UDC’s diverse Music Program offers performance and pedagogy

UDC’s diverse Music Program offers performance and pedagogy

UDC’s diverse Music Program offers performance and pedagogy


Professor Johnny H. Butler III directing the UDC Chorale at Founders' Day 2023.

Professor Johnny H. Butler III directing the UDC Chorale at Founders’ Day 2023.


Grounded in a dynamic history of celebrating the best musical talent in the DC metro area, UDC’s Music Program has its origin at Federal City College when in 1969 it sought to create a strong program to serve the District. The merger of Federal City College and other institutions to form the University of the District of Columbia in 1976, meant the advent of a music program that today rivals many in the country. The Music Program’s foundation is strengthened by recognized leaders in the field including Calvin Jones, who joined UDC in 1976 and by 1984, was the founder and director of the UDC Jazz Studies Program.

Jones was a well-known musician, composer and arranger. His lasting contribution is honored during the Calvin Jones BIG BAND Jazz Festival held the last Monday in April. The festival features big-band jazz ensembles from UDC, Howard University and the University of Maryland, performing traditional and contemporary big-band jazz arrangements.

Graduates of UDC’s Music Program perform, entertain, and teach at every level with degree offerings in music education, music performance, jazz studies and gospel studies.

UDC was the first university to offer gospel studies in the nation and it is the only one in the DC area to offer this unique degree.

A strong advocate for the degree, UDC alumnus Kenneth M. Taylor was fondly called “Mr. Gospel” and was known for his ability to play seven instruments. Taylor was trained by Roberta Flack and worked on the gospel circuit with artists like Kirk Franklin. He also organized the Gospel Music Heritage Month program at the Kennedy Center with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee during the Congressional Black Caucus. Taylor was a tour and booking manager, event promoter and was known for showcasing the artists he mentored at the Gospel Music Workshop of America convention each year.

The Kenneth M. Taylor Memorial Scholarship at UDC was established by his parents Delores Smith Taylor and his father, Dr. Alfred O. Taylor, Jr., a former administrator at UDC. Taylor died in 2017.

Other notable Music Program alumni include classical soprano Detra Battle Washington and Reginald Cyntje, director of jazz studies at Duke Ellington School of the Arts. He has recorded six albums and has appeared on many recordings from jazz to hip-hop.

Allyn Johnson (’97), a UDC alumnus and composer, arranger and producer was mentored by the late jazz legend Calvin Jones, while a student at UDC. Johnson served for more than six years as an adjunct professor of music and assistant director of the jazz studies program before succeeding Jones as the director in 2005.

In addition, Johnny H. Butler III, (‘03) a classically trained artist who has performed in Italy, teaches UDC’s Music Program. Butler is most known for leading UDC’s Chorale, which is comprised of students and comprises a significant part of their grades. The Chorale performs at

the University’s Convocation, Founder’s Day and Commencement. In addition, they are frequently asked to perform at events in the community.

“You see the effectiveness of your teaching on full display on stage,” said Butler, whose work with students includes mentoring and support beyond the classroom. “I’m proud when I see the students perform at such an excellent level.”

Students in the program, led by Music Program Director Judith Korey, are prepared to continue their musical studies at the graduate level or begin their careers as a teacher, performers, composers/arrangers or church musicians/music ministry. Other graduates have also continued their professional studies in the fields of music therapy, arts management, library and information science as well as sound engineering.

In addition to the bachelor’s degree in music, students can also take advantage of the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree, which prepares students to become socially conscious classroom teachers. The MAT program offered by the graduate education program can be completed in one academic year.

UDC students can participate in organizations including Music Student Senate, UDC Chorale (Organization), UDC Voices (Organization) and MENC Student Chapter (Music Educators National Conference).

Students gain performance experience and academic credit by participating in the UDC Chorale, which covers a broad spectrum of choral literature including African American composers. In addition to the regularly scheduled concert engagements, the UDC Chorale performs at University events and has appeared with the HBCU Concert Choir Consortium and at the National U.S. Veterans Day Concert in DC.

The UDC Jazz Ensembles have performed at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and at local jazz clubs. The program’s JAZZAlive series culminates each year with the Calvin Jones BIG BAND Jazz Festival, organized in conjunction with the Felix E. Grant Jazz Archives.

The University’s gospel music choir, The Voices, has been featured in concert at UDC Gospel Music Festivals, the Smithsonian Institution, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and various churches, schools and community centers.

Students in the UDC Music Program join a vibrant community of performers and future educators, who seek to use their gifts as they develop their careers. For more information about UDC Music Program please click here.