Fayetteville State University’s Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Science for Graduate Studies and Choral Director Marvin Curtis was a young man, there were two things he wanted to do. 
“My goal when I got out of high school was to return to my high school and be a choir director. That was it,” said Curtis. “I thought that was the experience of a life time until I became one and thought. … ‘This is not it, there’s got to be more to life.’”
    His other goal was to be a world class concert pianist. “Then I decided that I wasn’t going to work that hard. I’m not that kind of competitor,” said Curtis. “Although I loved it, it just wasn’t quite what I needed.”
    Like most of us, his life took some unexpected twists and turns. Curtis made history when his musical composition, The City on the Hill, was performed by the Philander Smith Collegiate Chorale and United States Marine Band at the 1993 inauguration of President Bill Clinton. He was the first African-American composer commissioned to write a choral work for a presidential inauguration.
    {mosimage}He arrived in Fayetteville in 1996 as FSU’s choral director, and was recently named the dean of the Raclin School of the Arts at Indiana University-South Bend, Ind.
    As Curtis prepares to leave Fayetteville and FSU, his fondest and proudest memories are the experiences he has shared with his students and the difference he has made in their lives.
    “I will always cherish the fact that I took these kids to Europe. This choir had never been outside of the country, so in 1998 we embarked on our first trip, a one week trip to France and I got to live my dream out — which was to conduct in the Cathedral of Notre Dame,” Curtis recalled. “That’s one of my fondest memories. I think that is one of the most enduring things we did. We took the students out of the confines of being locked to North Carolina. A lot of these students had never been out of the state, let alone out of the country, and here I had 60 college students for a week singing in Paris and Belgium.”
    There were other trips too. “You can’t take all of them to Europe, but you find opportunities,” said Curtis, recalling excursions to Vancouver, Canada, Georgia, Washington and Florida.
    And then there is the Opera Series. “I was told ‘You can’t do opera in Fayetteville.  No one is going to come.’ Well, we had 4,000 people show up and we’ve done high-class opera,” said Curtis. “If I had just listened to everybody we still would have just had a normal choir; we went outside our comfort zone, sometimes by the seat of our pants.”
And even though it was hard work, it was worth it. “We had a good time. We brought art to the forefront. It was my chance also to be the artist I always wanted to be. We created some new adventures. We brought artists to the campus. We turned Fayetteville State into an art oasis,” said Curtis.
    Now, the challenge is going to be different. Being a dean is a lot different from being a department chair. “For the first time in 20 years I won’t be going to the classroom; I will be going to the office,” said Curtis. “I am going to have to use my creative juices with the faculty and staff. I want to take what I have learned here to Indiana, take my show on the road and see what happens.”
    Even as that yearning for something new and different pulls Curtis in a new direction, he says what he will miss most about Fayetteville is the people. “People here have been very kind to me. They’ve been very generous to me and I guess what I am going to miss that the most.”
    Fayetteville residents have one last chance to wish Curtis well by attending the performances of The Marriage of Figaro, which will be on stage at FSU’s Seabrook Auditorium July 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m. There will be a children’s matinee on July 19 at 1 p.m., sponsored by The Youth Growth Stock Fund. The matinee is a one-hour presentation for youth and families and tickets are free. Visit the Web site to reserve seats.
    Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children and $8 for senior citizens and military.  Interested persons and groups can go to the Web site: www.uncfsu.edu for information on tickets for this event, or call 672-1276.

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