Cumberland University


Dr. Brian Kilian: Finding Magic in Music


There are few sounds sweeter to Dr. Brian Kilian than the music of his students. As the director of Cumberland University’s Music program and Choral Music, Kilian is a mentor, an instructor, and a conductor to his pupils.

The role he may enjoy most with his students, however, is that of a collaborator.

“I feel proudest when we as collaborative musicians create some of the most mesmerizing sounds,” Kilian said. “There are times when music performances can be entrancing. It isn’t about showing off what we’ve done. It’s more about creating something so beautiful that people stop and fall silent.”

Kilian has been creating those moments with students since 2002, when he joined Cumberland as an assistant professor of music. Originally from South Africa, Kilian has traveled the world as a scholar and performer, earning prestigious fellowships and advanced diplomas from institutions such as England’s Wessex Theological College and London College of Music. Now a full professor and program director at Cumberland, Kilian has conducted numerous choral works and is a researcher in Saito conducting and the therapeutic properties of music.

Kilian has brought those diverse experiences to bear as the director of Cumberland’s Music program. Under Kilian’s leadership, the Music program has grown in standing and in offerings, developing as a highly respected program known for its personalized and career-ready approach to music education.

“The Music program is a professional training ground for music students,” Kilian said. “We're preparing them for any number of musical careers, from music education to performance to graduate studies. Our size enables us to provide students with an extremely individualized education. Here, students have professors willing to tailor their instruction to help students confront their individual musical problems.”

That approach has led to success for Cumberland’s Music students both before and after graduation.

"Our music graduates all get jobs,” Kilian said. “I don't know of one who doesn't work in the field in some way.”

The Music program has also refined and expanded its degree offerings. The program now offers a specialized Bachelor of Music and a graduate degree in the Master of Arts in Fine Arts (Music track), in addition to a music computer technology emphasis unique to the region. Cumberland’s student choirs have also shone in recent years. Under Kilian’s direction, the University Singers have won recognition beyond national borders for their performances in international choral festivals in Italy.

That success is a product of the Music program’s individualized approach, which Kilian hopes gives students not only a solid foundation in music, but a sense of wonder and self-realization.

“I try to impart to my students that there is magic in life and in music,” Kilian said. “The real learning I try to offer my students is not only ‘stuff’ about technique, but challenges that I set before them to help them learn to discuss and find meaning in hard issues in music and in life.”