Dr. Jillian Baxter serves as Assistant Professor of Music at Albany State University and is a native of North Augusta, S.C. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Middle Tennessee State University, her master’s degree from Belmont University in Nashville Tenn., and her doctorate from the University of Georgia under the direction of Timothy K. Adams. Dr. Baxter began her career as a classical pianist and later added the study of jazz and world music in piano and percussion. In addition to teaching at the college level, she has taught middle school and high school general music, theory, and choir. In her spare time, Dr. Baxter writes motivational literature, percussion music and articles, and enjoys playing freelance and as a church musician.
Rhythm! Scene: If you weren't a university percussion professor, what career could you see yourself having pursued?
Jillian Baxter: I would be a writer, because I love to write short stories and have always thought about writing a book or compilation. I have collections of stories I have written over the years, and maybe one day I will see about getting some of those in circulation.
R!S: What's one thing in your institution or city/town (other than your school of music or music department) that you are proud to tell people about?
JB: At Albany State University, we have a wonderful camaraderie among our divisions and faculty. Within out Visual and Performing Arts Department we actively work together to collaborate and do interdisciplinary events with music, visual arts, theatre, and dance all the time. We like to have students be well-rounded in the arts!
R!S: What's one thing about you that your students would unanimously proclaim?
JB: Most of my students would proclaim that I am very approachable. I like to create an environment where all students feel comfortable asking me questions and can truly take charge of their own education. My office door is always open, and most students stop by multiple times a week just to say hi or update me on how they are progressing. They also love to come in and play small snippets of what they are working on before their lesson day.
R!S: What is your favorite percussion instrument and why?
JB: At first my favorite percussion instrument was the marimba, probably because it was so similar to the piano, which I also played. Over the years I have rotated through being centered on snare drum, then multi percussion, then timpani and vibraphone. It has changed so much because I am so fascinated with the multiple timbres that can be achieved by each family of instruments. If I had to choose my favorite right now... I am on a timpani and vibraphone rotation. I choose these because so much literature has come out in the last 5–10 years expounding on the sounds that can be enhanced other than with traditional playing (e.g., rim/center/normal, playing with recordings, pitch bends, and other instrument combinations with the instrument).
R!S: Where did you grow up, and what’s one interesting thing about your childhood (musically or otherwise)?
JB: I grew up in North Augusta, South Carolina. My first instrument was the piano, which I began at age five. My mom's best friend told her it looked like I had piano hands, and she wanted to teach piano to me. I fell in love with the instrument. In middle school, I actually wanted to play the clarinet with my best friend, but my band director told me I needed to play percussion instead. I was disappointed until I got my first percussion kit. After that I was a percussionist for life!