Musician turned mentor: Professor teaches passion to students


The first thing in sight through the doorway of her office is a large black piano in the corner. Adjacent to it is a vintage harpsichord with the bust of Chopin, a composer and pianist, resting on top of it. The walls are lined with book shelves that are laden with books, papers, a Beethoven action figure and sheet music.

To the left of the doorway sits a desk where Dr. Cynthia Hukill, head of the department of music and associate professor of music, is sitting and grading music theory assignments shortly before the day ends.

Hukill has been involved in music for nearly her whole life. When she first started playing music, it was “one of those things where it just got a hold of me,” she said. “What we say a lot of times is that, and its true for me, I didn’t really choose music: it chose me.”

Hukill was seven years old when she first started playing instruments, specifically, her favorite, the piano. Her aunt, who was a music teacher, was “sort of an inspiration to me,” she said.

It took her a few years before she became skilled, but it is one of those things where “I don’t remember not knowing this stuff,” Hukill said. “It goes back so far; I’ve always done it.”

Hukill went to school for music and got her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. In the following several years, she went to work on her doctorate at the University of Missouri in Kansas City, Missouri. While she was there, she hosted a private studio in her house where she taught piano early in the morning, in the afternoon and at night.

“Whenever I could cram the students in,” Hukill said. “I had a lot of students.”

After a few more moves, Hukill made it back to Arkansas where she teaches here at Arkansas Tech University.

Aside from teaching, Hukill has performed around the region as well around the world. She has played in Kansas City, Dallas and Arkansas as well as in England, Australia and Taiwan.

Throughout her life and music career Hukill has been exposed to many composers and many styles, but, instead of having any one favorite, she claims to “love everyone.”

One particular composer, of whom she has a picture on her wall of, is Richard Wagner.

“I love Wagner,” Hukill said. “He’s one of the great geniuses of the 19th century.”

As far as style goes, Hukill’s favorite is Romanticism of the 19th century. The Romanticism was “this great artistic blooming of music and poetry…and it’s not that far away,” Hukill said.

The exposure to many different composers and styles as well as different experiences in learning and teaching added to Hukill’s knowledge and experience in music. She pours out the accumulation of knowledge and experience here at Tech, her favorite place to teach.

“To me, it has the most talent…its most exciting, there’s the most potential,” Hukill said.

As far as working with music and students at Tech goes, “we’re all working at the same thing and we are working together for this marvelous art form,” Hukill said. “I am up here at night a lot of times and on the weekends for concerts and my colleagues are too…they just work so hard and so do all the students.”

Some of the upcoming ensemble and recital events this fall are:

  • Dr. Nicolas del Grazia’s Faculty Recital, Oct. 13 at 7:30 p.m. in the Witherspoon Auditorium
  • Arkansas Band of Distinction, Marching Exhibition, Oct. 18 at Fort Smith Southside High School
  • Arkansas Band of Distinction, Marching Exhibition, Oct. 18 at Russellville High School; Trombone Choir, Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m. in the Witherspoon Auditorium
  • University Choir Concert, Nov. 15 at 7:30 p.m. in the Witherspoon Auditorium
  • Percussion Ensemble, Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m. in the Witherspoon Auditorium; Jazz Ensemble, Nov. 18 at 7:30 p.m. in the Witherspoon Auditorium
  • Symphonic Wind Ensemble Concert, Nov. 20 at 2:30 p.m. in the Witherspoon Auditorium
  • Music Theatre Workshop, Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m. in the Witherspoon Auditorium
  • Feast of Carols, Dec. 4 at 2:30 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in Russellville.