Feature Story

Tucker Teaching Award recipient encourages kindness, support in the classroom

Music professor and composer Kevin Morse (’02) honoured with University's highest teaching award
By: Laura Dillman Ripley

Kevin Morse (’02) is known to many Allisonians in a few roles — former classmate, performer, professor, mentor, and now, award-winning teacher. Morse, an associate professor in Mount Allison’s Music department, is the 2020 recipient of the Herbert and Leota Tucker Teaching Award, the University’s highest teaching honour.

“Teaching alongside so many faculty colleagues who really invest in this part of their work is inspiring. I’m humbled to be recognized with the Tucker Award,” he says. “I appreciate the Tucker family’s long-standing and generous support for teaching excellence and the visibility that this award gives to teaching.”

Returning to Mount Allison in 2011 with a PhD from Western University, Morse teaches Music courses in a number of areas, specializing in music composition, orchestration, and arranging. He also teaches the Opera History and Introduction to Music in Canada courses, which are open to students from a wide range of backgrounds, including non-Music students.

Morse has always had an interest in teaching. Following his graduation from Mount Allison, he worked for several years at an international school and also spent nine summers on staff with Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth summer programs. As a graduate student, he was a co-coordinator of Western University’s teacher assistant training program and taught first- and second-year composition courses in the Don Wright Faculty of Music.

“The larger classes I experienced in grad school really made me appreciate the smaller groups and the ability we have to work one-on-one with so many students at a place like Mount A,” he says.

Morse’s classes focus on the practical skills of writing music and involve hands-on, experiential learning as students turn their initial ideas into a written score and eventually into a live performance or electronic composition. They also include discussion-based workshops.

“I think it’s important to create a creative and supportive environment in the classroom, but also one where students can give and receive critical feedback that helps them become better artists,” he says. “It’s a vulnerable thing to share a creative composition with your peers and it’s important that students feel that both I and their classmates are on their side, helping them to do their best work.”

His students agree with this approach wholeheartedly.

Hanna Wilson studied with Morse throughout her Music degree at Mount Allison, including as a summer research student. Wilson graduated this spring and has received a graduate scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to pursue her master’s degree at the University of Toronto.

“While studying and working with him, Dr. Morse went out of his way to teach me essential skills that would not have been covered in a traditional classroom setting, such as writing grant applications and time management for a healthy work-life balance,” she says.

Wilson is among many students who have benefited from Morse’s ‘learn by doing’ approach and balance in and outside the classroom.

Student composers have their compositions performed in the New Music @ Mount Allison concerts Morse organizes each semester, a series which he started in 2012. And in 2019 he created a new partnership for student composers to create new compositions for the Music department’s chamber ensembles to perform at the end of the semester.

Along with his classes, Morse supervises student summer research programs each year and has seen several of his students go on to top music programs in Canada for their own graduate studies. One recent student researcher was Emily Leavitt, who completed a project in 2019 focusing on women and live coding music in the 21st century. This project intersected with some of Morse’s own studies during a recent sabbatical of electronic music in New York City.

“I am thankful to have had the chance to work with Dr. Morse on an independent student research project,” says Leavitt. “Dr. Morse was, and continues to be, an encouraging, curious, and kind figure in my professional and personal life.”

Leavitt graduated this spring and is headed to McGill University this fall to begin a Master of Musicology degree.

Established by Edmund, Harold, and William Tucker in memory of their parents, the Herbert and Leota Tucker Teaching Award is intended to encourage excellence in teaching at Mount Allison University by acknowledging those who exemplify it.