Union welcomes new music professor

Stefani Leeper

This semester, Dr. Ricky Little joined the Division of Fine Arts as the director of choral ensembles, the UC singers and Unionaires. The North Carolina native is also currently teaching private vocal lessons, music history and vocal pedagogy.

Dr. Little, who began his interview process with Union College earlier this year in February, first heard of Union College several decades ago while attending Oakwood University..Little did he know a book, a couple friends and his choice of career would someday lead him to Union College.

Growing up, Dr. Little spent time at his grandparents’ house and was fascinated by the collection of books they had on their bookshelves. One Saturday, he decided to pluck a book from the shelf.

Within the pages were details of the Sabbath. Having worshipped on Sunday, he had always thought the concept of worshipping on Saturday was weird. However, this reading compelled him to test the waters. Praying aloud, he said, “I love the Lord, and Lord, I don’t work on the Sabbath, anyway.”

Years down the road, Little was baptized as a Seventh-day Adventist and later that year attended Oakwood University, where he would eventually earn a Bachelor’s of Arts and Music degree.

He later received a fellowship for graduate school at The Ohio State University. During his first year, he completed a Masters in Vocal Pedagogy. He then started working toward a Doctor of Musical Arts degree (DMA) in vocal performance.

Doctorate degree fresh in hand, Little visited Europe as part of a “Carmen Jones” musical production tour. His visit evolved into moving to Germany, where he began performing concert duets.

Eventually, he was contacted by Oakwood University and was asked to teach. He did so while still maintaining hold of an apartment in Germany, travelling between the two locations frequently.

Little directed the choral program, ensembles, and two choirs at Oakwood. He also taught music courses. With the Aeolians, Oakwood’s travelling 45-voice choir, he toured America, recorded for the Breath of Life telecast and sang at the 50th Anniversary of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) for President Bill Clinton.

Little moved onto Morehouse College where he worked for the Martin Luther King Jr. Chapel as the Director of Music. From there, he went to Morehead State University and taught there for about 18 years as a private-applied teacher of voice and other related courses.

During his entire career, Little has also doubled as a professional singer in at least four continents. For 17 years he travelled as a conductor and singer with the American Spiritual Ensemble, whose primary focus is “keeping the American Negro spiritual alive.” With the ensemble, he has performed in over 24 major cities around the world and in 18 countries, including Spain, France, Brazil, Ecuador, England and the United States.

A world traveler and renowned musical artist, it’s puzzling how he could have ended up in the plains of Lincoln, Nebraska. He has a simple explanation: “The Lord brought me here.”

After Little had retired from Morehead State University, two of his friends told him there was a musical position open at Union College. He also received an email with information about the opening.

“I’m so excited to be working with the choir here,” he shared, making mention of their “great talent.”

“It’s a joy to work with them each day, and see them grow and progress. It’s a wonderful environment to work in and pray with people and talk about the Lord. It’s great. You can’t beat it.”

Because of his experience, he has an “open door policy” in which he allows non-music majors to pursue their musical passions under his guidance. “You gotta give young talent enough time to develop before making judgements,” he said in a personal interview. “99% of people have talent; you need to be patient to work with it.”

Stefani is a junior studying communication.