USM’s Resident Maestros Re-Launch Music Major to Rave Reviews
They spend free hours scouting talent, their summers fine-tuning the game plan for the start of the year, and plenty of grueling sessions of practice, practice, practice. The Saint Mary Spires Football program? Not quite. Try the dedicated maestros behind USM’s music program.
In any given point of the year Dr. William Krusemark, chair of the fine arts department and director of the music program, and Freda Proctor, director of instrumental music studies, are blurs of activity. They teach classes, give private lessons, put together a long list of music events for the community, and—due to their frequent contributions at convocation, commencement, and other key university gatherings and events—basically produce the soundtrack of Saint Mary.
This year add to that list one weightier task: bringing back the university’s music major.
USM has offered some form of music education for decades. Even without the major in recent years, two music minor offerings were quite popular on the university campus.
Restoring the Saint Mary music major—dormant since 1995—just makes good sense for the university and blends in well with current trends in education and employment, Dr. Krusemark says.
“We had put forth the proposal several years ago to bring it back,” he said. “I think, since then, there’s been a change in the economy and the realization among students that you don’t necessarily have to pursue an educational track that’s narrowly restricted to a future job.
“There are opportunities to make a living in music. We need to market it as such, and reach out to students and families so they can understand there are successes to be had. (Freda and I) are both examples of that.”
Prof. Proctor echoes Dr. Krusemark’s sentiment.
“Even if you don’t do music professionally, you can still be a success,” she said. “I’m thinking about Condoleezza Rice, who describes herself as a washed up piano major. But she was highly successful regardless.”
And even if a student doesn’t make a living out of it, music can add a lot to their lives.
“Music is forever,” Prof. Proctor said. “With sports, your knees can go out. You’ll have to quit. But you can go on making music your whole life.”
So far, the demand for the new major has certainly given the faculty reason to sing.
“We have three freshmen, one sophomore, and one junior,” said Dr. Krusemark. “And all three freshmen, I recruited. They were (private music lesson) students of mine in high school.”
And, Prof. Proctor said, interest only seems to be growing.
“I’ve heard from people in my community band who live in town—high school kids—who are really happy that this major is here, because they’d like to do that when they graduate,” she said. “We had people in the band before that went off to UMKC or someplace else to be a major. They stayed with us through their growing up years and then had to go someplace else for the major.”
Dr. Bryan Le Beau, USM’s vice president for academic affairs, stresses that the music major is harmonious with the university’s larger tradition and mission.
“Music has always been a major part of the lives of the Sisters of Charity from the day they first arrived in Leavenworth over 150 years ago – musical instruments in hand,” Dr. Le Beau said.
“So, too, it has been at the heart of the University of Saint Mary and its liberal arts core.”
Alums are similarly supportive.
“I taught school music or privately at home for over 40 years. I still have students come up to me and tell me how much they learned in my classes. This foundation was given to me at Saint Mary,” wrote alum Joan (Depperschmidt) Albers, C’54.
“I was sad when Saint Mary dropped the music program, and I am now exalted that they have reinstated it,” added Joan, who at the age of 80 still plays regularly for her church. “We must continue to teach and exemplify quality music in church and society. Saint Mary did this, and I hope they do so again.”
The Saint Mary music faculty provides a rock solid foundation for the program. They form the basis of everything the program accomplishes, and can be counted on like clockwork to give their all to further the program and university goals.
And if re-establishing the major represents a big milestone for the university, Dr. Krusemark and Prof. Proctor are celebrating a couple of other key milestones themselves. The 2012-2013 academic year marks Dr. Krusemark’s 35th with Saint Mary and the 25th for Prof. Proctor.
“To be able to restore the music major has been a pleasure,” said Dr. Le Beau. “And that could not have happened without Freda and Bill—two of the finest musicians in the area—whose dedication to music education at USM has been second to none. We are blessed to have them.”
Dr. Krusemark has served as director of vocal music studies at USM since 1978. Prior to coming to Saint Mary, he earned received the Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Music Education from the University of Kansas and a Doctorate of Musical Arts degree in Voice from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He completed additional studies at the Berkshire Music School at Tanglewood, Mass., and the American Institute of Musical Studies overseas in Graz, Austria.
Dr. K, as he is known to his students, has sung throughout the United States and Europe, including more than 20 featured and supporting roles as a 16-year roster artist with Lyric Opera of Kansas City. In New York, he was a regular soloist with the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys and the National Chorale at Lincoln Center and on National Tour. Other credits include the Aspen Festival, Central City Opera, Flensburg, Germany Opera, and the Kansas City, Mo., Springfield, Mo., St. Joseph, Mo., Topeka, Kan., and Lake Charles, La., Symphonies. In addition to his academic duties at USM he serves as Choirmaster at Bethany Lutheran Church of Overland Park, Kan.
“In ’78, I moved back from New York and was living in Tonganoxie and was looking for a position,” Dr. Krusemark said. “I had taught in Atchison and Kansas City and Long Island, but I wanted to teach at the college level. When I saw this position open, I was singing in Aspen for the summer, and they flew me back for an interview.
“I loved the place immediately.”
