Love for music, teaching draws prof to Tabor

While working as a receptionist in Chicago, Holly Swartzendruber felt something wasn’t quite right in her life.

“I discovered that I missed this feeling of being on the college campus,” Swartzendruber said. “I missed the excitement of academia.”

She decided to start sending applications to various colleges and universities that were advertising for positions in voice.

She sent out about 25 applications, but Tabor College was the one that lured the 31-year-old who has a doctorate in vocal performance.

“I loved living in Chicago,” Swartzendruber said. “But I knew the chances of finding a teaching position there were slim.”

Two weeks after visiting the Tabor campus in May, she learned she would become assistant professor of voice for the 2003-04 year.

“I was real excited,” Swartzendruber said. “I had a good feeling about the place while I was here. I knew there would be a little adjustment period. But I also knew that Tabor would provide an excellent first-year-teaching experience.”

Small towns are a comfortable environment for the native of Pigeon, Mich., a town with a population currently listed at 1,207.

Her first semester at Tabor encompasses giving voice lessons, teaching first-year Music Theory I, and team teaching Ear Training and Sight Singing with Richard Cantwell, head of the Tabor music department.

During January interterm, she will teach Introduction to Fine Arts and offer voice lessons.

Second semester classes will include voice lessons, first year Music Theory II, Introduction to Fine Arts, and Vocal Pedagogy and Diction.

“Pedagogy is the study of teaching,” Swartzendruber said. ” So they’ll learn different approaches to teaching voice and diction. We teach basic languages for classical singers-German, Italian, French and English.”

A resume of her educational background includes graduating in 1994 with a degree in music from Goshen (Ind.) College.

In 1997, after attending Ohio University in Athens, she earned a master’s degree in music with an emphasis in vocal pedagogy. In 2001, she completed a doctor of musical arts in vocal performance from the University of Kansas.

After graduating from KU, she moved to Chicago to spend time with friends and find a job.

“I did a little bit of performing and some private teaching,” Swartzendruber said. “But mostly, I held down a day job as a receptionist for a firm that does financial advising. And I auditioned for performing in the evenings and on the weekends.”

She auditioned for the apprenticeship program at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, performed in a one-woman recital and sang at weddings.

Her day job left some time open for her to pursue one of her hobbies-reading.

“I like Civil War history,” Swartzendruber said.

Other outside activities include working crossword puzzles and enjoying avant-garde art movies.

To give herself time to adjust to a new community, Swartzendruber moved here Aug. 1.

“The staff has already been very supportive, and it’s going to be a nurturing environment,” she said. “There was such a warm feeling of hospitality immediately.”

Visitors to the music department during the school year will encounter the sounds of musical instruments and trained voices in the Wohlgemuth studios.

Swartzendruber can be found in Teacher’s Studio No. 3, where she has a roomy office with a desk, piano and two bookshelves.

“I’ve definitely had voice teachers who didn’t have an office this big,” she said. “I have lots of space to grow.”

As a teacher and coloratura soprano, she said she knows the value of taking care of her voice.

“It’s (important) to keep yourself in shape, like an athlete who needs to warm up before running or jumping hurdles,” Swartzendruber said.

“I don’t know how much performing I’ll be doing this year. I’ll be singing at the opening convocation and around Christmas time. But I don’t have a recital planned this year.”

Music-education students who choose to specialize in voice and others interested in choral direction will be able to sign up to take lessons from Swartzendruber.

“I’ll definitely be giving the majority of voice lessons,” Swartzendruber said. “You’ll get voice lessons once a week. Even if you’re a non-music major, you can take voice lessons.”

For people looking for a voice teacher, Swartzendruber said she may be able to accept five or six students outside the Tabor community. For more information, she can be reached at 947-3766, ext. 1404.

“I’ve worked with all ages-adult voice students, children and teenagers,” Swartzendruber said. “I love working with teenagers and young adults. That’s my favorite age at this point-the high school and college age.”

Her Swartzendruber heritage has Swiss-German origins, she said. Swartzendruber grew up attending a Mennonite church that included four-part a cappella music during services.

“Early on, I was exposed to music that not a lot of people are exposed to,” Swartzendruber said.

“One of my favorite (compositions) to sing is the German art song, just because I love that time of music history. It’s very emotional and expressive.”

Swartsendruber said she hopes others will stop in at studio No. 3 to say “hi” and share her enthusiasm for music.

“I know voice students will be in here as soon as they can sign up for voice lessons,” Swartzendruber said. “I’m excited to start, and I hope they are, too.”

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