Simmons College graduates first music major in nearly 100 years

Student helps rebirth Simmons College music program

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - One student had to get over his stage fright when he left his mark on Simmons College history.

The school’s music department came to a halt after the Great Depression, but it’s making a strong comeback as Simmons College celebrates a rebirth.

It’s been nearly 100 years since a student has graduated from its music department. Alexander Griggs wanted to change that.

Alexander Griggs (Source: Phylicia Ashley, WAVE 3 News)
Alexander Griggs (Source: Phylicia Ashley, WAVE 3 News)

"It was never interesting to me to be the first,” Griggs said.

But at Simmons, that’s the role Griggs is playing.

"There was a point in time when I was wondering if I would get a degree from here,” Griggs said.

The artist enrolled in 2014 knowing the music department hadn’t been around since the 1920s. In 2016, the program got its rhythm back.

"I remember having a day where the profoundness of this fell on me,” Kevin Davenport, Simmons College Music Chair, said.

Kevin Davenport, the Simmons College Music Chair. (Source: Phylicia Ashley, WAVE 3 News)
Kevin Davenport, the Simmons College Music Chair. (Source: Phylicia Ashley, WAVE 3 News)

Davenport saw the potential in Griggs and encouraged him to keep going in the program, even when supplies were low and access to pianos was challenging.

"It's not often we lose a heritage institution and are able to regain it,” Davenport said.

Because of Griggs other students will have a chance at musical opportunities.

"All the struggles I went through they won't necessarily have to go through,” Griggs said.

With a current class of 24, Griggs is first but knows he won't be the last.

“Excited to see what it will become,” Griggs said. “I’ve seen it from nothing to what it is now.”

Sunday is the 140th graduation for Simmons College. It's the largest graduation class since the school gained back its accreditation.

Faculty members travel from as far as Chicago and Baltimore weekly to teach in the music department. Simmons College offers a performance degree and wants to eventually offer a music education degree.

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