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Manchester's musical legacy sings out
Campus a medley of new ensembles, combos, venues, music styles

Related links:
Music appreciation a la Professor Planer
More about music at Manchester
Manchester Symphony Orchestra
  MC’s first composition recital, by Tyler Secor ’10

More pictures from this article:

Debra Lynn, chair of the Music Department, with grand piano donated
by the Board of Trustees in memory of board member Stanley Gilbert ’66.

Jazz musician Jacob Wenger ’10

Music major James Hutchings ’06
at his senior recital.

Brethren sing out at 2006 dedication for the marker of the site of annual meetings in North Manchester (history Professor Emeritus David Waas ’47 in center).

THE A CAPPELLA CHOIR’S HARMONIES SOAR within Wine Recital Hall, as instrumentalists practice in Winger rooms overlooking the core of campus, their notes competing with the cardinals and chickadees. The Manchester Symphony Orchestra tunes up in Cordier Auditorium and a new student-led group, Praise Jam, belts inspirational tunes in the College Union.

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and cannot remain silent,” said author Victor Hugo. It’s a tradition deeply rooted: Manchester is anything but silent when it comes to music.

Music Department Director Debra J. Lynn traveled to Manchester in 1998 to pursue and continue that legacy. “My perception of Manchester’s musical legacy was Clyde Holsinger. I grew up in Missouri, but I knew about Holsinger and the Manchester College choirs. When I applied for jobs, this was my No. 1 choice. I realized the choir had dwindled to almost nothing. I wanted to build that back up again. That was my goal.”

Clyde W. Holsinger ’41 taught and directed music at Manchester for 29 years, and was instrumental in the College’s accreditation with the National Association of Schools of Music. The Clyde W. and Marie Holsinger Memorial Scholarship Fund honors the mentor and his wife Marie Lantis ’40 Holsinger, who accompanied the A Cappella Choir on its annual Holy Week tours to Church of the Brethren congregations and schools in Ohio and Illinois.

Holsinger was strict, insisting students memorize their music so they could watch his direction during concerts and not their music books. “One thing I always remembered was the way we practiced,” recalls Lois Bagwell ’50 Davis, who continues to attend College music events as a neighbor in Timbercrest Retirement Community. “You had to sit up and lean on the seat in front of you; I still feel like I have to get my music up and watch the director.”

Debra Lynn began revitalizing the program, beginning with fewer than 30 students in the A Cappella Choir. Today, the choral programs list 50 students.

In Holsinger’s time, Manchester enrollment was strong with Brethren voices who had spent their youth singing out a cappella in home congregations that shunned musical instruments. Today, the College has a new all-female choir, Cantabile, that accommodates the high number of female auditionees.

The College also is home to one of the few small community orchestras in the nation, the Manchester Symphony. Robert Jones conducted the 50-member MSO for nearly 30 years, retiring in 2004. This year, under the direction of Scott Humphries, the Symphony marks its 71st year.

Humphries and Tim Reed, who is spicing up the campus music scene and area communities with jazz concerts, combos and ensembles, are new additions to a Music Department faculty of four full-time teachers, 19 adjuncts and tutors.

“Student musicians of all ability levels are given the opportunity to develop their talents with the help of a nurturing and dedicated faculty,” says Reed, who shares his acclaimed talents for electronic and electracoustic composition and performance with delighted students.

Students who participate in ensembles experience the excitement of performance on campus in the still-new Wine Recital Hall as well as in more remote and exotic settings. Puerto Rico, Austria, and even the Vatican have heard Manchester musicians and compositions, as well as area coffeehouses and audiences at other universities.

New initiatives get even more students involved and exposed to music, whatever their majors. Lynn created the Opera Workshop as a dynamic way to introduce a completely different performance style. Concluding with a sold-out performance of segments of a variety of opera, Lynn is emphatic about giving students the complete opera experience: Everyone who auditions receives a role.

A resonating tone is initiative. Students create their new ensembles (like Praise Jam), and are encouraged to transform their ensembles into graded courses advised by Music Department faculty.

“I’ve had the opportunity to be a singer, a historian, a composer, a friend, a director, a teacher, a conductor, a pirate and so much more,” says music major David Moan ’09, who today is in theatre in Minnesota.

In March, Tyler Secor ’10 presented the College’s premier music composition recital. The music composition and theory major plans to pursue a Ph.D. in music theory at University of Oregon.

In an interview with the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin about his considerable accomplishments as a tenor, songwriter, arranger and pianist, Shawn Kirchner ’92 said he uses music “to impart peace, nature's wonder, spiritual contentment, tragic loss and exhilarating life adventures.” Choirs and singers worldwide use his arrangement of “Wana Baraka.”

James Hutchings ’06, who directed the A Cappella choir for a song he composed for his baccalaureate service, received a master’s degree in choral conducting from the University of Missouri and is coordinator of music and choral director at Carl Sandburg College.

Many music majors are educators, including Sally Liszewski ’00 Calland, “who is doing great things” as music teacher for Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Valparaiso, Ind., notes Lynn. The soprano also sings with the Camerata Vocal Ensemble.

“We celebrate everyone’s musicianship,” says Lynn, an accomplished composer and conductor who has directed the A Cappella Choir twice at Carnegie Hall. This celebration results in not only versatile students, but also talented and motivated graduates.


Music appreciation a la Professor Planer

“IF YOU’RE PREDICTABLE, YOU’RE BORING.” It’s an oft-shared observation of music Professor John H. Planer.

And it’s a typical Tuesday in the small room of Winger Hall, home of music and art faculty and students. His classroom door flung wide, the professor gesticulates and sings out grandly. He’s teaching Music History and Analysis II – dusty material in some contexts.

As he peppers his eight-student audience with queries about ternary form keys and contrasting tonal themes, he proffers examples of style by returning to his raucous song.

Suddenly, he stops: “Are they making faces at me out there?” he leers, pointing to the hallway. Then he grins malevolently. “If they are, we’ll chase them,” he says to laughs from his students.

Professor Planer delights in his students as people, as individuals. “Many have become dear friends,” he notes, adding unnecessarily, “I also love the subjects that I teach.”

Planer joined the Manchester College faculty in 1969, intending to stay briefly and then pursue musicological research. More than 41 years later, here he remains, teaching theory to music majors and introducing hundreds of students of every imaginable major to the arts and music especially. On the journey, he married French Professor Janina Traxler ’73, who joined the MC faculty in 1979. The couple has two children.

A life-long learner, Planer has taken sabbaticals to Strasbourg, France, studied biblical Hebrew and audited classes at other colleges and universities. His travels have also taken him to Italy, Morocco, Turkey and Greece. Planer holds a Ph.D. and master’s degree from the University of Michigan, with a bachelor’s degree from Knox College.

The College often turns to Planer for Holocaust remembrance services. The national lecturer on Jewish liturgical music is past president of the Guild of Temple Musicians and an honorary member of the American Conference of Cantors.

I hope my enthusiasm is contagious,” says Professor Planer. “I encourage, cajole, admonish and tease students to help them produce their best.”


In this issue
When imagination takes form
from the president

Manchester's muscial legacy
A medley of new styles

Committing self in service
Students follow well-traveled alumni paths, connecting abilities with convictions

Bold new ventures
Three new graduate programs

Envisioning a 21st
century Manchester

Master Plan builds on
historic foundations

Philanthropy 101
Bob and Alice Frantz create personal legacy

Profiles of ability and conviction


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