By NICHOLAS LEEK
Mass Communications Professor Philip Valera will be leaving Barton College at the end of this academic year. He teaches Audio Recording Technologies. At age 67 and after completing 19 years of teaching at the college, he will be retiring.
Valera is a Massachusetts native who had lived in Lakeland, Florida, prior to his arrival at Barton College. His college training was in music, choral conducting, and organ performance
“I worked as a church musician for 20 years before I had the opportunity to go back to school for audio,” said Valera.
At this time, he was working as a replacement teacher for an audio instructor at the University of Pine Bluff in Arkansas. Whie Valera had loved the teaching, he was “unhappy being away from family in Lakeland.”
“I decided not to stay for a second year. Luckily a colleague told me about the opening at Barton. So with my training and musical experience, my audio education and teaching experience, and the work I had done as a composer/arranger and as an electronic musician, Barton administration thought that I was acceptable to hire for the position of audio educator,” said Valera.
Being a late hire in July and starting August 2000, Valera jumped into his teaching career at Barton College. In that short time, he traveled to Wilson to prepare for the job, learn the console and set up the studio how he wanted to work in it. However, the most difficult years for him were in the beginning.
“I stayed in a room on the first floor of Wenger Hall, the former infirmary. I remember the first night I stayed there, there absolutely no outside light in the room so I slept very late in the morning and was surprised that it was daytime once I opened the door to the outside. My wife and son stayed back in our house in Lakeland, FL. until the house was sold and they could move to our new house in Wilson in early October,” said Valera.
He did have some help along the way in his early years from Janie Bostick. She was the department head and Valera’s mentor when he started.
“She showed how to navigate through the Barton bureaucracy and how to be a more effective teacher,” said Valera.
During those first few years, Valera created a curriculum, hands-on assignments and lectures. From this, he had many stories to tell about successful students that have come through his program and the career paths they were put on.
“Eric Palonen from Connecticut worked his way up working for Sennheisser until he became a VP… Tom Burden still lives in Apex, NC. He may be the best engineer who went through the program. He is creative and skilled. His day job is as the technical operator for audio and video for the CBS TV affiliate in Raleigh. He also works as a freelance audio engineer… Chris Dutra came to Barton with a bachelor’s degree from a school in Maryland. He wanted to learn audio so he got a second degree in Mass Communication from Barton. He was a standout student and engineer in every way. He started a small studio in Raleigh but then went on to work as an advertising producer in the Triangle area,” said Valera. He adds while there have been many great students, these were the ones that came to mind for their skill, success at Barton and them moving on to solid careers.
Valera had delayed his initial retirement date of last year because he wanted to break in the new studio.
“I asked to be kept on for one more year. I definitely feel better about getting the studio in shape so that the program will be viable for years to come,” said Valera.
Valera feels it is time to do other things and enjoy some more free time.
“I will continue to work as a church musician even if just a substitute organist. I would like to get back to composing and finishing the compositions that I created over the years for my church choirs,” said Valera.
Valera is proud of the recording opportunities he has had to work on at Barton.
“Five CDs for [Professor Emeritus] Jim Clark and his friends. Many concert recordings for the Fayetteville Symphony, 3 CDs for the Tar River Swing Band, and many other recordings for other local artists,” said Valera.