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Music Department Chair Angela Willoughby Retires

MC Music Department Chair Angela Willoughby
MC Music Department Chair Angela Willoughby

Angela Willoughby is one of the jewels serving on the Mississippi College faculty. It’s been the case since the MC graduate began teaching music students at her alma mater in 1999.

The chair of the university's Music Department and a superb pianist, Dr. Willoughby, is retiring at the end of the academic year.

Angie began studying piano at age seven, growing up in Rayville, Louisiana. Her accomplishments ever since are off the charts, whether teaching, collaborating with other artists, or going solo.

Dr. Willoughby feels blessed to become an MC professor one year after earning her doctorate in musical arts in piano performance at Louisiana State University.

“I am grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to mentor so many gifted and committed pianists who have gone on to highly successful careers,” the Clinton resident said.

It’s a venerable Baptist-affiliated institution where faith is shared daily with musical guidance.

"The Christian atmosphere and culture of caring for students have been the perfect environment for my students and me as well. I will miss getting to know new students.”

Away from the Clinton campus, Dr. Willoughby shared her musical gifts in church for decades. She's served as a pianist, organist, organist-choirmaster, or choral director. Her first performance came as a 14-year-old Louisiana girl. "From the first, playing in churches was to meet the needs of churches. But over the years, I realized that it was most importantly my own personal way to worship.”

Willoughby polished her craft on the piano as an MC music student, beginning as a freshman in 1977. She graduated from Mississippi College in 1981 with a bachelor of music in piano performance. Her master’s of music in piano performance came in 1983.

The incoming Music Department chair will be professor Ben Williams. Now the department’s assistant chair, he cherishes his retiring colleague.

“Angie’s service and hospitality to us all as a family will unquestionably be missed,” Williams said. “We all wish her well in enjoying a well-deserved retirement.”

Wayne VanHorn, dean of the School of Christian Studies and the Arts, says working with Dr. Willoughby has been a delightful experience.

“She demonstrated professionalism, knowledge of her discipline, and a genuine concern for all of her faculty members,” he said. "She brought patience, understanding, and equity to her role as Department of Music chair.”

Chairing the department for the past eight years, Angie is also greatly admired as a mentor and role model to students.

What’s next for Dr. Willoughby?

“I will still play for sure, and maybe even learn some new pieces that I never had time to learn in the last 40 years.”

Dr. Willoughby worked alongside distinguished MC faculty members who were her teachers on the Clinton campus. The list includes Patricia Walston, Jimmy Sclater, and Janet Taylor. Richard Joiner chaired the department when she was hired. “There is no way I could express the gratitude I have for my piano teacher, Ralph Taylor, who taught at MC for 43 years,” she said.

The Music Department will continue to excel under the leadership of Ben Williams.

An MC music professor since 2010, Ben “knows the history, strengths, and challenges of the department,” Willoughby said. He teaches core music classes, so he is well-acquainted with every music student. "His perspective will serve the department well” in his new role. The University of Akron music graduate earned his doctorate at The Ohio State University.

Honored to serve as the new chair, Ben Williams pledges to keep working to “enliven the artistic community of our campus.”

In her retirement years, family will remain a big part of Dr. Willoughby’s life. Angie’s son, Charlie, is a musician. She loves spending time with her two grandchildren – Clementine and Juniper, ages four and two. Before long, the kids could become the next generation of gifted music professionals.