Dr. Howard Keever taught nearly 2,000 students during his time as a professor of music at William Carey University.
“A lot of them probably hated the classes, but that’s not the point,” said Keever, who retired in 2018 after 33 years at the university.
Keever taught, and continues to teach on a part-time basis, music theory, or the study of the practices and possibilities of music.
“It’s the principle of how music works, how it holds together,” he said. “Students realize how much it applies to what they do, but the practicality of it escapes them at first … and then, they begin to realize it makes a difference in their musicianship.”
Keever, a native of Decatur, Georgia, was finishing up his Ph.D. in music theory at Florida State University in Tallahassee when he accepted the job at Carey in 1985.
“It was my first full-time position,” he said. “I found a map and found where Hattiesburg was.”
Keever completed his Ph.D. in 1988. He previously earned a Master of Music degree in composition from Florida State in 1981 and a Bachelor of Music degree in music theory from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, in 1978.
While at Carey, Keever also taught composition, piano and music history, including a popular course on the history of rock ‘n’ roll. He served for 14 years as the musical director for Carey Dinner Theatre, the annual summer showcase of theater talent, and served on two occasions as interim chair of the Winters School of Music.
Dr. Wes Dykes, now the dean of the Winters School of Music and Ministry Studies, worked with Keever as a fellow faculty member for several years.
“Dr. Keever brought a respect to our school of music in the arts community for many years,” Dykes said. “Our students have been blessed to study under a professor with such vast knowledge of music theory and composition.”
Carey graduate Bailey Hill of Thomasville, Alabama, was one of the thousands of students who benefited from Keever’s tutelage.
“When I needed help, he was an email or phone call away, and you never felt like just ‘another student’ in the pipeline,” Hill said. “Dr. Keever always went above and beyond for all of his students.”
In addition to teaching work, Keever is also a prolific composer. Churches, including Westminster Presbyterian Church in Hattiesburg, and musical groups, including the Carey jazz band and string trio, have commissioned his work. His “Incidental Music” composition for the play “And David Danced,” commissioned by Carey Theatre in 2000, was nominated for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.
Keever has also been honored by the Mississippi Humanities Council and by HEADWAE, a program of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning. In 2006, he was awarded a Rotary Foundation grant for university teachers to teach at Serampore College in West Bengal, India.
Although retired in the formal sense of the term, Keever stays busy teaching one course each term at Carey, playing piano, composing and working on his tennis and golf games.
Keever enjoys living in his adopted hometown of Hattiesburg and can occasionally be found playing his piano for various social events and receptions.
“Hattiesburg is a small town, but because of universities, there’s enough culture to keep it interesting,” he said.
Keever has three daughters, Sara, Ellen and Grace. Sara and Grace live outside of the state, but Ellen has remained in Hattiesburg and is known for her work with the Hattiesburg Arts Council’s smART space.