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Potter to be honored at concert for his service to Department of Music at Wingate

Dr. Kenny Potter has been teaching music at Wingate University since 2005. Photos by Wingate University

A nurturing environment and music experience that is both broad and intense — those have been key goals of Dr. Kenney Potter, who will leave Wingate University this summer, after nearly two decades.

A music faculty member since 2005 and chair of the department beginning in 2015, Potter will concentrate on his role as editor for school and concert choral music for ECS Publishing. He also serves as the artistic director of the Charlotte Master Chorale and choral conductor at Covenant Presbyterian Church.

“Kenney’s passion for choral music and teaching was infectious,” says Jessie Wright Martin, who has served alongside Potter as a voice and opera professor and was named chair of the department in January in anticipation of his departure. “Students were very excited to come to Wingate to work with him. He helped to build a faculty that works really well together so we can best serve our students.”

Martin said that in addition to recruiting students from across the region to the program, Potter built relationships with teachers and community members.

“He was responsible for elevating the level of the music program, bringing recognition from students and teachers,” she said.

Potter is a graduate of Florida State University with a master’s in music education from Portland State University and a doctorate in choral conducting from UNC-Greensboro. He had planned to teach for a year after earning his master’s and then head to Italy to study opera. But he fell in love with teaching and has passed that love to students in Wingate’s music education major.

Jenna Hinson Corley, 2021-2022 Teacher of the Year for South Brunswick Middle School, graduated from Wingate in 2015. She said it was during her student teaching in Gaston County that she began to appreciate Potter and her challenging Wingate classes.

“I always hear of student teachers hating their lives, but I loved it. I felt so prepared,” Corley says. “The instruction that Dr. Potter gives, the way he teaches, is so focused on music literacy. He taught me how to teach by example, always giving constructive and encouraging feedback.”

Potter rehearses University Singers.

Potter says members of Wingate’s music faculty nurture students even before they show up at the Batte Center.

“Once they commit, we are offering them opportunities: to be in the opera, to go ahead and have a repertoire to start working on,” he says. “The students that we recruit want that intention and intensiveness.”

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As for a broad experience, he cites Martin’s opera program in addition to a number of travel opportunities.

Since “Hansel and Gretel” in 2007, the department has staged a full opera each fall and produced opera scenes during the spring.

In 2008, the University Singers performed a featured concert at the North Carolina Music Educators Association Convention, which helped solidify Wingate’s spot as a top music program in the state. And beginning with a South Africa choir tour in 2010, the department embraced international travel as another high-impact practice.

Music majors went to Estonia for a festival in 2012, to South Africa in 2014, and to Austria and the Czech Republic in 2016. Potter’s choirs have received wide-spread acclaim including winning the Grand Prix for best choir in the Pärnu International Choral Festival in Pärnu, Estonia.

As his last official duty for the University, he’ll take an ensemble of around 30 students, alumni and friends of Wingate to South Africa on June 8. Their itinerary includes stays in both Johannesburg and Cape Town, excursions to a safari park and a private game reserve, as well as singing engagements at Wits University and Rosebank Union Church. This will be his fourth time taking Wingate students to South Africa.

As a performer, Potter has been a featured soloist in Carnegie Hall, and was choir soloist for the Grammy-winning Oregon Bach Festival choir as well as the International Bach Academy.

As a clinician, he has conducted festival choirs for the National Association for Music Education and the American Choral Directors Association in Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia as well as in Nairobi, Kenya and Johannesburg, South Africa. In 2019, the North Carolina ACDA awarded him the Lara Hoggard Award for distinguished accomplishments in the field of choral music.

Behind the scenes, Potter worked to help ensure that Wingate’s music department was well-funded and that students’ needs were being met. He partnered with the University’s Office of Advancement to complete the Campaign for Music and the Steinway Campaign. Under his watch the department undertook several diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives beginning in 2020, including faculty training to learn how to incorporate DEI concepts into curriculum, regular meetings to hear from minority students, purchases of more-diverse music collections and increased efforts to invite more ethnically diverse guest artists to present recitals and masterclasses.

The University will honor Potter for his 18 years of service with special recognition during the Spring Choral Concert on Thursday, April 20. The outdoor event, set for 7 p.m. in front of the George A. Batte Jr. Fine Arts Center, will be followed by a reception inside and outside of the Batte Center Rotunda.