By Wynne Kirchner
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Retiring Towson University professor Michael Decker was honored last Thursday at Towson University’s annual guitar ensemble.
Decker, the guitar performance and music industry programs, has been praised not only for his mastery of the guitar, but his acute business sense in the music industry, according to Towson.
Decker is also known for his positive and encouraging nature as a professor, which former student and current Towson professor Eric McCullough highlighted during the ensemble.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without Michael, he always believed in me and inspired to better myself,” McCullough said.
The guitar ensemble started with current students in the guitar program performing traditional flamenco songs, some of which were arranged by Decker himself.
Tributes to Decker poured in throughout the night’s performances.
Eileen Hayes, chair of the department of music, thanked Decker for his years of service at Towson and praised him for helping change the reputation of Towson’s music program.
Professor emeritus James Anthony also thanked Decker for his contributions and echoed the sentiments of Hayes.
“He [Decker] helped put Towson University on the map in the arts field,” Anthony said. “We laud him and give thanks for all he has done.”
Vocal professor Leneida Crawford performed two songs with Towson student Austin Shaffer and cracked a joke about Decker in between songs.
“If Michael ever got frustrated with me when performing, that’s when I knew I really screwed up,” she said. “But it speaks to his kind nature and while I am sad he is leaving, I’m happy he’s happy.”
Luis Engelke, a trumpet professor at Towson, also gave a warm thanks to Decker. Engelke recently released an album with Decker and has collaborated multiple times with him on musical projects.
Engelke performed with Troy King, professor of guitar and close colleague of Decker. King will succeed Decker in being the head of the guitar performance department.
“Troy and I are sad to see Michael leave, but happy to celebrate his accomplishments and dedication to Towson,” Engelke said in between songs.
The crowd roared with applause prior to the final performance of the night, as Decker joined King and McCullough to play one last time.
When the piece was over, the crowd gave Decker a standing ovation. Decker was fighting back tears, but managed to give thanks for everyone supporting him over the years.
Decker will continue to serve as president of the Musicians Association of Metropolitan Baltimore and be a freelance guitarist in the Baltimore area.
“I’ve had an amazing time at Towson and look forward to the next chapter of my life,” Decker said. “At the end of the day, Towson will always remain close to my heart.”