Heidelberg University: Making Beautiful Music With The Community At Large


For more than a century, music at Heidelberg University has been the standard bearer, offering quality performances as well as opportunities for students and the community to perform, create and inspire through music-making.

“Music at Heidelberg has always enjoyed close ties to the broader community,” said Dr. John E. Owen, associate dean and director of the School of Music at Heidelberg. “Each year, thousands hear our ensembles and faculty recitals, both on and off campus.”

While the School of Music’s primary mission is to train future choral or instrumental musicians and educators, its outreach and partnerships within the community are growing.

The signature collaboration will occur Dec. 8 when Heidelberg and community musicians return to the Ritz Theatre for the Performing Arts to present the annual production of Handel’s “Messiah” under the theme “A Heidelberg Christmas.” 2013 marks the third year for the performance at the new venue.

Owen explained that the first half of the program features traditional Christmas music from instrumental and choral ensembles. The second half is comprised of portions of “Messiah,” including professional soloists, often faculty or alumni. “This new format truly is a collaborative effort involving virtually all music faculty, students, alumni and members of the community,” he said.

Heidelberg and the Ritz Players also recently partnered to produce the monster musical “Young Frankenstein,” two years after a highly successful run with the Broadway musical “Hairspray.”

“This bringing together of community and university talent gave us a multi-generational cast, and played to great success,” Owen said. Chris Tucci, professor and director of theatre who directed the Mel Brooks classic, concurred. Performing on the Ritz stage is a bonus for Heidelberg students, Tucci said.

“The best part is they get to play roles appropriate for their age range and work with adults who typically have more theatre experience,” he said. “Working alongside these folks pushes our students and shows them realistic expectations in professional theatre.”

For those who simply share a love of music and want to learn, Heidelberg opens its doors to would-be musicians of all ages and talent levels. The Community Music School, under the direction of Cynthia Ramsdell, offers private music lessons for youth to adults on most band and orchestral instruments as well as voice and theory and composition. This fall, the school expanded its reach into the community by offering group and online courses.

“We offer classes in five-week sessions as an introduction to various music experiences,” Ramsdell said. Sessions are open to the community and are available for people of all ability levels. The school has grown from a handful of students to more than 100.

Group classes were taught in guitar for teens and adults, piano for adults as well as online classes for teens and adults in music technology and auditioning/performing. Instructors are Heidelberg faculty, alumni and current or graduate students.

“Plans are in place to continue the expansion of the Community Music School, especially in providing musical opportunities to older adults, as well as area high school students,” Owen said.

One ensemble – the University-Community Chorus – combines the talents of Heidelberg music students with community singers for a pair of concerts each year. The 60- to 80-voice mixed chorus, under the direction of Dr. Daniel Clark, rehearses once each week in preparation for its performances, which also include the annual Christmas concert.

In addition to bringing audiences to campus, Heidelberg ensembles have performed throughout the community at venues and events such as the Jazzin’ Tiffin Festival and a downtown coffee house. Smaller ensembles sing and play at nursing homes and larger groups travel to high schools to showcase the School of Music.

Regardless of the size or scale of the ensemble or the venue, Heidelberg’s School of Music is engaged in collaborations with the community in new and exciting ways.