Erick Parris Browne
Erick Parris, a choir director and music theorist and composer, has taught for over 25 years at all levels. He has also been active as a church musician wherever he has worked.
Erick was born and raised in Panama, the youngest of three children and the only son of Marcus Clover and Mary Browne Parris. He grew up in a home in which music was an important part of life, his father being an organist and singer in the Salem Mission Church and other members of the larger family also being musicians.
Erick started taking piano lessons at age six from an aunt on his mothers side. Three years later he began study after regular schooling hours at the Panama National Conservatory of Music, now the National School of Music in Panama. From his earliest years he was fascinated by music and by age ten would sit in the front pew of the church so that he could watch the organist play. It was at about that time that he determined he wanted to follow a career in music.
In 1974, following graduation from public high school, he became a full-time student at the conservatory, completing an advanced diploma in choral conducting and piano in 1978. He also married Corina Polanco at that time. While still a student at PNCM, Erick taught in the extension program of the conservatory at Colon and then continued there for two more years until 1980.
He came to the U.S. that year to attend Atlantic Union College and graduated from there in 1984 with a B.Mus. in music education. After completing an M.Mus. in theory/composition at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1986, he accepted a position at Antillean Adventist University in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, where he directed the choir and taught theory/composition and other classes for two years.
Parris returned to the U.S. in 1988 to teach at South Lancaster Academy, where he taught voice; directed two choirs, taking them on regional tours and also to Bermuda and Canada; worked with the drama department in presenting musical dramas; and assisted nearby AUC in working with student teachers.
He started full-time work on a doctorate at UMASS/Amherst in 1991, serving as a Teaching Associate in theory and Departmental Assistant in aural training and received the Jester Hairston Scholarship in each of his three years at the University. In 1993 he was the winner of the Orchestral Composition Competition at the university. He completed his Ph.D. in composition and theory pedagogy in 1994. His dissertation was titled Three Pieces for Orchestra.
He then taught in public schools in Massachusetts and Connecticut for three years and served as an adjunct faculty member at AUC from 1995-1997.
In 1997 Parris returned to Antillean Adventist University to chair the music program, direct the choir, and teach classes. In his three years there he revived and created a more rigorous college music program and established a conservatory-style community music school.
He returned to the U.S. in 2000 to chair the music program at AUC, direct the choir, and teach theory/composition, music education, and conducting classes for the next seven years. During that time he also served as Director of the Thayer Performing Arts Community School, a program affiliated with the college music department. In addition to being an innovative and creative administrator who implemented changes and improvements in both the department and community school, Parris also chaired the college Rank and Tenure Committee, was in the faculty senate, and served on numerous committees.
A year after he achieved tenure at AUC, he relocated to the Atlanta, Georgia, area in 2007 when his wife, Corina, who has a doctorate in education and was chair of the modern language department, lost her position when the department was closed and found a position in Atlanta, Georgia. He accepted a position as chair of the fine arts department at Tri-Cities High School in East Point, Georgia, a large multi-faceted visual and performing arts magnet program that included music instruction and performing ensembles, art, dance, drama, musical theatre, and TV production.
After one year, he found the demands of the work at the school limited personal and family time and accepted a position as chair of the fine arts program and director of choral activities at Forest Park High School outside Atlanta, one he still retains.
Parris had started composing in 1976 while attending the conservatory in Panama. He recently related how his interest in music theory had led to composing and how he has evolved as a composer:
Theory was always something that intrigued me and I began to write religious music while at the conservatory. At AUC, I started out with piano as my major and then took the full theory sequence, which included theory classes and composition under Dr. Margarita Merriman.
Through those years and during my graduate studies when composing was part of my program I broadened the scope of what I wrote. Although post-graduate employment in Adventist schools with its demands in committees, travel, and administration limited time for composing, my most recent position has enabled me to have more time to compose.
Parris has also been active as a church musician, serving as organist and choir director and minister of music throughout his career. He has been praised for his ability to achieve excellent results with volunteer church choirs, for the level of repertoire he chooses, and his ability to make the experience an enjoyable one.
The Parrises have three children, Erick, Marcus, and Melody. Marcus, who studied orchestra conducting under Harold Farberman at Bard College in upstate New York, is pursuing a career in music as a composer and conductor.
Sources: Interview with Erick Parris, February 2013; Resume, 2012; Rock Spring Presbyterian Church, Atlanta, Georgia, bulletin, 30 December 2012; personal knowledge.
Music by Erick Parris
(A Partial Listing)
Let there be Light Cantata for two sopranos, choir, and organ
God rises to shouts of acclamation SATB and piano
Christ the Lord is Risen today SATB, organ and Brass
Let the People Sing SATB and piano
Eternal God SATB and piano
Glory Be to God! A Cappella
Take up the Cross SATB and organ
We Give You thanks, oh Lord SAB, flute, violin, and piano
We have come to Worship You oh Lord SATB and piano
Take up the Cross, Follow Him joyfully SATB and organ
The Earth is beautiful SATB/ A cappella
Come Holy Spirit SATB and organ
Come, Christians, Join to Sing arr, S1, S2, A1, A2 and organ
I will extol You, my God the King SATB and organ
How Firm a Foundation
Speak, Lord, for thy Servant Heareth
Far beyond the Sun
Come Christian join and sing
When we are living
We have come
In cold December
Crown Him with many Crowns Piano Trio
Piece for clarinet and piano
Festivo for alto saxophone and piano
Piece for cello solo
Piece for double bass solo
Three pieces for woodwind trio
Piece for Brass Quintet
Piece for double bass & piano
Reflexiones full orchestra
Three Pieces for Orchestra full orchestra
Mejorana chamber orchestra
Remembranzas full orchestra
Blue Mountain string orchestra
My Desire vocal solo and piano
Wrapped in swaddling clothes vocal solo and piano
Gods Grace is all I need vocal solo and piano
El nino rey vocal solo and piano
In a manger vocal solo and piano
Emmanuel! vocal solo and piano