Tag Archives: Debra van Tuyll

The Sand Hills String Band stands a cut above the rest

It’s more than opinion: The Sand Hills String Band stands a cut above other local ensembles for a number of reasons.

For one, they have the distinction of being led by Carl Purdy.

A master musician and instructor of viola, violin, chamber music and humanities at Georgia Regents University, Purdy served as principal viola for the Augusta Symphony for more than 20 years. His musical track record includes recording and touring internationally on the viola, jazz violin, and recorder. Most recently, he took up the bagpipes, and he’s quickly established himself as one of the CSRA’s best players.

But Purdy isn’t the only ace the Sand Hills String Band has up its sleeve.

Drs. Debra van Tuyll and Hubert van Tuyll, professors of communications and history, respectively, are also SHSB members. Their unique insight into their respective fields, Purdy said, makes the SHSB that much stronger.

“We play to our strengths,” said Purdy. “Hubert will often lend us the history of whatever piece we’re performing, and that really helps us get into that feeling of an era gone by. We recently put on a performance of Don McLean’s “Starry, Starry Night,” for example, and Debbie arranged a presentation of van Gogh’s art that really added a great deal to the piece.”

The van Tuylls aren’t the SHSB’s only faculty members, though.

Dr. Don Cleary, a part-time instructor in the Department of Music and former drama instructor at Paine College, helps to manage the stage during productions. Cleary also wrote an original bluegrass musical titled “The Pickin’ Parlor,” which the band performed in 2011. Cleary’s wife, a talented costumer, has made dozens of costumes for SHSB productions.

Family is a running theme in the SHSB. According to Purdy, it’s one of the things that makes their playing so special.

“We’re a very family-oriented band,” said Purdy. “And I mean that literally. There are a lot of brothers and sisters, husbands and wives. There are four generations of one family in our band, and that really helps us to bridge those generational gap in music.”

In the case of the SHSB, that gap had potential to be very wide indeed. The band’s oldest member is 83. Their youngest is nine.

Taught privately by Purdy, many of the band’s members have been playing for years. Purdy said once he feels his students are ready to play, he offers them the chance to join the SHSB.

“It’s a good opportunity for them,” he said. “Practicing is only half of playing music. Playing in front of an audience brings out things you don’t get to see in practice.”

In addition to its unconventional makeup, the Sand Hills String Band is also the only local ensemble to perform year-round.

“They’re so gung-ho about picking that they can’t put it down,” said Purdy.

The Sand Hills String Band puts on three major shows a year. Their spring show, as a tradition, is always a “radio show” in the vein of “A Prairie Home Companion.” Don Clearly, assuming the role of Don Simples, narrates for the stage.

Purdy said he couldn’t be more proud of the band.

“They all play for the right reason,” he said. “We try to show how important music is to society and how there’s a great deal of humanity and history involved with every piece. Retelling that history and making it empathetic and real, that’s the goal of music. The band works hard, and people love what we do.”

The Sand Hills String Band’s next performance will be held Sunday, Aug. 9, at 7:30 p.m. at the Maxwell Theatre on the Summerville Campus.


Orchestrating Wellness featured in GResearch Magazine

GResearch Spring 2015 coverThe role music therapy in healing . . . using interactive video games to enhance the quality of life of those with chronic conditions . . . a study of the ecological impact of thwarting Mother Nature. . .

These are among the articles featured in the spring edition of GResearch, the university’s biannual research magazine. Read about GRU researchers’ innovations in these areas and many others at http://gru.edu/research/.

The Phoenix rises thanks to writer’s flesh-pierced suspension

The Phoenix, GRU’s award-winning student-run magazine, recently added two more accolades, both from the Society of Professional Journalists.

The Phoenix editorial staff – Editor-in-Chief Matthew Johnson, Assistant Editor Anna Garner, Creative Director Drew Greiner, and Business Manager Kaitlin Keller – was a finalist in the best magazine category, and Erica Ruggles won the Region 3 feature story category for “Hooked,” her first-person account of flesh suspension.

As a regional winner, Ruggles’ story will go on to compete for best feature at the national level.

“Erica is a talented writer,” said Dr. Debra vanTuyll, the magazine’s advisor. “They didn’t tell her they were submitting the story because they thought she’d tell them it wasn’t good enough.”

While the subject matter – being suspended above the ground by a series of hooks pierced through the skin – might raise some eyebrows, the writing is eye opening.

“My body starts to leave the ground as the rope pulls me up; the tugging on my skin becoming more intense, more earnest, as my entire body weight begins to be supported by nothing more than the hooks in my thighs, calves and back,” she writes. “I feel myself bounce a little, but before I can ask to be steadied, cheers and applause come from the small crowd gathered around me, and I realize that I am fully off the ground.”

VanTuyll said all the students are communications majors who realize the advantages of being associated with a regularly published magazine as successful as the 21-year-old Phoenix.

