Music Bio and Background

by Sean Cribbs

Early years

I demonstrated aptitude and interest in music at an early age. At age 5, my parents bought me a tiny electronic keyboard which I would play with constantly, plucking out tunes I heard in church or at school or on the radio. Since the beginning, my talent has been dictation (the memorizing or transcribing of pitch/rhythm patterns), although I did not learn to write notes on paper until much later. My ability to recognize and reproduce patterns accurately has assisted me in the areas of language, mathematics, and computer science.

I did not begin any formal music training until age 10 when my parents enrolled me in piano lessons. I had just reached the skill level of beginning classical pieces (Clementi sonatinas) when I quit taking lessons. Unfortunately, my busy schedule and occasionally surly attitude as a teenager was not conducive to practicing and taking lessons. I did not return to the piano until I was 18, toward the end of my senior year of high school.


My interest in music grew as I entered college. I was lucky to be acquainted with students who had similar parallel interests (music and computer science), many of whom are still great friends. It was these students who urged me to return to piano lessons. I thus resumed lessons my sophomore year in college, with Anna Norberg, who has been a wonderful mentor, inspiration, and encouragement to me. If it were not for her (and Phi Mu Alpha), I would not have made music such an important part of my life. As results of her encouragement, I decided to stay an extra year to get a BA in music, I began composing, I performed in ensembles, I gave a piano recital and auditioned for the Concerto/Aria competition, and I met the love of my life Elizabeth. Her encouragement and the encouragement of other professors also spurred me to get a Master’s degree in music.

Beyond College

Following my undergraduate degree, I began studying in the graduate program in music theory at UMKC with Shirley Bean, Reynold Simpson, and Hali Fieldman. In addition to academic music studies, I also took piano lessons for 4 semesters with Nick Phillips, both through the college and in private. I am still in the process of completing my final degree requirement, the thesis.

In addition to my studies, I directed the Choir at Our Lady of Perpetual Help ‘Redemptorist’ Catholic Church for three and one-half years (Feb 2002-July 2006). This was an invaluable experience for me as I came away with a solid knowledge of choral conducting, rehearsal techniques, and a basic understanding of vocal pedagogy and proper vocal technique. My sense of pitch and intonation was also further honed as I stretched my ears to listen for mistakes among a group of 15-30 voices. Ironically, I chose to resign a few months after the choir put on an hour-long concert with strings and professional soloists.

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