Longtime MU professor and musicologist Michael Budds wiped tears from his eyes as MU alumna Symonne Sparks and MU master’s degree candidates Marques Ruff and Ross Dryer performed powerful notes.
“I have goosebumps on top of goosebumps,” MU School of Music Director Julia Gaines said.
Budds donated $4 million for the creation of the Budds Center for American Music Studies at the MU School of Music. MU faculty, staff, students and friends gathered Wednesday morning in Whitmore Recital Hall for the announcement.
Budds said he is the last surviving member of his immediate family, so the center is a way to memorialize his family.
“This is not the Michael J. Budds Center for American Music Studies. This is the Budds Center because this is my way of honoring my grandparents, my parents, my sister and my brother; and so my family name will survive my own death,” Budds said.
The center will be in the Fine Arts Building in the music school.
“I think it’s remarkable that Budds would choose to leave a legacy like this,” MU Chancellor Alexander Cartwright said. “And that talks about our commitment to the arts, and I’m so happy that we’re able to see this happen for music, which has really been making remarkable strides over the last number of years.”
The donation follows Budds’ retirement last spring after his 37 year career as a professor at MU.
“In many respects, my students have been my children, and like parents, I’ve liked some of my students better than some of the others, but I’ve loved them all,” he said.
MU sophomore Annabel Carter took Budds’ history of American music class last spring.
“It’s amazing to not only have a great professor but a professor who’s passionate,” Carter said. “Whenever you see someone who’s so excited about what they’re doing, it also excites you.”
Cartwright said Budds’ work and commitment to MU is remarkable.
“I’m remarkably proud to be part of an institution that values and recognizes the importance of teaching,” Cartwright said.
Budds took piano lessons beginning in second grade and wanted to be like the musical duo Rodgers and Hammerstein when he grew up.
“I think that would’ve been a bad decision, because I couldn’t have handled the rejection that that kind of lifestyle entails,” Budds said. “But I always knew I wanted to be a teacher and I had these common interests, and it was just natural to put them together.”
Budds’ focus throughout his career was not only on his passion for music and teaching but for American music specifically. Budds said MU is one of few universities that teach American music studies, which is the first course in music history that MU students take.
“Students in the future may not have the privilege of having Budds as a teacher, but he’s remembered through all of our stories and this place that is dedicated to him and to the love of music that he has,” Carter said.
Budds was inducted into the Missouri Music Hall of Fame in September 2014, joining the likes of Scott Joplin, Chuck Berry and Sheryl Crow. He became the first musicologist to have his name added to the museum wall.
Budds has also been named a William T. Kemper Fellow for Excellence in Teaching.
“But it’s not about me,” Budds said. “It’s about the music.”
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