the interview, we asked what his thoughts were on the past 48 years of teaching. “It’s been a good job for me”, he said. “The whole concept of growing from two students to thirty students is just amazing. I’m so proud.” He then said, “I feel like I’ve established a good thing, and whoever took over for me would benefit from it. I’ve had the pleasure of watching this enormously talented young lady (Dr. Dubois) follow me, and do a better job than I ever could have.”

When asked what were some of his favorite memories, the amount far surpassed the appropriate length of this article and I have been hard pressed to choose just one to give you insight into the personality of this amazing teacher, man, and musician. It was very clear that he has had a great time here, and true to his humorous personality, has proved to be quite a jokester. He said, “There are plenty of musical memories and then there are some that are just plain fun.” One time at a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, in between the two acts, Phil Lewis (one of UNT’s Violin Professors) chained and locked up Dr. Papich’s viola. When Dr. Papich asked Mr. Lewis to unlock it, he said that he didn’t have a key. So, Dr. Papich had to find a janitor to cut the chain. In return, Dr. Papich grabbed Mr. Lewis’s violin, and hung it up on Lewis’ dartboard. Dr. Papich then proceeded to put darts all around the violin. He remarked that it was very pleasant to have their offices next to each other because he heard a big scream when Mr. Lewis returned to his office. “We lived in a different time. Everyone wasn’t so serious back then. It was a special time”, Papich said.

Dr. Papich has clearly done a multitude of wonderful things in his lifetime for UNT, and more importantly his students. He has touched so many people with his humor, dedication, knowledge, and love. I am so honored to have met him and thankful to him for passing his knowledge onto me and many others.


Until next time,

Ruben Balboa III

Jorge Zapata writes about his experiences as an international student at UNT

November 8, 2015o-COLOMBIASATELLITE-570

Experience as an international student

Since I started my undergrad at the University of EAFIT, Medellin-Colombia (my hometown), my dream was to do some of my studies in a foreign country. I have always thought it would be a good idea to experience other environments to see multiple points of view about the same idea and how the culture in another country can affect the development of some activities, in this case, music.

My name is Jorge Luis Zapata Marín, I was born in Medellin-Colombia. Since I was a child, my mom used to take me to children’s musicianship classes and concerts. I remember that sometimes it was fun but other times it wasn’t.  We used to go to classical concerts and I remember how fast I would fall asleep… I guess it wasn’t the right age to go to those concerts but I can say they were some of the reasons I am where I am. Years passed and I found something which would change my life forever. In 2003, I participated in a program called “La Red escuelas de música de Medellín”.  This was a social program in my hometown which helped children to find their love for music. This was where I started playing the Viola.  In 2009, I started my undergrad at EAFIT with my Viola professor, Dr. Sheldrick.  She is a person who loves what she does, and is one of the most influential people in my life as musician and as a person.

The years have passed once again and now I am studying at the University of North Texas under the tutelage of Dr. Susan Dubois.

Panoramica_de_Medellin-ColombiaAs I said before, it is really important to have different ideas and that’s why I did so many music festivals while doing my undergrad. In one of the festivals, I met Dr. Dubois and I knew immediately that I wanted to study with her because of her teaching and enthusiasm during  lessons.

It is hard to be far away from home, but I would do whatever I have to do to make my dreams a reality. I miss my town, my friends, and my MOM, but it is better to think of the positive things than the negative ones. I have met incredible people, made wonderful friends and  professors, and I have experienced all of the purposes that I had in my mind of going to another country; a different environment, life in a different culture, and  I must say that now that I am in a different place and I don’t have a lot of distractions, I can focus even more on what I am supposed to do.  Practice and study… 

During this year I will keep posting and telling you my experiences as an international student. My hope by writing these posts is to help any potential international student to not be afraid to live their dreams, even if it means to move to another country. 


Jorge Luis Zapata Marín

(Image credit: Google Images)