Prof. Proctor, a master pianist, organist, and flutist, received her Bachelor of Music in Piano and Flute from Wichita State University and a Master of Arts in Piano and Class Piano Pedagogy from Eastern Illinois University. Before coming to USM, Proctor taught piano at Eastern Illinois and the College of DuPage and flute at Wheaton College. She played at Carnegie Hall and has served as accompanist for numerous professional performers and as pianist for the Topeka, Kan., Symphony. Proctor is active as a performer, teacher, adjudicator, and church organist-choirmaster.
Her arrival really marked the beginning of an instrumental program at Saint Mary.
“My husband’s a Methodist minister, and he was working at a church here right behind the school. I had seen the school,” Proctor said. “I figured I wouldn’t have been considered for a position because I wasn’t a Catholic. But I was wrong about that because I’ve been very welcomed the entire time I’ve been here.
“I came in and accompanied for somebody at a lesson for Dr. Krusemark, and my position sort of grew out of that, so I was an accompanist here for a while. And then I started the Community Band and that just grew over time.”
Proctor’s position went full time after Saint Mary Music Legend and Professor Emerita Sister Anne Callahan, C’59, retired.
What’s kept the job fresh and stimulating for the duo over the decades?
“For me, it’s the love of music and I love dealing with students at this age,” Dr. Krusemark said. “It’s the love of music, the sharing it and preparing it, that energizes me… and working with talent. There’s a lot of talent right now…The quality of music students comes in cycles, and right now we have really fine students and we’re excited about that because it means we can do better music, and we can do it more professionally.”
For Prof. Proctor, the job is similarly satisfying.
“I love teaching at any level,” she said. “The love really is for the music. It’s sharing the music; it’s sharing the performance, and how to bring the performance to life.”
That, she said, and “I like to keep up with what young people are doing… My youngest son went to the school here, so I was always up on the latest thing. Working with students today, I can keep my attitude young. If you don’t’ have kids in school, it’s easy to stop at that point.”
Another plus for the dynamic pair? Working together.
“We like to work together,” Prof. Proctor said. “I think we have a very fine working relationship. We really support each other.”
That support extended to the creation of the music major. The two professors had to come up with classes and sequencing for the major, plus must teach all of the offerings. That has to blend with their other commitments, including Dr. Krusemark’s involvement with the Freshmen First Year Experience program, and Prof. Proctor’s extensive work with the USM Community Band.
The Community Band, the ensembles, the Handbell Choir, the student and faculty recitals—these are all another part of the musical story at Saint Mary.
USM’s music program provides no shortage of events for the community, from the Halloween Concert to Christmas Vespers to the Spring Pops and Oratorio concerts.
“We have maybe 12-15 programs a year,” Dr. Krusemark said. “That’s about right for a liberal arts college of our size…We’re probably at the point where we need to add another senior recital, as the last one had 16 student performers. That’s a good symptom of things changing, as we need to offer more opportunities for more students to perform.”
In reaching out to the community—which in turn responds eagerly to all of USM’s public music offerings—the music program works to spread the story of Saint Mary.
It’s not the easiest task. With prep work for the new school year starting shortly after the end of the previous year. (And after students arrive, the music faculty only have a few short weeks to prepare for convocation.)
“In the summer, I have to rent orchestral scores for the Christmas program,” notes Dr. Krusemark. “So I have to predict what my balances are and what the talent level was to make the right choices. It truly is never ending.”
They also try to pick works that students will enjoy. For example, later this school year they hope to put on a show of Gershwin and Porter tunes to tie in to recent revivals.
One final way they keep the song of Saint Mary continuing through the generations? The hundreds of students they’ve taught, some professionally successful in music, some just personally successful.
“I’m always happy to hear back from students who are not necessarily heavily involved in music, but are still doing it now, on the side, as they’re grown up and out in the world doing their jobs,” Proctor said.
For Dr. Krusemark, who started here when Saint Mary wasn’t yet co-ed, “generations of students” is a literal thing.
“I’ve taught a number of students for whom I’m now teaching their daughters and sons,” Dr. K. said. “We love what we do.”
All that effort doesn’t go unnoticed from alums or peers. “Saint Mary is very blessed to have two very outstanding music professors,” said Sr. Anne Callahan. “Very few small colleges have faculty of such outstanding talent and teaching ability… Both of these faculty members radiate scholarship, musicianship, performance skills to a very high degree but also personal goodness, integrity, and kindness to all with whom they come in contact.”
You can experience Saint Mary music making at its finest at the annual Christmas Choral Vespers at 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9 in newly refurbished Annunciation Chapel.
A Special Thanks
The university honored Saint Mary music stalwart Sr. Anne Callahan, C’59, at the 2012 Founders’ Day Concert on Nov. 13 in recognition of her many years of service to the music program.
As part of the event, Sr. Callahan was presented with a portrait painted by Peter Proctor, son of current USM music professor Freda Proctor. The portrait now hangs in Cecilian Hall on the 3rd floor of Mead Hall.
Pictured from left to right are Dr. William Krusemark, Freda Proctor, Sr. Anne Callahan and Peter Proctor.