Kjelson residency marks fifth year

Sep 25th, 2008 | By | Category: Arts & Entertainment, September 25, 2008

Featured artist is Florida State’s André Thomas

By Stephani Ruiz, School of Music

Ann Howard
RESIDENCY EXPERIENCE – Ann Howard, director of choral activities for Boston University, (second from right) reacts during the first Kjelson Distinguished Choral Residency in 2003.

The familiar voice of a distant friend provided unforeseen opportunities for John Richmond, professor and chair of the School of Music.

“Thirty minutes into my first day on the job, my phone rings and its Lee Kjelson,” said Richmond.

Their 16-year friendship roots back to when Richmond began working at the University of South Florida-Tampa’s School of Music.

“Lee was one of the first of the Florida crowd to reach out to me,” said Richmond.

Kjelson was one of the first Nebraskans as well, when he collaborated with Richmond to create a new residency program.  The week of Oct. 1-5 marks the fifth annual Kjelson Distinguished Choral Residency at the Westbrook Music Building.

Kjelson, a prominent choral scholar in his own right and UNL music alumnus, made a donation to the University of Nebraska Foundation to make it possible for esteemed choral directors from around the world to spend a few days sharing their expertise with UNL music students.

The program began in 2003 and has since included special guests Ann Howard, Boston University’s director of choral activities; Weston Nobel, director emeritus of choral activities at Luther College; Mack Wilberg, artistic director of the Morman Tabernacle Choir; and Eph Ehly, director emeritus of choral activities at University of Missouri, Kansas City. This year’s featured artist is André Thomas, director of choral activities at Florida State University School of Music, Tallahassee.

Thomas will be working with undergraduate and graduate students who are already preparing for his arrival, even learning songs that were written by Thomas himself.

Andre Thomas

“What’s more fun than having the composer standing in front of you,” said Pete Eklund, director of choral activities at the UNL School of Music, who has worked closely with the residency program since it began.

Upon Thomas’ arrival, students will perform the songs and he will offer artistic direction in a laid-back classroom environment.  His teachings will be brought to the stage in early December, when students give their final semester performances.

Events like these help UNL’s music students gain a more diverse perspective on their area of study, said Richmond, who encourages students to appreciate the variety of musical perspectives around the world.

Richmond also pointed out that students aren’t the only ones benefiting from this program. Faculty members also gain valuable experience connecting with such pinnacle people in the field of music. “It’s a way of recharging their batteries,” said Richmond. “As a teacher, you give and give and give, and sometimes you need something back.”

Kjelson, a native Nebraskan who obtained his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the UNL School of Music, has recognized these advantages by donating enough money to keep the program running for 10 years.

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