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Calvin’s music department anticipating new hires, tours – Calvin University Chimes

todayOctober 31, 2023 2

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Ruth H. Photography

The Calvin Music Festival is one of several opportunities for the community to hear music by Calvin students. Photo courtesy of Nate Glasper.

Calvin’s music department recently hired a community music administrator and music events coordinator. These hires reflect a renewed focus on growth in the music department, Dr. Tiffany Engle, co-chair of the music department, told Chimes. Engle hopes that the new staff will help with touring logistics and outreach to the Calvin student body.

The changes are also encouraging to students. Senior Graham Kort said that “commitment to music says a lot about our commitments to other areas of the liberal arts” because of the way music interacts with so many other disciplines.  A robust music department, according to Kort, is a key piece of Calvin’s liberal arts mission. “If you analyze music, lyrics and how the music makes us feel, you talk about psychology, sociology, English and music,” said Kort.

Kort, a music and psychology double major, said that the majority of the changes within the music department have been oriented towards growth after a period of restructuring and budget cuts before he came to Calvin. 

Tours

One example of that growth recently has been a return to the music department’s regular touring rotation. The music department began student ensemble tours last year, after a hiatus during the COVID pandemic. The wind ensemble and orchestra did a joint tour of the East Coast last spring break, visiting New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia. Capella — Calvin’s advanced concert choir — toured in Italy throughout May and June. Tours during the school year are offered at no cost to students, and are supported by donors and the university development office.

Professor Nate Glasper, Calvin’s gospel choir director, will be leading the gospel choir on a tour of southern California next semester during spring break. Between 40 and 50 Calvin students will perform at various schools, churches and alumni events as part of the tour. 

Glasper is proud of the way music can represent Calvin. Having Calvin students share their experiences while on tour is “definitely a recruiting tool,” Glasper said. He hopes that tours and performances — particularly gospel choir concerts — will be a way for audience members to continue to “engage and connect with the Calvin community.”

Gospel choir concerts are a uniquely accessible venue for a wide audience to appreciate music at Calvin, Glasper told Chimes. “Our concerts are more than a concert, they’re a worship experience. We want people to participate, because gospel is an inclusive type of music… We put lyrics on the screen so people can sing with us, be engaged, and participate,” Glasper said. 

For Engle, engagement with music of all kinds is important. It “is this lifelong endeavor where you’re always able to learn and to grow and to develop… and see God,  experience God and worship God.” Engle said. 

Reaching the Calvin community

Kort would also appreciate broader engagement with music department events at Calvin. In particular, Kort hopes more students choose to attend student recitals. Music majors on the performance track complete two recitals, while those on the composition track can choose to do one. Kort said student performance projects are “one of the coolest things we offer because, not only does it give music scholars the opportunity to showcase, but in my experience it’s very-student driven.”

Kort thinks student recitals can suffer from skewed perceptions about the kinds of music students perform. His own recital — “more accurately framed as a rock concert,”  according to Kort — features original compositions and will happen on Nov. 11.  Kort emphasized music at Calvin is open to all students. “No matter what style of music you like, you can find a spot in the Music Department and have an amazing time,” Kort said.

Engle told Chimes Calvin’s music department works to provide a balance between excellence and accessibility. “We’re doing things at a really high level, but we’re also able to plug students in where they are and help them develop as musicians,” said Engle. 

New faculty hires

The music department is also looking to hire two new tenure-track faculty to replace current professors that will be retiring soon. These positions include a new choral director and a professor who can teach string orchestra. Although the positions won’t be in new subject areas, Engle said new faculty are likely to reshape the emphasis areas within the music department. 

“We have traditions that we want to maintain that are important to our department, but I think it’s also desirable for us to think outside the box,” Engle said. The goal for the new hires, according to Engle, is to “develop and design programs for where we’d like the department to go.”

Virtual interviews for potential candidates will take place before Thanksgiving, with the goal of bringing candidates to campus by the end of this semester and announcing new faculty members in mid-spring. 

“We’re at the threshold of a lot of really exciting things,” Engle said. “We’re really excited about the next chapter of how we’re going to serve our students, how we’re going to serve the institution and just be great ambassadors of Christian music education.”



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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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