Office of the Provost

Broadening the Audience: JMU Musicians Featured Through Hold Music and Live Stream


By Elizabeth R. H. Sanchez

In 1966, Alfred Levy patented what is now a campus-wide calling experience: Music on Hold. The invention came after loose telephone wires hit a New York factory’s steel support beam, surprising callers with the voices of local radio station broadcasters. Telephone operators reported the transmission error in Levy’s factory, but as an inventor and entrepreneur, Levy listened to those delighted in hearing sound where there once was silence.

Before the summer of 2016, “people [put on hold] always thought I hung up on them,” mentioned Kimberly McGivern, a curriculum support specialist at JMU. Now, thanks to an array of individuals across campus: Vice President for Access and Enrollment Management Donna Harper, College of Visual and Performing Arts Dean George Sparks, Recording Engineer/Sound Designer Tom Carr, Assistant Vice President for Information Technology Dale Hulvey, and hundreds of JMU student musicians; telephone listeners hear a carefully-selected compilation of voices and instrumentals looping every 30 minutes.

Sparks noted that “two skilled technicians,” Carr and Hulvey, worked to ensure proper sound quality of and transition between musical selections. The pieces “run the gamut” from selections on CDs produced by the School of Music and the Marching Royal Dukes (MRDs) to others out of Tom Carr’s library of recorded JMU concerts not yet on CD. Featured musicians include a faculty flutist, Beth Chandler, the MRDs, and members of JMU’s nine area ensembles. Most notably, an elite choral chamber ensemble directed by Dr. Jo-Anne van der Vat-Chromy, the Madison Singers, can be heard performing Shenandoah and the James Madison University Alma Mater.

“The hold music just gives us another audience,” explained Sparks, a find that he takes seriously and thinks of often; the arts outreach may soon grow. With a new online streaming system installed in the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts, selected audiences will have the opportunity to watch student performances. Relatives living out-of-state, high school band directors and future Dukes will be treated to viewing performances online through a three-camera set-up and a video library.

Both the Music on Hold and the new live streaming system simply extend JMU’s connection with and involvement in widening communities. “Our idea, and I say our because I’m pretty sure it’s shared by the Associate Dean, and the Executive Director of the Forbes Center and all of the area directors of schools, is that we want to expose as many people as we can to what we do; it’s good for the people exposed and it’s certainly good for us. We want the arts to live on into the next generation, and the next generation and the next generation,” stated Sparks.

For those who live locally and do not plan to wait on hold, tickets are on sale for the 2016-2017 Forbes Center Masterpiece Season that features an eclectic array of local, national and international talent. Complete information about JMU’s School of Music can be found by visiting its website

Published: Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Last Updated: Thursday, January 4, 2018

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