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Enhancing Health Care Education Through Music

Published on 18 April 2019

Tristan Frampton, assistant professor and director of music activities, joined St. Louis College of Pharmacy seven years ago. Since then, he has built the music program at the College from the ground up.

What once consisted of only the College’s Royal Chorale has grown into a robust program that provides students with a variety of curricular and extra-curricular music offerings, including the Concert Band and Jazz Band. Actors and vocalists can also audition for the annual spring musical, and instrumental students can get involved by auditioning for the Pit Orchestra.

How were you able to grow the College’s program so quickly?

The program grew simply from the sheer interest of the students. We started with the Royal Chorale and saw a lot of success right away. After that, students began approaching me about making other musical opportunities available. From there, we began to develop additional courses and it motivated students to form smaller specialty ensembles, such as our Jazz Band. Music is important here because it serves as a creative outlet for our students who are engaged in a rigorous academic program. Our students are very passionate about music, and you can tell during their performances how much they genuinely enjoy the experience of performing. There is also a collaborative aspect that enhances their experience and can be very rewarding, fulfilling and therapeutic.

How did you discover your passion for music?

Growing up, music was always a part of my childhood. My mother was a bit of an amateur musician. She played guitar and worked at a music store. Through her, I had a lot of exposure to different musicians and types of music. I took advantage of musical opportunities in grade school, and eventually I realized that being a musician was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

My professional emphasis is on conducting, vocal performance and music education.

What genre of music do you enjoy performing?

I love all things early music and tend to be drawn specifically to the Renaissance and Baroque eras. There is a grace with how things were composed in those time periods and they lend themselves well to conducting and singing.

During the baroque era, composers didn’t necessarily specify everything within the sheet music, so it becomes the conductor’s job to figure out how to bring the works to life. This means that, as a conductor, I have more decisions I can make, and I’m not bound by following exactly what the composer penned. I’m able to make the piece my own, and I find that satisfying.

In addition to being a conductor, you’re also a music researcher. What can you tell us about the research you have done?

Last fall, I successfully defended my dissertation on The Effect of Piano Accompaniment Type and Harmonic Context on the Tuning Performance of College-Level Choral Musicians. I presented a poster on this research at the Missouri Educators Association State Conference and the American Choral Directors Association National Conference. I eventually plan to write an article on this research for publication.

I have always been interested in tuning and music intonation. The modern piano can often be misconstrued as being the ideal tuning, but since the piano is a fixed-pitch instrument, it is necessary to tune the piano using equal temperament, which leads to slightly mistuned intervals. For instruments like violins or voices, the pitch is not fixed so these musicians can be encouraged to approximate a purer tuning system.

The results of my study support the idea that there is no single mathematical tuning system that can be considered ideal. Ideal tuning is based on factors within the specific piece of music being performed, so one might favor pure harmonic tuning in chordal music or mistune an interval for the sake of being expressive and creating more tension before a resolution.

Not many people would automatically equate music to science. How do you feel music ties in with the math and science-focused structure of the academic program here at the College?

I think music, math and science go hand in hand. Music is very mathematical and functions within a physical medium. But beyond that, the amount of work and diligent practice that it takes to really develop a facility in music speaks a lot to one’s work ethic. Because of this, music tends to draw and cultivate a certain type of student that is hard working and high achieving. I think it is no surprise to see these good musicians among a cohort of individuals who are studying within the sciences.


The College’s annual Spring Concert, featuring the Royale Chorale and Concert Band, will take place on Friday, April 26, at 7:00 PM in the Academic and Research Building auditorium. A dessert reception will follow, with entertainment provided by the Jazz Band. Both events are free and open to the public.

To find out more about the music offerings at the College, visit the music programs page.


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