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The beat goes on

Percussionist Fred Bugbee heads NMSU Music Department


“I really want to make us a cultural spotlight,” said Fred Bugbee, new head of the New Mexico State University Music Department.

Bugbee, who has been with the department since 1994, said he will seek to develop a closer relationship between the department and the Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra (LCSO), and help Conductor Simon Gallo continue to build the Las Cruces Youth Orchestra and bring an international music festival Gallo hosts in Aruba to Las Cruces.

Bugbee said he plans more interaction between the Music Department and other departments on campus like the Creative Media Institute, including a music degree geared toward film production.

“Right now, our degrees are professional, musical performance, musical education,” said Bugbee, who wants more electives added for music students. That proposal came from Lon Chaffin, Ph.D., who stepped down after more than nine years as department head “to get back to the reason I began this career in the first place, to teach and make music,” Chaffin said in an NMSU news release.

‘I think there’s some exciting directions,” said Bugbee, who succeeds Chaffin.

The Music Department has approximately 130 majors, Bugbee said, and also has a lot of non-major participation. The NMSU Marching Band boasts about 225 students, he said, and the department also includes the orchestra, other bands and choirs.

The department has found ways to safely continue rehearsals and performances during the pandemic, Bugbee said. With a number of safety precautions in place, the NMSU Pride Band was able to put on a concert that was featured on NMSU and City of Las Cruces social media and YouTube and has had more than 16,000 visits to date.

The marching band was featured on the front page of the New York Times in a Dec. 2 article titled “Pantyhose and Trash Bags: How Music Programs Are Surviving in the Pandemic.”

Using hula-hoop tubes, music students developed unique devices to keep themselves six feet apart, and they have used a tent provided by the university to conduct outdoor practices. Students also created unique masks that allows them to be safe and continue to play wind instruments. They’ve done a concert at the NMSU baseball stadium, other safe outdoor concerts and even drive-in concerts with the audiences remaining safely in their vehicles, Bugbee said.

The goal has been to “be able as be as normal as we can,” he said.

Teaching, learning, rehearsing and performing as COVID-19 continues is “such a work in progress,” Bugbee said.

His hope is that the department will be able to return to live performances with audiences next spring.

Bugbee, who had been NMSU’s director of percussion studies before becoming department head, and a member of LCSO, said he plans to continue playing and performing as he grows into the job of department head. He also plans to continue classroom teaching.

Following former music department heads like Chaffin, Bill Clark, Greg Sant and Ken Van Winkle means Bugbee has “big shoes to fill,” he said. “I’m very excited about it. It’s an honor to do it.”

“Thanks to my colleagues and upper administration for trusting me,” Bugbee said in the NMSU news release. “It is a true honor to serve a magnificent department in this capacity.”

 Bugbee has a doctorate and a master’s degree from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, where he was awarded the Eastman Performer’s Certificate. He also has a bachelor’s degree from the University of New Mexico. In addition to NMSU and UNM, Bugbee has taught at Limestone College in Gaffney, South Carolina, and the Brevard Music Center in Brevard, North Carolina.

Bugbee's professional orchestral background includes performances with the El Paso Opera, LCSO, Juarez International Symphony, Brevard Music Festival Orchestra, Santa Fe Symphony, Santa Fe Opera, El Paso Pro Musica, El Paso Symphony, New Mexico Symphony, Charleston Symphony, Greenville Symphony, Asheville Symphony and the Las Cruces Chamber Players.

Bugbee has been recorded on the Capstone label as a member of the Eastman Wind Ensemble on the Sony label. He has given solo as well as ensemble performances at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention, the national convention of the Society for American Musicians, the International Trumpet Guild Convention and the International Horn Society Convention.

In addition, Bugbee has premiered several works for solo marimba at conventions of the Society of Composers.

He has had articles published in "Percussive Notes" and in "Medical Problems of Performing Artists."

Bugbee was a founding member of the Tempus Percussion Quartet, an ensemble which toured the Southeast extensively. He is a member of the LINKS Trans-media Ensemble and an active clinician and adjudicator throughout the Southwest. Bugbee is president of the New Mexico chapter of the Percussive Arts Society.