Social Media

My Manchester Story

Debra Lynn

by Lauren Hughes | Jun 04, 2019

What brought you to Manchester?

“A job. Uh, well, I really like the peace emphasis here and the mission of the university. I [also] like the size. I went to a small liberal arts college near Kansas City, Missouri and – so, this is very similar to the size [of] school I went to. I like to really get to know my students personally instead of just having a class full of 40-80 people and they’re just a number. That’s a huge thing for me. Here, some of my music major classes have four people in it and it’s really cool.”

What got you interested in music?“My parents were musical. My mother was a piano teacher and my dad was, not a professional singer, but a very fine singer and my older brother was a composer so it was just kind of in our family." 

Are you working on any research or special projects?

"Yeah, ‘The Family Portrait’ is a piece that I composed. It took me about two years to write it and it’s about a fifty-minute oratorio – which means it’s for a full orchestra and chorus and soloists. And, so, that was huge. A lot of the lyrics are letters from [a family] during the civil-war era, who are all related to one of our soloists, which is super cool. So, that’s one big project. And I just finished writing/composing a thirty-minute song-cycle for our other soloist, Danny Belcher. So I have lots of composing going on, which was not what I was hired to do, so I do it on the side." 

Do you have any projects in mind for the future?

"Yes, I do. Right now I am getting ready – after this week I am going to start composing a piece in memory of Katherine Tinsley, who was a history professor here and died last year. It’s a setting of one of her favorite poems by Robert Frost called ‘After Apple Picking’. It’ll be for piano, violin, cello, clarinet, and mezzo-soprano.”

What is your favorite class to teach?

“Oh, I like them all. I teach a lot of voice lessons, I direct all of the choral ensembles on campus, and I love to teach conducting – that’s something I enjoy. I’m not teaching it right now, but that’s something that I love to teach." 

What are you involved in on campus?

"Well, my job, mostly. I am the faculty advisor for the handbell choir, which is a campus organization. And I am also technically the faculty organizer for acapella choir because that’s a campus organization as well.”

What are your hobbies/interests?

“I’m a huge cat lover – I have four cats. And, um, I have four daughters and I’m very passionate about autism research. One of my daughters is autistic and she still lives with us, but she’s 30. So that’s kind of a big thing for me. And composing is really a hobby because I don’t get paid to do it – it’s not part of my job here." 

How did you become interested in composing?

"My brother was a composer, and so I just kind of jumped on that wagon, I think. Usually that comes out of just a need for something, like, ‘Oh, there should be a piece that fills this purpose’. Then, when you can’t find something that you want, you just write something and that’s how it all started for me.”

What is your favorite thing about Northeast Indiana/Fort Wayne?

“I really love the art scene in Fort Wayne a lot. It’s kind of just that downtown area with lots of dance and music going on. I’m a huge modern and ballet dance fan. I have a daughter who’s a dancer. I love the weather here. I love that it’s different and you kind of have to keep everything in your closet. Some people hate it, but I actually really love it." 

What organizations and projects are you involved in in the community?

"One thing I do is I am a member of the Manchester Church of the Brethren so I do things and help out there quite a bit. I am in the choir at that church and I’ve [also] done some collaborations with the Mikautadze Dance Theater in Fort Wayne and that’s been really fun. I love working with dancers, they’re just cool people.”

What is something most people don’t know about you?

“Um, probably that I play racquetball. Does it look like I’m athletic? But I actually used to be very athletic when I was young. I haven’t played racquetball in a few years but I loved to play, I’m pretty competitive and like to throw myself up against the wall. So, that’s definitely something most people don’t know about me.”