On a cold winter afternoon, the third floor corridors of WKU’s Ivan Wilson Center for Fine Arts echoed with the intermittent sounds of a clarinet duo.

Behind the cherry-red door to an office crammed with instruments, sheet music and literature, John Cipolla—a professor of music—held a private clarinet lesson with one of his students.

Cipolla’s biography on the university’s web page for the music department lists a smattering of awards and honors earned throughout his career, including his time playing or recording with the likes of the New York City Opera, Aretha Franklin, Liberace, Dizzy Gillespie and others.

As of this month, that list is due for an update. 

The Board of Regents unanimously voted to confirm Cipolla as a University Distinguished Professor during a committee meeting on Jan. 22. Bud Fischer, provost and vice president for academic affairs, recommended him to the board based on his nominations.

“His students appreciate his energy and commitment,” Fischer said, relaying what he’d found while reviewing Cipolla as a candidate.

Catherine Wilson, an assistant professor of music education who nominated Cipolla, said she was “elated” her colleague had been confirmed for the title.

“He goes above and beyond the call of duty,” Wilson said. Wilson also said Cipolla cares a great deal for his students’ wellbeing, academic or otherwise. 

Noelle Fleek, a senior from Cincinnati majoring in music and Spanish education, said his caring nature was one of the qualities she and his other pupils love about Cipolla most. 

“His students [know that] we can come and talk to him about anything,” Fleek said.

Cipolla said he felt gratified to personally receive the award. However, he also feels that the award has a larger, more important message for his department and the campus community. 

“To have a music person recognized helps the public see that what we do in music and the arts are really important to people,” he said.

Staff photographer Arthur Trickett-Wile can be reached at [email protected]

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