Written by Jacob Smith, Graduate Assistant of the UGA Graduate School
Interview with Asia Passmore, DMA student
Asia Passmore, Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) student in the Hugh Hodgson School of Music, is one of the winners of the 2023 SEC Emerging Scholars Award. This program provides professional development opportunities to prepare top doctoral and postdoctoral scholars for faculty careers.
Passmore is currently working on her doctoral degree in piano performance.
Unlike many piano performers, she began playing later in life. “Most people start when they are six or seven, but I just happened to start piano when I was almost 16,” Passmore said.
Although she started playing piano as a teen, Passmore was always surrounded by music. “I come from a very musical family. My mom and sister play instruments, and my older sister is actually a composer,” Passmore said. “My first instrument was the trumpet, which taught me how to read music, but studying piano was a completely different thing.” She quickly became enthralled by the instrument and knew that she wanted to pursue a career playing the piano.
She received her Bachelor of Arts in music from UNC Pembroke in 2017 and followed with her Master’s of Music Performance from the University of New Mexico in 2019. Passmore began studying at the University of Georgia in 2021 and will complete her DMA degree in May 2024. “I am excited to be back home and finish my degree in the home I grew up in,” she said. Concurrently, Passmore is pursuing a minor in piano pedagogy. “I really love performing, but I also really enjoy the pedagogy field,” Passmore said. “If there is an opening for a piano pedagogy professor or lecturer, I would love to do that.”
Her current research focuses on Afro-British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912). “I am interested in his connection to the United States and the Black community in the States,” Passmore said. “He was proud of his heritage, and his life and music reflect his goal of doing anything he could to uplift that part of his identity and to learn more about it and cling to it.” She explained that his music reflected the pan-African movement and that Coleridge-Taylor wanted to be a symbol for his community. “That goal is reflected in his music, such as 24 Negro Melodies and African Suite,” she said. Passmore is choosing music which she can perform and record that is reflective of those themes. “That will entail much research and reading, investigating unpublished music, and more,” as Passmore contacts archives to obtain material by Coleridge-Taylor. She explained that her doctoral recital and recording have the chance of being a world premier, to be accompanied by her research.
Along with her academic coursework, Passmore taught for two years at the UGA Community Music School. “It’s a great place for people of the community to take lessons,” she said. “Students can take credited lessons, but there are also people of every age who enjoy the uncredited lessons.” Additionally, Passmore interns with the Frances Clark Center for Keyboard Pedagogy where she works to promote DEI in the field of piano pedagogy. She also assists with their quarterly publication for young piano students, called Piano Inspires-Kids.
UGA has helped Passmore expand her skills, thanks to the wonderful professors that invest in their students.
“I would love to shout out my private lessons professor and advisor, Dr. Liza Stepanova,” Passmore said. “Thanks to her bringing the SEC Emerging Scholars program to my attention and encouraging me to apply, I applied and have now won this award that will help me complete my program.”
Another influential professor for Passmore, James Weidman joined the piano faculty in 2021, the year she started her program. “He teaches jazz and African American studies, and he’s also a Black professor which, for me, is really cool,” Passmore said. “He has broad connections and always has strong conversations with me about music.”
She also wanted to recognize Drs. Peter Jutras and Grace Huang, both of whom have encouraged her to explore her interest in pedagogy and encouraged and connected with her throughout her time at UGA.
The UGA Graduate School congratulates Asia Passmore, and all of our SEC Emerging Scholars, on their accomplishments.