July 21, 2009
Talented pianist to join Cowley’s music faculty
Seven years after graduating summa cum laude from Southwestern College
in Winfield, Gloria Tham is returning
to Cowley County to teach at Cowley College.
Tham, who has taught classes at Kansas State University, Wichita State University, and most recently the University of Alabama, will be a welcome addition to Cowley College’s Humanities Department according to Humanities Department Chair, Marlys Cervantes.
“We feel very fortunate to have her joining our music faculty in the fall, and we believe she will add strength and personality to the program,” Cervantes said. “Her talents are tremendous, her teaching background is top notch, and her personality will delight our students. All of us on the hiring committee immediately knew she could add so much to the program. She will be an excellent addition to Connie Donatelli and Josh Fleig in the department, and they are both looking forward to working with her.”
Born in Kampar, Malaysia, Tham started piano lessons at age five. She ended up at Southwestern College through the connection with the Methodist Church in Malaysia and Singapore. A visiting faculty member at Southwestern, Bishop Chee Sin Ho (retired bishop of the Methodist Church of Singapore) nominated her for the Bishop's Scholarship.
After graduating from Southwestern College in 2002 with a degree in piano performance, she spent a year as a graduate teaching assistant at Kansas State University.
Tham then transferred to Wichita State University where she finished her masters of music degree in piano performance. She also taught class piano and applied piano at Wichita State.
She will graduate with a doctorate in piano performance from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa this August. She studied under Dr. Noel Engebretson and taught music appreciation and world music at the university.
Tham is excited to return to Kansas and is looking forward to establishing a teaching career at Cowley College.
“The small size of the classrooms and being able to teach a variety of courses interests me,” Tham said. “I like to be able to interact with my students and a large classroom size does not allow that to happen easily. I see lots of opportunities at Cowley. Firstly, there is an opportunity for me to develop a keyboard program for the Cowley County area. Secondly, I would love to offer a world music course, exploring music of different ethnic cultures, for the students at Cowley.”
Tham has traveled extensively, including to a remote village in the Himalayas and experienced firsthand the functions of music for the villagers.
“I enjoy teaching and sharing my experiences with students, in hopes that these accounts will inspire them to pursue their dreams and utilize the abilities they have,” Tham said.
Tham’s research and performance interests are in Chinese piano music and orientalism in Western piano literature. She was invited to present her paper on the Western use of the Chinese folksong, “Jasmine Flower,” at the College Music Society in 2005. Her dissertation was on the influence of Socialist Realism in Chinese piano music during the Cultural Revolution under Chinese history professor, Dr. Anthony E. Clark.
In the fall semester of 2008, she was a Chinese language student at the Central University of Nationalities, in Beijing, China. Her most recent recital, "Chinoiserie at the Piano," was performed as part of the Asia Interest Week at the University of Alabama.
“I think of music as an applied science, with the addition of an aesthetic element,” Tham said. “Playing the piano requires a combination of physical skills and intellectual processing, and emotional qualities thrown into the mix. I enjoy playing the piano because of the process involved in learning a piece and then, performing it. On an academic level, I see music as a documentation of different cultures in different time periods. It is a language which has its own set of rules and syntax. I am fascinated by the influence of music and how it permeates our everyday life.”
Besides performing, she is also involved in music ministry, accompanying, teaching and adjudicating. She has volunteered, performed and presented lectures in Thailand, China, Singapore and Malaysia. She is a member of the Music Teachers National Association and the College Music Society.
In addition to music, she is an avid contra and ballroom dancer, and enjoys photography, reading and traveling.