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Music Theory Classes


Music Theory

Whether you are a student who wants to get a leg up on their music study, or a seasoned performer who just never knew where to start with music theory, this course is for YOU! Much more than a dry collection of rules about old music, music theory provides a valuable framework for hearing, understanding, and creating music of all genres!
Topics include: how to read music (with extra insights for the already initiated!), how scales and keys work, chords and chord progressions, the Nashville Number system, and more.


David Holland

Theory & Composition Instructor

Guitarist David Holland hails from Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he works as a performer, teacher, and composer. He holds a B.A. in Jazz Studies from the University of Arkansas Fort Smith; and a M.M. in Guitar Performance from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, where he studied jazz guitar with Dr. James Greeson and Mr. Ben Harris. He has also studied classical guitar with maestros Juan Mercadal and Rene Gonzalez at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida.

David teaches jazz and classical guitar as adjunct instructor at The University of Arkansas Fort Smith and at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK. David performs regionally with his jazz trio The Unit, The Tabitha Graves Quartet, and his bluegrass band The Crumbs.

David debuted as a classical composer in 2016 with a performance of his setting of Ruth Krauss’s children’s book, The Carrot Seed, for string quartet and narrator, presented by the Fort Smith Symphony’s Story Book Strings. In April 2018, The Crumbs appeared as guest artists with the Fort Smith Symphony, performing a score David orchestrated especially for Fort Smith’s bicentennial concert.


William Ratcliff

Theory & Composition Instructor

Recently retired, William Ratcliff served as the Director of Bands at Alma HS in Alma Arkansas, where his program was recognized nationally for its excellence during his 16-year tenure. Previously he taught at Northside HS in Fort Smith AR, Kimmons Junior High School in Fort Smith AR and at Jonesboro HS in Arkansas. Mr. Ratcliff also served for a number of years as the Trumpet Instructor at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith. Mr. Ratcliff is a frequent guest clinician and adjudicator in Arkansas and surrounding states.

Currently he serves as an adjunct band faculty member for the Fort Smith Arkansas Public Schools and Charleston Arkansas Public Schools. Additionally, he currently serves as the Music Director of the Arkansas MusicWorks Brass Band and the 2018 U.S. Open Brass Band Grand Champion Ensemble. As a professional musician he has performed with the North Arkansas Symphony, Fort Smith Symphony, Ozark Mountain British Brass Band, Arkansas Musicworks Brass Band, the Western Arkansas Jazz Orchestra, and The Marshals of Swing Big Band. He has also performed with The Temptations, The Four Tops, Marvin Hamlisch, the Guy Lombardo Orchestra, and other touring groups.

Mr. Ratcliff’s professional affiliations include the Arkansas Bandmaster’s Association, Arkansas School Band and Orchestra Association, National Band Association, Texas Bandmaster’s Association, Phi Beta Mu International Bandmaster’s Fraternity, American School Band Director’s Association, the International Trumpet Guild, and was included in the 2002, 2004, and 2006 editions of “Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers.” William Ratcliff holds a Bachelors degree in Music Education and a Master’s degree in Music from the University of Arkansas. He resides in Van Buren Arkansas with his wife Cheryl and their two German Shepherd dogs, Freyja and Karma.

Cory Winters

Theory & Composition Instructor

Cory Winters began his musical studies as a violin student with the public school orchestra program in his hometown of Fort Smith, Arkansas. He went on to attend the University of Central Arkansas, where he studied violin, viola, and composition. His composition teacher at UCA was Dr. Paul Dickinson.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Music in 2010, Mr. Winters continued his education at Belmont University. He studied composition with Dr. William Pursell and Dr. Mark Volker, earning an Master of Music in 2012. Cory’s musical influences include Irish and American folk music, shape-note singing, blues, country, and a variety of art music.

He currently resides in Van Buren, Arkansas, and teaches violin, viola, and composition lessons at the Community School of the Arts Fort Smith. In addition to his musical interests, Mr. Winters is an avid reader and enjoys studying history, musicology, and astronomy.


Michael Hanna


Michael Hanna holds a MM in Saxophone Performance from Central Michigan University, where he served as teaching assistant to Professor John Nichol. He graduated summa cum laude with a BM in Saxophone Performance from the University of Arkansas in 2016, where he studied with Stanley Morris and Dr. Richard Salonen. Michael has performed with the Fort Smith Symphony, the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas, the Tulsa Symphony, the Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Fayetteville Jazz Collective. He has performed with the Arkansas Saxophones at two World Saxophone Congresses in St. Andrews and Strasbourg. An eclectic performer, Michael is also frequently heard in restaurants, hotels, festivals, and other venues in the Northwest Arkansas area. In 2015, Michael assisted in the production of a historical documentary on the Arkansan territory bandleader Alphonso Trent, transcribing and orchestrating works from his recorded legacy and performing on the soundtrack. Michael has private and group teaching experience ranging from the beginning to the collegiate level. He has worked with high schools throughout the NWA area, assisting with band camps, jazz clinics, and private instruction. At Central Michigan University, Michael taught undergraduate saxophone lessons, coached nationally competitive quartets, and taught beginning saxophone to music education majors. He has also served on the faculty of the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith Summer Jazz Camps since 2016. He currently teaches private lessons in Fort Smith, AR, through the Community School of the Arts; in Fayetteville, AR, through the University of Arkansas Community Music School; and in Bentonville, AR, through the Arkansas Music Conservatory.

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