Renée Baptiste named head of JSU’s Department of Music

Renée Baptiste, JSU's director of music education, has been named the head of the Department of Music. (Matt Reynolds/JSU)Renée Baptiste, JSU's director of music education, has been named the head of the Department of Music. (Matt Reynolds/JSU)

Madison Bailey, Correspondent 

Jacksonville State music education professor Renée Baptiste has been named head of the David L. Walters Department of Music.

Baptiste, the director of music education, was initially asked to serve as the interim department head in the spring of 2020, succeeding Thomas McCutcheon. Now, she will serve in the role full time.

“My serving as department head provides an opportunity to work with wonderful faculty, students, and staff in a leadership role while continuing a strong tradition of excellent music graduates entering the workforce as performers and music educators,” said Baptiste. “This will be accomplished through embracing 21st century learning skills in our diverse, but inclusive culture.”

McCutcheon, a JSU percussion professor, is retiring as the department head after 11 years of service, according to Buffy Lockette, the university’s public relations director.

“His last official day is June 1, but he is doing a research semester,” said Lockette.

Lockette explained that McCutcheon plans to begin teaching adjunct for JSU in the fall semester, continue teaching percussion and lead the JSU Steel Drum Band.

Before serving as interim department head, Baptiste taught elementary and secondary music education methods in general and choral music. She also taught graduate music education courses in research methods and assessment and served as a supervisor of student teachers in the department.

Along with her duties at JSU, Baptiste is also the author of many publications and has given presentations at numerous state, national and international conferences. 

Baptiste earned her bachelor’s degree in music education at William Carey University. She then earned her master’s degree in music education at the Eastman School of Music and her doctoral degree in instruction and curriculum/specialization in music education at the University of Florida. 

During her time in Florida, Baptiste taught K-12 general music and choral classes in the Alachua County School District. She then spent time in Illinois and taught as an associate professor at Southern University Illinois Edwardsville for several years.

As a native of Dothan, Ala., Baptiste eventually desired to return south and remain as close to home as possible. 

She joined the JSU faculty in 2005 and served as the director of music education, a graduate academic advisor and chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. 

Over the course of her time at JSU, Baptiste also served as the faculty advisor for the Collegiate National Association for Music Education and Delta Omicron, a music fraternity at JSU.

Baptiste said her love for music began at an early age and knew as a child that she would one day attend college and study music.

“Never really considered anything else,” said Baptiste.

Her mother, Ida Eaton, was where the “love and passion” for music began, Baptiste said.

“She was my first piano teacher, and I was the accompanist for the school choir in junior high with my mother, the director,” she said.

Baptiste also found inspiration outside of her family through her education.

“My high school choral director, Mr. Harvey McClure was also very inspirational,” she said. “He later served as my cooperating teacher during internship.”

In her free time, Baptiste enjoys visiting history museums and watching “Law and Order” reruns. She is also a fan of drama, comedy and dramedy movies. 

Baptiste appreciates all music styles and genres, especially jazz. She has been married for 17 years to Bala Baptiste, who is the head of the Department of Communications at Miles College.

“He’s from New Orleans,” said Baptiste. “That’s the jazz connection!”

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