Brad Wells

Lyell B. Clay Artist in Residence and Director of Choral/Vocal Activities, Lecturer in Music, Emeritus

You often quote Duke Ellington saying, “If it sounds good, then it is good.” You should know.

In 2009, you founded the vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, which you offhandedly described as “a group of young expert singers seamlessly mixing yodeling, belting, Tuvan throat singing and Western classical singing technique.”

No big deal, right?

After the group’s extraordinary musical vision earned you all a Grammy, you arranged for these now internationally acclaimed artists to give master classes and workshops for your students. You brought new energy to our choral program by performing major works, including important new compositions. And you launched a few major musical careers in the process.

Your classes have been defined by a focus on each student and their artistry. As another of your influences, the composer Meredith Monk, says, “Each of us has a unique vocal language, but we’re also part of the world vocal family.” For you, too, each student is a distinct voice within a rich and varied human chorus.

That’s probably why so many alumni cherish memories of how you helped them find their voice. Whether they were singing Thomas Tallis’ classic 40-voice motet, “Spem in Alium,” or rehearsing a work by Judd Greenstein ’01—one of the former students you’ve mentored to artistic success—each former student recalls “that moment”: the point in their artistic development when they had to come forward, draw breath and perform. “He always exuded a calm about him,” one student said. “Everything was going to be fine as long as you trusted him.”

Actually, better than fine. Because, as you taught them, “If it sounds good, it is good.” And you had helped them sound very good indeed.

I hereby declare you the Lyell B. Clay Artist in Residence and Director of Choral/Vocal Activities, Lecturer in Music, Emeritus, entitled to all the rights, honors and privileges appertaining thereto.

June 4, 2023