A music education alumnus helps compose the careers of others in the profession


What began as a career teaching music developed into a career teaching music teachers for Cecil Adderley ’85, chair of music education at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. “Not only through his work at Berklee, but also through his extensive publications and presentations, Dr. Adderley is truly advancing the field of music education,” said Betty Allen ’68, president of the WCU Alumni Association, in presenting him the 2011 Academic Achievement Award. “He is making a difference to countless students and to their students.”

Adderley’s former student Adrienne Alexander, an elementary school music teacher in Somerset, N.J., said she admires the patient way he addresses students’ concerns and the time he takes to discuss their careers, research interests and teaching strategies. “He not only prepared us for the rigorous challenges within our programs, but also gave us a realistic glimpse of what to expect once we had completed our degrees,” said Alexander, who had Adderley as a teacher and member of her dissertation committee at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Meanwhile, as someone who early on in his career embraced incorporating technology into his classrooms, Adderley shared his ideas and innovations on topics ranging from the future of digital music to preparing students for life after the “pomp and circumstance” in publications and local, national and international presentations.

Adderley credited his experience at WCU for preparing him to succeed. “Western Carolina was a place that allowed me to grow, and to explore and test ideas,” he said. “This institution offered me a chance to sharpen my skills as a young artist. The environment here allowed me to work on my weaknesses and refine my strengths, and the friends I made shaped my life.”

Above, Cecil Adderley ’85 (center) accepts congratulations for receiving WCU’s 2011 Academic Achievement Award from Susan Belcher and Chancellor David O. Belcher.

At WCU, he played clarinet, took private piano and violin lessons, performed with the Asheville Symphony and acted in several television programs. In addition, it was one of his friends, a French horn player, who spurred the Columbia, S.C., native to delve deeper into technology and take computer science classes. That friend was considering quitting band, contending that music education majors such as Adderley had it easier than computer science majors such as himself. So to prove that all disciplines have their challenges, Adderley entered a wager to take several computer science classes. If he excelled in them, his friend would stay in band. (Excel he did.)

After graduation, he went to work as a band director in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, and as a marching instructor, head designer and program coordinator for drum and bugle corps. He pursued a master’s degree in music education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a doctorate in music education from the University of South Carolina, and completed a management development program at Harvard University. Before joining the faculty at Berklee in 2004, he served on the music faculty at Rutgers and Benedict College.

Adderley said he has been challenged throughout his career to understand the needs of the people and communities he serves, to learn from his mistakes and to not let obstacles discourage him from trying to grow. Making it worthwhile for him are the students he teaches and serves. “Each class of juniors and seniors is different,” said Adderley. “Even when you are worried if they will succeed as student teachers, they surprise you and rise to the occasion.”