“It’s a good pathway to open up doors when you graduate,” she said. “Because people know you can get a product to market, so to speak.”

The Phoenix is published three times a year. The fall issue, which includes Ruggles’ story about suspension, is still available in print form and can also be found online here.

Civil War historian to speak at GRU

a recognized Civil War historian and author
a recognized Civil War historian and author

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Dr. Thomas J. Brown, a recognized Civil War historian and author, will present Steampunk Civil War at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 21 in Washington Hall on the Georgia Regents University Summerville Campus.

The lecture will conclude the GRU Augusta Viewpoints: Understanding the Civil War lecture series, hosted by the GRU Reese Library. The series commemorates the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War.

Brown is Associate Director for the Institute for Southern Studies and Associate Professor of History at the University of South Carolina in Columbia and is author of Remixing the Civil War: Meditations on the Sesquicentennial; Reconstructions

: New Perspectives on the Postbellum United State;  and The Public Art of Civil War Commemoration.

“We hope the event draws attention to our local history and inspires those within the community to take an interest in the resources available to them through our university libraries,” said Carol Waggoner-Angleton, Special Collections Librarian at GRU’s Reese Library.

Brown will also lead a tour through the city’s Civil War landmarks and monuments with GRU Professor of Communications Dr. Debra Van Tuyll at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 20. The tour will begin on the GRU Summerville Campus and will end near the Sibley Mill, the site of the old Confederate Powder Works.


All events are free and open to the public. For a schedule of events, visit guides.aug.edu/augustaviewpoint, or contact the GRU Reese Library at 706-667-4912 or spcoll@gru.edu.



Georgia Regents University is one of four public comprehensive research universities in the state with nearly 10,000 students enrolled in its nine colleges, which include the Medical College of Georgia – the nation’s 13th-oldest medical school – the nationally-ranked Hull College of Business and Georgia’s only College of Dental Medicine. The clinical enterprise associated with the university includes the 478-bed Georgia Regents Medical Center and the 154-bed Children’s Hospital of Georgia. GRU is a unit of the University System of Georgia and an equal opportunity institution.  http://www.gru.edu




Driving tour of Civil War Augusta with Dr. Thomas J. Brown

Civil War historian, Dr. Thomas J. Brown
Civil War historian, Dr. Thomas J. Brown

Noted Civil War historian, Dr. Thomas J. Brown, will join Dr. Debra Van Tuyll to lead a driving tour of Civil War Augusta on Saturday, April 20 at 2 p.m.

The tour will begin on the Summerville campus, the site of the Augusta Arsenal , in the Fanning Hall parking lot. Drive along with the group and learn about the landmarks and memorials that shape Augusta’s history. The tour will conclude at the old Sibley Mill, the site of the Old Confederate Powder works.

Highlighted Sites include:
Augusta Arsenal at Georgia Regents University
Joseph “Fighting Joe” Wheeler Monument
Reid-Jones-Carpenter House
Magnolia Cemetery
St.James’ Sunday School Confederate Memorial
Old Richmond Academy
First Presbyterian Church
Emily Tubman Memorial
Four Poets Memorial
Confederate Memorial
First Baptist Church
General Joseph Wheeler
Sibley Mill/Confederate Powder Works

The tour is presented in conjunction with the “Augusta’s Viewpoint: Understanding the Civil War” reading and lecture series, sponsored by Special Collections and Institutional Archives at Georgia Regents University, and funded by the Georgia Humanities Council.  Reservations are not required but suggested.

For more information, contact Autumn Johnson at aujohnson@gru.edu.

Augusta’s Viewpoint: Understanding the Civil War

Dr. Debra Van Tuyll, Professor of Communications, will lead a book discussion on “Remixing the Civil War: Meditations of the Sesquicentennial on Monday, April 15 at 7 p.m. in Washington Hall on the Summerville campus. The book is the recent work of author Thomas J. Brown.

Brown, an Associate Professor of History at the University of South Carolina, is the author of numerous books on the American Civil War and social history.

van Tuyll is the editor of the recently published “The Confederate Press in the Crucible of the American Civil War.” She also authored or edited four previous books including “Knights of the Quill: Confederate Correspondents and Their Civil War Reporting.” This book, co-edited with Patricia G. Mc Neely and Henry S. Schulte (2010), was a finalist for the Tankard Book Award.

Augusta’s Viewpoint: Understanding the Civil War

Debra Van Tuyll, Professor in the Department of Communications, will discuss Remixing the Civil War: Meditations on the Sesquicentennial by Thomas J. Brown on Monday, April 15 at 7 p.m. in the Washington Hall Towers on the Summerville Campus.

The discussion is part of the Augusta’s Viewpoint: Understanding the Civil War series which reflects on the multiple perspectives and experiences of the American Civil War. It is funded by the Georgia Humanities Council.

For more information, contact Autumn Johnson at aujohnson@gru.edu.