Donn Laurence Mills, music director of the Capistrano Valley Symphony, has been named the first full-time chairman of the music department at Chapman College in Orange. Mills succeeds John Koshak, who split his time equally between administrative and faculty responsibilities and who will return to full-time teaching and conducting. Mills assumed his new duties on Monday

“I’m just getting my feet wet here,” Mills, 52, said in a recent phone interview. “But I would like to increase the size of the music department--mostly students at the moment but certainly it would involve more faculty--and bring more visibility to the terrific faculty we have.”

The department has approximately 100 majors and a faculty of 25, Mills said. Students may earn a bachelor’s degree in music and, in areas such as choral conducting, the master’s degree.

Mill’s other plans for the music department include possible recording projects, exploring a degree program in musical theater, increasing attention to electronic music and trying to work out a relationship with the Orange County Center for the Performing Arts “since we’re the closest college to the Center,” Mills said.


Such a relationship might entail preconcert lectures or the writing of program notes, he said.

Mills holds degrees from Northwestern University and the Eastman School of Music and has taught at several universities, including the University of Oklahoma, where he was director of orchestras for eight years.

For the past 13 years, he has been affiliated with the Yamaha International Corp. and the Yamaha Music Foundation. He has been director of the Yamaha Music Education Center in Irvine since 1983.

He conducts the Pasadena Junior Symphony, a post he has held for the past four years.


Mills founded the Capistrano Valley Symphony in January, 1985, to provide classical music for the valley communities. Subsequently, the financially strapped organization had to cancel several concerts during the 1985-86 season. But, according to Mills, the organization is now out of debt.

“My appointment (at Chapman) doesn’t jeopardize my work with the Capistrano Valley Symphony, which I will continue,” Mills said. “In fact, they’ve encouraged it. But all my work conducting-wise will be away from the campus.”

“This is a pretty exciting place to be,” Mills added. “The future of a private institution is quite flexible because it’s not tied down by political bureaucracies. So it allows you freedom to do things.”